If it’s Tuesday . . .

I’ve been trying to come up with something for today’s blog for, well, the last couple of days. Every time I’ve sat down to write the post, I’ve wound up distracted. Part of it is I’m in the middle of the final edits for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). I’m really excited about the book and how the story arc is developing. I’m also scared because I see the end of the arc in the next book and I’m not sure I’m ready to let Ashlyn and company sail off into the night skies. But that’s just me. Letting a character go is, in a lot of ways, like seeing your kid off to college, knowing that life will never be the same again for either of you.

Of course, that hasn’t been the only distraction. Pat Patterson, who is one of my favorite reviewers because he not only gives honest reviews but fun ones as well, reviewed Slay Bells Ring and said the one thing any author loves to see. He recommended the book. Whee! But then he said something else, something that had me considering running away from my muse. He said he wanted another book with the same characters. Gulp! He wants a series. Worse, he’s not the first one to say so. Double gulp. The writer started whining, I already have three active series! Then I realized I had no choice. Whether there will be another book and a new series is up to Myrtle the Muse and she is an evil muse. (And she is laughing hysterically in the back of my mind right now. I think I should be scared.)

Adding to the distractions have been trying to get paper versions of several of my books prepped to come out. Then there’s been real life, including allergies that want to make breathing and seeing the computer screen problematic at best. There have been other distractions as well but, let’s face it, that’s life and I’m not complaining. I’d rather have the distractions than the alternative.

Fortunately, others haven’t had the problems finding things to blog about that I have.

The first post I highly recommend everyone here read comes from Kris Rusch. I’ll admit to considering simply reblogging the entire post. It is that good. It also is a perfect foil for a certain group of folks who have attacked us here at MGC because they view us as attacking authors who decide to go the traditional route. Those critics have obviously never really read what we’ve said here, nor have they taken time to understand our posts. Are we critical of much of traditional publishing? You bet. The Big 5 have been operating an antiquated business plan that has failed to take into account changing technologies and changing reading demands from their customers. Worse, they have, as Kris points out in this post, some horrible contract provisions when looked at with the best interest of the author in mind.

But, as Kris points out, traditional publishers aren’t the only problem facing authors. Agents can be a problem as well. Not all agents, just like not all publishers.

Here is a sample of what Kris has to say:

Suffice to say some of the things I’ve run into are simply and completely unbelievable to me, in 2016.

At the same time, I’m being approached by a number of traditionally published writers who believe they will never get another book deal, and their careers are ruined forever. Ruined! They’re lowering themselves to consider self-publishing, and are wondering if I can tell them how to do it, step by step. They get peeved when I show them entire books on the subject, not just mine and Dean’s, but several other books.

And then there are the writers who are giving up their writing careers entirely, because they can’t sell another book traditionally, and they have been told by the agent who helped them self-publish their books that the books aren’t selling because of piracy.

There are teeth marks in my lips, deep ones. I try to be diplomatic. Honest I do. But I got so frustrated with one writer recently that I had to walk away from my computer. The writer’s career was hurt by theft, but the theft wasn’t the pirating site she had found: it was her agent.

But I’m not going to say that in e-mail, although I did point her to several blogs I wrote about agents and agent agreements and how easy it is for a middleman to embezzle and/or not send royalties she doesn’t know she’s entitled to, particularly when she signed documents letting the agent get all the paperwork.

She can’t even double-check her employee, to make sure that he’s handling the money properly. That’s Money Management 101. And she was flunking.

I walked away from that e-mail exchange and started a blog post with the title, “You Can Lead A Writer To Knowledge…” The rest of that saying is this:

You can lead a writer to knowledge but you can’t make her think.

Then there is this post from The Shatzkin Files. I’ll admit that I don’t always agree with Shatzkin. The same can be said about this post.

The good news for the publishers is that print sales erosion — at least for the moment — seems to have been stopped. (Print sales started to grow even before “new Agency”; when higher prices hit the ebook market, print was immediately assisted.) 

