Tag Archives: writers

It’s not zero sums

This is a blast from the past, but it’s still applicable even if the central tantrum has been long forgotten. I’m afraid I’ve been sick, and am thus a girl of very little brain this morning in search of hunny… And perhaps tea to put it in.

Hear, O fellow authors, and consider this. Writing is not a competition. There is not a scarcity of readers, and although there has been for lo, these many years an artificial scarcity of of reading material, that drought is coming to an end with the Age of Indie. So why do we hear fearsome cries from certain throats, proclaiming that those who are elders in the field should step aside and let them in?

The young person who has been most noticed for this recently (although it is not a new lament), has apologized. “Shepherd apologised for upsetting writers and readers alike, explaining that she had “only ever meant to raise the issue of how hard it is for new writers to get noticed and how publishing is much more of a zero sum game than people often think” However, it remains that she thinks publishing is a zero sum game.

I had to look that up. I’d heard it before, of course, and from context knew more or less what it meant, but for the writing of this article, I needed to research, to make certain that what I was saying was accurate. So, here: “The theory of von Neumann and Morgenstern is most complete for the class of games called two-person zero-sum games, i.e. games with only two players in which one player wins what the other player loses.” However, this is palpably inaccurate when it comes to writing. There are far more than two players involved, and the success of one writer does not predicate the loss of another.

By the success of JK Rowling, there are more readers, rather, for us the authorial sort to lure into reading of our books. What we must do to win is not to shove aside those who have succeeded, demanding our turn in the game, but to write engaging books readers will not only read themselves, but recommend enthusiastically to others. You will note I have removed the publisher from this equation. At one time, there was a bottleneck, for the publisher can only afford to publish so many titles, and to promote so many (a fraction of those they do publish) authors. That bottleneck is breaking open, and as independent authors our reach is spreading. My books, published by the very small imprint that they are, can be ordered from any bookstore, and when I look online, they are available at least in webstores of the largest book retailers.

In order to win this game we play, it’s not the other writers we need to defeat, it is ourselves. For fear of rejection, for laziness in not wanting to promote and market one’s own book, for lack of confidence in getting the best cover and editing we can, we shoot ourselves in the foot, and do not succeed. I venture to say that the Shepherd person has not succeeded because of Rowling’s success, but her own shortcomings. Like a child in a game, she has pitched aside the board, and now pouts petulantly, blaming her loss not on her own lack of skill, but her opponent.

The readers are out there, I say again. Writers, if you can offer them a good product in the form of a story with meat on its bones, with engaging characters, well-constructed plot, and emotional appeal, you will win. If your story is not selling, or selling too slowly for your tastes, inspect the product you are offering, and ask yourself questions.

The oft-discussed post demanding “I want an end to the default of binary gender in science fiction stories.” is an excellent example of another writer who feels that it is failing in a field do to discrimination against itself. In this case, not by another writer, although certainly it seems to feel it is hard-done by those who view its views as odd. No, it wants more stories with its viewpoint in them. Lovely, dear. Go write them. If they sell, wonderful! If not, do not go around moaning that you are being discriminated against because you are an it/she/alienbeing. Again, that is not how the game is played. Appeal to the readers, and you have won. Make them yawn, or repel them, and you lose.

When I started mulling this post over in my head, waiting for it to gel and be ready, someone mentioned the calls for Stephen King to retire. I went to look as part of my research, and found that rather than calling for him to step aside and let other writers in, the cry seemed to be that his writing had gone downhill, and he should stop. Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to have made a dent in Mr. King’s presence, as this took place over a decade ago, and I believe (I don’t personally read him, but as a librarian was very aware of how much shelf space he occupied, and how many requests we had for his books) that he has another book coming out this year. You see, no matter what the critics think, it is the readers who matter. They are the ones who buy the books, and that is what wins the game.

