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Posts tagged ‘Kris Rusch’

Treat It Like A Business Revisited

(I originally wrote this post back in 2016. Here it is again with some additional thoughts–ASG.)

As I was looking for potential topics for today’s post, I came across one of Kris Rusch’s posts and knew I had everything I needed right there. In fact, I considered e-mailing Kris and asking permission to simply repost the blog entry here. I consider what she said in Business Musings: Introductory Remarks (Dealbreakers/Contracts) to be mandatory reading for every writer out there, whether you are wanting to go the traditional route or indie or a mix of the two. My advice to every writer and wannabe writer is to read and then reread and bookmark the post. It is that important. Read more

Topic Round-up

Wow, the New Year has gotten off with a bang — or, perhaps more accurately, the sound of air slowly leaking out of a balloon. Traditional publishing basically shuts down during the holidays. So there isn’t much coming out of the ivory towers to discuss. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on. Just the opposite, in fact.

The first to come up over the holidays and, in many ways, the most concerning was the announced closure of All Romance eBooks and its related sites. I’m sure most of you have heard about it by now. So I’m not going to spend much time on it. The basics are ARe, one of the distribution platforms for romance and erotica ebooks, announced it could not continue operating after posting losses during the year. So, giving its authors, small presses and readers less than a week’s notice, it said it would be shutting down the site. Oh, and those folks to whom it owed royalties? Well, if they agreed to something ridiculous like 10 cents to the dollar and promised not to sue, they’d get paid. Otherwise, good luck trying to get anything out of them.

For more information about this situation, I recommend several posts. Start with this post from The Passive Voice. Be sure to read the comments and then click through to the original post from BlogCritics. On New Year’s Day, PG posted two more times about the ARe situation. The first, also from Blog Critics, discusses some court documents that are very revealing about what had been going on behind the scenes at ARe. These documents show just how little authors and publishers know about the distribution platforms some of us rely upon to get our books into the hands of our readers. The second is a link to a post from Kris Rusch. I cannot say how important it is to read both the PG comments but to click through to Kris’ original post. Please, even if you don’t read the first two, read this last one.

The ARe situation is bad for everyone involved. Authors are being stolen from. There is no other word for it. The owners of ARe did not give their clients — authors and readers alike — warning there was a problem. That meant authors, who relied upon ARe to do as they contracted, could not make an informed decision about whether to continue the relationship or not. For readers, it pointed out the danger of trusting online distribution sites to remain up and running and to continue giving you access to the books you bought. This is why so many of us have long preached that you need to download and save to multiple back-up sources/media any e-book you buy. It is another reason why so many of us hate DRM that tries to prevent you from doing just that. So, the lesson for the moment is to download, back up and make your own decision about whether you will try to break DRM or not. I won’t say whether you should or should not because it is against the law in some countries and it does violate the terms of service for a number of sites.

And I would never, ever tell you to do anything to violate the TOS or the law. [required disclaimer]

The next topic I had considered for today came up New Year’s Eve. I’ll admit, when I saw the site where the piece was published, I knew it probably cried for some serious snarkage. After all, HuffPo isn’t known for being a staunch supporter of indie and small presses. I was right. After all, when the headline of the piece is Self Publishing: An Insult to the Written Word, you know exactly how the article is going to slant.

Fortunately for all of us, the king of snark, Larry Corriea, tackled the task before I could. Since there is no way I could out-snark Larry, I wills imply direct you to his post. Read it, enjoy it and know that he is completely on the mark with everything he has to say.

Next up, we have yet another call to have a year of publishing nothing but women. Yep, you read that right. Kamila Shamshie has called for 2018 to be the year of publishing only women. Now, I know what you’re going to say. Look at the source of the article. It’s the Guardian. I know. I know. Another bastion of, well, drivel. However, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen such calls, or something similar. Have you forgotten the calls for readers to give up on reading books by men — or non-people of color or other so-called marginalized groups — for a year?

