Books Read In 2015 And Looking Back

Wow. It's been five months since I last updated this blog. Which shouldn't be surprising, as I've been blogging less and less over the years. I mostly do my blogging now (albeit at a micro level) over on Twitter and sometimes on Facebook. 

So, looking back at the year, I only released one title, and it was really just a re-release of an old title. My zombie novel that's not a zombie novel has always been a favorite of my books, but it's never really sold well. I finally realized that its original title wasn't doing it any favors so I decided it was time to try something new. Hence calling it Land of the Dead and giving it a new cover. And, well, it shouldn't be surprising that within a year it sold about the same amount of copies the old novel did during its entire three-year run. Which of course makes me wonder just how successful the book may have been had I thought better of it and released the book under Land of the Dead in the first place ... 

So yeah, no new releases this year, but that doesn't mean I haven't been writing. I've been writing a lot, specifically on one book that was kicking my ass for a while. It doesn't help that after writing 20,000 words I realized I needed to go back and do a major revision to make the novel work. Also doesn't help that halfway through writing it I had to take a pause to revise a YA novel I wrote years ago so that my new agent could try to shop it around. It's a book that I wrote during the Hunger Games craze, so it's a dystopian YA, and it got some great feedback from publishers but ultimately it came down to the fact that dystopian has overstayed its welcome. Which of course makes me wonder what might have happened had my last agent shopped it around when I showed it to him many years ago, but his excuse had simply been that he'd never had any luck with YA books (should have fired him sooner, in retrospect). Anyway, the book really isn't a YA so much as a SF thriller that happens to have a teenager as its protagonist. Could I have released it on my own this year? Of course. But it's the first book in a trilogy and I didn't feel it would be fair to readers to release the first book in yet ANOTHER series without first finishing a current series. 

See, I think about y'all.

So the new novel is with my agent and we'll see what he thinks. Based on feedback from other pre-readers I think he's going to dig it, but you never know. Either way, as this is a standalone, it will be released at some point. 

What's coming up in 2016? A lot, hopefully. I revealed the cover to my new book to newsletter subscribers last week, and will make an official reveal next week. That book is coming in March. The rest of the year? More Holly Lin. Yes, that's right — more Holly Lin. And, of course, the third and final book of the Man of Wax trilogy WILL be written, though to be honest at this point we're realistically looking at 2017.

Finally, I didn't read as much as I'd wanted to this past year. I clocked in at over 40 books. Here are the books I read in 2015 that I enjoyed for whatever reason and which you might enjoy too. If you have any books to recommend, let me know in the comments. Have a Happy New Year!


  • ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr (ebook)
  • SHOVEL READY by Adam Sternbergh (hardcover)
  • WORLD GONE BY by Dennis Lehane (ebook)
  • BURNING DOWN GEORGE ORWELL’S HOUSE by Andrew Ervin (paperback ARC)
  • GHOSTMAN by Roger Hobbs (ebook)
  • SIGNAL by Patrick Lee (ebook)
  • GOD’S KINGDOM by Howard Frank Mosher (hardcover)
  • RED MOON by Benjamin Percy (ebook)
  • THE SHORT DROP by Matthew Fitzsimmons (ebook)


  • THE SURVIVOR by Gregg Hurwitz, read by Scott Brick
  • STEELHEART by Brandon Sanderson, read by Macleod Andrews
  • FIREFIGHT by Brandon Sanderson, read by Macleod Andrews
  • A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay, read by Joy Osmanski
  • BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates, read by Ta-Nehisi Coates


  • ZEROVILLE by Steve Erickson (ebook)
  • HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN by James Lee Burke, read by Will Patton
  • DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch (ebook ARC, comes out mid-2016)

Hitting The Bestseller Lists

Recently I saw a writer running a 99 cent promo on his ebook and state that he was hoping to hit the USA Today bestseller list. 

As someone who hit the list a few years ago, I can testify that it's possible for any writer to hit that list nowadays. Usually it involves a Bookbub promo, with either the mystery category or thriller category, to really push the book up the charts for a couple days. Depending on the time of year, only a few thousand units sold within a week's time will be enough to land you on the list — most likely near the tail end, but still. 

However, this particular writer's book is currently exclusive to Amazon. In fact, he was running a Countdown Deal. Not that it matters one way or another, but the simple fact is that no matter how many units he sells within a week's time, he won't hit any national lists. 


Well, because of the exclusivity. 

