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Some links and a few thoughts

Sorry, guys, but the brain isn’t working this morning. So instead of a regular post, I’m going to toss out some links and a few thoughts. Each of the links are important, in my opinion, because they represent some of the issues we’re facing as writers. I’m very interested in hearing what you think about the questions they bring up.

First up is an update from The Passive Voice about indie authors quitting their day jobs. The comments are great and show that there are different ways of defining success. But, what impressed me most of all about the comments was the amount of encouragement being given. It’s a refreshing change from some of the shrill condemnation coming from a certain sector of the industry.

This next link is one Sarah sent me last night. The title of the article, “Failure, Writing’s Constant Companion” didn’t do much to make me want to read it. Not after a day of struggling with my own work. But then I did read it and, frankly, the article is true on a number of points. The question really boils down to do we have the strength to continue fighting the small “failures” as well as the large or do we toss in the towel and do something else?

Although you may starve if your books don’t sell, or your agent might yell at you for producing something that three people will read, failure in writing is more of an intimately crushing day-to-day thing. O.K., minute-to-minute. Measured against your ideal of yourself.

Those little “failures” — the failure to meet the daily word count, the failure to finish a book by a self-imposed deadline, the failure to sell so many copies a day as determined by some number we’ve plucked out of the air — are what tend to undermine our confidence as writers. I know they do me. Add in the “real life” pressures and it can become difficult at times. It’s up to us to figure out how to cope and move forward — or to determine if the time has come to chuck the writing and go find a “real” job.

Then there is this post from The Passive Voice where a hybrid author “busts” myths about publishing. I’d seen it earlier but it was the math about the difference in what authors receive for traditionally published work as opposed to indie work. The one thing I’ll take exception to is that there is no provision in the math table (that I saw this morning) to take into account that the publisher pays authors based on net. So the figures shown on the chart will actually be lower. But the point made after the math is still valid:

So, the rule of thumb is that an indie author earns almost five times as much as a traditional author from each ebook sold.

Or, to flip things around, if a tradpub author sells four times as many ebooks as an indie author does, the indie author still makes more money.

Then, in the legal case that never ends, the judge has ordered mediation in an off-shoot of the price fixing case brought by the Department of Justice against Apple et al. In this particular situation, the original defendants in the suit (Apple and five of the then Big Six Publishers) have been told to negotiate with three e-tailers, now no longer in business, “in an attempt to resolve claims that a 2010 conspiracy to fix e-book prices forced the retailers out of business.” The three plaintiffs are “filed by Australian upstart DNAML in September of 2013, and later joined by Lavoho, LLC, a “successor” to the Diesel eBook Store and Abbey House Media, formerly BooksOnBoard,” PW notes more plaintiffs may join the suit before everything is said and done.

What this means is that it is going to be a long time before we quit feeling the fall out from the collusion that happened between Apple and the publishers. The rather tense — yes, I’m being nice here — contract negotiations between Amazon and Hatchette are just the first salvo. What I find interesting is that the same authors who are so up in arms about how evil Amazon is being toward innocent little Hatchette are silent on how the machinations of their publisher and Apple drove other e-tailers out of business. Of course, they are probably trying to find a way to blame it all on Amazon. After all, Amazon is the big evil.

Hmmm, I wonder if Amazon wants t join the Evil League of Evil.

Then there is this four question interview with Hugh Howey. It isn’t difficult to see the side of the Amazon v Hatchette issue the interviewer falls on, especially when she states that she feels Mike Shatzkin “pointed out, rightly I believe” that it is in indie authors’ best interests for traditionally published e-books to remain at a higher price. After all, those poor indies are fighting for a market share and don’t have all the resources behind them that a traditionally published author does.

Howey’s response is both measured and right on the mark, in my opinion:

I blogged about this on my site. If you want to understand this mindset, look at the indie author community, where many authors share ideas and encouragement, participate in box sets, reveal anything that works for them in the hopes it might work for others, and where you’re more likely to see a writer tout someone else’s book rather than their own.

I have spoken with Hachette authors who are frustrated with the price of their e-books. They feel powerless. They can’t speak up for fear of reprisal. When people like Mike act stunned that anyone would fight for these authors who can’t fight for themselves, it tells me a lot about how they see the world. It’s not how I see it. I don’t ever want to see the world like that, even if it’s accurate. Because seeing the world like this is the first step in making it so.

