Writers write and more

When I woke this morning, I had an idea for today’s post but wanted to make sure I had my facts straight. So I checked several sources and came away with several things to discuss today. All are things we need to think about as writers. I know, I know. Writers just want to write. Unfortunately, there is a great deal more to it now, whether you plan on going indie or traditional. Writing is a business and that means we have to make business considerations.

The biggest considerations we have to make today as writers is whether we want to go the traditional publishing route or go indie. There are pros and cons to both. We’ve discussed those factors time and again here at MGC, so I’m not going to spend a great deal of time rehashing them. However, there is one thing to take into consideration when making that decision you do need to know about.

When talking to writers about the big difference between indie and traditional publishing, the main difference you will hear is that traditional publishing can get you into bookstores. I knew very few writers, myself included, who would’t love to see their books on the shelves of the local store. As indies, that is a near impossibility, especially if there are no locally owned bookstores in the area. So that leaves us, whether we are traditionally published or indie, to hope for shelf space in Barnes & Noble, at least here in the States.

Unfortunately, the fiscal health of B&N has been in question for some time and those questions are growing louder. As of last Friday, stock in the company was down 17.04% for the year. That includes a 5.61% decrease in the last 30 days. For the past year, stock is down 24.43%. Think about that. In 12 months, the stock value of the company has declined close to 25% and this at a time when the S&P has risen more than 16%. If that news doesn’t trouble you as a writer, it should. B&N is the main bookstore in the United States. If you thought the publishing industry was rocked by the loss of Borders, think about what will happen if B&N goes under. Even if it doesn’t, do any of us doubt that it is going to have to greatly change its manner of operation? More stores are going to close as leases come up for renewal. How many of them will be opened in new locations? No nearly enough. Worse, the loss of brick and mortar stores means publishers will lose their bookstore advantage and, believe me, they aren’t ready for that to happen. Not yet and, I hate to say it, I’m not sure any of the Big 5 will be ready when — and if — that time actually comes. So it is up to the authors to take steps to protect themselves now. What those steps are is up to each individual author. But they need to know what is happening in the industry and not let events broadside them.

Next up is the latest in the Tate Publishing debacle. A year ago, Tate was hit with a class action law suit filed by its authors. It later closed its doors. Last week, Xerox won judgment against Tate for more than $2-million. This was after Tate’s lawyers withdrew from the case after they hadn’t been paid. The basic lesson to come from this is that, as a writer, you need to do your homework before submitting your work to anyone, much less before signing a contract. Tate’s reputation for having problems predated the class action law suit for quite a while and yet authors continued to submit to them. This is why using sites such as Preditors & Editors is so important. So is doing a simple Google search. You need to know who you are doing business with. Beyond that, you really should have an IP attorney look at contracts before you sign them. Publishers are in the business to make money — for themselves. Authors are merely cogs in the machine, cogs they feel are interchangeable.

Finally, I came across this article and I really, really hope it’s someone’s idea of an April Fool’s Day joke.  I want to believe that it is. After all, any of us who have submitted our work to an editor or publisher only to have it rejected know how much that hurts. But to give up after trying with two books, especially in this day and age when indie has gained a strong foothold in the market, is beyond me. So is the oh-so-precious “I’m scarred” attitude. I really want to believe the author was trying to be funny on April Fool’s but considering the site where the post is published, I can’t be sure. What do you think?

39 thoughts on “Writers write and more

  1. Things have reached the point where I can’t even consider submitting to a trad publisher anymore. Between the horror stories about the treatment of writers by publishers (Dave Free’s post the other day was terrifying and pretty much put me off submitting to Baen, which was one publisher I was on the fence about) and the decay of the traditional publishing/distributing system, it just makes no sense for a genre writer (literary books do so poorly in the indie market than trad is probably just as viable an option) to submit through the old channels.
    Small press publishers have better terms, but there you are rolling the dice, with a growing chance they will go out of business and leave your books in limbo. Even contract terms meant to protect the author don’t mean much when things get jammed up in bankruptcy court.
    I used to dream of the day when my novels would adorn a bookstore shelves, but since I’ve been to a bookstore exactly once in the last six years, that dream has palled.
    I read the Guardian article as well. Whether it was parody or heartfelt, the feelings expressed don’t surprise me. The participation-trophy generation doesn’t handle disappointment well. And in the poster’s case, even going indie is far from a panacea – as I said before, the conventional wisdom is that literary fiction does terribly in the indie market. Ebooks seem to fill the role of the old pulp magazines – genre fiction for voracious readers.

