The Third Way of Book Publishing

Is the future of book publishing with the Big Five or with the self-published author/marketer?

When it comes to book publishing, traditionally published authors, as John Green has said, tend to favor the Big Five. Self-published authors pull for their side, as Brenna Aubrey convincingly illustrated in her article. There has been a lot said on the topic in the past year or two, but I’m going to throw my hat in the ring and propose that an important mode may end up being “The Third Way”, a path that winds between these two.

So who am I?

To start with, I’m very much a newbie to the publishing business, but one with recent success, and that affords me an interesting (if limited) view into this world.

In 2011, the year before I self-published my first novel, I was turned down by over a hundred publishers and agents who told me—in a nutshell—that my book, Atopia Chronicles, wouldn’t sell (Atopia has now sold over 70,000 copies, and my second novel, CyberStorm, nearly 120,000).

Now, by self-publishing and without any help from the Big Five, I’ve gathered nearly 200,000 readers in under two years. This was only possible because of the new platforms and outlets that became available to authors in the past few years. Without them, I wouldn’t be an author, or at least, not a “published author”. And, because of my self-publishing success, 20th Century Fox purchased the film rights to my second novel, CyberStorm.

In 2013, I turned down several six-figure offers from most of the Big Five for publishing my second novel, CyberStorm, choosing instead to continue self-publishing—at least in the domestic US market. Now I do have publishing contracts with several of the Big Five, but for foreign markets—I have about a dozen foreign country deals, and these make up a good chunk of my revenue.

The Harper Collins (Canada) version of my CyberStorm book just came out, and I have to admit having a big publisher name on the cover made me feel special. I’m not being sarcastic. It’s an accomplishment I’m very proud of, and I look forward to working closely with Harper Collins and other publishers in the future. Working with them has helped improve my end product dramatically.

So—and now we’ll get to the financial part—when all is said and done, in the 18 months since I self-published my first novel in August of 2012, I’ve earned an average of into-the-tens-of-thousands a month…which even I am dumbfounded at. Almost unbelievable.

But the real point I’m trying to make is this: half of my writing revenue has come from self-publishing, and the other half from working with the “publishing establishment”. This is The Third Way that I think may become more accessible and more important for authors in the future.

I fully realize that my kind of outcome is rare and unlikely (and very, very lucky), and yet, there it is. I’m going to draw a few conclusions from my experiences, with the full acknowledgement that I’m just one (quite rare) data point. And I’m going to say, up front, that I’m no expert…if you want an expert opinion and view into the book business of 2014 I recommend having a look at Mike Shatzkin’s excellent article on the topic.

My first conclusion is this: Not only do I see electronic self-publishing as a new way to get into the writing game, I see it as just about the only way in for new authors. My perspective is colored by my own entryway, but after watching a string of self-published authors (in my circle of contacts this includes Andy Weir, A.G. Riddle, G. Michael Hopf, the Wearmouth brothers and more) get courted by “the establishment” it makes more and more sense.

(Ed. Note: Yes, I know some of you are screaming that self-publishing has a long and storied history, but I’d be careful of some claims that writers like Twain, Clancy, or Stephen King were self-published as detailed in this Huffington Post article. More to my point, by “new way” I mean using the electronic self-publishing platforms that have only become available in the past few years.)

As I see it, the route now is that a new writer self-publishes, works to generate an audience, and in the process creates a “virtual team” of people who are enthusiastic about their writing and helps them hone their craft. Once they pop up onto the Amazon charts, writing agents take notice and start contacting them. When an agent gets involved, they can start selling to the establishment (Ed. Note: getting an agent involved was the best thing I ever did as a writer—a little shout out to Paul Lucas at Janklow & Nesbit!!—but it’s a very personal and difficult process…this will be the subject of a different article).

I’ve watched this process happen time and time again in the past year, myself included.

Let me get back to that “virtual team” idea. One of the most amazing things I’ve discovered is the enthusiasm that readers now have for self-published authors. I have a database of nearly a thousand readers who’ve volunteered to help beta read, proof read, and even let me interview them about their lives and work. Doing an initial crowd-sourced content edit has now become a standard part of my process.

Amazing.

(And if you’re an aspiring author, make sure to tap into this as much as you can.)