There's a reason Amazon Publishing titles never hit the New York Times bestseller lists, despite the fact they can at times outsell most of the other books listed. I don't know where the fine print is, but a book has to be available on more than one platform, and has to sell a certain number of copies on each platform before it can even be considered as being added to a list.

As publishing is a rapidly changing landscape, where books are constantly selling as different speeds, it's impossible to say how many units an ebook needs to sell to make a list, though I have heard that over 10,000 units is needed to hit the New York Times list, while with the USA Today list you're probably looking at close to 5,000 or more. Really, it depends on what other books are selling well that week, the time of the year (certain seasons are busier than others), etc. 

I forget how many copies of The Serial Killer's Wife sold when it hit the USA Today bestseller list — at least 5,000, I know that. And I know that the next year when I ran a promo on the same book I sold the same amount of copies, if not more, and yet it didn't make the list. The same with No Shelter — I sold close to 5,000 that week without it hitting the list.

So really, when it comes down to it, it's all about luck. Selling as many copies as possible between Monday and Sunday, of course, but also selling more copies than the thousands and thousands of other books out there. 

Is it possible hitting a list without having a major publisher to back you? 


Is it something you should depend on when running a promo? 

Absolutely not — not even if you have a major publisher backing you. 

Newsletter Easter Eggs

Many, many years ago, when I helped edit Flesh & Blood magazine, I came up with this idea of easter egg haikus. Basically, every issue would feature a haiku by a top horror writer. The writer's name would not appear on the cover or even the table of contents. There would be no announcement that the writer had a haiku in the issue. The haiku would just be hidden among the pages waiting for readers to find it.

I forget how many haikus we ended up doing. I know we published haikus by Douglas Clegg and Ramsey Campbell. I think we also published some by Tim Lebbon and Edward Lee. There may have been a few more, but the magazine folded not too long after. 

Anyway, I always liked that idea, and recently I've been thinking what I could add to my newsletter to make it more than just me pimping a new book or story. After all, these days every writer has a newsletter, and for good reason. It's one of the best ways to communicate with readers. But with so many newsletters out there, it's difficult to set yours apart from everyone else's. Especially when the cold hard reality is that, on average, half the people who sign up for an author's newsletter almost never even open them.

And so, taking a cue from the me of many, many years ago, I decided to add easter eggs into my newsletter. 

The past week I've been telling people that I'm going to soon send out a new newsletter, and that if they're Brian Keene fans they might want to sign up. Some asked why they would want to sign up for my newsletter if they were Brian Keene fans. Well, I couldn't really tell them, could I? That would ruin the surprise. Fact is, I probably shouldn't have even said anything at all. But as this is the first time it's happening, I thought it would be a good idea to give everyone a heads up. 

The newsletter just went out and included an excerpt of a work-in-progress of Brian's called The Complex, which should be completed sometime later this year. Right now, the only place anybody can view the excerpt is in my newsletter. 

I plan on doing similar stuff in the future. I only send out a handful of newsletters every year, so I can't guarantee every newsletter will include exclusive content by another author (at the most I try to highlight books by other writers I've enjoyed), but at least once or twice a year a newsletter will feature an original short story, poem, essay, or novel excerpt from a bestselling author.

So if you missed out on this past newsletter, ask someone who already subscribes to forward you their copy. And, hey, sign up now so you don't miss out in the future.

Books I Enjoyed In 2014

I consumed over 50 books in 2014 (I say consumed because some I read, others I listened to, but honestly, it's all the same). While I enjoyed much of what I consumed, the following is what I really enjoyed and would recommend. In no particular order other than in which it was consumed (plus how it was consumed): Novels:

  • OUT OF THE BLACK by John Rector (ebook)
  • THE BREACH by Patrick Lee (ebook)
  • GHOST COUNTRY by Patrick Lee (ebook)
  • THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE by George V. Higgins (paperback)
  • DEEP SKY by Patrick Lee (ebook)
  • GALVESTON by Nic Pizzolatto (ebook)
  • RUNNER by Patrick Lee (ebook)
  • MISSING YOU by Harlan Coben (ARC paperback)
  • AN UNTAMED STATE by Roxane Gay (ebook)
  • SAN MIGUEL by T. C. Boyle (ebook)
  • THIRD RAIL by Rory Flynn (ebook)
  • THE MARSHAL OF THE BORGO by Joseph D’Agnese (ebook)
  • THE LAST TOWN by Blake Crouch (ebook)
  • LEXICON by Max Barry (ebook)
  • BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY by Jay McInerney (ebook)
  • NEVERLAND by Douglas Clegg (ebook)