While he is, to the best of my knowledge, correct in saying that print sales have started increasing once again for traditional publishers, he doesn’t touch upon the possibility that this is because of their over-pricing of e-books until later in the article. He discusses at length the possibility of publishers moving to the wholesale model for e-books and how different sides of the argument respond to that possibility. What bothers me is that, the more I read, the more it seemed to be an article about how to fight Amazon. Perhaps that isn’t what Shatzkin meant but that is how I read it and I once again wondered why publishing insiders and those who champion traditional publishing continue to want to attack the main outlet for their work. Isn’t that kind of like cutting off your nose to spite your face?

Shrug.

I think The Passive Guy in his commentary on the post hits the nail squarely on the head.

On the other hand, PG wonders if anyone in Big Publishing understands a single thing about disruptive technological innovations and their impact on legacy products and legacy producers.

Trying to manipulate pricing and customers to preserve printed book sales is a fool’s errand. The future of books is digital just like the future of letters became digital when email was introduced and the future of news became digital when the web and streaming video entered the scene.

Stories are special. Printed books are not. Big Publishing is trying to preserve its landline business in a cellular world. The future of paper is in napkins and toilet tissue, not as a medium for communicating ideas.

What do you think?

 

48 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

48 responses to “If it’s Tuesday . . .

  1. emily61

    Interesting post. Stupid reader question, (yes, I’m channeling David Letterman) Is Ellie Ferguson a pseudonym of yours Amanda?

    • That’s not a stupid reader question, Emily. Yes, Ellie is one of two pen names I use. Sam Schall is the other. I started using Ellie because her books were lighter and “fluffier” than the ones I was writing under my own name. I use Ellie for the romantic suspense novels as well as the PNRs. Sam is my “face” for my science fiction novels.

      Initially, Ellie was a closed pen name because I was operating under the old rules of publishing — that you didn’t mix genres if you wanted to succeed. I learned quickly that isn’t true any more. So, even though the pen name is listed on the covers, the books are listed under both the pen name and my name on Amazon.

  2. Being critical of many aspects of traditional publishing (the agent requirement, horrible contracts with more poison pills in them than you’d find in a bottle of arsenic, lack of appreciation for long-tail backlist sales) doesn’t mean that the critic is beating up on authors who prefer that system, or who are contract bound into that system. I think some folks forget that. I shake my head over people who get a bad contract, know its bad, and sign anyway (BTDT because a third party had basically paid for the book already). I wince at people who are too nervous/overcommitted/terrified to demand rights back or to push for a real accounting of their income. But that’s very different from passing the popcorn and laughing as Randy-Penguin et al shoot themselves in the feet (or flipper) again. And again. And again.

    • Oooh, Randy-Penguin. I am so going to steal that. VBEG.

    • My last non baen trad contract sucked. I signed because it was just before IFound indie. Just got rights back.

      • Laura M

        If you are free to discuss it, getting the rights back might make an interesting post here some day. It’s not a personal issue for me–just being nosy.

        • I’m not Sarah from part of what I’ve heard from other authors — Not Sarah — part of the problem comes from the fact that some contracts have such a nebulous description of what “in print” means for digital that it is next to impossible to determine when an e-book is out of print. Then there are those publishers who just ignore your requests to get your rights back until you get an attorney involved. That is anecdotal, however, and not anything I know first hand.

  3. The Other Sean

    I was staring at the bookshelves covering so many of the walls in my basement yesterday – it is much more convenient it is to store and transport electronic books. But some books are currently better as paper – photo-filled books on national parks, reprints of the old Jane’s guides, diagram-and-photo-laden book on rockets, field guides, etc. all work better on paper… at least for now. Display size and dynamic range of ebook readers (and monitors, to a lesser extent), etc.all need to improve before the ebook can grow beyond text and simple graphics.

