Tag Archives: Baen

Of slush piles and indie and tigers and bears, oh my!

Sorry for the delay this morning, everyone. I have had an upper respiratory infection for the better part of a week that is laying me low. Because of that, I’m taking a break from the formatting series. I will pick it up again, hopefully, tomorrow on my blog. Today, however, I’m going to take my cue from JL Knapp’s comment earlier about his friend who had made it through the slush pile but who did not make it to publication.

As most of you know, there are very few publishers (other than small and micro presses) that still have a slush pile. Most of those who don’t, require submissions through an agent. I’m convinced a big part of this is because they are using the agents as the first guardians of the gate. After all, by using the agents to winnow out those manuscripts not worthy, the publishers don’t have to hire as many readers, editors, etc. It also makes the agents more of an, well, agent for the publisher than for the writer. That sort of incestuous relationship can lead to some questions of where loyalty lies. But that’s not where I want to go with this post.

For those publishers that still have a slush pile, publishers like Baen, you don’t have to have an agent. In fact, if you talk with some of Baen’s writers, you will find a number of them no longer work with agents. After all, why give an agent a percentage of their money if they don’t need to? Tor/Forge is also open to unagented submissions. There are others but most require an agent and, as JL Knapp said, that adds time to the submission process and takes money out of the author’s pocket if a contract is signed.

So what is the submission process for a publisher like Baen. Our own Pam Uphoff can probably discuss it in more detail than I can but here’s what I remember from my own forays into the slush pile, both as an author and as a slush reader.

The first step is having your manuscript in the best shape possible. Baen offers various slush conferences where an author can post their work for critique before submitting to the slush pile. Once you are ready to submit your work, you fill out the online form, upload your work and wait. There are volunteer slush readers who, if they think something is worthy of publication will send it up the chain where, iirc, Gray Rinehart takes a look and decides whether it needs to go further up the chain. If you are lucky, you manage to make it through all that and your book lands on an editor’s desk for consideration.

All of that can happen in a couple of months, if you’re lucky. It is longer for other houses. But, once your book hits an editor’s desk, there is no solid timeline in which to hear back. That’s the truth whether you are with Baen or Tor/Forge or some other publisher. Your book may sit there for a few months or a few years.

So, do you go indie, even if your heart is set on traditional publishing?

There is no easy answer. My immediate response is to say, yes. Go indie and never look back. But that’s the course I chose and, yes, I would still go with Baen if the opportunity presented itself. Why? Because I respect the house and, more than that, I respect Toni Weisskopf. That isn’t something I can say about most other publishers.

So, here’s my response to that person who is set on traditional publishing but who doesn’t want to sit around waiting months and years to find out if they have made the cut. Submit that one work, consider it a sort of throw-away novel, and move on to something else, something unrelated. Indie publish that second work. Then continue writing and publishing until you either hear from the traditional publisher or you decide that isn’t the path for you.

What we all have to remember is that there are several different paths open for us now and we aren’t tied into one path only. Just remember if you are offered a traditional publishing contract to check the terms very closely. Some of those contracts include a right of first refusal clause — often without a solid time period in which to respond — for any of your work for as long as you are contracted with that can prevent you from shopping your work anywhere else, including indie publishing.

There are a couple of other items to keep an eye on. Thanks to the Passive Voice for the links:

The first deals with author’s payments and, in a roundabout way, whether those e-books we’ve been buying are really only licenses or actual e-books. A class action lawsuit has been filed against Simon & Schuster because S&S is reporting those purchases as “sales”, which mean a lower royalty rate for authors, instead of as “licenses”. Funny that, if you read what most publishers say we are buying as readers, it is licenses. We don’t “own” the e-book.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The second deals with Elora’s Cave. There have been rumblings for some time now about whether or not EC is paying its authors what they are owed. Some months back, EC filed suit against the blog Dear Author for reporting on this. If I remember correctly, the suit was decided in Dear Author’s favor. Now, it seems, EC is threatening RWA for taking action to warn its members about the problems EC is apparently having. If true, things are going to get interesting — and entertaining — before it all plays out.

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Walking the Plank

Today, I am a pirate, Arrr! where’s my cutlass?

You may be laughing (which was my intent), but I actually feel pretty badly about it. I accidentally bought two pirated books. I wasn’t on a pirate site, I was on Amazon. I saw two Heinlein titles on sale, and I pounced on them as I’m trying to gather all of them in ebook as well as paper. I’ve bought quite a few from Baen, including the Expanded Universe (which, sadly, I’ve learned is no longer available through Baen) but these two I didn’t have yet.

Fast forward a few days, I was writing up my weekly review, and griping about all the horrible typos in the Heinleins, and how I ought to have waited and seen if they were available from Baen. I went over to Amazon to grab links so people could avoid them (the covers are distinctive) and I discovered they weren’t there any longer. Digging around in my order history, I found them, and that’s when I realized I had bought counterfeit Heinleins.

heinlein counterfeits

There are a couple of clues, here. I didn’t gig to the covers at first, because often re-issues of old books get absolutely dreadful covers. These are at least paying homage to the science fiction content. When a book is re-issued, the publisher relies simply on the author’s reputation to make sales. And I am sure these two made sales. They made $5 just off me. The other clue is the sold by: Amazon Digital Services. This is the way Amazon sorts out self-published work, and had I looked for this before hitting buy, I would have known. But Alas, this buyer didn’t beware, and one-clicked her way to reading happiness, and now she feels guilty.

