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Posts tagged ‘self-publishing’

The Fading Stigmata of Self-Publishing

Gerry Martin pointed this article by Liz Long out to me, thanks, Gerry.

The publishing system isn’t broken by any means, but the stigma behind “traditional” and “indie” publishing has really gotten my goat lately.

I’m independently published, or self-published. What does that mean? It means I do not have an agent or traditional publisher backing me. It means that I’m in control of my stories, my edits, my covers, my marketing, and everything else that goes along with it. It means that I bust my ass working towards a dream.

Does it make me better than traditional authors? Nope. We all work hard to earn our keep; they just have a little extra help.

Does it make me worse than traditional authors? Still no. I’m not just chucking up the first draft and waiting for rave reviews to come in.

Things are changing and it’s time for folks to get on board before they’re left behind. I work in magazines, but it’s no secret that the indie waves are crashing down and changing the book publishing landscape. You know the stories – how Amanda Hocking self-published and rocked the publishing world to its knees when she became a bestseller without the help of the Big Six. How hundreds of authors are hitting NY Times and USA Today bestseller lists thanks to their fans and friends, to the straight up hustle it takes to earn such a title.

Self-published authors are not desperate losers (nor were they ever, but I like to think we’re more marketable now). Those of us in it to win it are not hoping to publish one book and get rich quick. I’m not quitting my job in the hopes of writing the “Next Great Novel” (because that plan doesn’t work for me).

I don’t need to be a traditionally published author to understand what goes into my books. I put on my pants like everyone else, going through the correct steps just like traditional authors do with their work: I have an editor to check my spelling and grammar, brilliant cover designers to catch readers’ attention, and a marketing team behind me so that I’m not in it alone and completely overwhelmed.

Read the whole thing here.

I think it is a slowly receding stigma – healing stigmata, if you want. When asked, I tell people I’m independently published. I own my publishing imprint, and because I have the background, I run it like a business. I do my level best to deliver a professional product to the consumer, just as if I weren’t the artist creating it in the first place. To that end, I’ve gathered a crew of people who help me with the bits I can’t manage on my own, like editing. And it’s not easy, it’s a ton of work. But I don’t expect to wind up on bestselling lists (other than on Amazon, where they count, being generated by real sales rather than projections).

As for the slowly fading, a movie comes out in a couple of months, created from a book that was originally self-published. I read The Martian back then, before it was bought by a ‘real publisher’ and optioned to be a movie. It was good. It’s still good. The only difference is who is handling it, and the level of publicity… and that’s making a wave through readers. If a self-published book can be good, then maybe others will be, too?

It’s not going to be overnight. But already, I’m seeing the readers care less about who handles the book and more about the story inside the book.

Brad Torgersen, commenting on the article, talked about his path into publishing,

It may be another generation before the unconscious “wall” totally collapses. Too many of us were born in the age when “self” and “vanity” were synonymous.

Kevin J. Anderson said it best: publishing has now been made *easy* but SUCCESS is still as hard as it’s ever been.

Speaking from my military experience, I think it’s inevitable human nature that people begin to check each other out according to what kinds of rites of passage each of us has endured. For the vast bulk of publishing history, “making it” with an editor was a celebrated rite of passage. You knew you were “for real” when you’d cut muster with an established magazine or novel house.

Certainly the three most joyous events in my entire publishing career to date have been (in order):

1 – winning Writers of the Future.

2 – getting my first sale to Analog magazine.

3 – getting a first novel sale with Baen Books.

I am a middle aged duffer. I come from the “old” world. I think the new world is exciting (and a relief) because now there is an amazing additional option that is available to everybody, and people are making money at it. But I also think it’s not perfect either. Especially when Amazon dominates so much of the marketing and delivery mechanism. If Amazon were to fold, or get draconian with its practices, indie publishing would be in a bad place.

 

Cedar brings up a GREAT point: indie publishing forces the writer to actually *be* “in the business” as it were. A lot of us from the “old world” of publishing (I guess I am technically a “cusper” because I broke in right when indie was exploding?) are absolutely shit businesspeople. You can’t be a shit businessperson and manage your indie career. You just can’t. You might luck into a phenomenon, such as 50 Shades. But that’s a one-in-a-million lightning strike. The working indie writer MUST be his/her own accountant, tax specialist, marketer, art department, etc.

I respect the HELL out of the successful indie writers I know, for this reason above all others. They are doing so much more than just writing books!

I ran into this perception with the first business I ran – and I was pitched into that one headfirst with no option but to learn how, or drown – and that is that artists can’t be businesspeople. Which is BS, and lazy. It’s a matter of learning, and even if you aren’t an Indie Publisher, you still have to learn how to be businesslike, or you will be taken advantage of. How many of us know writers who blithely signed over rights to a publisher than then ripped them off for that book, and possibly others? Brad’s been fortunate – or wise, and I know where I incline with that – in that he’s working with honorable publishers.

As for the fading stigmata, it’s going to take time. It’s going to take a raft full of authors willing to put in the time and effort to prove over and over that we can deliver professional products the public will enjoy reading, and that we can do this consistently. Right now, we’re getting our toes in the door by being able to deliver those products for less than the Big Five do. That won’t last forever – someone over there is going to get a clue and realize they have to choose between obscene profits on ebooks and keeping any bit of market share. Readers choosing between the $9.99 ebook and the $3.99 ebook will buy two or three of the latter before the former. If they really really want the expensive one, they will wait for a sale, or go to their library.

And like any scar, there may be lingering marks for a long time to come. Something makes me suspect that they may come to be a badge of honor, on the other hand. We’re working hard to make a go of it, and when you work hard, you get banged up. As much of a cliche as it is, something you have to work for is worth more than something that’s handed to you. I’ve seen that over and over.

