Some Hard Thinking About Our Business

One of the puzzling things about the writing business, right now, is that “nobody knows anything” (or in proper vernacular “we don’t know nothing.”

So I am continuously puzzled watching indie authors who are doing better by an order of magnitude than any traditional writer I know succumbing to the lure of a traditional contract.  I’m not disapproving, mind you — who the hell am I to be disapproving of other people’s business decisions? If I had my time again, I doubt I’d have made most of the ones I made.  I’d still want to write for Baen, but that’s about it — I’m just jaw-dropped shocked.  Because they’ll be giving up 90% of their income or so.  But perhaps they want the respectability.  And perhaps they think it will give them further reach.

Is the reach thing true?  For now.  For a time. More on this later.

Is the respectability that important?  Sure, if you want to have some sort of job as a “real writer” such places are starting to choose indies, but not really.  Some conferences too (though we’re not absolutely sure, in this new era how much attendance of conventions contribute to sales, with the remarkable exception of hard copy books [more on that later.]) expect you to flash your “real writer” credentials in the form of  contract.  I even understand it from the social point of view, where when you’re at a party and people ask what you do, the question after you answer “writer” is “so have anything published?” (Or maybe that’s just to me, because of the accent.)  Mind you, you can answer “Sure” and  list your books and not say “indie” but I also know that when I say “Sure, x books with Berkley, x with Bantam and x with Baen” people’s attitude changes completely.  And I can see that when people suspect you’re indie they say “So you published yourself” and dismiss it.  I know that’s a stupid reason to give up 90% of your income, but humans are social animals and I can see “not being embarrassed at parties” making a difference.  I can even see the velveteen writer thing, wanting to be a “real” writer in your own eyes, the wy you envisioned it.

The thing is, that though people sometimes mention reach, most of what they actually mention as a reason is not sane.  They mention “excellent editorial developmental oversight.”  I.e. the publisher will assign someone to help you develop your book or take it to the next level.  I don’t know if this happens to some writers.  It doesn’t happen to ANY writers I know.  I’ve heard stories of it in the 40s and 50s of the last century, but whether that was true or memorex, who knows?  They mention publicity.  Uh… most of the publicity I’ve got, I’ve designed and paid for myself, and I suck like a dyson at it.  If the houses offered anything (other than an ad in locus, which I’ve sometimes got, but like conventions the question is how much it helps) I wouldn’t do it. Baen puts me in the Baen slide show, most of the time, and that’s the most any publisher has ever  done in terms of publicity. I’m grateful, and I’m not discounting it.  Part of the reason I’d still go with Baen “if I had my time again” (I’d go with Baen and put in a drawer for indie anything Baen didn’t want, so when indie hit, I’d be able to put a lot of stuff up that first year.  What? like you don’t plan for being able to send your mind back to your younger body.) is because they have a rabid and dedicated fanbase, and those slide shows help with word of mouth.

But other traditional houses?  I wouldn’t consider it!  Only most of the people doing this have never worked with the other houses, or studied the stories of successful indie who went trad.  That’s fine.  Their career, not mine.  Their decision, their results.

Is this because I think traditional publishing will go away?  No.  I do think however that the current houses are going to mutate. They have to, if they want to survive.

Now, I’ve never been a publishing executive, but I’ve been close enough to have an idea how traditional houses operate, how small/agile new houses operate (I saw the running of two really close up and personal and heaven have mercy on my soul, part of the plan for 2017 is to embark in starting/running a new one. [It’s complicated, but for accounting reasons, I need somewhere to send collaborations, to publish anthologies and to provide a haven to some of my friends [Kate, cough] who inexplicably don’t want to do it themselves.  If we’re going to do that, we’re publishing other friends who don’t want to do it themselves, and we’re hiring someone to deal with it day in day out so I still have time to write. Do NOT send me manuscripts because at this stage they’ll be circular filed.  We have enough for the first year, and after that our manager will set up some process to review — maybe — cold submissions.]

Here’s the thing, the publishing houses, as they currently exist, are the lumbering giants created by the merge-mania of the eighties.  They run several lines over several genres, hire mostly humanities graduates who might or might not have any interest in the line they’re overseeing, and more often than not belong to media conglomerates, for which they are a tiny and relatively unprofitable arm.

It wasn’t always like this.  Publishing enterprises in the — ah — good old days were often small businesses, run by people fanatically devoted to the genre/subgenre they published, and passionately interested in their version of good sf/mystery/whatever.  These enterprises ran at a tight margin and paid book-reps to hit the road, as traveling salesmen, putting books into small bookstores and gas stations and yes corner convenience stores.

All of this is as dead as the dodo, and it was the change in distribution that caused the change in publishing.

When the mega bookstores came in, and, with their discounts and glitzy fronts swept the mom and pop bookstores out of the business, small publishers were out of luck.  You didn’t even need book reps, really, though you still had them.  Their job was now to wine and dine the regional manager of B & N or Borders, or what have you, who in turn chose to place the books the publisher was “pushing” (not all of them) into every branch of the store int he tri-state area.

And this is ultimately what burned the mega stores, because h*ll, the market is different in the same state, say between Denver and the Springs, let alone between Denver and Columbus Kansas.

To make it worse, the agglomeration and conglomeration of the business made it that the people in charge really didn’t read what they were pushing. Push or non push was decided in a business meeting at the publisher’s headquarters.  The rep didn’t read it, and the store’s tri-state manager was an MBA graduate who might never have read a book in his life and who, last year, might have been managing shoe stores, and next year might manage grocery stores.

This worked for a time, both because book addicts are book addicts, and because there was nowhere else to turn for our fix.  The “push” worked too, because if there are a hundred of the book, you’ll stop and pay attention, where you might not if there are two.

But such a model could only work with excellent choices, geared at the fandom of the particular genre, and that was not what we were getting.  It was more the “new new” thing that some NYC office decided to pursue.

And so, as a reader (I wasn’t even published when the decline became obvious) I (and my friends) started referring to bookstore trips, looking for new material, as “I’m going to go and get disappointed by Barnes and Noble, or Borders, or whatever.”  And here we’re talking of people who had a hard and fast trip to the book store a week penciled into their social calendar.

It might have dragged on.  Almost certainly would, see addicts and fix.  But disruptive technology happened. Kindle came on.  And though a few hard and fast (older — more on that) readers are still stuck on their paperbooks, I actually prefer my paperwhite, because of lighting and ability to read next to a sleeping spouse, as well as portability of an entire library in my purse.  Most people seem to.

