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Bargains push e-book sales

While lots of authors have seen flat e-book sales lately, mine have improved, mostly because I've taken advantage of Kindle Countdown Deals on some of my books.

As I reported six weeks ago, I took my backlist of two dozen books off Smashwords and gave Amazon exclusivity on my e-book sales. Doing so meant my books could be read for FREE by Kindle Unlimited subscribers, and I'd get paid for those "borrows."

I've seen a nice bump in income from Kindle Unlimited in the past month, but the real story has been my use of Kindle Countdown Deals, another tool Amazon gives to Kindle-exclusive books. Every week or two, I've put one of my e-books on sale for 99 cents. They normally retail for $2.99, which isn't a lot of money, but some folks apparently find 99 cents irresistible. Sometimes, the sudden increase in sales will bounce a book up into the realm of Amazon's magical algorithms, which means lots more eyeballs and more sales.

The latest to go on sale is my crime novel THE BIG WINK, which will be 99 cents for the next week or so. THE BIG WINK is one of my personal favorites, an exploration of the marijuana industry in Northern California. In the book, a gang of robbers are knocking over medical marijuana dispensaries in the town of Redding. When a prominent local woman gets shot during a holdup, the gang becomes the focus of a manhunt, the national news media and the whole cannabis debate.

Award-winning author Reed Farrel Coleman called THE BIG WINK "a rare and wonderful reading experience." And Edgar winner Charlie Price said it is "a smooth, satisfying, and timely thriller."

(By the way, the terrific cover art for THE BIG WINK was done by my wife Kelly.)

Starting July 27, another of my Northern California novels, BANK JOB, will go on sale for 99 cents. Watch my Facebook and Twitter feeds for future sales.

Meanwhile, back here at the salt mine, I've started the second draft of my new crime novel, which is called SIDE EYE. Lots of additions and corrections to make, but I'm looking forward to the work.

Hope you're having a great summer! Happy reading!


All my ebooks -- for FREE

I just finished enrolling my entire backlist in KDP Select at Amazon, which means all those titles -- 23 novels, two novellas and five short stories -- are now available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

As I explained in my last blog post, I've decided to give Amazon exclusivity on those digital titles so I can reap some of the money paid to authors when their books are borrowed. You can see all the titles at my Amazon author page here.

The now-free ebooks include LONELY STREET (the one they made into a Hollywood movie) and the rest of the Bubba Mabry private eye series, two books featuring Albuquerque sportswriter Drew Gavin and a slew of standalone crime novels published under my own name.

Even if you're not a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you should check out these titles. Their regular prices are $2.99 or less. And most of these books remain available in paperback!

I'll report back on the success(?) of this Kindle experiment in a few months.

Happy reading!


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!


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.


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.