Readers win, with good books they want to read, and authors win, with sales. Publishers who care about giving the readers what they want (coffBaencoff) win, and publishers who care only about pushing their agenda (see blog address for ‘it’ above) lose. Zero sum? No, more like exponential growth, and I don’t see a limiting factor, yet… Want to feel like you are winning? write more!

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Give and take

I can’t speak for everyone, but this writer is socially awkward and uncertain. Last week I talked about networking as an Indie author, and creating a barter system that would help those with no budget, but time, get off and running. What if I don’t have a network? Was asked.

Well, here’s the thing about networking. It’s a mixture of being willing to ask, and being willing to give. The system is one built on trust, like any other relationship, and that makes it a delicate balance for those of us who aren’t terribly socially ept. I can’t help much, other than to talk about my experiences and how I tend to feel like a clumsy ox when it comes to human interactions.

Writer’s groups are the best place to start building this network, of course. I first joined one when I was submitting bits of stories for critique to an online forum, and was invited to take part in a small group. That didn’t go very well. I hear horror stories about the impact groups can have on delicate young writers egos, but for me it wasn’t an impact on my writing, it was a terrible feeling of having to pretend to be something I wasn’t, in order to keep from being attacked and flamed. Because I didn’t trust them on one level, I couldn’t take seriously their criticism of my work –  and most importantly, looking back, I couldn’t fully critique their work. That meant I wasn’t giving my best to them. I was afraid that if I pointed out flaws, they would come back at me saying that I was only bashing them for other reasons (I was not the same religion they were, and much of the OT chatter was bashing my religion). Later still, after I’d moved on from that group, I did hire one of them for editing, only to have to hire another person to revert those edits… It was a nightmare.

Lest you think I’m trying to discourage you! I am not. I am saying that if you don’t fully trust the people in the group, it’s a sign to bow out and move on. I got lucky, for values of luck, when I did at last wind up invited to a group mentored by Sarah Hoyt and Dave Freer. The group was run by another writer, Darwin Garrison (whose stories are worth looking up) and it was a far better structure than the small group (remember the song in the Music Man, with the women singing “pick a little…” That was the first group) in that it was targeted at becoming better writers. Not that there wasn’t off topic chatter, it’s the first place I saw in-depth discussion of what the publishing world was really like. And ultimately it led me here.

That group went the way of most communities – the attrition of time washed some of us away. I stopped writing for some years, dealing with illness and depression as my marriage spiralled into darkness. I reconnected with some of them on Facebook, and in time I started writing again. At that point I also started to consider the writing as a business, once I’d finished a novel. I had a bunch of stories, not all finished, in a drawer. I had very little money, so I knew I’d be on my own for things like covers and formatting. I decided early on that I would hire an editor… The first time I used money I’d saved and set aside from my other business. After that, all monies from sales were put back into the writing biz until it turned a profit.

I’ve always worried about asking too much of my friends, who were accomplished writers when I was struggling to begin. I’ve been blessed with good friends, but I try very hard to give as much as I get. I took a workshop on cover design (Dean Wesley Smith, it was $300 four years ago) so I could do my covers and help others. Later there was a class on design at college. I spent countless hours on art, learning how to take incoherent elements and make something that would sell a book. At this point, I have a skill I’m confident has value, which I can trade with others, towards editing my writing. I can edit, but I enjoy the art and design. You get the idea – if you are confident that what you are offering in trade is worth it, you’re more likely to ask for a barter.

Bartering is a trust relationship. If you’re trading loaves of bread for a chicken, it’s very physical and immediate. Trading skills takes time, and you may not see the results immediately. It’s important to know the other person well. And building that kind of relationship is not a quick and easy process. I suspect there’s a reason money has remained so popular over the ages. Friendships come and go, the work remains. I suspect that a more formal barter network for Indie Authors would be of use, some way to offer a skill you have, and say “I need x done” and there would be recommendations that paired you up. Pitfalls exist (don’t they always?) In that cliques would form, monetary values would have to be set (if someone is convinced their editing ought to be $500 per novel, they might not be happy to receive a $250 cover in return), and people who fail to deliver would have to be removed from the list (see the first pitfall).