The second conclusion that I’m going to draw is that to maximize the revenue a writer can generate from their work—if they can get a self-published e-book success on their hands—it’s possible to work both the self-publishing and traditional publishing angles at the same time. Hugh Howey famously managed to retain his electronic publishing rights while doing print deals, but there are more options that are more accessible.

If a writer manages to get out a self-published book that is successful, they can separate out rights for: domestic US, Canada, UK, rest of world country by country, audio rights, film and TV rights and so on. As I did, they could keep self-publishing in the US domestic market (both print and electronic), but sell off rights for each of these separate parts individually through an agent. With enough volume in e-book sales, this becomes possible.

All I’m saying is that it’s possible, and that working with the “publishing establishment” doesn’t need to be antithetical to self-publishing at the same time. Of course I realize that I’m not the first person to think of mixing self-publishing with book publisher contracts, but I’m saying that the new electronic platforms have created a dynamic that makes it more possible (and for a wider audience) than before. I think some other commentators have called writers who employ both self-publishing and publisher contracts “hybrids” which makes sense.

I’m going to make a guess that as a new generation of writers rises up through the ranks, often coming through the self-publishing route (as illustrated in a great article from Hugh Howey), many are going to remain “hybrids” and keep at least one foot in the self-published world and push to create better deals for themselves and everyone else.

That’s The Third Way that I see coming.

ps. feel free to ask questions–the best place to do this would be on my author Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Author.Matthew.Mather on the posting linking to this article

SHAKESPEARE system for helping authors figure out self-publishing

I get a lot of requests from new authors looking for tips and advice on how to navigate the self-publishing book market. I created this document to summarize the approach that worked for me in getting started.

Exactly one year after publishing my first novel, Atopia Chronicles, a science fiction epic (followed a half a year later by CyberStorm, a present day tech-thriller in the vein of Crichton) I’ve managed to achieve some impressive success: 20th Century Fox purchased the film rights to CyberStorm, over 120,000 books sold, and ten foreign language publishing deals…tooting my own horn a bit :) but just trying to illustrate what’s possible.

My background as an entrepreneur shaped my thinking in approaching self-publishing. In the past I’ve managed my own successful start-ups, as well as helping start many other companies get started–handling everything from writing business plans to raising venture capital. I applied that same structured way of think about starting a new business to the business of marketing a book, and below I am sharing my SHAKESPEARE system for helping new authors reach their own self-publishing success.

I’d like to stress, however, that success comes by many routes, and luck is often a major contributing factor (whether people admit it or not!) But, in many ways, we tend to “make” our own luck, just by getting out and trying enough things, so I encourage everyone to try anything and everything they can!

A special thanks goes out to Hugh Howey (of Wool fame), who after reviewing my plan, added the final “E” for “Engaging with your readers”, something Hugh is absolutely the master at!

If you have any questions, suggestions, comments, feel free to email me!

So here it is: SHAKESPEARE

(This is written for writers producing fictional works, but most of the same principles should work for non-fiction as well)

NOTE: Feel free to reprint or copy this as you wish, but if possible, please reference me, Matthew Mather, as the author and include a link to my CyberStorm novel  Chronicleshttp://www.amazon.com/CyberStorm-ebook/dp/B00BT4QRHG/

Serialize

As attention spans shorten in the online (and real) world, readers don’t trust a new author enough to read 400 pages to get the point. For a new author, a winning approach is to serialize, to create your work as a set of progressively longer stories that connect together through cliffhangers to get a reader hooked. And speaking of that…

Hook

The first short story needs to be punchy and tell a complete story in itself while leaving the reader wanting to know more. Even more than that, you need to hook the reader on the first page somehow, create a mystery, a reason and need to keep reading.

Amazon

To start, focus only on Amazon. I’m not here to promote Amazon, but the first rule of entrepreneurism is to focus, focus, focus. The large majority of revenue in digital books comes from Amazon, with a small minority coming from all of the other players combined. So when you start, focus on Amazon by itself; getting reviews, getting up in the ranking. By only going on Amazon, you force people to buy from one place and thus drive up your rankings in this one spot. Once you have achieved some success there, expand to other platforms (FYI the easiest way to get on other platforms is just to use Smashwords).

