ANNOUNCEMENT: The Return of Doc Wilde!!!

In a young adult book market crowded with the depressing and the dour, Tim Byrd’s Doc Wilde swings in on a jungle vine to raise the flag high for adventure. Infused with pace, fun, and all the two-fisted action a reader could ask for, Wilde lovingly riffs on situations straight out of the old pulps, even while making them fresh for a new generation.
— Zack Stentz, screenwriter, ThorX-Men: First Class

In 2009, Penguin/Putnam released my book Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, an adventure novel for all ages, my homage to the great pulp adventure stories of the thirties and forties. I conceived it as the first of a series, but Putnam waited to see how it was received before committing to more books.

The reviews were great, and the sales very good. As a result, Putnam asked for two more books. But, as regular readers of this blog know, I went through some rough times that delayed completion of the second book, and in the time since Frogs was released there has been a great deal of change in publishing. Thanks to digital distribution, the rapid rise of ebooks, and print on demand, the options for authors are much better than they used to be.

So, today, I’m excited to announce that Doc Wilde is going indy.

Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures. A tale ‘terrifying and dark, of indescribable horrors and eldritch mysteries,’ this is sure to be Wilde-ly popular, and readers will anxiously await future installments.
                                                     —Kirkus Reviews

Putnam treated me well enough, but I was largely underwhelmed with my experiences with them. The  money was relatively lousy (and usually delivered months after it was contractually supposed to be), they did no promotion, and I thought they failed to take advantage of important opportunities. At no point did I get the idea that my input was valued, except insofar as delivering a printable text was concerned. And they allowed the hardback to sell through its print run and fall out of print before even scheduling a paperback printing, meaning the book’s effective shelf life and opportunity to find new readers was less than two years. In other words, I was treated like most authors are treated by the Big 6.

The thing is, I want to make a living at this, and unless the series really took wing, I was never going to do that under standard publishing terms. Everybody in publishing makes a good living, with benefits, except the folks who write the books. Going independent is a gamble, but honestly, if it doesn’t work, I’m not out much income, and if it does (and I expect it will) I’ll at least be able to keep the roof over my head.

So this is the year of Doc Wilde.

Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom is an adventure yarn in the old tradition. It gets that reading is an intellectual activity, and that an adventure, to be really good, has to engage the reader’s brain. I love a smart book!
—Daniel Pinkwater, author of The Neddiad and The Yggyssey

The fact that Putnam allowed Frogs to fall out of print turned out to be a great thing, because it allowed me to retrieve the rights and I can start the series anew, the way I want to. There were things I wanted to do with the books that I wasn’t getting to do with Putnam, and now I can.

One of those things is working with Gary Chaloner. As I’ve written before, well before I finished writing Frogs, I tried to find the perfect artist to depict the Wildes, and Gary was my choice. Not only was he a gifted graphic storyteller with a distinctive style, he was also a huge fan of pulp adventure and had an instinctive understanding (and love) of the material. Together we decided to produce lavishly illustrated books, and he put a lot of time into honing his designs to match my vision of the characters. (To see some of his early designs, go here.)

The Wildes à la Chaloner

When I signed with Putnam, they completely disregarded my wishes. The resulting book had a really nice cover, but I never got so much as an email consultation from the artist and I have a few minor issues with some of its details. There were no lovely illustrations inside. Instead, there were some goofy typographical effects that (I felt) distracted the reader and made the book look like it was meant solely for very young readers, rather than for young and old as I intended.

Well, Gary’s back on board, and we’re doing the books the way we originally envisioned.

Here’s the plan:

Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom will be released in its new edition in June, in both ebook and paper. It will offer my preferred edit of the novel, along with a new short Doc Wilde adventure, and (like future books) will have a new cover and be fully illustrated by maestro Gary Chaloner.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be putting together a Kickstarter project so folks can help us with the relaunch and get assorted boons ranging from being named in the acknowledgments to autographed limited editions and other exclusives.

