Only 40 Self-Published Authors are a Success, says Amazon

The obvious solution here is that some new publishing concept needs to enter the field. BooksForHumanity type of thing where all the proceeds for a novel go to fund a *good cause*.

Claude Forthomme's Blog about Social Issues and Books

The cat is out of the bag, finally we know exactly how many self-published authors make it big: 40.

Yes, that’s not a typo.

40 self-published authors “make money”, all the others, and they number in the hundreds of thousands, don’t. This interesting statistic, recently revealed in a New York Times article, applies to the Kindle Store, but since Amazon is in fact the largest digital publishing platform in the world, it is a safe bet that self-published authors are not doing much better anywhere else.

“Making money” here means selling more than one million e-book copies in the last five years. Yes, 40 authors have managed that, and have even gone on to establishing their own publishing house, like Meredith Wild. Her story is fully reported in the New York Times, here, and well worth pondering over. And wondering what “making money” really means.


View original post 793 more words

Heavenly Fire

“Explain again how you guide these artificial asteroids to their targets.” The general had followed the basic discussion, but when the projectiles, launched using a SpaceX Dragon orbiting Earth, itself launched from a pad in French Guiana’s spaceport, began atmospheric re-entry — he became lost.

“You’ll recall,” began the astrophysicist, pointing her laser’s red dot onto the image projected on the wall, “that each of the seven astro-shells is comprised of a ceramic casing, the head of which is our impact load; the base containing the navigation controls.”

“Yes, I got that far. But –”

“But, the impact load does not detach from the guidance base until the target is approximately forty klicks out.” She twiddled the laser in a circle around the three small fins projecting from the sides of what looked like a giant space bullet. “These nav-paddles extend out and using trajectory and GPS data to calculate its descent which started, if you’ll remember, when the launch craft orbited to within one thousand klicks of the target, guide the payload before detaching.”

The general, the top button of his starched shirt undone, the sweltering room adding to the stress he was under regarding this clandestine operation, took a sip from his water bottle and repeated for clarification, “The asteroid detaches, the shell part disintegrates — twenty miles or so above the target, and the rock part then “falls” smack dab onto our target.” He took another sip. “Have I got that right?”

“Smack dab,” the woman said, her mouth wide, her lips pursing with the “b” at the end, “is a bit of misnomer. Our accuracy, so far, has been to within five-hundred meters.”

“Well, if the hole you make with the detonation–”

“You realize that there’s no explosives within the iron-nickel impact payload, it’s purely kinetic energy that does the damage–”

The general was getting tired of being continuously interrupted by this woman and her aid, who had interjected, multiple times, with the facts regarding the plausible deniability. This impact payload was a manufactured creation designed to mimic, down to its chemical signature, an asteroid — that would be untraceable. Any impact would be deemed an “act of God.”

“Yes, yes, I know it’s just a rock. But a rock falling at nearly twenty thousand miles an hour. As I was saying, if the hole it makes with the explosion then, is big enough, even if you miss you’ll still destroy the target. Is that right?”

The aid spoke up again. Both the general and the three colonels brought in to assess the results of the prior two test launches had had just about enough from this fellow. “Statistically speaking, there are no guarantees. Our error tolerances have shown that on-the-whole we will destroy, with a fifty percent efficiency, any target we, well, target. Our last two seven-round tests showed results that were optimal when the test was performed during the early morning, reduced wind, and the latitude of the target fell to within ten degrees of the equator. We—”

“All right. Enough.” The general held up his hand to stifle the fellows rehearsal of facts that had already been discussed, ad nauseam. “Can you or can you not destroy something the size of a high school stadium, if, as you say, you fire one of these things under “optimal” conditions?”

The woman shut down the pocket projector connected to her phone and the room went dark before her aid flipped the lights back on. “We can give you a ninety-eight percent probability of success, but only if we deliver three simultaneous astro-shells.”

The colonels seated around the table began to nod their heads. The general looked into the eyes of each one in turn. He nodded himself. “When can we schedule the next launch?”



CNN: “Some are calling the early morning destruction of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad’s palace an act-of-God and retribution for the atrocities inflicted on the people of Syria by the Syrian military at the direction and control of al-Assad himself. The entire al-Assad family, including many palace staff, are thought to have died in the devastation, including the President.

Sources say that in addition to the al-Assad royal family, the two brothers, Maher, and Assef were in attendance and also died in the cataclysm.

