Branford Book Festival

Ransack the sofa and bring your spare change to downtown Branford, Connecticut this Saturday, May 6, where me and about 40 other authors will be hawking our wares as part of the first annual Branford Book Festival.

We’ll be posted outside local stores along Main Street selling, signing, and talking to readers. I will be at the corner of Main and Ivy outside Elements Massage, at the northern end of the festival. Drop by, buy a book, and then buy a gift card for that special someone. Remember — Mother’s Day is only a week away.

Many of the merchants have donated prizes for the raffle to be held at the Blackstone Memorial Library from 3 pm to 5 pm. The process to enter the raffle is a lot of fun: you need to acquire 20 signatures from authors in your festival passport, which you can pick up at any of the authors’ tables.

However, to encourage foot traffic throughout the downtown area, four signatures are mandatory for the passport — and because my table is at the northern periphery, I’m one of them. In order for you to enter the raffle, I’m a boss battle.

Don’t worry, just hit left-right-O-X and I’ll jot my name down. I will also be happy to sign a copy of Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer or A Season of Whispers for you.

The Branford Book Festival is Saturday, May 6 from 10 am to 3 pm, with the raffle to follow.

Hear Me on Woodbury Writes

Recently I had the honor of being interviewed by Sandy Carlson, host of the Woodbury Writes podcast. We talked about Samuel Smedley, transcendentalist utopias, and the real-life inspiration behind my gothic (or is it eco-gothic?) novel, A Season of Whispers.

I’ve been interviewed before but this was the first time for a podcast. Sandy asked great questions and, being a history enthusiast herself, clearly enjoyed discussing the particulars of privateering during the American Revolution and the tenets of the transcendentalist movement. It wound up being a recorded conversation rather than an examination, which to my ear always makes for the best podcasts.

Around the same time when I recorded the podcast, I was interviewed separately by another person for a different venue. That interview didn’t go as well. The interviewer was disinterested in my work and instead asked me a number of personal questions which made me uncomfortable, questions about my wife and sons and other census tabulations — I was surprised she didn’t ask me for my social-security number and mother’s maiden name. I stayed polite but it was irritating at best, icky at worst. I don’t think the interview has run publicly and fingers crossed it never does.

Yet the contrast of the two experiences gave me insight. I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews throughout my career and I’d never before realized what constitutes a good interview. It’s simply this: professionals — artists and creatives in particular — will wax rhapsodic for hours about their work, but they hate to talk about themselves. They want to talk about what they do, not about who they are.

I had, unknowingly, been practicing this methodology for years. It never occurred to me while interviewing any of the dozens of archaeologists I’ve spoken to, to ask them about their home lives or frankly anything not germane to their research. What business is it of mine to nose around, asking questions about their spouses or partners or how they spend their downtime? Nobody cares, or at least they shouldn’t. What matters is what they’ve discovered or learned, what their theories and ideas are.

Being on the other end of the microphone made me realize that, as an author, I crave to be asked questions about the stories and inspirations, both historical and personal, that go into my books. That’s what excites me and that’s what made the Woodbury Writes podcast so great. What I don’t want is to be interrogated about how old my kids are or what time I wake up in the morning.

Suddenly I feel sympathy toward celebrities who always seem a bit disgruntled or surly in interviews. Now I understand how eagerly they want to discuss their latest performance yet instead they’re bombarded with questions about who they’re schtupping and what kind of sandwich they ate after the schtupping. I get it.

My half-hour interview with Sandy about my work and what goes into it is available on Spotify,, and Google Podcasts.

The Island of Small Misfortunes

My latest gothic novel, The Island of Small Misfortunes, has been accepted for publication by Regal House Publishing.

In the summer of 1898, Sequoia Owen accepts an invitation from his estranged uncle to visit the family summer house on Todeket, a private island off the Connecticut coast. Yet his unwell aunt Geneve believes he is accompanied by the shadowy ghost of her dead son Jacob, and over the course of a weekend Sequoia must contend with menacing relatives, threats against his life, and conflicting stories about the house’s history to unravel Todeket’s strange secret.

The Island of Small Misfortunes will be published in 2025.

Audible and Its Detractors

Prolific fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, who wrote five novels during the pandemic while some of us were watching Schitt’s Creek and loading frozen turkeys into car trunks, has announced the audiobook editions of those novels “will not be on Audible for the foreseeable future.”

The reason? “Audible has grown to a place where it’s very bad for authors.”

If you want details, the current industry standard for a digital product is to pay the creator 70% on a sale. It’s what Steam pays your average creator for a game sale, it’s what Amazon pays on ebooks, it’s what Apple pays for apps downloaded. (And they’re getting heat for taking as much as they are. Rightly so.)

Audible pays 40%. Almost half. For a frame of reference, most brick-and-mortar stores take around 50% on a retail product. Audible pays indie authors less than a bookstore does, when a bookstore has storefronts, sales staff, and warehousing to deal with. 

I knew things were bad, which is why I wanted to explore other options with the Kickstarter.  But I didn’t know HOW bad. Indeed, if indie authors don’t agree to be exclusive to Audible, they get dropped from 40% to a measly 25%. Buying an audiobook through Audible instead of from another site literally costs the author money.

