Small Fish for the Ears

Small Fish - ACXI’m pleased to report that the audiobook of Diary of a Small Fish has just launched on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. The experience working through Amazon’s ACX platform was so satisfying, I thought I’d tell you all about it.

Back in the mid-autumn of 2013, while doing exactly nothing about promoting or selling my novel, I stumbled across ACX. I quickly learned that I could have my audiobook produced through the ACX platform at no out-of-pocket expense by splitting royalties with one of their many participating audiobook producers. Oh sure, I thought, how many of them will go to all that work (probably 25-50 hours of time) and expense (some of them pay for studio time) for a self-published novel by an unknown, on a straight royalty basis? I was skeptical.

But, what the hell – posting the project was simple and easy. It starts off with an Invitation for Auditions. It includes book description/blurb, and a full chapter of the manuscript. Once posted, the project is reviewed by the producers who search on their own, or you can search the roster of producers, listen to their voice samples, choose as many as you want, and send them an invitation to submit an audition.

I had no expectations at all – but in the short space of three days, I received 6-7 auditions. All of them were professional – and totally different! As I mulled the ones that had come in, others continued to arrive, until I had more than a dozen to choose from – any one of which would have satisfied me.

Then lightning struck. I received a message from ACX. They awarded my project a “production stipend,” essentially offering the chosen book producer a $100 per hour stipend (up to $2500) if the project was completed within 60 days of an agreement.

Notice of the stipend is attached to the title on the project page (a nifty red banner!). Within two days, I had another 8 auditions.

I spent a great deal of time looking up each of the artists. There were a number of people who’d just gotten into the field and had no credits to examine. There were some who had several credits in ebooks. There were some radio and television voice actors – commercials, mostly, but a few who’d also done theater.

I narrowed it down to two, based upon the voice alone. Then I made my final decision based upon the resume of the artist.

You will not have heard of Keith Sellon-Wright (yet), but the odds are you’ve seen him before – if you watched American television at any time during the past 25 years. I mean, just go look at the man’s IMDb! Wings, Love & War, Silk Stalkings, Married With Children, Almost Perfect, Seinfeld, The Practice, Charmed, Frasier, The West Wing, Gilmore Girls… I’m only half done.

Anyway, who would have thought, eh?

Here’s the kicker, though. Keith’s a hell of a guy. He’s a great character actor, works very hard at his craft, and he brought every element of his experience to bear in producing the novel in audio form. Most importantly, as the author of this story, I was curious to hear an experienced actor interpret it – and I have to say that Keith really nailed Paul Forté.

He really nailed him.

So – it took Keith a few months to get to the project due to prior commitments–discussed and agreed to during the “offer-acceptance” stage. Once Keith accepted, the clock began to tick, and he had 60 days to deliver. A week before deadline, he delivered (on the ACX website project page) chapter-by-chapter recordings, which had been done in a studio, with an engineer/editor, all paid for by Keith. I listened to each chapter, sent him back my notes, and he addressed them. In the space of 5 days, I listened to 15 hours of audio (original and re-recorded segments) and had many emails and phone conversations with Keith. In the end, he uploaded all of the chapter files, and a 3-minute “audio sample” used on the Audible site for promotion, and I clicked “ACCEPT.”

Now to sell the damn thing.

From what I’ve been able to find, marketing and promoting of audiobooks is the same slog as ebooks, etc., but My Partner and I haven’t settled on any particular plan. It will probably entail a lot of grumbling and whining about “cutting through the clutter” and “differentiating” us from the incessant spam with which we compete. More homework to do on this subject.

So that’s it. I now have a new audiobook, at a cost of zero, narrated and produced by an experienced professional actor into a very high-quality product.

Thank you, once again, Amazon.

Law & Disorder – The Next Big Thing

At my first Bouchercon (debrief here), I met the charming and bubbly C.L. Phillips, who wasted no time recruiting me to participate in a blog “chain” in which authors discuss their Next Big Thing. C.L.’s is called Second Drink, and you can read about it in this post here.

But there was a catch, you see. I had to recruit five others who will keep the chain alive. At this rate, I anticipate that every published author in the world will have been solicited by February 11, 2014.

So here is a shout out to those who will follow me, Adam Sifre, Viva Barkowski, Valerie Douglas, and Kai Wilson.