As my First Reader and I were talking about it in the wake of my discovery, he pointed out that they had been taken down. But what, he asked, would happen to the monies the books made? I have no idea. Best I can figure, Amazon keeps it. I’m morally certain the pirate has their account shut down, frozen, and until/unless they prove they own the properties (books) they were selling, they don’t get access. I know this because it happened to an author I know (who did own the books, and was able to prove it, but it took a while). Now, the pirate isn’t going to be able to prove anything, they were stealing. So what then? I somehow don’t think I’ll be getting a refund. Nor do I think Amazon will track the rightful owners down (Baen owns Farnham’s Freehold right now, I believe) and disburse the money to them.

Most of the pirate sites I have encountered, in the course of keeping track of my titles and sending DCMA takedown notices, seem to be located in Russia, or at least that’s where their IPs are. I’m sure there are other countries where it would be impractical for IP rights to be enforced. With this seller on Amazon, who knows? I don’t think it was a terribly intelligent way to make money, as this is Amazon, and they do actually pay attention to copyright, unlike the more notorious pirate sites. I sometimes wonder if the rise of subscription book services, like Kindle Unlimited and Oyster, will reduce piracy sites. I know that my return rate on Amazon dropped to almost nothing when I put my short works (and currently, two novels) in the KU. On the other hand, by not having the second in a series in KU, I recently saw a return on that title, which would be someone liking the first, and then reading the second for free… sigh. Some people.

As for me, I’ve been burnt and will be a more cautious book shopper in the future. Next time I see a good deal on a popular author’s book, I’m going to scroll down a bit and see the listed publisher. I’m not going to lose any sleep over this one, but it does make me wonder if a more clever counterfeiter is out there, and what they might be up to. I know an author named Rachel Ann Nunes fell victim to a clever one, and had a very difficult time prosecuting the case against her plagiarist. Another scandal blew up way back in 2013 (feels weird to say that) around so-called authors who were taking advantage of fanfiction sites.

Sad Puppies 3

I’m including this here, but I strongly encourage you to consider not only going over to Brad Torgerson’s blog and reading the whole thing, but also to vote for the Hugos. We’ll be talking about this more here at Mad Genius Club in the upcoming months, as if you don’t remember from last year… However, last year the Sad Puppies campaign was responsible for the highest voter participation in the Hugos, ever. For an analysis of what happened last year, look at Larry Correia’s blog, here.

Keep in mind something, because no matter how much you hear it, this isn’t about politics. This is about making the Hugo more relevant to the greater fandom, as Brad discusses below, and it’s about keeping the Hugo great. It would be truly sad to lose the award of once-greatness into the morass of thinly-disguised revenge porn and poorly written (but socially relevant! To… someone, I’m assuming at least the author, although then again, marketing being what it is…) books that have turned the Hugo award on the cover from must-buy to ew, putting this down now. So let’s work on finding some really great books to nominate, and gathering interested voters who care. I’m an example of someone who didn’t vote for years, and last year, I finally did it. I’ll do it again this year. They say if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. So I pay my money, and I talk about the awards, because a shocking number of people just don’t know about them.

To that end, SAD PUPPIES has basic objectives:

1) Get works and authors onto the Hugo ballot who might not otherwise be there; regardless of political persuasion. Think we’re just a crazy minority of right-wingers out to destroy science fiction? You’d be wrong. For instance, we’d love to see Eric Flint on the Hugo Best Novel short list. Eric is not only a popular author who does the genre credit with his work, he’s a card-carrying Trotskyite. A man who (unlike most slacktivist internet liberals these days) was willing to put his ass on the line for what he believed — back when identifying as a “red” was physically dangerous business in this country.

2) Encourage people who are SF/F consumers (but not “fandom” according to Worldcon) to participate in the nomination and selection of works. To include gamer fans, tie-in fans, movie and comic fans, and everyone else who might want to have a say in deciding who gets selected for “science fiction’s most prestigious award.” But maybe they’ve not gotten the word? Maybe they’ve just been having fun, and the Hugos have simply sailed beneath their notice year after year? “Fandom” seems to think this is a feature of the Hugos: the fewer who vote, the “better” they are. I say it’s a flaw. Bring on the BIG fans. The ones who keep the SF/F pump primed with dollars and enthusiasm every year! SF/F survives and thrives because they put their money where their excitement is. So SAD PUPPIES tries to encourage them to also put their money (and their votes) where the Hugos are.

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So much for fairness

I know I’m late but it’s with good reason. I’ve spent much of the last 24 hours debating whether or not to write this particular post. I finally decided that I would because it points out yet again how so many of the so-called reviewers (and all too many vocal writers) are putting their politically correct spin on what is “good” or “bad” when it comes to books. Maybe part of the reason this resonates so much with me is I’m about to finish my first science fiction novel. Part of it is definitely because the reviewer’s bias is showing. But a big part is because I’m tired of people thinking we, as readers, have to be hit over the head with a “message” that advances their own agenda.

I’ll start by noting that the germs for this post were planted earlier when a so-called “journalist” writing for the Guardian called out Larry Correia, putting words into Larry’s mouth that Larry never said. I’m not going to defend Larry here because he can defend himself much better, and much more entertainingly, than I can. However, it was interesting that the article, with its attack on Larry, came out around the time the Hugo slate was being narrowed down. Hmm, if I believed in coincidences — or conspiracies — I’d say someone had an agenda he was trying to further.