So how to start forming your network? Start talking to people who are like-minded. Don’t limit the conversation to writing, only. Be an encouraging voice. And when you need help, ask. When help is asked for, offer to help. If you worry that you are asking too much, say that.

I’m bad about some of this. When I am deeply stressed, I tend to retreat from human contact. Some of this is a relic of my past, so when I feel I’ve upset someone, I go into full retreat mode with profuse apologies, which used to be the only way I could defuse an explosive rage. I know that this is not that, but if I’m not thinking clearly it is breathtakingly difficult to stop, open up, and reach out again. I’ve been trying to do this recently, and if you are like me, I encourage you to crack the shell a little, and take a risk. Writing may be a solitary occupation, but writers are healthier with friends.

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Forensics For Writers: The Wrap-Up

It’s been a fun few weeks, putting this series together and sharing it. I will almost certainly come back to it, but for now I’m moving on to other topics. This post will be a few thoughts, all the links in one place for those who want to bookmark the information, and of course the usual discussions in comments.

  1. Part One: a bit of history, what is admissible in court, and why.
  2. The Crime Scene: searches, evidence collection, and preservation of evidence.
  3. Evidence Collection: The nitty-gritty of evidence collection, with a case study.
  4. Blood Spatter and Ballistics: study of motion, sprays of blood, and where did that bullet come from?
  5. Toolmarks and Firearms: Using microscopic markings to match up evidence.
  6. It’s Written in the blood: a brief overview of serology and toxicology.
  7. Forensic Toxicology: Poisons, Drugs, Scientific Analysis and the Law (this is a paper on my own website, and not geared toward writers but includes some interesting case studies).
  8. The Gold Standard: DNA evidence and analysis.

There are whole missing sections of this, like questioned documents and what’s sometimes called ‘cyber forensics’ so do understand that this is a light overview of the world of forensic science. Since literally any sort of scientist could be called on to use their knowledge in a legal case, forensic science is very broad. There are, for instance, forensic botanists, odontologists, geologists… I left off the cyber forensics because it is the field I am least familiar with. It is, however, one of the fastest growing and most challenging in the legal aspects of it.

Consider this: If you have a phone, like the recent case with Apple, the FBI, and the San Bernadino terrorists, how do you get into it? When do you need a warrant? What do you do to prevent a phone that belongs to a suspect who is still alive and on the run from being remotely accessed? A mobile phone contains a wealth of information, enough to be comparable to carrying in your hip pocket what would have taken a warehouse to store back in the time of the Constitution’s writing. The phone is very tempting to the forensic analyst. But it is also clearly protected from search and seizure under the ‘papers’ of the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

As a writer, this is an interesting wrinkle to explore. As a citizen, knowing that your whole life is on that device, and that it can be collected into a Faraday bag that will cut it off from all signals, and laid open to an investigator, it’s even more interesting and I used that word in a not-so-good sense. Laptops, tablets, GPS devices, all of these can be used to track and trace a subject’s path not only in the physical world, but the cyber one as well. Here, again, the TV shows with their hacking and hacker-types are pretty far off base, I’m given to understand. But it’s not my specialty (mine is more sticky, and stinky, and wet) so I’m not going to address it at length. Feel free to take it up in the comments, or if someone wants to write a guest post, get in touch with me. I’d like to include the topic in the series.

Because this series is also meant to be a springboard for speculation on ‘what comes next?” for those of us who write science fiction. Cyber forensics is the wave of the future, as the ‘Internet of Things’ is born, and our devices become smaller, more fictional (Dick Tracy watches, anyone?) and possibly, implanted into our very bodies. How do you access an implant without consent based on a warrant? What happens if you have a crime scene where an implant has been removed? What if removing the implant from the body’s biofeedback wipes it? How do you keep a victim alive long enough to forcibly download them? And prevent the signal from reaching investigators who could use it to triangulate into your position?

