The New Publishing Model

Last week, I requested that you download a FREE copy  of my latest novel. First, a big Thank You to those who did and, if you have not yet, please consider doing so. 

Kingfisher: Slave To Honor – Free Novel by Alon Shalev

Given that many of my audience read Young Adult material, I should have pointed out that this was definitely written for adults. I apologize to those who were offended and thank you for reaching out and sharing in such a constructive way.

I have also received questions about why this company and how they work. Inkitt, the publishing house, does not work like a traditional publishing house. The staff are young tech people, who are not looking for a story that resonates with a particular staff member, rather they judge a book’s potential using a complex set of algorithms.

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They are interested in how long it takes to download a book, how quickly you start to read it, how far you get, and what review you give. They ask questions about what price you would be willing to pay and other analytics that I am unaware of.  

As the author, I have my own analytics page, where they show me  much of what I mention above. I can see how many chapters have being read, how many copies are downloaded, and the reviews are public. I have a bar which shows the progress in terms of data they have collected that will enable them to make a decision. I am about one-third of the way there (so please feel free to help – download, read, review).

I find the process fascinating. In the 15 years that I have been writing, I have reached out to agents, imagined the groaning “slush pile” table in a New York office (I know it is mainly electronic now and hear the trees sigh with relief). I imagine agents and publishers dining in Manhattan over power lunches, and so much more.

'Oh yes we're very proud of him. He's in publishing you know!'

While this might be the romance of the industry that agents and publishers want to perpetuate, I suspect the reality is closer to what Inkitt is doing. There are sharp business people poring over industry projections and statistics, who truly make the decision, and it is not because they fell in love with the novel’s protagonist.  

The publishing industry has been forced by the change in market to hunker down and avoid risk. Their behaviors, I suspect, are more akin to other profit-driven companies, and they use the emerging technologies to help them make strong decisions.

In a sense, this is what new companies like Inkitt are doing, the difference being that as part of the generation who grew up in the technology age, they see no shame in embracing it publicly. 

It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Thank you, as always for your support, Please help me stay in the game – download, read, and review.

Thank you,

Alon

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ALON SHALEV
At The Walls Of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1, 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner – YA Category.

Learn more about the Wycaan Master series at http://www.alonshalev.com/

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An Author Needs His Hat

“So, what’s with the hat?” The question came from a young man in the back row of the small (but thankfully packed) room.

I had been fielding questions about plot, world-building, characters, building a series, and on being a writer, so this caught me off guard. My bad. It was not the first time I had received such a question. I was reminded of this when a twitter follower graciously allowed me to finish the day with a smile this week, posting that he couldn’t ignore a book written by an author with such a great hat. Thank you, sir.

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So, what is with the hat? I was wearing it when my sons and I wrote those first words deep in a redwood forest in 2010. Sitting at a campsite picnic table, I brandished my snow-white keyboard, doffed my hat and wrote: “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit…

Okay, I’m getting carried away. I actually opened At The Walls of Galbrieth with the words: The screams pierced his dreams and… Every summer since, I have read the next manuscript to my sons while camping, and while wearing my hat.

Reading Book 6 in the summer of 2015. End of an era.

Reading Book 6 to my toughest critics in the summer of 2015. End of an era.

Though I feel a great connection between hat and story, none of my characters actually wear a hat in the novels. Maybe I connect to it because I would simply feel too self-conscious walking around the San Francisco Bay Area with a heavy, hooded cloak and staff with the exception perhaps of Halloween.

Ironically, I am not much of a hat-wearer. Traveling to the East Coast in winter warrants a hat, and the same one I wear for camping, sits aloft my head as I fly fish. I am sure the trout take careful note of my headgear since they totally ignore my fly.

But now I have begun to take notice. The professor wore his tweed hat though not in his ancient Oxford study. Sir Terry Pratchett RIP had his splendid black fedora (hope I’m getting the title right). And I have seen other fantasy authors on twitter handles, websites, and Wanted posters.

