Casualties of War…

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There are many types of war, mine has always been within. Nowadays, too, it seems to have manifested into something tangibly external. How so? In a word, it’s the woke agenda, encompassing as it does all manner of radical, shamelessly anti-American, authoritarian, socialist, Marxist, globalist ideologies.

I’m not one of the guilt-ridden virtue signalers who believe, somehow, that the country in which they achieved a cushy, middle-class lifestyle is to be struck down as irredeemably flawed, its Constitution illegitimate and its values corrupt. No. America is the land of my birth and I’m proud of it. North is indeed still north. Facts exist, truth exists and not every fucking thing is relative.

Why a faction within this country, supported by the current version of the Democrat party, itself propped up by the so-called legacy media machine, is keen to destroy it in favor of, what? – communist style dictatorships and a warped vision of equity hinging upon entitlement, lack of meritocracy and the redistribution of wealth can only be explained by the tenacity of the weak malcontents in this world who demand something for nothing.

But enough of politics. Fight for what you believe in, fight to win, and if you’re not willing to fight then don’t complain when the shit doesn’t go your way. Life and the cosmos itself is a play of opposites, like it or not, and we’re here to apply our influence, come what may, within a Mystery none of us are fully capable of unravelling. I believe that truth exists, people are essentially good, but the shadow energies within us all are powerful and sometimes gain an advantage. I’m a classic romanticist when I believe that the myths are true fictions that can be relied upon to center us personally and culturally, that those without a mythic or otherwise spiritual or contemplative reference are inevitably schizoid, ungrounded, uncentered and lost within the conflicting energies that life and the idea of death challenge us to resolve.

I was called, in my humble way, to write novels, for a time at least. I answered the call and I wrote them. Furthermore, I did my best to transform unpaid novel writing into a successful expression of my vocational destiny. I failed at that. Why did I fail? I won’t ever know for certain, except that when it comes to the essential trinity of talent, timing and drive that defines success, I possessed only two out of three. My writing is more than good enough to win through. I demonstrated more than enough drive. My timing, however, is clearly terrible.

Remarkable success is inevitably the goal of us dreamers. But I for one was keen to remain grounded and focused upon rational and reasonable results, reasonable success, reasonable rewards. Namely, I sought at a minimum to simply have my books earn themselves out, as they say: to earn back in sales what it cost me to publish them. The costs of writing novels, of course, greatly transcends economics, but I’ve discussed all that at length elsewhere, no need to rehash it here.

What am I saying? Simply, that I have retired from publishing novels. The costs have overrun my resources in every facet. I don’t have the money or energy to keep fighting against the oblivion that seems inevitable regarding my work. Perhaps my novels are truly shitty, but I doubt it. It’s more likely that I’ve simply been writing for an audience that no longer exists. The first novel sold its 250 copies or so, but looking back, I don’t think those sales were legitimate. That is to say, I don’t think most of the folks who purchased that book did so because of the story or the writing but rather merely bought the book cover. I think too many folks assumed that the cover expressed a version of wokeness and even mask-wearing paranoia that they sought to support and signal by way of a purchase.

I could be wrong. But that the second novel has flopped so catastrophically, selling only a handful of copies, and now even the first novel has quit selling, well, besides the fact that I can’t afford to advertise the books any longer, the commonality is me going more public, as it were, with who I am. And somehow, these days at least, what the author looks like is used to define and otherwise signify a polarizing political ideology. You cannot read that person, they say, because of who they are and what they stand for, what they symbolize. And of course those who allow themselves to get lost in such poisonously warped and twisted ideologies are merely demonstrating the hateful discrimination and inequity they originally sought to challenge. Too often, we become what we hate. Especially when we’re suffering from a condition of personal and cultural mythological schism.

Besides wokeism, I’d say it’s also true that in terms of novels, the demographic of readers has simply shifted further and further away from anything to do with writerly or intellectually challenging styles. That Amazon, for example, immediately classified my first novel as requiring the so-called Word Wise functionality for the eBook version because the language I used was deemed “difficult” goes to show where things are at these days. My writing is hardly a difficult read. I’m convinced that in the twentieth century, nobody would have found my novels at all difficult in terms of vocabulary. People, it seems to me, were simply better educated and better read back then. Is it the fault of video media and the anti-intellectual dumbing down of the American educational systems? Perhaps. Have reader’s tastes simply shifted towards less rigorously intellectual formats like, say, romance novels? I can’t say. I don’t study it. And I frankly don’t care. I write what I write and so be it.

The hard fact is that nobody is buying my books. And I’m not keen to continue, after two and a half years of effort and outlay (not including the seven years spent writing), to lose money and otherwise waste my time. We write to be read. When you’re not read, why write? At least why publish? Sure, there is value in the attempt, in the work for its own sake. But not enough for me to keep at this. We all have our limits.

