Monday, July 30, 2012

OK, OK! I'll do it!

Ever since I began writing articles about my hobby of choice--amateur or "ham" radio--for my ham radio web site and several others, people have been asking me when I was going to do an amateur radio book.  The truth is, I have just been too darn busy to even think of such a thing.  And I also knew, in my heart of hearts, that it be would difficult indeed to get any kind of decent book contract for such a niche book.  I presented my idea to the American Radio Relay League, the ham radio national membership organization, and they passed, so that confirmed my feelings.  If they had no interest, I doubted anyone else would either.

Fast-forward to July 2012.  Things have changed, both in my personal life and in the wild and woolly world of big-time book publishing.

First, I retired from my 60-hour-a-week day job back in May.  And as I shuffled through the articles I had in the can, several more I was working on, and a few still in my head, I realized I was closer to a book than I had thought.

Secondly, as I investigated Kindle Direct Publishing at for the re-issue of a couple of my previous now-out-of-print books (see my post just prior to this one), I realized that I should absolutely pull the ham radio book together for that outlet at least. I believe Amazon has become a real threat to traditional publishing companies--especially when it comes to e-books--as the old-line publishing houses struggle to figure this thing out.  At the very least, it gives me the opportunity to make my book available at a very reasonable price to those interested in amateur radio.  No, I don't make much money, even if I actually sell some downloads of the book, but that is not really the object anyway.  As I have said many times, and not totally facetiously, if I wanted to make a fortune writing books, I would write pornography (See FIFTY SHADES OF GREY).

Then, as I considered other options, I realized that Amazon offers a truly unique opportunity for works like this one that allows me to offer the book in a traditional paperback format.  It is a print-on-demand deal, but I ordered some copies as soon as I got the book and cover uploaded and accepted and the next day got the message that they were being shipped that day.  Wow!

This was with very little upfront cost and minimal hassle.  Now, the paperback will be available not only through, but through major distributors, for order by libraries, and even in many European markets.  We will see how good the print job is, but believe me on this: the major houses don't necessarily produce the highest quality book any more.

Talk about rapid technological change and its effect on society and the media!  Radio, TV, the Internet and telephone communications are not the only things evolving at a dizzying pace.  Include the anachronistic business of book publishing in that mix, too!

Realistically, will tons of booksellers and all the Barnes & Noble stores order a box full of the books?  Or will thousands of libraries order up a couple dozen of copies?  Of course not.  The big publishers do have sales staff to encourage that sort of thing.  But a) no big publishing house was going to do a contract for RIDING THE SHORTWAVES: EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO and b) even if they did, it would be somewhere near the bottom of the sales staff's sample case, so c) Amazon's various self-publishing options are perfect for this kind of book.

By the way, if you have any interest in the dynamic and rapidly growing hobby of ham radio--believe me, it ain't your weird uncle's past-time any more!--then you may want to stop by and take a look "Inside the Book," read the description, and maybe buy a copy or two...for yourself or someone you know.

See, right there in that last sentence, I did more publicity for RIDING THE SHORTWAVES than the big publishers do for most of the books they print up and ship out!

Don Keith N4KC

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It Never Gets Old. No, It Doesn't!

There was a box on my doorstep the other day.  When I opened it, it was filled with my author copies of my latest book, FIRING POINT.  Just as with the previous 23 books, I had to sit there for a while, looking at the cover, flipping through the pages, reading excerpts.  It was still a thrill to see a real, live book with my name on the cover, filled with words that I wrote (well, helped write in this case since my co-author, George Wallace, is a gifted storyteller in his own right).  I admit I even smelled the fresh ink and paper and, even after 17 years, seeing a book that I wrote right there in my hands was as much a hoot as it was back in 1995 when I got that box of copies of THE FOREVER SEASON from Robert Wyatt, my editor at St. Martin's Press.

Now I've been to and read the write-up and downloaded the Kindle version of FIRING POINT, dropped by Barnes & Noble and grabbed the eBook version there for my wife's Nook, and even went to to listen to an excerpt of the audio book (Stefan Rudnicki has done a fantastic job with the narration).

That was when it occurred to me that back in 1995, that box of books was it.  There were no eBooks, for sure, and audio books were big, bulky things on cassette tape.  Now those formats come as CDs or downloadable files for tablets, smart phones and other media.  Technological change.  Boy, is our primary topic giving publishers fits!  Traditional publishers, that is.  They are slowly but surely figuring out what is happening and how they should react.  At least some of them are.

I spent most of the last week or so playing the part of an editor/publisher, see.  I got the rights back from St. Martin's Press years ago on my second novel, WIZARD OF THE WIND.  Despite wonderful reviews, it never really sold very well and was never released as a paperback or audio book and nothing else existed then.  Since then, I really had no way to do anything else with it.  Publishers are not typically interested in re-doing books that did not sell well...even if there were beau coups great reviews.  "Damaged books" they call them.  But now, thanks to and Kindle, I have an outlet for the book that may just find some new readers.  Readers who grew up on radio, rock and roll, and the legendary disk jockeys who brought that groundbreaking music to us over the airwaves.

I have gone back and edited the manuscript myself.  There was some lazy writing in there, and I wanted to tighten up the prose a bit and update the story and how it equates to what has been happening in the radio broadcasting biz since it was published in 1997.  I added an author's note that spelled out exactly what I was trying to say by telling the story of fictional deejay and media mogul Jimmy Gill.  Then,with all that hard work done, it was a matter of minutes before I managed to get it converted to Kindle format, uploaded, looked at for formatting, and sent on its way for final approval and into the catalog at Amazon.  I have another couple of unsold manuscripts I'm looking at to self-publish that way, too, and have a ham-radio-oriented concept I'm working on, too.  I love the possibilities!  I'm also investigating Amazon's print-on-demand option for a couple of projects, too.

I can't wait until I see WIZARD OF THE WIND (and the cover I designed for it) pop up on Amazon, ready for sale and download.  It will still be just as big a thrill as seeing that box full of FIRING POINT copies show up on my doorstep.

It never gets old.  No, it doesn't.

Don Keith N4KC

(PS: I'll be harping on the eBook of WIZARD OF THE WIND as soon as it is approved for publishing and in the catalog.  Brace yourselves!)

(PPS: I am still producing this blog under protest using Google's Chrome browser.  It's an okay browser but I resent Google forcing me to use it if I want to continue to use their Blogspot service.  Pretty heavy-handed, I say!)