News Roundup

First, the good news: Peter has started preliminary work on the second Western. Amusingly enough, there’s a category of videos on Youtube that are just people driving from one location to another. And while the roads have changed a lot in 150+ years, the general scenery hasn’t that much – and they still seek the lowest pass, and the easiest climb and descent over the mountains. Nor do the river crossings really stray that far from where they first went in. (I learned this when I found Peter following one with both a modern road map and a very old map of original routes.)

Second, the cautionary tale: When you choose to participate in a multi-author box set, you are, in essence, choosing a publisher. You’re going to hand some of your IP over to a person or group of people, and they will receive the money from royalties and promise to disburse it wisely and in accordance with the written contract. That’s what publishers do. So don’t gleefully leap into “awesome marketing opportunity!” without doing some careful research on the prior history of your proposed publisher. Have they done this before? Did it go well on the marketing and release end? Did it go well on the royalties disbursement and return of rights / end of box set end? Talk to authors who’ve worked with them before.

The romance / erotica markets are seeing the rise of con artists who talk sweetly about “awesome indie author box sets!” … and then never pay the money. When pressed and threatened with lawsuits as the missing royalties climb into five figures, and as the retailers yank the bundles, the “coordinator / bundler” suddenly puts up posts about being deathly ill, so sorry, have sympathy… and then when the heat drops, immediately starts seeking new marks without paying the old.

What happens in erotica hits romance six months later. What happens in romance usually hits SF/F about a year later. But cons are cons, and depending on how hot they make their original pool of marks, we may be seeing them seeking new innocents to fleece sooner than that. So walk wary when people make offers that sound buddy-buddy “just for you”, or “we’re all in this together” or “I’ll handle everything, don’t you worry.” Research as carefully as if a small press suddenly came sniffing ’round your inbox, and do your due diligence.

To Quote Rosalind James:

Here are some other sketchy things I’ve heard are happening, just as an FYI, author-beware. If you’re being asked to do any of these things, you should seriously consider getting out. Remember: it’s your account you are risking.

1) You’re asked to put a KU book into a preorder for a wide boxed set, even with the idea that once it’s published, the bundle won’t be in KU. This is NOT OK, on preorder or after release, and Amazon has bots checking for exclusive content on other sites. If somebody talks to Amazon about it, YOUR account could be in trouble.

2) You’re required to have a bunch of friends/acquaintances buy or borrow/read the 99-cent bundle to push up the ranks (not just to share in your newsletter, on social media, etc., which any author would expect to be asked to do as part of their participation).

3) If there’s no transparent/explicit explanation of how all your buy-in money will be spent. The organizer should be sharing exact costs and where the money’s gone. When I did the only 2 boxed sets I’ve organized (I don’t normally participate in them), my assistant put together a spreadsheet listing every promo site, cover/graphics designer payment, etc., when the promo would run, when it had been booked, and how much it cost.

4) If there’s any resistance/anger to your request for that kind of transparent accounting, [ETA] or unprofessional online behavior in general (esp. somebody who complains about other authors, gets involved in public feuds, etc. This kind of behavior is sadly not unknown in the indie world, esp. in group stuff, but you really don’t want to get involved with people who engage in it–next time, it might be you in the cross-hairs, or you may be asked to join in to gang up on somebody else. In any case–unprofessional behavior in one aspect of work life probably ought to make you leery.)

5) If there isn’t a detailed contract saying what your obligations are and what you’ll get in return (when/how payouts will be made). If you’re asked to do anything beyond that contract (see above).

$500 buy-in for a boxed set is a LOT. Assuming there are 10 authors, that’s obviously $5,000. You’d really want to ask exactly where that money is going, and to be assured that you’ll be shown documentation. Also: be aware that there are SOME organizers out there using a type of click-farm or reciprocal borrows/buys to make the sets hit lists. Even if they do hit the list or whatever, is that really going to result in more borrows or buys for individual-you-set-participant? If people aren’t actually reading your book, the answer is going to be “no,” beyond whatever cachet the letters get you.