In the meantime, the advice I offer everyone who asks about Indie?

  • Write. Write more. You will survive on quantity, not quality alone. Perfection is the enemy of good enough.
  • Go into it with your eyes open. It’s a sh*t-ton of work, and still, you’re going to trip over things you weren’t prepared to do when you started out.
  • Be patient. This is going to take time, and writing, and more writing – not all of it fiction.
  • If you opt out, read the contract. Have an IP Lawyer look at the contract. Even then, know that small publishers have the unfortunate problem that they will go belly-up on a surfeit of dreams and lack of capital.
  • Study the success stories. Larry Correia, who self-published his first book. Kevin Anderson, who writes like a machine AND runs a good-sized publishing house. Hugh Howey, the self-published man of mystery (just kidding. But he’s pretty nifty to watch work). There are others, but that’s a start.

 

 

Blast from the Past – Slap your brand on that maverick.

(Dr. Monkey, aka our own Dave Freer, is having internet problems. He offered to send us a post via coconuts but none of the rest of us felt up to fielding that many coconuts flung by Monkey, especially since his temper over the loss of internet was great. Yes, we fear the coconuts. Be honest, so do you. 😉 Anyway, here is a post Dave original published September 7, 2014. Enjoy!)

Alas, I am my own proof that the improbable does happen sometimes. My tribal name, out here beyond the black stump is ‘Worrier-with-too-many-bread-machines’ (which I believe you pig-ig’nrant foreigners all mispronounce as ‘Monkey’. You just keep it up. It does my vast self-importance a lot of good to have a good sneer at y’all.) You see, selling bread on the island is a de facto monopoly. A loaf costs more than double what it does on the mainland. People shrug and buy it, because you need bread. They’re quite used to it, as it has been like that for always and always (well, a good few years.) We only have one bakery, and they can charge what they like.

Well, unless you’re like me, mean as cats wee, and perpetually with something higher up the list to spend my money on (yes, of course I’m a rich author. I got 64 cents out of that last paperback you bought.) And with flour – which you can buy in bulk from the farmer’s co-op, yeast and a little oil, I can get away with spending a lot less. It isn’t bakery bread, but it is wholesome and good. I don’t care about the brand.

A while back I found that bread machines – which do all the tedious kneading for you, are cheap to throw-away second-hand items here in Oz. Mostly people scratch the Teflon on the bread pan, and that’s that. Or they get bored with the gadget. They’re well off enough that bought bread has no fear, and even less work. Now, I have a huge, small commercial oven (yes of course that makes sense. It’s huge if compared to a non-commercial oven. I can fit a 10kg roast pig into it, but not a full size pig). I like to cook, and I bought many years ago in a fit of temporary affluence. Being as I said, mean as cats wee, I fill it when I spend money on lighting it. I’ve got four bread machines –all repaired/tossed/ recycled bar one, two of which could still make bread, the others fit for dough, and I bake a big batch about every ten days. Rolls, buns, bread, pizza, everything, (and more) than I can buy, and done to suit my needs and tastes at a fraction of the price.

I get given these unloved machines –and bits of them, and, in my ample spare time, I coax more life out of them. I’ve just been given a fifth… the bread pan looks like someone used a garden fork to take out the last loaf. And lo, the improbable happened. The last bitsa I was given was bread pan in perfect nick… where the machine had been tossed years ago. And the bread pan… fits the new hand-me-down, like it was made for it, which, tah-dah, it was! You see, here brand does matter, does have value. The odds are beaten because both were from a common, popular, good make. If I was ever to buy a bread machine, it would be one of that brand, that type, especially if the design hadn’t changed much, because I have a lot perforce-learned skill at using one machine for parts.

So: what am I waffling on about? Obviously not bread machines. I’m talking about the value of brands. An author’s greatest single enemy is obscurity, not a lack of ability – we’ve all read drivel that makes you wonder just who the author slept with to get published, and some occasions, just how perverted that had to have been. Humans do explore, try new things… but especially if money is a factor, we tend to very wary about big spends on things we don’t know. Ergo: the value of brands and an author’s need for them.

As a writer, in theory, you have three possible brands.

1) Your traditional publisher could be your brand. In practice of course, they weren’t unless you were in Romance, or published by Baen. This part of the reason –as I see it anyway, for the endless attempts to denigrate Baen, often covertly but sometimes – as by Scalzi and recently, the individual kindly* renamed ‘the Dickless Weasel’ posting over in the Guardian last week. They hate that it works, but not for them and their little friendies.
2) You could win an Award – the award is a brand of sorts too.
3) And of course first and foremost YOUR NAME (which I mention third here, because, duh, it’s not really what a skill in writing makes you good at. It’s hard, and we have no tools, or budget for it, most of us. One is forced to do it, by necessity. We make a virtue of it, but really is it what authors should be doing?)

The thing, of course with a brand is that has value in itself. And that value needs to be nurtured, looked after and guarded if it’s going to keep being worth having, let alone grow. Authors need to be aware that they stand or fall by that brand reputation. You’re as good as your last book, or maybe two or three, if you’re an old brand (like the Hugo Awards are, or Larry Niven)

Potentially, that goes a lot further with Publishers, and indeed awards. Nurture should be their first name. Start to disappoint people and there goes many years of hard work -it’s easier to break than make. And it is largely self-inflicted injury: Attempting to diss a brand name may put off those who don’t know it, but it is a balancing act. If the brand was obscure, all you’re doing is making people notice it, and if it is a good product – or at least one that has faithful partisans, this is a stupid technique, because it tends to make those partisans vocal. Trying saying something derogatory about Apple Macs to see this in action.

