The Amazon Game

The logic:  I suppose, no matter what game we choose to play, common sense advises that we play by the rules. These days, the bookselling business is largely ruled by Amazon. Amazon is in business to make money. If authors make money for Amazon, Amazon likes them and promotes them.

The purpose: To make a living wage.

Here’s my calculation: Over the course of three years, I spent around fifteen hours a week, forty weeks a year, devoted in one way or another to The Good Know Nothing, which will be released on August 5. At a wage of ten dollars per hour, which should be a bare minimum for skilled labor, I should earn $18,000.

Though I received an advance, the sum will be deducted from my royalties, which varies depending upon the edition (hardback, paperback, ebook) and works out overall to about $1.50 a book. From past experience, without a boost from some marketing effort, I may earn half minimum wage, for a gripping novel in a much-praised series. Here’s the opinion of a wise critic: “…a complex novel where every nuance has meaning … evocative of everything in film noir … some of the finest historical writing in the private eye field.” Gary Warren Niebuhr in They Died In Vain. Click here for other opinions.

The strategy: To ingratiate myself with Amazon.

 Los Angeles, 1936


The Good Know Nothing is the seventh Tom Hickey California crime novel. The series catalogs the quests and challenges, through most of the twentieth century, of a singular fellow, a bandleader, policeman, soldier, private detective, and mentor to his sons Clifford and Alvaro.

The novel is currently on sale for pre-order, in hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook. Preorders, I understand, are considered first day sales. If lots of you pre-order, the book might become an Amazon best seller of the day, at least in a category.

Here’s how categories work: Last year, following the successful release of Burning Man by Alan Russell, my friend and sometime partner in writing and other hijinks, Amazon directed customers to other books of Alan’s, among which was No Cats, No Chocolate, by the both of us. It’s a tragicomic account of one of our book peddling road trips. Some of it involves Oprah Winfrey. As a result of Amazon’s guidance, for weeks it bounced between one and ten on the Amazon bestseller list in the Oprah and Midwest Travel categories.

Let’s say The Good Know Nothing becomes a bestseller of the day in the mystery, or private eye, or suspense, or historical mystery category. Now that Amazon has made decent money off it, they’ll want more money, so the cover or title will show up on customers “You might also be interested in…” list, and/or appear like magic on the screens of a million Kindles.

Then, after folks purchase The Good Know Nothing, they’ll get sent to other books in the series.

Who knows, I might even earn enough to fill some of the deficit for previous books, which would please my twelve-year-old Zoë immensely, as I could buy her the MacBook Air she craves (and deserves for being a computer whiz). Maybe I could even open a college account for her, or buy a new sofa so visitors won’t be tempted to sit on the floor.

So I should count on you to help with this project, right?

A thousand thanks.

Here’s a link.

Be happy,



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