Monthly Archives: March 2011

So, we live in a Democracy?

In September of this year, I will officially be over the hill. One of the many pleasures of reaching age 65 is having to deal with Medicare and Social Security, two programs that I’m certain were designed by the Nazis. 

When I retired and visited my local S.S. office to determine what my best options were, I waited in line for 45 minutes before I could speak to a representative. What I discovered is that Social Security is basically a royal screw job. If I don’t wait to collect until my full retirement age, I lose 50% of my benefit if I earn over 14 grand a year. So in order for me to receive a benefit now without any penalties, I have to either find a job that pays me under the table and break the law, live on my savings, or earn below the poverty level. When I think about how much I’ve contributed to the S.S. system over the last 45 years as compared to what my likely return will be, it actually makes me want to vomit. 

And if you think Social Security is a flawed program, wait until you have to deal with Medicare. I’m a pretty intelligent guy (or at least I think I am), but trying to understand  every aspect of Medicare so that you can make an educated decision on what plan will work best for you is nothing short of a nightmare. First off, there is Medicare Plan A, B, C and D. And then there is Medicare Advantage. But there is also an A, B, C, D, E, F and J. plan that have nothing to do with A, B, C and D. And of course there are also a gazillion supplemental plans available, each one inundated with fine print.  

After I crunched all the numbers and figured out what plan(s) would give me the most coverage for the least money, I discovered that under Medicare, it will cost me three times as much as I’m paying for health insurance currently. And the best part of this is that I have no choice. I am required by law to sign up for Medicare before my 65th birthday or face a hefty penalty even though my monthly premium will triple

There are lots of things to love about the land of the free and the home of the brave, but I’m here to tell you that Social Security and Medicare aren’t on that short list.

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Amazing Success Story

A couple of posts ago, I talked about the success of several self-published authors. One of those authors—Amanda Hocking, twenty-six-year-old novelist of young-adult paranormal books—has earned over two million dollars selling her self-published books. Well, this young lady has done it again. 

The New York Times reported that Ms. Hocking just signed a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press for . . . are you ready for this? Over two-million dollars. I understand that there was an intense bidding war among several high-profile publishers, but when the ante hit two-mill, all but St. Martin’s Press bailed out. 

Although I can’t help but admit that I’m envious of her overwhelming success, I admire and respect her incredible achievement. When you consider Ms. Hocking’s age, can you even imagine what the future holds for this talented young writer? 

I love to hear rags-to-riches stories like Ms. Hocking’s. It gives all writers hope that anything is possible. I take my hat off to you, Ms. Hocking. I only hope that someday, one of my fellow writers will post a similar blog about me. 

In case you’re interested, here is a link to Ms. Hocking’s web site: http://amandahocking.blogspot.com/

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The Changing World of Publishing

One of the writer blogs I visit frequently is J. A. Konrath’s. He’s a very talented novelist who writes graphic thrillers. I met Joe via e-mail a while ago when we exchanged some ideas about writing and publishing. (A link to his blog is on my homepage under “Blogroll.”) 

Joe recently interviewed Barry Eisler, and posted the interview on his blog. Eisler, a very successful writer, made headlines when he turned down a $500,000 publishing deal because he decided to self-publish. 

A few years ago, Eisler might have been committed and locked in a padded cell for making such a decision. However, his actions in today’s ever-changing literary landscape underscore the existence of a new publishing world. 

One reason why more and more successful writers are choosing to self-publish is because of the overwhelming demand for e-books. If you own a Kindle or Nook or Sony Reader, you know what I’m talking about. E-books are available for as little as .99 cents. You can’t even buy a pack of gum for less than that. 

Another reason that self-publishing is so seductive is because the author gets a much bigger slice of the pie when compared to traditional publishing. And of course, the vastness of the Internet offers tremendous opportunities for an author to reach his or her target audience. 

