Home Front

4.23.2016

So long, Smashwords

After long consideration, I've decided to remove my backlist of crime novels from Smashwords, which will in turn remove my ebooks from Nook and other non-Amazon sources. The ebooks soon will be available only through Kindle.


I feel bad about making my books unavailable on any market, but Amazon requires Kindle Unlimited books to be exclusive and I can no longer ignore the revenue stream that Kindle Unlimited produces. Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited "borrow" ebooks for free. As they read them, the authors are paid a little bit per page by Amazon. With a big backlist like mine (27 books and counting), those pages can add up.

As an experiment, I've had six short stories and two novels (LOST VEGAS and CALABAMA) on Kindle Unlmited for a while now, and they're generating monthly revenue. Meanwhile, my most recent quarterly payment from Smashwords was the lowest yet.

I plan to "unpublish" all the Steve Brewer books on Smashwords on May 6. Any of you who use Nook or other e-readers might want to stock up before then on any titles you might be missing. A day or two later, all those titles will become available on Kindle Unlimited. The titles will include the nine mysteries in the Bubba Mabry private eye series as well as standalones like THE BIG WINK, A BOX OF PANDORAS and FIREPOWER.

The recent Duke City trilogy published by Alibi under my pen name, Max Austin, will remain on sale everywhere. Also, most of my books are still available in paperback, and you can get those through your favorite bookseller. But I must try the Kindle Unlimited thing for my ebooks.

Fortunately, I control the ebook rights to all the books published under my name, so I can do such experiments with my backlist. That's one reason I urge new authors to always insist on a way to get their rights back when they're considering book contracts.

By the way, I've got no knock against Smashwords. I think their Meatgrinder software is still the best way to reach users of non-Amazon e-readers. But that audience seems to be shrinking while the Kindle giant keeps growing.

In whatever way you get your hands on my books, please keep reading them. Thanks!

3.22.2016

Shorter books = bigger audiences?

Did you see the article about James Patterson in The New York Times? Patterson and his team of writers already dominate bestseller lists, but apparently that's not a big enough audience. He's going after people who no longer read books.

The theory is that people who spend all their time with social media, movies and interactive games are no longer interested in big, fat books. So Patterson's plan is to produce shorter books -- less than 150 pages, what most of us would call novellas -- to attract readers who want to gobble up a story in one sitting.

I embraced this idea years ago, and most of my recent books have been short and very tight -- mostly dialogue with occasional shooting. The last story in my Bubba Mabry series was the 119-page novella PARTY DOLL, and the three Albuquerque crime novels I recently published under the pen name Max Austin all are on the shorter side. Amazon lists DUKE CITY HIT at 183 pages and DUKE CITY DESPERADO at 223 pages.You can pack a lot of story into that many pages if you don't waste words and if you don't bog it down with lots of subplots.

Shorter suits the kind of novels that I write. Books about crooks. Crime novels that star the police are filled with CSI stuff these days, and I find most of that boring and repetitive. But I find crooks infinitely variable and interesting, if sometimes dumb as hell. In DUKE CITY DESPERADO, for instance, we have two low-level crooks who aren't all that smart. On a drug-induced impulse, one of them tries to rob a drive-thru bank (you read that correctly), and that sets into motion a citywide manhunt. A manhunt looks very different when you're seeing it through the eyes of the hunted.

My agent is currently shopping around two novels starring Jackie Nolan, a woman who gets in trouble hijacking semi trucks. Each book is around 300 pages, but tightly written and very cinematic. Just the sort of stories to appeal to the new readers Patterson is targeting and, perhaps, to Hollywood. Fingers crossed.

I've started tinkering with a possible new novel set in the world of journalism, but lots of distractions have kept me from mapping it out yet. It's percolating, though, and I'll probably start writing it soon.

I can't crank 'em out as fast as Patterson's team, but I've published 27 books so far. Short, tight novels are (slightly) faster to write and edit, and they're fun to read. I hope the audience looks up from Twitter and Reddit long enough to try them.

