This week, Sarah A. Hoyt and I are starting a new little feature, called Book Plug Friday because, well, it runs on Fridays and we’re going to plug books. Specifically, we’re going to plug independently published e-books (although we may be a little flexible about what we mean by “independent” as time and space will allow.)

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Going back to my first pieces here at PJM, I’ve been following the collapse of the whole business model of publishing on milled vegetable matter, and the similar business of publishing music on special-purpose pieces of plastic. The key insight is simple: all these things are, really, is bits. Information. And replicating bits is darn near free.

The economics of publishing, however, have been driven by the costs of making the physical objects. At the time Roger L. Simon was planning PJ Media, I did some calculations; based on the New York Times company’s financial statements, it cost the Times roughly $4 to publish one copy of the paper on paper; of that a really amazingly small part of the costs, around 5 cents, was editorial costs, even with the astonishing salaries and perks their top writers get.

The cost of delivering that many words of content over the web is in the order of one one-billionth of a dollar. The cost of delivering a Kindle e-book over Whispernet is probably bigger, but less than a penny I’m sure, and a lot of people (like me) don’t have Whispernet Kindles. Almost all my Kindles just use my Wi-Fi.

We might fuss over the details, but when one means of delivery costs ten billion times more than the other, the cheap one is probably going to win.

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The major publishers have been fighting this. When Amazon started publishing Kindle books, they charged $9.95 for practically everything, and took 30 percent. Now consider a standard hardback book: they’re usually sold at at least a 50 percent discount off the cover price, more if it’s a big retailer like Amazon. So for a $20 hardback, they paid the publisher no more than about $10, and the publisher paid the author no more than about $2. Of the remaining $8 they paid about $5 for printing and shipping.

Based purely on economics they should have loved e-books: they got $7, paid the author $2, and didn’t have to pay for any of the paper parts. But there was a problem in that, because given the option, people would rather buy a $10 book than a $20 book. Kindle would be cannibalizing the sales of vegetable matter — is that a mixed metaphor? — and the big publishers were paying for the cost of owning the big presses. (Smaller publishers didn’t care as much, because they bought their printing from the big publishers, either by publication agreements or simply by buying the printing service outright.) Apple and the “agency model” of e-book pricing they introduced — and which has just been found to be a restraint of trade — gave the big publishers some leverage. They were able to raise their e-book prices. Some publishers — Penguin is notorious for this — actually set the e-book prices higher than the paper-printed book.

But when one means of delivery costs ten billion times more than the other, the cheap one is probably going to win.

Amazon made it easy for independent publishers. You can format a book for Kindle on your laptop in an afternoon, publish it that night, and have it in Amazon’s catalogues the next day. It opened whole new markets for writers, by letting them avoid all the intermediaries and gatekeepers. Publish a Kindle e-book for $2.99 and you make about $2 a copy, roughly what you would get from a hardcover original. And the market for $3 books is pretty significant. Books, as Robert Heinlein said, compete with beer for people’s disposable money.

So this feature will regularly plug independently published e-books, much as Glenn Reynolds does his reader book plugs. It’s time the vegetable matter publishers felt the pressure.

By the way, blurbs are from the authors unless they’re explicitly marked otherwise.

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RUSTLER’S ROUNDUP by Kai Star

Easy money–or a quick death! Joshua Love, the crazy kid with a dark secret, has seen the likes of Chewy Bill Roberts before. Rustling cattle is easy money-until they get caught. And Josh is sure Chewy Bill will end up just like all the others, with terror in his eyes and a hole in his head. Robbing stagecoaches turns out to be even more deadly. When the blood starts flowing, Josh and Bill are branded as outlaws, forever, true members of the Amarillas Gang, a ruthless bunch of cold-blooded killers. Josh has other things to worry about: a gunfight over a scheming girl named Jenny, the price tag of a banjo-and a wanted poster with his face on it! But if the law wants Joshua Love, they’re gonna have to get to him before the Amarillas, who now want him dead.

