New, or at least renewed, beginnings

In a number of ways, this is a very difficult post to write. While I’ve had no problems over the last several years opening up about my feelings about the state of the publishing industry and where I think we’re going, I haven’t written much about what goes on in my life. Part of that is because I’m a very private person. Part is because being in law enforcement earlier in my life, I learned not to share personal details on a public forum. Today I’m going to break that rule, sort of, as well as do my usual schtick regarding publishing.

As most of you know, I’ve written before about hitting the wall with burn-out. Now, I can hear those nay-sayers would will tell you there is no such thing as burn-out. That when we think we have it, we should just push through. They are right and wrong. A lot of times when someone says he’s got a case of burn-out, he doesn’t. Yeah, he’s tired. Yeah, he’s having a hard time focusing on whatever his current work in progress is. But that might not be burn out. It might be that he’s writing something he shouldn’t be, whether it’s because there is a fundamental flaw with the book or the book is scaring him because his craft is taking one of those unexpected leaps forward. It might be because he’s at that part of the book where it is just hard to keep going. For a lot of writers, that’s the middle of the book. That sort of “burn-out” is what you can push through.

But real burn-out is something you can’t push through. Not really. Oh, you might fool yourself for awhile and manage another few days or weeks before you not only hit the wall but the wall falls on you. This is the mind-numbing, body-breaking burn-out that makes it hard to do anything in your chosen profession. It is often accompanied by either family stress, work stress from your outside job or illness or all of the above. When that happens, it takes time to get over it, time you may not realize you have to take.

This is all a roundabout way of explaining what happened to me. I’ve been on a leave of absence from Naked Reader Press for the last three months due to some potentially very serious medical issues that needed to be dealt with as well as some personal, but not nearly as serious, personal issues that I had to get a handle on. During that time, writing stopped. Work stopped. Life, in a lot of ways, stopped.

But, out of it came some good on several different levels. The first is that the medical issues, while not completely over, have been dealt with and did not — knock on wood — turn out to be as serious as they could have. The family issues are well in hand and weren’t serious at all. And NRP, well, we’re behind as any small business is when one of the few full-time employees is off for an extended period of time. But that also meant we, the owners and I, spent time discussing how to make NRP better and how to handle such situations should they arise in the future.

So, on the NRP front, we are bringing onboard two new editors. I’m thrilled to welcome Taylor M. Lunsford and Charles Martin to the company. Taylor will be helping set up our new romance and mystery lines and Charles will be heading up the non-fiction line. They will also be helping us get caught up on slush. So, for those of you who have been waiting for an answer, it will be coming shortly. What makes both Taylor and Charlie excellent fits for NRP is the fact they understand the fluid nature of publishing right now and they aren’t afraid to try something new, whether it is tech or figuring out what the next literary trend might be. You’ll learn more about them and hear from them about what they are looking for over at the Naked Reader site starting next week.

As for me, I’ll be continuing with NRP but my workload will be more manageable with the additions of both Taylor and Charlie as well as our own Sarah who is now our art director. It’s amazing how much that helps and I can’t thank each of these wonderful folks for believing in NRP as much as I do.

There’s another indication for me that the burnout is finally over. I’ve been writing again. Not just a few hundred words here and there but writing, real writing. In the last few weeks, I’ve managed a little over 55,000 words. They might not be my finest work, but it’s still first draft. They key here is not only that I’m writing, but that I want to write. It’s been a long time since I’ve really wanted to.

And, what I’m learning, is that I’m not the only writer/editor/etc who has been feeling this way. The turmoil in publishing has taken a toll on most of us. The push to find alternatives to traditional publishing, trying to decide if we are going to utilize these alternatives exclusively or remain with traditional publishing only or try a mix of both has been difficult for most of us. And it has taken a toll. When you add in the normal stresses and strains of life and it is little wonder there aren’t more walking dead among writers.

Any way, now that I know my health is only compromised and will, in all likelihood, return to normal and the other stress is working out, I am ready to hit the world running — or at least limping along. The ride may be bumpy at times, but that’s what makes it exciting.

