They Hunger: Reality Bites Guest Post by Scott Nicholson

Today I want to welcome Scott Nicholson to the blog!  Make sure you read all the way to the end because trust me, there’s something you don’t want to miss!  Of course, some of you have already been stalking him and know the drill…

They Hunger: Reality Bites
By Scott Nicholson

There’s a book of mine still in print that I don’t talk much about.
It’s called They Hunger. Yep, it’s got fangs on the front. My editor encouraged me to “try a vampire novel.” Generally, when your editor suggests something, you pretty much figure it’s an indirect order. If you don’t do it, your manuscript will get a chilly reception and may even get turned down and you’ll have wasted months of writing. And you also hope if you get the editor on your side, that means shiny happy smiles when the editor is going around the publishing house telling everyone about how timely and trendy your book is, such a brilliant idea that it was amazing anyone thought of it.
Idiot me, I could never do anything the normal way. I should have just had some Romeo with fangs walking around feeling guilty for his undead manliness. Instead, I couldn’t even write a “straight vampire.” Not, I didn’t write a gay Romeo, though that would have probably sold better, too. I had to go and invent a hillbilly chupacabra, a long-hidden species that just happens to have some vampiric qualities, at least enough to justify a cover that looks like a vampire novel. (Look, that book was going to have fangs on the cover even if I’d written the sequel to Moby Dick.)
So I made it a thriller, not paranormal romance, with the ticking clock and high stakes and hero/antagonist, just like they teach you in thriller school. And I set it in the remote Appalachian Mountains. Had the FBI agents, a manhunt for a deranged killer, an experimental rafting expedition. A religious overtone (a few of my books have those.)
Oh, there is romance, all right, and even some S-E-X. And I like the whole “Deliverance with fangs” angle, and even played it up as a vampire thriller because vampires didn’t really need any explanation. I think Publisher’s Weekly even called it a “thrilling, romance-free vampire blah blah” or something like that.
It has all the ingredients for a brisk pot-boiler. Everyone who ever read it said it was a no-brainer movie sale. Except my agent at the time. But I am 99 percent certain he never read it.
It may sound like I’m down on the book. I actually like it. And I’ve written a movie script for it, and we’re adapting a graphic novel. Except for those projects I am using my preferred, original title of “The Gorge.” Yeah, a double meaning because of the rafting thing. I’m a genius, right? Only the dumbest genius ever.
I think it’s a tightly plotted book with interesting but not overly complex characters, though I will certainly revise it once it is mine again, because at least one sex scene is purely gratuitous and made no sense in the overall plot situation where it occurs. Of course, I do get to shape the screenplay and comics versions to fit those formats and I can take out some of the flaws. But there’s something else about the book that seems weird.

It’s an orphan. It’s mine and it’s not mine.
Sure, my name is on it, and I wrote it, but it’s somebody else’s. It is licensed to Kensington Books, a reputable publisher who paid me an advance and did all the usual respectable things publishers do and don’t do for midlist authors. I really have no complaints at all about the treatment of it. Just more grist for the mill.
But it doesn’t feel like mine because I’m not likely to ever earn back my advance and the rights won’t revert until 2014. I can’t control anything about its fate at this point. I’m losing a good bit of money now by not having that book, and most importantly, I am losing readers, even though it’s the book of mine you’re most likely to find in a bookstore.
They Hunger is the only one of my six novels Kensington made available as an Amazon e-book. It’s usually priced around $5.50 or so, not much different from the paperback. Yeah. Right. Not much different from the paperback.
The publisher clearly doesn’t care about it, if the publisher even remembers it exists, and the book doesn’t even have a product description on its page. Someone just dumped in the PW review and left it at that.
So hardly anyone buys the e-book. It currently ranks somewhere around #150,000, though I’ve only checked it once since back in the spring when I was comparing stats for an “Indie Author vs. Major Publisher” thread I was doing in the Amazon Kindle forum.
I have a pretty good idea of sales rates for a book depending upon its usual ranking. An e-book ranked that high is lucky to be selling a copy a week.
So we are both losing sales. If it were mine, I would drop the price to $2.99 and encourage more readers to try it. I’d make about the same amount of money, maybe a little more at the lower price. (I was one of those “lucky” writers who signed for a 50/50 split of electronic sales, which would have been a good deal if they had ever actually sold some e-books).
But now it almost feels like not only an orphan but the enemy. Competition. People who buy They Hunger could have bought two or more of my own e-books instead. And that is just one of the weird side effects of this entire era. Because I have zero incentive to spend energy, much less money, promoting that book.
(SUBLIMINAL MESSAGE—buy it anyway. The mass-market paperback will one day be a rare collector’s item, and the story is pretty fast and good, and I think I used the line “You got a purty mouth.”)
Even if the book took off and sold out, no way would Kensington order another print run. I’d still never make any more money off of it. And in case you’re thinking I’m a greedy, ungrateful writer, I went to the wall for my publisher, doing hundreds of store signings out of my own pocket, printing up and mailing lots of promotional material, sending out my own review copies, and even buying a few banner ads here and there. I even gave away three of my permanent teeth—yes, real teeth—as a promotional gimmick. Yeah, even though I was only making 8 percent of the cover price.