Key networks

Make sure to use your personal social networks to maximum effect. Post on Facebook and ask people to re-post your postings for free book offers. Make sure to email everyone at work on the “internal” email (ask your boss first, of course!) Use your LinkedIn network to mention that you have a book out. What other networks are you a part of?

Try emailing top-selling authors in your category when you release the first installments of your work. Ask them to read the first one (by starting with serialized shorts, it makes it easier for other authors to try reading your work), or just ask them to post on their blog or Facebook. When I released Atopia, I had about five or six top-selling authors who posted to their readers for me!

Empathize

It is critical to create a character that you introduce readers to right away that they can empathize with. People read still primarily because they want to feel an emotional involvement with a character they meet in your writing. Keep this front and center of your mind when writing.

Select Program on Amazon

Use the Amazon Select Program: You can offer your book for $0 (free) for 5 days each 3 months. Used effectively, this is an extremely potent tool for reaching an audience. There are at least 40 websites I use to promote a “free weekend” for my books (email me for a list) – these sites are mostly specific to books that go free on Amazon Select and are mostly free to use for promotion.

If you can plan it ahead of time, write out all of the parts of your serialized work ahead of time, and then each two weeks release one of them, promoting it on Amazon select for free and on the promotional websites. I can usually get 4000+ downloads of a free book when I do this.

Perceived Value

Create perceived value by offering a deal. For instance, try and divide your ‘whole’ work into 6 parts, and sell each for $0.99, and then offer the whole ‘collection’ at half price, e.g. $2.99 for all six. This creates perceived value on the part of the buyer when you start to sell the whole collection

Editing

If your work is not edited well, you will get killed in the reviews and in word of mouth. As a first pass, make sure to find some friends or family to have a look. If you can’t afford a professional editor, trying going on Craigslist and find some just-graduated English lit major to edit your book on the cheap. A “real” editor can be quite expensive, but there is no excuse to not get an external editor of some kind, and not getting one will kill your chances of success.

All free posting websites

Craigslist and other free online classified ads are the secret weapon for a new authors. It is incredibly difficult to get outside feedback when you are a new writer. My solution? Post an ad saying you’ll pay someone $10 or $20 to read your book and give you honest feedback. Note that this is not for line editing, but for high level feedback to make your story more engaging in an iterative process.

Bonus: Get 20 people to read your book like this; these people will probably become your biggest promoters and will be happy to write reviews and Facebook and tweet your book when released.

Free PR – When you release your book, create several press releases about different aspects of the book, what it is about, why people would like it. When you release each of the story segments, put these press releases up on the free press release websites. There are about a dozen high quality free release sites out there. Highlight that the short story that is free that week.

Reviews

It is critical to get reviews as this has a direct impact on the Amazon ranking and recommendation system. YOU CANNOT do fake reviews. Apart from the ethical issues, Amazon has an impressive array of technical tools to make this very difficult. Instead, be honest and creative; use friends, family, co-workers; and see my point regarding Craigslist and getting people ready to punt for your project.

Engage

Find any and all ways to engage with your audience once you start to get readers. Do a video blog on YouTube about the process, do a regular blog showing progress on next books and stories, get people to your Facebook page. Just get engaged with them somehow!

CyberStorm acquired by 20th Century Fox

Wow. That’s about what comes to mind, I am still slightly in shock. Yesterday my agents (I still like saying that :) ) closed a deal for 20th Century Fox to acquire CyberStorm for turning it into a film–the only details of which I can reveal are that it’s a “major” deal.

http://www.deadline.com/2013/07/cyberstorm-fox-movie-rights-matthew-mather-chernin-entertainment/

This caps quite the amazing adventure since I first self-published CyberStorm a little over three and a half months ago. It has steadily climbed in sales, now at #1 in the sci-fi and tech-thriller categories, outselling even World War Z and Ender’s Game despite their marketing budgets – amazing what word-of-mouth can do!

Of course, this may just be the start. Now I’m getting inundated by waves of emails…so we’ll have to see where this leads! Will just have to sit back and take it all in…

Thank you to everyone who helped me along on this journey!!