  2. Given the genre, and the source, of the article in teh Grauniad, I’m with C.J. It rings true. I’m going out on a bit of a limb (it looks pretty sturdy) and guessing that the writer never considered indie, probably never heard of indie, never talked to other authors in her genre to see what their rejection rate was, never considered the possibility that her baby might not become the next _The Goldfinch_.

    Given the troubles B&N, and the Big 5, are having, all writers need to start looking at options and worst-case scenarios. What if B&N collapses this year? What if Random Penguin, or Simon and Schuster abruptly cut distribution, or reduce new release slots? What do we do? What about… electronic book fairs to help market and sell our books? What about regional book sales, perhaps tied to events like trade shows, or Cons, or cultural events (museum exhibitions) and things? What about more group sales sites like Azounding? What are more electronic and print distribution options for those who don’t like being tied to Amazon, Kobo, and iBooks? We need to be looking around, planning for the worst and hoping for the best, and above all writing more good books.

  3. Huh. I think WP just ate a reply. OK short version: 1. I think the Grauniad article is true.
    2. We writers need to be planning for worst-case scenarios in terms of distribution, and getting creative. Electronic book fairs? Regional book sales tied to cultural and trade events? More group sales sites like Azounding? Co-op presses? And we need to write more good books so we have things to sell.

    1. I saw your earlier commet, so unless there’s another one, WP didn’t eat yours. You bring up some good points.

  4. That article could be an April Fool’s joke but there are too many people who would “think” that way about failing to publish. 😦

  5. The Guardian article? That -better- be an April Fool, I’ve got more “scars” than that already and I’m barely started.

    I think the book fair idea is a good one. Cons are the obvious place to start something like that.

    Of course, the fall of a giant is an opportunity for the seedlings. If B&N goes down, a new opportunity rises for the cafe/bookstore model, the drugstore rack, the twirly rack of books at the corner store, comic book stores, etc.

    Those places all have distributors. Those distributors have buyers. Anybody ever look into that end?

      1. I listen to Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad podcast. I don’t agree with all his advice, but there’s one thing he’s been hitting the last few months I think he’s right about. That is robots are about to start taking over a large number of jobs.

        1. Well, if McDonalds wants to stay in business, they are going to be forced to eliminate a very large amount of labor from their establishments. That is due 90% to labor laws, regulations and so forth. Even the most amazing food company in the world CAN’T MAKE A BUCK in this business environment.

          Therefore, robo-burger is the future. Its how companies beat back the Chicom cheap labor advantage. The only industries that haven’t gone there are food and agriculture, because they can’t. Therefore to compete, they have to automate.

          I don’t know who’s going to be left to buy the food though.

          1. Oh, agriculture went there years ago. The sheer amount of manpower that has been replaced by the modern combine is… well, we’ve gone from a world where 80% of people were in agriculture to less than 3%. And we eat better.

            Even the jobs you think are too fussy… there is a device that you can drive up to a cherry tree, and clamp around the trunk. Tarps are spread underneath the tree,, and then it shakes the tree at the exact frequency for ripe cherries to fall off. (Unripe ones stay on the tree.) More advanced versions have giant metal leaves that direct the falling cherries to a conveyor belt, so you don’t even have to pick up the tarps.

            1. Mechanical pecan harvesters work almost the same way, except for the catching part. A second device comes along and sweeps up the nuts, or so it was a few years back.

    1. Have you ever heard the story about the conductor who always told everyone who came to him for advice about a music career that they should give up, being no-talent hacks?

      His principle was that it was so hard a life that if you could be put off by what he said, you’d never make it. So he went to cut them off at the start.

  6. Solution: Reviews. I have started listing in The National Fantasy Fan (http://N3F.org) (Public membership is free; just ask me) all the novels published by Smashwords in the last month. I use the N3F definition of novel for its annual awards: 100,000 words or more. There are well over a hundred SF&F etc novels a month. Are they any good? Someone should read them and find out.

