Monday, June 24, 2013


The one year anniversary of publishing my debut novel, KILLER INSTINCTS, came and went earlier this month without me even realizing it. However, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the last twelve months, and provide a few observations.
  • In 12 1/2 months I've sold a little over 600 copies - roughly an average of 2 a day. However, 60% of those sales occurred in the last three weeks of April, after BookGorilla caught on to my free Ebook promotion of the title and passed it along to their subscribers, resulting in almost 12,000 free copies going out the door in 3 days. In May sales dropped VERY quickly down to 50 copies sold that month, and I'm estimating about two dozen sales for June. In the months leading up to April, the best I've ever managed was 30 sales in one month, and that was right around the time I started with Amazon Select and doing free promotions. So, essentially the only way this title has been able to stay active has been through the use of promotion "bumps" in visibility, which have to be constantly repeated to get any continuous sales figures. Doing some vague napkin math, I've had to give away about two dozen copies of KI for every sale.
  • On the more positive side, the book has gotten some really solid reviews. The lone two-star Amazon review is so insubstantial as to really give no more than a "Meh...", and I'm fully aware that the book isn't going to appeal to everyone. Beyond that, even the 3-star reviews are generally positive and expressed enjoyment, with a few quibbles here or there. In general, people seem to like the writing, enjoy the action sequences, and dig the characters, even when the whole plot seems a little "unrealistic". I'll take that as a win overall. I've also had strong support for a sequel, something I hope to begin working on at the end of 2013.
  • I think there's an interesting balance between niche and visibility. KILLER INSTINCTS is clearly a "vigilante revenge" novel and falls into the "thriller" category, as well as "crime". When I do a search in All Departments for "vigilante revenge", KI shows up as the 19th result (which isn't actually that bad...). In contrast, when I do an All Departments search for "British Commandos", Operation Arrowhead shows up as #3. Although KI has a much broader marketing base as a crime thriller than COA has as a niche WW2 action novel, COA began to outsell KI by a very wide margin within a few weeks of its release, even in the US (where sales were about 1/3rd of my total sales, the majority being in the UK). It makes me suspect that it can actually help your sales to aim for a small niche market where the competition is scarce, rather than aiming to be a small fish in a very big pond. Operation Bedlam, a title that's been out less than 3 months, and has never had a single free promotion day, has twice the sales KI managed over 12 1/2 months...
  • It helps to have friends. When the novel came out, I'd already had a strong support base from people on Twitter and Facebook, as well as other bloggers and writers, both amateur and professional. Guys like James Reasoner, Brian Drake, Mark Allen, and Stan Mitchell - writers who have their own fan bases who both read their books and their blogs - helped spread the word and provide me with some great reviews. On the other hand, Operation Arrowhead was very quickly outselling KI without any of that exposure, so great reviews by guys who see substantial blog traffic don't always equate directly to sales figures, except perhaps as a temporary "bump".
  • Ultimately, I see KILLER INSTINCTS as a sort of art-house project of mine, something that gets critical acclaim, but without any real financial success. I think it is a "better" book than either of my Commando novels, but clearly it is not carrying a proportionate degree of financial success. If time "on the shelf", as well as the number and quality of reviews was a direct indicator of sales, KI should be blowing both my Commando novels out of the water, while the opposite is true - heck, my short story "The Train to Calais" vastly outsells KILLER INSTINCTS these days. If $0.99 titles had the same royalty percentages as $3.99 titles, I'd make more off that one short story than I do from KI in every month save April.
And so, that's where we are. I am certainly glad I wrote KILLER INSTINCTS - I felt it was a story I had to tell, and the characters and "world" it created not only influence the Commando novels, but will influence many other stories to come. However, its mediocre success compared to my other works did cool my enthusiasm for writing a sequel, which is why I have a number of projects I want to write first, before I return to work alongside William Lynch again.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mack Maloney's WINGMAN Novels Now Available as Ebooks!

Click the Cover to see on Amazon
I read the WINGMAN series of post-apocalyptic aerial adventure novels in junior high and high school, and back then I thought they were the greatest novels ever written. A zany menagerie of characters battling on the ground and in the skies over a world devastated by the nuclear ravages of World War Three, the WINGMAN stories were filled with crazy adventures, battles on land, sea, and of course, in the air, as Hawk Hunter, "Zen Fighter Pilot" took to the skies in his customized F-16 fighter jet.

I read about 10 of the 16 WINGMAN novels before I lost track of the series, probably around the time I went off to college. But I'd read and re-read the books I had - especially the first four or five novels - several times. As time went on, I would sometimes wonder what ever happened to the series, and it turns out it languished in out-of-print hell for a long, long time.

But, like an F-16 rising up from the ashes of a nuclear post-war wasteland, the WINGMAN series has been given new life by the folks over at Open Road Media, a publishing house specializing in ebook publishing. They've given the series new covers and priced them competitively (smart thinking on their part), and as of today, the series is now live and ready for purchase on Amazon.

I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Mack Maloney, the author of the WINGMAN novels, a couple of years ago, and after some correspondence back and forth Mack was kind enough to do an interview for me, which I published in Hatchet Force Journal. I've also been working with Mack to build a new home for him online, and it can be found here, on his new Wordpress blog. As time goes on, we'll be adding new information, but there are links to all his books, as well as a lot of other information.