Residents near the palace claim that the explosion heard was unlike any bomb they’d experienced of the six years of civil conflict. “An incredible noise! And then my whole house shook, as if Allah himself were shaking it with his bare hands.”

“The noise was terrible. Very frightening. This was not a boom. No, this was like a thousand thunders all happening same time. So loud, my ears, I still hear ringing.”

CNN: “As you can see from the drone footage, the craters formed from whatever fell from the sky this morning, military sources say, could not have been formed by any conventional weapon currently known. Not even the MOAB bomb, dropped on Afghanistan last spring could have produced such devastation, they said.”

“We’ve analyzed what we believe to be pieces of the asteroid and find that what appears to have been a single meteor, broke apart some miles above the Earth and each of the three pieces struck within one hundred meters of each other. The fragments, we believe, come from what’s known as a super-dense pallasite type asteroid. Some silicon, but mostly iron and nickel metal. This was one hard, fast and heavy rock!”

CNN: “Could his have been a bomb or missile of some sort?”

“No bomb did this. No, there were eyewitnesses who claim to have seen a vapor trail behind the bolide which did this damage. It was a missile. Absolutely, but a natural one.”

CNN: “The power vacuum left by the death of the much contested Syrian president looks to be filled, temporarily, by the more moderate Moffar Al-Shafei until elections can be organized.”


The general and the engineer met for lunch at a bistro in downtown Sydney.

“The performance of your astro-shells met and exceed our expectations. The accuracy your assistant bickered about appeared to be a non-issue. We understand that there remain a number of these devices still in orbit.”

She set down her fork, the key-lime pie she’d just finished and the success of the project gave her a glow the general found provocative, now that she wasn’t interrupting him.

“Yes General. The orbital craft remains navigable up to about a thousand mile detour in orbit. We’d have to plan the alteration in detail, but yes, there are additional astro-shells, four to be exact, ready for deployment.”

“Excellent. My bosses would like you to arrange an orbit that takes us over the north Pacific. A bit closer to Asia than to North America.”

“Yes, we can do that I think.” She rested her hand on the table just a few inches from his own. He reached and lay his over top of hers and looked into her eyes.

“Good. Set it up then.”

She left her hand beneath his. His was warm and surprisingly gentle. “Do you have a target in mind?” she asked.

“We do. We think we might rain a little heavenly fire down on a certain hermit dictator.”

She nodded in understanding her almond shaped eyes squinting in clandestine camaraderie. “Very good,” she said. “You and I make a pretty good team.”

“We do don’t we; in a Guardians of Earth sort of way.”

“Yes, guardians, I like that.”

FWD: Now vs Then

Now vs Then


Did Edgar Allen Poe ever write a pleasant or happy piece? I wonder how invasive an author’s emotions are on their writing. Can you really write a jubilant uplifting scene when you’re despondent? Can you really write a dejected, woeful scene when you’re skipping on air in ecstatic reverie?

How good are you at pretending? As fiction writers write, they must enter into the minds and emotions of those they portray. If fair Bonnie is having a really good day, picking daisies in a billowing field under a blue sky full of song birds, but you, the author, are feeling like shit, hating life and the crap that’s piled upon your shoulders; will you give Bonnie all she deserves?

I suppose the opposite holds true too. Though I can’t imagine too often feeling like rainbows are following me around, and leprechauns skip across my path aching to show me their pots of gold. Yeah, just try and write like Poe with that kind of saccharine grin on your face.

— The raven, pecking at the tallow in the bones of the deceased, cawed raucously as the whip from the hearse driver snapped above its head. “Bah! Be gone ye foul fowl. Yer likes be givin’ me death’s own shivers.” The raven took startled flight, but circled high over the procession as it wound its way through the stark countryside, the leafless trees bowing their condolences, the stone roadways grinding their pity. The hearse plodded along to the ancient church and the open grave awaiting it. —

Now, am I having a good day or a poor one? Is life shining like a triple sun in my eyes, or is Neptune dangling like an anchor about my neck?

Could I write a happy scene? I could try. But the thought of it pains me to even have bubbling within my mind. Is this how Poe felt his whole life? Damn!


Social Engineering – a novel



The woman looked down her nose at the fellow seated at the kitchen table, “What trial are you on now?”

He flipped through his lab book, “Hold on. Number twenty.”

“And how many did you kill?”

