This week we have another guest sitting in the Captain’s Chair! I’d like you all to welcome Stephen Kozeniewski. WELCOME HIM!
Don’t know Stephen? LEARN!
Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of “Boogie With Stu” even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn’t even really want to get into right now.
During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow.
He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.
HE HAS A DEGREE IN GERMAN! WHY AM I YELLING SO MUCH IN THIS POST?
How about we just move along. Enjoy!
Before I ever met or exchanged two words with Jake Bible he became one of the most important people in my professional life. Jake was (actually still is) one of my “Also Boughts.” If this is an odd term for you, don’t panic: it just means that you’re not a) going crazy or b) an author.
This is an easier concept to explain visually than with words, so let me just show you this graphic:
This is a screen capture from the Amazon page for my sophomore novel THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO. Basically, it’s as simple as it sounds. People who bought TGA from Amazon also bought the books listed here from Amazon at some point in their lives. You can scroll through twenty screens of Also Boughts (a hundred books) but this one is the one that pops up automatically every time you click on my book’s Amazon page. It represents the five books that customers most commonly also buy along with mine.
As you can see, one of them is my debut novel, BRAINEATER JONES, which makes sense. My friends, family, and whatever constitutes my burgeoning fanbase have bought both of my books. (Thanks, everybody, by the way.) Another book is by an author I’m not familiar with, Stephen Knight, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that since we’re both Stephen Ks and we write horror, there’s been some overlap there.
All three of my other Also Boughts are from Jake’s Z-BURBIA series. Why is that? Well, for one thing we share a publisher, the great Severed Press out of Hobart, Australia, so there’s probably some common interest there. My novel came out around the same time as Z-BURBIA 2, so we probably shared some buyers due to time as well. But I’m guessing the main reason why Jake takes up the lion’s share of my Also Boughts is that we write similarly appealing novels.
So what does all this mean? Why does it matter to me as an author or you as a reader? Well, believe it or not, if you’ve ever been on Amazon before you’ve seen this ribbon, or, at least, a similar one. You also as likely as not have clicked on it before. You may not even remember doing so. And that’s the beauty of it.
Amazon is a business. For authors, in some ways (both disturbing and exciting) it’s THE business. Which makes their business model wholly fascinating and worthy of at least a cursory analysis. You can bet your sweet bippy that if people didn’t click on Also Boughts and buy some at least now and then Amazon wouldn’t waste the money on web designers and bandwidth to have that ribbon on every page they maintain. So why do they do this? Because (repeat it with me now) they’re a business. The Also Boughts lead to more sales.
Imagine yourself back in the near-mythical olden days of yore known as “The Nineties” when brick-and-mortar stores littered the landscape. I could walk into a bookstore and expect to see shelves of staff picks. Jimmy and Johnny and Joanie who all worked at Books ‘R Us would all set up their personal favorites for us to peruse. And if I knew that I shared taste with Jimmy, I could always pick up one of the books from his shelf and be happy.
And if I DIDN’T trust ANY of those folks, I could still walk up to whoever was working the counter that day and have a conversation like this:
“I’m looking for a book but I don’t know what I want.”
“Well, what do you like to read?”
“More like gory or more like funny?”
“Here, try this, it’s the newest one by Kozeniewski. He does gore well.”
So fast forward again to 2014. (Thank God that trip down memory lane was truncated. I don’t think I could handle another minute without my iPhone.) Amazon has displaced brick-and-mortar stores but the one thing it CAN’T offer you is a clerk who more or less can tell you what to buy, and increase the store’s overall sales. Hence the Also Boughts.
Right when you consider whether to purchase a book or not you are presented with a whole slew of similar books to buy. (Or videos or ping pong tables, or whatever.) And even AFTER you purchase it Amazon will continue to tell you things you may be interested in based on your purchasing history.
Did you ever notice that maybe you bought a My Little Pony once for your niece ten years ago and to this day Amazon recommends pony stuff to you? That’s because the things in your purchase history are considered even more relevant than just the things you’ve perused.
So, long story short, Jake and I drive traffic to one another’s books. (I’m sure it’s much more one-sided and more likely that I simply benefit from Jake’s popularity.) Every time you look at my book you see his and at least consider clicking on them. This is one of the reasons why it’s beneficial for authors to write more books, so they have more Also Boughts, and potentially more criss-crossing traffic, but that could be the subject of a whole other blogpost.
So in closing I want to say thanks to Jake for hosting me on his blog and for taking up not just one, not just two, but three of my all-important Also Bought slots. I hope I helped to pull back the curtain a little bit on how Amazon works in this one particular mechanic and why it’s so important to authors and other content producers. Thanks for reading and remember: ZOMBIES FOREVER!