But what really got me going was a post by Chuck Gannon on Facebook yesterday about a negative review he’d received for his book, Fire with Fire. Gannon was more amused and bemused by the review and the commenters on his thread had a lot of fun with it. Why? Because it was obvious from the first paragraph the review was going to be a hatchet job. Curious, I followed the link provided by Gannon and then dug a little deeper. Imagine my surprise when I found that the book had been reviewed twice on the originating site, nine days apart.

The first review, posted on April 3rd, isn’t too bad. It’s clear the reviewer didn’t like the book and didn’t like the way it was written. There are complaints about comma splices even (which is funny considering the state of punctuation and grammar in most novels these days. It’s doubly funny considering Gannon is a multiple Fulbright Scholar and a lit professor.) But this wasn’t the review Gannon had linked to. I found it only because I was trying to find out just who the person was who had such a problem with the book, Gannon and the fact he wasn’t falling lockstep into line with all the rest of the lemmings racing toward the edge of the politically correct cliff.

The second review, posted on April 12th, was more in your face with the PC BS and it soon became clear a member of the glittery hoohah club had written it. It is also obvious from the third sentence that it is written by the same person as the first. Why? Because there is that comment about the questionable punctuation again. Until then, the only thing we know is that the reviewer just didn’t think Gannon’s book was “up to snuff”.  But, to give you an idea of just where the reviewer falls in the spectrum, consider this comment: Fire with Fire felt like it was included in the nominees because it’s a museum piece of a certain era of SFF,  and a concession to the angry greybeards who make up a key demographic in the Nebula voters.

Angry greybeards, huh?

Concession, huh?

Funny that. The reviewer is the one who seems angry.  I won’t go into the lack of bias in the review or reviewer, who happens to think it appropriate in reviewing the book to bring up the SFWA infighting and to hurl not so veiled insults at Gannon’s publisher, Toni Weisskopf, for not falling into step with the “right think” side.

It gets better. In a supposed review of Gannon’s book turns into an attack on Heinlein. The reviewer hates Heinlein. She doesn’t know why and muses that maybe she ought to go back into his books and try to figure it out. But she hasn’t — and probably won’t — but she hates Heinlein and that brings her back to Gannon’s book. She admits she should have seen earlier that the book was influenced by Heinlein. Why? Because of the cover. What?!? She can now tell what a book is like, what writers influenced the author, by the cover? Wow. That’s really a cool power she has, especially when you consider how often a book’s cover has absolutely nothing to do with what the book is actually about. I would have thought she might have been clued in about the book by simply looking at who the publisher happened to be. Baen. You know Baen, the “evil” epicenter of all things Correia, Ringo, Kratman, Hoyt and Torgersen.

But it appears that Baen is the bastion of gate-guarding, making sure all the kids get the hand-stamp of Heinlein on their way in the door.” 

All right, I’ve quit laughing and will try to finish this post. I don’t know what is more hysterical: the claim that Baen is gate-guarding when you consider what is coming out of the other publishing houses (Oh, wait, that’s the lockstep crap so it’s okay. Sorry. My bad.) or the fact that, with the exception of Bujold, the reviewer thinks all Baen puts out is Heinleinesque science fiction. Eric Flint and others would certainly be surprised to know they fall into the evil political spectrum that is Heinlein.

All this is, I guess, my way of saying that if you want to review a book, review the book. That was done in the first post. The blogger should have left it at that. To come back in and then attack the book because you don’t like what the publisher said and you don’t like the fact it appears to be Heinleinesque and you hate Heinlein even if you don’t know why you do — psst, could it be because all the “cool kids” have said you should and you haven’t taken time to read and think for yourself? — doesn’t help your cause. What it has done is sell more books for Gannon. Why? Because you’ve made those of us who do like Heinlein curious about what Gannon wrote. So, on behalf of all of us who like a good book that doesn’t hit us over the head with the current politically correct statement of the day, thank you.

Edited to add: Welcome everyone who has come over from Monster Hunter Nation. Thanks to Larry Correia for the link and everyone here at MGC bows down to Larry, International Lord of Hate 😉

 

 

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The gates have been opened and the walls are crumbling

Yesterday, Sarah sent me a link to a post by Joe Konrath. The post itself is as informative as it is entertaining (and I really need to quit reading him during the work day. As with the Passive Voice, I tend to read all the comments, follow all the links and — oops — there goes an hour or more of the day). Two things, in particular, jumped out at me as I read. The first is that self-publishing is a shadow industry and there ” are no accurate surveys or polls to show how big it is, or how fast it is being adopted.” The second is even more telling. He wonders why, if legacy publishers are so in-touch with what is going on and so sure of their place in the industry, they aren’t coming and challenging what he says about the state of the industry. It’s a great post and I recommend everyone go read it.

One thing Konrath says is that the walls the gatekeepers have built up and continue to tout as their strengths will come crumbling down if writers start talking to one another. That is the first step. The second, in my opinion, is even more important. We have to stop being afraid to rock the boat. Sarah has written before about how writers coming up in the business before self-publishing became a viable option were told that to question your editor was the kiss of death. To publicly cast doubt on your editor or publisher could crash your career. You accepted your royalty statements, even though you knew they were wrong, with a smile and took the kick in the teeth. After all, publishers can’t be bothered with doing anything as difficult as actually tracking sales in this day and age of advanced databases. They are really looking out for your best interests by using some arcane hand-wavium known as BookScan to figure out how much they owe you. Oh, and let’s not forget about the rights grab contracts, especially for new authors, include.

Are you starting to get the picture about why authors need to be more vocal in discussing what’s going on?