Now, as for the publishing world…If you haven’t seen it already, HarperCollins has renegotiated its contract with Amazon and is no longer using the agency model to price their e-books. Yes, there are also the boo-birds out there condemning Amazon for it and forecasting doom and gloom for publishing because, gasp, best sellers may be priced below $10. Of course, these are the same naysayers who want us to believe it costs as much to produce an e-book as it does a print book and, by the way, they also tell us it costs that much even though there has been a print book produced. According to them, there is additional editing, copy editing, proofreading, etc., that has to go into the creation of the digital version of a book produced for print. When someone tells you that, call them on it because that is WRONG. You don’t have to edit, etc., again. Yes, you need to format but that is a matter of running the copy through a conversion program and then checking to see it converted properly.

These are also those who would have you believe that the DoJ’s suit is against agency pricing and who so conveniently forget that it is against price fixing. In other words, DoJ says that it isn’t agency pricing that is inherently wrong but how it came about that was. The alleged conspiracy between the five publishers and Apple is the issue. The fact that three of those publishers have agreed to terms with the DoJ, and that has been approved by the court, is not Amazon’s fault. Amazon isn’t some grand puppet master standing behind the scenes manipulating everything. What Amazon is is an innovator. Yes, it is the 800 pound gorilla but, for the moment at least, it is a gorilla that is in my corner and I will take advantage of what it offers, not only for myself but for the authors who come to NRP. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep a close eye on what the gorilla is doing. I’m not that foolish. But I won’t condemn myself to much fewer sales by not using Amazon simply because Amazon might do something I don’t like at some point in the future.

So, how do you tell if you are buying a book that is a product of the agency pricing mode or not? That’s really easy on Amazon. Go to the product page and under the price you will see one of the following: either a listing of the just the price points for the various versions of the book or the publisher’s name and “This price was set by the publisher” or “sold by: Publisher’s name”. If you see the first alternative, you know you are buying a book that was published by an author or publisher who never took part in agency pricing. The second alternative is our old friend agency pricing. These are the publishers who have yet to enter into new agreements with Amazon. The third alternative is what you will see post agency pricing.

Is the agency model gone? I doubt it. For one thing, the only publishers being forced to abandon it right now are the three who came to agreements with the Department of Justice. What happens with the other two, and with Apple, remains to be seen. For those other publishers who negotiated with Amazon and are currently using the agency model, the question remains open as to if, when their contracts come up for renewal, the agency model will be continued. My opinion is that we will see a hybrid of some sort.

In the meantime, I will continue checking not only prices but publishers. There are very few e-books I’d pay more than $10 for, especially when I know how little authors get for those traditionally published e-books. There is no way in heck I’ll by $19.99 for an e-b0ok and, yes, if you look at the best sellers this morning you will find one at that price. My question is why? Why are you paying that much? Especially when the publisher is loading the book with DRM and limiting how many devices I can have it on and when that publisher doesn’t believe that $19.99 allows me to OWN that e-book.

My money can and will do my talking for me. And now I need to go wade through some more email and start smoothing my way back into the swing of things at NRP.

19 thoughts on “New, or at least renewed, beginnings

  1. Over the past six weeks, multiple times I have almost — ALMOST — written to withdraw my two submissions to Naked Reader. And I also almost despaired of a nonfiction project Charlie and I had been discussing. I like all you folks as well as I can like strangers I know only through your blog posts, and I wanted to work with you if you were interested; but it just seemed like nothing was happening anywhere with Naked Reader.

    Today I’m glad I didn’t give up yet. Thank you.

    1. Martin
      Sorry — Amanda and I are the only “full time” (as full time as our other commitments allow) workers at NRP. The others’ involvement up to now ranges from a week a month to a few days a year or consultation only in times of need. (We are a micro press. When we grow enough to have full time workers, we will.) Given what our lives have been this year, things fall. On the good side (Good, right?) at least, even with limited resources and cranky health (and workers) we’re faster than the big guys. I wish I were joking. Yes, I’ve had a book accepted in 20 minutes (once) but I’ve also had one accepted in EIGHT YEARS. This from presses with staff, readers, etc. all paid to do that one thing all day.
      So… at least we’re better than that. For one, we haven’t been in business for eight years.