One of the best responses I’ve seen to the Shamshie article comes from Dacry Conroy. These three paragraphs completely dismantle Shamshie’s argument:

Yes! I thought. We do need to take example from the suffragettes, we do need to stop being so polite and seize our own power, raise our voices and… That’s when she lost me. Because what Shamsie suggested we raise our voices to say to the publishing industry was, essentially, “Please let us in. You’re being unfair. Just for one year without any boys in the way and see if the readers like us. It doesn’t have to be right away, 2018 is fine, but give us a go? Please?”

I don’t see the spirit of the independent presses of the 70s and 80s in that. What I see is a spirit of dependence on an industry that infantilizes writers, making them grateful for any morsel of approval and attention, convincing them that a publishing house is the only way to ‘real’ publication. This seems to be particularly so of literary writers (a group to which I do not pretend to belong) who appear to have been convinced that even though they are the keepers of the “artistic flame,” they would not have an audience at all without the festivals, the reviewers and the awards the publishing houses so carefully close to all but their own.

Surely the lesson from the independent presses of the 70s isn’t to plead for someone else to start a press and offer better opportunities, it’s to stand up, use the technology available and become our own publishers. Many of us are already doing that.

Be sure to check out the rest of Conroy’s response at the link above.

Finally, someone stirred the waters and more and more posts have been appearing on social media about the evils of self-publishing. We need gatekeepers. We need editors. We need to serve our time as journeymen learning our craft the old way. Traditional publishing is the only way to do that. We’re flooding the market and writing books that shouldn’t be written.

You get the drift.

I’ve been hearing this sort of thing since I first stuck a toe into the indie waters more than six years ago. I’ll freely admit there is some dreck out there. Hell, there’s a lot of dreck out there. But it isn’t all coming from indie authors. Remember, there is the traditionally published science fiction (erotica) where the male lead’s genitals are so dangerous they have to be chained. (Kate, quit laughing so hard. You’ll hurt something.) Then there is the traditionally published paranormal romance where the vampire groom marries his human bride in a church, drinks faux blood champagne and then, like a scene out of the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, flies off into the sunset with her in his arms. Sorry, vampires don’t sparkle, they don’t do sunlight unless they are really, really old and usually evil or insane. They certainly don’t go flying off into the sunset ala Superman and Lois Lane.

Every argument against indie books can be answered easily. We need gatekeepers. Guess what? The gatekeepers are the readers. They tell us if we are doing something right or wrong. They tell us if they want to buy what we’ve written or not.

We need editors. There are a ton of editors out there we can hire or barter services with.

We need professional looking covers. Easy peasy. We can hire or barter for services. And, btw, have you seen some of the traditional covers recently, especially for romance books? Can you say “stock photos”?

We need someone to format and convert our books. Pardon me while I laugh hysterically. Formatting is simply setting up a template and writing in it. Conversion is nothing when you look at what we used to have to do. I remember having to hand code a novel into html. Now? You can upload your Word file or a mobi or epub file. No problem. And print? That’s a bit more tricky but I can prep a print file in a matter of an hour or two now — the trouble is finding the time to sit down and do it because I would rather be writing.

And that, you see, is the real issue indie authors face. We would rather be writing. So some of us — myself included — tend to slack off when it comes to getting print and audio books out there. It is a matter of disciplining ourselves to do it — and that is my one resolution for the New Year. The other real impediment we have as indies is getting our books into bookstores. However, is that something we really need to worry about? Despite what the “studies” show, how many young people (age 30 and under) really go to a bookstore and buy a print book for themselves? How many bookstores do we have? In my town, none. The closest bookstore is about 8 miles away and is located in a very busy shopping area with lousy parking and even worse access. In fact, if you don’t know it’s there, you would never get off the highway or the main city street to pull into the shopping area to find it — and it is a Barnes & Noble.

