Sunday, February 11, 2018

Podcast: Do You Hear What I Hear?


In my ongoing Stark Reflections on Writing & Publishing podcast series, I recent interviewed Kelly Lytle from Findaway Voices about the amazing opportunities for independent authors and small publishers to help get their books turned into audio and distributed globally.


I started using Findaway Voices in the summer of 2017 to test out their services. I had two shorter "chapbook" sized books converted into audio format.


  • Active Reader: And Other Cautionary Tales About The Book World
    • This contains three short horror stories where books are central to each tale. One is about an eerie bookstore eager to "take" new customers, the title story is about the macabre misuse of a bookstore loyalty card and the final story is a dark humor look at what might happen if someone takes the advice of a self-help book a little too far.
  • Collateral Damage: A Sin-Eater Mis-Adventure
    • A short story about an encounter that Peter O'Mallick, the main character in my novel I, Death, has in the midst of attempting to use his death curse to fight crime.

The Findaway system was easy to use and the narrators they hand-selected for me to choose from were great. I'm quite pleased with the production quality of these books and look forward to working with these two narrators again for other projects.

However, what surprised me in a really positive way, was that I was expecting to make the majority of my income from these two audio titles from Audible, Amazon's gigantic audiobook store. But I, in fact, made far more money from other markets, including Bibliotheca, Playster and TuneIn.

In our chat, Kelly explains the way that Bibliotheca works for libraries and some of the background behind the creation of Findaway Voices, the larger company of Findaway, Kelly's own experience as a writer, and other insights into the audiobook world.


I'm delighted about the future growth in digital book-selling that is continuing to happen for authors.

Do you hear what I hear?

I hear opportunity.


Thursday, February 08, 2018

Superstars Writing Seminars 2018

I attended Superstars Writing Seminars this past week as a guest instructor.

Superstars Founding Faculty Members (F) and Guest Instructors. Left to Right: Lisa Mangum, Jonathan Maberry, Kevin J. Anderson (F), Rebecca Moesta (F), James A. Owen (F), David Farland (F), Brandon Sanderson (F), Eric Flint (F)

Even though I was there to teach and share insights about Kobo and Kobo Writing Life and digital publishing, and even though it was my fifth visit to this annual conference, I still walked away with an incredible amount of knowledge. I ALWAYS do.

And that's one of the reasons I keep going back. The industry keeps changing and the learning never stops. And this conference is filled with information about both traditional publishing as well as indie and digital publishing options for writers, always focusing on the BUSINESS of being a writer. (Even though there is an intensive "craft day" now tacked on at the front of the conference)

Pic from VIP Dinner - Photo courtesy of Lauren Lang of Jacobin Photography

Apart from the presentations, panels and discussions I participated in, I also scooted around between sessions and in hallways and did a series of live Facebook videos of chats with various folks, including the founding faculty, guest instructors and other industry pros who were attending. It was part of my wanting to share, via my Stark Reflections/Stark Publishing brand, insights and tidbits of info for writers who couldn't be there.

Here's a brief video with some highlights of some of those hallway conversations.


[I should note that there will be a more professional video coming out about Superstars Writing Seminars, being created by an actual professional production company to include testimonials from instructors and attendees. Below is a pic from my own testimonial recording.]

Behind the scenes of the professional video shoot - video forthcoming

But back to my short clip video. It doesn't include the hilarious moment when Kevin J. Anderson and I were sharing some tidbits from a panel we had just finished on building your community and a well-intentioned Antlers Hotel staff member trying to help, grabbed my phone in order to get a better shot of us.

We cracked up for a moment, but then managed to keep going on the original track. (Given that Kevin and I are huge RUSH fans, we later expressed how it showed our ability to keep "Grace Under Pressure")

Here's a link to that video on Facebook:  The hilarious phone grab moment happens around 3:50.
Facebook Live Video (Mark and Kevin)

2018 Founding Faculty and Guest Instructors

In another amusing blooper-style moment, on the Saturday, feeling overwhelmed with the "fire-hose of information," I attempted to do a quick walking commentary on the importance of pausing in the middle of such an influx in order to process it. I was suggesting that talking a walk or perhaps going on a run was a great way to get the blood pumping and be able to absorb and reflect on the great information.