And here I go into how I have visibility into at least two new-publishers (we should call them agile-publishers) and countless indies.  For every one who says they sell a lot of paper books (and there are reasons usually for those) most people sell a hundred ebooks to one paper book.

You read that right.  A hundred to one.

Which brings us to bookstores.  Barnes and Noble still survives — barely — but I had to go there last month, to buy a gift for a friend (because I’m a derp and was having massive asthma attacks, so I forgot to order.)  They still have books, at first blush.  On second approach you realize a good 50 percent are book-shaped objects.

I’m not dumping on the adult coloring-book craze.  Some of my hobbies are weirder.  BUT I’m telling you that those aren’t books that will help traditional publishers of FICTION.  They’re just books in which traditional doesn’t face competition from Indie.  Yet.

Most of the other books were non fiction (that’s not new) i.e. what celeb x says about how you should run your life, manuals for this or that computing platform, or (and I confess for research I still use paper books) history books, quote books, that sort of thing.  Oh, and a whole lot of lifestyle gifts  “Night lights for the discerning night reader” and “Mugs to impress your colleagues at work” type of stuff.

Mind you distributing to B & N even in their present state is still an advantage of traditional (hence the more later) but how long it will be, I don’t know.  No one knows, at this point, if B & N will survive, or if the pivoting of their business away from fiction books will leave any room for fiction books on their shelves.

Also from grumblings I heard, while trad publishing is still making money in fiction, that part of the business is being subsidized by non fic and “lifestyle and hobby books.”

Which brings us to the part of this post (ah, you though we were almost done, you fools) where I put on my futurist hat.

Remember that making predictions is hard, particularly about the future. However, yesterday I had some news that made me think “All is proceeding as I have foreseen.”

Before we get to that I’ll give anecdata which might or might not be in any way significant, but it’s the sort of thing I do to keep an eye on what is happening in various fields, books included.

Because I am a cheapskate (Everyone say “Noooooo”.  Thank you.  I feel better.) I often shop through craigslist.  I knew vcr tapes were on the way out when people were giving away the cabinets and shelves designed for them.  And I suspect a lot of people are giving up on dedicated TVs (we already have, but we are a techy household) and having large computer screens fulfill the need (which btw, must play havoc with Nielsens because you really watch whenever) because everyone is outright giving away “entertainment cabinets” made for the huge tvs of the 90s.

Which brings us to bookshelves.  I have been a bookshelf hunter for years (now I intend to build up another wall in the library, after I deliver the next three books, and donate/get rid of mine, too) and now, in the last five years for the first time, they’re showing up free or very cheap and in batch lots.  And I hear of more and more people going “electronic” and getting rid of paper books, which, let us face it, for all their sentimental associations, are cumbersome dust traps that make you need twice the house space.

Also, when we moved out of the last house, we put up a batch of 1k books for sale on amazon, and then the bottom fell out, after about a month or two, and I just donated something like 7 k books.

Judging by my own buyer behavior, I only buy 1c used books, and only for things I either can’t get or are insanely expensive in e (I’m not buying a mystery for $14 in ebook.  No.  Won’t be happening.  I’ll buy some of my sf favorites in both paper and e but it hurts like hell.)

And here we hit on the problem traditional houses are having.  They’re not geared for ebooks.  Ebooks offer them no advantage over indie.  (In fact I wish to hell they’d get competent ebook people.  I just bought an e “boxed set” of Miss Marple mysteries, and when I have time I’m going to ask a friend to remove the DRM.  Oh, not so I can give it away, but so that I can put it on my computer and reformat it.  This is a 7 (I think) book collection that has NO WAY to navigate between books.  There’s a table of contents within each book, but not for the boxed set in general.  Also, the indents are about half an inch, which looks bizarre on the kindle, and there are ENTIRE SECTIONS doublespaced.)  They don’t know how to publicize/promote books, beyond the obligatory page on a genre trade magazine, and maybe some talk from their editors in blogs.  They only know how to push books to the super-bookstores and those don’t matter with indie.  I saw them once put an ad for a book they were pushing in a times square billboard.  This was early days of kindle competition.  It doesn’t seem to have done them much good, particularly since the book was a fantasy niche.  I sometimes hear of that book and author, and I judge they’re both about the level I’m at.

They are simply NOT equipped to make the switch from “big push to big stores” to “market ebooks.”  And part of the problem, of course, is that none of us is too sure how to market ebooks.  (I seem to have had some success with DST marketing on comics vaguely related to the book.  I need to look into that again.  The years since 2011 have been too fraught to do anything like that again, but things are calming down.)

Most of what markets ebooks seems to be word of mouth, which intersects badly with the annual-and-done model of big publishers, who at least are no longer taking books out of print on the anniversary of their publication, but also aren’t giving those books any help, while holding onto them.

Compared to the new agile-model long-tail publishers (most of them medium size, not large, sort of like the old publishers, pre mega-mergers.  Or sort of like Baen, though Baen is mixed on this, since it’s larger than these agile-publishers) the traditionals have hellofalot of sunken costs: buildings in NYC, dedicated editors/proof readers/book reps/cover designers who must be paid every month, whether or not the book makes money.  The model I’m seeing emerge from the agile publishers is more a 50/50 (or sometimes 75/25 (with the house taking the greater part and justifiable, depending on what the writer negotiates and how much of the burden the publisher is shouldering, for promo, etc.) with fees for proofreaders, cover artists, finders fees for readers, etc. coming out (as a percentage, say 5% for a proofreader, 10% for a structural editor, etc) of the book’s earnings.

Since there is no advance in most cases, this reduces the house’s sunken costs to pretty much zero.  Which makes them better, faster, leaner, and more able to survive bets on books that just don’t sell.  (This is something that can’t be helped. Even if there were decent customer surveys — there aren’t — it’s impossible to figure out what will catch fire.  See the “nobody knows nothing” in this new ebook thing.)

Meanwhile, these emergent, agile businesses, in the end, provide the same respectability and further reach to indie writers.  Maybe not as much, but they’re changing, and these are the people that traditionals need to compete with.

Dave Freer, in this site, has many times told them “abandon the office in NYC.  Give up the raft of employees that do almost nothing for the books.  Stop with your concentration on promoting bestsellers who would sell anyway.”

They probably won’t do that.  They probably won’t do what I suggest below, too, though I’ve seen some movement in that direction.