I could carry on about the series a lot more, but Open Road Media got together with Mack and made a promotional video for the release of the WINGMAN series - so I'll let the video do the talking:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Len Levinson Discusses Writing War Fiction

Last week Len Levinson - the author of The Sergeant and The Rat Bastards series of WW2 men's adventure novels - wrote me a letter regarding an article he'd recently read, provided to him by fellow blogger Joe Kenney, owner of the excellent review blog, Glorious Trash. I asked Len's permission to repost his comments on the article, and he was gracious enough to oblige. I think readers of this blog will appreciate what he has to say.

Here's Len's email:

Blogger Joe Kenney tipped me off to a not very complimentary critique of some of my novels, in a book entitled PIONEERS, PASSIONATE LADIES, AND PRIVATE EYES edited by Larry E. Sullivan, PhD, and Lydia Cushman Schurman, PhD, published by the Haworth Press.  The book consists of essays by other PhDs about American popular fiction.

In other words, people who spend their professional lives studying the likes of James Joyce and Henry James, have turned their baleful vision to the likes of me.

The article mentioning my work is called WORLD WAR II COMBAT IN AMERICAN JUVENILE AND PAPERBACK SERIES BOOKS by M. Paul Holsinger, professor of History at Illinois State University.

In the article, I discovered to my amazement that my series THE RAT BASTARDS was the longest running war series in the spate of war series published in the wake of the movie PATTON.  I also discovered that Prof. Holsinger had no idea that the author of THE RAT BASTARDS, John Mackie, and the author of THE SERGEANT, Gordon Davis, were both the same person, who in real life was and remains a very peculiar form of life known as Len Levinson, or as my former boss Sheldon Roskin referred to me when I was a press agent: "schmuck!".

Good Prof. Holsinger doesn't think much of my novels.  Describing my soldier-characters, he says:  "Their morality and their language is, in almost every case, that of the gutter."

Evidently Prof. Holsinger never was in the Army.  Because the average Army barracks, or foxhole, were not exactly faculty tea parties.  I was in the Aramy 1954-1957, but never in a war.  However, many of my old sergeants were veterans of WW II and Korea, and one had survived the Bataan Death March.

Apparently Prof. Holsinger doesn't understand that in order to turn average American young men into soldiers, or to be blunt, trained killers, a certain amount of brutality is involved.  And this brutality inevitably coarsens the spirit.  When writing these novels, I wanted to be as realistic as possible.  My goal was not to please the English Departments of American Universities, or to glorify combat, but to tell realistic stories about the tragedy and comedy of war, with all its blood, guts, cruelty, irony, and occasional heroism.

Prof Holsinger decries "this commitment to utter violence without a spark of human decency."  Evidently he didn't read my novels very thoroughly, because human decency actually is shown occasionally.  The soldiers are loyal to each other when the chips are down, although admittedly they fight amongst themselves sporadically during their brief periods of leisure.

My impression is that Prof. Holsinger somehow believes that frontline soldiers should be social workers and philanthropists.  But social workers and philanthropists wouldn't last long on a battlefield, where it's kill or be killed by any means necessary.  Prof. Holsinger's utter lack of understanding of his subject is astonishing, but they don't call it the "ivory tower" for nothing.

Prof. Holsinger complains that my characters "are, at best, hoodlums," which again indicates that he really didn't read the series thoroughly, and probably just skimmed the contents and cover copy, because he didn't notice, situated among the criminal types, West Point graduates with noble hearts, one young man from the upper levels of New York society who got drafted, aristocratic Japanese and German officers, numerous other decent, high-minded characters who got drafted or enlisted out of patriotism, including many brave Army nurses, and even General Patton and Field Marshal Rommel themselves make in-person appearances.

But it's true, many of my characters tended to be tough guys.  Because if you're not a tough guy when you enter the Army, you must become one in order to survive.  There is no alternative except unrelenting bullying in the barracks, or certain violent death on the battlefield.

I confess that I hated the Army during most of the three years when I was a soldier, when I functioned in a state of simmering rage nearly all the time.  When I got out, I reverted fairly quickly to the mild mannered, half-baked intellectual that I always was, except for a tendency to lose my temper from time to time, after which I always feel deep-rooted self-loathing.

I've never forgotten those three years in uniform, age 19 to 22.  In a way they made me what I am today, for better or worse.  I very much admired combat veterans with whom I served, and still do.  Although they didn't know it at the time, and neither did I, they inspired my 30 war novels.  Since publication of these novels, many soldiers have written me letters or told me in person that they enjoyed my stories.  Their opinions are the ones I value most.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


British Commandos Coming Ashore in The Longest Day
I've made D-Day posts here for a couple of years now (such as this post, and this post), and if you're reading this, it's a day that needs little explanation. The battle to take back Western Europe from the German army was a struggle of such epic proportions, it makes the Iliad look like a schoolyard scuffle. Although the Russians might have done the bulk of the fighting and killing of Axis forces over the course of the war (the vast percentage of German combat dead occurred along the Eastern Front), there really is no more iconic symbol for the fight to defend the free world from Nazism than the beach landings along the Normandy coastline.

I've recently picked up Rick Atkinson's latest book, The Guns at Last Light, the conclusion to his Liberation trilogy (I wrote a review of the first book, An Army at Dawn). I'm going to take a moment today to begin reading Atkinson's work and reflect on the battle for Normandy, and I encourage everyone else to take a moment and imagine the sort of courage it must have taken to be in one of those landing craft - scared nearly senseless, soaking wet, weighed down by your gear and weapons, possibly about to enter combat for the first time.

From The Longest Day
Whenever life throws a curve ball, it's worth it to take a moment, and ask yourself - compared to wading ashore hundreds of meters under a hail of mortar, artillery, and MG-42 fire, how does this stack up?

Makes that traffic jam or accidentally deleted file look a lot less important...