The dumbest genius ever.
Today, making 100 percent of net proceeds, it makes sense to advertise, promote, and polish all of my books at once, the way any business would. Emphasis there on “my.”
One day They Hunger will be mine and be out as The Gorge in a low-priced e-book, and it will again be part of my family, maybe even without fangs on the cover. Hopefully with a cover featuring the blockbuster movie poster. And I’ll write up a thrilling, descriptive synopsis for its product pages.
That’s when I will sucker you—er, entice you—into trying it. Maybe non-romantic vampire-creature thrillers will be popular then, and maybe it will be a hit in its reincarnated life. Maybe not, but I will rewrite it to fit whatever I think I’ve learned in the meantime. So either way, I’ll be happier.
They’d probably kick me out of the writer’s union if I was the first author since Gutenberg ever to say, “Hey, don’t buy my book.”
So I won’t say that.
Hey, look! Is that a squirrel? Or is it the The Red Church for only 99 cents?

————-
Scott Nicholson is author of Speed Dating with the Dead, Drummer Boy, and 10 other novels, five story collections, four comics series, and six screenplays. A journalist and freelance editor in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, he often uses local legends in his work. This tour is sponsored by Amazon, Kindle Nation Daily, and Dellaster Design.

IT’S TOO LATE TO BE ELIBIGLE FOR THE KINDLE DX ON THIS BLOG.  YOU’LL HAVE TO SUBSCRIBE TO HIS NEWSLETTER TO FIND OUT WHERE HE’S AT EACH DAY.
To be eligible for the Kindle DX, simply post a comment below with contact info. Feel free to debate and discuss the topic, but you will only be entered once per blog. Visit all the blogs on the tour and increase your odds. I’m also giving away a Kindle 3 through the tour newsletter and a Pandora’s Box of free e-books to a follower of “hauntedcomputer” on Twitter. And, hey, buy my books and put me in the Top 100 and I’ll throw in another random Kindle 3 giveaway. Thanks for playing. Complete details at http://www.hauntedcomputer.com/blogtour.htm

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Comments

  1. Hmmm … while I’ve been taking a longer look at ebooks and audio books because I don’t want to lug my printed books around when I travel, I still prefer the printed page. Hugging an ereader is simply not the same as hugging a book. :-)

  2. Great post. And one of the reasons why some authors are leaving the traditional publishing model to go out on their own. It’s a win-win situation for the readers, IMHO.

  3. LOL, you crack me up.

    I must admit, I haven’t read any of your books yet. So many books, so little time in the day.

    But the longer I follow this tour, the more I find myself trying to clear my reading list so I can start some of your books.

    Sandra Gilbert
    dreamsgate at clearwire dot net

  4. They Hunger is actually the only MMPB book of yours that I haven’t read. It was the second book of yours that I bought, but I’m one of those types that like to read things in the order of publication. So I read all the rest of your paper books and held on to this one. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have any more Scott Nicholson books to enjoy, so I resolved to hold off as long as possible before I read it. And then you went and did this whole e-book thing.

    And for the record, I don’t really want one of your teeth. I’m not that weird of a fan. Now, if you ever to decide to start giving away toes or fingers…

    -Neal

  5. OMG I have to have this! “Deliverance” with fangs! Love it! :)

    Maybe I’ll wait until you get the rights back and publish it yourself, just so the money goes directly into your pocket! ;)

    inannajourney at gmail.com

  6. Hey Scott,

    Really enjoying your blog tour. The more I read from you, the more I find myself getting a kick out of your writing style. And who knows, The Hunger just might find its way onto my wish list.

    caity_mack at yahoo dot com

  7. Zowie, Scott! I had no idea “They Hunger” was the ugly stepchild of the lot and that you’d distanced yourself from. I’m NOT trying to be ornery when I say this (for once), but “They Hunger” was my favorite book of yours. TRULY!! (And I’m NOT just saying that because I won your tooth!) It’s very different from your other novels and, I don’t know… With the adventure and action, I just enjoyed it more than the others.

    You wrote: “I had to go and invent a hillbilly chupacabra.” Hello? I just sort of touched on that yesterday…how YOU are often mistaken for a chupacabra (or maybe a cHUMPacabra??). Were you drawing on your own personal experiences when you created these vampire-like creatures??

    “You got a purty mouth.”