With all that speculation, I will leave you for this week. See you in the comments! I’m traveling, but will check in from time to time.

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Madness, Stress, and the Writer

It’s something of a truism that if writers aren’t crazy when they enter the field, they will be before long. There are any number of reasons for this, but probably the biggest is that a huge chunk of the fiction writer’s art consists of imaging people that never existed, places that never existed, and events that never happened, all in enough detail that the writer can believe they’re all real.

After doing this, and effectively bringing this otherworld to life, fiction writers have to disconnect from their world enough to evaluate their craft in writing down what they created – and if that wasn’t enough, disconnect even more so that it’s not utterly devastating when someone doesn’t like their work.

There are – of course – equivalents for non-fiction writers, musicians, artists, and all the other creative fields. I just don’t know what they are.

At any rate, this particular mental exercise ends up being functionally schizophrenic, except that the voices in one’s head are telling stories rather than giving orders. Most of the fiction writers I know effectively write the stories told by the voices in their heads, with judicious editing. Sometimes also with cut-scenes that are destined never to see the light of day but had to be written to sort out some wrinkle of the piece.

Yes, I am an extreme pantser, but people who are much more plotters than I am have the same issues.

If that isn’t enough writing, like any creative endeavor, is immensely stressful. No matter what you write or how brilliant it is, there will always be some who think it’s the greatest thing ever, and others who wonder why anyone would pay to read that. This is why writers are warned to take reviews and criticism with a hefty dose of salt.

Then there’s the uncertainty factor. Whether you’re a bestseller with the big publishers or self-publishing through Amazon, you’re only as good as the last book, if that. Writers don’t have paid vacation, pension plans (the writer’s backlist is their pension plan, and we all know what happened to that for all but the blockbuster bestsellers), or any of the other benefits your average salaried worker expects – and that’s just a sample of the uncertainties.

It’s no surprise that writers have major stress issues – which of course makes their… let’s say stability… issues worse.

On top of that, superstition drivers in writing abound. This happens any time reward is divorced from action, which for writers is something like 100% of the time in traditional publishing. Self publishing there seems to be a threshold of “good enough” beyond which almost anything will sell but won’t necessarily go big – so the reward lies in volume rather than quality once you pass that threshold. Given that writers also tend strongly to perfectionism, this isn’t necessarily ideal, but it’s still much better from the superstition/paranoia perspective.

Of course, there are other stresses. Writers – again, like many creative folks – tend to be anti-social or asocial introverts who have issues dealing with everyday life. I’m no exception. My issues have produced hordes of little baby issues that grew up and started families of their own and then went to war with each other. I can usually keep track of which universe my feet are in, but that’s often the limit of it. There’s a reason I’m happy to let my husband handle bill paying and bank accounts. I’d forget to pay the electric and then we’d be in real trouble.

Given all of this, writers end up with some really creative stress reduction techniques – as well as a pretty good nose for stress-avoidance.

Stress-avoidance for writers usually means not getting into situations you know will be stressful, and avoiding people who cause the basic stress reaction (the unfulfillable desire to choke the living shit out of someone who desperately needs it) but there are traps even the most experienced stress-manager writer can fall into.

The Stalker

This one is pretty much unavoidable. A writer gets good enough and their work gets in enough hands, and they’ll have someone deciding that writer is their new bestest friend evah. For someone who’s already a relatively private, introverted type, this isn’t easy to deal with. Some preventives are not giving out more detail about where you live and where you can be found than the essential (conventions are the exception here – you tee up with your writer friends to provide evasion methods when necessary, since if your stalker doesn’t do anything illegal there’s not much that can be done about them), not having a publicly listed phone number, writing under a name that’s not your real one, having a generic email for fans to contact you that isn’t the same one as the email you give your family and real friends – and making sure you have a few throwaway email addresses in case you need to change one because of stalker activity. Email rules to delete anything by a specific sender help, too.

