Halloween Tricks and Treats

This Halloween brings with it the usual tricks and treats in the industry. AAP and traditional publishing is touting a fairly small increase in sales as a huge gain. In the same breath, they crow about the continued slowing of e-book sales (without admitting that slow down is only in trad sales and mainly due to high purchase price). Depending on your point of view, those bits of news can be tricks or treats. Two other news items are definite tricks or, as I like to put it, “What the [expletive deleted] were you thinking?” moments. Fortunately, there are some treats out there.

Let’s look at the “tricks” first.

B&N continues with their efforts to shoot themselves in the corporate foot. It’s no secret they have been behind Amazon when it comes to e-book readers. The Kindle came out Nov. 19, 2007. The Nook e-book reader was available for pre-order for the first time on Oct 20, 2009. That is a delay of almost two years before BN realized it needed to get into the game. It has played a game of catch-up since then and is now throwing in the towel. At least that’s the way it looks. The most recent victim, er indication, is the Nook Glowlight Plus. For those not familiar with the Glowlight Plus, it is BN’s alternative to the Kindle Paperwhite (in a side-by-side comparison, the Paperwhite, the Paperwhite came out on top. The only reason the Oasis didn’t was the price differential.) However, it now appears that BN is phasing out the Glowlight Plus. If you try to buy one, I hope you are willing to pay for a refurbished model because BN isn’t selling new ones. Nor does it appear there is a replacement reader or updated reader coming down the line to replace it. Is this the first tangible example of how BN is going to abandon at least the hardware side of e-books? If so, how will this impact their e-book platform, both for traditional publishers and for indies?

The second “trick” comes from Australia. Gould’s Book Arcade in Sydney has been around since the Vietnam War. Back then, it was a gathering place for antiwar protesters. From what I’ve been able to learn, it’s well-known for its used books as well as remaindered, rare and out-of-print books. But, like many bookstores around the world, it has been facing financial troubles for some time. Now it appears the store has three months before it either has to close its doors or move to a new location. None of this is new in the industry.

What makes this a “trick”, at least in my book, is the attitude of the store owner. Unfortunately, it is an attitude I see all too often in not only the publishing industry but in life in general. Claiming that she is a socialist and “I don’t understand capitalism,” Natalie Gould wants someone to swoop in and save the store. In fact, she would have no problem with local government buying the store, saying, ““If I was (Sydney lord mayor) Clover Moore I’d buy the building. They (the city council) have got plenty of money.”

I would lay good money on the fact Gould has changed little, if any, of the way the store operates over the six plus years she says she’s struggled to keep it open. Reading her comments, it is clear she sees the store more as a place of protest, a gathering place and piece of local culture rather than as a business. She wants to keep having her fun on someone else’s dollar. This failure to adapt to changing demands — or, or perhaps and, in this case the change in the neighborhood — she dug her heels in. Now she wants someone to come in a bail her out. Doesn’t this sound a lot like traditional publishing and it’s failure to adapt to changing consumer demands? Traditional publishing (the Big 5, especially) dearly wants things to go back to the way they were decades ago. Instead, readers are looking elsewhere for their reading enjoyment. They aren’t paying the high prices for e-books from the Big 5 and its ilk, instead turning to indie authors.

Now for the treats.

I’m a fan of a number of the old horror films. One of my favorites is The Haunting. This 1963 film stars Julie Harris, Claire Bloom and Russ Tamblyn, among others. It is based on the book, The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. The movie airs tonight on 8:30 CST on Turner Classic Movies. This isn’t one of your heavy special effects movies or hack and slash movies. It is one, however, that scared the crap out of me when I was younger and still gives me the chills, especially when it comes to the performance by Julie Harris. I highly recommend it. I also recommend the book, as well as Ms. Jackson’s The Lottery.

Then there’s always Poltergeist. Who can forget Carol Anne saying, “They’re here”?

Finally, I have three titles on sale through today in honor of Halloween.