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THREE WAYS FROM SUNDAY by Kai Star

An unlikely band of brothers… A ruthless gambler, a reckless young outlaw and a tough Buffalo soldier find themselves accidental partners in crime. But things really heat up when the outlaw’s carelessness puts the law hard on their tail. They set out to flee New Mexico Territory and cross the border into Colorado…or die trying.

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THE FARAIAN CONSPIRACY by Kai Star

I wrote THE FARAIAN CONSPIRACY way back in 1989, but its theme is just as relevant for today: Meddling in and manipulating the political scenes of other cultures is a very bad idea, one that can easily blow up in your face. It’s an espionage story, set in the far future, on worlds colonized by Humans, and I think it kinda sorta fits the HW ideals. Needs a new cover, in the worst way, but I hope the words inside will more than make up for the less-than-stellar exterior.

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Lilith Rises by Terry R. Lacy

Deep in the heartland of America, at a thousand-year-old effigy mound in southern Ohio, an ancient coven of witches attempts to bring about Armageddon by awakening Lilith’s soul. Lilith is the first woman created by God, before the more compliant Eve, and the mother of all demons, often depicted as the Whore of Babylon riding the Beast in the Book of Revelations. Her soul resides in the body of twenty-year-old, Teresa Moore, who is unaware of her past and why Lilith’s voice lures her away from her Catholic upbringing. As Teresa gives birth to a daughter, the coven senses the arrival and sends its most cunning sister, Briana, to capture Teresa and awaken Lilith’s soul. Will Teresa learn about her past in time to stop Lilith’s rise and the onset of Armageddon?

Charlie: I’m a little prejudiced because Terry is an old friend, but I really liked this book. It reads well, they’re interesting characters, and it’s exciting. I really recommend it.

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Partners by Andy Solomon

Twenty-four year-old graduate student and painter Mark Hollander has only a dim idea what he’s looking for as he opens his apartment door that October morning, but he knows what he finds: Holly, the spritely blonde from down the hall, clearly the culprit who’s been stealing his newspaper.

Deep in poverty but even deeper in love, Mark and Holly marry, and toward the end of her senior year Holly becomes pregnant. Idyllic as their life together seems, Mark vaguely senses clouds approaching their world. Yet can Mark grow enough to be the father, artist, teacher, and person he hopes to be, or will he struggle on just doing the best he can?

Charlie: I read this book. It’s genre fiction, in the slice-of-life literary fiction genre. I usually hate that stuff. But this is really brilliantly written, and worth a look.

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“For the fragile muses…” by D. Jason Fleming

“For the fragile Muses…” is a short story about a barroom conversation that does not go anywhere you expect it to.

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shutterstock_59010307Richard Monaco

Richard Monaco published four Arthurian/Fantasy novels. Two were best-sellers and Pulitzer Prize finalists. PARSIVAL OR A KNIGHT’S TALE; THE GRAIL WAR; THE FINAL QUEST and BLOOD AND DREAMS were originally published by Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Putnam/Berkley. PARSIVAL OR A KNIGHT’S TALE is currently available on ereads. He published twelve other books between 1970 and 2000 many of which were translated into German, Italian and other languages.

All the Parsival books are self-contained and don’t need to be read in any order. LOST YEARS: THE QUEST FOR AVALON involves the tangled and forbidden love relationships of Parsival, his son, wife, Gawain and others amidst the dark magical power-plots of Morgana the witch in a terroristic, plague-struck Post-Apocalyptic world swirling with mad politics and violent religious cults.

Charlie: A new friend, but I’m an old fan. I’ve thought Richard’s work was brilliant since Parsival blew me away a long time ago.

Dead Blossoms

DEAD BLOSSOMS; THE THIRD GEISHA is set in 16th century Civil War-racked Japan featuring a hard-drinking Japanese ex-ninja, Takezo – a master swordsman who renounced his clan and became a ronin (free-lance) detective/bodyguard. He hopes to retire in the country with his geisha girlfriend, a ninja spy secretly watching him for a clan boss. In the end, she gives up her life to protect him as clan leaders plot and fight to possess the contents of a captured Portuguese ship loaded with western armaments. Takezo follows a trail of murder to the ship, aided by shipwreck survivors: a Zulu warrior prince, an Italian painter and a Scots fugitive. First hired to find a missing possibly murdered noblewoman, our detective escapes assassination attempts while investigating a string of Geisha killings (including his own lover) in a world of treacherous politics, extreme passions, ninja manipulations, intense romance and clashing clans at war. Slashed, burnt, half-blinded and crucified by his enemies, Takezo survives the battle, exposes the plotters, and weathers the typhoon that rages while the future city of Tokyo burns.