      1. Oh, I understand. I follow your blogs, so I know issues have come up — public issues, so I assume there are private as well.

        I just have been making plans and backup plans and backup backup plans. I sold a story to Analog last month! (And given that it was one of Stan Schmidt’s final purchases there, I think I’ll use a few more exclamation points!!!!! I’m still a bit stunned by the news!)

        So part of my branding and marketing plan is that whenever that hits the stands, I want to have more titles out in case some reader looks for my name. Assuming that my submissions meet your needs, of course, Naked Reader would be a nice market to be in for more visibility.

        1. Good heavens man, what is wrong with you? You sold a story to ANALOG and you didn’t celebrate in the comments here and on my blog? What is wrong with you? CONGRATULATIONS and welcome to the Analog mafia.

          1. I’m sorry. I plead exhaustion. I got official word at WorldCon, which was also my FIRST WorldCon, so it took a lot out of me. And since then, my cozy little 6,000 word spaceship mystery has ballooned to over 18K. I really think it’s done now, but it has surprised me before…

            But thank you! I’m in orbit over this! I’m still so new to the writing game, I don’t know a fraction of the inside knowledge. For instance, I never heard if the Analog Mafia until WorldCon, and I can’t find anything on it online. Does one sale, not yet printed, make me a member? I can’t tell.

    2. Martin,
      Thanks for keeping the faith, so to speak. I will echo what Sarah said about the time it takes for something to work its way through from the slush pile on up. Even with help — and we do have help with slush — it still takes time and, when one of us stumbles, it slows the process. Unfortunately, the principals for NRP all stumbled this summer. But most of us are back and digging in. It will take a couple of weeks for everything to shake out, but responses to those of you who have submitted things to us will be going out starting Monday and we should be caught up within a couple of weeks.

      And big conga-rats on the acceptance!

  2. I also am so glad I didn’t withdraw my submissions. I expect a spate of rejection notes momentarily πŸ™‚

    Amanda, I’m so glad to hear that life is easing up on you, and you are writing. Virtual hugs… make sure you get some rest in, too.

  3. Whee! I look forward to the next open submission window. And I’m glad things have settled down/ improved/ been sorted out. Several bloggers I follow have had major medical situations this past six months or so, as have people I know in real-space. Falling brick walls seem mild in comparison.

    ‘Twill be interesting over the next 12 months to see what washes up on the shores of the publishing world. All this reminds me a bit of ambergris – critical for making the best perfumes, but do NOT ask for a detailed description of where it comes from or how it is made. Something very good will come out of the DoJ investigation and the airing of bad contracts, lists of dumped authors and other things, but how we get there . . . pheweeee!

    1. And I look forward to seeing what you have for us.

      It does seem like there have been a number of us falling like logs of late. I really do think a lot of it is because of the state of the industry and the stress it has caused. Add in real life issues and, well, it does seem at times like finding a mountain where you can do nothing but contemplate your belly button would be nice.

      That said, I am looking forward to seeing how the industry shakes out and what the next step is going to be. It’s going to be interesting, at times it will be scary, but one thing is certain — it won’t be boring.

  4. Welcome back, Boss.

    I hadn’t managed to write anything excpet the two stories Sarah invited me to write in the 16 months since the accident, up until this past month. It’s still very fitful and hit-or-miss, and I still delete far more than I keep the next evening … but it’s starting.

    Now … where are my rejection letters? Snap to! πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Steve. Now, quit deleting. I’m going to tell you what Sarah tells me — finish it. You can go back and edit after it is done. But it is very easy, at least for me, to get caught in the eternal editing loop.

      Rejection letters? What are these rejection letters you speak of?

  5. Burnout is the pits. And I’m glad the other stuff isn’t major, either. _Now_ you need to pace yourself, and not push so hard you fall right back into the same state.

    1. Pace myself? You mean I have to run faster?

      Seriously, I know what you mean and I am usually pretty good at it. It’s just when all aspects of life seem to collide and explode at the same time that I have trouble.

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