I write like
Jack London

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why Traditional Publishing Is Having Problems Defending Itself

Considering what we call "traditional publishing" has been around for roughly seventy-five years, you would think they would know what they bring to the business table. If folks in the publishing houses do know, they are having a very difficult time articulating those points.

The first major problem is how publishers and editors regard writers. They say they treasure writers, but in reality, they view us as needy, whiny pains-in-the-ass. Even Kris Rusch mentioned writers who go into hysterics over changing a comma, and she's an author so she's very much PRO writer.

Another example is a discussion over at The Passive Voice when a Kensington author anonymously mentioned that her editor didn't edit her books. Rather than checking out the writer's story, publisher Steven Zacharius castigated Anonymice on the public blog, which kind of proved why this writer didn't go to him in the first place.

This brings me directly to one of the major services publishers claim they provide--editing.

Barry Harbaugh, an editor at HarperCollins, was trying to refute an essay by Andrew Martin in The New Yorker that talked about MFA vs. NYC. He really stepped into steaming pile when he insisted that editors do edit, but added that he only edited about fifty to one hundred pages a week. Of course, it's all Amazon's fault that editors get a bad rap.

I'll give Barry credit that he does do some editing, but the amount?

Excuse me? The night before I saw Barry's piece, I had edited a fifteen-page short story that I'm about to submit and twenty pages of novel prior to posting the sample online. All of this was done the forty minutes while I ordered and ate dinner at a local Mexican restaurant because I needed to get out of the house and away from Alter Ego's current wip.

Many more trad authors are coming out of the woodwork and talking about no editing, or even worse, abusive editors. In the same link to Kris Rusch's blog above, she talks about an editor who was downright psychotic and gives good advice for dealing with difficult people in the industry.

So what about cover art?

This is the notorious cover for Barry Eisler's book, Fault Line, issued by the French trad publisher. All cultural differences aside, does this look like an international, jet-setting thriller?

And if the writer gets a bad cover, can they do anything about it? Generally, no. The publisher complains about the cost (if the writer is lucky), or simply ignores you.

Not too many writers can turn a bad cover into a plus, but Christina Dodd did. Go ahead. Count how many hands the lady on the cover has. Dodd used the screw-up as a marketing gimmick. But a bad trad cover can't always be changed into gold so easily.

One of fabulous pluses as an indie is the ability to change your cover on a moment's notice. Like when several retailers decide out of the blue that your erotica covers are too risque. *wink*

Another factor is that the writer is blamed for the editing and the cover art, not the publisher, because it's the writer's name on the book.

The publisher doesn't care. There's a million writers banging on their doors, so they'll chuck the one that complains and grab another serf writer at the gates.

So what about promotion, publicity, and marketing by the publishing company? These should be the publishers' biggest strengths, right?

Fuhgeddaboudit! Seriously. Nearly every mid-list writer I personally know who signed a contract within the last ten years spent their entire trad pub advance on getting word out about their books. And with advances getting smaller and smaller and costs rising, that means more money out of a writers pocket.

Even worse, trad publishers seem to have no marketing savvy in today's world (though they will command the writer to participate in every social media known to humankind).One of the selling points they brought to the table when they tried to woo H.M. Ward was their 2K e-mail list. Ms. Ward has a much bigger e-mail list already. MUCH bigger.

And heaven forbid if you ask the trade publisher to put specific marketing efforts in the contract!

These are the three big things that trad publishers could bring to the table for writers, but they refuse to do so. Here's the thing--it really wouldn't cost them a lot to do even one of these three. Do it cheap. Do it right.

Because indie writers are doing it every freakin' day!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

Writers and Social Media, Redux

There's a myth going around writer circles, egged on by trad editors and agents, that a writer HAS to do every, single type of social media available, and if you don't, then your writing career will fail miserably!

(Say that sentence all in one breath. I'll have an oxygen tank waiting for you.)

No, you don't have to do every single one. (Hold the mask to face and inhale.)

There's no measurable, predictable way to know which social media will work for you specifically. None. What worked for Amanda Hocking or J.A. Konrath or Bella Andre may or may not work you.

Why do I say this?

Because Suzan Harden DID everything and couldn't sell shit for her first year. Alter Ego did NOTHING, she had no plans to do so either, and sales took off in the second month.

Why did Alter Ego's sales take off with no social media? I published her first novella the month before everyone and their grandmother went apeshit for Fifty Shades of Grey. And that first novella happened to be a BDSM romance. So all those ladies needed a fix until Book 2 in the FSoG series came out. It all came to down to luck and timing.

As for the Suzan Harden books? Well, frankly, I burned myself out trying to do a zillion marketing things everyone insisted HAD to be DONE in order to be successful. And they didn't do jackshit for me.

So how do I decide what social media to engage in? I go where I am having fun.

Blogs

1) Alter Ego has a blog, but it acts as a surrogate website with announcements of releases, a mailing list sign-up, catalog of available books, and buy links. She doesn't anything more than that.