Of course when it comes to awards we have a delusion with the partisans It is this ‘The Hugo/Nebula/Clark/Lambda is a great Award it will do wonders for your prestige and sales. You should be trying to win at all costs.’

Well, actually, no. Firstly there is a plainly inverse relationship here. For example Tim Neverheardofhim will benefit from winning any award. Jill Bestseller won’t much, if at all. She may actually lose sales if the award labels her book say literary and she does not sell to a highbrow audience. If it is a niche award appealing to an audience that already knows the author, it also definitely works against her. So a well-known lesbian author writing lesbian centered books getting a Lambda, basically won’t sell extra, and acts to constrain her sales to people who want to explore gay literature. It’s good news for the Lambda, not so good for the author. Of course to an obscure author it’s still a lift in that reading group.

Secondly: the value of an award is directly proportional to the popularity of works which have won the award in previous years. So: for example LotR wins a Hugo, the Hugo gains huge exposure to people in parts of society that wouldn’t know what it was, and the next year ‘Hugo winning’ has a great value. Only the next year it goes to Joe Unknown’s Piece of Drekk, because a bunch of Joe’s friends and rellies get together and push it. Or Joe is an outspoken albino lesbian transvestite, great at raising awareness, just not a great novelist…or Joe is a Neo-Nazi with a loyal blog following, and mediocre books. Joe will sell very well on the year before’s reputation. The year that follows, will sell largely off Joe’s popularity with some effect from the prior years. It’s a complicated calculation, as an award has a certain historical value, which is degraded by poor quality winners, or by winners which exclude a large section of the buying public.

Thirdly, there is a retroactive effect. Let’s say, you, Fred FairlyGood, at the height of your game, won a Hugo just between Jill Bestseller and Mary Alsobestseller. Fred will continue to benefit from the Hugo for many years… as long as the reputation of the award remains for great, broad appeal books. If the award is hijacked by a partisan group that have very limited appeal (regardless of who that group is). Fred’s award value declines, as well as the future value to any winner.

So: it is to everyone’s – except Joe Unknown’s shortsighted self-interest, each year (and even Joe should want it to go to someone reputable and with broad appeal next year and as many years as possible.) to have the award go to as broadly popular authors as possible, and that the competition appears credible, fair and unbiased. Its value its reputation. And, unless it is a niche award -That value is only enhanced by works that have very broad appeal – in other words, by authors with a large following, and are putting up their best work. Otherwise they’re at best coasting on someone else’s tail, and at worst, rapidly degrading the value of the award.

It’s why Baen did so many co-authored books – with rather good co-authors but less well-known ones Flint with Drake for example – not as is typical out there to get a cheap BIGNAME book (with in small print the actual author’s name, below), by using a cheap minor author, which de facto cheats the minor author, cheats readers, and makes a short term profit for the publisher (who places no value on their brand) and the BIGNAME who is either vain enough to think he/she is famous enough to ignore preserving their brand, or just stupid.

Hugos, with a long history have been slowly coasting towards obscurity, with the value and interest dropping, because the nominations and awards overwhelmingly went to a narrow sector of the political spectrum, a sector which sells quite little. While this was disguised and a pretense was made that it just wasn’t so… some credibility was retained, but it seeped away, year after year. Eventually the Hugo award would become a trivial thing, already it is a long way from Dune/Lord of Light. Then first John Ringo IIRC made some public noise about it. Gradually more authors and readers became aware. Larry Correia- who cares more for the genre and the history than it deserves – broke it into the open. And the reaction of the left partisan bloc was predicted, and they did precisely what they were predicted to do, to the enduring shame of all those who participated in the process. You managed to bring the Hugos and the left wing into disrepute. The tactics used in attacking Larry’s character and reputation will stain the award for years.

If it was my brand, I’d be in tears. If I had won in the past or hoped in the future, I’d be devastated.
If it was my brand it wouldn’t have happened. I’d have protected it.

Looking at next year… Those invested in genre and the award, particularly those who have been nominated/won before (or are fans of those who have), and, as this very ideologically biased, have most to lose if the award does not recapture its credibility. It needs establish that it is not ideologically driven. The only way anyone who isn’t hard left and blinkered is going to believe that… is if the noms and awards take a sharp turn away from the left, and have some very popular authors with a large following who are center and right wing — and they’ll have to do it for a good few years. The problem, of course, is twofold. If anyone who is not an outspoken left-winger is going to be attacked by the same creeps as this time, you’ll have repeat of this year, and more damage, and secondly… who are you going to get? There are dozens of outspoken left wing authors in traditional publishing, some with a fair size following – probably most of what there is to have in their niche (which is a small part of whayt is out there). Traditional publishing skews hard left, that’s just about all they’ve done for years. It’s very available, expensive, and made to suit the sellers, not the market. Rather like bakery bread here. Not selling that well, now that people are feeling the pinch. But you can find fifty virtually indistinguishable clones of the current Hugo winners very easily.

The other side is hard to find. They make their own bread, mostly. It’s generally cheaper, more varied. While there are actally quite a lot of center/right authors doing very well as indies, the list in ordinary traditional publishing of people selling 100k + copies is tiny anyway, and those who aren’t outspoken left wing is miniscule. Larry Correia was literally the Hugos best bet.

So to those who wish to retain some value for the award. I suggest you start looking for suitable bestselling nominations… that have no trace of left wing about them. Good luck trying. Most of those mavericks are more likely to kick you than go along quietly to wear your brand and add value to it.

If it happened tome (yes, I know, more chance of falling pregnant. I’m a hack, and contented with that label), well my brand is too valuable to me to let that on be put on it. I’ll settle for home baked, at least I know I can trust it.
And there is a fair amount of home-baked bread to suit all tastes available here.