    I think there will always be demand for some printed books, but that much of it will shift electronic for general reading. I think print will shift to more of a niche.

    • I agree that some books are better in paper than electrons. I still prefer my cookbooks to be print versions and most of my research books are also paper. My son the engineer prefers his technical books to be print.

  4. Holly

    Oh, I’m glad you’re getting paper books out. Let us know when we can buy them, please?

    I think there will always be printed books and a demand therefore. I haven’t figured any way to lock down electronic devices so a clever kid can’t get loose on the wider web. (The average age for first viewing porn is eleven. Average! Parents have a problem, and they’re getting more aware of it.) My solution is to check the kid’s electronics.

    Then there are people that have trouble with the refresh rates available, who can see the screen flicker at all of them. Ebooks aren’t going to catch on with that crowd, either. (This is why I can’t give many of my favorite science fiction authors’ books to my dad. Until you all get paper out.)

    Then there are those who don’t trust anything with such a short life span as electronics. People who look at resource supplies and demands and/or the civic situation and suspect that there will be a nasty series of power shortages coming along in some years-to-decades and want their books to be readable during the anticipated rolling blackouts.

    I like to gift books, and write in them first. Old family tradition, I guess, doesn’t work with ebooks. Everything from light novels to how-to manuals. Likewise, getting books autographed.

    Printed books are special. They work during extended power outages. You open one and find a note to your mother from your great-grandmother. Ebooks are fine for what they are, something more quickly obtained than a library book for entertainment.

    • Uncle Lar

      I own two Kindles, an older manual model and a new PaperWhite bought for the backlit screen. Best I can tell there is no screen flicker on either of them.
      The manual will hold a charge with normal use for at least a couple of weeks, the PaperWhite even with the backlit screen for a week or more. Both take the same charger as my cell phone, can be recharged off the truck lighter plug, or in a real pinch take a charge off my hand crank weather radio.
      I purposely do not direct load either Kindle, preferring to side load each file from a computer, keeping my to be read list manageable at a few dozen books on the device itself. The vast majority of my library lives in multiple copies on both desktop and laptop computers as well as backup drives. Those devices can also be powered by alternative energy sources if necessary.
      And I have a dead tree library with over 3,000 volumes none of which I’ve cracked in a couple of years now. Nothing against paper, e-books are just easier.

      • emily61

        Where did you get your hand crank weather radio? Does it charge cell phones as well as kindles–ebook readers and computer tablets?

        It sounds like something I need to have. Possibly 2 or 3 not just 1.

        • You can get them at camping stores in the US I imagine. Here, they sell them at JayCar, or places like Bunnings.

        • Emily, check Amazon as well. They have a number of hand crank radios, starting around $20 or so.

        • Uncle Lar

          Storm Alert by Rally is what’s printed on mine.
          I leave it plugged into the wall so if the power goes out the internal battery is fully charged. It has presets for local and emergency stations. With the hand crank I can keep it running indefinitely and it came with a selection of all the common power interface plugs for most electronic devices.
          And it has an LED flashlight built in as well.
          I think I paid about $40 for it three or four years ago.
          I also have a 1200 watt syncronous inverter that will allow me to run the fridge or freezer for a few minutes every several hours that’s powered off my truck battery. And a propane camp stove and enough Mountain Home freeze dried food for a couple weeks.
          A few years back when a wall of tornadoes took out our entire grid we were without power for eight days. We all managed, but became much more proactive on such issues after that experience.

      • Uncle Lar, you do it like I do. I sideload Mom’s Kindle and usually sideload my tablet. I keep multiple versions of my digital library in different formats and in different locations. Backups to my backups, in other words. I still enjoy reading a “real” book from time to time but I really do like having my entire library with me when I travel and I love the instant access if I just have to have a book right now.

