Tag Archives: The Passive Voice

They keep trying and failing

I’ll admit it. My brain is filled with edits for the latest WIP (which means yet another rewrite of the opening chapters, but more on that later) as well as still mentally dancing with glee over the ease of conversions using Vellum. Because of that, I had a difficult time figuring out what to blog about today. Unable to figure anything out, I went to one of my favorite places to find ideas — The Passive Voice. It didn’t take long to find a post that had me wanting to beat my head against the desk. One of the stories TPV linked to shows just how far traditional publishing and its supporters will go to twist data and manipulate outcomes in an attempt to stay relevant.

Let’s start with the headline for the article, which TPV recreates for his readers:

Children turn their backs on e-books as ‘screen-fatigue’takes hold and sales of books for youngsters soar.

Now, journalistic training notwithstanding, that headline is wrong on so many different levels. It’s too long. If you go to the original article, you’ll see the headline takes several lines and is then followed by three bullet points. I guess the bullet points are to show how important the information in the headline happens to be. Except there is no real support in the article for anything except the drop in sales for children’s e-books (3%) while printed books increased (16%). Oh, wait, there is no support for those numbers. They cite the sales figures without citing the source, only a secondary source (the Observer) to back it up. It is the same with their contention that “screen-fatigue” is the cause for the change.

But let’s go back to the headline, which basically says everything that’s in the article and with the same amount of primary data. It claims children are turning their backs on e-books. Wow, how do they know? Are they going out and asking children which format they prefer and which ones they buy? No, they aren’t. For one thing, kids don’t take surveys and, for another, most kids aren’t buying their own books. Their parents are.

Then there is the point made in the body of the article that one of the main bookstores/chains in Great Britain is having to put aside more and more shelf space for children’s books. Well, duh. Publishers aren’t completely foolish. They see that children’s books are in demand (Especially when school starts). so they will start publishing more titles in the current “hot” genre. This is nothing new. Does anyone remember the number of Da Vinci Code knock-offs or how about all the Twilight or 50 Shades knockoffs. Heck, When 50 Shades of Grey hit it big, a certain major publisher pulled an entire line in order to “rebrand” the covers so all the books looked like 50 Shades. That went over so well — NOT — that some authors saw their sales tank and their options for other books weren’t picked up. Why? Because all the books looked the same and buyers thought they’d already read the books.

The real problem with articles like this is that they use data without giving the reader access to it. We don’t know where the data came from. We don’t know if they went off of sales figures only and, if so, where those figures came from. We don’t know if they included indie and small press titles in the data (and my bet is they did not). We don’t know if they then polled parents of young readers and, if they did, what questions were asked and what the possible answers to the questions were. Nor do we know who interpreted the data and what their qualifications might be — not to mention their biases regarding publishing.

The Daily Mail, in this instance, is acting as nothing more than a cheerleader for traditional publishing, pushing the trad’s agenda and assuming its readers aren’t smart enough to figure that out.

TPV nails the assertion that “screen-fatigue” is responsible for the quotes sales figures right between the eyes.

PG suggests that screen fatigue is the creation of a marketing manager somewhere, not a psychological or sociological phenomenon. PG doesn’t know if “children are reading more” is a fact, but suspects it may also be the creation of a marketing manager somewhere.

One thing PG does know is that marketing managers don’t really care if screen fatigue or reading children are genuine phenomena, so long as adults continue to purchase children’s books.

As for me, I don’t give a flying flip what format a child reads as long as that child is reading. Isn’t that what we should be worried about?

Now, at the beginning of this post, I noted that I’m about to tear apart the opening of the current WIP again. I’m one of those authors who find writing the opening chapter or two of a book the most difficult part of the process. In Light Magic, I know the basic plot. I know the characters. I’ve had to make a few minor adjustments to keep the book from being too close to something else I’ve written. What I haven’t quite gotten down is how to get the story rolling. Part of that is because my main character is a challenge. She wants to be a “wild child” (she objects to being called a “bad girl”) but she isn’t one, not really. So, in a very real way, she is fighting me. Once the story gets going, we are on the same page. But, day-um, she is giving me headaches on the opening chapters. At least i think I’ve finally figured it out. If not, this book may have to take a back burner for awhile until my subconscious figures it out.