The third novel, then, will remain stuck somewhere within its second draft. The fourth will never be completed at all. Not unless something miraculous occurs in my life to inspire me to plunk away at manuscripts I don’t intend to ever spend the time and money to shepherd towards publication. Something miraculous? A miracle of inspiration, yes. Or me somehow becoming so catastrophically bored that writing and self-editing fiction for no one but myself seems like a productive thing to do. But I don’t foresee it.

What next? What to do? What happens to Carnegie Olson and his failed adventure? Long term, I can’t say. Short term, my carnegieolson.com web domain expires 11/15 of this year and I won’t renew it. I’ll likewise cancel my hosting plan and my carnegie@carnegieolson.com email address will disappear with it. It’ll save me a few hundred bucks or so a year.

Why not keep the pen name and the website up until I figure out what I’m going to do? Well, it costs money and I’m sick and tired of throwing good money after bad, that’s all. And I don’t have any ideas, vocationally or even within the context of a hobby, to do with authorpreneurship or my writing in general. Nobody is reading it. The world-of-action has refused it. The threshold guardians have won out. They win, I lose. It happens. Hell, it’s happened to me more than a few times. Casualties of war….

Meanwhile, there’s nothing left except to bestow thanks – my heartfelt thanks – to those handful of readers who read and indeed enjoyed my writing. May your own efforts and adventures prove fruitful. May your dreams come true. All the best. Goodbye.

Paperback Freebie? Just Ask…

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I’ve cancelled the idea of a Goodreads giveaway for the Empire & Oracle paperback. Sorry, folks, I can’t afford it. I’m very much in the red with the publication and marketing costs and I just can’t make it happen.

However, to honor my commitment to the lovers of hard copy books (I prefer hard copy books, too!), I’m here to offer a free paperback of Empire & Oracle to anyone who emails their address to carnegie@carnegieolson.com. I won’t spam you. You’ll have to take me at my word on that. Otherwise, no strings attached.

The time limit for this custom giveaway? Through Thursday, June 30th.

P.S. The giveaway paperbacks will ship directly from Amazon.

P.P.S. If you enjoy the Time Crime series, reviews and ratings very much help to spread the word, thanks!

Calling All Followers On Goodreads! I Have a Question…

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I do have a question. But I have a bit of publishing news, too, so please hang in there till the end of this post or, if you’re impatient like me, well, go ahead and skip to the end for the question, I won’t hate you.

First, the news:

For those who haven’t heard of Ingramspark, it is mostly they who manufacture and distribute printed copies (paperback, dustcover-style hardback, etc.) of books outside of the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. Namely, to online retailers like Barnes & Noble, say, or Walmart, or so-called brick & mortar bookstores, as well as libraries.

Being under contract exclusively to Amazon, which is an option for indies (the minimum term is one year) allows an author a substantially higher royalty – 70% versus 40%, as it happens – but in general, for many of us , the idea of not being beholden to a single retailer seems appealing. Autonomy, freedom, options, diversification, all that.

It costs more, as I’ve previously lamented, too, to distribute outside of Amazon. And I blogged recently that the prices, for my books at least, at places like Barnes & Noble will necessarily reflect the higher costs of doing business. BUT. What I didn’t know all these months and years is that there is a trick, well, it’s more a stance to take, within the Ingramspark system that allows for prices of our indie books to match those on Amazon. It has to do with the boring mathematics of the so-called wholesale discount, which I will only say is the ancient way of the brick & mortar bookshop. Namely, your favorite local bookstore has, for eons if they’ve been around that long, demanded from publishers a 55% discount AND the ability to return all product they don’t want for a refund. And let’s be clear that I’m referring not to the online version of B&N; rather, only the brick & mortar bookshop version.

The stance to take, then? Well, dummy me, I didn’t realize that all this time since publication of Time Crime, the first novel, I could have refused or otherwise minimized the 55% wholesale discount and my royalty would be more reasonably tied to the cost of production. I made that change over the weekend and now if you go to Barnes & Noble, or Waterstones (their parent company), for instance, you will see pricing matching that on Amazon. With the exception of the eBook, which for whatever reason is higher to produce via Ingramspark and that price is reflected in the B&N price, oh well, it’s different for eBooks.

There is a catch, however. Always. And Ingram tells you this in the fine print; namely, that by opting out of the ancient, industry-standard wholesale discount, you are likewise opting yourself as a publisher out of any opportunity at all to ever get your book into a brick & mortar bookstore or other such retailer.