    Indeed, a suggestion as part of your craft: Contribute a few reviews. Tell what you learned from the writing methods. Help readers find good ebooks. The N3F letterzine Tightbeam will be delighted to publish all of them.

  7. > bookstore

    A know a few of you are getting tired of hearing me say this, but if your business plan boils down to “get into book stores”, you’re in trouble.

    Quite a large part of the USA doesn’t have a local book store any more. I’m putting local at “within half an hour.” You have the McRack at Wal-Mart, probably, and those printed-for-Dollar-General books.

    Every time you read about a book store closing, it’s the loss of all the sales you would have gotten from the area they once served. And Amazon is so big of a player you have to stop and realize that a bunch of your lost market *isn’t* going to Amazon, because those people won’t buy online. Which may sound weird nowadays, but there are still plenty of them out there.

    1. I was tickled to discover my books are available through the Walmart website. Not in the actual stores — but at Walmart on line. Can’t figure out how it happened, although since my books are distributed by Ingram, I think that must be it.

    2. By that definition, we never had a secular local bookstore. There was only one Christian Bookstore within a half hour drive. The nearest secular bookstore was an hour away. Most of my purchases were at the stands in all the small stores – drug store; convenience stores; grocery stores; and discount stores.

      1. Yep. They prove the Puppies right every single year.

        On a side note, number of nominations are half what they were last year. Because nobody voluntarily plays with loaded dice.

  8. You know, you may not be able to get your book into bookstores, but it’s possible that you could get it into your local library. There is usually someone in charge of putting additions into the library catalog, and if you make friends with them, you could always hand over a couple of copies of your book and get them into circulation.

    It’s basically another form of publicity. Maybe they’ll like your work and want one for their own.

    1. Would be nice, but no. These days unless you have at least three reviews from mainstream sources, like, say, Publishers Weekly, they just remainder you book and sell it.

      1. Which is why you have to talk with the circulation librarian. It’s a specific process and depends on the sympathy of the person in question. (I know one who is looking to stock local authors in the library; obviously, she is not necessarily representative as a whole.)

  9. I read the article from Miss My-Two-Novels-Were-Rejected. Assuming it’s real – and I think it probably is – I think having her novels rejected is the best thing that could happen to that woman. If that scarred her so badly that she can’t even read contemporary fiction anymore, can you imagine how she’d have felt after reading her first negative review? I’m thinking an entire bottles of painkillers, taken all at one time, wouldn’t have been out of the question. Even if she’d avoided that, could she have ever have found the strength to write that second novel?

    You have to be tough to be a published author. And that woman ain’t tough.

    1. And here I took it as a good sign when I got my first one-star review on Amazon, because it proved to shoppers that someone besides my friends and family had read the book (or had started reading it, in this case. He never finished, because he thought I’d skipped too much stuff.)

        1. I wish MCA Hogarth hadn’t taken her public Web presence down, there was a 3 Jaguars comic that covered this perfectly…

          (Artist was crushed, but Marketer was genuinely thrilled.)

    2. “You have to be tough to be a published author. And that woman ain’t tough.”
      That’s why my own ambitions don’t rise above fanfiction. But I can still improve even if all I write is fanfic.

  10. The article is typical of writers who are not stubborn. Remember, there is also Stephen King who did not get published for years. However, because he is a stubborn man, all of it happened for him eventually.

    1. You could always get Gen Patton’s take on the value of persistence:
      “For in war just as in loving, you must always keep on shoving
      Or you’ll never get your just reward.
      For if you are dilatory in the search for lust and glory
      You are up shit creek and that’s the truth, Oh! Lord.

      So let us do real fighting, boring in and gouging, biting.
      Let’s take a chance now that we have the ball.
      Let’s forget those fine firm bases in the dreary shell raked spaces.
      Let’s shoot the works and win! Yes, win it all! ”

  11. I have another take on the Guardian article. The paper is a lefty paper in a lefty country…England is really not the same as the US. My books sell far better in Australia than England, and I suspect that my protagonists are viewed by lefty-leaning readers somewhat in askance…but I digress. The important thing is that England isn’t the US, and while a lot of books get sold there by Amazon, Writers disappointed in the lack of trad pub interest in their work turn in droves in the US to indie…and in England a great many authors would rather despair than publish indie.

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