*I would have called him God’s gift to Coprophagia.

***

Here are a few of my favorite books by Dave. If you haven’t already, check them out!

Stardogs

Revolution rises!

The Interstellar Empire of Man was built on the enslavement of the gentle Stardogs, companions and Theta-space transporters of the vanished Denaari Dominion. But the Stardogs that humans found can’t go home to breed, and are slowly dying out.

As the ruthless Empire collapses from its rotten core outward, an Imperial barge is trapped on top of a dying Stardog when an attempted hijacking and assassination go horribly wrong. Trying to save its human cargo, the Stardog flees to the last place anyone expected – the long-lost Denaari motherworld.

Crawling from the crash are the Leaguesmen who control the Stardogs’ pilots by fear and force, and plan to assassinate Princess Shari, the criminal Yak gang, who want to kill everyone and take control of a rare Stardog for their own, and an entourage riddled with plots, poisons, and treason. But Shari and her assassin-bodyguard have plans of their own…

Stranded on the Denaari Motherworld, the castaway survivors will have to cooperate to survive. Some will have to die.

And some, if they make it to the Stardogs breeding ground, will have to learn what it means to love.

Joy Cometh With The Mourning: A Reverend Joy Mystery
Reverend Joy Norton is a timid city girl, and she’s never been the primary priest in any parish. When her bishop sends her out to a remote back-country church, she doubts both her ability and her suitability. Those doubts grow when she hears of the mysterious death of her predecessor. But from the first encounter with her congregation — having her little car rescued from a muddy ditch, she finds herself deeply involved with her parishioners and touched by their qualities and eccentricities. Which makes it worse for her to think that one of the people she’s coming to care for murdered the previous priest…

 

Slow Train to Arcturus

Make Tracks to the Stars!

0 Ye civilized of Earth: send forth your outcasts, your primitive throwbacks, your religious fundamentalists, your sexual separatists—and heck, you can even toss in your totalitarian crackpots in the bargain. Pack them all in sealed habitats, rocket them into space, and pronounce good riddance to those lunatics, oddballs and losers!

But if you happen to be an alien explorer stranded on that ship and looking to find a way home Well then, your one chance lies in seeking out the true iconoclasts in a sea of nutcase societies—for verily, it is only the absolutely original and terminally weird who shall inherit the stars!

 

Slap your brand on that maverick.

Alas, I am my own proof that the improbable does happen sometimes. My tribal name, out here beyond the black stump is ‘Worrier-with-too-many-bread-machines’ (which I believe you pig-ig’nrant foreigners all mispronounce as ‘Monkey’. You just keep it up. It does my vast self-importance a lot of good to have a good sneer at y’all.) You see, selling bread on the island is a de facto monopoly. A loaf costs more than double what it does on the mainland. People shrug and buy it, because you need bread. They’re quite used to it, as it has been like that for always and always (well, a good few years.) We only have one bakery, and they can charge what they like.

Well, unless you’re like me, mean as cats wee, and perpetually with something higher up the list to spend my money on (yes, of course I’m a rich author. I got 64 cents out of that last paperback you bought.) And with flour – which you can buy in bulk from the farmer’s co-op, yeast and a little oil, I can get away with spending a lot less. It isn’t bakery bread, but it is wholesome and good. I don’t care about the brand.

A while back I found that bread machines – which do all the tedious kneading for you, are cheap to throw-away second-hand items here in Oz. Mostly people scratch the Teflon on the bread pan, and that’s that. Or they get bored with the gadget. They’re well off enough that bought bread has no fear, and even less work. Now, I have a huge, small commercial oven (yes of course that makes sense. It’s huge if compared to a non-commercial oven. I can fit a 10kg roast pig into it, but not a full size pig). I like to cook, and I bought many years ago in a fit of temporary affluence. Being as I said, mean as cats wee, I fill it when I spend money on lighting it. I’ve got four bread machines –all repaired/tossed/ recycled bar one, two of which could still make bread, the others fit for dough, and I bake a big batch about every ten days. Rolls, buns, bread, pizza, everything, (and more) than I can buy, and done to suit my needs and tastes at a fraction of the price.

I get given these unloved machines –and bits of them, and, in my ample spare time, I coax more life out of them. I’ve just been given a fifth… the bread pan looks like someone used a garden fork to take out the last loaf. And lo, the improbable happened. The last bitsa I was given was bread pan in perfect nick… where the machine had been tossed years ago. And the bread pan… fits the new hand-me-down, like it was made for it, which, tah-dah, it was! You see, here brand does matter, does have value. The odds are beaten because both were from a common, popular, good make. If I was ever to buy a bread machine, it would be one of that brand, that type, especially if the design hadn’t changed much, because I have a lot perforce-learned skill at using one machine for parts.

So: what am I waffling on about? Obviously not bread machines. I’m talking about the value of brands. An author’s greatest single enemy is obscurity, not a lack of ability – we’ve all read drivel that makes you wonder just who the author slept with to get published, and some occasions, just how perverted that had to have been. Humans do explore, try new things… but especially if money is a factor, we tend to very wary about big spends on things we don’t know. Ergo: the value of brands and an author’s need for them.

As a writer, in theory, you have three possible brands.

1) Your traditional publisher could be your brand. In practice of course, they weren’t unless you were in Romance, or published by Baen. This part of the reason –as I see it anyway, for the endless attempts to denigrate Baen, often covertly but sometimes – as by Scalzi and recently, the individual kindly* renamed ‘the Dickless Weasel’ posting over in the Guardian last week. They hate that it works, but not for them and their little friendies.
2) You could win an Award – the award is a brand of sorts too.
3) And of course first and foremost YOUR NAME (which I mention third here, because, duh, it’s not really what a skill in writing makes you good at. It’s hard, and we have no tools, or budget for it, most of us. One is forced to do it, by necessity. We make a virtue of it, but really is it what authors should be doing?)