In the meantime, I need to get the new cover for the expanded version of Vengeance from Ashes tweaked just a little and then it will be ready to be sent out to all the major e-book outlets. The print version, sans the cover flat, is ready to upload as well. By the time I finished the rewrite, I added close to 20k words to the original. I’m really happy with the finished product and the beta readers seem to be as well. fingers crossed everyone else is.

Now, because I figure we could all use a laugh, and with a spew warning because I can’t afford to buy everyone new keyboards, I’ll leave you with this:

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Questions for Readers

This morning, between phone calls and the latest in a line of repairmen, I sat down to blog.The moment I did, the bane of so many writers’ existence hit — no, not writer’s block but the cat. Actually, in my case, the cats. Both decided they wanted to be in my lap. It didn’t matter the laptop was in my lap. No, they wanted there and they were willing to fight — one another and me — for the privilege. As a wise two-legged who has been owned by cats most of my life, I did the only smart thing possible. I carefully removed them and, promising them treats, made my escape to the kitchen where I opened a can of stinky food. Now, with them happily nomming in the other room, the dog asleep, let’s see if I can get this post finished before something else decides to interrupt me.

First up, book covers. I’ve been thinking about this a great deal of late. Partly because I am working on the expanded edition of Vengeance from Ashes and that will require a new cover, one the differentiates it from the original version. Another reason I’ve been thinking about it is because Sarah posted a cover in a discussion group the other day that in no way, shape or form signaled genre. Then I came across this post, via The Passive Voice.

So here’s my question for you. Do you care what sort of paper a book cover is printed on or are you more interested in the visuals of the cover itself? When shopping for an e-book, especially if it is not a book you are particularly looking for, how much impact does the cover have on you stopping to read the blurb?

Here are a couple of other questions to consider: do you get upset if the cover art doesn’t accurately depict the main character (assuming the MC is depicted on the cover)? How likely are you to stop and read the blurb if you are looking for particular genre but the cover signals something else?

Yes, there is a reason I’m asking these questions (well, one other than the fact the repairman is making so much noise I can barely think and the cats are back from their stinky food, looking as if they are about to restart the fight over who gets to sit in my lap).

Moving on. I saw a post on FB the other day where it seems GRRM has said he might — MIGHT — have the next book out next year. Sometime. Maybe.

So here’s my question. As a reader, do you lose interest in a series if an author takes too long between books? How long is too long? For myself, I can give an established author a year or two between books, especially if I can see they have other titles coming out. But an author who doesn’t put anything out, or very little, but who enjoys the life of being famous will lose my interest pretty quickly.

I worry when I go a year or a bit longer between books in a series. Yes, I have several different series going and tend to have a new book out every 3 to 4 months. Still, I worry that my readers will move on to other books if I don’t get new books out on a fairly regular basis. I have a hard time understanding those authors, especially the ones with more than enough money to live well and not worry about where the next rent check is coming from, who don’t write. Okay, if you’re blocked, move on to another project. If you’re tired of the series, say so and do a quick story that ties it all up. Or just say you won’t be writing anything else in the series. Sure, you’ll piss off some readers but at least it is better than stringing them along.

And no, GRRM isn’t the only one to do this. He is just the most recognizable for most of us.

Speaking of waiting for the next book in the series to come out, what are your thoughts about books that end in cliffhangers? What about those authors who end book after book with Charlie hanging off the edge of the cliff? Will the other characters arrive in time when the next book is published to save him? What if the series is cancelled? Will poor Charlie be left on that cliff for the rest of literary history?

Yes, there is a purpose for all the questions. Let me know what you think. thanks!

Oh, and don’t forget Nocturnal Rebellion is available for pre-order.