Yesterday I heard that Ace, who was an almost-exclusively paperback publisher has now gone all-hardcover.  And I muttered “quite right” except at their decision to shed writers they don’t think “fancy enough” (my wording, not theirs) for hardcover.

Because those are the writers they should be concentrating on.  The ones with a large following, writing popular books, not “prestigious” ones.

From what I’ve seen, both from agile publishers, and from my own experience as a reader and a writer, paper books are becoming, instead of a vehicle for the story, a sort of promotional product, crossed with a souvenir/collectible.

Most of your paper books will sell from events where you meet your fans.  Most of them will be signed.  Even people divesting from paperbooks (even us!) keep signed copies of books they REALLY like.  Because it’s something they can touch and admire and which sometimes reminds them of meeting the author.

So  going hardcover is a brilliant idea, as is (as Baen who is smarter than the average bear is doing) bringing out numbered, signed leatherbound editions of your most popular authors and books.  That cashes right in to the “collectible” market.

The next step to this, which I suspect that traditional publishers will not see their way to doing, would be booths at all the massive conventions (comicon, or more closely related to the book’s content, say gun shows for Larry Correia, or space conferences for me (scientists LIKE pulp.)  Have your author flown to those, have them meet the readers.  Sell books.  Sell more books (and ebooks) by word of mouth, as people talk about how great it was to meet Big Bestseller, how fun he/she is, and how great his/her books are.

So, are there other venues for traditional publishers, where they would have the advantage (being able to fund a booth, which is pricey, at major events?) over indies.


I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the concept of a packager.  In SF/F (and mystery) for many years the late Marty Greenberg was the packager par excellence, and I worked for him for years, off and on, as a writer.  Some years, he was the one who kept the lights on in my house, and certainly the one who kept my then fast-growing sons in shoes.

A packager is someone who comes up with an idea, sells it to major publisher, finds writers to work it, and takes a relatively small cut for his effort.

A lot of Marty’s sales were anthologies (and I miss getting a phone call saying “Sarah, we have a hole in an antho, can you write a short story on fairyland, say about 11k words by this afternoon?”

But there were others.  If a bestseller got critically ill or ran away with his office boy and a  suitcase of turkey feathers, and they needed the book yesterday, people who could imitate styles would get a phone call saying “Can you write this?” and then get very well paid indeed both for the work and for keeping their mouth shut forever.

Sometimes the houses took their own hand at a sort of packaging, too.  I wrote Plain Jane under the house name Laurien Gardner, for what was then for me the biggest advance I’d ever got and — my agent fought like hell for this — a 2% royalty.  That book has now made me double the advance on that paltry royalty share, which means it’s probably a cash cow for the house.

Houses can and perhaps should do that.  Take young and eager writers, and chain them to the house name mills. Have them write in either fantastically successful series, (how successful? Well, Weber might work.  I don’t know if anything below would) or really appealing concepts, or perennials, like say Henry VIII’s wives.

The more inventive houses could hire an actor to play the author at their booth.  Or they could delegate a junior staff member to write the author’s blog, within guidelines.  (NO politics, but you can talk about your dog, Little Tail.)

Another way to do it is shared worlds, either owned or contracted to the publisher.  This is a risky thing.  Sure some shared worlds (163x) do very well, (but it was also started way back, and the original concept-holder kept tight hold on the concept and who gets to play in it) but as Kindle World’s attests, it’s hit or miss, and depends (as all books do) on whether it catches the reading public’s fancy AS A CONCEPT enough to support books by very different authors.  In the sense that each author uses his/her name, it’s fairer to the author, but it is also a big issue in terms of name recognition.  This becomes not “I love that new series by Laurien Gardner” but “I kind of liked what so and so did with x world.”  Honestly, if I were a publisher going that route I’d acquire the rights to some of the more popular gaming or anime series, because you have a proven “I like this world” concept there.

[Addendum I meant to put in: it would also be wise for publishers to start an ebook-only side, and some like Harlequin have.  This could not just be the “farm team” to identify authors who could fly with a little push, but also a way to test “shared worlds” and “packaged concepts” cheaply.  OTOH since having a paper edition is now the mark of “real book” it might be that this would be counterproductive and cause these books to be ignored.  I don’t know.  I just know if I were a traditional publisher, I’d try it.]

The middle option is frankly awful for writers, as they would be laboring in other peoples’ vineyards, with no right of reversal, no name recognition and maybe no royalties.  BUT OTOH if they pay enough up front, it’s a living and new writers could sharpen their skills that way.  Maybe.  (Those who don’t wish to go indie.)

Will the houses do any or all of these?  Yes, I suspect so.  In the long run.  Those that survive.  Because they’re larger organizations, it’s going to take them a while to turn the boat around, but some of them will do it and will thrive.  And some other houses will join in that model.

What I don’t think they’ll ever be again is the primary market for writers of fiction to sell to.  No.  That primary market is and will continue to be the general public, directly.  And that’s an option that opens up new vistas of income and perhaps even of fan-building.

So strap down, it’s going to be a wild ride.  But those of us willing to try new things should be better off in the end.

105 thoughts on “Some Hard Thinking About Our Business

  1. “Respectability” is a lucrative and elusive commodity in today’s publishing environment. More of us now know more about the inner workings of publishing, than ever before. So we should know better than to sign on the dotted line. But it cannot be denied that — amidst a sea of Createspace titles at any given dealers’ room — the mass market paperback stands out. It says you are somebody who managed to do it the old-fashioned way. And this counts. Whether we admit it or not. It counts with readers. It counts among our peers. It counts with brick-and-mortar stores, even though they are always talking about how the mass market paperback is dying. It counts so much, that even when we do overwhelmingly well via independent modes and means, we (often) go back to signing on the dotted line. Because most of us were raised in an atmosphere where signing on the dotted line was an arrival moment. The day you knew you had leveled up.

    Which makes absolutely no sense at all, if you are indie, and making a healthy five or six figure annual income. Mass market paperbacks won’t boost you to seven figures.

    But successful indie publishing has become the new slush filter for the houses. It’s the iceberg model all over again, only this time the tip of the iceberg is made up of indie authors who are all raking in bucks, so the houses snap them up — with both parties aspiring to make even more money. Not to mention the author claiming a kind of unspoken accreditation. Indie no more. Or, rather, indie with options. Have your traditional cake, and eat it too.

    Perhaps this was inevitable. Because readers are forever asking, where is the good stuff, and how can I trust that it’ll be good? While authors simultaneously wonder, how am I going to know when I am good enough??