The thing, of course with a brand is that has value in itself. And that value needs to be nurtured, looked after and guarded if it’s going to keep being worth having, let alone grow. Authors need to be aware that they stand or fall by that brand reputation. You’re as good as your last book, or maybe two or three, if you’re an old brand (like the Hugo Awards are, or Larry Niven)

Potentially, that goes a lot further with Publishers, and indeed awards. Nurture should be their first name. Start to disappoint people and there goes many years of hard work -it’s easier to break than make. And it is largely self-inflicted injury: Attempting to diss a brand name may put off those who don’t know it, but it is a balancing act. If the brand was obscure, all you’re doing is making people notice it, and if it is a good product – or at least one that has faithful partisans, this is a stupid technique, because it tends to make those partisans vocal. Trying saying something derogatory about Apple Macs to see this in action.

Of course when it comes to awards we have a delusion with the partisans It is this ‘The Hugo/Nebula/Clark/Lambda is a great Award it will do wonders for your prestige and sales. You should be trying to win at all costs.’

Well, actually, no. Firstly there is a plainly inverse relationship here. For example Tim Neverheardofhim will benefit from winning any award. Jill Bestseller won’t much, if at all. She may actually lose sales if the award labels her book say literary and she does not sell to a highbrow audience. If it is a niche award appealing to an audience that already knows the author, it also definitely works against her. So a well-known lesbian author writing lesbian centered books getting a Lambda, basically won’t sell extra, and acts to constrain her sales to people who want to explore gay literature. It’s good news for the Lambda, not so good for the author. Of course to an obscure author it’s still a lift in that reading group.

Secondly: the value of an award is directly proportional to the popularity of works which have won the award in previous years. So: for example LotR wins a Hugo, the Hugo gains huge exposure to people in parts of society that wouldn’t know what it was, and the next year ‘Hugo winning’ has a great value. Only the next year it goes to Joe Unknown’s Piece of Drekk, because a bunch of Joe’s friends and rellies get together and push it. Or Joe is an outspoken albino lesbian transvestite, great at raising awareness, just not a great novelist…or Joe is a Neo-Nazi with a loyal blog following, and mediocre books. Joe will sell very well on the year before’s reputation. The year that follows, will sell largely off Joe’s popularity with some effect from the prior years. It’s a complicated calculation, as an award has a certain historical value, which is degraded by poor quality winners, or by winners which exclude a large section of the buying public.

Thirdly, there is a retroactive effect. Let’s say, you, Fred FairlyGood, at the height of your game, won a Hugo just between Jill Bestseller and Mary Alsobestseller. Fred will continue to benefit from the Hugo for many years… as long as the reputation of the award remains for great, broad appeal books. If the award is hijacked by a partisan group that have very limited appeal (regardless of who that group is). Fred’s award value declines, as well as the future value to any winner.

So: it is to everyone’s – except Joe Unknown’s shortsighted self-interest, each year (and even Joe should want it to go to someone reputable and with broad appeal next year and as many years as possible.) to have the award go to as broadly popular authors as possible, and that the competition appears credible, fair and unbiased. Its value its reputation. And, unless it is a niche award -That value is only enhanced by works that have very broad appeal – in other words, by authors with a large following, and are putting up their best work. Otherwise they’re at best coasting on someone else’s tail, and at worst, rapidly degrading the value of the award.

It’s why Baen did so many co-authored books – with rather good co-authors but less well-known ones Flint with Drake for example – not as is typical out there to get a cheap BIGNAME book (with in small print the actual author’s name, below), by using a cheap minor author, which de facto cheats the minor author, cheats readers, and makes a short term profit for the publisher (who places no value on their brand) and the BIGNAME who is either vain enough to think he/she is famous enough to ignore preserving their brand, or just stupid.

Hugos, with a long history have been slowly coasting towards obscurity, with the value and interest dropping, because the nominations and awards overwhelmingly went to a narrow sector of the political spectrum, a sector which sells quite little. While this was disguised and a pretense was made that it just wasn’t so… some credibility was retained, but it seeped away, year after year. Eventually the Hugo award would become a trivial thing, already it is a long way from Dune/Lord of Light. Then first John Ringo IIRC made some public noise about it. Gradually more authors and readers became aware. Larry Correia- who cares more for the genre and the history than it deserves – broke it into the open. And the reaction of the left partisan bloc was predicted, and they did precisely what they were predicted to do, to the enduring shame of all those who participated in the process. You managed to bring the Hugos and the left wing into disrepute. The tactics used in attacking Larry’s character and reputation will stain the award for years.

If it was my brand, I’d be in tears. If I had won in the past or hoped in the future, I’d be devastated.
If it was my brand it wouldn’t have happened. I’d have protected it.

Looking at next year… Those invested in genre and the award, particularly those who have been nominated/won before (or are fans of those who have), and, as this very ideologically biased, have most to lose if the award does not recapture its credibility. It needs establish that it is not ideologically driven. The only way anyone who isn’t hard left and blinkered is going to believe that… is if the noms and awards take a sharp turn away from the left, and have some very popular authors with a large following who are center and right wing — and they’ll have to do it for a good few years. The problem, of course, is twofold. If anyone who is not an outspoken left-winger is going to be attacked by the same creeps as this time, you’ll have repeat of this year, and more damage, and secondly… who are you going to get? There are dozens of outspoken left wing authors in traditional publishing, some with a fair size following – probably most of what there is to have in their niche (which is a small part of whayt is out there). Traditional publishing skews hard left, that’s just about all they’ve done for years. It’s very available, expensive, and made to suit the sellers, not the market. Rather like bakery bread here. Not selling that well, now that people are feeling the pinch. But you can find fifty virtually indistinguishable clones of the current Hugo winners very easily.