The Toxic Fan

This particular stress is probably the hardest one to catch before it affects you. Few writers can resist someone who is a fan of their work and puppy-eager for more of it and offers to help with… well, anything really, but often something you’d rather not be doing. Once the hooks are in, they start twisting. If you include them in your betas or first readers you’ll get some valid comments mixed with a lot of nitpickery that is often flat out useless – except that many, many writers are horribly insecure about their work and try to fix the nits, only to find that there are more and more each subsequent round. Since the Toxic Fan often doesn’t realize they’re effectively puffing themselves up at “their” writer’s expense, it can be bloody difficult to recognize one, and harder to disconnect.

Some clues are the nitpicking critique, usually things none of your other first readers and betas pick up on, the offers to help which turn into frustrating wastes of time because they aren’t up to what they’re trying to do, the implications that people you and the fan know are in some way not helping you the way they should (and writers are prone to paranoia, making this doubly vicious). If you find yourself consistently depressed by dealing with one particular fan, and withdrawing from your other fans and writing friends, chances are you need to break off from this person for a while and see if that improves things. If it does, you’ve got a toxic fan and you need to put tight limits on any interaction with that person.

The Metric Shit-Ton of Work

This particular stress afflicts pretty much everyone, but for writers (and anyone else creative) there’s the added risk that too much stress will shut down the creativity. The short-short explanation of this is that the more stressed you are the more your brain and body shift you into pure survival mode, shutting down anything that’s not essential and shunting whatever can be done on autopilot over to the autopilot modes. Personally, I’ve found when that happens if I don’t cut back on stress or find a way to release it, I’m headed for breakdown.

It’s deceptively easy to end up with a metric shit-ton of work, too. Typically normal everyday life eats a chunk of the waking hours, since nothing has ever been invented that cleans itself properly, then there’s the day job if you’ve got one, or running around doing other stuff because if you’re working from home you’re basically free to do whatever, right? (Yeah, right. We all know what happens there.)

Plus, being basically decent people – most of us anyway, although I’m not that sure about myself – we try to help out friends and family when we can, and that gets even more commitments.

When they’re ‘hard’ commitments, like a job, it’s bloody difficult to shunt off a few to drop the stress levels. Softer commitments are also difficult, mostly because of the people who’d be disappointed.

All of which leads to stress release techniques.

Those who know me know that one of mine is to caricature people who’ve really pissed me off and then kill them in inventive ways during the course of whatever I happen to be writing at the time. That of course presumes I’m in a fit state to write….

I get there – at least some of the time – by mindless virtual violence, usually in the form of sheepie molestation these days, although I’m also working through Skyward Sword on the wii, and will obsessively play social games, solitaire, and the like. I use these to slow down the wild spinning of thoughts enough that during the week I can sleep, and on weekends, I have a chance to get some quality writing time in (hah! Most of what I’ve done lately has been in stolen time at work… usually between waiting for other things to run on my work machine).

Some folks meditate. Others cook. The key thing there is to find something you enjoy and can do without too much mental exercise. If it involves physical exercise, that can be even better – just because physical stuff generally helps mild depression and stress.

So, anyone feel like sharing some of the stress-generators they’ve run into, the insanity-fuel, and the stress-reduction techniques that work for them? The more the merrier – if you recognize something as a possible problem you can do something about it, and if you’ve got a whole boat-load of ways it can be dealt with, then if one doesn’t work, you can move on to the next.

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Who has the power?

by Amanda S. Green

There’s been a lot of talk recently about what sort of control authors have over their work.  Never would I have expected the maelstrom of dissenting opinions and downright rudeness I’ve seen on some of the boards as a result.  It seems that almost everyone has been determined to dig their heels in and continue to beat dead horses and insult other folks, no matter what.  I’ve seen it happen in multiple threads on Baen’s Bar, on Sarah’s blog and even, to a degree here.  I won’t even mention the ones on blogs like Classical Values and vodkapundit.  So, let me make it very clear here and now, this is a semi-rant from both a writer’s perspective and an editor’s.