There you have it, folks! (Check is in the mail, Stephen).
Go get some of his books and then you’ll be able to see that others want my books too! GET THEM ALL! YES, I’M STILL YELLING!
Time to get your Drabble on! It’s Party time!
I have actually prepped tonight’s drabble, and post, well in advance due to the fact I’ll be in Charlotte, NC when this posts. I’ll be on panels and have an author table at ConCarolinas! Come on out and see me, yo!
But int the meantime, how’s about you read some micro-fiction that will blow your mind!
Under The Influence
The speedometer read “TWORK”. No worries, he’d seen TWORK before. Just a hallucination. He was sure he was going only 20 lps. Totally safe.
“Next left,” Bisch said. “Past the third asteroid.”
“Your left or my left?” Hollis asked. He didn’t want to ask about the asteroids; he assumed the giant floating baby heads were probably what Bisch was talking about.
“We have the same left!” Bisch snapped.
Hollis took the left and slammed on the brakes, sending the spacecraft into a power slide.
“No way I’m driving through that marshmallow,” Hollis said.
“Griff! How high are you?” Bisch yelled.
Disclaimer: Just drive!
Heeeeeelllllllllooooooooooo, Friday! Time to get our Drabble Party on!
Free micro-fiction for you and me, baby! Ahhhhhhh, yeah!
But, before we get into the drabbletasticness, let’s talk about Little Dead Man!
That’s right, I have a new novel out! This one is by Permuted Press and is my YA debut. I kid you not, folks, it is Jake Bible goodness for the WHOLE family (if your family is 12 and up)! If you love my novels then you’ll love this one!
What’s it about? Have a read:
Decades after the zombie apocalypse, seventeen year old Garret Weir just wants to be a normal teenager. As if dealing with the zombies isn’t hard enough, his annoying twin brother refuses to leave him in peace. And it’s not like Garret can just go to his room and shut the door to get away. His brother Garth is a zombie and conjoined to the top of Garret’s spine. Good times.
Forced from his hidden, mountain compound, Garret must learn who to trust and who to fear as he and Garth are thrust into a world more horrific than anything they could imagine. Fighting for their lives in a foreign landscape, the brothers head north to find their father who may have the answer to the deadly virus that caused the zombie apocalypse. Along their way they meet new friends, learn betrayal the hard way, fight for their mother’s life, run from deadly enemies, and discover that life may have seemed difficult before, but can always get a whole lot worse.
A fast-paced, high-action novel that doesn’t pull any punches, Little Dead Man is a surprisingly sweet story of two brothers – one living, one undead – that struggle with a mother that is mentally unstable, a missing father that has kept too many secrets, and a lie their parents have always told – that they are the last survivors on Earth. When the truth of that lie is revealed, Garret and Garth quickly find out that having other survivors in the world isn’t exactly a good thing. In fact, it’s quite deadly.
What do you think? Crazy cool, right? Right. What’s that? You’d rather have the print version? Well, that will be available very soon! July 15th, in fact! Feel free to pre-order that puppy by clicking on teh same link and choosing the paperback option!
Now, on to our drabble!
Coin Flips, Man
“One could be my girlfriend, right?” the young man asked.
“Yes,” the Council above the pit replied as one.
“And one is, like, what? A man-eating tiger? Those still exist? I thought with deforestation and crap there, like, weren’t any man-eating tigers left?”
“Choose!” the Council shouted.
“Jeez, chill, bras. This isn’t easy.”
He stood there facing the two doors and frowned.
“Anyone have a coin I could flip? Doesn’t have to be a quarter. Nickel will totally do.”
“Carl!” a woman’s voice rang out from behind one door. “Just pick a fucking door!”
GO BUY LITTLE DEAD MAN! DO IT!
Disclaimer: BUY LITTLE DEAD MAN!
So, I had a great email exchange with a reader this week. It was one of those exchanges that helped me explain a little about my process. I have been granted permission to post the exchange, so I will. Then I’ll talk a little more about what it all means to me. I hope you all join in the discussion in the comments section. Keep it real and civil. No haters, yo!
“I finished reading your book Z Burbia. I enjoyed it and the humor in it. Bought your second book. I hope you will be open minded when I say using insults in your book such as “fat fuck”, “fat cow” continue to bring a perception that fat people are lazy, ugly, and worth less than others who are not fat. Just to put it out front, yes I am myself overweight. The cause doesn’t matter. Fat people are fighting a perception battle that impacts their lives and families. This perception negatively effects their relationships, jobs and how society treats them as a whole. You, I’m sure wouldn’t use derogatory wording with ethnic groups or physically or mentally disabled but people feel free to insult fat people for the sole crime of being over weight. I hope you understand my intent and that this isn’t a personal assault on you or your character. As an author you have the ability to shape our society. Thank you for taking the time to read this email. May you have success in all of your endeavors.