How fear creates beauty

Been reading some very interesting stuff on “fear landscapes”…http://www.cof.orst.edu/leopold/papers/Laundre_etal2010.pdf

Basic idea is that the classic concept of a predator changing the ecosystem by culling prey isn’t really correct – the much more significant factor is just the *idea* of a predator being nearby changes the behavior of potential prey. They don’t go and graze in the open etc…

The interesting result is that many of the things we think of as beautiful in nature – a beautiful green field of grass, fields of flowers – much of it is only there because of fear. If not, then grazing animals would have come and eaten a lot of it. So fear creates many of the things we think of as beautiful in nature.

The extension of this I’m interested in exploring is the impact of the ultimate predator – death itself. Because in the end, what the animals are afraid of, or what their biological systems have told them to be afraid of predators in response to, is death. The end of their existence. Humans are the only animals that have a chance, perhaps, to remove death as the ultimate predator in some ways. We’ve already largely removed any other animal (apart from ourselves) as potential predator of humans, and we’ve dramatically extended lifespans – and will continue to do so. What happens if we’re able to infinitely extend our lives by uploading or merging with machines, etc…

I wonder what the green fields of life are, the things that we perceive as beautiful that are only there because of our own fear landscape in response to the predator of death. And I wonder how removing or delaying that ultimate predator will change our fear landscape, and what beautiful things in life will die out as a result…

How Space and Cyberspace are Merging to Become the Primary Battlefield of the 21st Century

(Originally appearing in Space Quarterly Magazine, Mar.15th, 2013)

(click here for PDF version)

CYBERSPACE AND OUTER space are merging to become the primary battlefield for global power in the 21st century. Both space and cyberspace systems are critical in enabling modern warfare—for strike precision, navigation, communication, information gathering—and it therefore makes sense to speak of a new, combined space-cyberspace military high-ground. This article will discuss the similarities, key differences, and potential consequences of this.

From the moment Sputnik was launched in 1957, and everyone’s head turned skyward, space has occupied the military high-ground, defining much of the next fifty years of global geopolitics. Space-based systems, for the first time, broke the link between a nation’s physical territory and its global ability to gather information, communicate, navigate, and project power.

In the 1980’s, the rise of advanced ICT—information and communications technology—enabled the creation of the internet and what we’ve come to call cyberspace, a loosely-defined term that encompasses the global patchwork collection of civilian, government and military computer systems and networks. For the same reasons that space came to occupy the military high-ground—information gathering, navigation, communication—cyberspace is now taking center stage.

From a terrestrial point of view, space-based systems operate in a distant realm, but from a cyber point of view, space systems are no different than terrestrial ones. In the last decade, there has been a seamless integration of the internet into space systems, and communications satellites are increasingly internet-based. One can make the case that that space systems are now a part of cyberspace, and thus that space doctrine in the future will be heavily dependent upon cyber doctrine.

The argument can also be made, however, that cyberspace, in part, exists and rests upon space-based systems. Cyberspace is still based in the physical world, in the data processing and communications systems that make it possible. In the military domain, cyberspace is heavily reliant on the physical infrastructure of space-based systems, and is therefore subject to some of the same threats.

Space and cyberspace have several similarities. Both are entirely technological domains that only exist due to advanced technology. They are new domains of human activity created by, and uniquely accessible through, sophisticated technology. Both are vigorous arenas for international competition, the outcomes of which will affect the global distribution of power. It is no coincidence that aspiring powers are building space programs at the same time as they are building advanced cyber programs.

Space and cyberspace are both seen as a global commons, domains that are shared between all nations. For most of human history, the ability of one group of humans to influence another was largely tied to control of physical territory. Space and cyberspace both break this constraint, and while there is a general common interest to work cooperatively in peace, there has inevitably been a militarization in both domains. As with any commons, over time they will become congested, and new rules will have to be implemented to deal with this.

Congestion and disruption are problems in both space and cyberspace. Ninety percent of email is spam, and a large proportion of traffic over any network is from malware, which clogs up and endangers cyberspace. Cyberattacks are now moving from email as the primary vector, to using customized web applications using tools such as the Blackhole automated attack toolkit. Cyberattack by nation-states is now joining the criminal use of spam, viruses, Trojans and worms as deliberate attempts to attack and disrupt cyberspace.