2) Suzan has two blogs. One is publishing business and other things she finds cool (i.e. the one you're reading right now). The other is for readers, where she posts short stories and samples from current wips. She also comments on the blogs of other folks actively involved in indie publishing.

Facebook

1) Alter Ego has a very active FB account. She loves talking to readers and other writers!

2) Suzan thinks FB sucks. Her husband insisted on creating a fan page. She tries to post something funny once a day, but often forgets. Even then she gets nasty messages from people she doesn't know (and sometimes from people she does know) who think she sucks. She'd chuck it all if a handful of fans hadn't started visiting the page this year.

Twitter

1) Alter Ego gets on Twitter once in a while, but for the most part has her FB posts going to her Twitter account.

2) Suzan has given up on Twitter because the only folks who follow her are other writers hawking their books and third party vendors trying to sell her their overpriced services for indie writers.


Yep, that's it. That's all I do. This isn't a slam against other social media you might enjoy.

Well, wait. That's not true. I won't do LinkedIn because they have a very bad habit of harvesting e-mails from your address book. (Or they did. I'll retract that last statement if someone can prove to me they've stopped.) I also won't do Pinterest because they made a blatant rights grab in their original terms of service. If that's changed, send me the link. But I refuse to go back to their website because they seriously pissed me off the first time.

The big thing you need to remember to BICHOK, aka Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. (If you don't use a computer, then change the fucking acronym!) The best publicity/marketing is putting out a new story. All the promotion in the world won't help you if you do gain fans, and there's nothing else for them to buy.

Which means I need to get back to work!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Status Report - April 2014

In six days, tax filing must be done. Yesterday, DH and I got our returns back from our CPA, Ed.

What a difference from three years ago when I took my first tentative step into publishing. Not only did I make a profit for 2013, I had to pay self-employment tax!

Okay, I know most people aren't (or shouldn't be) excited about paying taxes, but for me, it means Angry Sheep is a real business. Not that it wasn't before, but this is my type of validation. Not getting a traditional deal, but having to cough up money to Uncle Sam.

Your mileage may vary.

As for what's happening in 2014?

The ramifications of the Kernel Pornocalypse are still being felt in Alter Ego's sales. On the other hand, word-of-mouth is starting to spread about her books. I'm getting requests for ARCs from book bloggers.

The fantasies under Suzan Harden got a nice little plug thanks to Jonathan Moeller's interview and the release of Sword and Sorceress 28 last fall, but the surge was short-lived. All I can do is keep plugging away at the writing for the small cadre of readers who like those books and keep my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, there's been shuffling and weirdness in the e-book retail world. Sony sold its business to Kobo, and Diesel shut down completely. I'm not holding my breath about getting paid for the last sales from those companies.

While total sales are down across the board, my Apple sales have been outstripping my Amazon US sales this year. In March, Amazon UK sales beat Amazon US.

What does this mean? I think it shows how wide open the world markets are. Most writers are only look at a little slice of America, and then only looking at Amazon. I.thought that was short-sighted three years ago, and so far, my opinion hasn't changed.

Barnes & Noble continues its death spiral. I've been lucky to sell one book a day when two years ago, I could sell 200 a day. As I've said repeatedly, I hate seeing B&N throw away its advantages, but they seem intent of commercial suicide.

As for Smashwords, I haven't made a sale there yet this year. I've heard a couple of different rumors regarding Mark Coker's intentions with the company, but nothing I can verify through independent sources. And these are the types of things that even if I asked Mark, he would have to lie because the truth would majorly fuck over both him and the writers distributing through Smashwords. So we'll see on that front.

Is the e-book market becoming saturated? Yes and no. There are thousands more books out there than their were three years ago. But like the other entertainment industries, a consumer is more likely to find enough material in her favorite niche to keep her happy. In four words--I am not worried in that regard.

My biggest problem is that my productivity for the last twelve months is down considerably due to the move from Texas to Ohio. Things aren't over yet. We still need to sell the house in Texas. So right now, I'm doing more general contracting than I care to and battling a colony of bees that are setting up shop in my siding.

Between a retailer upheaval and slow production, there's a reason for my drop in sales. I can't fix one, but I can fix the other.

After I deal with this stupid house and a possible killer bee invasion.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Movie Mania - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I wasn't that cracked about the first Captain America movie, but the sequel more than made up for it. The juxtaposition of someone from the Greatest Generation dealing with the fucked up world we have today made Steve Rogers shine.

*** SPOILERS***

Oh Goddess, where do I start?

1) I think in my secret heart-of-hearts I hoped Marvel Studios would tap the Winter Soldier storyline. Sebastian Stan did a delicious job as James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes in the first Captain America movie. In this case, making Bucky the same age as Cap instead of his junior sidekick, as well as having the two of them being childhood friends, twisted the knife even more cruelly when Steve discovers what has been done to Bucky.