The other side is hard to find. They make their own bread, mostly. It’s generally cheaper, more varied. While there are actally quite a lot of center/right authors doing very well as indies, the list in ordinary traditional publishing of people selling 100k + copies is tiny anyway, and those who aren’t outspoken left wing is miniscule. Larry Correia was literally the Hugos best bet.

So to those who wish to retain some value for the award. I suggest you start looking for suitable bestselling nominations… that have no trace of left wing about them. Good luck trying. Most of those mavericks are more likely to kick you than go along quietly to wear your brand and add value to it.

If it happened tome (yes, I know, more chance of falling pregnant. I’m a hack, and contented with that label), well my brand is too valuable to me to let that on be put on it. I’ll settle for home baked, at least I know I can trust it.
And there is a fair amount of home-baked bread to suit all tastes available here.

*I would have called him God’s gift to Coprophagia

Technicalities

We were talking the other day, and it came up that it might be time to collect a glossary of sorts, to define and discuss terms. With the changes in the industry, new ideas coming in almost faster than we can keep up, and with them, new words and phrases for things that didn’t exist ten, or even five years ago… Time to do some jargon-busting.

Please, in the comments, feel free to suggest additions, and I will amend this as needed. Hoping to make it into a resource that might last a bit. Not long, with the way things are changing, but…

  • Publishing
  • Editing
  • Writer-Related Words
  • Story
  • Covers

Publishing

Traditional Publishing: refers to the big five, these days, the last of the NYC-based publishers. may also refer to the larger of the small presses, but it has the connotation of being the dinosaurs in the industry: big, nasty, and full of teeth. Also known as Legacy Publishing.

Small Press: publishing houses that operate in much the same way as traditional publishers, but are usually a bit more forward-thinking and author-friendly.

Micro-Press: publishers that may only handle one or two authors.

Independent Publishers: the new breed, authors that handle their own businesses, hiring outsiders for some of the work, but overseeing the whole process like a publisher.

Self-Publishing: Ironically, this is usually not the same as Indie Publishing, although they are often lumped together. Self-Publishing tends to be an author who hands over their work to a self-publishing company that promises to provide “author services” and the results tend to be less than professional. Of the self-publishing companies I have looked into, most are scams, preying on the eager and naive. Also known as Vanity Presses. Good resources for researching before you commit to working with a publishing services company are Preditors and Editors, and Writer Beware. Keep in mind that many self-publishing companies pop up like mushrooms, and are gone just as fast, so keep in mind the cardinal rule: money flows to the author.

Editing

There are many sorts of editing, and your story may need one, more, or all of them. But it’s important to know what the editing is, before you hire someone, and to make sure they know what it is they are doing, something not all freelance editors understand.

Copy-Editing: Editing for typographical errors, common spelling mistakes, and general grammar. May also be called proof-reading. This is the most superficial and cheapest type of editing.

Continuity Editor: this person is checking to make sure your story holds together, might be helping to align it with previous books in the series, and in general making sure you know what loose ends are there.

Structural Editor: the editor who can have the most influence on your story, and the hardest to find a good one. This person should be very familiar with the genre conventions, you as a writer, and work well with you. Hard to find, and worth their weight in gold.

Writer-Related Terms

Pantser: one who writes by the seat of their pants, rarely outlining in any detail, this writer sits and churns out the story after the characters deign to start telling it to them. The sub-species of this is the Extreme Pantser, who can’t get their characters to tell them anything in advance, and have to just write, to find out what’s going on in the story.

Outliner: this writer gets it easier, they can plan where the trip (story) is takign them, and build a road map before they start writing.

Plotter: this writer has to build a story from the inside out, creating a plot like bones to hang muscles, flesh, and finally skin, har, and features on, bring it to life in stages.

Cat-Rotator: this is the poor writer who, nto knowing what is coming next, attempts to rotate the cats and otherwise distract themselves from the uncanny silence in their heads. Usually this lasts until the Cat-Rotator is doing something important and unrelated to writing, whereupon the characters all start to talk loudly, and at once.

Story

By which I mean length, mostly, although I’ll add whatever you suggest to this section. With the advent of ebooks, length conventions are changing… again. It used to be that a book of 40-60K words in length was a novel. Then, the goat-gagger came into being, and suddenly 250K-300K was acceptable, where once that would have been at least a trilogy. However, with an ebook you don’t have that wrist-bending heft of the mass to assess a book by, and once again, a novel has become about the story. Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? Then it is long enough.

Short Story: In general, anything from 1K-10K words. Can be longer. Shorter is called Flash Fiction.

Novella: Somewhere between 17K and 40K words. I think, unless they have moved the goal posts on me again. Which is the problem with defining story lengths, everyone defines it differently. If you are submitting somewhere, check to see what they call it, and what length they want. In the new era of ebooks, novellas are doing quite well, as long as they have a true end, not a cliffhanger and the message “buy another book to follow along!” If you plan to serialize a novel, make that clear, or you will tick off readers (why, yes, I was bitten by this, why do you ask? LOL)

Novellette: I’m not sure, and I’m not sure who uses this term. Moving right along…

Novel: the granddaddy of them all. Conventional publishing has the novel beginning at 80K words and up. However, again, this is shifting due to e-publishing. Also, a Young Adult or New Adult novel is expected to be shorter, from perhaps just over novella length on up (40K words plus). When I put The Eternity Symbiote in print, I was surprised to discover that it weighs in at a hefty 250 pages long, even though it is only 50K words printed. It feels like a traditional novel in the hand, but it falls within novella length, so I labeled it as that. I think we will see novel come back to 50K plus words, as more people transition to the majority of their reading in e-formats. As long as it satisfies, feels like a complete story, and has a good ending, they aren’t going to notice the word count.

