Free Copies of my zombie thriller THE NORTH!

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E-ARCS are about to be released! Want to get a review copy and start reading some seriously thrilling end-of-the-world action and suspense for teens? Just fill out the form below and specify whether you’ll need a Kindle copy or an EPUB version.

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Breakout. Escape the city. Stay alive.

Sixteen-year-old David Simmons is on a mission to save his eight-year-old sister. In a smoldering world infested with walking cadavers, the survivors of Simmons infantry reserve unit are going hatches down in a pair of armoured personnel carriers and everyone knows that it’s only a matter of time until their fuel runs dry.

There’s a weak short wave radio signal from a place called Sanctuary Base and it’s supposed to be zombie-free. But there’s more than a thousand miles to cover, a biting, unforgiving cold, armed survivalists, legions of the living dead and someone called SUNRAY.

They’re outgunned, outnumbered and out of time.

This tense thriller for teens offers a terrifying vision of survival in a post-apocalyptic world where the bonds of friendship and family are the only things left that are worth fighting for

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Traditional Publishing, Flooded Markets and What to Write Next

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It’s September! Where did the summer go? Soon we’re going to be knee-deep in the arctic express here in Saskatchewan where I live. We have a long, miserably cold and dark winter here in the Great White North – I generally spend it writing. Actually my production increases during the winter months and so I’m going to start something new, I just have to decide what.

You know, we all keep hearing about the importance of original work from agents and editors on Twitter. How it’s important to write what matters to you,  to write a good story. An excellent story. The best story you could ever hope to produce. We are warned against writing for what the market wants yet  if you hit the hashtag #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) you’re going to see a lot of editors and agents posting about what they’d like in their inboxes. I often scratch my head at that one because it flies in the face of what many other agents and editors suggest you should be doing – like writing original stuff.

We’ve seen a lot of trends come and go over the past few years. One such trend that apparently is on the outs is a genre that affects me and that’s urban fantasy. I’ve lost track of how many tweets I read from Book Expo of America or the London Book Fair – urban fantasy is dead! Zombies are dead! Dystopian is dead! Post-apocalyptic fiction is dead! What everyone wants now is YA contemporary! Send us your stories about sick and dying teens in love that tear at the heart and you might have a shot of grabbing someone’s attention!

There are days when I wonder if publishing knows what the hell it’s doing anymore. A lot of contradictory advice. A big herd mentality. A lot of rumors about what’s selling and what isn’t selling. A lot of this, that and the other thing.

Which makes you wonder when you’re thinking about starting a new project whether you should. Whether it will see the light of day via traditional publishing.

I often wonder whether traditional publishing takes into consideration the sales of self-published books or even if anyone can ascertain the true sales numbers. God knows traditional publishers are very guarded with their sales figures and Amazon sure as hell is. I think we tend to ball park it.

As you know, I self-published an urban fantasy/superhero story called MARSHALL CONRAD this summer. I can tell you that it has sold about fifteen to twenty copies a day since June 26th. Let’s be conservative and say fifteen copies. So fifteen times sixty five days equals 975. So I’ve sold nearly a thousand copies of a reprint that I self published in slightly over two months. Wow.

I repeat. Wow.

I’ve never sold that many books in two months before.

Does this mean that the experts at big publishing houses in their marketing departments are on crack when they say, for example, that urban fantasy is dead? Or is it just the urban fantasy coming out of the major publishing houses?

In short, a lot of unqualified pronouncements about this being “dead” or that “not selling” or the marketing being flooded with “this”.

I’m not sure what I’m going to write next. I’ve got a brand new work that is going to be available on October 6th in a genre that apparently is a hard sell right now – zombies and post apocalyptic.  I’ve got strong sales from Marshall Conrad so I’m wondering whether I should finish that second book. And I’m shopping an urban fantasy via traditional publishing that is quite frankly, the best thing I’ve ever written and all I’m hearing is “great voice, market flooded, no thanks.”

Decisions, decisions. Maybe I’ll self-publish that one as well.

Damned decisions. What do you think?