    1. Very true. A lot of people (including many indie authors themselves) are always going to feel like indies are cheating somehow: either the readers (by providing them with substandard, not-vetted work) or the system in general, by bypassing the selection process that (allegedly) separates the wheat from the chaff . After all, indies are all surfing on a proverbial “tsunami of crap.” Having a big publisher have enough faith in one’s work to actually spend money on it is a form of validation self-pubbers are never going to get; at best, they have to content themselves with the knowledge that their work somehow convinced a number of readers to spend money on it.

      One can be cynical and point out all the times publishers rejected works that went on to be best-seller, and the far more numerous instances where their approved works failed spectacularly as proof that they are as clueless as to what will attract an audience as anybody. Which still doesn’t remove the value of getting that seal of approval. And still doesn’t get one’s books into stores.

      1. I am always reminded of this anecdote from the movie industry. An old exec, when asked how his studio had managed over the year, admitted, “None of us knows anything.” When pressed to clarify, the old exec said that his studio had picked stinkers as often as they had picked winners, and movies they thought would fly, bombed, while films they suspected of bombing, did far better than anticipated.

        1. I think they know that a big franchise can make money by coasting — for a while, maybe three bad films or so. This is why we’ll see Marvel and Star Wars films for the foreseeable future: as long as they don’t stink — repeatedly — they’ll make money.

    2. I am pursuing a traditional deal right now for a very specific reason: I think the right traditional deal can be a great advertisement for my name as a brand, thus making it easier to sell indie books.

      I’m not saying this will work, merely that it seems like an avenue to try. I am in discussion with an agent on a project I think I can write very well, and he thinks he can sell for a heck of an advance. We could both be wrong. We don’t know nothing.

      But if he’s right, and I’m right, and my copyright lawyer can fight like the devil to delete or at least defang the noncompete clause (if push comes to shove, I’ll take a lower royalty over a bad noncompete), then I know that a month after my traditional book comes out, I can have anywhere from three to five indie novels plus collections on the stands. Non in the same series as the traditional book. Instead, I’ll spread across genres and subgenres: a hard SF, a hard SF/mystery, a MilSF, an Urban Fantasy, and TBD. The goal will be for sales of the low-royalty traditional book to spur sales of the high-royalty indie books. If this works, I think both the traditional publisher and I will benefit from the arrangement.

      Or I could be wrong. We don’t know nothing.

      1. They still have noncompete clauses? yeah i know, i read the book about bad things in your contract, I just still look at it in horror.

  2. I’ve been seeing a number of successful self-publishers making the shift to self-and-a-few-other-publishers. Like you, they are not looking for new authors, working more as a partnership to pool resources. I think that’s where the main body of the business will be in 20 years, small presses that work to publish and promote the work of a handful of authors. (Much the way that many small record labels grew out of the cheap CD and now music download revolution.)

    1. WordFire Press is quite open that their model is an author cooperative. They work hard to support each other.

    2. This is the way to go for niche writers – if you can keep it to a set of similar works (the Romance writers do it already – many groups exist and market and promote together), so you develop a ‘group brand,’ and use the fact that you’re separate people to review judiciously, etc.

      I’m looking into a group for my kind of literary fiction with a plot – the commercial ‘big book’ (epic?) end of the spectrum. Literary is too varied to be a single group, maybe, but I’ll be looking for people who like my – and similar, if I can find them – books.

      If we don’t, no one will.

    3. A small press can be useful if it’s going to be pushing your work places where you simply can’t. Like the other side of the country, in the case of a friend of mine who also has a full-time job and is in pursuit of an MFA right along with her side businesses, only one of which is writing. It’s nice to have someone hand-selling your book thousands of miles away…

      1. It would be nice to be able to find more books than one author could reasonably be writing, too– “if you like this book because of the humor, you might like this other book; if you like it because of the plot, you might like that book; if you like it because of the world-building, have I got a series for you.”

      2. Dang it, now you have me day dreaming about some sort of a collection of urban fantasy but actually fantasy not the romance novels writing like C. R. Chancy— at first blush, her two books aren’t much alike, but they’ve got a similar philosophy (biggest thing that jumps out: a lack of contempt) and the detailed world-building is enjoyable.
        I’d love to get that, instead of Amazon’s “Oh, you read Count Taka, you might like these Fantasy Humor books! Oh, you read Net of Dawn and Bones, read this depressing modern fantasy!” Amazon’s bot tries, but…well, a pattern is inherently mindless, and a lot of the books I read appeal to folks who have wildly different tastes than I do. 😀

  3. Something interesting I’ve run across recently whilst researching short fiction markets (for Reasons…). It seems the print magazines are getting it in the shorts two ways. One, the online short fiction markets are starting to take over, much like ebooks. Possibly people getting more accustomed to digital reading. Two, the quality of the stories is going down, and this is per established greats in the field. Speculation being the good stories are getting sent to anthologies now. Me, I wonder if the groupthink is starting to rot the foundation at the old magazines, helped along by distribution costs and the shrinking bookstores.

  4. I can see why many writers would still prefer traditional publishers. Not having to do all the non-writing work involved in going indie is a huge temptation. Making it into stores is another place where trad is going to hold the edge for years to come.

    I’ve given up any hopes I’ll see a mass market paperback with my name on it. My trade paperback sales are pretty much what you say – 1/100 or worse, and I’m not happy with the quality of Createspace’s work. I just can’t see myself jumping through the hoops needed to get into stores.

    Time is another big factor. Going trad means spending years looking for a publisher/agent. Even a mildly-successful indie book is likely to make more money than an advance by the time the dust settles. Guaranteed? Of course not. But the odds of making $3,000+ from an indie book in two years are much greater than selling the same book to a traditional publisher in the same span of time (doesn’t mean the odds are great either way, but a hundred to one beats a thousand to one any day). Throw in another year for the book to be actually published, and possibly another year before the advance earns out (if it ever does; most books don’t) and you get another check, and the odds for indies improve considerably.

    Small publishers may offer the best of both worlds, but they are a bigger risk. Your chances of getting accepted there (and accepted more quickly) are better, but on the other hand a small company is far more likely to change hands or go bankrupt, leaving your royalties (which they often are terrible at paying even in the best of times) and more importantly, your rights, up in the air. There are too many horror stories on Writers Beware and elsewhere.

    At this point, the only publishers I’d consider are Kindle Scout (45 days for a yea-nay is worth the gamble, IMHO, and having Amazon do some of the heavy lifting is more than worth the reduction in royalties), Baen (if I ever manage to write more than 3-4 books a year and feel I can afford to wait a year+ for an answer) or a print-only deal with someone like Castalia House.