Then, in August or September, the long-awaited second adventure will finally appear, Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull, in which the Wildes face a mind-blowing mystery and a truly bizarre villain. Doc Wilde and The Dance of the Werewolf, a dark tale featuring lycanthropes and witchcraft, will follow in November.

Had I remained with Putnam, by year’s end there would have possibly been a paperback of Frogs of Doom, and The Mad Skull might have seen print some time next year, though more likely it would have been in 2014. Doing things this way, you get the first three books by Christmas, with more to follow next year.

This is all very exciting for me. Going indy will allow me not only to produce nicer books, not only to make more money (at less cost to readers), but to have a more organic and personal relationship with fans. It’s a great time to be a writer.

Stay tuned for more news, including the details of the Kickstarter project…

A true delight…Tim Byrd has taken Doc Savage, added in a pinch of Robert E. Howard, a liberal dose of H.P. Lovecraft, and mixed it all together in a well done, enchanting pastiche of the pulps that will appeal to the adult audience as well as the young adult readers. It is an over the top at times, rip roaring adventure that returns us to the days of yesteryear and leaves us wanting more.
—Barry Hunter, The Baryon Review

(Note: At the time I post this, Putnam’s ebook version of Frogs of Doom is still available online. The wheels of publishing grind slowly, and they haven’t yet gotten around to removing it as they’re supposed to. If you’re interested in the book, I encourage you to wait for the new version later this year. It will be a much better edition, will cost you less, and I’ll benefit a lot more from the sale.)

A New Definition of Writing Success

More on the “ebook apocalypse” front, and the self-publishing revolution, this time from writer James Scott Bell.

Here’s a bit (link at the bottom):

We all know the traditional model is shrinking. Advances on new contracts are at historic lows. With physical shelf-space disappearing, print revenues are down. While digital income is up for the publishers, the slice of that pie given to authors remains stagnated at 25% of net (or roughly 17.5% of retail). And new writers are finding publishers increasingly risk averse regarding debut authors.

Still, many writers remain focused on [getting published]. It represents some sort of “validation” even though it could very well mean less income…and fewer readers.

But now a new model of writing success has appeared. Writers, for the first time since the troubadour era (when you could go out on your own and make up stories in song and take in some coin), have it within their power to get their writing out there without a middleman (the fancy term is “disintermediation”).

And further, unlike self-published authors of yore, they actually have a chance to make real dough. Every day we are hearing more accounts of self-published writers who are earning significant income as independents.

Yet income alone is not the main draw of this new model, which looks like this:

Freedom is the invaluable commodity here. To be able to write what you truly want to write, and know that you can get it into the marketplace, is tremendously liberating. It is, in fact, the engine of happiness for a writer. It’s exhilarating to write for yourself, see what you’ve written, fix it, and keep on writing—and be assured that it will have a place in the stream of commerce, for as long as you live.

From The Kill Zone: A New Definition of Writing Success

Book Biz

Some supplementary info for anyone who was interested in my “Ebook Apocalypse” post…

  • Since 2002, about 500 independent bookstores have gone out of business, nearly 20% of them.
  • Independent bookstores currently account for less than 10% of book sales.
  • When Borders folded they closed nearly 650 stores.
  • There are around 700 Barnes & Noble stores, all drastically reducing the number of  books they actually stock.
  • Barnes & Noble is projecting huge losses in revenue for 2012.
  • Amazon holds 75% of the market for printed books online.
  • Roughly 90% of all ebook sales go through Amazon (60%) and Barnes & Noble (30%).
  • Ebook sales on Amazon outnumber printed book sales by roughly 50% and the ratio is growing sharper all the time.
  • According to Publishers Weekly, publishing insiders predict that within five years  ebooks will account for half of all book sales.

Clearly there’s a lot of change going on, and as I wrote earlier, I think it’s good for readers, writers, and independent booksellers (who have a better chance of holding their own in local markets with the crumbling of the big chains). The changes may be more dire for big publishing concerns, however, as more writers realize they can make more money and better handle their own careers by publishing themselves and as book prices fall, bringing less money in to pay for fancy Manhattan office space. Their edge as necessary distributors gets slimmer with each drop in physical stock made by hundreds of  Barnes & Nobles stores, every bookshop that closes, and each ebook that sells.

