Produce an AudiobookAuthors dream of writing books. Well, they actually dream of selling books, but I won’t split hairs. I am no different, and accomplishing the goal of publishing “From Here to Nearly There” last year was a huge tick on the old bucket list. If I am honest, however, I have to admit that writing the book was not exactly my dream. My dream was to create an audiobook.

A bit of background. When I was a child, I received a collection of tape recordings of “Golden Age” radio programs. My grandmother and I went through the collection, and she pointed to shows like “Fibber McGee and Molly” and “The Jack Benny Program” which she knew and remembered. She smiled as the saw the titles. I wondered, how could such an archaic type of entertainment evoke so many happy memories?

Then I listened. I was hooked immediately. Programs like Arch Oboler’sLights Out” and the Harry Alan Towers-produced “Sherlock Holmes” captivated me. The latter, starring the inimitable Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson, can still be found in digital format on my iPhone.

In recent years, I have fallen in love with the unabridged recordings of Bill Bryson’s works. Bryson reads many of his books himself, and the performances are delightful. His books are superb on their own, but when combined with the warm and witty voice work, they transform into lengthy monologues that can be enjoyed again and again.

Audiobooks, like the spoken word format in general, are productions that satisfy many of the same needs as television and motion pictures. But they are far, far easier to produce. Few independent authors will ever see their work made into a movie. Many will hear their books dramatized as audiobooks.

Form a sales perspective, audiobooks are the way to go. The print and electronic book markets are, if I am somewhat charitable, facing challenges. The audiobook industry is a different story. Audiobooks represent the fastest-growing segment in publishing, and the format is now a billion dollar industry.

Why is that? Here’s one theory.

According to an article in USA Today (quoting U.S. Census Bureau data), the national, one-way daily commute in 2013 was 25.5 minutes. Of the countless workers who commuted to work that year, 8% had commutes of an hour or longer, and nearly 600,000 full-time workers endured so-called “megacommutes” of at least an hour-and-a-half and fifty miles.

Enforced “windshield time” is even more pronounced for users of public transportation. The same article points out that the average travel time for workers who commute by public transportation is higher than that of workers who use other modes.

All of this adds up to a growing number of Americans who find themselves trapped in cars, busses, and subways. Those people need entertainment and distraction. Those people are a key market for the consumption of audiobooks.

Commuters represent only one growing market for audiobooks. People who spend time on treadmills, airplanes, and office chairs are increasingly turning to the spoken word format for diversion. That spells growth, and independent authors are well-advised to fight for their slice of the pie.

The audiobook format is just fantastic, and I wanted a part of it. So, when I began writing “From Here to Nearly There,” I did so with the audiobook in mind.

But how does one produce an audiobook? Having done that, how does one distribute an audiobook?

In my next post, I will describe my experience with the Audiobook Creation Exchange. I will explain how ACX helped me turn “From Here to Nearly There” into an unabridged audiobook now on sale at

Alec Merta is an author, blogger, and producer of audio programs. His novel “From Here to Nearly There” is available on Amazon. The unabridged audiobook is available on Follow him on Twitter at @alecmerta.

I was delighted to sit for an interview in “Sounds and Words,” a new literary and art journal published by the very talented Karl Bjorn Erickson. You can read the interview here. I have done a few of these, and Karl’s interview questions were easily the most interesting and insightful.

Alcatraz BurningReaders of will remember that I reviewed Karl’s detective novel The Blood Cries Out last year. Karl has now moved into science fiction with his latest release, Alcatraz Burning: A Short Story Collection. Karl describes the book this way:

What the crew of the Alcatraz discovers in the dark reaches of space is unlike anything found before. Being curious, they make the mistake of boarding the derilict craft only to learn that it is not entirely lifeless. Nightmares come to life in a flash of searing white light and mind-numbing explosions. Something takes strong exception with being woken. Is there a way to escape? 

The remaining collected short stories feature other genres of fiction from the author of The Blood Cries Out.

Please check it out!

Alec Merta is an author, blogger, and producer of audio programs. His novel “From Here to Nearly There” is available on Amazon. The unabridged audiobook is available on Follow him on Twitter at @alecmerta

  • interstellar2amazon

I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s film Interstellar. In fact, during a time in my life wherein I get to the theater about once a year, I saw it twice. You won’t be very surprised, then, to learn that I have been visiting once a day for some time trying to pre-order the film.  

For day after day, I performed a text search with that one word: Interstellar. The results included many things, but none of them were the movie. Soon, I began to scroll down the list to see what items were presented to me by Amazon. Mostly these were links to the soundtrack and various tie-ins produced in conjunction with the film.  