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Neil Gaiman, in his wonderful tribute to Sir Terry, described their first meeting thus: The author, a former journalist, has a hat, but it’s a small, black leathery cap, not a Proper Author Hat. Not yet.

So here is my Wycaan Master books series by hat. Please feel free to click on each to see which book the photo features on (we used the same for Books 3 + 4).

Bookcover Trees copyBookcover Snow copy                                                                         Bookcover Ocean copyAuthor Photo Book 5 copy

Are you a fantasy author with a hat to show? Feel free to leave photo and link to your books in the comments.

Here’s to authors in hats. May our heads be ever covered, our pages full of words, and our minds ever brimming with imagination!

We are now less than two weeks from the release of From Ashes They Rose (October 1.). So please, consider investing $2.99 to preorder the ebook version. Maybe one day you can point out nonchalantly to friends over a deep red Merlot that you helped that best selling author when he was still a struggling writer.

How could I forget...

How could I forget…

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and four more novels in the Wycaan Master Series – all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose, the fifth in the series, will be released October 1, 2015. The story continues.

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

Whoosh And It’s Gone!

Whoosh. It’s Gone!

The most absurd part is: I have done this several times. I have written a novel, edited it, had it professionally edited, edited what the editor edited, had it line-edited, edited what the line editor edited, gave it one more read through, and then…. Whoosh!

Yes, whoosh I say! The manuscript has gone to the formatters. I receive a confirmation that everything is okay (otherwise I bug them like crazy), and I am told by the good folks at Tourmaline Books to go prepare for the launch.

Just like that. It’s gone. Whoosh! I’m rather fond of that word, by the way. Very underrated in literature. But here I sit and stare at the screen, wondering what to do next. Do I go on vacation? Have a stiff scotch? Start writing Book 6? All of the above?

It remains, eight books later, a weird moment in time. If I were writing a spiritual Zen-like book (and I might since I watched the entire Kung Fu series with David Carradine RIP), I would talk of that odd moment of cultural void, when it is simply done. A tranquil calm descends, discovers a presence of anxiety, shrugs its shoulders and pours them both that scotch.

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So there it is. From Ashes They Rose has…well begun to rise! It has begun a transformation into its next reincarnation, from manuscript to book. I shall leave you with the blurb on the back:

Deep wounds fester in the collective psyche of a once proud nation now destroyed and humiliated. All that remains is a driving desire for revenge. It should never have happened. Retribution will know no mercy.

Book 5 Cover FINAL

Mercifully, I still owe myself that scotch. Here’s to manuscripts past, formatters present, and future books. L’chaim!

Elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and three more novels in the Wycaan Master Series: The First Decree, Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, and Sacrificial Flame – all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose, the fifth in the series, will be released in September 2015. The story continues.

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

Would James Bond Have Destroyed The Ring?

It’s a fascinating question. Well maybe not. I suspect 007 would have been more interested in nibbling Tauriel’s ears and held coiffured competitions with Legalos, but it opens the door to examine the hero in epic fantasy.

The James Bond stereotype – macho, sexy, deadly, fearless – does exist in epic fantasy, but more often than not, plays a supporting role. Consider Aragorn to Frodo, for example. What fascinates me here is that Frodo and his Uncle Bilbo opened the door to the imperfect, oft vulnerable and fearful hero.

And we love them.

Now my mother had a huge crush on James Bond, from Sean Connery onwards, and my father would certainly never fault her good taste, but at some point a new type of hero emerged.
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Why?

The Wycaan Master, Seanchai, began his journey as a simple, frightened village elf, bewildered and lost as he was forced to flee his village. In truth, many other characters pour scorn on him for his ineptitude, indecision, and lack of machismo.

We bind ourselves to him because Seanchai, and Frodo, and Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, all share something in common with us. They are continually faced with adversary, pressure, and a need to confront their fears.