    I know that line has worked for you time and time again…especially when you get those tourists all trussed up and they can’t run away. I never realized that “They Hunger” was, in addition to a horror novel, also the Scott Nicholson dating handbook! I don’t recall anyone being made to “squeal like a pig” a la your dream date Ned Beatty…but I guess you have to keep some of your dating secrets to yourself. Right?

    So, don’t knock the book. Yes, you put a lot of effort into promoting it (I still think I have the digital ad for it on my MySpace page. Ha!)…but it is, in my opinion, your BEST book. I dug it, baby!

    Cha-cha-cha, Daddy-O!

    Cheers!

  8. Rabid Fox, no banjo but one guy plays “Deuling Banjoes” on a harmonica!

    Christa, few things are as satisfying as seeing a beat-up copy of your book.

    Neal, 32 teeth, 10 fingers, 10 toes, not very limited collectibles. The most limited parts are unavailable.

    Monster, you always make me laugh out loud. Thanks!

  9. Fanged book cover for the sequal to Moby Dick, lol. Sadly, I bet it would help sales. A vampiric whale – now there’s something to be afraid of.

    Stalking you around the web some more Scott. See you tomorrow.

    calseeor (at) gmail (dot) com

  10. See, now I want to read it. But if I buy it on Kindle, you won’t get the profits. So, the dilemma is do I wait until 2014 to read it? It looks fabulous Scott.

    Seriously, you gave away your teeth? I try to keep mine. :)

  11. Hi! I didn’t realize that an author signs away rights for that long. Wow! And if they make a movie they better not change the ending. Little changes are O.K. Huge plot shifts are not. Why do authors have so little control of their screenplay?

    kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com

  12. Hey, buy the book if you want. I don’t mind the publisher making money–the publisher lived up to its end of the deal. It’s just the way things work in mass market–you’re here one day and gone the next. All I am saying is I’d be dumb to spend money promoting it (after all, this post was promotional energy, right? It’s the first time I’ve talked about this book in quite a while). I have been lucky to work with good people in the industry but the industry is the way it is–the next batch of new books is always coming–read my post tomorrow at bloodredpencil.blogspot.com if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

    Paul, great line, I may steal it for the sequel.

    Cute story: The creatures in the book go “skeeeek” as their sound effect. It came from my daughter’s corrupstion of “squeak.”

    Kristie, every contract is different. Sometimes you get back rights very fast and other times you will never get them back. That’s what you have to count on when you license rights. A lot of authors don’t pay attention and they lose their own books.

    But also, the worst thing you could do to a movie would be let the writer around it. There’s a reason they pay the author to stay away, because the author doesn’t know how to make a movie.

    Scott

  13. “They Hunger” was a lot of fun. I must admit that I was a little reluctant to read a vampire novel, but I like your take on the genre.

    I want to make a request. I think you should consider a “monster” story. Not anything tied in to the paranormal, but an honest-to-goodness monster story! This world needs a monster to rally behind. I know “Cloverfield” was supposed to be the US monster (like Godzilla is to Japan), but that didn’t pan out for obvious reasons. No vampires, zombies, werewolves, or any combination of the three. No giant worms, mega sharks, or anything that can’t survive out of the water. It could be something so big that the military has trouble with it or maybe something much smaller. No nano creatures, mutant viruses or gooey blobs. No enlarged insects, cloned dinosaurs, or rabid birds. I want carnage, screaming children, explosions, and some occasional sex.

    When was the last time a truly original “monster” appeared in a book? Maybe I’ve missed something.

    What say you?

    Scott

  14. o boobie, i did one article for a national group i belonged to. i liked what i wrote but they said it gave way too much credit to others so changed it to a me article. i still disagree with them. i hope you get yours back and can fix it up the way you want it of kill it if you can’t. good luck my friend.

  15. Fascinating blog, Scott, as always. I sure am glad you signed a contract to get your rights back. That would be horrible to never get your rights back. If they do make a movie, I hope you make a ton of money, at least enough to cover dental implants. I’m among the many who think The Gorge would make a fantastic movie. Thanks for sharing. varbonoff22 at cox dot net.