As for the complaint that we are saturating the market, possibly. However, indie publishing has proven traditional publishing was not meeting reader demand — either in the number of new books being offered each month or in subject matter. How long have we listened to the old saw that science fiction is dead? Yet more and more indie sf writers are starting to make enough from their writing to consider quitting their day jobs.

What do you think? Are indies an anathema to good writing and reading?

Treat it like a business

As I was looking for potential topics for today’s post, I came across one of Kris Rusch’s posts and knew I had everything I needed right there. In fact, I considered e-mailing Kris and asking permission to simply repost the blog entry here. I consider what she said in Business Musings: Introductory Remarks (Dealbreakers/Contracts) to be mandatory reading for every writer out there, whether you are wanting to go the traditional route or indie or a mix of the two. My advice to every writer and wannabe writer is to read and then reread and bookmark the post. It is that important.

I’m not going to rehash what Kris had to say. However, I do want to build on it — at least in a way. To me, beyond being a warning about what to look for, the post comes down to a simple premise: treat your writing like a business. If you designed widgets and you spent time negotiating a contract with someone to manufacture and then distribute your widgets you would — I hope — get an attorney to look over the contract before you signed on the dotted line. As writers, we should do the same for any contracts we sign, be they with an agent or a publisher. We should keep in mind that we want our rights back and we certainly don’t want them tied up not only for the length of our lives but potentially our children’s lives as well. We want the best terms for us, not for the publisher or agent.

There’s another aspect to treating it like a business as well. If you have a “real” job — you know, one of those things jobs where you will be fired if you don’t show up or if you don’t produce — you have to go to work whether you feel like it or not. Sure, you have paid time off (hopefully) but those days are limited. After using it up, you are SOL. If you don’t perform up to standard, you are let go. That means, as most of us know, when those days come along when you would prefer to stay in bed — or go to the zoo or play video games or whatever — you can’t. You have to drag yourself out, mumbling and grumbling and go to work. No work, no pay.

Writing is a lot like that as well. It is that 9 to 5 job with more distractions and a greater need for self-discipline. It is very easy as you sit at your desk, staring at the computer screen and not having words come, to find cleaning the bathroom suddenly very attractive. If you are like the majority of writers, you have that 9 to 5 job, so you have to grab writing time where you can. I know how difficult it can be to force yourself to sit down at the end of day, once everyone else has gone to bed, to get in an hour or two of writing. As someone who is not a morning person, having to etch those hours out before the household gets up is even harder to do. But writers for years have done just that. They have done it because they know they have to treat writing just like they do their “real” job. They have to put but in chair and and just do it.

That also means you have to set yourself a schedule. I don’t mean you have to have specific hours — or a set number of words — you have to write each day/week/month. I guess what I’m trying to say is you have train yourself — and your family and friends who might not view writing as a “real” job — that when you go to your writing space, you are at work and nothing short of compound fractures, spurting blood or Girl Scout Cookies are cause for interruption. Yes, you have to tell yourself that you are going to write regularly and you have to follow through. If you allow distractions to take you away from writing, it soon becomes much easier to find excuses for doing anything but write.

It also means you keep track of your expenses, just as you would with any “real” business. How much have you spent on paper and printer ink/cartridges? Did you buy reference books this year for something you are working on? How about trips? Did you take any and use them, at least in part, for research? Do you belong to any professional writing organization that you pay dues to? Do you pay for web hosting and have a website/blog/whatever that is used to promote your work as a writer? Did you go to any cons or workshops that you paid for (or paid for travel)? Were you invited to speak at any cons or workshops and were your paid or have your travel paid for? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, do you know what — if any — of them can be used as tax deductions? What about income? Would any of it have to be declared as income and, if so, what sort of IRS form would you need to use?

In other words, along with a good IP attorney to vet any contract you might get from a publisher or agent, you need a good accountant to help you navigate the oddities of the Tax Code where writers are concerned.