But the gatekeepers help us. They tell us they do. They help separate the dreck from the potential best seller. They give us editorial support and take care of all that icky bookkeeping. They promote us and get us into bookstores. They are the gods of publishing.

Except writers are scaling Mount Olympus and the reading public is following them. The myth of editing and proofreading became more transparent with the advent of e-readers. There is something about reading a book on your Kindle or other e-reader that makes errors stand out. Things your eye missed on the printed page seem to jump out at you as you read it on your tablet or dedicated e-reader. Hmmm, that e-book from one of the Big 5 you just paid $10 for has as many, or more, errors in it as the $4.99 indie book. Where’s the editing and proofreading they were supposed to do?

I could go on and on but won’t. Most everyone here at MGC have written about it at length. What I want to do is take a look at what the other side is still saying about the gatekeepers and the evils of self-publishing.

Donald Mass, agent of the old guard, posted his take on the state of the industry here.  He uses flowery language that almost makes the self-publishing push sound like a grand, yet failed revolution. Those of us who see it as a viable alternative are termed “true believers”.  To read him, e-books have been the salvation of legacy publishing and have been embraced by the industry with welcome arms. Um, has he been following the same reports and comments over the years as I have?

Far from being threatened, print publishers instead are now gratefully relieved of the money-losing burden of the mid-list. Like giant banks that have discovered that banking is boring and the real money is in gambling, big publishers are now free to focus on the high-risk/high-reward game of finding the next Twilight, Hunger Games,Game of Thrones or Fifty Shades of Grey.

That sound you hear is every mid-list writer who isn’t in complete denial screaming in anger. The mid-list was only a money loser for publishers when the publisher dropped the ball. The thing about your mid-list was that you knew there was a built-in audience for those books. You knew that if you didn’t screw it up by bringing books out too close together, by not giving them basically the same cover and by by letting purchasing agents for bookstores know that Midlister A had a new book coming out you’d have a pretty much guaranteed income of X-dollars. The problem is that publishers did drop the ball. They started bringing out mid-list series every few months and with covers that looked so much alike the bookstore purchasers thought they already had that book in stock. So orders dropped and, suddenly, your mid-listers didn’t make the money they used to.

Think about it. How many series have you started, as a reader, and anxiously awaited the next book only to find that after the second or third book the series was dropped? Was it really because interest flagged or because the publishers thought they could skew the system and get money quicker by cutting corners and changing the order paradigm they’d spent years creating?

Now look at those mega-best sellers Maas lists above. Think about how those particular publishers put everything behind that series and then, when the series is over, they have nothing to take its place. Gone are the dollars from the mommy porn despite all the wanna-be clones of it the publisher has bought and brought out. Look at the income reports for the last quarter and see how the 50 Shades publisher is moaning because its income is down now that the series is over. Twilight’s publisher is in the same situation. So yeah, the quick dollar is nice and that is what the publishers cut the mid-listers for. Grab the bucks now and we’ll find another mega hit before this current one is over.

Except that rarely happens and, because you cut the mid-list, you have even cut off that guaranteed income you would have otherwise had.

Better still, because some authors are now—voluntarily!—willing to bear the expense and undertake the effort of building an audience by themselves, print publishers have the luxury of culling the prize cattle from the herd.

In one sense, he’s right. But only in one very narrow sense. Authors are “voluntarily” building an audience ourselves because we’ve been told we have to. Even those who want to go the traditional route are told we have to build our “brand”. When you try to find an agent, you are often asked — even before you are given the opportunity to query — what your marketing plan is. Those who do have agents are told they need to blog, be active in social media. Oh, and those book tours and marketing efforts publishers tell you they’ll do? Those are on your own dime unless you’ve been tagged as the latest dahling or you are one of the special few. The fact that authors are choosing to “voluntarily” build an audience before getting a publishing contract isn’t o help publishers. It’s because most of us have decided we’d be better off spending those dollars and recovering them from our higher self-publishing or small press royalties than lining the pockets of a publisher and agent. And as for those authors the publishers “cull” out (and don’t you just love being compared to cattle? Sort of give you an idea of what agents and publishers think of us, doesn’t?), how often do you hear about them after the “culling”?

According to Maas, those of us who self-publish or small press publish are the freight class. We bear all the costs and rarely succeed. According to him, the problem with this is that:

Freight Class novels generally take few risks. Too often they rely on character stereotypes, heavy-handed plots, purple and obvious emotions, and messages and themes that are time-worn. Justice must be done. Love conquers all. Good vs. evil. Freight Class fiction can be easy to skim. Literary flourishes are few, cliffhangers are many. Genre conventions are rigidly honored. Characters are not motivated from within, for the most part, but instead are pushed into action by external plot circumstances.

Um, WHAT? Funny, as a read, I like books where justice is done. If I read a romance, I want to see that love wins out. And what the heck is wrong with good v. evil? Oooh, I see. It’s the “G” word. Genre. Genre is evil. Sigh. Can you say, “over-generalization?”

Next is his so-called “coach class”. Literary fiction and fiction that sells best in soft cover and as e-books. He even admits that marketing, if it happens from the publisher, isn’t effective. The “if it happens” is key here because — duh — it doesn’t, as a general rule. This is, whether he wants to admit it or not, where the mid-listers fell. But, since the publishers see them as expendable, the former dahlings, the literary writers, are now filling this niche. Guess what, literary fiction doesn’t sell as well. The publishers see this new mid-list as confirming their claims but all it does is confirm what we already knew. Mid-listers of five or ten years ago did sell but these new ones don’t, not to the same level.