2.11.2016

Don't write every day

Writers are often told they should write every day, and that's good advice for those who are just getting started and trying to build the habit. But it's important to take breaks, too, especially for those of us who've been writing books a long time.

I'm at one of those breaks now. I finished revisions of my most recent crime novel in late January and sent it off to my agent. I don't know what I'll write next or when I'll start. I'm mostly trying not to think about it.

The brain needs rest. The body needs recovery time (more and more, as you get older). And the writer needs to tend to the real world -- the car maintenance and household chores and friendships that have been neglected while the latest manuscript took up all time and brainpower.


Even when I'm not writing, being an author keeps me busy. For one thing, I'm teaching more than ever. Along with my weekly Honors College class at the University of New Mexico, I've made presentations in recent months at the Tony Hillerman Writing Seminar and at SouthWest Writers. Next fall, I'm slated to teach two Honors classes at UNM, so I've got some planning and prep to do over the summer.

Later this month, I'll be on two panels at Left Coast Crime in Phoenix. Left Coast is my favorite mystery conference, just the right size, and it's always fun to see my poker pals.

On April 9, I'll be one of the presenters at UNM Continuing Education's Writers Conference, where I'll talk about self-publishing. It's been a while since I self-published a book, but that route remains a comforting backstop for authors at all experience levels.

While my agent is shopping around my latest manuscripts, I'm still promoting the Duke City crime novels, which were published by Penguin Random House's mystery e-book line, Alibi, under my pen name, Max Austin. The third one, DUKE CITY DESPERADO, came out last June, and has been a hit with reviewers. Check it out here.

Soon, I know, some new idea will take root in my brain, and I'll get the creative fever and I'll start a new novel. Once I begin, I'll write (nearly) every day until it's done. But for now, I'm savoring the break between books.


12.15.2015

Put a laugh in Christmas

Here's a little holiday gift for my readers: I've put the ebook of SANITY CLAUSE on sale for only 99 cents through December.

SANITY CLAUSE is a hilarious novella starring inept private eye Bubba Mabry and his wife Felicia. Cash-strapped Bubba takes a job at a local shopping mall, where one of the mall Santas ends up murdered. It's up to Bubba to make Christmas merry again.

SANITY CLAUSE is the eighth story in the Bubba Mabry series. The ninth and most recent Bubba book is another novella, PARTY DOLL.

It's been a busy December, as usual. In addition to the usual holiday madness, I agreed to serve on the board of directors of SouthWest Writers for the next year. I've been on boards before -- Mystery Writers of America, NorCal Writers Forum -- but I apparently never learn my lesson.

I speak at SouthWest Writers events quite often, and they've asked me to teach a class on Jan. 2, after the regular SWW meeting. I'll speak on Adding Humor to Your Writing. Details here. I'm also teaching my Become a Better Writer course at the University of New Mexico again, starting in mid-January. The class is full!

Amid all this busyness, I'm doing the revisions on my latest novel, the second starring a woman named Jackie Nolan, who gets in trouble for boosting semi trucks. My agent is shopping the first book around now, but no word yet on when the books will be published. I'll keep you posted.

Happy holiday season to you and yours!

10.02.2015

Late-breaking book bargain

I can't believe I forgot to put this on my blog until now. DUKE CITY DESPERADO, my latest e-book written as Max Austin, is on sale for only 99 cents. But the sale ends Saturday, 10/3, so you must act quickly!


DUKE CITY DESPERADO is the third book in a loose trilogy of crime tales set here in Albuquerque, aka Duke City. In this one, two lowlifes try to rob a drive-thru bank and things go very wrong. It's a punchy, funny thriller and I think you'll like it. The other two Max Austin books are only $2.99. All are published by Alibi, the new crime imprint at Penguin/Random House.

I'm deep into the first draft of a new crime novel about a woman who bails out of the federal witness protection program and lands in trouble. Fun book so far.

A storm front is moving into New Mexico, just in time for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Bad weather for the balloons, but good weather for writing.

Keep looking up!