    1. I think small publishers offer the WORST of both worlds. For the same reasons you’ve listed – and they have very few slots.

      In the literary fiction world, their only advantage is that publishing with one can let you apply for some of the big awards as ‘published,’ instead of self-published – SP authors may often not even submit (someone else has to do the committee’s job of ‘vetting’). That’s the reality.

    2. “more importantly, your rights”

      Rights reversion is important. It should be a part of any contract you sign with anyone, and lack of a clause covering that should be cause for contract revision or flat-out not signing if they won’t put one in.

      1. This is why NO large publisher, and few small ones, will offer a contract with a meaningful reversion clause. Their business now is as much about squatting on your intellectual property (in case you do something else that one day makes it easily marketable) as it is about selling books.

  5. because everyone is outright giving away “entertainment cabinets” made for the huge tvs of the 90s.

    A complication there is the availability of flat screen TV’s that hang from wall mounts. We discussed getting such a thing with our last TV upgrade (my wife likes to watch TV Japan on ours–and I don’t know of an online streaming source for that). So at least some of the dumping of “entertainment cabinets” is because the TV’s are going up on the wall rather than going away.

    How much of a factor that is, I don’t know.

    Houses can and perhaps should do that. Take young and eager writers, and chain them to the house name mills. Have them write in either fantastically successful series, (how successful? Well, Weber might work. I don’t know if anything below would) or really appealing concepts, or perennials, like say Henry VIII’s wives.

    Lawrence Block, back when he had the Fiction column in Writer’s Digest Magazine, used to tell about one of his early “jobs” writing was writing “adult” novels under pseudonyms. The novels were very tightly structured. So many chapters of so many pages each. Half the chapter to advance the story, half for the scene that was generally read one handed. It was basically a way to keep the bills paid while honing the craft of writing.

    These days it’s easy enough to take the “learn the craft” stuff and put it up for sale. If it only makes a few bucks, that’s still more than being rejected by everyone in the old day. And sometimes I think people are so desperate for stories of the kind they like (which isn’t what New York publishes for many of them) that they’ll put up with a lot of poor craft if somebody can provide the right “type” of story. I know I can be awfully forgiving of a lot of things if a story has elements that matter to me.

    1. A complication there is the availability of flat screen TV’s that hang from wall mounts.…

      How much of a factor that is, I don’t know.

      It is not a factor, it’s the whole enchilada. The old entertainment units were deep, to accommodate the back end of a huge CRT. That is wasted space with a flat screen. On the other hand, the old CRTs had a 4:3 aspect ratio, and 32 inches was a huge set. Now 40 inches is considered small, and the screens are 16:9 – which means they are much too wide to fit inside those cavernous old TV cabinets. Furthermore, few CRT sets were ever equipped with receivers for digital TV, and analog TV no longer exists. So the old sets are now museum pieces, and the furniture designed to hold them is completely useless.

      1. Lots of conversion instructions online for those things—change them to a craft station, or storage, or play furniture. If you see a nice one online for cheap or free, consider looking up what you could do with it.

        1. That’s nice, but it’s not much good telling me. I’m not the person giving them away or scrapping them – and I already have all the shelves and storage units that will fit in my flat.

  6. It’s pieces like this that make me continue to drag my feet about getting my books into POD.
    Has anyone, btw, had any experience with the Amazon POD service? I just noticed it. I’d been thinking Createspace, but the ink was pretty pale on one book I bought from them.

    1. The Createspace books I’ve gotten have been decent, so long as you don’t open them wide enough to crack the back and loosen the glue (which is not just a Createspace problem). I have not tried the Amazon PoD yet. I might with the just-starting sub-series, depending on the details.

    2. CreateSpace is Amazon’s POD service, as far as I know (I have published one book through them, and helped with a second title). Amazon also has a separate Amazon publishing house that acts more like a traditional publisher.
      With CreateSpace, one does have to be very careful about picking a font. We had to redo a book when the font (which was a very traditional, popular font that had been recommended on a CreateSpace message board) printed too light. Since the index was already completed, it was an interesting experience.
      I think one can now publish a paperback with CreateSpace and ask them to take the PDF and convert it into an eBook and publish it on Kindle. That conversion might be what causes some of the problems seen in eBooks (I have chosen to format all my Kindle eBooks separately rather than doing an automatic conversion).

    3. I don’t get a lot of sales (two or three a year maybe?) via Amazon et al for the paper copies of my books, but what it does offer is hard copies that I can sell at cons. I was able to make enough from book sales this past LibertyCon to pay for my and Athena’s con membership. Not exactly rolling in money but enough to be worthwhile.

    4. Our magazine is done primarily through Amazon Createspace (though we use Lulu for our hardcover editions).

      Both we and our readers have been very pleased with the quality of the product offered through Createspace.

        1. Lulu is great for affordable hardcover options; they can do what just about no other POD can, but if you want print with good istribution at a reasonable price, it’s tough to beat Amazon.

  7. Remember vinyl records? I recall the summer of (I think it was) 1981, when I was living in Texas and I used to go to the mall on a regular basis. Over the course of the summer the chain music store went from 100% vinyl to 100% CDs, with a miniscule cassette section that remained. Some years later the local Blockbuster Video did the same trick, going from VCR tapes to DVDs in a few months. And then internet streaming killed Blockbuster almost as fast.

    People are never ready for the speed of technological change. Since it is bottom-up rather than top-down the market can change faster than a large corporation with its layers of management and committee meetings can adapt. Which means that technological shifts are a wonderful time for small companies to get into the market while the big guys are still trying to figure out what happened and who to blame for it.

    It happened with drive-in movie theaters, and with cheap paperback book printing and with cable television, and I think it’s happening now with e-readers.

    1. > And then internet streaming killed Blockbuster almost as fast.

      Our local Blockbuster died before broadband was available in my area.

      What killed it, in my opinion, was a combination of things:

      1) a very expensive storefront location
      2) expensive rental rates compared to the competition
      3) devoting about 2/3 of the store to games and gaming-related paraphernalia
      4) a preponderance of the movies were not particularly family friendly (someone In Charge *really* liked slasher movies and not-quite-porn)
      5) mandatory annual “membership” fees. I don’t remember how much, but it was annoying
      6) short rental periods
      7) they insisted on having a credit card number on file (nobody else locally did)
      8) “late fees” that exceeded the cost of the original rental. per day.
      9) staff that was both slow and surly

      Probably no several of those things would have killed the store, but together… the other video stores lasted nearly a decade longer in the same neighborhood.