  16. I’m learning a lot about the whole publishing industry from your posts, things that make me go hmmm.

    But I did read They Hunger and just wanted you to know that I really enjoyed it.

    waitmantwillie at hotmail dot com

  17. Non romantic vampire thrillers got their public out there…
    It’s just smaller than the vampire romantic wave as it doesn’t include all the fangirls.. WHo are now shifting from vampires to angel, by the way, so you might be safe soon ;)

    mayarend -at- yahoo.com.br

  18. I finally got to read your post this morning. Glad I did. As StephTheBookworm said, “So interesting to get the inside scoop on what the author thinks of it.” Mind you, that interest is best placed in my mind AFTER I have read something. The best books make me dream or sleepwalk while I’m reading them. I don’t want to be bothered by the actual word on the page but I like the “movie” to be playing in my mind as I read along. If I suddenly come to a part where I wake up and say to myself, “What on earth was the author thinking here?,” it disturbs up my “reader’s dream” and is like a cell phone going off in a movie theater, or anywhere, for that matter. Tell me that that happens to you too, because I’d rather not be too far out of the stream of “normal” people. The books I have the most trouble with are the ones where I start my “reader’s dream” and my mind actually takes over for the author and I begin actually dreaming. (I’m talkin’ sweat and drool, the lot of it!), only to be found and scoffed at by some, usually loving, family member.

    I appreciate knowing which books benefit the author more than they benefit the publisher, unlike your fang book. Amazon lists all of your books, but no such distinction is made. I’m glad you “let it slip, nod, nod, wink, wink. Does a website already exist which features self-published works of many authors, sort of like “fair-trade” or “free-range” books. I would like to support those authors as much as I like to support those poor, down-trodden coffee growers, not to mention the poor, little chickens!.

    I remember the argument near the beginning of the tour which promoted the old, publisher-route because of the professional editing. I often read the grateful thanks given in the acknowledgements section by authors to their personal friends and family for reading through the work to help point out those places which would awaken the average readerdreamer. I especially like the capacity of Kindle books to allow the author to revise a work and reissue the result for a free download of updated material to those who have previously purchased the work and spared future readers the interruption.

    I look forward to the day that I can buy The Gorge and know that you get most of the reward.

    Jeff White at whitejw@ameritech.net

    Monster A Go-Go – I love your animated-dancing skeleton! I want one!

    Scott – I can hear the “Skeeeek” and love it! My daughter always said, “Yikes!.” I don’t know where she got it, but it always cracked me up.

  19. Wow, “novel on demand”…interesting concept. I guess a lot of trad pub authors get stuck with that “you’ve got to write what’s hot” thing. How hard is it to pull a novel out of somewhere you don’t naturally have one?

    –Maria

  20. Such is the life of the midlist author. Sometimes you swim, other times you sink. But it seems to me that even if this book sinks with Kensington, you got a good handle on self-publishing now and this book will get another voyage once you get the rights back, maybe even a “maiden” one, depending what you do to it while it’s at the docks. At least it’ll be home in its own harbor.

    I’m with you on the vampires thing, though. Wish I was Blade because I’d totally dominate in a versus match with shiny, sparkling vampires. Actually, even as an overweight, hairy fanboy, I’m pretty sure I’d still dominate.

    Unless they bit me.

    http://www.canisterx.com

    BLOOD OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIE FIGHT NIGHT just $2.99 for the Amazon Kindle.

    http://amzn.to/bLCBty

  21. Thanks for posting. As readers I dont think we really think about or even understand the rankings and ebook pricing differences. Nice to see an authors insight. Really gives you something to think about.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  22. “The New Yorker” published a great article about e-books, pricing, and the future of print. It made me wonder whether coveting a Kindle was a good thing, since I will always love “real” books, and “real” newspapers spread out on the floor to read a section at a time. Thanks for your insights.

    wordygirl at earthlink dot net

  23. Hey Scooter,
    Last year I made a Squidoo lens of books that featured giant monsters. It’s the Giant Monster Horror Book List.

    A couple of the books, like Fragment have scary creatures but not many giant monsters, however, most of the books should satisfy that craving — at least until Scott gets his giant monster book written.

    Thank you,
    –Greg the Undead Rat

    theundeadrat (@) gmail (.) com

  24. @scooter I am working on a lake monster story with authors Lockley, Savile, and Meikle.

    @brenda I educated myself on contracts–I get stunned when I hear writers say “Business bores me” or “I let my agent handle all that.” It’s YOUR BUSINESS! Your future and the products of your life–literally, your life’s work. And sadly enough, those writers end up as Walmart greeters in their old age.

    @Karen the teeth were removed because I got braces in middle age–it’s the latest thing…so I figured why not do something with them?

    @Jeff thanks for that great post–sometimes we worry about numbers too much and forget the simple act of inspiring a thought or dream

    @Carol, haven’t hit the Top 100 yet, I think The Red Church got under #300. It’s pretty difficult! But I have some tricks to make another push in October.

    BTW this is a vampire book that’s not a vampire book. That may be a problem…vampire “fans” don’t buy that type of vampire that’s a creature and people who hate vampires won’t look at it. Or maybe it’s just a handy excuse for not selling as well as Twilight!

    Scott

  25. thanks for entering, everyone, comments here capped at 87. Join me down the road for more great stops and come back to Candace’s blog often! I see more great giveaways and cool book reviews ahead. Thanks, Candace!

    Scott

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