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The Tipping Point of Publishing – We’re All Hybrid Authors Now

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Malcolm Gladwell argues that the tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.  Yeah, I know the book came out 12 years ago, but it’s almost as if he foresaw the power of social media, for example … that moment when something like an ALS ice bucket challenge hits critical mass and suddenly everyone and his/her dog is doing it.

I’ve been thinking about the challenges in publishing since Angry Robot Books YA imprint shut its doors less than three years after bursting onto the scene with great fanfare. A bunch of authors I know with book deals wound up having them cancelled. Other author friends of mine are hanging in limbo. We are all waiting to get word on whether we have a fight on our hands to get our rights back. (My hunch is that we probably will have to fight because nothing is ever easy, is it?)

Hachette is fighting with Amazon. Amazon is fighting with Hachette. One group of authors has an open letter asking Amazon to lay off while self-published authors are openly supporting Amazon’s position.

2014 has been a crazy year in publishing and I have to wonder: are we nearing a tipping point that changes publishing forever? Have we already tipped and is the new paradigm starting to take shape? Is the future of publishing one of hybrid authors? Is it just self-published books and will authors ever make the kind of money they made a generation ago?

So much has changed so fast. Agents are offering publicist services. Some agents are developing their own in-house imprints for their client’s back lists. Smashwords is a bona-fide phenomenon. Kindle Direct Publishing is kicking ass everywhere and Amazon OWNS … they freaking OWN 90% of the ebook market world-wide.

That’s a staggering figure.

And I don’t know how the existing traditional model can continue when there is so much uncertainty. Nobody has a clue where things are going, but if you look closely you might see some writing on the wall.

I think the phenomenon known as “showrooming” where people go into a show room, price the product they want and then go home and buy it online is starting to hit the traditional retail sector in a big way. (Best Buy has been hit hard. Sears. In Canada, Chapters-Indigo, our largest book retailer is dramatically increasing their non-book stock to make up for the losses to Amazon purchases)

We already know bookstores are closing. People are shopping on their iPads and laptops. Out with the old ways and in with the new.

This stuff has happened so goddamned fast. I can’t even keep up with the changes … nobody can!

I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t think traditional publishing is going to survive – at least not in the way we’ve grown accustomed. This will have a dramatic impact on everyone involved in getting books sold under the old paradigm. It’s already hard as hell to find a literary agent … but … does an author even need one anymore if the traditional model is going tit’s up?  Does an author really need a publisher like he/she used to? My two Strange Chemistry titles, POLTERGEEKS & STUDENT BODIES … outside of fantastic cover art and editing, the lion’s share of the marketing was done by me and me alone. The first book wasn’t even in Canadian bookstores until the second book came out … a full 12 months later! Not that it mattered … the bulk of my sales were ebooks by a WIDE WIDE WIDE margin.

And so if digital sales are outselling traditional sales and authors are being asked to do all the marketing for their work … what’s the point, right?

Well, see … we are a vain bunch. Unpublished writers and people like me who’ve been around for a few years … we still cling to the notion that the old model somehow legitimizes our worth as authors. That holding a book in your hand for the first time or seeing it on the shelf of the local bookstore (assuming you can find one) makes it more real.

We want recognition. We really do … because it’s so fucking hard to write a book. We pour our hearts and souls into our work. We are taking something so deeply personal and putting it out to the universe. We want to feel the love, you know?

For me … I still like a lot of what traditional publishing offers in the way of good cover art and of course, professional editing. I like to think I had a relationship with the two traditional publishing houses that thought my stuff was good enough to make offers on. I connected with their authors. I made friends. I traveled to England twice (on my dime – that’s what my advance paid for) and took part in a big shindig to launch my 1st Strange Chemistry title (my agent organized this). I along with another author who is a good friend organized all my author visits last September during my second trip to promote STUDENT BODIES. Very simply, I’ve been alone for a long time when it comes to getting the word out about my books. We are all of us, alone to promote our work because publishers aren’t really that interested anymore unless you’re an established brand.

Over the past few months I’ve come to the realization that this is the new reality. Things tipped or are in the process of tipping or possibly crashing into the ground with a great big wet, sticky sounding SLAP!

I still believe in traditional publishing, but I believe even stronger now that for me at least, a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing is going to be the way forward.

What a freaking learning curve. An entire industry is driving down a dark winding highway with no idea where that road is leading. Oh, and the headlights just conked out.