To bring it all back to a simple point, writing is a business. You have to show up, just like you do to that job at the office or on the line. You might “work” three days a week or five or even seven. But you have to do it. If you don’t, you will be fired. This time it will be by your readers (or by your publisher if you are traditionally published). Even if you show up, if you aren’t producing, you will be “fired”.

You have to treat it like a business in that you have to pay your taxes — so you have to know what you must declare and what you can use as deductions. You have to make sure your contracts are at least as favorable to you as they are to your publisher or distributor or agent. You must have the proper people (IP attorney, accountant or tax expert) in place to help you navigate all these distractions so you can focus on writing.

So go put your butt in your chair and fire up your computer — or pull out pen and paper — and start work. If you don’t, no one is going to do it for you.

And, on that happy note, I’m off to work. There are books to write, others  to edit and money to be made.

*     *     *

Part of treating it like a business is also doing promotion. So here are three books for your consideration.

The first is Changeling’s Island (Baen) by Dave Freer.

Teenager Tim Ryan comes into his own as he faces danger on a remote Australia island where magic lurks in land and sea.

Tim Ryan can’t shake the feeling that he is different from other teens, and not in a good way.  For one thing, he seems to have his own personal poltergeist that causes fires and sets him up to be arrested for shoplifting.

As a result Tim has been sent to live on a rundown farm on a remote island off the coast of Australia with his crazy grandmother, a woman who seems to talk to the local spirits, and who refuses to cushion Tim from facing his difficulties. To make matters worse, Tim is expected to milk cows, chase sheep, and hunt fish with a spear.

But he’s been exiled to an island alive with ancient magic—land magic that Tim can feel in his bones, and sea magic that runs in his blood. If Tim can face down the danger from drug-runners, sea storms, and the deadly threat of a seal woman who wishes to steal him away for a lingering death in the land of Faery, he may be able to claim the mysterious changeling heritage that is his birthright, and take hold of a legacy of power beyond any he has ever imagined.

Officially out today, although I know it started shipping before now. 

Next up is Sword And Blood (Vampire Musketeers Book 1) by Sarah A. Hoyt.

The France of the Musketeers has changed. Decades ago, someone opened a tomb in Eastern Europe, and from that tomb crawled an ancient horror, who in turn woke others of its kind.

Now Paris is beset by vampires, the countryside barren and abandoned. The Cardinal has become a vampire, the church is banned, the king too cowed to fight.

Until now, the three Musketeers, Athos, Porthos and Aramis have stood as a bulwark against the encroaching evil, their swords defending the innocent and helpless.

But last night, in a blood mass, Athos was turned into a Vampire. And a young vampire orphan has just arrived from Gascony: Monsieur D’Artagnan.

Things are about to get… complicated.

Today is the “official” release date.

Finally, Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) by yours truly, written under the pen name Sam Schall, is available for pre-order.

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

Release date for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is April 18th.

Tuesday morning publishing news

Yesterday, I had that oh-so-wonderful experience of having to take my car in for repairs. That meant I spent several hours in the waiting room while they checked it out before coming to tell me just how much lighter my wallet was going to be. That gave me time to do two things: people watch and think about a couple of projects I’m working on right now. The former is always fun and often provides fodder for my writing. Yesterday was no exception. There are at least two “characters” who will be making appearances in my writing. As for the latter, well, that’s something else. I finally figured out what has been bothering me about two of my current projects. That’s the good thing. The bad thing is that it means my brain is focusing on what I figured out and doesn’t want to work at anything but finishing the projects. That means blogging today is suffering as a result.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things going on in the publishing world we need to be aware of.

First off, if you haven’t already heard, Fictionwise is finally doing what many of us have anticipated for a long time. It is closing its cyber-doors. The last day it will allow sales of any titles still listed there will be December 4th. The last time you will be able to download any titles you’ve bought will be December 21st. If you have a Fictionwise account (or or accounts), you should have already received an email about what is going to happen. You can opt in through a link in the e-mail which will transfer your titles to your Barnes & Noble account. I’ll admit that I haven’t done this yet and I’m not sure I will. I only have a few books I’ve purchased through Fictionwise and I’ve already got them downloaded to several different locations and, yes, I will be downloading them all again just to be sure.