Short Stories:

  • INTERPRETER OF MALADIES by Jhumpa Lahiri (ebook)
  • THE KHMER KILL: A DOX SHORT STORY by Barry Eisler (ebook)



  • THE BLACK ECHO by Michael Connelly, read by Dick Hill
  • LESS THAN ZERO by Bret Easton Ellis, read by Christian Rummel
  • MR. MERCEDES by Stephen King, read by Will Patton
  • RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris, read by Alan Sklar
  • ECHO BURNING by Lee Child, read by Dick Hill


  • FLASH BOYS by Michael Lewis, read by Dylan Baker
  • SPY THE LIE: THREE FORMER CIA OFFICERS REVEAL THEIR SECRETS TO UNCLOAKING DECEPTION by Philip Houston, Susan Carnicero, Don Tennant and Michael Floyd, read by Fred Berman
  • STEVE JOBS by Walter Isaacson, read by Dylan Baker
  • PAY ANY PRICE by James Risen, read by Christopher Lane

Graphic Novels:

  • LOCKE & KEY, VOLUME 2: HEAD GAMES by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez

It should be noted that I didn't read nearly as many graphic novels this year as I would have liked. In fact, I just read the one Locke & Key. I hope to fix that mistake in the coming year. Standouts include Patrick Lee, whose books I devoured as quickly as possible and whose books I will now read as soon as they come out, as well as PAY ANY PRICE by James Risen, which should be required reading for everybody.

So those were some books I enjoyed. How about you?

Dear Barnes & Noble

I thought we had an understanding, you and I. Well, not just you and I, but every writer who uses your NOOK Press platform.

We sell books on your website, you pay us after 60 days, thereabouts, less your commission.

Pretty simple, right?

And for a while it hasn’t been an issue, at least on my end. Every month you deposited money into my bank account. It was never clockwork—not like with Amazon—but I could always depend on the money being there near the end of the month, or at the very least right at the beginning of the month.

But something strange—not to mention worrisome—happened this past month.

No money was deposited into my bank account.

No money was deposited in several other writers’ bank accounts, either. I know, because I’m friends with several different writers, and they all confirmed to me they haven’t been paid. I’ve even seen writers on your infrequently-visited NOOK Press message board complain about not being paid.

Another complaint?

No communication.

Numerous emails from several different writers have been sent with no reply. Not even a public statement.

As you can imagine, this is quite worrisome.

It’s especially worrisome for us writers whose sole income comes from our writing. We depend on places like yours and Amazon and Apple and Kobo and Google Play to pay us every month. After all, we have rents to pay, mortgages, utility bills, car payments, the friggin IRS. And even for those writers who don’t make a lot of money on your platform—say it’s only a few bucks—money is still money. They might need to pay for gas. Or food for their kids. Anything at all.

I’ve never had any issue with you guys. While many want to dismiss you as a time bomb just waiting to go off, I’ve sold quite a lot of ebooks on your website. So much so that I could never bring myself to pull all of my books and put them exclusively on Amazon, as I know many other writers have done. A kneejerk reaction now would be to say that I’m going to do just that, but the truth is I make good money on your platform … at least, I do in theory. Until the money actually enters my bank account, they’re just numbers on the screen.

I suppose anyone publishing on your platform—just like any platform, such as Amazon’s—agrees to play by your rules. We agree to your terms, which means you can basically do whatever you want. Which is pretty shitty, but something we need to accept.

Still, the fact that several writers haven’t been paid yet—and many haven’t even received a response from you about said payment—does not bode well for the future of your company.

And as a writer who uses your platform to sell books—in which I make money and you make money—I’m beginning to question our understanding.

Because I’m not the only one who’s worried. There are many, many others out there. Many writers who could just as easily stop publishing on your website. Maybe not as many to make a difference to you at first, but the more time that passes in which you don’t pay us, the more angry writers get, and, well, you know how that goes.

Every cent counts. You know that just as well as we do. So how about your hold up your end of the deal and pay us our money?

Thanks for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon.



UPDATE: I received an automated email on 9/10 from B&N:

A payment of $XXX.XX for your NOOK Book sales through NOOK Press was deposited into your account on September 5, 2014. It typically takes between one and five days for the payment to be reflected in your bank account. We apologize for the delay in getting this payment to you. Last week, we experienced a glitch in our systems and acted quickly to get it resolved. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.