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Filed under AMANDA, cover design, WRITING: ART, WRITING: CRAFT

Watch where you step

Yesterday, I went browsing through sites like Publishers Weekly and The Passive Voice, looking for inspiration for today’s post. I’m not too proud to admit my brain is still in that post-publication funk, a funk aided by the fact my work computer (a really nice Asus ROG less than 7 months old) had to be sent back to ASUS for warranty work. That’s meant making sure all files were backed up,the laptop reset to factory settings and then setting up the secondary laptop as the current work machine. So, with all that going on, I felt sure I’d read the article wrong when I saw something about Cory Doctorow setting up a “store” to sell e-books traditionally published.

Okay, that sentence was a bit awkward, so let me try again.

Cory Doctorow, long a supporter of Creative Commons, is setting up an online bookstore to see e-books that were traditionally published.

I’ll give you a moment to consider that statement.

From the start, it is clear Doctorow has fallen victim to the Amazon Derangement Syndrome.

Buying an e-book from a website and sideloading it onto your Kindle will never be as easy as buying it from the Kindle store (though if the world’s governments would take the eminently sensible step of legalizing jailbreaking, someone could develop a product that let Kindles easily access third-party stores on the obvious grounds that if you buy a Kindle, you still have the right to decide whose books you’ll read on it, otherwise you don’t really own that Kindle).

Hmm, so he has an issue with Kindles because you can’t buy directly from other stores. Guess he hasn’t tried using e-readers from other stores or had to deal with some of the problems i-Pad owners have had in the past when Apple decided you couldn’t buy from in-app or you had to sideload. Or let’s not forget about the issues Nook owners have faced either. But Amazon is the big evil. And what do you mean “you don’t really own that Kindle”? Just because a tablet might not do what you want it to, it doesn’t follow that you don’t own it. His logic fails him.

As an author, being my own e-book retailer gets me a lot. It gets me money: once I take the normal 30 percent retail share off the top, and the customary 25 percent royalty from my publisher on the back-end, my royalty is effectively doubled. It gives me a simple, fair way to cut all the other parts of the value-chain in on my success: because this is a regular retail sale, my publishers get their regular share, likewise my agents. And, it gets me up-to-the-second data about who’s buying my books and where.

He’s right here but this is also where his reasoning hits me as being “off”. Yes, if he owns his own bookstore, he gets all this. But he also gets the headaches of operating it, the costs of operating it, etc. Now, I hear you saying he’s been doing this for years already. Yes, but that’s been for his indie books. Now he is talking about selling for trad publishers. That means he is giving them money and doing for them what they should be doing for him.

Remember, writers, the money is supposed to flow to you and not the other way around.

Ah, then you read on a bit further and remember the political diatribe he went on at the beginning of the article and realize that’s what is behind it. Politics. He hates Trump. He wants to reach out to markets ignored by Amazon and others.

Whatever.

The Digital Reader has an excellent post about Doctorow’s announcement. “I want to point out Doctorow’s blind spot: the unwarranted assumption that authors need or even should be doing business with publishers. . . But like many pioneers, Doctorow advanced only so far. He never managed to shed his original assumptions and keep up with the times.”

That last statement hit home with me. One of the things I, as well as the rest of us here at MGC, strive to do on an almost daily basis is see what is going on with the industry, both trad and indie. We are constantly looking for new ways to promote our work, newer and easier ways to put our books together and make them more appealing in look and content. Some of us have been doing this long enough to remember hand-coding the html for e-books. At least one of us has had to show traditional publishers how to make text in an e-book look more like what you get in a printed book (effects, etc.). In other words, we haven’t sat back and rested on what we first learned while the indie industry passed us by.

So, what is it Doctorow wants us to do? He wants us to act as shills for traditional publishers. You know, those folks who, before they sign an author to a contract want us to do our own marketing, have a blog, be active on social media and already have a platform and built-on audience. And, before you say anything, unless you are King or Patterson or the “new big thing”, any marketing the publisher is going to do for you is basically nil beyond getting your book into the catalog sent to booksellers. So, you have to do the job of marketing your book, something they used to do.

Now Doctorow wants us to add to that by selling e-books for traditional publishers, accept and handle all payments (and that will include returns and making sure all tax laws are followed and tax reporting done) and then remit money to the publisher.

My only comment is “WTF?!?”