The reason I said this is something many of us have anticipated is because of what’s happened with Fictionwise since it was purchased by Barnes & Noble back in 2009. There was a time when Fictionwise had many of the same books you could find at Amazon for the kindle. Then B&N purchased it and suddenly titles disappeared from Fictionwise and authors who had been easy to find there were no longer to be found. In other words, B&N was routing those authors and publishers that were selling well over to their main site and leaving Fictionwise to be the poor second cousin, nose pressed to the window looking in.

It has been a slow death for Fictionwise but not an unexpected one. Gone is an outlet for authors and an easy interface for readers.

Penguin Books has announced it will be expanding its e-book lending program to libraries. Now, before you get excited and start thinking this means you’ll soon be able to download your favorite e-books, what this means is that if you are a part of the Los Angeles Public Library system or the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) library system, you won’t be included. But, looking at this from the glass half full side, it is an expansion. I’m not holding my breath, especially since we have yet to see exactly how the merger between Penguin and Random House will cause things to fall out.

For more on libraries, publishers and e-book lending, check out this post I wrote on how Kansas State Library is taking their fight with the publishers to social media.

And in the WTF department, Apple now has a new patent. That in and of itself isn’t that earth shattering. But this particular patent is one of those you just have to shake your head at and wonder what the patent office was thinking when they granted it. Apple has been granted a patent for  a  “design patent, titled, ‘Display screen or portion thereof with animated graphical user interface,’ gives Apple the exclusive rights to the page turn in an e-reader application.” As the author of the article notes, this means Apple now has the patent for the page turn. Supposedly there is an algorithm included in the patent application that makes the Apple page turn different from all other page turns on all other e-book readers. However, color me skeptical. I see this — and the other 38 patents it was granted at the same time — as yet another step in Apple’s war to rule the tablet and smartphone world. I may be wrong, but Apple’s scorecard in this area isn’t the greatest.

If you haven’t already read it, check out Kris Rusch’s post on Agents and Money. It is, as are almost all of her posts, a must read.

Well, that’s it for now. The novels are calling for me — as is the smell of coffee. Happy Thanksgiving a couple of days early to everyone. Have a safe and fun-filled holiday.

A short rant and a recommendation

It’s Tuesday and I’m at a loss for what to write about. Part of the reason is that my body is sore, very sore, after moving furniture, breaking down furniture, etc., for a good part of yesterday. With my son about to move home for three months to do his internship prior to graduation and a need to rearrange my workspace (something I have to do periodically to keep the creative juices flowing), I decided it had to all be done yesterday. Yes, I temporarily lost my sanity and thought I was in my 20’s and able to do it all by myself and I’m paying for it today. But another reason why I’m at a loss for what to write about is that my head is fully occupied with my latest work in progress as well as some new goings on at Naked Reader Press (which will be announced tomorrow). So, I have been trolling the interwebs this morning looking for something to spark a blog post.

Like most of you, I have a number of blogs and sites I visit regularly. Some are pro writer, others are pro established publishers and still others try to walk the line and be unbiased reporters of industry news. The problem is that right now a lot of the industry is still recovering from RWA’s national conference or preparing for upcoming conferences. Others are holding their collective breath to see what happens in response to the Department of Justice’s motion to have the proposed settlement approved.

So, I went to the one location that almost always gives me fodder for a blog post. I went to the kindle boards over at Amazon. Sure enough, within five minutes, I found a couple of things. Both leave me shaking my head and wondering who let the inmates out. Both are cautionary tales of what NOT to do if you want to win over or keep readers.

For those of you not familiar with the discussion boards at Amazon, you can find the kindle discussion boards by going to any of the kindle links and simply clicking “Discussion” at the top of the page. It’s an active and vocal community. Like most online communities, there are the occasional flame wars. But, on the whole, the discussions are more than civil — especially compared with some I’ve seen.


