This is the first book in my favorite mystery series EVER, and you can get it free today (and remember, you don’t need a Kindle device, just download one of their free apps). If you’ve never read one of the Phryne Fisher books, I envy you. You have the whole series ahead of you. Enjoy!
If you’re a Facebook friend, you may have noticed me sharing a lot of posts by Must Read Mysteries. That’s because it’s a great source for ebook mysteries that are reasonably priced or free. Eventually, I got curious — who was behind Must Read Mysteries, how did they find all these great books, and what was the motivation behind this great service? So I sent a message. Here are the answers.
Who are you?
While on the internet I am a man of mystery, at home I am a husband, father of 4 children ranging in age from 2 to 16, and a life long reader of mysteries, especially hard boiled ones. My wife Stephanie, another mystery lover, also contributes to the page, particularly when it comes to the cozy mysteries.
How did you get into this?
One of our favorite things to do is to go to library book sales and find new mysteries to try and fill in some of the holes in our collection. Unfortunately we ended up with a small house bursting at the seams with 4 kids and thousands of books. So we bought a Kindle and started to supplement the income from our real jobs by selling old pulp paperbacks and lots of mysteries on eBay grouped by author, series, and theme. As eBay became less and less seller friendly (making the feedback system meaningless by not allowing sellers to leave negative feedback for buyers even when they did not pay, taking a 9% cut on the cost of shipping) we created our own site, mustreadmysteries.ecrater.com, to sell the used books. To try to drive traffic to it we created the Facebook page and slowly started building a following. Then last summer we were away from home for an extended period of time, and in order to keep the page active I started putting up Amazon links to mysteries I enjoyed or were bargains. It seemed to generate traffic, and Stephanie enlightened me that if I was going to throw up links that we might as well become an Amazon associate and make a few pennies when people actually bought the books. As a bonus it is fun to share the freebies we find with the people following the page. It is a bit like a treasure hunt. So that is what we did and that is how the page came to be what it is today. The income from the links gives us just enough money to feed our mystery reading habits, and now we have a Kindle that is as stuffed with books as our house used to be.
How you find all the books (unless that’s a trade secret)?
There are several ways, but the starting point is using Amazon’s rather robust and varied search and recommendation mechanisms. I also follow several blogs and keep an eye on favorite author’s pages to see when they have sales. More recently authors have started emailing or messaging me to alert me when they have a promotion coming up. I also have been getting ARCs and gifted Kindle books so that we can do reviews. We have been able to get to most of those, but do not guarantee a positive review.
What feedback have you gotten from fans?
The most common feedback is people thanking us for alerting them to books or series that they were not aware of. There are also several recommendations that keep popping up: 1) start doing B&N links for the Nook, 2) start a page focusing on science fiction/fantasy/paranormal books, and 3) start a blog with more detailed reviews, musings, recommendations, and perhaps having authors guest post about some of their favorite books from other authors. Those are good ideas that we will try to incorporate as time permits. We welcome feedback from the community because it helps us find new things that might be of interest to others and help us stay responsive to rapidly changing trends.
What are your opinions on the future of publishing?
The industry is changing rapidly and my opinions tend to change too. In general I am pretty much in the JA Konrath/Barry Eisler camp that the traditional publishing route does not make sense financially for many (though certainly not all) authors. I have found eye opening some of the very open financial pieces written by Konrath compared to similar pieces by a traditionally published authors like Jennifer Stanley/Ellery Adams. The big question now is what the impact of the KDP select plan where authors can have their book be free for 5 days out of 90 at Amazon. Are people going to expect to get everything free and hold off on making purchases? Might they end up with so many books on their Kindles that they stop buying? Libby Fischer Hellmann had an interesting blog post about this recently.
One thing I really like about ebooks is the way it is making short stories and novellas available that might not have otherwise seen the light of day. I know this is particularly true for the more hardboiled crime fiction. I have been having a bunch of fun reading through the shorter pieces from Nigel Bird, Ray Banks, Keith Rawson, Heath Lowrance, James Reasoner, Edward Grainger/David Cranmer, Patti Abbott, Thomas Pluck etc.
Another thing I think about is the change to the used book market. When we first started promoting lots of used books on the Facebook page, there were complaints from several authors that they would not be making royalties on the sales of used books. I think that used books are a great way of introducing readers to authors that they will later buy new, much like a library is, but as ebooks become more dominant this dynamic is going to change, and it should change in a way that authors are going to earn more royalties off of their back list, especially when the rights revert to them. Right now most back list ebook titles are priced too high, and people looking for inexpensive titles might still buy used books. But as prices go down and e-readers more popular people will buy the inexpensive e-books instead, which should mean more royalties for authors.
(After I read all that, I had another question.)
Do the kids participate in the business in any way? And do you think it makes them aware of the possibilities of entrepreneurship?
My oldest daughter (16) has contributed a couple of recommendations (Dave Zeltersman’s Julius Katz mysteries for one) and is thinking of doing a similar page for music. So it has definite made her aware of the possibilities. If we do branch out with Sci Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal she would help with that. The 7 year old is a big reader (“How To Train Your Dragon” is current favorite) and the little ones (5 and 2) love having books and being read 2. The 7 year old has the kindle app loaded on his tablet, but it has to compete for time with Angry Birds.