Covers

My own milieu recently, I’ve found that many people don’t know what they want when it comes to having a book cover done. So here’s a couple of terms.

Cover Art: original, bespoke art to suit your book, and exclusive to it. This comes in many stages of quality, and price, but in general, it is much more expensive.

Cover Design: the fine art of making your cover look good, with type elements and art elements in the right places, and the proper signals being given off to let the reader know, at least subconciously, that they will like this book and it is a professional production.

Cover Layout: Arranging the text elements on a book cover, very similar to cover design, although usually the designer is also choosing art, which isn’t part of layout.

Full-Wrap Cover: the front, back, and spine of a book, suitable for printing. An ebook cover is generally just the front cover, NOT the spine as well.

And this got much longer than I thought it would when I started! Well, for those of you who read to the bottom and I didn’t put to sleep, please, let me know what should be added. Thanks!

Basics of Publishing

Note to Mad Geniuses: yes, this is very simple, basic stuff, but it won’t hurt you to look at it, and there are many new readers who may be very interested. Also, I’m giving a talk today, at Chapters Books in Lebanon, OH, on this topic, and for those of you who will have seen me and I gave you the link, welcome!

There are, generally speaking, three roads to becoming a published author. The first one most people think of is the traditional way, where you write your manuscript, shop it around to agents, and then, if you are lucky enough to become agented, they shop it around to publishers until one decides they want the manuscript. Note I am not saying “like” because often the decision has nothing to do with the quality of the book, but more on that later. This whole traditional process can take, and likely will take, years. There are a few, very few, publishers who will take unagented manuscripts, but they are rare.

So, let’s say that years have passed, and you get that fateful email or phone call. Your book has been accepted. Hopefully, you continued writing and submitting during that time, so this may even happen more than once. Yes, you’re terribly excited, who wouldn’t be? But it’s time to take a deep breath, pick up that contract, and read it. If you can, get a lawyer who specializes in IP law and have him read it. Publishing contracts are often very unfair, and will take rights to your own work away from you, often for the lifetime of the work being in print, and with ebooks, it might never go out of print. Also, you can expect perhaps $1-2000 for an advance, and royalties are unlikely.

I’m painting a gloomy picture, but bear with me. It’s going to get darker, and then I will show you the light at the end of the tunnel. The second option for becoming published is vanity publishing, or what is still sometimes called self-publishing. This is where you pay a company hundreds, or thousands of dollars to get a book in print. Often, you the author will be required to buy hundreds of copies of your own books, which you must then find a way to sell. The products I have seen coming out of these companies, such as Publish America, are shoddily made, from their design to the physical print copies of the books.

There is a saying in the industry. Money (and control) flow to the author. If you are paying out this much money, then there had better be results showing for it. Professional-level editing, a great cover design, a well-formatted ebook… but that’s unlikely. Most places that want to sell you a ‘package deal’ are little better than scams. Before you do business with a company, google them, and look for reviews by former customers, BBB reports, anything at all. And if you type the company name into google and the autofill puts “scam” at the end of the search string without prompting, run!

Now, for the good stuff. You can get your work into the hands of your readers. You don’t have to wait for years, never knowing why it’s been rejected, and earning a pittance of what the actual sales of the book are. It’s no guarantee of success. Your book might only sell a few copies, at first. But you will be in control. Independent publishing means you are the publisher. Yes, this is more work than passively handing a manuscript over and going back to writing. But if you are wanting to become published in any way, you must realize you are also becoming a businessperson. If you do it on your own, or with a publisher, you will have to market your books, you will have to interact with fans, and so on. But as an independent, you have the control.

Most people don’t have the skills to do it all on their own. However, you can find people who will edit (know the difference between structural edits and copy edits, before you hire an editor. There is much more information on this elsewhere on the Mad Genius Club) and once you have references for a good one, you get to hire them, and tell them what to do. You get to have a cover suitable for your book designed (I do them, and trust me, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to a book cover). You get to decide how much or how little you do to market your book. There is a thriving network of indie authors growing up online, leaning on one another for help and advice, seek this out and jump on in.

One of the arguments I hear all the time against going the independent route is “Oh, I want to have a publisher tell me how great I am!” This is the gatekeeper fallacy. Here is the truth of it. Books are accepted by publishers all the time not because they are good, but because they filled the need of the moment. Books that are absolutely wonderful are rejected every day because the publisher didn’t have room to take them, or because they weren’t the latest sparkly witchy vampire hots story of the week. The only way to really know if readers will like your book is to put it out there and see if people will buy it.

It might start slowly, a few sales, a review here and there. Or it might hit with a splash that ripples outward for a long time. One thing is for sure, if someone is willing to pay their hard-earned money for it, they deserve the best product you can give them. Don’t skimp on making sure your book looks good, both in print and as an ebook. Then, rule second (or are we doing rules? nah) keep writing. The more books you have available, the more people will discover you. And then, who knows? I don’t. But I can tell you this. Then, my friend, you are a writer.

Second note: to those of you who are semi-local to Southern Ohio and would like to have me come give a free talk at your local library or independent bookstore, if you are willing to broach the topic with your friendly librarian or vendadora, I am willing to travel as long as I can do a signing after the talk with booksales.  

Why do we write and where do we go from there?