“Thank you for reaching out and for this thoughtful email.
With that said, I don’t want you to feel like I’m blowing you off because I’m not. I write YA and middle grade novels also (soon to be released by Permuted Platinum) and those novels do not have any of that in there. Well, one does, but as a learning lesson and the offender is chastised brutally by his peers. For kids, I set an example, for adults I let them handle life on their own. My wife and I are very aware of what we say to our children so they grow up with healthy ideas on body image. Where I shape society, and the future, is with my kids and how I act in real life.
Again, thank you for the email and please know that I am very aware of the impact every single word I use can have. Sometimes, I go for the negative impact because that’s where I want the gut punch to hit. And because I like to face my own personal demons head on!
The reader’s response to my response was very nice and we ended it on a great note.
I think some authors would get upset about this type of email. If it was a different subject, I may have also. But like I said in my response, I totally understand the weight thing. I get it. Took me a long time to come to turns with my own body image issues.
I don’t think authors should ever try to shape society with their writing. I just don’t. I think that compromises the work. Try too hard and it all sounds false.
But this is coming from a writer that currently specializes in pulp horror/scifi/adventure/thrillers. I’m here to entertain, not educate.
Ah, but if I offend, have I failed as an entertainer? That’s a question to ponder. If part of my audience doesn’t like something I’ve written because it hurts them on a personal level then am I doing my job?
Yes. Because you can’t please everyone all the time. It goes back to last week’s post. Read Rule 4 and 5. You’ll see what I’m getting at. As a writer, I have to know that some readers will not like my work, for whatever their reasons are. Dem’s da breaks.
One last thing I want to share is a quote from the reader’s response to my response. Here it goes: “I also thank you for changing how I will be reacting to fat remarks in books in the future.”
As readers, people have the power to change how they perceive novels and entertainment. Instead of getting all up in arms because their specific hangups/pet peeves/worries/phobias/fears/sacred cows have been mentioned/defamed/killed/cooked on the grill with a delicious vinegar based BBQ sauce, people should use these types of situations to start a dialogue and open discussions with others that don’t feel the same way.
That is how we change society, by taking our experiences and sharing them with others. If we are honest with ourselves then it is easier to be honest with others. And let’s face it folks, we could use a lot more honesty in this world, don’t ya think?
So sound off! Do you think authors have an obligation to reflect positive change in their novels? How about if the novel is more about the negatives of society and not the positives? Where does an author draw the line between appropriate and not appropriate?
If you have been reading my series of posts then you know I am not a fan of rules being imposed on writers. Or on anyone, for that matter. Not that I’m an anarchist, but, well…
Come on, folks! Tell me what gets to you. Tell me what you think writers are obligated to do. Or not.
Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.
Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.
Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.
He is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series for Severed Press as well as the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash), Bethany and the Zombie Jesus, Stark- An Illustrated Novella, and the forthcoming YA zombie novel Little Dead Man, and Teen horror novel Intentional Haunting (both by Permuted Press).
I am very pleased to announce a couple of new releases!
First, allow me to introduce you to AntiBio. This novel is my return to military scifi. Now, a lot of my novels have military themes, elements, badass Teams ready to rip some bad guys apart, but this is the first one that isn’t a horror novel, but a straight up, high-tech, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, military science fiction novel.
Phew. That’s quite a mouthful.
They have failed.
All that’s left are the Strains- bacteria so strong they have brought the world to its knees.
But humanity has fought on, carving out pockets of civilization in a wasteland known as the Sicklands, creating the super high-tech Clean Nation cities.
And from the cities GenSOF has been born- Genetic Special Forces Operations. An elite military branch of the government that enlists men and women with specific genetic anomalies that allow them to be hosts to bacteria that even the Strains cannot defeat. Under the watchful eye of Control, GenSOF protects the Clean Nation cities from the ever encroaching Strains and the diseased inhabitants of the Sicklands.
But now Control has other plans for GenSOF, and possibly the Clean Nation cities themselves, and it is up to the operators of GenSOF Zebra Squad, and their cloned Canine Units known as bug hounds, to find out what those plans are.
Or die trying.
How ya like them apples? AntiBio is a crazy mix of Blade Runner and Damnation Alley. You’re gonna dig it!
Oh, what’s that? You want to know what’s coming next from me? Okey doke!
May: Mega 2 (Severed Press) and Little Dead Man (Permuted Press)
June: Kaiju Winter (Severed Press)
July: The Apex Trilogy audiobooks
And so much more! I’ll announce the rest of 2014 as soon as my schedule is nailed down.