The congestion analogy in space is that entire orbital regions can become clogged with debris. Tens of thousands of objects, from satellites and booster rockets to smaller items as nuts and bolts, now clog the orbital space around Earth. The danger of this was dramatically illustrated when an Iridium satellite was destroyed when it was hit by a discarded Russian booster in February of 2009. The situation can be made dramatically worse by purposely creating debris fields, as the Chinese did when they conducted an anti-satellite test in 2007 using a kinetic kill. Over time, entire orbital regions could become unusable.

Another similarity is that while traditional the air-sea-land domains are covered under the UN—Law of the Sea, Arctic, Climate Change, Biodiversity—outer space and cyberspace still operate under ad-hoc agreements mostly outside of UN frameworks. They both expand the range of human activity far in advance of laws and rules to cover the new areas being used and explored. Because space can be viewed as a sub-domain of cyberspace, any new rules brought into effect to govern cyberspace, will also affect outer space.

If there are many similarities between space and cyberspace, there are some critical differences, the most important being that space-based systems require massive capital outlays, while in comparison, cyberspace requires very little. As James Oberg points out in his book Space Power Theory, the most obvious limitation on the exercise of space power is cost, with the astronomical cost of launch first among these.

Cyberspace, on the other hand, has a low threshold for entry, giving rise to the reality that governance of an extremely high-cost domain, space systems, will be dictated by rules derived from the comparatively low-cost domain of cyberspace. Space power resides on assumption of exceptionalism, that it is difficult to achieve, giving nations possessing it a privileged role in determining the balance of global power. In contrast, cyberspace, and the ability to conduct cyberwar, is accessible to any nation, or even private organizations or individuals, which have the intent.

Another important defining characteristic of cyberwarfare is the difficulty with attribution. Deterrence is only effective as a military strategy if you can know, with certainty, who it was that attacked you, but in a cyberattack, there is purposeful obfuscation that makes attribution very difficult.

To most people, the term cyberwar still has a metaphorical quality, like the War on Obesity, probably because there hasn’t yet been a cyberattack that directly resulted in a large loss of life. In many analysts’ opinions, this is just a matter of time, especially given internet-centric reliance of a modern nations’ critical infrastructure. Cyberwar has already started, and is beginning to gain in frequency and intensity.

The first cyberattack can be traced back to the alleged 1982 sabotage of the Soviet Urengoy–Surgut–Chelyabinsk natural gas pipeline by the CIA—as a part of a policy to counter Soviet theft of Canadian technology—that resulted in a three-kiloton explosion, comparable to a small nuclear device. Titan Rain is the name the US government gave a series of coordinated cyberattacks against it over a three-year period from 2003 to 2006, and in 2007 Estonia was subject to an intense cyberattack that swamped the information systems of its parliament, banks, ministries, newspapers and broadcasters.

In 2011, the McAfee security company revealed a series of cyberattacks, that it dubbed Night Dragon, against Western critical infrastructure companies, most specifically against the energy grid. This is significant because of the Aurora Test conducted by Idaho National Laboratory in conjunction with the Department of Energy in early 2007. In this test, a 21-line package of software code, delivered remotely, caused a large commercial electrical generator to self-destruct by rapidly recycling its circuit breakers, demonstrating that cyberattack can destroy physical infrastructure.

A new breed of sophisticated cyberweapon was revealed when the Stuxnet worm attacked Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facilities in June of 2010. It was not the first time that hackers targeted industrial systems, but it was the first discovered malware that subverted industrial systems. A recent game-changer was the August, 2012 Shamoon virus that knocked out 50,000 computers at Saudi Aramco, forcing that company to spend a week restoring global services. Shamoon was significant because it was specifically design to inflict damage, and was one of the first examples of a military cyberweapon being used against a civilian target. It is only a matter of time before a cyberweapon targeting space-based systems is unleashed, if it already hasn’t happened.

It is worth it to back up and explore the core issues surrounding internet security. The internet was originally designed as a redundant, self-healing network, the sort of thing that is purposely hard to centrally control. In the late 80’s it evolved into an information-sharing tool for universities and researchers, and in the 90’s it morphed into America’s shopping mall. Now it has become something that is hard, even impossible, to define—so we just call it cyberspace, and leave it at that.