2) Two sidekicks in one movie! Just as Bucky had been Cap's sidekick in the '40's comics, Falcon filled that role in the '70's, aka my childhood. I'm thankful that the writers turned Sam Wilson back to his social services roots (as a returning veterans counselor in the movie) as opposed to the pimp/drug dealer an asshole comic writer retconned Sam into when I was a kid. (The retcon in the book seriously pissed me off even as a kid. Heaven forbid a black man be a respectable citizen!)

3) Black Widow kicking ass. 'Nuff said.

4) Yeesh! The effects this movie will have Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s storyline! I'm a little upset about Sitwell, and I'll be even more upset if May follows in his footsteps, which seems to be where the storyline is going. But the rest of the season should be very interesting!

5) Chris Evans has finally found his happy place as Cap. Over Christmas, I re-watched Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. I'm more aware of how stiff Chris was in the first movie. I'm not sure how much was the directing and how much was him, but I think that's what contributing to my dissatisfaction with the first movie. In The Avengers, I think working with RDJ made Chris step up his game. In this one, he obviously feels a lot more comfortable donning the star-spangled suit.

6) The "ripped from the headlines" story was a pleasant surprise. The writers did an incredible job of adapting the Snowden incident to the Marvel world with the correspondingly devastating ramifications.


Overall, I'd give this movie a 9 out of 10.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Videos I've Been Watching Lately

I can't seem to stop watching the WatchMojo Channel. I think I need an intervention.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Change Is Inevitable

One of my great-grandfathers was very fond of the saying, "The only constant in the universe is change."*

Great-grandpa Ed was born in 1888 when farming was still the main occupation for the United States. Cars, electricity and telephones were toys for rich city folk. He was a teenager when Wilbur and Orville tested their airplane at Kitty Hawk. His eldest child was born the same year Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated.

All four of his sons dabbled in farming, though it was more a hobby than a living. Newspapers, then radio, then television in turn were the primary method of disseminating information. He watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. PCs were in their infancy when he passed away.

Why am I telling you all of this? Great-grandpa never complained when a new method came along. Pick-up trucks were a hell of a lot easier to deal with than a stubborn mule team. Tractor-driven rakers and balers? The best things ever invented. And how amazing is it we can get fresh fruit from South America!

Yesterday smacked me just how much people become so settled in their lives they resent change.

The first kicker was David Letterman's announcement that he was retiring next year. The hue and cry went up. "Late night will never be the same!"

First of all, late night talk shows are nearly as old as television itself, which a fairly young medium compared to dirty hieroglyphics in Egypt. They all follow the same general format, even my beloved Craig Ferguson (though he generally has read the book an author plugs on his show). Someone will step into David's place, just as Jimmy replaced Jay who replaced Johnny who replaced Jack.

The second kicker was a quote on Neil Gaiman's blog: "So many books are being published. Why don't people just stop making new books and read the ones that are already out there?"

Now I could take that quote TOTALLY out of context like someone did with Tracy Hickman, which would be an evil and terrible thing to do to a writer I admire. Neil was talking about the feeling of being overwhelmed in a big box store compared to a small bookshop he recently discovered. This made me think that he won't be having this feeling for too much longer if certain big chains don't get their act together and innovate. They cannot continue to ignore the changes in the publishing and book retailing industry.

The third kicker was the report of an interview of fantasy writer Tracy Hickman at AnomalyCon this year. Both The Passive Voice, J.A. "Joe" Konrath, and their respective followers had a lot to say about Tracy's statements in that interview, as did the commenters on the original post. And a lot of what was said was terribly inaccurate.

Tracy's been in the writing business for over thirty years. Hell, I read his Dragonlance books in high school. He responded to Joe's well-meaning advice and offer to help with a comment at Joe's blog and a post on his own blog. Tracy is adapting to the new publishing paradigm just fine, thank you, contrary to the dramatic reports of his great sorrow over his career.

On the other hand, Great-Grandpa Ed died in 1981 and never saw the downfall of the American family farm. I wonder how he would have handled it. Would he have accepted it and found an alternative occupation? Or would he have railed against fate and succumbed to despair? Given his disposition, I'd say he'd jump into the new world with both feet.

It's ironic to me that Dave, Neil and Tracy got their starts in their respective fields in the same decade Great-Grandpa passed away. My grandchildren will probably work in fields I cannot even envision.

Things change. The only choices we really have are adapt or die.


*It was decades before I realized how unusual it was to know five of my great-grandparents.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Here's Something I Think You Will Enjoy

Since I've been flat on my ass for the last four days with a serious infection, I'm playing catch-up with household chores. Because, well, you know, clean underwear is always good. So here's a little riff on James Bond by the incredible actor/comedian Eddie Izzard, all set to Legos.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Sick Day

Well, I only got today's post partially written when I came down with a nasty infection on Saturday. Today consisted of a trip to the doctor and drugs. Now, I'm going to rest, which I hate because I get bored easily.

Y'all play nice, and I hope it's a beautiful day where you are!