I followed one of the links to the romance boards and a discussion about authors behaving badly. This isn’t a new topic. It’s one I’ve discussed here before. But it is something that bears repeating, in my opinion. But a little background. This discussion began in response to authors who either responded negatively to reviews of their books that they didn’t think were warranted, often attacking the reviewer, or who spammed the different discussion boards with promotions for their books. This became such a problem on the kindle boards some months ago that Amazon created a new forum, “Meet Our Authors”, where authors could promote their books and interact with their fans.

What happened with the romance community thread is that, as readers commented on the topic, several authors hijacked the thread, spamming it with everything from angry spews to jokes from joke books, anything to derail the comments. Amazon finally shut down that thread and a new thread was opened, with much the same vitriol occurring.

I’m the first to admit that it’s hard to accept negative words about books we write. But it doesn’t help anything to go flying off the handle and responding to the negative reviews with attacks. If you have to respond, simply do so with a thanks for reading, sorry you didn’t like it. Then look to see if there are others who had the same problem with the book. If they did, maybe it’s something to be considered in writing the next one. If not, then forget about it. Don’t obsess and don’t go looking for your metaphorical stick to beat the reviewer over the head with.

But what bothers me more are those authors, and they are too often self-published authors (and that gives all of us who do some indie publishing a bad name), who go on the attack on discussion boards or who think it is their right to take over a discussion thread by hijacking it to talk about our book. That’s not only bad form but it is a sure way to drive away readers. The truth of the matter is, those folks who take part in these discussion boards aren’t afraid of letting people know what they think. They will respond to your hijacking or spam not only on the board but in their reviews of your work. Even if they like your book, they will not in the review that you were an ass and that is why they won’t buy anything else from you.

But there is a more long-reaching response your spamming of the boards or hijacking of threads can have. Amazon — and the owners of other boards where this sort of behavior occurs — can and will suspend your accounts. This is not something you want to have happen. So, please, read what you write in response to a review or a comment on a thread and then read it again before you even think about hitting the “enter” button.

The next thing that got me going this morning was the title of one of the free books on Amazon. Again, this is something we’ve discussed before. You know I have issues with books that have titles like “X kills Y, a mystery”. I should be able to tell what the genre is by the description of the book, the meta tags associated with it and even by the cover. If you have to tell me what it is in the title, then you’re doing something wrong. It is, in my opinion, a flag that you are new to publishing and screams “amateur”.

So imagine my reaction when I came across a title this morning (and I’m not giving the full title because I won’t give the author any direct promotion) that included “WRITTEN BY THE MASTER OF THE ROMANTIC THRILLER”. Yes, the first thing that got to me was the fact the entire title was in caps. Then the self-proclaimed tag on the title that the author is the “master of the romantic thriller”. Oh, btw, I’d never heard of the author so I clicked on their author page and, gee, I could count the number of titles the author has out on one hand. Hmm….”master”?

Then I read the description. Or tried to. And found myself hoping that the author had a better editor for the book than they had for the blurb. While I admit that writing blurbs isn’t my strength, I know one that works. This one didn’t. At least not for me. It was confusing and, worse, didn’t show the level of writing I’d expect from a so-called master of any genre.

A blurb should tease the reader with just enough information about the plot to get them to buy the book. The genre should be clear in from what’s in the blurb. The main characters should be introduced. The voice of the book should be there as well. But, most of all, the blurb should be well-written, as well-written as the book itself. This is the reader’s’ first introduction to the book, just as it is quite often their first introduction to the author.

I guess what I’m trying to get at here is this: if you want to call yourself a writer, you need to remember that writing is your profession. You have to act about writing like it is your job. If you work as a teacher or an accountant, or as anything else, you don’t go onto your boss’ blog or discussion board and act like an ass. At least not if you want to keep your job. If you turn in a report, you make sure it is well-written and accurate. You need to do the same as a writer. Take pride in your work but understand that not everyone is going to like it. Make sure you what you put out is well-edited and formatted. Most of all, remember that anything you say on the internet is there to be found, even if you take it down. Remember that before hitting “enter”.