There’s a lot more there. Go take a look.

Finally, I saw this announcement on Publishers Weekly. Basically, Writer’s Digest and BookBaby have teamed up to form a self-publishing imprint. Now, you know me. I’m the suspicious sort. So I went looking to see what I could find on Blue Ash Publishing. Part of it was out of curiosity. Could it have something that might be of assistance to me? But part of it was the cynic coming out — could it really be a self-publishing imprint when they are doing the publishing? That seemed at odds with what self-publishing is.

Well, my suspicions turned out to at least have some basis. For one, Blue Ash is basically a repackager that also does e-book conversion and basic cover design. Oh, you get a couple of “guaranteed” reviews and other “perks”, but you also pay a nice bit of change for it. Their “packages” range in price from $417 to $3,137. Oh, but they will give you, the author, the highest payment out there. They say so right here. Of course, they go on to say that you get 100% of “net” sales from online retailers. It looks like that means they won’t take a cut like other repackagers do, but remember. You’ve already paid out at least $417 for a title you may only be charging a couple of bucks for. I’ll let you figure out the math to determine how many copies you’d have to sell just to break even.

There is one bit on the commission page that worries more than others. Blue Ash promises to pay weekly once you reach a pre-set earnings threshold. What they don’t say is if that means they will pay only on sales through their own storefront on a weekly basis or on projected sales from the other outlets. Since I’m not aware of any online outlet that pays repackagers on weekly basis, this could mean Blue Ash pays on spec. While that’s nice, it could also mean you would be dunned the next week — or month — when someone returns your book. That could quickly become bookkeeping hell. Sorry, but I’ll pass.

Anyway, that’s it for this morning. I promise a real post next week. In the meantime, I am curious to see what you guys think about the links above and what they might mean for indies as a whole.

coverforvfaNow for a bit of self-promotion. Vengeance from Ashes is on countdown on Amazon this week. If you are quick, you can sill grab it for 99 cents. Thanks to everyone who has already grabbed a copy. I really do appreciate it.

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

7 Comments
  1. I suddenly realized this morning that I owe my current success to traditional publishing. I was horribly spoiled by having the first short story I wrote snapped up by the first publisher to which I submitted it. Instant success! How many people write their first story and have a $700 check to show their spouse a couple months later?

    Then I submitted a full length book and expected the same result. Oops.
    Now if the publisher had immediately snatched up that book I’d probably be firmly in the ranks of the trad publisher serfs. Sarah Hoyt has made clear to me what a pain it is getting free and recovering your rights once your affairs are entwined with theirs.

    Instead I self published and it was SLOW. No advances and sales dribbled in. It wasn’t until I got to nine books that both my quality improved and sales of one book fed on others so sales increased. Now I make as much or more in a month as any of the trad publisher would pay me as a single advance.

    Foresight and smarts? No, I just lucked into writing at just the right time and had the minimum needed courage to put my work out there without feeling I had to be validated by a ‘name’ publisher. I lack the prestige of a major company logo on the spline but the money spends just as well.

    August 19, 2014
  2. I have to admit I’m envious of writers starting out now rather than 20 years ago. I recently met a bunch of younger writers that I knew from kindleboards, and what struck me was what a small step it had been for them to publish and find people who enjoyed their work, from fanfiction to KDP. And this was even at the beginning, when they were struggling to find their voice and their craft, not to mention how to finish what they wrote. They certainly felt the drip-drip-drip of failure, but the real encouragement of having fans from the beginning kept them upbeat and enthusiastic.

    August 19, 2014
    • Heh, kindleboards even sounds like a training tool for folks to write for Amazon.

      August 19, 2014
      • It does, doesn’t it 🙂 But some of the kidlets at the table earned enough as writers to give up their day jobs. A very sharp group of capitalists.

        August 19, 2014
  3. One thing that the myths article left out was that if you have certain political views and that is discovered, you are essentially blacklisted unless yo already have sales.

    August 19, 2014
  4. Angus Trim #

    Thank you for the post. For me it was timely.

    August 19, 2014
  5. FWIW — over here, I still got billed $2.97. Apparently countdown is one of those things that doesn’t work if you happen to live outside the US. Thanks for the offer, though. Incidentally, do you get paid as if I bought it on countdown or the full price? Watch your balance sheet to find out!

    August 20, 2014

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