The Passive Voice says it best, “PG delayed posting about Doctorow’s plan because he was waiting for someone to propose a theory about why an intelligent trad-pubbed author would try to sell books directly from some strange organization for side-loading onto a Kindle. What kind of service is that for an author’s readers? Who do those readers call for tech support when the ebook file won’t load?”

Above and beyond the fact that selling e-books on your site for publishers (when they should be the ones selling your books) makes my head hurt, there’s something else Doctorow didn’t take into account. As I write this, my 85-year-old mother sits across the room from me reading on her Kindle Fire. She gets her Kindle. She gets the books downloaded directly there after I buy them either from the Amazon site or through the app on my tablet. If she had to sideload a book, she wouldn’t do it. For one, it is a hassle. For another, she isn’t anywhere near geeky enough to understand the process.

Then there are those who don’t have computers. Yes, yes, there really are folks like that. Some are older, like my mom. Others spent their working lives dealing with computers and never want to see another ever again. They might compromise with a smart phone but that’s about it. So, Mr. Docotorow, how are they supposed to sideload?

Doctorow has clearly fallen victim to Amazon Derangement Syndrome and forgot to look where he stepped.

***

Now for my bit of marketing.

Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2)

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Reality Bites

Preparing for today’s post, I did my usual wading around the internet in search of anything that might strike my fancy. There was John Legend telling us if we didn’t want to listen (or read or watch or whatever) “art” by liberal artists then we would have a great deal less “art” to enjoy. There was an article in the Irish Times wondering if Irish authors make enough.  There was an article by a literary agent forecasting how the publishing industry would respond to the new year. So many possibilities and yet, if you really think about it, nothing new.

Then I ran across a couple of articles that caught my eye. The first, and thanks to The Passive Voice — touches on something that has the potential to impact a number of indie authors. Let’s face it. There are few, if any, of us who have chosen the indie route to publishing who wouldn’t love to walk into the local bookstore and find our books on the shelves. After all, we’ve been programmed for years to believe that is one of the final indicators that we are a “real” author. Unfortunately, the reality is that our chances are slim. Sure, we might be lucky enough to have a locally owned bookstore willing to stock our books and let us have signings there but the bog box stores still look at us as second-class writers.

So, indies have gone looking for ways around that. The most common way is using Lightning Source. After all, it has the “benefit” of not being associated with Amazon. We’ve seen how Barnes & Noble, the big boy in booksellers in the US, has said it will never, ever stock anything with an Amazon tie and, well, Createspace is owned by Amazon.

Of course, there are a couple of problems with that. First, B&N and others might not stock our books but they will order them if a customer comes in and asks. Or they should, if they want to keep the customer. After all, one of the benefits of having an ISBN is that it lists your title in Books in Print. It also means your print book will be listed in their online catalog. I can go right now to BN’s online store and find my print books even though I have no e-books in the store. So, it comes down to whether or not corporate buyers will pick your book up to be stocked in their stores and the answer is a resounding “no”, not unless you are making such waves on social media that they can’t ignore it.

But there is another player in this part of the market I hadn’t heard of before: BAM! Publish. As you can probably guess from the name, this is a program associated with Books-A-Million. You can check out this article for some background about Books-A-Million and their association with indie publishing. The short version is, they came late to the program — 2015 — and now they have this BAM! Publish program to help get your print books onto the shelves. Except, does it really and, if it does, is it worth the price?

Honestly, if half of what the article says is true, this program is a perfect example of doing your homework before entering into a business relationship. In this particular case, the only way those using the BAM platform can get into the stores is to buy one of their packages, none of which are cheap, or to buy 1,000 copies of your book. Hmm, what does that sound like? Can anyone say “vanity press”? Or how about “rip-off”?

So, as tempting as it is to do whatever it takes to get your books onto the shelves in your local bookstore, you have to consider the cost and consider if it is really worth it. In other words, as I told my critique group this past weekend, we have to remember that writing is a business and treat it as such. That means looking at the financial realities and remembering that anything we pay to produce and distribute out books has to be recovered in sales before we make a profit. So, will that $1100 or more ever be recovered or are you just throwing money away?