      1. That sounds like bad local management. In my area the Blockbuster stores stayed in existence after most of the other video outlets went under.

        There is one Family Video within a short drive of my house that seems to be staying open, somehow. I expect they have a clientele that still resists streaming options.

        1. Sharp declines in the prices of physical media crippled the rental market.
          When movies cost $30-$50 on VHS, a couple bucks to rent made sense. Even in the late 90s, though, DVDs and VHSs had settled to where $30 was the high-end. By the 00s, VHSs were on their way out, and new releases were moving towards a $20-$30 range. These days, it’s not unusual for new titles to be in the $10-$20. Combine those prices with discount bin titles in the $5-$10 range and the resale market in the $1-$5, brick and mortar rental is entirely unfeasible. When adjusted for inflation, the cost of a weekend rental from Blockbuster is about what you’d pay to own a brand new release today.

          I’m pretty sure the one independent rental place left in my town is a just front for organized criminal activity.

          1. The way that it cost five bucks to rent a movie didn’t hurt, either.

            Several times my folks considered renting a video, and instead just bought it– you’re a day late on the return and you just bought it anyways.

  8. If you want to start a book company, you already have a virtual stable of authors who might publish with you, namely the Mad Genius Club. Why would they not publish at Some of these authors have been accused of reading Indie ebooks–I did not name names. Once MGC authors are publishing with you, they will spontaneously identify good independent authors who could be invited to submit a manuscript or current ebook for the line.

    1. Sarah knows us too well to want to deal with us on a business basis. 😉 Herding Abyssinian cats on speed is easier than getting authors to work together. Or so I’ve been told.

  9. I have read that some of the university presses are asking their writers to use LaTeX/XeTeX/etc. I tried to use a version years ago and was frustrated by it. I’m trying to decide whether to give it another whirl — does anyone have advice about using it for indie publishing?

    1. /unlurk/

      My husband used it some years ago for a self-pubbed non-fiction book. But he was used to TeX/LaTeX anyway, didn’t have a learning curve. And he needed something to handle scientific notation, which only that program did gracefully at the time. It looked professional, FWIW. He’s also the sort who can look at a self-pubbed book and say ‘they just printed the MS Word doc.’ which is to say he’s got a discerning eye for type/layout stuff.

      Last I knew it wasn’t WYSIWYG, it’s type setting/layout software, which is why my husband likes it. He knows how to use it to format so everything is done and there aren’t any weird artifacts such as one gets with MSWord docs. So learning curve upfront, but if you know what you’re doing it is very good for turning out a polished product.


        1. 🙂 Mostly I usually don’t have much to say, that’s all. Someone else beats me to it, and does it better.

          1. Thank you for your input on the program. I am used to WYSIWYG and being able to adjust things manually when necessary. (Also, when I tried it out years ago, it seemed that a clear outline was necessary, and the author I was working with didn’t always follow outlines.)
            OTOH, the project contains a ton of notes and references, which LaTeX is supposed to be able to handle.

            1. it is (or was) splendid for notes and references.

              If you have questions about where to start learning I could ask my husband if he has any advice for you.

  10. Paper for research: man, nothing in the digital world matches the experience of wandering through the stacks of a good library. If they reproduce that, we can just climb into those pods from The Matrix.

    1. Nothing in the physical world matches the experience of wandering through the stacks of a good library – for the 99.9% of the population that does not have access privileges at the main research library of a major university.

    2. Eh. I’m not in love with the stacks, and as for good libraries, the ones in my area double as homeless shelters.
      I just like being able to put non permanent stickies on pages, and flipping through them without the experience of picking up my kindle and forgetting what I was doing.

    3. Someone could make an Elder Scrolls mod / expansion that creates a giant library dungeon filled with monsters and every book on Project Gutenberg.

    4. Stickies are great but I always lose them and end up using little paper strips that always fall out, or (in cases of dire need) dog ear. By now we should be able to rotate ebooks to an angle as if they had physical pages and use touchscreen gestures to rifle through to our virtual stickies – do they have that yet?

      Wandering through the stacks is pretty affordable at many major US (and various developed and developing world) research universities, provided the aren’t too snooty – one year’s access can be free to fifty to maybe one or two hundred bucks. That generally doesn’t come with offsite access to online resources, but you can use those onsite plus physical browsing and borrowing. Not to spring for on a whim, but worth looking into for a big writing project.

  11. “indie authors who are doing better by an order of magnitude than any traditional writer I know succumbing to the lure of a traditional contract.”

    And there’s the rub. How big a sample is this? (Probably not very.)

    Is it reflective of the overall publishing picture? (Not according to the trade data.)

    (Analagous to: Women on average are shorter than men, but some women are taller than some men.)

    Looking at the trade figures, the average indie author earns very little.

    If interested in author income data then check out _The Bookseller_ (publishing trade magazine). And here’s one of our links of relevance

    1. Yes… but trade magazines are taking their figures from Nielsen, that is from a rough estimation. And it leaves out everyone who doesn’t have an ISBN number. That’s one.
      The other point is that, yes, most indies are making very little. MOST TRADITIONALS ARE MAKING VERY LITTLE ALSO.
      I know more people making a decent living after 3 books, who are indie than who are traditional. And my sample of the groups is about the same size since, in case this isn’t know, I’m MOSTLY traditional.

      1. It can also be argued that a bigger percentage of a small pie can be more money to the author than a minuscule percentage of a large pie, especially if shady accounting is involved. Mind you, people would always like a bigger pie, but it’s useful to have actual money flowing.


          In the 18 months between February 2014 and September 2015, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), whose 1200 members include the “Big Five”: Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette — have seen their collective share of the US ebook market collapse:

          from 45% of all Kindle books sold down to 32%

          from 64% of Kindle publisher gross $ revenue down to 50%

          from 48% of all Kindle author net $ earnings down to 32%

          The AAP releases monthly StatShot reports on the total dollar sales of their 1200 participating publishers, of which the “Big Five” collectively account for roughly 80%.

          So far in 2015, the AAP’s reports have charted a progressive decline in both ebook sales and overall revenue for the AAP’s member publishers.