Finally, there is his “first class”. These are the lucky ones anointed as the the next best great thing. They are the ones who get hard and soft cover runs. The ones the publishers invest big bucks into in order to make the book a success. These are also, all too often, the authors who have been chosen to write the next Twilight or Hunger Games, or whatever. The problem is, they are all too often poor copies and the reading public has already moved on to something else.

In a way, Maas is right. The so-called revolution hasn’t taken down legacy publishing. But it has led to changes. Maas has to support the old guard because that is where his money comes from. But it always bothers me when someone who is supposed to have the best interests of his clients — writers — at heart continues to support a system that actively works against those interests. Instead of seeing why we should be embracing the old ways, I want to know what he’s doing to prevent publishers from trying to grab rights to a book for the length of copyright without any out clause. I want to know that his agency doesn’t have a similar clause in their contracts as well because, let’s face it, agency contracts are looking more and more like publishing contracts. I want to know what he is doing to increase the royalty rate given to authors, especially on digital books, whether the author is just breaking in or has been around for years. I want to know what he is doing to get accurate royalty figures for his clients instead of relying on the very unreliable BookScan numbers.

You want to convince me, and those who feel like me to go the traditional route, show us that you don’t really think about us as cattle or interchangeable cogs. Oh, wait, they can’t because that is exactly how they feel. Until that changes, I’ll stick with my freight class and laugh all the way to the bank.

Oh, I’ll also hedge my bets and try the trad route too — but not with one of the Big 5 and not with an agent who would probably fight me tooth and nail on my choice of where to send my work and then happily take their 15% or more of what I might make. Nope, I’ll take my chances one day with Baen, the one publisher I know at least listens to their readers AND their authors.

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Where’s the Money, Pt. 2

Yesterday over at According to Hoyt, Sarah kindly posted a guest blog by yours truly asking “Where’s the Money?”. The post came out of reading Jim Hines’ annual reporting of what he made as an author and the results of he 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Survey. I won’t rehash that blog other than to say I had some serious issues with the survey — or at least with the results of it tat have been reported. I won’t pay the almost $300 required to get full access to the survey questions and responses. However, doing some more research into the survey has led me to suspect that some of my suspicions about the reasons behind the survey were correct.

According to an article over at the DBW (Digital Book World) site, the survey “asked authors whether particular outcomes were more likely with self-publishing or traditional publishing.” Authors were asked about distribution, cover and interior design, marketing, etc. Note, too, that the author of this article links to “What Advantages do Traditional Publishers Offer Authors”,  which for a mere $295 will let you see the survey results and, presumably, other information.

Take a few moments to look over the DBW article and then tell me that there isn’t a bias, at least in the way the information is presented, toward traditional publishing. It also becomes more clear in this article that the “aspiring authors” who took part in the survey, and accounted for approximately 65% of the respondents, were just that – “aspiring” authors. People who have never sold anything. I came to that conclusion when reading the last paragraph of the article. The problem with this is that when you are surveying authors about things like income and publication numbers, especially when you are trying to point out the differences between traditionally published and self-published authors, why in the world are you skewing the results by including authors who have never published?

If that isn’t proof enough that there was bias built into the survey, the next DBW article is further evidence of it. In “2014 Author Survey: Indie Authors and Others Prefer Traditional Publishing . . . Slightly“, the author of the article comments that most authors would prefer to traditionally publish their work. They didn’t share his enthusiasm for indie publishing. He points out that the majority of those answering the survey “were aspiring authors who had not yet published a manuscript.” Of these aspiring authors, approximately only a third had a finished manuscript. The rest of the respondents break down thusly: The numbers of self-published (n=1,636), traditionally published (n=774), and hybrid (n=598) authors are relatively small by comparison (and the remaining authors could not be classified due to missing information).

Oookay, now my suspicions about the survey have been confirmed. The “aspiring authors” are just that, folks who have not yet published anything. So, my question continues. Why were their responses given any weight in the survey about our industry, especially when it comes to income and units sold? Also, why was data from those unclassified authors considered?

But to continue. . .

My next suspicion is also confirmed. The survey was, indeed, non-scientific. It was done by folks volunteering to answer the survey questions instead of the survey developers going out and taking a random sampling of the writer pool. Most of those who responded did so after receiving notice from Writer’s Digest about the survey. You know Writer’s Digest. That’s the company and magazine that has so much of its survival tied to the continuing survival of traditional publishing. Hmmmm. . .

The greatest preference for traditionally publishing was reported by traditionally published authors (87.2%) followed by not-yet-published authors (76.8%). Among authors who have self-published, more than half hoped to publish with traditional publishers—53.5% of self-published authors and 57.8% of hybrid authors.

Considering how the survey was conducted, this doesn’t surprise me. Heck, I would like to traditionally publish — but only with one publisher and that publisher isn’t actually all that “traditional” when you look at the greater scheme of things. I’d love t sign a contract with Baen. It is the one publisher where I know I wouldn’t have to skew my politics and beliefs in a book I wrote so that it followed whatever the politically correct/socially desirable cause du jour might be. Baen, under the leadership of Jim Baen, expanded into e-books long before there was a Kindle or a Nook. He saw that technology and customer demands were changing and he led the field — with the field kicking and screaming and condemning him — into the digital age. He refused to put DRM on his e-books, something that has continued under the leadership of Toni Weisskopff. So, yes, I’d sign a contract with Baen any day of the week. I can’t say that about any other traditional publisher.