Writers need to seriously consider self-publishing, focusing mainly on the digital market, with hard copy books as an additional option they make available. And, at least for the foreseeable future, they’re going to reach the vast majority of the available market by dealing with Amazon and B&N, though there is much to gain by working with independent bookstores on a personal level.

Ebook Apocalypse!!!

The night is coming. The night that will never end.

Board the windows. Lock the doors and push our beautiful, heavy bookshelves against them. Hopefully we prepared enough, we stocked up on canned peas and sacks of potatoes and stacks of mass market paperbacks and hardbacks, some of them used and old and bound in cloth rather than shitty cheap crappy cardboard.

Outside, the wind howls like a cliched banshee scream.

They are coming, and we fear it will not matter how well we prepared, for they come on silent wings, their numbers are legion, and they don’t use doors, or windows. Like dire fairies of data they come through the walls, through the very air itself, at the speed of light.

And they want to eat. “BOOOOOOKS….” they moan. Because they want to eat our books, all our beautiful books.

The ebooks have escaped the labs. OH. MY. GOD. Continue reading

More Thinking About Writing (Regarding Tools and Positioning)

Recently I’ve blogged about my attempts to optimize my approach to writing day to day, to hopefully become more productive and prolific. A huge part of that, by necessity, is that I have to deal with my depression; if I can’t, I might as well throw in the towel.

This week, I start a course of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), which will hopefully give me the edge in that fight. I’m assuming it will, so I’m working on setting the stage for the writing I plan once it’s over.

Kate gave me a book about writing for my birthday, Chapter By Chapter by Heather Sellers. Generally I find books about writing to be a waste of time for a writer; most of them say essentially the same things, and once you’ve read one, you’ve pretty much read the rest. If you’re trying to be a writer, your time is better spent writing than reading about writing. Till now, I’ve recommended only two books to writers looking for advice, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and On Writing by Stephen King.

Chapter By Chapter is now on that list, and not just because it came to me via hot redhead. Kate chose well; Sellers has some fresh perspectives on the work, and her book has been useful to me as I try to figure these things out.

One chapter proved pertinent to this post, the one about “positioning.” Sellers defines positioning as preparing to do the work, mentally and physically, in advance, so that when it’s time to get to work you can just sit down and write. Part of this is making a routine of connecting with your project every evening, thinking about the next day’s writing, staying involved. The other part of it is making sure you’re physically set up in advance so you don’t have to waste time gathering materials and setting up when you sit down to write again. Continue reading

Looking For Advice: Writing On The Ipad

I’m working on changing my work habits as a writer, and part of that is changing tools. Over the years I’ve progressed from fountain pen and legal pad to manual typewriter to desktop PC to portable pre-laptop to laptop to notebook to netbook…

Now, I’m typing this on my brand spankin’ new iPad 2, composing in Simplenote for cut & paste into WordPress. I’m loving the device as a new toy, but got it primarily to be my new main writing tool.

I knew in advance that I wasn’t going to be satisfied typing on the touchscreen’s virtual keyboard (which I’m doing right now, and it’s about like I expected it to be). So I have an order in for a Bluetooth keyboard to use with it, allowing me to use the combo pretty much as a netbook.

Thing is, I’m trying to decide what app or combination of apps is best to use for writing books. So if any writers out there have been down this road already, please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.

As I said, I’m using Simplenote right now. I also installed Plaintext to try, and have seen quite a few folks recommend IA Writer. Ideally I’d be able to automatically, or at least easily, sync files to Dropbox or something similar so that I could freely switch to other machines as need be. In that vein, I’m curious about DocsToGo as well.

I had also been thinking of starting to use Scrivener for Windows, and still might if there’s a good way to get it to interact with whatever app I wind up using on the iPad.

Again, if you have any experience with this stuff, please share.