One item stood out.

Presented on the first page of the search results was an item titled Interstellar 2: What happens after Nolan’s Interstellar Movie? The item was a book, and you can see it here. Its cover art features the text “Interstellar 2” (no explanatory text as appears on the full description) and a still from the movie. The still is a rather poignant image showing Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway at a weak and vulnerable moment.

The author of this putative sequel? Why, none other than Chris Nolan. (He is, for some reason, listed as an editor on the Amazon description).

Pay attention here. The author is not Christopher Nolan. It’s some bloke named Chris. Or it isn’t.

So what we have is a book that is doing its level best to appear like a sequel to a major Hollywood motion picture. It uses art from the movie and it is written under a (possibly pseudonymous) name very close to that of the film’s director. Shocked yet? It gets worse.

The book is priced at $9.99, which is a damn site higher than most indie books I know of. And what do you get for your nearly ten bucks? 

Fourteen pages.

Now, I am not a bitter person (on late weekdays and some weekends), but this really sits poorly with me. I know legions of independent authors who invest their hearts and souls into novels that are original, interesting, and worth being bought. Nearly every single one of those books languishes in obscurity. Most have Amazon sales ranks worse than 300,000. Many have sales ranks worse than one millionth place.  

This, though, has a sales rank (at last check) of 136,680. That may not sound very impressive, but it is staggering when one considers that the Kindle Store contains well over one million items. How much money is the book making? I have no clue, but it must be considerable as it is out-selling at least 900,000 other titles.

And where is Amazon in all of this? What about the copyright issues at play? What does the studio think?

Again, I have no clue. But it is very, very depressing.

Alec Merta is an author, blogger, and producer of audio programs. His novel “From Here to Nearly There” is available on Amazon. The unabridged audiobook is available on Follow him on Twitter at @alecmerta

I am happy to announce that “From Here to Nearly There,” the first book in the series “A Voyage in the Near Distance,” will be released next week in unabridged audiobook format. Check out the sample below via YouTube.

The audiobook edition was produced by Punch Audio in conjunction with the Audiobook Creation Exchange. Actor Alex Hyde-White narrates the book.  

Mr. Hyde-White is an accomplished film and theater star.  His credits include role in films like “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “Pretty Woman,” and “Catch me if You Can.” His television credits include roles on shows such as “Dexter,” “The Mentalist,” and “The Division.”

“From Here to Nearly There” by Alec Merta is available in Kindle and paperback formats. Both can be purchased on The audiobook edition, to be released next week, will be available on Amazon, Audible, and through the iTunes Store.

Please follow @alecmerta on Twitter.

Crystal BallEarlier this week, I tweeted a video of legendary science fiction writer (and genius) Arthur C. Clarke. In the video, Clarke describes with surprising accuracy what the future will look like from an information technology perspective. The tweet was part of my on-going #scienceforscifi campaign wherein I tweet topics that might be inspirational to science fiction writers. You can read more about #scienceforscifi here.
In the same spirit, I wanted to share some videos that feature visions of the future as imagined by people of the past. I hope the futurists of our day will enjoy seeing what the future used to look like.

Monsanto House of the Future

The first clip is a 1957 showcase of the Monsanto House of the Future that once appeared in Disneyland. Designed by MIT alums, House of the Future appeared at the park from 1957 until 1967. The concept was an extension of Walt Disney’s passion for displaying visions of a bright, productive, and largely automated future. House of the Future was a logical component in the line of exhibits that includes Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress and the Innoventions Dream Home.
American plastics corporation Monsanto sponsored the exhibit, and boy does it show. Monsanto made, loved, and evidently worshiped plastics. So the house of their preferred future is damn-near 100% plastic.  And they remind you at every turn. Watching this video, I get the idea that Monsanto wanted to build a House of the Future that Mom could clean with a garden hose while Dad took a nap.
The heavy-handed Monsanto pitch for plastics is tough to get past.  If you manage to, you’ll note how many features either really came to be or are still worth developing. Polarized ceilings to let in natural light? Waterless dishwashers? These are still good ideas, and at least the ceilings might actually be worth developing.  
I’ll pass on the irradiated foods. 

read more

I spent time with an old friend this weekend. That’s one of the nice things about living in our contemporary world, you can travel in time. The time machine is not very special, but it performs a neat trick. Souls of Astraeus

Sorry for the metaphor, but there are few artful ways of saying the I wasted my Sunday watching the animated Star Trek series on Netflix.