To add another layer to the misinformation that has been coming from this survey, take a look at what Publishers Weekly has to say about it. “Just over 9,200 authors responded to the survey. . . .” Now, PW does go on to note that these “authors” fall into four categories: aspiring, self-published, traditionally published and hybrid-published. Still, the skewing is done. It goes on to reinforce the “findings” that most authors would prefer the traditional route because they feel they will get more marketing, distribution and editorial support. (Sarah, quit laughing. They did survey mostly unpublished authors who don’t know better.)

Look, the truth of the matter is simple. Those behind the survey may have had the best of intentions but the survey is flawed. Yes, some authors may have wonderful editors who work closely with them. They may actually get good marketing and distribution from their publishers. But they are the exception and not the rule. You can find story after story about authors who have had books published that their so-called editor never even looked at. It was relegated to an intern or someone similar to make sure there weren’t too many misspelled words and then sent to the printer. You’ll find other writers, some of them bona fide best sellers, who hire private editors to go over their work because they know the editors at their publishing house either won’t or can’t do a decent editing job on it.

As for marketing, that usually consists of making sure your book is listed in the publication catalog sent to bookstores. Rare is the project where actual publisher dollars are spent on commercials or internet ads or, gasp, book tours. Now, your publisher will be more than glad for you to spend your own money to do so — in fact, a lot of them will encourage you to spend your money to promote your work. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

To close, the survey concludes that vast number of non-traditionally published authors made less than $500. That might be true but we can’t take that at face value because of the problems with the survey. What I can tell you is that I made substantially more than that this past year. I know a number of other self-published or micro-press published authors who did as well. I also know that I have seen as many poorly formatted e-books from traditional publishers as I have from indies. Are there advantages to being traditionally published? Sure. But the question becomes do those advantages outweigh the disadvantages? That’s something each of us has to weigh.

And for the love of Pete, if you get a contract offer from a legacy publisher, have an IP attorney look it over before signing it.

For me, I will continue along the path I’ve been on these last few years. If, by any chance, I do get an offer from Baen, I’ll be thrilled. But I won’t hold my breath until I do. Instead, I will continue writing, both under my own name and under the pen name of Ellie Ferguson, and smiling as I collect my royalty payments. And I most definitely will not let the results of some survey convince me that I’m doing it wrong — at least not if they want me to pay almost $300 just to see the survey and the results and when it is clear from the data that has been reported that the survey has some very serious problems with the survey sample and with possible bias.

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Work smart and think

Having finished the latest work in progress, I’m at that phase where my brain is still thinking about the project and the inner me — that very insecure and scared writer — is worrying as I wait to hear back from The Boss about whether or not she likes what I did. Other plots are trying to push forward because they want to be written, but they’re having trouble pushing through the sludge that is my brain right now. The business side of me knows I need to at least consider which one to do, but it’s not easy. After all, do I want to finish the space opera or go back and do the next title in the Nocturnal Lives series or do I go ahead and do the follow-up to the novel I just finished? Or what about any of the other novels that I’ve made notes on or started but put aside to finish something else? Oh the joys of being a writer with a mush brain and not enough coffee.

So, knowing I’m not ready to start on a new project yet, or even pick up the strings of one I put aside in order to write the last two novels, I started searching the interwebs for some inspiration for today’s post. A couple of things popped up and, well, started me thinking. The first was an exchange on Baen’s Bar yesterday. For those of you not familiar with the Bar, it’s an online community where fans can interact with other fans, Baen authors and editors. It was social media before social media existed.

Baen is also one of the few major publishers that still has a slush pile. Authors can submit to Baen through its online slush pile without first querying and without having an agent. Baen has always been upfront that the chances of being selected from the slush pile is very slim. It also takes time, time to make the first cut where a slush reader recommends your manuscript be reviewed by someone up the chain of command and more time if your manuscript gets passed on to one of the editors. It isn’t a quick process but Baen has never said it would be.

So imagine my surprise yesterday to see a post on the Bar from someone accusing Baen of lying about never accepting manuscripts from “new” writers. His proof of this was that there were no “new” authors listed on the schedule for the last year or then next few months. When some responders pointed out that there were new authors on the list, he came back and basically moved the goal posts. He said these authors weren’t “new” because they were known to be writers in other areas: gaming, non-fiction, etc. What he was talking about were authors who had never been published before, ever. He went on to basically say the slush pile was just a ploy by Baen to build brand loyalty.

Now, this poster did admit that he’d tried going through the slush process but had been turned down. He complained about how long it took (but when someone checked the time involved, it was within the time frame Baen tries to stick to). What got me about his comments were that he was there to rant and each time someone responded with proof that his premise was wrong, he basically said, “but that’s not what I meant. This is what I meant.”

But what really got me was this guy’s whole attitude. I wouldn’t blame the powers that be at Baen for never wanting to see anything from him again. You don’t go onto a forum, private or public, and accuse the forum owners of lying and using ploys. At least not if you want to do business with them again. While this might not rate up there with the author who went on a public rant about his editor a few years ago —  a very public and profanity laced rant — this was anything but smart. So the lesson is, always think about what you’ve just said and what the ramifications can be before you hit the enter button. Then, if you do hit enter, don’t keep digging the hole deeper unless you’re into being piled on.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only WTF moment I had yesterday as I went looking for topics for today’s post. Cedar Sanderson — hi, Cedar! — linked to a Facebook page claiming to be the next best thing for helping authors market their work. Now, she’d linked to it with the comment that something about it didn’t feel right to her. I had the exact same reaction — and, no, I’m not going to link to it and give these guys any more publicity than they have already gotten. Why? Because I don’t have a good feeling about them and here’s why:

This is a Facebook page only. I couldn’t find a website for them. One the FB page, they say that if they get to so many likes, they will open up for a beta test. As I said, I couldn’t find a website for this so-called company to check out what they are going to offer, who is behind the company, etc. All I know is that if they reach beta and if you sign up, for a fee of $15/month, you get to reach”thousands” of connections. Again, no idea who the connections are or how they are chosen. There are other red flags, but I think you get the point about why it isn’t something I’m going to run out and sign up for.

