Ebook Authors: Less Format, More Content. Please.

In the past six months, ebooks have absolutely exploded as a viable format.  Yours truly, who was waiting for something like the iPad and its competitors now coming onto the market, even owns a Kindle now.  Why?  Price and ease of use.  Midlisters are reviving their careers by forgoing their print publishers and taking it directly to the people.  Witness JA Konrath’s success with ebooks to the point of yanking two print novels before they made it into the pipeline because he wanted more control.  These books will likely sell.  And the good news is only Joe’s bank book counts.  No more kowtowing to a mindless accounting group that thinks only in terms of blockbusters.

But we all know publishing isn’t dead.  It’s changing.  E-presses are in the offing, and two have already gone live.  In fact, we’ve probably entered the era where new publishers and small presses would be wise to eschew print, at least in their early stages, in favor of ebooks.  Why would an author go with such an enterprise when they’d have to share the money with a publisher?

We can’t all be JA Konrath.  Books still needed to be edited, formatted, given a cover, and marketed, all those things print publishers still do but most ebook authors can’t afford to do themselves.  Before you tell me I can hire an editor for less than my mortgage payments, go look at the latest economic news.  Go on.  I’ll wait.

Yeah, share the wealth, get the help.


Too many ebook authors are talking about being ebook authors.  So let me ask a pertinent question:  Why does your book belong on my Kindle?

Yes, you wrote a book and are selling it to the world.  Enough with the format talk already.  What’s the book about?

4 thoughts on “Ebook Authors: Less Format, More Content. Please.

  1. Good post, Jim. I have a print book coming out in a couple of months. It’s a crime/noir novel, and my publisher fully expects me to be a one-man sales force, fully responsible for every book that sells. To this end, I’ve developed a website, been active on the blogs, facebook, etc. Think I’m going to make any money?

    So I took another novel, CADILLAC’S COMIN’, that had been lying around on my hard drive for a few years because it defied categorization. I call it a rock & roll novel, a hard tale about a one-hit wonder who recorded for Sun Records in the 1950s. I put it up on Kindle ($2.99) and Smashwords ($1.99). If the idea of a novel about the early, volatile days of rock & roll interests you, then CADILLAC’S COMIN’ belongs on your Kindle.

    It’s got a great cover and description, but more importantly, it’s a compelling story. Here’s the Kindle link:



    In January 1978 Ross Macdonald wrote, “Fred Zackel’s first novel reminds me
    of the young Dashiell Hammett’s work, not because it is an imitation, but
    because it is not. It is a powerful and original book made from the lives
    and language of the people who live in San Francisco today.”

    TIME magazine
    describes it as “A spectrum of sex, aging flower children, mafia money,
    houseboat life in Sausalito, booze, barbituates, bitterness, incest and
    greed . as nerve-rattling as a full-throttle auto chase!”

    When the novel
    was reprinted in 2006, Loren D. Estleman, the author of NICOTINE KISS says,
    “The American private eye story was in the Dumpster when Fred Zackel fished
    it out at the point of a gun. He revived the form, electrified readers and
    critics, and started the juggernaut that shoved aside the paperback romance
    to establish the mystery as the most popular category in the world. Finally,
    the generation that grew up since COCAINE AND BLUE EYES has the chance to
    meet Michael Brennan. An event like this ought to have a national holiday
    connected with it.”

    Tom Nolan, author of “Ross Macdonald: A Biography,”
    wrote that “The American private-eye novel enjoyed a resurgence in the
    1970s, and Fred Zackel’s “Cocaine and Blue Eyes” was a unique part of that
    literary blossoming. Set in the Bay Area of Northern California, this
    fast-moving 1978 novel speeds through an eventful Christmas and New Year’s
    season with all the energy of a classic genre bursting with new life. From
    page one, it’s clear the book’s author is a born storyteller, one who brings
    a personal vision to the templates of the past.

    “Cocaine and Blue Eyes” – the tough tale of a semi-pro detective hunting
    high and low in San
    Francisco society for a missing person who maybe isn’t missing, on behalf of
    a client who is
    without a doubt dead – evokes some of the tone and terrain of Dashiell
    Hammett, some of the
    seductive cadences of Raymond Chandler, and some of the poetic flashes of
    Ross Macdonald (who enthusiastically supported its publication). What seems
    most Zackel’s own is the sensibility of investigator-protagonist Michael
    Brennen: a man coming up through the underside, to find his own moral

    Fred Zackel’s novel reads today with the same raw vigor as when it was
    written. If some of its slang, social-sexual attitudes, and pharmacological
    lore now ring out of date, such jarring notes only validate the book’s
    integrity as an honest time-machine: a beat-up-cab-ride back some 30 years
    to when parking-meters took pennies, cigarettes were smoked in restaurants,
    cocaine was thought to be neither addictive nor fatal; and when – then as
    now – “Only the lucky solve cases.”

    How’s that, Jim?

    And if you have read it, the others up on Kindle date from the time I discovered my career is impervious to advancement.

    Do I got cojones? Read the first chapter of CROW ON THE CRADLE through Kindle. Only a lunatic would have wasted 90,000 words on THAT topic.

    Good luck & best wishes.

  3. Fred, that was sort of the impression I got when I found you originally on the old Plots With Guns.

    Yeah. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Content over format. You can always toss in “And it’s cheap on Kindle!” later.

  4. And it’s MUCH cheaper on Kindle. Two dollah ninety-nine cents!! Oh, you bettah off, to quote Lenny Bruce.

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