Okay, stepping off the soap box now and pointing everyone over to Kris Rusch’s announcement of new workshops, including some online ones, for those who are interested. I’m off to see what I can juggle in my financial commitments so I can take at least one of the workshops.

Saturday Links

I’ve gathered some links of interest and thought I’d share. But the catch is, I’d like you guys to share your own publishing links of interest in the comments section. Of course, I’d also like to hear what you think about my links — sorry, no coffee yet and about to head out to get my car worked on. So I’m hoping this makes sense. Have I said I don’t like mornings?

Amazon is apparently the leading contender in the race to acquire Dorchester Publishing. The auction for the publisher’s assets will take place in August and Amazon has already expressed its interest. Depending on what source you read, it’s either a done deal already or Amazon is only one of any number of companies/persons looking to bid on the publishing house. I’m waiting for the howls of outrage to begin if Amazon does buy Dorchester. Will it make the brand an active publisher again — which will be direct competition to other publishers — or will it simply bring out Dorchester’s backlist? Either way, it will be another change in the publishing landscape and will begin another round of outraged cries against Amazon. I’m reserving judgment until I see exactly what happens with the auction and what Amazon does if it does place the winning bid.

I’ve been asked several times by a certain “dragon” if there is any intelligence or common sense in publishing. There is and it is on display in this discussion about what publishers need to do in the face of the Department of Justice price fixing law suit and other changes in the industry. In my opinion, Don Lin hits the nail squarely on the head and I hope there are others in the industry listening to what he has to say.

Dean Wesley Smith has a great post up on pricing. Read it. Think about it. Read it again.

Also go read Kris Rusch’s latest post. Please, read it and think about it — especially if you are a writer and have been worrying about what to do about what you see are bad reviews of your latest work — and then think about it some more.

So, what are your thoughts about these posts? Do you have other links you think would be of interest?

Who Cares?

That was the question raised yesterday in one of the responses to yesterday’s post over at Nocturnal Lives. Who cares if publishers collude to keep their prices high? Who is hurt?

I’ll admit, the question took me by surprise. For me, the answer was obvious. If publishers collude to keep their prices high, a number of people are hurt. Readers are hurt because they can no longer afford to buy the books they once did. If readers can’t buy as many books, that means authors are hurt. Lower book sales mean fewer books earn out their royalties — not that publishers really want that to happen in most cases — and that, in turn, is used as justification by publishers not to buy their next book. Publishers are hurt because, duh, they aren’t selling as many books. Add into the mix the fact that publishers have admitted they make less money per title under the agency model than they did before and you have the answer to who is harmed.

But what needs to be discussed more is the suggestion that authors can just do whatever they want, publish whenever and wherever they want.

For new authors, that may be the case. I say “may” because if that author happens to be under contract with a publisher, even if their book hasn’t actually been published, there very well may be limitations on when and where they can publish their next book or short story. But let’s take a look at what options are available for authors at different stages of their careers.

For the new author, that author without a contract, there are a number of choices. The author can try to go the traditional route of finding and agent and submitting to a legacy publisher. This is still the route advocated by some of the the professional groups. This is the old way and the slow way. Not only do you have to send your work out to find an agent — there are very few traditional publishers who accept unagented submissions — but then your work has to make the rounds to find a publisher. IF you’re lucky enough to get a contract, you are still looking at months, or years, before your work ever sees the light of day.