I don’t mind paying to promote any of my books. But I have to do it smart and simply signing up for something that says it’s going to be great without seeing anything about how they are going to work, who they are putting my book in front of, etc., isn’t going to get me to pry open my wallet. The problem is, I’m seeing more and more of these types of sites popping up. They promise a lot for a little bit of money so authors sign up. After all, we’re writers, not marketing execs. But we have to be smart with our money. Throwing it out there just because someone says they will get your name out there doesn’t guarantee it. So look for easily identifiable websites for the company wanting your money. Read their contract and see who their contacts are. Find out what role you have to play in all this. If you have to promote someone else’s work in order for your work to be promoted somewhere, ask yourself if it is worth it. This is especially true if the person or persons whose work you have to promote is not familiar to you. Do you have time to look at their book or short story before deciding if you want to recommend it to your readers? In other words, is this wonderful opportunity to promote going to become a time sink that will adversely affect your writing time?

Finally, I have to say something about crowd sourcing your work. What brought this to mind was the announcement that Wattpad is now offering what they call Fan Funding. I’m not against crowd sourcing in general. But I do have reservations. As a writer, I know what a hit my confidence would take if I posted a project and it didn’t get funded. It’s that same hit I take with royalty statements when my sales are down. I know sales are cyclical and there are times of the year when my stuff sells better than others. I also know that the more often I put things up, the better my sales. But that doesn’t ease the hit to my ego when I see the actual figures on paper. So imagine the ego hit I’d take if I posted a project for funding and it didn’t fund. And, let’s face it, that’s not an unusual reaction for most writers. We are an insecure lot, on the whole.

But I have another concern with crowd funding, especially with the Wattpad version. Now, going in here, I’ll admit I’m not familiar with the ins-and-outs of Wattpad. So some of my assumptions may be wrong. But if I read the initial information about the Fan Funding, the book you are trying to crowd source would be available on Wattpad. My questions are if this means everyone who belongs to Wattpad would be able to read it for free. While I have no problem giving away my work for free, I want to be able to choose when and for how long that happens. A new work that I’m trying to get sales for needs to be a for sale title and not one that thousands upon thousands of folks can access for free. I get no money then and I like to eat and my animals like their kibble.

From a consumer point of view, I have another concern with this sort of funding of projects. Most of these crowd funding sites do have a set period of time for a project to meet its funding goal. Thirty days seems to be the standard. Your credit card won’t be charged until the funding goal is met — or a hold is put on your pledged funds and then the hold is released. That’s a good thing. But what happens if the goal is met, your credit card is charged and then the project never comes to fruition? There are a lot of reasons for this to happen but if you’ve pledged money to see a project happen and it never does, or it takes so long to happen that you figure it will never take place, you will think twice before ever funding another suck project and you sure as hell will think twice before ever buying anything else from that author.

I guess the common thread through all of this is that we, as writers, have to think about the ramifications of what we do. Is it worth the time, effort and possible heartache — not to mention money — it will require? In other words, what is the return on investment? If it kills the creative process, even for a day or two, or if it means spending more time promoting someone else’s work instead of your own, it’s probably not worth it.

Write, promote smart and don’t pay for things you don’t have to unless you are sure that doing so will save you money or, better yet, make you money in the long run.

*     *     *

Since I have been talking promotion, here are three of my titles with links to Amazon. They are available elsewhere.

nocturnaloriginscoverfinalsmNocturnal Origins

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

serenadecoverthumbNocturnal Serenade

In this sequel to Nocturnal Origins, Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

nocturnal hauntsNocturnal Haunts

Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.

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Publish or Perish or be Condemned?

I’ve had a hard time writing this blog today. It isn’t that I couldn’t think of anything to write about. Just the opposite, in fact. The problem is that I’ve had to decide if I want to give more traffic to a site because of a post that had enough people talking about it yesterday that I saw it linked on Facebook several times as well as having several people email me the link. The problem is the link is to an opinion piece — and I’m being generous here — about the evils of self-publishing and how it is ruining, if it hasn’t already ruined, the publishing industry.

Now, you can imagine what my response to that happened to be. Not only have I long been an advocate of self-publishing (as long as you do it right and have quality control in editing and cover design as well as layout) but also small and micro press publishing. I’ve condemned legacy publishing and its gatekeepers for being out of touch with not only emerging technology but public demand. The so-called gatekeepers have abdicated much of their duty to agents and to bean counters all the while putting more and more restrictions on authors in contracts.

So, yes, my exploded when I first read the article.

When you follow the link, you will get an idea about where the commenter stands (sorry, can’t call him an author or a writer. Just can’t.). According to him, “Self-Published Authors Are Destroying Literature.” Well, I don’t know about you, but a lot of so-called modern literature deserves to be destroyed. But that’s just my opinion.