A couple of other notes. For those of you who use KDP to publish your e-books, the interface has changed recently. When I logged on last week to upload a new title, I came to a sliding halt. The page didn’t look the same. Whaaaat?

Yes, the bookshelf still looks like it has for, well, pretty much forever. But when you go to the “Add New Title” option, everything changes. The first change is that you choose the language of your release before you do anything else. The rest of the page is basically the same as before except for a couple of things. The first is the order is rearranged. The second is what used to be a 2-page process is now 3 pages.

Again, not a big change but a change and it can throw you if you aren’t expecting it.

The biggest changes, in my opinion, come when at the bottom of the first page and on the second. The first is the pre-order option. You’ll find that at the bottom of the first page. If you choose to offer your title for pre-order, you can no make changes in the book up to three days prior to your release date. You can also offer up to 10 titles for pre-order at a time. Best of all, you now have a countdown clock both at the top of the page as well as at the bottom telling you exactly how long you have left to update the file.

The next real change comes when you upload your interior file. You still do it basically the same way you have been able to in the past. There are multiple formats you can upload, etc. Almost as soon as you upload the file, you can preview it on the upload page. That’s helpful but it really doesn’t give you the full feel for how the book will look on a Kindle or in the Kindle app. So you have to wait until you can download the mobi file of what you just uploaded.

And the key word here is wait. When I uploaded my book, it took approximately 10 minutes before the downloadable file was ready. I never had to wait that long before and certainly not after the online previewer was available. Perhaps that was a glitch in the system but I have heard from other authors that they have experienced the same thing.

Also, before this change in interface, Amazon would give you a list of possible misspellings in your work. That was helpful, especially if you were uploading the final file. It wasn’t 100% accurate but it often caught something my editor and I missed. That function is gone.

The final change is you can now use your KDP dashboard to upload your print book as well. Simply go to that book in your bookshelf and click the “Create paperback” link. It will open a new page, all part of your KDP dashboard, The nice thing about this is that everything you entered about the book when you set up your e-book entry is carried over. Oh, you may have to do some tweaking — as in I have to move my middle initial from the “first name” block for the e-book to the “middle name” block. But your book title, series title, author name, book description, categories and key words are all there. That leaves you to click the save and continue button at the bottom of the page and start working on your interior file as well as your cover flat.

For ease of use, if nothing else, I applaud this change.

Oh, I guess this is where I tell you what book I uploaded.

Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2)

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Why not let a little reality into the room?

Let me start by saying I have not successfully carried out a coup here at MGC and taken over. Nor did I draw the short straw and get stuck with filling in for everyone. Brad did me a favor last week by switching days with me. That left me posting Sunday, his usual day, and yesterday, mine. This morning, knowing Sarah is on the homestretch of her novel, I offered to fill in for her. I blame the fact that I am in the last third of my final edits and that gives me brain mush. But, in a way, I’m glad because it lets me continue talking about about the DBW conference and some of the information coming out of it.

Once again, I want to thank The Passive Voice for pointing me in the direction of the post that is today’s inspiration. For those of you who are not currently following TPV, why not? All kidding aside, I highly recommend the site.

Ron Vitale attended the DBW conference and has blogged about the experience. I will admit up front that I don’t agree with everything Vitale has to say. That doesn’t mean he is wrong, just that my experience as an indie shows me different aspects or approaches to the subject. His comments are italicized.

The biggest take home message from Digital Book World Indie is so simple that I almost missed it while preparing for the next talk. When we as indie authors unite, we have strength. We are the sum of our individual skills.

I totally agree with this. There are very few of us who have all the skills necessary to put out a quality project. Sure, we are writers. Some better than others. Some of us are excellent self-editors and others, to be honest, suck at it. Some of us are also awesome artist or can do a beautiful job lettering a cover. However, those who can do it all are few and far between. So what are the rest of us to do? If you are like me and most of us here at MGC, you find other authors or artists who will trade services. Or you hire someone to do it for you. This is not a new idea. There are any number of loose, informal co-ops for indies out there. We do not have to work in a vacuum.

The second most important lesson I learned at DBW Indie is that traditional publishers, to quote Jane Friedman, “are kicking ass in marketing.”