Witchfire Burning (Now on sale for $2.99)

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

Skeletons in the Closet (Now on sale for $0.99)

Lexie Smithson’s family had never been what most folks would call “normal”. They had more than their fair share of oddballs and loners and even crazy cat ladies. Most families in Mossy Creek did, especially if they lived on the “wrong side of the tracks”. But things took a decidedly sharp turn to the left of weird the day Lexie’s sister came home from school, complaining about how Old Serena Duchamp had given her the evil eye. When her mother decided it would be a good thing to confront the town’s resident witch, Lexie knew life would never be the same. How could it when their loved ones began returning to the old homestead the day after their funerals. Lexie knew she should be happy none of her neighbors reported mutilated cattle or corpses with missing brains. But that can be hard to do when your loved ones have passed but not passed on.

Skeletons in the Closet is a novella set in the Eerie Side of the Tracks universe. It is the first of a series featuring Lexie, her family – both living and dead, not to mention furry – and their friends.

Nocturnal Haunts (Now on sale for $0.99)

Lt. Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. She’s learned that real monsters don’t always hide under the bed or in the closet. They walk the streets and can exist in the best of families.

When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.


  1. The more I read about big publishing the more I shake my head. I keep being reminded of the culture portrayed in “Cyberbooks” by Ben Bova. I know it was supposed to be satire and a humorous take of the whole publishing industry. It has seemed to have become much more than that. Almost a prophecy.

  2. One factor that might aid B&N in spite of themselves is that their epub e-book format can be read by the iBook app included on all Apple devices. So anyone with an iPhone, iPad, or other Apple computer product has a built in epub reader. Of course those devices can also load the free Amazon Kindle app to read mobi or azw Kindle format e-books. To me the key is the access to a device the size and weight of a paperback that may hold hundred of books and display them in a manner easy on the eyes.
    As for Witchfire Burning, can’t say enough about that book. It was so good that when I copy edited it the story was so engrossing that I missed far too many small bobbles that should have been caught. Mea culpa.

  3. I am not a businessman, in any way, shape or form. But if a big company like B&N is abandoning its Nook hardware, after selling Nooks since 2007, that can’t be a good sign. Either the whole e-book section is a net money loser, or it is being killed by internal politics. Either way, not looking good for the giant.

    Interesting from our perspective as authors, and a possible indicator of the future, I never see any of y’all on here saying how good your ebook sales are from B&N Nook. Mostly I see people saying they’re dropping the B&N Nook store because they don’t get sales there, and they’ll focus their attention on Amazon instead.

    Amazon, for their part, seems to be focused on building e-book. They did start some brick-and-mortar stores, but only in mega-traffic areas of NYC and similar. That general trend does not bode well for publishers.

    Recent news regarding publishing being what it is, they may well deserve every bad thing that happens.


    1. Back when I started in ’12, I “went wide.” B&N wasn’t bad to me, not like Kobo was, or impossible like iTunes. But I made five times as much with the ‘Zon than I did with B&N, and that was before KDP Select and KU. So I decided to go with Select. B&N’s most recent author Terms of Service make me envision the Great Pr0n Massacre* on Kobo all over.

      *Long story short: Someone at Waterstones, which sold through Kobo, complained about getting pr0n advertised as romance. Kobo removed every book that might have been “naughty”, based on things like how much skin was on the cover, and if the model was wearing pearls or not [no, I’m not kidding], as well as content. Much authorial unhappiness ensued.

      1. This was my understanding. Generalized Incompetence Syndrome displayed on a corporate scale.

    1. Amazon made the Kindle good, then made it cheap (or cheap versions.. I have a Kindle Fire of about the lowest end.) And that was also a gatewaty for the app, so even if I rarely actually use the Kindle hardware itself, the app is on the phone that is often close, so…

      And the Nook.. seemed like a “good idea, almost.” Later, pricey, always seemed limited or expensive (or worse: both) in comparison. And the later news of anti-customer moves.. well, my dollars voted “NOPE, not doing that.”

      Will I eventually replace the Kindle? Almost certainly. The question is… replace it a generic (not Kindle/Amazon branded) tablet and use a Kindle/Audible app on it… or go for a higher-end Kindle that looks more “paper” and is easier on the eyes? Or yes.