As a child, I remember when science fiction had an endless edge to it. Writers like Ray Bradbury, Roger Zelazny, Arthur C. Clarke, and countless others churned out novels and short stories that were markedly different from the science fiction works they succeeded. Prior to the “New Wave” (a term loathed by many of its members), science fiction was a world of rocket ships and trips to Mars. That was all well and good, but the genre needed to be something bigger, something grander.

When the New Wave hit, Clarke gave us the secrets to humanity’s origin. As the wave wound down, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle gave us ringworlds and semi-anthropomorphic elephants. It was a grand time.

Such was the zeitgeist of science fiction, that a Saturday-morning cartoon version of Gene Roddenberry’s classic Star Trek could not only be made, but could include works of fiction that felt like animated editions of hard sci-fi. It was glorious.

The New Wave ended, as it had to. In its place came a great deal of science fiction that tried to do the same and tried to do more. It succeeded quite often, but often it failed.

I thought about all of this as I prepared to read Souls of Astraeus by author Jeramy Goble. The book jacket describes a main character who lives countless lives and travels through parallel universes. There is implied conflict that relates to both the innate nature of humanity and also that of sentient life throughout creation.

This is heady stuff, indeed, and challenging prose to write. read more

  • From Here to Nearly There in the Amazon Top Twenty

From Here to Nearly There Breaks the Top 20!

I’m a big fan of Amazon’s KDP Select program. There are plenty of blogs that write about the pro’s and the con’s of KDP Select, so I won’t do that here. I will say that independent writers can make serious publicity in-roads by using the Select-only promotional tools.

In particular, I like being able to make my book available for free on a time-limited basis. Why give your book away? It’s all about building awareness.

Here’s the story. I released From Here to Nearly There in mid-August. At the time, I focused my efforts on building awareness on Twitter (via @alecmerta) and by starting my Atlanta-area word-of-mouth campaign. Those were great, but I wanted to put my book into the hands of readers around the world. Enter KDP Select and a Labor Day Weekend free book promotion. 

The promotion kicked-off on Friday, August 29 and ran officially until the next day. Before I ran the promo, I let people know that it was coming. One essential tool was a list of promo websites kindly hosted on Rachelle Ayala’s blog.  You can see the list here, and I highly advise indie authors to visit every single link Rachelle provides. I did, and it paid off.

KDP Select free promotions start at roughly midnight in the Pacific time zone. For me on the East Coast, that means my book became available at around three o’clock in the morning. By the time I had woken up, a dozen units had been moved. That means twelve people had gotten hold of my book and were (presumably) going to read it. Warm feeling, that. read more

Before you read this review, you should hear my confession. I am a tad biased in favor of The Blood Cries Out, Karl Bjorn Erickson’s debut mystery novel. The bias has nothing to do with Erickson or his novel. Rather, it has to do with the setting he chose for the book.The Blood Cries Out

I love the Pacific Northwest. In fact, my relocation to the Seattle area was a near-certainty just a decade or so ago. The move to Seattle did not happen, but the experience of exploring that often-overlooked corner of America left me with an abiding love of the place.

The Northwest presents a wealth of opportunity to fiction writers. In atmosphere alone, the region is overflowing with scenic settings and diverse urban environments. If you go there and look around, you will soon understand why the Northwest is the best place on Earth to go searching for a monster like Bigfoot. It is just that vast and mysterious.

Erickson’s novel does not involve the stately mountains. Rather, it is firmly set in the habitations of Seattle and its surroundings. Erickson clearly knows and loves the city, for he spares little in the way of description. (He even mentions a restaurant I have dined at.) Being so detailed about a location can be difficult for a writer, but Erickson pulls it off.

The Blood Cries Out tells the story of Seattle Homicide Detective David Lightholler, who becomes involved in a murder investigation that would shake even a seasoned investigator. Erickson wastes little time in presenting the reader with a ghastly murder mystery that, as it was, cries out for resolution.

Set against the backdrop of Seattle, Lightholler must face his personal demons as well as the rigors of modern homicide investigation. Again, Erickson shows that he has done his homework when he describes the procedural actions of the hero.

Interestingly, the personal component of the novel often outshines the criminal. In this respect, Erickson’s writing packs a certain punch. For example, when the mother of a slain child arrives on scene, her reaction feels tragic and painful. Even reading the book in a reviewer’s frame of mind, I was instantly dragged back into the story and made to feel the emotion.

Erickson shows this again when Detective Lightholler must inform a mentally-challenged teen that her friends are dead. “Why can’t I see her?” the teen asks. After the detective informs her that her friends have been murdered, she sweetly asks, “But I can see them later, right?” Any parent who has had to deliver bad news to a child understands how big a punch that is.

