Monday, October 25, 2010

The Value of Free

Publishing is a tough business. Many people try to write books, many people finish writing books, but most never see them actually published. Sometimes it's because they just weren't polished enough yet; often, however, they just never find it a home. I was fortunate to find my first book a home. What has proved not so easy, however, is the one that followed. This is the journey of that novel...

Unlike many authors, my book had an agent with the connections to get it read by editors at all the big publishing houses, but after a year, the book still sat unpublished and with no hope in sight.
The book is called The N00b Warriors. It is a YA novel about a civil war that has wiped out much of the much so that kids are being trained with video games so that they too can go out and fight in this war. It was wrote after years of teenage boys telling me there were no books that spoke to them. Really, it was my attempt to give them something that spoke to them.

When it landed at the desks of the New York editors, the response was quite favorable--except for one minor thing: it was violent. Teens, from what I gathered from much of the houses, don't want violence--they want nice stories where the good guy wins, people fall in love, and there is hope. Now it wasn't that my book didn't have just didn't have enough. Also, teenage boys, it seemed from there input, didn't read.

Fortunately, in a digital age, it is possible to let the readers decide if a book that publishers said no to is worthy of the rejection. I don't know a lot about teens, but I do know two things: one, they don't have money and they appreciate free; and two, if they don't have an iPhone then chances are they have an iPod Touch. Unlike most adults, they actually enjoy reading on those tiny, glaring screens. So I did what would have been disgraceful and unprofessional five years ago (but what is now pretty common): I gave it away for free.

I was once asked what I would rather have: fame or fortune. It's easy: fame, because how do you have fame without fortune? I now know the answer: by giving it away for free. In the two plus weeks it's been live, it has been downloaded well over 1000 times. And, judging from the reviews, teens actually read and liked it.

The response has been enough to make me continue the series even if publishers reject the content as too violent. Ten years ago, writing a book that dared to be different risked never seeing the light of day, but now there's at last a chance for readers to weigh in at what should really published and read.

Many writers will go on and on at how they write for the passion not for the money. It's funny how many still aren't willing to give away their books. I've been writing professionally long enough to know writers don't make money. It's nice to get a buck here and there, but it's much nicer to know your book is actually being read.

I have often said the greatest ideas and dreams can be found in one central location: the cemetery. It's unfortunate but most dreams are never carried through. They rest in our minds until one day we are gone, and so are the ideas we carried in us. Everyone is capable of greatness, but few are capable of the sheer will, discipline and desire to get through the long bitter race that must be run before we get to the point were we can look to the crowd and listen to them appalled and chant well done.

Sometimes finishing the race that is writing means getting absolutely nothing for it. The thrill is the cheers. The book is on sale on Kindle (where it can't be free by Kindle rules), and people have bought it--enough to buy my wife a moderate dinner some place nice...but the real audience is where it's free. There may not be any glamour in giving something away, but there is certainly readership--and that's enough.

If you want to read it, just go to iBooks and type in "The N00b Warriors." If you want to buy it, go here. And if you want a free copy in Word or ePub, then email me: I will also be irregularly updating the official N00b website here:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Death of Windows

It's fitting that Mac is calling their new OS Lion. It's fitting because it is the OS that is going to tear though and conquer everything. Windows? It's dead.

Apple has built an empire on the phrase, "It just works." And you know what? It does. Next time my parents need a computer, why would I get them a Windows? With Apple, more so now than ever with Lion (due out Summer 2011), the learning curve is virtually gone. Why does the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and the iPad work? Because you can sit down with them and know how they work with little effort.

What's more, Apple is now the computer of choice for just about every single college freshman. Microsoft had a similar tactic when I was in college--I paid only 15 bucks for the Office Professional suite and 25 bucks for Windows 98 at the college bookstore. Apple is at nearly every college campus in the country, offering discounts and, of course, Apple credit cards to pay for them. For the ones not willing to pay $1000+ on a laptop, they give an iPhone.

People want things that look the same. It's only logical that people want a computer that interacts as simple as their phone. The new iMovie program in iLife is enough to make any parent lust to have it in their home--so their kids too can create videos that blow their peers away. And iPhoto is iCandy to every senior’s eye--a photo suite that makes it simple to print out albums.  It's cool, and there's something for everyone.

Apple is doing something that Microsoft hasn't figured out: they're making their consumer see how their life will be easier if only they could have on.

Microsoft has a nasty habit of innovating after innovation--Zune is better than iPod in many ways, but it came too late; the same can be said of the latest Windows mobile. If the rumors are correct, they too are working on an app store for computers/tablets, but time will tell if it comes too late.

Windows, for now, will remain the computer of businesses, but I suspect Android will soon take care of that. 

Things change. The giant today is the dwarf tomorrow. So why should it matter? Because, while I love Apple, and have four in my house, the idea of having a computer with apps means the ultimate end to customization. Sure we can tweak the computer, but soon it will only be in a way that Apple wants.

I like Apple. I like apps. They're simple. But the idea of someone having them deciding what apps are approved and rejected is worrisome.