          For the first half of the year, sales in all tracked categories were down 3.4% to $5.37 billion vs. the same six months in 2015. Tracked categories include: Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses.
          Publishers’ book sales for June 2016 in all tracked categories were $1.46 billion, down 4.7% from June 2015.
          In the first half of 2016, compared to the first half of 2015, trade sales were down 1.1% to $3.03 billion:
          Adult Books had $2.11 billion in sales, down 2.8%
          Childrens/YA Books had $689.3 million in sales, up 0.9%
          Religious Presses had $222.4 million in sales, up by 10.4%
          Trends for Trade by Format

          In the first half of 2016 vs. 2015:
          Paperback books grew 8.8% to $1.01 billion
          Downloaded audio grew 32.3% to $126.7 million
          Hardback books grew 0.9% $989.7 million
          eBooks were down 20.0% to $579.5 million
          Interesting trends in June:
          June 2016 had an unusually high percentage of growth in religious presses’ Paperback Books, which are up 54.6% compared to June 2015; the whole category has grown 16.8% over the past half year vs. 2015.
          June was also a month of incredible growth for downloaded audio, with 51.7% more revenue than June 2015.
          In June eBooks had their slightest monthly decline in over a year, down only 9.7%.

        3. So first half of 2015, they had a 5.8% overall– not just ebooks– drop.
          And then in the first half of 2016, they dropped 3.4% from that. Again, over all the categories for their members.

          They had a partial recovery in June of 2016, which they directly tied to media tie-ins. (So….Star Wars blitz.)

    2. If interested in author income data then check out _The Bookseller_ (publishing trade magazine).

      Why on earth would I go to the trade magazine for physical publishers to get an over-all view of the business, much less the income for an entirely different group?

      That’s like saying “if you want to get a good view of the general state of agriculture, check out Beef Magazine!” (A meat cow trade magazine.)

      This article takes a much better angle at it– they look at author income data by going to a source that actually looks at author earnings, rather than the income of the publishers.

  12. LaTeX: I do have 19 published books including four novels (mostly epublished, but one physics book each from Cambridge University Press and from Springer Verlag), 165 published papers (there is a theological question as to whether or not counts as a publication, it being epublishing for scientific papers; also, one of the papers is in a law journal, and a short story in Baen’s Universe, may it soon return from the dead), so I have some experience with these choices.

    If you have a lot of equations, there is no substitute for LaTeX and its variants, e.g. RevTex. If you want something that will end up as an RTF or HTML file, Word or any of its competitors will work well. Conversion of .tex or .pdf with equations to word formats in my experience works in an unpredicatable manner. My experience with html is that naked html code or FrontPage are better than the alternatives I have tried.

    1. No equations, just a ton of endnotes and references. The ability to do an index would be nice.
      I get ads frequently from Nota Bene touting the software as being perfect for scholars, but I have not seen the university presses asking authors to use it.
      Have had some experience years ago with WordPerfect and a little with Word, and would like something more stable than those were when I used them last. I like Atlantis but it has no indexing capability. Tried to use OpenOffice for a book project and found it frustrating. I keep almost going with Softmaker TextMaker from Germany, but if there is something else out there that is better I’d like to know.

      1. No equations, just a ton of endnotes and references. The ability to do an index would be nice.

        I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, nothing short of the LaTeX ecosystem will reliably do what you want without massive amounts of manual tweaking. The good news is, the LaTeX ecosystem (XeLaTeX or LuaLaTeX + BibLaTeX + xindy or makeindex) will do this all, and fairly easily once you get past the initial learning curve.

  13. LaTex will do footnotes and endnotes. In my experience it is stable. I have done several illustrated books (Stalingrad for Beginners, e.g.,) using Word.It was not the world’s happiest experience. The complete LaTeX reference is George Graetzer Math into LaTeX in many editions. All LaTeX commands are visible in the file, so you never hit the problem that something invisible is paralyzing operations. If you have a really large number of footnotes, and may be dealing with a need to reformat the footnotes (for example, second publisher, new publisher rules) you probably want to look carefully at BibTex for the footnotes. The virtue of BibTex is that it takes the footnote data in a single form, and then auto-generates correctly formatted footnotes for you. If you need to reformat the footnotes, into any standard format, you insert of a few compile commands, recompile the LaTeX file, and all your footnotes are reformatted, with you doing approximately no work.

    The good LaTeX front end is WinEDT, not to be confused with WINEDIT. It will upload MikTex and a bunch of other things. There are some WinEDT features such as FUNNEL that I never looked at closely that you may find useful.

  14. LaTeX will index, up to three layers deep. You need to insert the indexing points into the text, but it will generate an index.

    LaTeX citation \cite{phillies1987a} you just type that into the text. \cite{} is the citation command. phillies1987a is a label; the software tags it to an entry in the citations (the following is not the BibTex scheme, which I have never used).

    \bibitem{phillies1987a} Phillies, G. D. J. “Is It Really Round?” {\emph Bull.\ Flat Earth Soc.} :{\bf 137}, 212-418 (1987). would generate the footnote. \emph and \bf are font commands saying to use italics and bold face.

    With BibTex you do not need to type format commands, though there is a price.

    1. It seems like it might be a bit distracting to try to code and write at the same time. I wonder how folks handle it — write and then format?

    1. What about PDF X-1a and PDF X-3? Lightning Source requires those types for printing hardcovers and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to create them inexpensively (I may have to bite the bullet and spend money).
      BTW, the newest versions of Softmaker TextMaker make .ePub files (which I think Kindle doesn’t really like) and .doc (which Kindle will accept).

  15. SEM: The important feature of LaTeX is that the hands stay on the keyboard. There are no interrupts to use the trackball to grab a pull down list. For text with citations, all you do is type. Instead of needing a superscript on an overhead panel, you just type a few letters. The actual number of commands you are likely to use in writing is limited. One of the other interesting ones is \label. Instead of typing “As seen in Chapter 1…”

    You previously typed

    \chapter{It Has An Edge \label{chapterone}}

    and then

    “As seen in Chapter \ref{chapterone}”

    and ditto for figures, tables, and equations. As a result, if you reorder text, add chapters or figures, etc. you do not need to sort through text looking for figure numbers to change; the software does this for you in the compile steps. The compile step in winedt consists of pressing two radio buttons.

    \chapter ? There’s a chapter command? yes, LaTeX has support for doing complete books, and many publishers have templates that set up everything correctly.