First and foremost, there is the issue that while everyone runs the internet, nobody is really in charge of it. ICANN— The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—exerts some control, but the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), convened by UN in 2001, was created because nations around world have become increasingly uneasy that their critical infrastructures, and economies, are dependent on the internet, a medium that they had little control over and no governance oversight. The issue has still not been resolved. To the libertarian-minded creators of the internet, decentralized control is a feature, but to governments trying to secure nuclear power stations and space-based assets, it is a serious flaw.

A large part of the problem is that we are trying to use the same internet-based technology for social networking and digital scrap-booking, and use this same technology to control power stations and satellites. Not that long ago, critical systems—space systems, power grid, water systems, nuclear power plants, dams—had their own proprietary technologies that were used to control them, but many of these have been replaced these with internet-based technologies as a cost-savings measure. The consequence is that as a result, now nearly everything can be attacked via the internet.

Another problem is that a truly secure internet is not in the common interest of freedom, nor in the interest of software producers—a curious statement, but one that is true. As more of our lives move into the cyber realm, for everything from banking to dating, a truly secure internet would be the same as installing CCTV cameras on every street and inside every home. Privacy is one of the cornerstones of freedom and civil liberty, and a truly secure internet would bring about an end to privacy, and thus an end to freedom—at least in the sense that we understand it today.

When it comes to software producers, while they would like their products to be secure from hackers, they have a competing interest in wanting to able to access their software installed on customers’ machines. They want to be able to collect as much information as possible, to sell to third parties or use in their own marketing, and also to want to update new features into their software remotely. Often, this is to install patches to discovered security vulnerabilities, precisely because code is poorly written to begin with, because they realize they can update it later. This backdoor into software is a huge security flaw—one that companies purposely build into their products—and is one that has been regularly exploited by hackers.

There are many consequences to all this.

The first is that, because we use the same internet-based technology to support both the private lives of individuals and operate critical infrastructure, there will be a perpetual balancing act between these two competing interests when it comes to security. Another is that until the general public really sees cybersecurity as a threat, many of the fixable problems will not be addressed, such as setting international prohibitions on cyberespionage—making them comparable in severity to physical incursions into the physical sovereign space of a nation-state—or forcing software companies to get serious about secure coding practices and eliminating backdoors into their products.

Because of the extremely high value of space-based assets, and because they are already a seamless part of cyberspace, when a major cyber conflict does emerge, space systems will be primary targets for cyberattack. Even if space systems are not directly attacked, they may be affected. There can be no known blast radius to a cyberweapon when it is unleashed. Even the Stuxnet worm, which was highly targeted in several ways, still infected other industrial control systems around the world, causing untold collateral damage.

A more difficult threat to consider than simply denying access or service to a space system through cyberattack is the problem of integrity. In the cybersecurity world, the three things to protect are confidentiality (keeping something secret, and being able to verify this), availability, and integrity of data. Integrity is by far the hardest to protect and ensure. If a cyberattacker, for example, decided on a slow (over time) modification of data in a critical space junk database, they could influence moving satellites into harm’s way.

Over the last fifty years, a comprehensive strategy based around deterrence was developed in conjunction with the idea of space power theory. In the future, a comparable framework and space-cyberspace power theory will need to be developed. Many questions need to be answered, most especially regarding how the international community will establish rules for cyberspace, the definition of rules for cyberwar, proportionality of response, and how to deal with the problem of attribution. Exactly how the developing cyberwar doctrine will affect the way outer space is governed remains to be seen.

About the author

Matthew Mather is the best-selling author of the new cyberwar techno-thriller CyberStorm, and has been a leading member of the international cybersecurity community for many years as the Director of Security Strategies for SecureOps.

CyberStorm is released!

CyberStorm is now live and available for download!

http://www.amazon.com/CyberStorm-ebook/dp/B00BT4QRHG

If you want to follow all the release action, watch my Facebook page - www.facebook.com/author.matthew.mather

The book is already getting rave reviews!