What a writer controls: (Remember, this is in general terms because there can and are caveats at every step of the way.)

1.  The writing.  The writer chooses what he will write.  Genre, length, content.  That is something the writer has control over.

2.  The initial editing.  I say “initial” because if the book is picked up by a publisher it will go through an editing process there.

3.  Submission to an agent.  Notice, I don’t say acceptance by an agent because, like it or not, it can be even harder to land an agent than it is to land a publishing contract.

  • sending a partial or full to an agent who expresses interest in the work
  • accepting representation from an agent who offers is

4.  Submitting to a publisher.  Caveat here:  if you have an agent, that agent will send the novel out.  Some agents confer with their clients about where to send the novel, some don’t.  Even if the agent confers with you, they may send the novel to publishers you might not choose.  But, for this exercise, we’re going to assume the author is not working through an agent.

  • sending a partial or full in response to publisher interest
  • accepting the publishing contract – either as is or requesting changes and accepting or rejecting the contract after the publisher responds.

That all sounds pretty straightforward, right?  In a way it is.  But it is the last bit about the publishing contract that gets so many people in an uproar.  People who aren’t necessarily in the business.  They seem to think authors have as much negotiating power when it comes to publishing contracts as a person does when he is negotiating a contract with a painter or contractor.  Sorry, but that’s just not the case.

What a publisher controls:

1.  What books are offered publishing contracts.

2.  What advance amounts are going to be.

3.  What royalty amounts are going to be

4.  Editing.  No, authors don’t get to choose their editors, copy editors or proofreaders.  Nor do they get the final word on any of these processes.  You can STET and explain all you want about why you think your wording is better than the editor’s but, unless your editor agrees with you, they get the final word.  Sometimes they do listen, often they don’t, especially if that editor doesn’t particularly like the author.  Ask Sarah, or any other author for that matter, about some of the things she’s had happen at the editorial process.

5.  Cover art.  If you are lucky, you may be asked for ideas for the cover.  You may even get to see the cover art ahead of time.  But an author does not get to choose the cover when they are being published by legacy publishers.

6.  Font and type size.  Basic layout design is not something any author has control over.

7.  Size of the book.  Is it a standard mass market paperback or one of those thrice-damned taller versions?  That’s a business and marketing decision of the publisher.

8.  How much push the book is going to get.

9.  Placement in stores.  Actually, this isn’t even completely under the publisher’s control but they have a say in it by what sort of pitch they do to the buyers for the different stores.

10.  Scheduling of release dates for the book.

11.  DRM, text-to-voice, lending re:  e-books.

12.  Price.

There’s more, but you get my drift. (Check out this post by Cherie Priest from a year or so ago for more.)

Bitching to an author because you don’t like the fact their latest title costs more as an e-book than it will as a paperback THAT HASN’T COME OUT YET, does not good.  For one thing, you are comparing the price of the e-book to something not yet available.  If you want that e-book now, when the only other version available is the hard cover, you are going to pay for the privilege.  If you wait, the price of the e-book will probably come down.  You have to remember that legacy publishers are in this to make a profit.  They see hard covers are making them the most money, per sale, so that is what they are trying to save.  It it their opinion that e-books are evil so, if they price them high enough people won’t buy them, they can save their business.  If, on the other hand, they price them at outrageous levels and people still buy them, that’s still money in their pockets.  The author has no say in this, no control over it.  By bitching at the author, all you do is make the author feel bad because a fan is upset.  That does not help the creative process, let me tell you.

Letters to individual editors don’t help either.  In fact, getting an e-mail from an irate fan because they don’t like how an author is being treated can backfire — onto the author.  The author has to work with that editor.  If you feel you need to complain because of pricing, drm, or whatever, write to the publisher.  Write to the board of directors.  Don’t inflame the individual editor for that author.  Now, a nice note asking when a book is coming out can help.  But complaints, well, they need to go to the right place.