There is a potential problem with this route, beyond the fact that a number of traditional publishers are in trouble. Most traditional publishers have been including a clause in their contracts that require an author to publish only with them during the course of the contract. That means you can’t publish with another house, even under a different pen name, and you can’t self-publish unless Publisher A gives you permission to. Guess what, guys, it isn’t a given that you’ll get that permission. Also, the way they write the contracts, especially with regard to e-books, there is a chance that they will say your books never go out of print. Talk to writers today and see how hard they are having to fight to get their rights back. Add to that the creative bookkeeping these same publishers use to justify a title not earning out its advance and, well, as far as I’m concerned this is no longer such an attractive alternative (For more on the royalty situation, check out Kris Rusch’s post which you can find here)

The next route writers can take is to go small press. This is where the author has to be a bit more vigilant. Not only does he have to read the contract closely to make sure he isn’t going to be tied to that house — and I highly recommend getting an intellectual property attorney to do that — he needs to be sure there is nothing else hidden in the contract that might come back to bite him in the butt. There are horror stories out there about small presses that had the best of intentions but went out of business without there being a clause in the contract detailing how rights would then revert back to the author. That can leave a title in limbo for a period of years. As an author, you also have to watch how royalties are figured for some of the smaller — and larger — publishers. There are some creative ways to figure royalties based on “net”. If you see this in a contract, make sure it is spelled out what this means. Otherwise, you, as the author, may not see anything until every expense, real or imagined, incurred by the publisher in the process of bringing your book to the public has been paid for.

The newest, sort of, path for writers to take is to be self-published. It’s no longer a no-no to be a self-published author — sort of.

Why do I qualify the above? Very simple. I’ll lay you odds that legacy publishers are looking twice at authors approaching them if that author is self-published. Oh, I know, they’ve signed contracts with folks like Hocking. But, how many of those self-publishing darlings have you heard from since they signed with a legacy publisher? How many of you know that Hocking has not one but several legacy published books out now? That sort of leaves me believing that her numbers aren’t even close to what the legacy publisher hoped they’d be. And that means they will think twice before signing a self-published author, no matter how well their books have sold.

But there is also the wary eye some readers are starting to look at self-published authors with. Readers want more than just a good story. They want a good story that has been edited and is in a visually appealing format. A lot of e-books that have hit the retail outlets are anything but. So readers are starting to be a bit more discriminating than they were when Amazon first opened its doors to self-published authors.

Add in the fact that a self-published author has to basically do everything himself, from writing to making sure his book is edited to cover design to conversion to promotion and it is more than a lot of people want or can do. If the author can do it all himself, and not have to pay someone to do one or more of the steps required to publish an e-book, that is a lot of time away from the keyboard, away from the day job and away from family. It’s that or pay someone to do one or more of the steps and, frankly, most of us want to save money and not spend it.

So, I guess the commenter is right. There are more ways for authors to get their work out there — if you are a new, unpublished and non-contracted author. But for the author already under contract, you have to work within the confines of your contracts and you have to decide if you are ready to possibly sever forever your ties with legacy publishing. That’s the question authors are facing now when they try to decide whether or not they want to question their very imaginative royalty reports or if they want to fight to get the rights back to books that should have reverted to them years ago, at least if they were to go by their royalty statements.

So, to get back to the question from yesterday’s post of why should the Department of Justice spend money on this investigation, they should do it in order to enforce the antitrust laws because consumers, authors and shareholders in the companies involved are being damaged by the price fixing, assuming the DoJ can prove its case. If, during the course of the investigation, proof comes to light of other misdealings by the publishers that’s their problem. It is time — no, it’s past time — for someone to look at how royalties are reported and paid.

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Book 1 in the Nocturnal Lives Series

Now for the promotional spiel. Nocturnal Origins (Book 1 of the Nocturnal Lives Series) can be purchased through Amazon. Nocturnal Serenade (Book 2) and Nocturnal Haunts (a novella set in the Nocturnal Lives world) can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Naked Reader Press webstore. And, because I was rightly chastised by someone for not pointing this out, authors get a larger slice of the pie if you buy your copies from the NRP store. Finally, as always, there is no DRM added to any of the Naked Reader Press titles.