Really–at this kind of buy-in–dig deep. I’m not saying it can’t be legit. I’m saying–ask the questions. Hitting a rank, any rank, doesn’t pay any bills. Actual purchases or borrows of YOUR books pays the bills.

Others may have things to add to this list. I’m certainly not the most knowledgeable about this–those are just the items that have come to my attention sitting on the periphery.

Third: Yes, some Createspace books did go unavailable for sale for about 2 hours yesterday on Amazon, due to a glitch. They should have fixed everybody’s by now, but if you have print versions available through Createspace, check your Amazon page to make sure everything’s all right. It’s not a bad idea to eyeball your older books every now and then anyway, just to make sure everything looks good, and contemplate after all this time if the blurb could be freshened up, or the cover needs tweaking look like the current covers in your subgenre, or if you think it’s in the keywords and categories where it needs to be. (This is not unlike authors strolling through a bookstore to make sure their books are really on shelves / the coop endcap really was set up, whether they’re face-out or spine out. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean we shouldn’t occasionally look at it to make sure that it looks good, sounds awesome, and is properly presented and available.)

Fourth: Print-only deals are coming back. Yes, the famed “keep your ebook & subsidiary rights” deals that we haven’t seen since Hugh Howey? Joe Konrath just signed a print-only deal with Kensington for some of his books, and Annie Bellet got a print-only deal with Simon & Schuster’s Saga imprint for her 20-sided sorceress series. It’ll be interesting to see how it works out on the second round.

Fifth: This is my last post for the year, so have a wonderful Christmas, and may your next year be far better than the last! What plans do you have for 2017?

26 Comments

Filed under FYNBOSSPRESS, MARKETING, PROMOTION

26 responses to “News Roundup

  1. Draven

    Merry Christmas to you both.

    • fynbospress

      Thank you! And thanks for all your comments over the past year; this column wouldn’t be half as much fun if it weren’t for the commenters πŸ™‚

  2. Merry Christmas!

    Plans? Snuggle in and go nowhere for a month.

    Professionally? I’m planning on running through my oldest books, putting them up for free for five days. Before KU this was a big boost to my sales; time to check and see if it works again. On the new front, I have seven things, some quite short, that are in the editing-and-covers stage and I’ll start releasing them after Christmas, one or two a month.

    • fynbospress

      That sounds wonderful. In the seasonable cold of North Texas, I’m dreaming of a … no, not a white Christmas, but maybe a nice mild curry or hot irish stew when I get off work today. And a fire. A fire would be awesome πŸ™‚

      It’ll be nifty to see how free runs do – are you planning on using the promo email sites, or just a straight discount? And yay for a full pipeline of things to release! Your fans will be happy, too!

  3. Merry Christmas to you as well!

    Plans? Survive without major house/family/work related excitement. [Hah! – The Great Editor]

    Professional – Publish four books in three series, finish the third book in a fourth series, and then see where the muse goes. Maybe dust off that Steampunk thing and write the book that follows it. And research, write, and present a professional paper.

    • fynbospress

      A year without major personal excitement is a fate devoutly to be wished! I’m quite interested in your steampunk tease, there… given I have this sneaking suspicion you’d ground it amazingly well in real people, cultures, and if in the west, in “Whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fighting!”

  4. Merry Christmas!

    Plans for the next year? Well, my McD’s opens this week after a complete teardown and rebuild (it needed it), so I’ll be working 25 to 30 hours a week again. The money πŸ’° will be nice, but I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed not having to be at work at 4 a.m. several days a week.

    Didn’t finish my book like I’d been hoping to in these last four months. The dang thing kept growing on me. I keep hoping the next one will be faster.