Cover art.  Give me a break.  Do you really think an author gets to decide what appears on the cover of his book if that book is coming out from a publisher?  Look, guys, the author is lucky if the artist even knows what the book is about.  Complaining to the author because you don’t like the cover or — and this is where I really get P.O.’d — downgrading a review of the book because you don’t like the cover is unfair to the author.  Again, you don’t like the cover, let the publisher know and, for pity’s sake, tell them why in calm, logical tones (maybe even using small words so you don’t overtax their brains).

Now for the elephant in the china store, DRM.  By all that is holy, don’t bitch to the author because you don’t like the fact the publisher attached DRM to the book.  The author can’t change it.  Let me repeat this.  THE AUTHOR CAN’T CHANGE IT.  Most authors like DRM no more than we, the readers, do.  The know it is a slap in the reader’s face.  But that is a business decision made by bean counters.  However, if you feel you need to let the author know how you feel, do it in a way that is supportive of the author.  Tell them you love their work, whatever, but that you wish DRM wasn’t involved.  Don’t threaten never to buy another one of their books until they leave the dark side.  All that accomplishes is making the author feel bad and helpless because, gee, they can’t do anything about it.

Most publishers, especially legacy publishers, aren’t going to make major changes to their standard publishing contract for a new author or even a mid-lister.  That means, if you the author want to sign with a legacy publisher you pretty do as they say.  You aren’t going to be able to withhold e-rights to the book, no matter what your objections to DRM.  Contract negotiation in publishing has been and will continue to be for awhile — at least where legacy publishers are concerned — a case of “here’s the contract, do you accept it or not?”

Sure, an author can walk away from the proposed contract and the advance that would come with it and go the indie route.  But there are major pitfalls to that.  Not only is there no advance, but the author now has to foot the bill for everything the publisher would have paid for:  isbn registration, copyright registration, editing, copy-editing, proofreading, art work, layout, promotion.  Even if the author does it all himself, there is a cost.  Time.  Time that could have been spent writing.  Time that must be spent promoting the work before and after it becomes available to that it isn’t lost in the hundreds or even thousands of titles newly available each week through the kindle or nook stores.  Many authors simply can’t take that kind of financial hit right now.

So telling an author they can go another route besides traditional publishing is akin to telling that mid-lister who is still being offered contracts by legacy publishers to do without a paycheck.  All the author has to fall back on until the indie work takes off, if it takes off, are royalties from books already out in print.  Royalties that may dry up because the publisher decides not to push the book any longer.

In other words, the author, especially the mid-list author is walking a very fine line between trying to write a novel that excites his fans and maintaining a presence in this rapidly changing publishing world.  Writers also have to make sure they maintain their chocolate supply as well as their source for caffeine.  So don’t expect a writer to cut all ties with mainstream publishing just because the publisher does something you don’t like.  And don’t punish the writer either by threatening not to ever by anything else they write as long as the publisher attaches DRM, charges too much, etc.  It only upsets the writer and that means it interrupts the creative process.

Now, before I get the comments that say they’ve written to a publisher and there was no change, well, guess what.  It takes more than one e-mail.  It takes more than an e-mail to an editor.  As I said earlier, write the publisher.  Write the board of directors.  Use social media.  Look at what happened with United (I think that’s right) over the smashed guitar.  Or look at what’s happening right now with American Airlines and the lost cat debacle.  Consumers have more power now than ever before, thanks to social media.  But frothing at the mouth rants aren’t the way to do it.  Well-reasoned, well-thought out and well-written blogs, Youtube videos, facebook posts, etc., will have much more impact because they will be taken more seriously.

Feed the writers, let them hear what you liked.  Give constructive feedback (no, this doesn’t mean sending a list of typos in a book already out.  Remember what I said about editing and proofreading?).  Don’t go off on them about things they can’t control.  Most of all, remember that writing is a business for the author, not just a hobby.  So they can’t always just chuck the contract and walk away simply because there are clauses in that contract they don’t like.

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