In the first paragraph of the so-called article, Kozlowski talks about self-published authors with “insistent need to spam social media and pump out a copious amount of horrible ebooks. . . .” He complains that self-published books are found right there along with what I assume he thinks are “real” books on Amazon and other online retailers. He moans about how these authors use social media to “literally beg for sales.”

Funny, I see just as much from traditionally published authors pushing their books on social media as I do from self-published authors. Talk to any author who is currently working with a legacy publisher — and who is willing to be honest about how things work — and you will find that they are “encouraged” to do as much marketing and promotion on social media sites as they can. Push for a book comes from its author now, not the publisher, unless that book has been tagged to be the next best seller by the publisher.

As for finding self-published book right there alongside traditionally published books, well, that is true. I’ll also admit that there have been other folks who have asked Amazon and other online retailers to somehow clue buyers into the fact that the e-book they are considering purchasing is being sold directly from the author and not from a “real” publisher.

My problem with this is two-fold. First, it isn’t Amazon’s — or any other retailer’s — job to do that. Besides, all you have to do is scroll down to the publisher’s information on the product page to get the information you need. Right there, it lists “published by” or “publisher” depending on what site you happen to be on. Don’t recognize the name, google it. But let’s face it, how many readers out there actually pay attention to who the publisher is?

But, Amanda, that’s the point. Most of us don’t know the publishers and you can’t really expect us to work at finding out if an author is self-published or not.

Ah, my children, you don’t have to. If you are worried that an author might be self-published and, therefore, part of the unwashed wannabe literati, there’s a wonderful think you can do with almost every e-book retailer out there: download a sample. Those free downloads are marvelous tools. They let you see not only the opening of a book or short story, but you can see the writing style of the author, if the e-book has been edited and proofread (are there a lot of typos, misspellings, etc.) and if the e-book is well formatted.

Oh yeah, those are free. Everyone — except Harlan Ellison — likes free.

But let’s continue.

Kozlowski goes on to note that Bowker reported that 12% of e-books sold are now from self-published authors. In some genres, that goes up to 20%. Of those, Kozlowski states that 95% of those e-books are “insufferable and are written to capitalize on trends in publishing, with authors trying to emulate successful writers such as E.L. James or Cassandra Claire.”

Of course, there is no statistical proof offered for his 95% figure, nor does he define his terms. As for the books being written to capitalize on trends in publishing, give me a break. What does he think legacy publishers do? How many books were contracted for by publishers during the height of the Harry Potter craze that were about boy wizards or wizardy schools? How many Twilight clones and sparkly vampires have we been subjected to as a result of that series? And let’s not forget the publisher who pulled an entire line of books after Fifty Shades of Grey took off (which, btw, was first self-published and is NOT well-written or edited, even after being picked up by a legacy publisher) to make sure all its covers told readers that these were books in the vein of FSOG?

But I guess Kozlowski has no problem with “real” publishers doing what he condemns in self-published works.

A couple of paragraphs later, he condemns Amazon because it doesn’t have anyone “proofreading or editing” the books in its KDP program. Uh, wait, is he saying Amazon should be the publisher because isn’t that what he says publishers do? The KDP program isn’t there for editing and proofreading. It is there as a platform for self-published authors and small presses to be able to get their books into the hands of readers. And why does he only point out that Amazon doesn’t do quality control? None of the major retail sellers do. So I have to assume at this point that Kozlowski is one of those on the “Amazon is evil” bandwagon.

“One thing indie authors have done is devalue the work of legitimate published authors. You know the type that write for a living, who have an editor and are considered accomplished, or at least well-read.”

When I first read that, I didn’t know whether to explode my head or his. According to this statement, you are not a “legitimate” author unless you are published by a real publisher, a legacy publisher is my guess. You have to write for a living. But what about all those writers who are traditionally published but who don’t make enough money to “write for a living”? I guess they don’t factor into Kozlowski’s formula, even though they are the vast majority of authors. And what about those self-published authors who do make enough to live off their writing?

Oh, he does back off a little for the “hybrid” authors, but those are, according to him, authors who “cut their teeth” in legacy publishing and now self-publish for a bit more control. The problem with this is that his own arguments against self-publishing would cut against these so-called hybrid authors when it comes to their self-published work. Where is the editor and proofreader and publicist he seems to think are necessary to make an author a “real” author?

But the telling point — or points — come in the last paragraph and in his responses to the comments left by readers of the post. It becomes clear that he feels that the influx of self-published authors, and their work in genre, is killing LITERATURE. You know, all those stories you hated to read in school because they did not entertain. Sure, you can educate and inform in genre fiction. Most of us try to do that — but without preaching or using a sledgehammer on our readers. You’ll sell a lot more books if there is a good story, one that involves and entertains the reader. But that’s a point missed by Kozlowski.

As for his responses to the comments left by readers of the post, well, go look for yourself. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if he is someone who tried to submit to a “real” publisher and was turned down and has since decided that everyone should suffer as he has or if he just doesn’t get it. Maybe he’s just a literary snob. I don’t know and I don’t really care — except when it comes to such blanket statements of condemnation as he propagated.

In fairness to the site as a whole, they did publish a counterpoint article by another of their staff. You can find it here.

As for me, well, I’ll continue writing and selling on my own or through Naked Reader Press, a nice little micro press that most definitely isn’t a legacy publisher. Frankly, at the moment there’s only one traditional publisher I’d consider going with and that’s Baen because it does treat its authors like people and not cattle and it does listen to its readers.

Now go, my friends, read the comments to Kozlowski’s post and judge for yourself as you see his responses. Oh, and let me know what you think!

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