A Time for Being Thankful


I’m coming to the end of a beautiful fall month of having fun with family while my blog has ticked along in fine style. I have some big thanks to send out.

First off, to my wonderful guests – Patrick O’Scheen, author of Dreamer and Seer; Laekan Zea Kemp, author of Breathing Ghosts and Kevin Brennan, author of Yesterday Road. Having these three authors on my blog, discussing their work and the self-publishing industry, has been a real treat. I’ve had the chance to read three thought-provoking books, learn a few things and I’ve gained a number of new followers thanks to my guests. I’ve had a great experience opening up my blog to other voices. I highly recommend the practice.

Next, a huge thank you to Carolynn Arnold over at Celebrating Authors for the author interview she did for me and the great twitter traffic that has resulted from that post. (Which, by the way, is still going on!) Please pop over and check out her site and my interview.

I want to send out a big thank you to The Fussy Librarian. Yesterday, Disappearing in Plain Sight was one of the book selections featured on The Fussy Librarian’s daily email. This new site is connecting self-published authors with readers. Indie authors often go on about the difficulties we have getting our books out in front of readers. Our blogs, Facebook author pages, and Twitter feeds are jam-packed with other authors (and that’s great, don’t get me wrong) but we often wonder how to connect with readers. Well, this new site is solving that problem. Why not pop over and sign up for their daily email alerts. You let them know what you like to read and every day they pick a few books for you.

And thanks to all the bloggers I follow for your patience. I’ve had time here and there to check in with some of you but I haven’t seen all the great posts I wanted to.

Finally, thank you to my two beautiful granddaughters for making this month fly by in a whirl of fun and delight.


Brit checks out the corn maze at The Laity Pumpkin Patch


Emma stops for a well deserved rest during a wonderful walk checking out all the great fall sights – including this amazingly beautiful bee hive!


Oyster Books–A Raw Deal for Authors? Guest Post by Kevin Brennan


Author photo


Thank you, first, to Francis, for asking me to contribute a post to her blog. She maintains such an eloquent tone here that I’m a little afraid of tarnishing the silver, but since she reads “What The Hell regularly, I’m sure she knew what she was getting into!


As a self-publisher with a newly released novel Yesterday Road I’ve been exploring lots of ways that writers like Francis and me can find and attract readers, so at first I was intrigued by a new concept in “book delivery” – Oyster.

Have you heard of it? No? You will, and probably sooner than later.

Oyster has been described as a Netflix for books, and it works like this: Subscribers pay $9.95 a month and get to browse, download, and read as many books as they want. Pretty simple. And, you can imagine, pretty attractive to a certain kind of reader. According to the web site, there’s “No limit to the number of books you can browse or read simultaneously.”

Currently, subscribing is by invitation only, though you can request an invitation here. As yet, Oyster is a mobile service for iPhone and iPod Touch. The developers are promising an iPad version of the app soon, with something for Android coming down the road. So far, readers can choose from over 100,000 titles, mainly from HarperCollins, but that’s expected to increase when Oyster works out deals with the other big publishing houses. A deal with Smashwords is also in the works, and that’s where we come in.

The practical question is, What’s in it for the writers? Mark Coker of Smashwords, on the verge of releasing a statement with details on the arrangement, claims it’s “an author-friendly deal, so I think you’ll be pleased.” It will be interesting to see what Mark considers “author-friendly” compared with our own sense of fairness.

In the long term, will it be better to sell individual copies of our books via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and other online systems, or to participate in server-based distribution like Oyster? The closest real-world model is not really Netflix so much as Spotify for music distribution, and believe me, musicians are not happy with the payment structure there. Anecdotally, some songs getting streamed hundreds of thousands of times yield the rights holder less than twenty bucks. I fear that a service like Oyster will begin, or rather continue, to devalue the product it’s ostensibly supporting.

But what is that product? Is it really books? If you get a chance to read Jaron Lanier’s fascinating, Who Owns The Future, you’ll get a glimpse of the hidden foundation of the new economy – what he calls Siren Servers. These are the monopolizing entities that control the flow of information, and they don’t care about “product” (or compensation of the content creators) so much as influence and reach. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple — they’re all about big data, centralization, and making themselves indispensable. Just as the recorded music business has essentially collapsed thanks to the Siren Server phenomenon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see publishing fall into that black hole as well. Newspapers are already there.