Pic from Opening night reception (I was trying hard not to be too much of a fan-boy while chatting with the awesome Jonathan Maberry) - Photo courtesy of Lauren Lang of Jacobin Photography

Of course, the spots I chose to do this in had spotty WiFi. So it took me three takes. I compiled them into a single video and added a few little extra touches (like a ghosted in cover of The Healthy Writer by Joanna Penn and Dr. Euan Lawson, since I mention it in my walking reflection), because, despite my silliness of the three takes, I think the message is important.


For anybody interested, next year, 2019, will be the 10th Anniversary of #SuperstarsWriting - You can be certain you'll see me there again, both sharing what I know, and continuing to learn great new things for so many fantastic people. - registration for next year is now open.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Returning to Lincoln City

I will be returning to Lincoln City at the end of February as part of the WMG Publishing Fiction River Anthology workshop. This is one of many amazingly informative and valuable workshops that Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch teach.

In previous workshops, I pulled together the anthologies Editor's Choice, Feel the Fear and Feel the Love (forthcoming).

This year I'm reading for a new anthology focusing on superstitions.

Earlier today I was reminded of my last trip to Lincoln city in the fall of 2017. After M.L. Buchman (internationally best-selling military romance writer) and I had a delightful and delicious pizza dinner at Tie Dye Pie (formerly known as Humble Pie) . . .

Inside the awesome Tie Dye Pie pizza parlor - where customers are encouraged to write on the walls and ceiling
. . . we popped over to Bob's Beach Books where I did a quick Facebook live video sharing a story I had heard about the eerie portal to the lost continent of Lemuria that supposedly exists inside the bookstore. The story was from the chapter "The Portal" in Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Library.



I accidentally hit one of the filters on the video before I started it up the live feed and didn't notice until I was rolling. But since I was live, I had to roll with it. (Yes, the pun IS completely intended) And I kind of like the eerie effect it offers.

I'm not sure if the portal is real or not, but the story behind the mysterious couple who arrived at the store late one afternoon looking for it is intriguing. And two things I DO know: The pizza on that strip is divine, and Bob's Beach Books is haunted by a pretty cool owner and staff, as well as by me when I'm in town twice a year.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Podcast: Optimizing Your Author Brand with Robert J. Sawyer

The latest episode of my Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing podcast features an interview with Canadian science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer.




It's a great conversation where we talk about how Rob was the first science fiction writer to ever have a website and how he made sure to generously apply the keywords Science, Fiction and Writer throughout the site (aptly named SFWriter.com) in order to appear at the top of most keyword search results for people looking for a science fiction writer. (IE, when someone from the media wants to talk to a sci-fi writer about a recent scientific news item)



This (among other author brand exercises) has helped Rob land more than 400 radio and more than 400 television interviews over the years.

We also get into the optimization of your author's IP (Intellectual Property) by taking advantage not only of the historical division of territorial publishing rights, but also the rights of each unique format for a book (hardcover, paperback, ebook, audio, television and movies rights, etc)

And another highlight is the manner by which Rob has set up his novels so that the "elevator pitch" or the thought-provoking element for each of his novels is easy to relay and quickly prompts the listener to want to answer or respond to that thought or question.


You can read the full podcast show-notes and listen to the interview online here, or you can subscribe to the podcast so you don't miss a single episode.

The chat with Rob reminded me of how I had been able to consistently recommend his novel Rollback to people who say they don't like science fiction; whenever I had done this, 100% of the people I had shared this with returned to me and said they loved the book, but it wasn't science fiction, it was a wonderful novel. I merely smiled and said, "Exactly!" (Below is a video of a book recommendation I recorded as part of KEEP TORONTO READING program that the Toronto Public Library ran in 2011.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A (Super) Brief History of Publishing

I was asked, several years ago, to be one of the guest speakers at The Writers of the Future for the 30th Annual Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles, California. The topic they wanted me to cover was the future of publishing.

You can't, of course, consider the future of publishing without first taking a quick look at the history of publishing.

And that's exactly what I did, in this talk that begins with the thought that publishing was derived from human-kind's innate desire to share stories.