    1. CreateSpace will pretty much accept any type of PDF and tell you if it doesn’t work for them.
      Not so for Lightning Source and some of the other POD publishers; they require one of two subtypes of PDFs (I think now x-1a and x-3). (Those types of PDFs don’t include any live content, embed all fonts, the artwork needs to be CMYK color compliant in x-1a).
      To make those kinds of PDFs, I’ve found three programs — Adobe’s monthly fee version of their PDF maker, Serif PagePlus (which is being phased out), and Scribus — although I know there are other programs that must do it! For various reasons, the three programs I listed have drawbacks that are sending me searching for other avenues.

  16. SEM In my experience most people type the commands as they go.. Most commands are parts of equations. The format of the output is determined by the matter at the front. If you do not like the output you change the front matter and recompile.

  17. Here is a Latex file. anything beginning \ is a format command or a special character. The stuff at the top tells the software how large the page is. You can steal that from here and modify later, but you actually need those commands, because LaTeX is not a WhatYou See Is All you Get program, and you can’t see the final text without them. Yes, the learning curve is almost all at the front end.

    I could type a tutorial if people were interested..

    I do not appear to be able to attach things, so I cannot send you the resultant .PDF.

  18. \documentclass{article}





    Self-Consistency of Hydrodynamic Models\\

    for the Zero-Shear Viscosity\\

    and the Self-Diffusion Coefficient





    George D. J. Phillies$^{*}$\\

    Department of Physics and Associated Biochemistry Faculty\\

    Worcester Polytechnic Institute\\

    Worcester, MA 01609\\



    \noindent $^{*}$ EMail:


    \noindent $^{1}$ The partial support of this work by the National Science
    Foundation under Grant DMR94-23702 is gratefully acknowledged.



    \centerline{\Large\bf Abstract}

    The hydrodynamic model treatments of the zero-shear viscosity $\eta$ and the
    self-diffusion coefficient $D_{s}$ of polymers in nondilute solution are shown
    to be self-consistent. Hydrodynamic models for polymer dynamics in non-dilute
    solution postulate that interchain hydrodynamic interactions dominate other
    interchain forces. These models predict concentration dependences of $\eta$,
    $D_{s}$, and other transport coefficients. Previously-published predictions of
    $\eta$ and $D_{s}$ include a single hitherto-undetermined physical parameter,
    whose value is here obtained from the concentration dependence of $\eta$. On
    supplying this parameter to the self-diffusion calculation, the concentration
    dependence of $D_{s}$ is entirely determined with no adjustable parameters.
    Comparison is made with the literature. The model prediction for $D_{s}$ is
    in excellent agreement with data on solutions of linear and three-armed star
    polymers covering a full range of polymer concentrations and homologous
    polymers spanning nearly four orders of magnitude in polymer molecular weight.


    \centerline{\Large\bf Introduction}


    For dilute polymer solutions, theoretical treatments based on the Kirkwood-
    Riseman\cite{kirkwood} model give a general
    description of transport behavior. Fujita\cite{fujita} has enumerated
    issues for which the current theory of dilute polymer solutions remains in need
    of improvement. In non-dilute solutions, interchain polymer-polymer
    interactions are significant and polymer transport coefficients depend on
    concentration. A variety of very different models\cite{skolnick} predict these
    concentration dependences. The models differ both in the predicted
    mathematical forms for the concentration dependences of the transport
    coefficients and also in their assumptions as to the predominant forces between
    polymers in solution. A complete treatment of polymer dynamics in non-dilute
    solution remains a significant theoretical challenge.

    Models for polymer dynamics in non-dilute solution may be categorized by their
    treatment of fundamental forces in solution. A useful categorization is:

    (i) Models in which the dominant forces
    are solvent-mediated hydrodynamic

    P = \left\langle \sum_{j=1}^{N_{c}} \sum_{i=1}^{N} f_{ij} ({\bf v}_{ij} –
    {\bf u}_{ij})^{2} \right\rangle.



    \bibitem{kirkwood} Kirkwood, J. G.; Riseman, J. {\em J. Chem.\ Phys.}
    {\bf 1948}, {\em 16}, 565.

    \bibitem{fujita} Fujita, H. {\em Macromolecules} {\bf 1988}, {\em 21}, 179.

    \bibitem{skolnick} Skolnick, J.; Kolinski, A. {\em Adv.\ Chem.\ Phys.}
    {\bf 1989}, {\em 78}, 223.

    \bibitem{phillies1998a} Phillies, G. D. J.
    {\em Macromolecules} {\bf 1998}, {\em 31}, 2317.

    \bibitem{phillies2002a} Phillies, G. D. J.{\em J. Chem.\ Phys.}
    {\bf 2002}, {\em 116}, 5857.



    1. Silly question — is there a way to change the paper size late in the project if it needs to be done? Something I read seemed to indicate that with one of the TeX programs the page size was set up when the program was installed, but I’ve had times when someone changed their mind from 9×6 inches to 8×10 inches when the book was almost done. (Also, the page sizes from CreateSpace for paperbacks and from some of the POD hardcover publishers don’t match, so the book would have to be reworked for the two editions.)

  19. Absolutely. example:
    \usepackage[a4paper, total={6in, 8in}]{geometry} is inserted as a line at the top for A4 paper, 6×8″ print area.
    And while it looks like symbol salad, it is full of patterns; once you know the pattern styles, it becomes easy to read.

    However, I fear we must move out discussion elsewhere lest we offend our hostess.

  20. The answer is that you can get any of a wide variety of formats by changing the lines above \begin{document} and recompiling.

    Good luck with your company.

    And Merry Christmas or as appropriate to all!

    George, whose book royalties try to pay his electric bill.

    1. Thank you, George and Elaine and others, for taking the time to respond and providing so much information!

  21. The more recent ones were done in .rtf format. I probably used MS-Word, which generates that format directly. I might have used wordpad. The three recent game design books were done in Word, giving me vast exposure to huge numbers of bugs associated with inserting vast numbers of figures into the very heavily illustrated books, insertion being something that word does poorly.

    1. I’ve been using .rtf format for a lot of stuff. The puzzling thing is that the endnotes/footnotes seem to turn to almost gibberish if I try to open an .rtf file in different programs — the formatting and main body of the text seem to be OK if for instance I take an .rtf that I had worked on in Atlantis and open it in another program, but not the endnotes.
      And I’ve had problems with inserting more than just a few pictures into .rtf files.

    1. Not live. Frozen. For maximum impact. (I forgot this wasn’t my blog. I regularly fling fish at my commenters, so they’ve given me a carptapult and a garum super soaker.)

    1. It sounds like that LaTeX might be a good choice if the project fits well with an available template (or one learns to write templates), and an eBook is not needed.

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