The Oyster model fits right into this idea. It isn’t selling books per se but rather access to a trove of books. Individual titles will yield some level of micropayments to the authors — probably already-popular names — but there’s no way to know yet whether they will be mere tokens or might actually pay some bills for less well-knowns.

Laura Hazard Owen, who wrote a detailed piece on the app in the online publication GigaOm says, “Oyster wouldn’t get into details with me about how it’s compensating publishers and authors, and wouldn’t state whether newer, more well-known titles are getting better royalties than older ones.” Frankly, this reticence makes me think we’re looking at more of a Spotify model than a royalty system based on copies viewed (as if they’d been sold). Would you rather, as an author, receive a few pennies per view or a set percentage of cover price per copy sold? And what will count as a view? Completion of a book, or the downloading of more than a sample? It seems like these little details will matter.

Another angle altogether, though, is the exposure we might gain by hopping aboard a potentially popular trend. Oyster will have a recommendation algorithm much like Amazon’s, so an unknown writer might well gain some new eyeballs in that lottery. Readers browsing by category could pick up an indie writer’s novel on the basis of cover art, ratings, and books that it appears to be similar to. That’s not a bad thing at all.

I suppose we have to face facts, here in the early part of the 21st century. The game has changed. These “advances” are coming, and we’re not in control. Sure, we can advocate for our own interests and fight for a fair deal, but most of all we have to stay educated and make sure we understand the marketplace.

We don’t really have a choice, do we? The successful independent writers will be the ones who learn how to use these new tools to their advantage. Oyster is probably just the beginning of a new paradigm.

Additional links:

Business Insider

Tech Crunch

Publishing Perspectives

Links to Kevin’s work

Yesterday Road photo


Yesterday Road on Amazon.com – right here

Yesterday Road in other formats – right here




Our Children photo


Our Children Are Not Our Children on Amazon.com – right here

Our Children Are Not Our Children in other formats – right here



Kevin’s book, Parts Unknown, is available directly from the author – right here 

Kevin can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Blogging Pal – Kevin Brennan

Author photo


Today, I begin a two-part series on the work of self-published author, Kevin Brennan. I’ve been following Kevin’s blog – What the Hell – for a while and I enjoy his eyes-wide-open approach to the whole self-publishing industry.



Things are pretty exciting for Kevin right now. He’s in the midst of a book launch forYesterday Road photo his latest novel – Yesterday Road. And hasn’t he created a fabulous cover? I’m looking forward to the read – just downloaded it today. You can pop over to Kevin’s blog and read the first chapter and see what you think, then follow the links to purchase.

Yesterday Road on Amazon.com – right here
Yesterday Road (other formats) – right here 



Our Children photoI recently reviewed another of Kevin’s work – a book of ficlets (isn’t that a neat word!) – Our Children are not Our Children. I thought I’d share that review.

A trip through the disturbingly selfish realms of the parental soul

The price is right for a quick read – load it onto your e-reading device before you commute to or from work and you’ll have an engrossing read that is well worth the effort. Brennan takes the reader on a trip through the disturbingly selfish realms of the parental soul. Fathers seem uncaring and, at times, cruel – mother’s selfish and unavailable. The writing style – from a story of straight dialogue with no quotation marks at all, to the man packing for a dangerous mountain assault, running through his list of supplies, everything that happens around him described with the extended metaphor of the climb – rushes the reader along to the conclusion of each piece, breathless to turn the last page. The stories pick away at our own parental composure. Let the one free of sin, cast the first stone.

Again, follow the links to purchase.

Our Children Are Not Our Children on Amazon.com – right here 

Our Children Are Not Our Children (other formats) – right here  


Kevin can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. His first book, Parts Unknown, is for sale direct from the author – right here.


Tomorrow, in part two of this series, readers will find a guest post by Kevin. He has done a great expose on a new self-publishing resource called, Oyster. You’ll want to read all about what this new service might and might not offer to self-published authors.