Addesh looked up at the woman, judging whether to answer. “I didn’t kill any of them. You know that. They died of natural causes.”

Tanalia held up her hand and counted to herself, “One, two, three, yeah you killed that one too. At least four by my count.”

“Natural. Causes.” The bio-engineer said stiffly.

“If you think you and that machine of yours is ‘natural’ I got news for you. I’m sure any SWAT truck full of authorities would think the same. Murder is my guess. Oh, they won’t prove it. You’ve torched the evidence by now. How many trials again?”

“All biohazard waste is torched. Two thousand Fahrenheit, minimum. And I already told you.” Addesh turned in his seat and squinted up at her, his glasses dusty, “You keep digging at me and maybe sometime after you brush your teeth you start feeling — a little funny.” He got up, filled a mug from the tap, clanked it into the microwave, tapped in sixtysix and hit START.

“You wouldn’t dare. You fuck with my genes and the NSA will be all over you. You know I’ve set up a failsafe. You’ll get tagged by Homeland, FBI, probably even Interpol, seein’ how you nix’d that Irish woman. What was her name?”

“Gaile. And she was Scottish.” The microwave dinged and he prepared his hourly cup of instacoffee. Holding it to his face, he smelled it deeply.

“Twenty trials and you’re not even close,” the woman scoffed.

Addesh sipped at the cup tentatively. “Oh, I’m close. It’s just that this particular gene lies right next to a couple of others that regulate things like breathing, and body temperature.”

“What was it that the media reported? She ‘cooked in her own juices’? You scratched her with that claw of yours and she boiled away in her bed that night.” Tanalia paced up to the window and peered out at the glimmer of streetlights reflecting off the wet roads.

The man in the lab coat had had enough. “I’ve nailed the problems. This next run is the one. We need a high profile mark. And he has to be a guy we can track. A local. But somebody with a lot to lose.”

“And you want me to set it up, is that it?” The woman strolled up to the man and poked a finger into his chest. “I’m here to deliver Roger Simmons. That’s it. You said ‘ten, you could do it in ten’. Well it’s been twenty now and so far I haven’t seen any progress. Mr. Terrence is not gonna be happy.”

Addesh backed away from the red fingernail. “My research said a ‘probable’ ten. This gene splicing into a hijacked viral payload isn’t like growing bread mold in your fridge. Sure, my research using the prior version of the CRISPR/Cil3 allowed me to turn a rabbit green. That was trivial. I created a glow-in-the-dark chinchilla, and gave chameleon chromophores to a goat. But this behavioral gene modification is a whole other field.” The fellow advanced a step back toward the woman. “So. Back. Off. Missy.” He then sat down at his laptop. “Twenty-one will be the ticket,” he continued over his shoulder. “Get me a mark and be ready by tomorrow morning at ten. Let me know where you’ve set the meet.”


The mark turned out to be managed futures broker Keith Darston. Tanalia came dressed as a jogger. It turned out her concern about attracting the attention of Mr. Darston was a non-issue.

Addesh had passed her the glass tallon containing the viral payload, that slipped over her finger. It had a safety-tip which she would remove prior to use. They’d met at the Starbucks across from the mark’s work place. Addesh instructed, “The wrist would be best. Or the neck. You have to apply the tip directly to skin. It might work through clothing but then you might break off the tip leaving evidence.”

Tanalia was impatient, and a little nervous. “I got it. Now leave me alone. You look like a pervert.”

“Skin. On the skin.” Addesh mouthed as he walked away.

The broker arrived during the mid-morning lull. He came down nearly every day to get a double with a shot of vanilla creme. Sugar and caffeine; a broker’s best friends. Well, not ‘best’ per se, Darston had a meth habit that he’d kicked some months ago. He’d found himself twitching one morning while poised to take a big position in July natural gas; he couldn’t make his finger tap the Enter key.  That lost trade cost his firm nearly two and a half million dollars. So meth was out. Sugar and coffee were in. Lot’s of coffee.

Tanalia played it perfectly. Ol’ Keith couldn’t take his eyes off of her cleavage which she’d managed to stuff into a 34B jogging top. As she walked out with her cup, she stumbled over his shoes, and fell directly into him. As he bent to catch her, spilling half his coffee and all of hers, she reach over the back of his neck to catch herself. In the process she traced the glass needle across his scalp. Mr. Darston, so engrossed in the woman’s physique, not to mention the scalding coffee spreading across the floor, failed to react to the infecting scratch.