With luck, you’ll be able to find their blog posts next week.

So, my next BIG THING (sounds dirty) is LAW & DISORDER, which sits at this very moment on an editor’s desk at an imprint whose handcuffs I would gladly wear.

One Sentence Synopsis

LAW & DISORDER is the story of Marty Bishop, a recovering sex addict whose homicide investigation of a murder implicates politically powerful people and leads to revelations he wishes he’d never had.

The Story

Marty Bishop’s family and career are in tatters after the discovery of his tawdry sexual liaisons with his boss’s wife – and dozens of others. Called to the home of a notorious drug kingpin, he finds the subject dead among teeming evidence of a wild party that likely involved members of the District Attorney’s staff. But the one piece of evidence that is missing – a laptop computer with video images of what occurred in the kingpin’s master bedroom suite – holds the clues to not just the murder, but to secrets that hit too close to home.

Marty’s witness interview of the elderly socialite across the street plants a seed he cannot shake, leading him through an investigation that ends with dirty laundry very much like his own.

What is the hook?  What’s this book really about?

As the title might suggest, LAW & DISORDER is a story about the dysfunction that accompanies power and privilege, and what the ruling class is capable of doing to preserve their reputations.

What inspired the book?  Where did you get your idea?

In the early 1980’s, the gruesome murder of a Cape Cod drug dealer during a wild party fostered many rumors. None of them were proven. This is a fictional tale about the worst that might be imagined.

What genre is this book?

It is straight up crime. There are bits of police procedural, bits of mystery. But there is a dead body on page one, and the objective is to solve that murder. In the end, the murders themselves are inconsequential. It is what is behind the murders – retribution, and the motive for it – that is the revelation.

Where and when can I read the book?

That depends entirely on how my wonderful agent, Christine Witthohn, fares in her tireless efforts to sell it. But you can read the first chapter, which is appended to the end of Diary of a Small Fish.

Make sure to check out what my friends are doing next week!

An Anti-spam Public Service Message

It seems that for people who are supposed to be in the imagination business, an awful lot of writers check their imagination at the door when it comes to marketing their books.

I am a “member” of so many Facebook writer/fiction/reader groups I lose track of them. Some of them have a No Spam rule which is enforced with varying degrees of militancy. What they all have in common is that their “Rule” is ignored.

It’s even worse in the Kindle reader forums. Amazon has recently added to its Terms of Service a prohibition on their authors using the reader forums to post product links to their own work. There are dozens of forum members who quite assiduously enforce this rule, and they make no bones about it. They even started a thread dedicated to telling authors to stop spamming. It’s up to 71 pages, some of it argument and objection from writers. There is that sort of personality who either can’t read, can’t obey, or just is oblivious to the concept of common courtesy.

On the Authonomy website, there is a designated forum thread called Shameless Plugs. Back in the stone age when I was hanging around there, many writers used that thread to invent very clever and often hilarious methods of promoting their work. The Art of BSP was raised to dizzying heights, and it garnered appreciation, and resultant reward, from many participants.

But things have changed. The raucous marketplace of fiction has been infiltrated by pickpockets and knock-off watch salesmen. The art of promotion has been soiled by rank carnival barkers. The clever loquaciousness of the snake oil salesman has been drowned out by  pamphleteers, panhandlers, peddlers of paper roses. Subtle enticement has been overrun by BUY MY BOOK!

Selling a work of fiction is not like a Jerky Boys routine.

So here’s a little public service message I hope my friends will pass along. Readers deserve better.

The Fish Swims

   Diary of a Small Fish has finally made it to market.

A project that began as an amusement, a hobby, in February of 2008, enters a new phase.

It’s all fine and dandy that friends and acquaintances have read your novel and been complimentary about it. The true measuring stick is whether people will buy it. How interesting it will be to see!

The Acknowledgments don’t even scrape the surface of my gratitude for all of the encouragement and support I’ve received during the past three years. You all know who you are.

Now I’ve got to put my Chief Marketing Officer hat on and go to work.

If you read it, please don’t be bashful about leaving a review.

If you don’t read it, fake it.

Small Fish for KINDLE users

Small Fish for NOOK users

Small Fish for SMASHWORDS & APPLE users