Is it a big deal? For indies like me who don’t currently sell more than 8-10 copies per month via online retailers and who have never been welcomed to any extent by brick & mortar bookshops (there happens to be a bookshop that will remain nameless in my hometown that outright snubs indie published books), it doesn’t matter a bit. I think I’ve sold perhaps one copy in two and a half years via the other bookshop that is still in business around here. (Two of the three that originally agreed to stock a copy of Time Crime went out of business during the Covid fiasco).

In short, while it has been perhaps every novelist’s dream or vision of success to witness their hardcopy book for sale on a shelf in a “real” bookshop, this dream, as Sammy Hagar once sang, is over. At least for me. Dream another dream. It sucks. Life is hard. Business is brutal. Money talks. Bye, bye bookshops….

There you have it, then, the news, which is mostly good because prices for Time Crime and Empire & Oracle are now identical across the board, that is, unless a given retailer deems it appropriate to slash the price – it’s up to them what discount they apply to the official retail price that I, as publisher, set. Whew, enough boring business talk.

It’s time now for the question I promised to pose to all my Goodreads followers. Okay, it has to do with with business, too, but rather in terms of the fun part, which is gaining readership!

  • If you’ve enjoyed Time Crime, have you rated and/or reviewed it on Goodreads or Amazon or both? Or B&N or elsewhere?

I correspond with one reader who has done this with both books – wow, thank you, you are a superfan! – and you would not believe how important this is in technical terms (besides the good vibes!) to provide online retailer feedback. Because especially for an emerging novelist, the quantity of ratings and reviews, to say nothing of the quality (or lack thereof) they express on behalf of the books, is incalculable. It makes all the difference between fantastic and flop, as it were. Because who doesn’t read ratings and reviews? We all do. Until you get so many that they all sort of average out to what the book deserves (knowing that Amazon ratings and reviews are not an average – a topic big enough for a different blog). By the gods, look at Blake Crouch, for example – Recursion has 10,200 to date on Amazon…!!!

Meanwhile, all novelists get their share of lousy ratings and reviews, so be it, it’s part of the way things are to have folks find the “Look Inside” feature insufficient, say, or they didn’t read the sample, or even the blurb and perhaps bought the book for its cover, or got it as a gift, I don’t know, but I get these handful of 1-star ratings, one this weekend from the U.K., and it hurts. Ouch. One star. It was that bad? That surprisingly disappointing? Okay. I’ve bought books thinking I’d enjoy them on first impression and, well, things fail to work out. DNFs, that kind of thing. And I often like to rate and review books and not always positively. If you can’t stand the heat, as they say, get out of the kitchen and all that, I get it.

All this is to say, if any of you are so inclined to help out with a rating or a review, please know that they work great magic in this business and your effort will not go unnoticed. In my heart and soul, it will resonate. And meanwhile it may convince somebody on the fence to join the Time Crime tribe. But this isn’t to beg anybody for that stuff. No. It’s to say thanks for reading. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU ALL!

P.S. I’m working on the character list!

Empire & Oracle update: Paperback & Hardcover are LIVE on Amazon!

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Great news everybody!

  • We got it done a little early – all formats of EMPIRE & ORACLE are now live on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09PH6V7T8?binding=paperback&ref=dbs_dp_rwt_sb_pc_tbk
  • The eBook remains a presale until preorders ship this Monday the 23rd.
  • If you purchase your books outside of Amazon, and especially if you are interested in a dustcover styled hardcover, you’ll have to wait a bit for Time Crime 2 because my distributor (Ingramspark) is still processing the files. Ultimately, it will be available wherever books are sold and in libraries, too, just like the first book.
  • There will be no audiobook version of the new book, sorry (I can’t afford the $6,000 it costs to produce!)

If you’re wondering why the Amazon paperback and hardcover of Empire & Oracle costs $1.00 more than the first book, it’s because the new novel is quite a bit longer than Time Crime, hence it costs more to manufacture, that’s all.

Meanwhile, the Amazon retail price of the eBook remains the same since the file size didn’t kick it into a higher electronic delivery fee. Amazon is responsible for the sale price, not me, so we’ll see if they lower the price down the road….

And speaking of prices, unfortunately, it now costs a great deal more money to manufacture and distribute my books outside of Amazon. It was always more expensive via Ingramspark, but especially within the last year, my costs have skyrocketed. Hence, on Barnes & Noble, a.k.a. Waterstones, for example, well, the prices will speak for themselves. And believe me, my profit remains the same wherever you buy the book, it’s not my intention to gouge anyone.

But enough about the money. Here’s hoping ya’ll enjoy the new novel – happy reading! Spread the word, everything you can do to help grow the Time Crime tribe helps. Including ratings and reviews – it’s all about the algorithms these days. Thanks!