It’s particularly galling when you realize the royalty on an audiobook is based upon the price at point of purchase, and because Audible (and other audiobook retailers) constantly offers a smorgasbord of discounts, sales, and free trials, the percentage paid to the creators can be based on prices as low as $0. The publisher or indie author can discount the title themselves but they have no choice if Audible decides to discount it for them.

And yet audiobooks have never been more popular. For the year of June 2021 to June 2022, audiobooks accounted for more than 11 percent of all trade book sales, up from 10 percent in 2021 and 8 percent in 2020. These sales seem to be at the expense of hardbacks and — surprisingly to me — e-books, sales of which have been steadily falling: for that same period, e-books sales accounted for 12.7 percent of book sales. Audiobooks will probably displace e-books as the digital version of choice in the next year or two.

This very much jibes with my royalty statements for A Season of Whispers. I’ve literally sold hundreds of audiobooks for it and yet my royalties are pennies. As my publisher at Aurelia Leo said to me, the catch-22 of audiobooks’ popularity versus the poor royalty scheme and the high cost of producing them is, in her words, “a head-scratching conundrum.”

I can’t fault people for preferring audiobooks. I don’t listen to them myself but I do enjoy listening to podcasts while multi-tasking, like when I’m making dinner or on a long drive. I prefer the quiet solace of reading a book the old-fashioned way but I understand not everyone has the free time to do so.

So if I may make one request, it’s this: buy your audiobooks anywhere except Audible.

For years, Audible has offered an overly generous policy of allowing buyers to return an audiobook within one year of purchase, which means listeners could essentially check out a title, listen to it, and return it at no cost as if Audible was a library. Audible bore this cost as a loss leader to accrue market share, squeezing as many competitors as possible out of the marketplace. Amazon’s capital allowed them to sustain the losses.

Which is how we arrived at this point.

So if you like audiobooks and you want to support indie and small-press authors, Chirp and Spotify are the best options to listen to A Season of Whispers and other titles. Somebody will make money from my audiobooks and it would be a lot cooler if that somebody was me and my publisher rather than Jeff Bezos.

Short News, Snakes and Ladders Edition

CC BY SA Jacqui Brown

Longtime readers of this blog — I believe in you! — will recall an infrequent feature called Short News in which I posted links to news stories that interested me. Over the years, however, I found posting those links on Twitter a much easier way to bookmark articles and essays for future reference.

While the demise of Twitter has been overstated — the IP is too valuable for extinction so it will stagger along in some fashion, with or without Musk — it’s heyday is certainly in the rear-view. For years my doubts about Twitter have grown, with a central question becoming more and more inescapable: Is Twitter something a grown-ass man should be participating in? I’m not alone. Far from being the “town square,” only 23 percent of Americans use Twitter, much fewer than Facebook (69 percent) or even Instagram (40 percent) — and that data was compiled in 2021.

Watching Musk’s takeover has been like reading about a Marxist coup against some third-world dictator: I feel no sympathy for the old guard and yet in no way is the new guard an improvement. Twitter’s culture is so awful — a gamified popularity contest in which the worst human expressions are hardwired into its design — that just browsing my timeline feels increasingly dirty, immature, and undignified.

The moment has come, I think, to pull back from Twitter and resuscitate Short News here. Plus, my blog is searchable.

Not the Hero We Deserve. Axios profiled Amy Siewe, a former snake breeder and real-estate broker from Ohio turned python hunter. Over the past three years, Siewe has single-handedly captured and killed 405 Burmese pythons in the Florida wilderness.

Crypto Bro Deep Thoughts. In an interview, FTX twat Sam Bankman-Fried stated he never reads books. When pressed why, he replied:

I don’t want to say no book is ever worth reading, but I actually do believe something pretty close to that. … If you wrote a book, you f—ed up, and it should have been a six-paragraph blog post.

No answer to the obvious follow-up question — But would you read a collection of blog posts? — has been forthcoming.

The more I learn about the boneheads behind the crypto curtains, the more I believe anyone losing money through crypto and NFTs fucking deserves it. Washington Post source here, paywall.

One Man’s Problem. New York City is looking for a “highly motivated and somewhat bloodthirsty” candidate to become the city’s new rat czar who will “fight New York City’s relentless rat population.” Consider this my job application: I know where we can get snakes real cheap.

Bardot’s Wins Shirley Jackson Award

This past weekend, Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World won the 2021 Shirley Jackson Award for edited anthology.

The award was presented to editor Eric Guignard at the Boston Book Festival. Eric shared the award with Dave Ring, whose anthology Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness also won.

Bardot’s Travel Anthology is presented as a guidebook edited by world traveler and occult expert Charlatan Bardot. My story, “A Tour of the Ramses,” portrays a guide leading a walk through a former luxury hotel, now fallen into disrepair after a tragic history.

The book is an amazing production. It has incredible cover art. The interior presentation features maps which pinpoint the settings of the stories while pieces of flash fiction serve as palate cleansers between longer works. Even the font choices and all-around deco vibe make Bardot’s Travel Anthology wonderful to behold.

You can order a copy at Amazon or explore other buying options at Goodreads.

Congratulations Eric!