As John Lennon once sang, “strange days indeed … most peculiar Mama.”

I started a writer’s group here in Saskatoon with more than 40 members now. I’m going to be telling the everyone  the future of publishing is in being a hybrid author. 

And that’s not a bad thing. Not bad at all.

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Wait … what? Another Cover Reveal? (Adventures in self-publishing)

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My experiment with self-publishing continues! Funeral Pallor is the second in my Valerie Stevens series, first published by Snowbooks back in 2010. I’m self-publishing it with groovy new cover art and a relatively attractive price point. $3.99. This one combines two of my favorite things: urban fantasy & zombies. Here’s what it’s about:

There’s a nest of zombies in an old city warehouse and they’ve got a hankering for human flesh, but that’s the least of Valerie Stevens’ problems. While necromancers are a dime a dozen, these mindless killing machines all share one thing in common: they’re former occupants of every funeral home in the city. 

All the evidence points to Val’s best friend, the zombie Caroline. (She’s the only sentient zombie in existence & lately she’s been having trouble explaining her whereabouts.) If Valerie plans to clear her best friend’s name, she’ll have to move fast: someone has dispatched a zombie assassin and there’s a dark plot to overrun the city with the living dead. 

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Self Publishing Confession: Why I’m Self-Pubbing my next book

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 newnorthcoverI’m fond of this cover art because I think it encapsulates the bleak , flat and grey landscape for my forthcoming YA post-apocalyptic thriller THE NORTH. I wrote it three years ago and it’s been through a hell of a lot of revision since I penned it during NaNoWriMo. It’s the zombie apocalypse, or rather, six months past Day Zero – the day when the old world ended … but the zombies aren’t the primary antagonists, they’re just another hazard for my group of teen soldiers as they fight their way out of a city ruled by the dead in a pair of barely serviceable armoured personnel carriers and into open country where a bigger, more sinister danger threatens to end them.

THE NORTH is the first of three books, I plan to release the second installment in October 2015 and the final book in October 2016. I’ve decided to self-publish the first one in spite of the fact that I had a perfectly good offer on the table from a respectable independent publisher of zombie/post-apocalyptic books. Why?

Because I didn’t see anything they could offer that I wasn’t able to do myself.

There was a higher than standard ebook royalty offered, I turned it down. I was offered the rights back if it didn’t hit the top 100 in the first six months. (For post-apocalyptic books). I was offered the cover art even if it didn’t work out. And after spending two weeks humming and hawing about it, I politely declined.

My experience after five published works is that authors are continually in a cycle of self-promotion. Sure, the publisher has 20K likes on their Facebook page and likely a built-in fan base for their books, hell, I’d probably get a nice initial bump in sales from that. But then I spent some time on Amazon and researched post-apocalyptic books including the ones with zombies … there are some huge sellers there and a heck of a lot of them are self-published and priced competitively.

I can still do a blog tour. I can still giveaway e-arcs (which I will be doing in the next couple of weeks so email me at info AT sean DASH cummings DOT ca if you want one for review). I can still post it to Facebook and Twitter. I really didn’t see how this publisher’s marketing efforts save for the 20K likes on their Facebook page would be any different from what I and thousands of other authors do every single day.

And one final thing:  I have control of the price. Had I signed on, that would have been gone. (Not to mention world rights, translation rights, etc, etc, etc.)

You know, it’s a great read. I had one publisher with some big bestselling books under their belt love the story to death and want very much to publish it, but they were worried it wouldn’t sell because the market is flooded with zombie books. (Even though this isn’t exactly a zombie book, but I digress and the numbers of sales for self-pubbed zombie books would indicate there’s still a very strong market, so perhaps he was thinking bookstores as opposed to online?)

Anyway, it’ll be an adventure. I hope it sells. I hope it sells so much that I can get new hair, a fur coat and a 1967 Mustang. It might not sell, but then again it might not sell if it was traditionally published. I know the risks. I know it’s on me now.

And that’s just fine.

It’ll be released on October 6th for epub, Kindle and print via Create Space. Oh, and you can pre-order it today …how cool is that?

Here we go!

PS. I am in love with the cover art for this one 🙂

 

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