        As for the alternative sources, you bet. I have a crank radio I can use to charge the Kindle or the tablet or the cellphone. (Everyone in Tornado Alley should have such a radio.) I am about to order one of the portable solar chargers as well. As I said about my e-books, this is another way to have a backup to my backup.

    • emily61

      Paper is better to read in bright sunlight. When there is no internet access (I keep my eBooks in the cloud.) It’s also good for when for religious reasons you aren’t using electronics. Losing an $8-$25 book can be taken with more aplomb than losing an expensive electronic item with hundreds of dollars worth of books on it. It’s almost as bad as losing a credit card.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        One nit.

        I can “afford” to loss my tablet because I don’t worry about replacing the ebooks on my tablet.

        I have back-ups of all my ebooks on my main computer (stand-alone hard-drive) and on memory sticks.

      • Emily, an e-ink reader like the Kindle is great in sunlight. It is also what Mom’s retinologist prefers if she is reading in sunlight or bright light of any sort. When I asked about it, he explained that the reflection from the page can cause problems. We do keep the wireless turned off most of the time simply to extend the already great battery power.

    • Holly, will do re: the print versions. I do like giving books as well. Some of my friends and family get e-books and others get print books, depending on what they prefer. As noted upthread, there are still certain books I prefer to have in print.

      As for the refresh rate, my mom had that issue and held out against e-books for a long time because of that. Then Sarah gave her an e-ink Kindle. That started her reading e-books but what sold her on them was when her retinologist recommended she use the Kindle more than print books. No refresh rate for one thing. For another, there isn’t the reflection off the page like there is with a print book which can be problematical. Add in the long battery life and she was sold. Now I need to get her one of the newer Kindles with the light.

  5. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    On Series, as a reader I enjoy seeing what my favorite characters are up to and/or enjoy seeing their world again (even if the characters aren’t part of the story).

    However, there have been too many series where the author’s heart/soul aren’t really into revisiting those characters and/or their world. The author is “just” writing the new stories because they sell.

    So as annoying as your Muse is, I’d prefer that you wait until she (or the characters) start “bugging” you to write more stories in “that” world.

    Remember, plenty of people have said that Sherlock Holmes never really recovered from that fall. 😉

    • No worries, Paul. I wouldn’t start another series unless Myrtle the Muse demanded it. To be honest, I don’t write a book unless it is “talking” to me. Some talk louder than others and demand to be written NOW. Others are more polite and wait their turn in the schedule.

      I have read too many books where it is obvious the author has just gone through the motions and is keeping the series alive for the money and not for the love the characters or the plot any longer. I hope I never do that.

    • However, there have been too many series where the author’s heart/soul aren’t really into revisiting those characters and/or their world.

      There is the reason that Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes. (And the death did not ‘take’.) Niven’s “Down In Flames” isn’t canon, but it comes from the same desire to end a series with extreme prejudice.

  6. I keep telling myself that when I next redo all my covers, I should put out print versions as well.

    But then I look at the sales of the books I have already . . . and the sales are just dismal. My main readership is all ebook.

    As to the other issues . . . all you can do is be polite to the people who “need” and Agent and “must” have a publisher. No matter how inexperienced or obscure.

    • sabrinachase

      I encourage all authors to do at least a CreateSpace version of their books, even if ebook sales are low.

      -It only costs money if you order copies
      -You can use the print version as promo material, or for Goodreads giveaways, or as a free gateway drug sample for a prospective reader
      -It’s good practice for when you *do* have more sales, you learn the ins and outs of paper formatting, the fraught decision of matte vs. slick covers (like the eternal battle of paper vs. plastic), font size, fiddly bits, etc. I can now format a full novel completely in less than a day, because I have my system down.
      -Once you are in the distributor catalogs, you look just like any other publisher to bookstores. I also do not get much in the way of paper sales, but I have not done anything at all to promote them. I *still* managed to sell over 50 copies to bookstores according to BookScan! (Meaning probably more than that) Think what I can do when I really try!