“Wow! Entralling! CyberStorm is a must read…this book is such a page turner. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next!” – Adria Fraser, book reviewer for Amazing Stories

“A chilling prophecy…well written, and provides a great pacing, a must-read for…any fan of good fiction.” – Ian Peterson, book reviewer for Sci-Fi Readers

“Terrifyingly realistic…this book has kept me up late saying, ‘Just one more chapter…’” – Mercedes Meyer, Amazon Vine Voice top 500 Reviewer

“The plausible nightmare scenario in this story absolutely terrifies me.” – Jeremey Bray, book reviewer for Global Geek News

“A riveting account of the (potentially) devastating impact of cyber attacks on ordinary citizens.” – Merv Benson, book reviewer for Prairie Pundit

“…horrifyingly plausible detail, the total breakdown of our society’s frail physical and psychic infrastructure. Caution: may drive you to stock up on canned food and sacks of rice.” -  Dr. Redfern Jon Barrett, author

 

Join an inside, hour-by-hour view into the launch of a new indie book…

For any of you that might be interested, in the next week you can witness, hour-by-hour, the launch of a new indie book by a best-selling, self-pubbed author – and by that, I mean me! I am launching my newest novel, CyberStorm, next Friday, March.15th, and you’re all invited for a personal seat at the party!

I just created a new author Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Author.Matthew.Mather

In the next six days, leading up to the launch on Mar.15th, I have a series of promotional and PR activities planned with a small PR firm I hired to help me with the launch, as well as talking and working with over 100 beta readers who helped me to get the book out and over 50 media and bloggers who received advance copies of the book.

I will provide an unflinching look into the tools, tricks, things that work and don’t, and will provide an hour-by-hour sales update as I do the launch over the weekend.

Just “like” the Facebook author page, and you’ll get a front row seat…

CyberStorm update…and prologue!

Phew.

It has been a rough couple of weeks, so I haven’t posted anything in a while, but now gearing up for the launch of CyberStorm on March 15th. I thought I would share the prologue with everyone!

CyberStorm — Prologue

IN THE DIM light I could see five people huddled together in the bare metal box, sitting on soiled sheets and clothing. One of them threw me a blanket, and I took it, mumbling my thanks while I covered myself, shivering.

Can I trust them? I didn’t have much choice. Freezing cold and wet, I’d die out there on my own. This small box was as close to salvation as I had anymore. How can I fight back when I can barely survive? I had to get back into the mountains.

“How long have they been here?” I asked again, my teeth chattering.

Silence.

I was about to give up when one of the occupants sitting in the corner away from me, a kid with blond hair and a baseball cap, replied, “A few weeks.”

“What happened?”

“Cyberstorm, that’s what happened,” said a kid with a Mohawk sitting next to him. He had about a dozen piercings, and that was just what I could see. “Where have you been?”

“New York.”

A pause. “That was pretty intense up there, huh?”

I nodded—all the horror summed up in one tiny gesture.

“Where’s our military?” I asked. “How could they let us get invaded?”

“I’m glad they’re here,” replied Mohawk.

“You’re glad?” I yelled. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Blondie sat upright.

“Hey, man, calm the hell down. We don’t want any trouble, okay?”

Shaking my head, I pulled the blanket up around me.

These kids are the future? No wonder all this had happened. Just weeks ago, America had seemed indestructible, immutable, but now…

Somehow, we had failed.

All that remained important was to find my family, to keep them safe.

Sighing, I closed my eyes and turned away from the others, pressing my face against the cold metal, listening to the rumble that pulled me deeper into the night.

CyberStorm is going to beta…

I am happy to announce that I’ve finished writing CyberStorm, the sort-of prequel to Atopia. At 440 pages in the raw first draft it is a pretty good size, and I’m going to try and work it down to under 400 to keep the story tight. Next weekend I will be releasing a draft to my beta readers, with a goal of doing a full release on March.15th.

Atopia and Armageddon

Seeing as today is the day-to-end-all-days according to the Maya, I thought I’d throw down a little on my ideas regarding Armageddon and how it related to the development of Atopia.

As Jarrod Diamond illustrated so effectively in his book “Collapse”, complex societies in the past have almost all collapsed as a result of the natural environment surrounding them being used up.

This is easiest to document in South Pacific islands, such as Easter Island, where the society is isolated, but examples abound such as the dichotomy between poor-and-desperate Haiti (which destroyed its natural environment) and green-and-prosperous Dominican (which didn’t) which occupy the two halves of Hispaniola island.

Now, for the first time in human history, more humans live in urban rather than rural environments, the cities have become the islands that we live upon, and these islands (whether we acknowledge it or not) depend entirely upon the natural environment that surrounds them for food and water. We are fast using up the natural environments surrounding the urban islands where most of us now live, and there is nowhere else for us to go.