    2. Can’t say anything about the Nook devices but B&N on-line ebook-store is terrible as well as the “fun and games” concerning downloading the ebooks to my PC. 😦

    3. Not the traditional pricing. Most people don’t want to pay $10-$20 for an e-book when the paperback is cheaper. (Note, this is why most indies and small press price BELOW what a traditional paperback sells for.) Add to that the difficulties that Drak cites. They are shooting themselves in the foot in every way they can, then running around looking for MORE ways to shoot the other foot and acting surprised when they fall over due to the holes in their feet.

  4. I did have a small glimpse of how very good those writers who are at the top of Big Publishing’s food chain have it, though. A couple who are friends of mine (my Teeny Publishing Bidness did the husband’s memoir of Growing Up in the Fifties, and they are both fans of my own books) invited me to go with them to a big literary benefit here in San Antonio; a luncheon to benefit cancer research at UTHSC. They had never gone before, and invited me to go, cheerfully assuming that I knew all about these book events.

    So, my friends cheerily insisted, “Next year, you’ll be one of the featured writers!” and I looked over the very slick program, and read about the authors, and sighed, explained to them that no — these authors are picked by a committee, who draws on the NYT best seller list and those books which hit in a big way. They are publicized nationally, have a huge platform and an enormous media presence …. oh, and I know the cultural editor of the local newspaper is part of the selection committee, and he thinks indy published books are garbage and beneath his newspapers’ notice. (Or so he told me, when we had a phone convo, eight years or so ago) I’m a writer with mostly regional appeal. I’ve got fans, but not to the point where I could add anything to a bash like this benefit.

    The books and authors who were picked for it, were quite good, BTW. My friends bought a copy of Millers of the Flower Moon for me – the whole point was for everyone to buy the books! – and I was up to 9 PM last night reading it. Excellent and gripping reading. I so owe my friends a double batch of home-made gourmet fudge and a gratis copy of my next book!

  5. House on Haunted Hill and The Old Dark House are also on TCM tonight. It’s a great time of year to have a PVR.

  6. Goulds, For about a decade I lived one suburb away and visited the suburb on occasion for drinks or food.

    But while I knew off the book store, i never saw any marketing at all to actually get me to visit the store as a reader, it was always the department stores for price or the specialty stores in the City where I could rely that if Baen had ever published a book, they would have it.

  7. I would lay good money on the fact Gould has changed little, if any, of the way the store operates over the six plus years she says she’s struggled to keep it open. Reading her comments, it is clear she sees the store more as a place of protest, a gathering place and piece of local culture rather than as a business. She wants to keep having her fun on someone else’s dollar. This failure to adapt to changing demands — or, or perhaps and, in this case the change in the neighborhood — she dug her heels in. Now she wants someone to come in a bail her out.

    Goulds has the reputation for being one of those hugely left-wing gathering places, being anti-war and so on and so forth. They try to ply it as one of those ‘historical’ places to visit in Sydney, ‘especially for intellectuals’ when I was looking up bookstores to visit when I lived in Sydney in 2010. I thought of trying to order books, but they’re pricey. They’ve some stuff that would be incredibly intriguing reading, but their more interesting books retail at 40+ and higher AUD, which is just… no.

    Visiting some other secondhand book places, they have a tendency to price the books in such a way that seems to me not conducive to wanting to purchase.

    1. There are used bookstores, which are usually cheap.

      There are rare bookstores, which are usually not.

      And there are “used and rare,” where it depends heavily on the title and edition.

  8. My Nook is sitting next to the stereo. I use it to play Pandora. It’s sort of a mini-tablet and hideously slow.

    I love my only-a-reader Kindle and the integration with the Amazon store. I’ve probably bought more books via the “get next in series” than anything else. Win/win arrangement (isn’t there a word for that? Oh, yes, capitalism).

  9. There’s a bookstore in San Francisco which is fairly well-known and has been successful in the past. They started running into trouble a couple of years back, when SF’s rents started getting stratospheric, and announced that they were going to have to close. The difference between them and the example cited above is that their faithful clientele (of which they had a lot) made some suggestions, including a Patreon-type deal, that has helped fund the store to the point where they have been able to purchase a new location, one that won’t be subject to rent increases. IOW, they cultivated their market, tried new things, and have managed to keep a secure financial footing in a changing market, instead of pulling into a hole and hoping someone else will save them.

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