      My career plan is the slow-burning fuse vs. hard initial push. I want lots of backlist when (when, not if!) I start getting Noticed. 🙂 This is why I do lots of deep planning like this. Also because I am devious ….

      • I agree with having a print version of the books as well – for various reasons, including that some readers just plain old prefer them, and some readers like having hard copies of the books they like best.

        I spent most of the day yesterday, doing an author presentation at a library in a medium-sized town in the Hill Country, to an audience of about thirty people – maybe forty, as all but a half-dozen chairs were filled. In the half an hour after the presentation, I sold more books face-to-face than I think sold through Amazon and B&N in the last month. There is still a market for print versions of books; I am pretty certain that having a print and an ebook version available lends a perception of a certain degree of … solidity, professionalism to a writer’s work.

        • Celia, first, congrats on the presentation. Sounds like it went well. Second, you are absolutely right about having print copies on hand for such programs.

        • B. Durbin

          I was just wondering the other day if there was a market for paper + ebook bundles. I know that Disney, for example, does DVD/Blu-Ray + mobile device bundles, for those who want a high-resolution movie at home but also want one for the car. (I’m going on a trip soon, and boy, it would be nice to have my physical library duped to e-format.)

          • Amazon lets you “bundle” your e-books with your print versions, offering the e-book at a discounted price or free when you upload the e-book. I haven’t have many takers but there have been a few.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Nod, I got taken by surprise when I purchased one eBook from Amazon.

              They charged me a lower price because I had sometime earlier purchased the dead-tree from Amazon.

          • Amazon does offer a print-book add-on Kindle version.Buy the print book, add the ebook for another $ or two. It’s at the discretion of the author or publisher, though.
            But there must be a market for such a bundle, or Amazon wouldn’t have thought to offer it.

      • Absolutely. The getting into the distributor catalogs — and into libraries and on bookstore shelves — is one reason I am considering trying out Ingram Spark. It does cost more than Createspace (what CS did when I first started on the indie road) but it doesn’t have the onus on it with other outlets that CS does.

        • Laura M

          What’s the onus?

          • A number of brick and mortar stores will special order from CS but they won’t stock CS titles, even if the author is local. However, they will stock from Ingram. Of course, you still have to convince them to order the books in the first place.

            • Laura M

              Understood. Thanks.

            • TRX

              “Brick and mortar” bookstores are fast becoming an urban-only phenomenon. The last one in my area closed a few years ago; it outlasted the others by diversifying into CDs and videos, but those apparently weren’t able to keep the lights on.

              Throughout a large part – I’d guess over half – of America, “book store” consists of the shelf at Wal-Mart. Even the wire racks at convenience and grocery stores have mostly gone away.

              If your business plan depends heavily on “sell to brick and mortar stores” it has a bad problem…

              • B. Durbin

                My “town” (160,000 is no town) hasn’t had a bookstore since Borders closed. (And I hate that.)

                • That sucks. The immediate area where I am is down to one B&N but, if you start looking at Dallas and Fort Worth, there are more indie bookstores than there were a few years ago.

    • Pam, I look at that but then I look at how Amazon determines rankings, etc., and having a print version plays into that. Then there are still those readers who won’t buy an e-book if there isn’t a print book out because that is their indicator that the book is indie and they just know indies are bad writers. So, while the print version might best be viewed as a loss leader for me, it still serves its purpose.

      As for the rest of it, to each his own. I just point them to Kris Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith and The Passive Voice and tell them, over and over again, to get themselves a good IP attorney.

  7. A little under a decade ago (July 2007 to be exact), I wrote a blog post with the title “Harper Collins are Clueless Morons”. I just took a look at it, and while it isn’t 100% accurate today in the minor details, I could republish it pretty much as is today and not worry that my main argument was invalid.

    That’s pathetic.

    (http://www.di2.nu/200707/02a.htm for those interested in ancient history)