    • fynbospress

      Yeah, the money is why I’m finishing articles like this after midnight and then dragging my butt to work to open the shop the following morning – but I can thoroughly share in your enjoyment of extra sleep! Hey, even if you didn’t get the book finished, you have a lot more written than you did before! That’s nothing to sneeze at; I’ll celebrate progress!

      If I stuck my tongue firmly in my cheek and suggested you could get up at 4am on days off and use the time for writing, would you thwap me about the head and shoulders with the manuscript? πŸ˜›

  5. Plans for next year? Lots!

    FIRST QUARTER: Complete the second novel in my Western series for Castalia House and submit for editing. Research fantasy novel.

    SECOND QUARTER: Complete and self-publish a fantasy novel, currently planned as a stand-alone book (and my entry into this genre), but it may have series potential. Edit the Western novel in conjunction with Castalia, for publication in mid-year. My wife and I will also be presenting our usual workshop on self-publishing at LibertyCon in June.

    THIRD QUARTER: Write the third and final novel in the Laredo War trilogy, and submit to Castalia. Research sixth Maxwell novel.

    FOURTH QUARTER: Write and self-publish the sixth novel in the Maxwell Saga. Edit Laredo 3 in conjunction with Castalia, for end-year publication.

    WHEN I HAVE TIME: I’ve been approached by a well-known author to write a novella-length contribution to an anthology. I’m already researching it. If all goes well, I’ll try to slot this in during the first half of 2017.

    I think that’ll be enough to keep me busy . . .

    πŸ˜‰

    • fynbospress

      …and when you have time, help your wife unpack a few more of the boxes? Or are you planning on being too busy? πŸ˜› Wait, no, I see it! You’re planning on keeping me being too busy promoting to worry about unpacking… Love you!

  6. Christopher M. Chupik

    Merry Christmas, and thanks for all the posts.

  7. Uncle Lar

    Merry Christmas and a blessed holiday season to you and Peter both.
    Delighted to hear that the next western is forthcoming so soon.
    In addition to beta and copy editing several authors I have become defacto manager for one and we are well on our way to indie publishing a new series with the first due for release in January and the next three quarterly.
    As always the key seems to be in promotion. This one author has a solid but small fan base and growing that into one that provides her a living wage has proven most elusive.
    As for cautions on contracts, absolutely. Selling your work through a publisher leaves you at their mercy for insight into sales. You have no direct access to actual performance whether in print or electronic as all the retailers report to the publisher, not you. An honest publisher will pass that data along to an author, but if they do not a writer has little recourse short of legal action.

  8. Forrest

    It is great to hear that a new Ames book is underway! I am giving copies of Brings the Lightning to family members for Christmas. If you are looking at the old trails, there is a book, _The Wake of the Prairie Schooner_ by Irene Paden, written in 1943, that might be useful. The author and family spend several summers, touring the Oregon and California trails. At the time this book was written, you could still see the ruts from the wagons and meet people who had family stories about the westward migration. It’s an interesting read and quite informative.

    • We’re glad you enjoyed Peter’s book! Peter has that book, believe it or not. πŸ™‚

      Did you know there’s an encyclopedia of western gunfighters? My mind boggles slightly. Dangerous, too: crack it open at random, lose almost as much time as following a link to TV tropes.

  9. My plans for 2017?

    Personal: to get our finances back on firm ground, which means no expensive vehicle and home repairs. And hopefully get through the year with no major Drama or other upsets.

    Professional: finish my current novel and get it up on KDP. Finish the rewrite of an old novel and get it up on KDP. Finish another novel that got set aside during a busy period for our retail business and never properly returned to. Finish some novellas and short stories.

  10. Plans for next year?

    Spoilers!

  11. Merry New Year, Happy Christmas and all that other stuff… πŸ™‚ I did have one small publisher contact me last week, I didn’t bite on it.

  12. I’ve found, over the years, that it’s a bad idea for me to make plans. It’s almost a guarantee that something incredibly horrible will happen to prevent them from happening. So I don’t plan things, work on contingency and figure things out as I go.