As effective as those moments are, I must point out that readers looking for a gritty story in the vein of Henning Mankell’s Wallander series or something by Raymond Chandler may be disappointed. Erickson’s story feels more like a modern telling of Dragnet and less like a Philip Marlowe mystery. That is not a criticism, mind you, only an assessment. I happen to love Dragnet and wish that Jack Webb had lived long enough to bring it to the small-screen one more time.

The Blood Cries Out is a mystery novel dripping in Pacific Northwest details. Readers with fond feelings for Seattle and other Northwestern locales will appreciate every touch of scenery lovingly added in Erickson’s debut mystery novel. Readers looking for a detective novel with a human touch will also enjoy The Blood Cries Out.

About the author: A self-identified author and essayist, Mr. Erickson has written two children’s books (Toupée Mice and Tristan’s Travels) which the author describes as “light-hearted.” Mr. Erickson also contributes articles to a variety of publications, including The National Catholic Weekly. He has been a guest opinion writer for both the Portland Tribune and the Statesman Journal. He resides in Salem, Oregon.

By Karl Bjorn Erickson
Published by Light Switch Press, Kindle price $7.99
Purchase on the Amazon Kindle Store

Black Jade DragonI have become more than a little jaded in this era of teen-friendly pulp that focuses on vampires, werewolves, and the women who love them. That is my personal problem, but I think it highlights a larger conundrum faced by many an independent author. Namely, how does one tell new story within the fantasy genre while avoiding the production of yet another cliché?

In Susan Brassfield Cogan’s novel Black Jade Dragon, the author accomplishes something quite remarkable. She weaves elements that should be campy and trite into an exciting and fresh story. Cogan has managed to write a great novel about dragons, magic pearls, invisible swords, and a down-on-her-luck thief who beats the odds. This is a really fantastic book and well worth your money.

Black Jade Dragon tells the story of jewel thief Angela Tanaka (or Angie as she rather sternly instructs the reader to call her). Angie, as it happens, enters our lives shortly after completing a jewel heist. Don’t worry too much about that because it is really only a plot device used to propel her from Hong Kong onto the fictional island of Shaolong

Shaolong is where Cogan really captures the reader’s attention. We live in era where too many authors rely on serial adjectives to establish their locations. These long, eternal, unending descriptions are poor, unsatisfactory, irritating crutches used by many an un-skilled independent writer. Cogan, much to my delight, employs considerable skill in describing and establishing the island where her story takes place. Consider an example:

They towed us into a deep harbor with city on both sides. Now that we were closer I could see that the city was older and more traditional than Hong Kong or Taipei. The docks were lined with open markets that looked as they must have looked a thousand years ago. Tall modern buildings shadowed beautiful wooden pagodas settled in elegant gardens.

This is direct description that avoids flourish while quickly establishing the scene. Cogan has clearly given her little world a lot of thought, for she repeatedly describes interior and exterior locations with effective prose devoid of repetitive adjectives. Setting style aside, her descriptions are clear and effective. You will have no trouble seeing her world in your mind. read more

I am very happy to announce the release of my new novel, “From Here to Nearly There” on the Amazon Kindle Store!

From Here to Nearly There cover art

The new novel is the first book in the series “A Voyage in the Near Distance.”  Here is the Kindle description:

Nicholas Carver began his day in Yorkshire. He will end it aboard an interstellar super yacht. Before he leaves Earth, Carver must race across England in a desperate flight from police and aliens. The police want to arrest him. The aliens want to do something far worse. All Carver wants is to survive. 

Join Carver, an English mapmaker and surveyor, as he is caught in a tale of intrigue that spans the cosmos. Together with Allie, a mysterious girl who bursts into his life, Carver reluctantly sets out to solve the greatest mystery mankind has ever faced. His success or failure will spell the dawn of a golden age or the ultimate doom of mankind.  

By author Alec Merta, “From Here to Nearly There” is a novel that combines the best elements of a travelogue with those of a taut science-fiction thriller. By combining science with elements of real UFO and paranormal reports, Merta crafts a believable thriller that you will find hard to put down.  

“From Here to Nearly There” is the first book of “A Voyage in the Near Distance.” The series tells the tale of two planets that are linked by an ancient mystery. One planet is a blue orb that orbits an average yellow star. It teems with human civilization. The second planet is Earth.

This has been a huge undertaking, and I am so very grateful to the people who have supported me throughout.  Writing is tough work (well, it’s kind of tough, in a way…), and we all need people pulling for us.  Thanks to everyone who helped!