A store employee shuffled out to clean up the mess, but by then Tanalia had apologized to the broker, tossed her empty cup and the glass fingertip into the trash bin outside the door, and had jogged off around the corner.

Trial Twenty-one had been successfully delivered. Now all they had to do was sit back, cross their fingers, and watch the news.

The mark didn’t die. Not right away at least. Addesh called that a success. Tanalia remained skeptical. That was the good news. The bad news was that the mark called in sick for three days. Three days of waiting to hear about some dead broker found melted in his satin sheets. Or whose heart had stopped while he sat in a pharmacy waiting for a prescription of antibiotics. No amount of penicillin was going to cure this man’s ills.

The first clue at their success came when Mr. Keith Darston returned to work, looking well enough, despite having recently been sick. When he came down for his trading doldrums pick-me-up, he ran into Tanalia. She was properly dressed this time, if you didn’t count the fact that she had, once again, stuffed Bert and Ernie into a teacup bra. Stuffed them and made sure Mr. Darston purposefully eyed them.

“Miss. Miss. Do you remember me? I was here a few days ago and I think I may have tripped you. I’m awfully sorry about that. I feel compelled to make it up to you. I was hoping I’d see you — here, here’s three hundred dollars. No, here’s five hundred dollars. I just hope you weren’t injured. If there’s anything I can do to help you… here’s my card too.”

Tanalia scanned around discreetly, trying to pick up if anyone was eavesdropping. “Hey, thanks, um, Keith. I’m fine. Thanks for the cash. You take care, okay?” Tanalia slipped away and never set foot in that Starbucks again.

After entering Addesh’s temporary apartment Tanalia fingered the five bills, calculating, “The guy gave me two hundred bucks. He practically forced me to take it. I’d say that was a good sign.” She’d returned immediately to the apartment with her report. “Tell you what, I’ll split it with you,” she said, checking his reaction. She laid one of the mark’s hundred dollar bills on the table next to Addesh’s keyboard.

Ignoring the money Addesh drilled the woman, “What else did he say? Anything? Did you ask him about any charity he’s feeling overly philanthropic about? What about his accounts. No you wouldn’t ask him about those. Was he missing his expensive watch? Anything?”

“I took the cash and split. I wasn’t going to have a heart to heart with the guy. I’d just poisoned him. Be happy the poor fella didn’t turn into soup,” Tanalia replied, indignant.

Addesh bit at his lip. “Yes, I suppose you’re right. We’ll give him a few more days. I’ve nearly got trial twenty-two ready.

Better news arrived the following morning. While scanning Bloomberg, Addesh noticed a news item scrolling across the bottom of the screen about a local brokerage company: “All-Energy Futures has sent the heating oil market reeling with its divestiture of nearly seven hundred and fifty million dollars worth of contracts. Company officials say that it was a ‘fat-finger’ error and that they were investigating the source.’

“Fat-finger. Ha! Try fat wallet.” Addesh was convinced that this was the genetic infiltration mechanism taking effect. “We need to ensure that the mark is fully divesting himself of everything that he owns.”

“Didn’t you say you wanted it to incubate longer than three days. Like ten was better. Is that what twenty-two does?” Tanalia was anxious to get the project going against her personal vendetta, Roger Simmons. “We could use twenty-one on Simmons and you could keep hacking on the delay part.”

“Don’t rush me. All right?” Addesh was adamant. “Once we unleash this there is no going back. I want it to be perfect. Twenty-one lacked the influenza virus’ distribution capability. Twenty-two contains that plus a twelve day incubation which will get it into every major financial institution on the planet. Every trans-global corporation will be infected. Every government, every tyrant, every oligarch and aristocrat in the world.”

“I’ve heard your brochure speech already,” dismissed Tanalia, inspecting her now white fingernails. “You’ve got a name for it. You know, in case it becomes, famous?”

“Of course. I call it the ‘Siddhartha Syndrome’.”

“What’s a Siddhartha?”

“Never mind, just return here tomorrow and we’ll see what other mayhem your Mr. Keith has wrought. If it’s as extensive as I expect, we’ll implement twenty-two immediately. As soon as we do, you can inform your boss.”

“Yeah. I’ll be here. But Simmons is first. You promised,” the woman tossed back as she left, “Oh, and don’t forget, he’s your boss too.”