While many future predictions of disaster have proven unfounded (such as the ogres of Malthusian exponential population explosion) and others have been tempered (such as Toffler’s Future Shock, although information overload is still on the horizon), the World3 model created by the Club of Rome in the 1970’s and published in the book Limits to Growth (and updated in the 30 Year Update, World3:2004) has proven to be right on the mark. This complex model takes into account everything from population to pollution to technology innovation, and has been a near perfect predictor of levels of human activity for the past 40 years. This is the model I used in Atopia.

All of the paths upwards to “peak population” (currently predicted by almost any model to be about 9 to 10 billion people near mid-21st century) are fairly smooth and straightforward, but, ominously, it is extremely difficult to arrive at a “soft landing” stable population after this point.

Almost all “declining population” solutions predict precipitous population declines, which translates to large scale death due to disease, famine, war and the collapse of the environment. Coming up with a “smooth landing” would require coordinated global activity by governments, something we haven’t been able to demonstrate to date.

An addition to the previous idea is that the modern world, since the Renaissance, has been built on a mindset of “growth”; larger economies, more money, more people, more technology. The largest part of this is driven simply by increasing population. In the middle of this century, world populations will start dropping quickly; this has already started in highly developed countries such as Japan. GDPs will start to drop endlessly, turning most of economic theory on its head. The problems endemic to Japan, such as deflation, will begin to consume the world until we can figure out new models. This will take time.

A corollary to the first two points is that almost all of human conflict has been a story about resources, the depletion of resources and the fight over remaining resources. As natural resources deplete, humans will naturally fight for what’s left. Even if we are merging with machines, human nature will remain, and human nature is to fight for resources. By the middle of this century, we will be experiencing very difficult economic situations as GDPs start shrinking, temperatures will be increasing, and rising sea levels will start to force mass migrations from low lying areas just as we start to experience the start of severe natural resource shortages. Major conflicts over all of these will erupt.

The fight for water is the prime example of what is to come, and is central to the “Weather Wars” in  The Complete Atopia Chronicles. While much of the 20th century could be characterized as a fight over oil, the 21st century will be a fight over water; as Mark Twain once said, “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.”

Water equals Food & Industry & Money. As temperatures rise and water tables drop, water will become an increasingly scarce commodity in much of the world. To illustrate this, a September article in USA Today documented the fact in many municipalities water prices have more than doubled across most of the US in the past decade. As the majority of the US population ages, an ever increasing proportion of Americans are retiring, and they tend to move south to places that won’t have any water in 20 or 30 years. Rising populations in southern US cities (read: Atlanta, Phoenix) and fast diminishing water tables will result in extremely high water prices.

The real fight, however, will be because there are currently no international treaties governing “upstream” water. Six of the greatest rivers in the world flow out of the Himalayas, and collectively provide fresh water to over 3 billion people, half of the world’s population. Two of these rivers (Yangtze and Yellow) flow into China, while the other four (Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra and Mekong) flow into India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Indochina peninsula (Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia etc.).

However, all of these rivers start in the Tibetan plateau located within the control of China, and China has already begun creating a system of dams high in the Himalayas to divert water flow. There are over three-thousand cubic miles of freshwater stored in the glaciers in the Himalayas, and the Chinese have started a determined program to capture all of this. As the world’s largest river delta in Bangladesh dries-up, and everyone from Laos to Vietnam goes thirsty, and nuclear-armed Pakistan and India see the Indus and Ganges dry-up, it could lead to conflicts. See here for an example.

In Atopia Chronicles, I added another more speculative wrinkle to this: the ability to alter weather, in particular where and when it rains. The technology to start early the process of rain in clouds has already been demonstrated (by seeding clouds with microscopic particles that start the process of “nucleation” – essentially giving the raindrops a starting point) and also technology to alter ocean surface temperatures (by seeding ocean surfaces with iron dust to feed blooms of plankton that then soak up the sun’s energy and heat the water, potentially diverting weather systems). So what happens when countries start seeding rain clouds to empty their water on their country and not the next, or start shifting weather patterns to bring water to their country? This why I called them the “Weather Wars”.

OK, phew, so that’s my brain dump. Anybody got any thoughts?