Now, this is where the OP began to lose me. What? How are trad publishers “kicking ass” in marketing? The only real advantage I see with going the traditional route is that it can get you into bookstores — for a limited period of time. But, as we’ve discussed before, how much of an advantage is that really when more and more readers are going to online sites to buy their print books?

But, I’ll give the OP the benefit of the doubt and see why he believes this to be the case.

Not only are publishers creating apps such as Crave, but they are performing A/B tests with their advertising, targeting the appropriate readers with the ads as well as sending out thousands of ARCs in advance to build reviews online.

Wait, what? Publishers are creating apps and testing their marketing targeting and sending out ARCs?

First of all, as PG noted in his comments about the piece, just about anyone who wants to can create an app. So what is Crave and can it really help you, the reader?

I remembered vaguely reading something about Crave, but I didn’t remember the details. So I followed the link and, omg, all I could do was shake my head. In case you haven’t looked it up, Crave came out in 2015, iirc, and was built to keep the Twitter and Snapchat generation interested in a book. Here is a description of what Crave was meant to do:

As you scroll through an ebook on Crave, the app periodically breaks into the narrative to show you a text message conversation between two characters, a video of an actor portraying one of the characters doing an interview about the book’s events, a filmed moment (like the hero first looking up at the heroine) or even a reaction GIF.

But after around 1,000 words, you’re cut off. Crave slices each book into mini-chapters intended to take only three or four minutes to read, including multimedia. You can tune back in the next day for another bite-sized installment, generously salted with supplementary videos and text exchanges.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want is for some idiotic text message to pop up in the middle of a scene I am reading — or a video or pretty much anything else. I sure as hell don’t want to be forced to stop after 1,000 words. Can you imagine how long it would take you to read a book that way? A 100k word book would take almost 1/3 of a year. Would you remember the beginning? Would you even care about finishing it? And yet this is supposedly one of the ways traditional publishing is winning the marketing war against indies.

The mind boggles.

As for the testing of advertising to see if it hits the right target market, hell’s bells, that is what advertising agencies have been doing since their inception. It is not new.

The sending of ARCs? Again, not new. Also not limited to traditional publishers. Indies do this as well. Indies also utilize social media, email, mailing lists, etc., to get the word out.

I’m not convinced traditional publishing wins the marketing war in any way except for getting books into bookstores and that is no longer nearly as important as it used to. Do you agree?

There is more and I’ll let you read it. The one thing the OP brings up that I will admit I have been thinking about again is diversifying my catalog beyond Amazon. For a long time, I had my books in every major online outlet. I followed the adage of not putting all my “eggs” in one basket. It made sense to make my work available on all platforms.

Then came the day when I realized I was actually losing money doing so. I wasn’t bringing in enough from the other sites to justify the time needed to put together different upload files, the time necessary to upload the files and build the product page on the different sites, the time necessary to check to make sure the other sites had the correct information on their sites, to check the sales pages, make sure I got paid on time, etc. Then Amazon started Kindle Unlimited and the monies for “borrows” went up dramatically.

There was also a change in technology. More and more people were reading their e-books on tablets and smartphones. That meant they were not tied to a single store like they were with dedicated e-book readers. Folks who had been buying solely from BN could not buy their books through Amazon and read them using the Kindle app. That was another thing that saw my sales on Amazon increasing. No longer was I getting folks asking when my books were going to come out on BN?

Now, however, more and more indies are taking part in the KU program. That is great in some ways but when you look at the bottom line, there is an impact. Just as there was after about a year of the old Kindle Lending Library. The monies being brought in are decreasing. I know this isn’t what is happening for some indies but a number of others I have spoken with are experiencing the same thing. So it is time to sit down and determine whether to remain solely with Amazon or to give up the monies coming in from Kindle Unlimited and expand my marketplace once again.

Any way, read the OP and let me know what you think. The one thing I agree with completely is the best way for indies to not only survive but to flourish is to share ideas and information. That is what we try to do here at MGC and each of you are a big part of that.

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Filed under AMANDA, MARKETING, PROMOTION, WRITING: PUBLISHING

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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