I take my hat off to Barry Eisler. I admire his chutzpah. All things considered, I don’t think I could turn down a half-million dollar deal. But unlike Eisler, I’m still trying to make my mark as a novelist. Maybe in a few years, when I’m eating lobster instead of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, my perspective will change.

 

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A Quick Note

Yes, I’ve been absent for a while and I truly apologize. I’m in the final stages of the final edit (is there ever a final edit?) of Resuscitation, and hope to be done in about a week. Once complete, it goes to my editor at Amazon Encore, and then the publishing clock begins to tick.   

I have lots of things to talk about, but must focus my efforts on this important edit. So, stay tuned for updates. 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. You do know that he was Italian, right?

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A New Frontier – Self-Publishing

Well, self-publishing isn’t exactly a new frontier, but there is a new generation of successful writers who have redefined the world of publishing. One such author is Amanda Hocking, twenty-six-year-old novelist. She sold 450,000 copies of her nine young-adult paranormal books last month alone, and nearly all were e-books. I Googled her and checked out her web site. Even Wikipedia has a brief biography on her. She is a phenomenon. Thus far, she has sold nearly a million e-books and has earned over two-million dollars! 

H.P. Mallory, another self-published paranormal novelist, has sold 70,000 copies of her e-books since July. The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch, hit number 1 on Kindle book sales. And J.A. Konrath, veteran thriller novelist, has sold more than 100,000 self-published e-books. Is their success a result of hard work or dumb luck? 

I can tell you first hand, that anyone who is successful will generally admit that an element of their good fortune can be attributed to luck. Sometimes you’re just at the right place at the right time. But trust me; these successful authors worked their butts off promoting and marketing their work. Hocking promotes through her blog, Facebook, and Twitter. She even admits that she spends more time promoting than writing. 

The unwillingness of traditional publishers to take a chance on a new writer created a whole new market. A short time ago, the big houses turned up their noses at self-publishing, believing that it was merely a fad. But now, those same houses are aggressively pursuing self-published authors showing good sales numbers. It’s all about the numbers. 

With my second novel, Resuscitation, scheduled to be published by Amazon Encore later this year, I look at these incredible sales numbers and ask myself, “Why can’t I do the same thing?” The answer is simple. I can. But I have to roll up my sleeves, take control of my daily activities, and get my priorities in order. Promotion and marketing have to come first. And everything else has to be second. Except, of course, for my lovely wife. Our sofa is terribly uncomfortable.

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Okay, I Admit it

A few years back, when I was working a traditional “day-job”, I would often overhear some of my colleagues gathered around the coffee machine, chatting about the latest American Idol show the morning after a broadcast. Not a fan, in fact, absolutely hating the show, I’d call my workmates losers and brainless twits. I mean come on. What would motivate any adult with an I.Q. over 53 to watch such an adolescent reality show? 

Then a few years ago—I think it was season five—I was clicking through the channels looking for something to watch, and I stumbled upon Jordan Sparks belting out a tune. Hmm, I thought. She had an incredible voice. So I decided to watch the show for a bit, knowing that I’d never confess to my colleagues that I had actually watched American Idol. 

Glued to the TV for nearly an hour, I discovered that Jordan Sparks was not the only singer with a remarkable voice. So, as much as it went against the grain of my common sense, I was surprisingly intrigued with the show. A week passed and I found myself in front of the TV again, watching Idol. But this time, from beginning to end. Well, I guess you can figure out the rest. I’ve been watching Idol religiously ever since. It’s one of my favorite programs, and I don’t think I’ve missed even a minute for the last few years. In fact, you could call me an American Idol-oholic. 

As much as I hate to admit it, over the years I’ve watched performances and brief biographies about some of the contestants that brought me to tears. Here’s my prediction for this year. The top two finalists will be Pia Toscano and Jacob Lusk. Both have been blessed with extraordinary voices. But Jacob is going to squeak by and win the title. 

Now please do me a favor. If you happen to run into any American Idol fans that used to work with me, please don’t tell them that I’m hooked. If they find out, I’ll have to leave the country.

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