I recently received an invitation to attend the Denver Chihuahua Meetup. Thank you, Jessica! Jessica found me through FB as an author, or maybe I found her as a Chi owner. Regardless, she won my heart forever by buying six of my books to give to friends. Seriously, I want to adopt this woman.
So on the Sunday after we got back from our vacation, I got my act mostly together and drove to Brighton, which has a lot of houses, horses and land, and not much else. To be fair, the horses and houses are both beautiful. The land was flat and covered with snow, so I can’t speak for it.
The Meetup was at Dianne’s house and was a potluck. I brought two bags of Lindor chocolate balls, because Angel Joe was putting up the tin backsplash in the kitchen. Or maybe he was installing drawer glides. Anyway, no cooking was going to happen, because he was busy doing other things, haha.
I got to Dianne’s house 15 minutes early and was met at the door by a sizable pack of Chihuahuas.
“Gosh, everyone must be very punctual,” I thought. Oh, no. Those dogs represented just three people’s pets. The main event was still to come, and before we were through, there were 45 dogs in that house. I’m not sure if that included the puppies in the stroller. Let me digress to say that I’m still thinking fondly of tiny Duke, a long-haired white morsel with black ears and a black patch on his back, who although the size of a dollar bill (and worth about 400 of them), gave me a doggy kiss on my fingers and sat on my lap observing the room.
You should marvel at my strength, ’cause I had a checkbook in my purse.
Speaking of licking, Chiahuahuas love to lick. They particularly love to lick your mouth and up your nose. Perhaps that’s why they’re reputed to be good for asthma. There’s no scientific evidence for that claim, but if you let them have their way, I’m pretty sure they’d rout out your sinuses. You can put on makeup for a Chihuahua Meetup, but you will leave with a pink, shiny nose.
Anyway, I made friends with every dog I could lay my eager hands on, and here are some of their names: Oscar (Jessica’s floofy boy), Tia (pure love), Moses (his hair color parted in the middle), Rhett Butler, Draco (a chubby, jolly redhead who is on a diet),
Angela (naked belly), Bonnie, Charlie (a girl described as “viscious” by the shelter, who only wanted to be in your lap), Poncho, Paco, Paulo (I think there was a Paulo), Iffy (seemed plenty okay to me), Olive Ann, Cricket, Ajax or Alex, Daisy (mom of the pups), Hershey, Lola (“my Queen”), Bobo, Benny and Bob. Violet was beautiful but skittish, in the manner of supermodels. I never got close to her. Harley had one eye, an underbite and a heart condition. He looked like a junkyard bulldog that shrunk in the wash, and was impossibly sweet.
I believe there were people there, too. Someone must have brought the Chihuahuas. I’m kidding. There were lovely people there.
Many of them mentioned a Chihuahua named Zoie who died two months ago. She was clearly much loved.
One of many things that fascinate me about Chihuahuas is how varied their colors, shapes and sizes are.
There were Chihuahuas who were related but looked nothing like each other. Humped backs, straight backs, rounded, bony like greyhounds,
long-haired, short-haired, hair so short the dog looked pink, rounded heads, curly tails,
straight tails, bushy tails when the rest of the dog was short-haired and sleek, stubby snouts, and long snouts like little crocodiles.
There were mixes, too, and one Chinese Chin who thought he was a Chihuahua.
Another thing that impresses is how well Chihuahuas get along. You have to wonder if they schooled like fish when they were in a more wild state. Several of these dogs had never been to a Meetup, some were rescues who hadn’t had much socialization, and it was wonderful to see them start playing with the other dogs. There were a few posturing contests by macho dogs, swiftly quashed by their owners. I would be interested to know how many breed Meetups there are. I’m having difficulty picturing a room full of bull terriers playing together, for example.
So that was my first experience with Chihuahuas en masse, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’m determined to get my hands on Violet.
Just a reminder that I have a free Christmas story available, ‘Twas the Chihuahua Before Christmas.
Nikki of Obsessive Chihuahua Disorder, my favorite Chihuahua-oriented blog, gave my free Christmas story a really nice plug:
I downloaded it and uploaded it to my Kindle to read last night. It was such a delightful read. It was nice because it was like getting to laugh along with old friends since I loved these characters in the first novel.
It’s a great short story and I recommend it for people who enjoy reading mysteries, laughing and of course who have a love for dogs (especially Chihuahuas).
You can read the full review here. And you can find Nikki’s very active Facebook page here. I’m on there all the time, to get my fix of cute dog pictures. Bebe is my favorite on most days, but the others give her a run for her money, especially Monte.
And if you’d like to read ‘Twas the Chihuahua Before Christmas, just click the cover.
My guest blog post on Writer Crafts and Cuisine is up on Lois Winston’s site. I had a lot of fun with this tongue-in-cheek post. Not only will one commenter win a hardback copy of Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, but I’ll throw in one of the mice and a coaster. Remember, you have to comment there, not here. Have fun!