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Most of us dream of being a James Bond, oozing confidence, sexuality, and infallibility, but somehow it appears more unreachable than a fleeing elf, a scared hobbit, or a bewildered dragonrider.

I suppose we might question our grasp on reality when we figure we have more chance defeating the evil all-powerful Sauron or Emperor, than seducing the sexy sidekick, fellow spy, or riding a dragon. But it is not what they do, but how they deal with it. This is where we connect to them and therefore where we root for them.

As I write this blog post, my beloved Golden State Warriors have just done battle with Lebron James for the NBA title. Lebron is touted by many as the hero, despite his incredible lack of humility – we don’t need you to remind us you are the best player on the planet, Lebron. The Warriors, led by a rather humble Step Curry, won because they are a team in a team sport. Sure, Curry is the Most Valuable Player in the league, but he continually credits his teammates, his coach, and shows his love for his family. Curry is my Seanchai, not that I would cast Lebron necessarily as the evil Emperor … unless the Cavs would have won, of course.

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Would James Bond have put the One Ring on his finger and admired how well it complimented his fine, perfectly lithe fingers? Would he have removed it – he did have a thing for gadgets! How about Lebron James? We need heroes. We love our martinis shaken but not stirred, but we still appreciate a good pint of stout at the village tavern, surrounded by our friends. It is what keeps us honest and what keeps epic fantasy relevant.

hobbits in pub

We all need a hero.

Finally, thank you to everyone who sent good wishes with the announcement of From Ashes They Rose. I am very excited and will share more details as I receive them. It still feels so special and I hope it always will. And yes, to the gentleman in Texas, you can begin with Sacrificial Flame, but…

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, and Sacrificial Flame, all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose will be released in September 2015. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection.

More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Can I Have Your Autograph, Dead Author?

You probably know the story: Robert Jordan wrote 12 amazing epic fantasy books – Wheel of Time series – and outlined three more that he was unable to complete before he passed away in 2007 (for those of you purists counting, I have included New Spring as one of the series, though it was written out-of-sequence). His wife persuaded Brandon Sanderson, already a respected novelist in his own right, to finish the series for her husband.

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I learned about this from an interview with Mr. Sanderson, which was both compelling and offered with wonderful humility – if you can find the interview, please leave the link in the comments. The whole idea of writing someone else’s book is stunning to me – no disrespect meant to ghost writers – I think this is different.

So A Memory of Light comes out in 2013 to great aplomb. It is the end of an era, a wonderful legacy by a rising hero to a master etc. etc. We fantasy readers get very emotional when the great stories actually transcend the page.

I’m sure you can imagine my joy when I pick up a book in a used bookstore and discover not only Mr. Sanderson’s autograph but also Mr. Jordan’s. I instagramed, showed my kids and began writing this blog post. How exciting to imagine both men sat together at this historical moment in epic fantasy history and autographed the very book I now possess.

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Here’s the problem: Only as I began to compose this post did I realize that Robert Jordan had been dead for five years when he autographed my copy. It is a strange feeling that his ghost would go to such trouble, and that he could even hold the pen, though personally I still get a kick when a reader asks me to sign their copy of one one of my books – though whether this feeling would follow me into the great writing retreats beyond, who knows?

So how should I feel? It felt such a privilege to own this book and now I’m not sure want to think? Still, I will be better prepared next time I ask a dead author to sign my book.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. His latest novel is Sacrificial Flame, the fourth in the series.

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

 

 

Writers Hate Writing. Really?

I guess it used to be hard to write a novel, scribbling across the parchment with your quill, fretting every time you make a mistake, blotting the ink… Even a young 50-year-old like me wonders how he ever typed college papers … remember Tippex anyone (I believe it was called White Out here in the colonies)?

So now everyone’s a writer. I get it. But what I don’t understand is the complaining about writing. I opened a Writer’s Digest this weekend, an old one from the end of 2012, and it was full of articles on Writer’s Block, discipline, and how we need to force ourselves to write.