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Parsival or a Knights Tale

Richard Monaco has taken a slice of the Arthurian legend and created a thoroughly modern-minded re-imagining of the classic tale. Colorful medieval settings blend with a hard-edged look at human foibles and a romantic story of love and loss is narrated with a lean, contemporary sensibility to form a new, but still ageless, adventure that anyone can enjoy.

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Lost Years: The Quest for Avalon

LOST YEARS: THE QUEST FOR AVALON explores the tangled and forbidden love relationships of Parsival, his son, wife, Gawain and others amidst the dark magical power-plots of Morgana the witch in a Post-Apocalyptic terroristic, plague-struck world swirling with mad politics and violent religious cults.

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The Bureau of Substandards Annual Report by Sabrina Chase

Short story collection The Bureau of Substandards Annual Report is now available at a special introductory discount price of $1.99, until August 8.  Hidden behind protective layers of government red tape, the Bureau of Substandards fights the good fight against interdimensional threats of every kind. Thrill to amazing tales of bureaucratic adventure and derring-do!  Adorable baby krakens! Ferocious zombie tuna sandwiches! And more…

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The Barton Street Gym by Zoey Ivers

A malfunctioning dimensional door dumps two teenagers and their “bio-model” artificial friends into the middle of a war between Artificial Intelligences in dimensions beyond their own.

Dimensions where they can change themselves, and the ruling computers create avatars in the forms they identify with. Alice and Joe find themselves lost in a maze of ruins, dodging a hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex, with control of a complex cyber world up for grabs.

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Vulcan’s Kittens by Cedar Sanderson

Vulcan’s Kittens is a young adult novel that does not talk down to its readers, and is being enjoyed by all ages. Linnea Vulkane is looking forward to a long, lazy summer on Grandpa Heph’s farm, watching newborn kittens grow up and helping out with chores. That all goes out the window the night Mars, god of war, demands her grandfather abandon her and return to Olympus for the brewing war.

Now Old Vulcan is racing around the world and across higher planes with Sehkmet to gather allies, leaving Linn and an old immortal friend to protect the farm and the very special litter. But even the best wards won’t last forever, and when the farm goes up in flames, she is on the run with a daypack, a strange horse, a sword, and an armful of kittens. Linn needs to grow up fast and master her powers, before the war finds the unlikely refugees…

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To Carry the Horn by Karen Myers

To Carry the Horn, the first book in my series The Hounds of Annwn, will be on sale for $0.99 for 1 week, July 9 thru July 15, at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Regular price $5.99. Here’s the two links (feel free to substitute your own version if you want the affiliate revenue).

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NASA e-books

Here’s one of those special cases: NASA publishes many things as free e-books, downloadable in many formats. If you’re a space nut at all, you should have a look.

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Submissions

At least for the moment, we’ll plug every book we get an Amazon link for. Authors are encouraged to let us know about their books, and ideally we’d like a one-paragraph blurb to go with the book. Unless we call something out specifically, we aren’t claiming to have read or reviewed the books at all.

We don’t care about genre — Sarah and I know lots of SF and Fantasy writers, so it may lean that way, but one of my blurbs for the week is for a completely mainstream literary novel. I (at least) am perfectly willing to link erotica as long as the title is printable (which being on Kindle pretty much guarantees, Amazon not wanting to have an over-18 section of their website.) We will try, however, to mark erotica as such. Fair warning: if it’s marked as erotica and you are offended by erotic content, don’t buy the book.

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images courtesy shutterstock / DavidPinoPhotography / upthebanner / Sascha Burkard / paul prescott / Alberto Masnovo