(This may be the first of two posts today, so fair warning. I was hoping that the follow-up blog to the mind-blowing post over on Tor two weeks ago about “post binary gender in gender” would be up this morning so we could discuss it. However, it hasn’t been posted yet. If today’s post follows form, it will be published later this morning. So it is possible that I’ll be back then. Otherwise, I’ll leave it for Kate to fisk — er, discuss — tomorrow.)

I have a great writers’ group that I’ve been involved in for three years or so now. It’s a small group that meets twice a month. Most meetings, there are six or seven of us there. Some of us have been with the group for two plus years while others are newer members. We’ve had members come and go. You get that with most groups. But, over all, the feel of the group has never changed — it is a group where we do our best to give constructive critiques. We each realize that another important part of the group is the social aspect. For those two afternoons a month, we are with people who understand what it means to be a writer and who understand what drives us. That’s important.

One thing we talked about in our last meeting was how we have to write. There is something in each of us that makes writing an integral part of our being. Some of us have tried to stop writing. We have even managed to do it for extended lengths of time. The common result for those of us who did was that we were miserable. There was a feeling during those long months or years that we just weren’t whole. It didn’t matter what the reason for not writing might have been, the result was always the same. Once we broke down and said “screw it” and started writing again, we felt like a missing part had suddenly fallen into place.

So the question that seems to follow “why do we write” seems to be “where do we go from there?” It used to be that we had two choices, at least if we didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on vanity press scams that forced us to buy hundreds or thousands of copies of our books and then try to sell them out of our garages. We could either try to find an agent or publisher and go the traditional route or we wrote something, filed it away and went on to something else. How many of us tried to be published back in the dark ages of our youth or young adulthood and got discouraged because we couldn’t get a foot through the door at an literary agency or we kept getting form rejections from publishers that we knew never took time to read so much as the first chapter of our work?

Back in the dark ages, it was expensive to submit to publishers or agents without knowing you had a pretty darned good chance of at least having your manuscript read. Those were the days of having to print out your manuscript, mail it out and include return postage. Some publishers or agents required your submission to be in a padded envelop while others wanted those nice — and expensive — manuscript boxes. The only satisfaction I have today is knowing that those were also the days when agents and editors received submissions from those “creative” authors who would include glitter and scented cover letters on pink paper.

Yes, I’m odd but I take my amusement where I can get it.

It became easier to submit to publishers and agents as more and more began accepting electronic submissions but, at the same time, it seemed to become even more difficult to get a foot through the door. Maybe it was just that responses from publishers and agents came back so quickly. My personal best — or worse, depending on your point of view — was the query and first three chapters I sent per guidelines to an agent who said she’d reopened to submissions. Less than 30 seconds after sending my query I had a response in my email. Wow, what an agent. She had already read my query letter and three chapters — not. I got a level two rejection (I like it but it just doesn’t fit my needs right now) without her even taking time to download the attachments. Oh, and had my intelligence insulted by assuming I couldn’t add up the time for transmission of my email, length of time needed to read the email and then download the attachments before sending the response. I’d gotten an auto response and that agent was written off my list of potentials forever.

Thanks to Sarah and Kate, I didn’t let that discourage me — too much. Maybe it was fear of Sarah’s pointy boots, but I kept writing. I’m glad I did. In the time since that happened, we’ve had a marvelous change come to publishing. Amazon, and later B&N and others, opened their doors to small presses and even authors themselves, giving us a way to get our work into the hands of readers without having to try to beat down the doors of traditional publishing (where it is now as hard, if not more so, to get an agent than it is a publishing contract).

Now, when you start talking about the self-published authors, you will hear those folks who say they should never be allowed into the main catalog of sites like Amazon, etc. They want separate search pages and listing for books put out directly by authors or even small presses. Others don’t care. My take, most folks don’t pay a whit of attention to who “publishes” a book. They want a good story or a well-researched non-fiction book. They want it to be properly formatted and not rife with spelling and punctuation errors. Other than that, they don’t care where it comes from.

Did opening the gates to everyone flood the market? Yes and no. There was a time when everyone and his dog who ever thought about writing a book put their work up on Amazon for the kindle. The thing is, most of those folks have fallen by the wayside. Sure others have taken their places but they, too, will slowly disappear. The reasons are simple. First, writing a book isn’t as easy as it sounds. It takes time and effort, especially if you take pride in your work. Second, you have to have a thick skin as a writer. Those reviews can sting and then some. It’s natural for us to want to see what people are saying about our work and, when we see someone slam our “baby”, it is very easy to take our toys and go home, never to return to the literary playground again.

Then there is the real reason so many writers put out only a book or two and then no more, especially self-published authors. We’ve been told how good our work is. Our friends and families tell us they just don’t understand why our work hasn’t been grabbed up by a “real” publisher and movie rights sold. So we take the time to write the best book we can, market it to the best of our ability and we hit the publish button.

And we wait for the money to roll in.

The reality is, most of us aren’t going to get rich writing. Some of us will be lucky enough to make enough from our writing to be able to live off of it. But for that to happen, we have to give up the expectation that it will happen right out of the starting gate. We have to keep plugging along, writing and publishing and making sure we don’t let too much time pass between new titles coming out. In other words, we have to keep working at it. It is our vocation as well as our avocation. We have to keep pulling up our big boy pants as we ignore the voices from the vocal but small PC/glittery hoo hah crowd that tells us we aren’t writing “meaningful” and “relevant” books. Sorry, but my aim is to write books the readers enjoy and will pay money for. I’ll leave the message books to them and trad publishing — and we’ll see who laughs best at the end. My money is on it being those of us who listen to our readers and who write books we can believe in.

So, here’s my question to you. Why do you write (or read the authors you do) and what should our next step as authors/readers be?

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.