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In the space of 24 hours, I was interviewed by a high school student who kept asking about writer’s block, discipline, and how I maintain my focus; then I was invited to speak at a workshop on Writer’s Block.

In the aforementioned issue of Writer’s Digest, there are articles and a hilarious graph (way to go Zachery Petit) on doing everything but writing. One article is about overcoming writer’s block without willpower, another has you spending an hour or so writing and the rest of the day doing all kinds of wonderful “author” things like visiting bookstores and doing field research. There is an article about extreme measures authors took to keep their “butt in the seat,” including Frank Burrows who would chain himself to a chair and drink lots of Tab (a soda that is pretty torturous in itself) so that his bladder was bursting, I assume.

William Styron is quoted as saying: “I certainly don’t enjoy writing. I get a fine warm feeling when I’m doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let’s face it: Writing is hell.”

The author of the article continues: “I get it. I get why writers hate writing.”

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I don’t! I really don’t! If you don’t enjoy writing don’t do it. There are things we all have to do: taxes, flossing, cleaning the bathroom, but not writing. Sure there are hard times: when the plot doesn’t work, or when your heroine does something out-of-character, but to hate writing?

I LOVE writing. I can’t wait to fire up my laptop and pound the keys. When I am not writing, I become frustrated and (according to my family) pretty darn annoying. I LOVE the thrill of the unknown plot twist. I CRAVE the company of my characters, and I RIDE the adrenaline rush of the scenes unfolding under my fingertips.

When a beloved character fails or dies, I cry. When battle is joined, I apparently mumble and wince out loud as people are wounded or killed. I have never learned how to type properly (touch typing?), but my fingers fly across the keyboard as I get increasingly excited. Sure there are many squiggly red and green lines, but I can worry about that later.

When I finish a novel, the first thing I want to do is celebrate. The second thing is to start the next book. In my own fantasy world, I would just write the novels. Others would edit, market and do all the other ‘stuff’ that authors need to do these days. I just wanna write.

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I don’t mean nothing else. I love my day job and feel I am, as Steve Jobs expressed: ‘helping to put a dent in the world.’ I love my family and am truly blessed to have a soul mate who tolerates me with all my quirks. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

The high school student asked at the end of our interview:” “When do you know you are a writer?” I answered that it’s when you never leave the story, even when you are doing something else. It’s when you crave returning to the computer and when you take immense pride in the story unfolding.

That is my answer. Every author probably has something different to offer and I am sure they are all right. But I hate writing just doesn’t make any sense.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree,  and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. His latest novel is Sacrificial Flame, the fourth in the series.

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

 

A Year Since My First Book Award

It has been 12 months since I won my first award, the Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA category, and I am still glowing from the rush of seeing my name in print on the awards page.

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I do not subscribe to the solitary writer image. I have facilitated the Berkeley Writers Group for several years, and I am an active member of the California Writer’s Group. I have a cadre of supportive writer friends and feel confident in my trajectory.

The Wycaan Master series is housed with a small publisher, Tourmaline Books, which is always gratifying and who are very supportive. But they acknowledge and encourage me to look for a bigger house.

But there was something very powerful in receiving an award. I have got close before, reaching the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award’s quarterfinal twice. I have spoken a couple of times before packed rooms and have a wonderful relationship with readers through this blog and my @elfwriter twitter feed.

 Games of Berkeley Question from Asif

And yet, to be able to introduce myself as an award-winning author gives instant credibility and I can see this in the reaction of the poor bugger I’ve cornered.

I treasure the reviews I receive on Amazon and the emails and tweets from dedicated readers. I couldn’t help but stare in amazement when I saw a person on the BART (Bay Area train) actually sitting and reading At The Walls Of Galbrieth.

It is important to be recognized to garner the recognition and legitimacy that it gives: for your readers and especially for you the aspiring author.

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+