Sunday, January 30, 2011

More on Modern Publishing

While I make my living as a professional writer, it's Technical Writing, and it's working for other people. For many years, I've dreamed of being a professional fiction writer, a totally different animal. Toward that goal, I've put in thousands of hours of effort. Now I'm at the point where I'm selling short-story fiction on a frequent and ever-more successful basis, and am moving to get my first novel out to readers. I've got an ebook out already- a non-fiction work on improving your interviewing skills.

Until the present day, a writing career was not a good bet. For the first thing, most people fail to complete a good first novel. Many start, but few finish, and fewer still edit it until it's good enough, and fewer still get it out to market. Those that do, 96% fail to sell more than a thousand or two copies, and half of the rest fail to sell more than a few thousand more.

Despite that enormously high "failure" rate, thousands of books a year got published, which lead people to believe they could do it through the traditional method. But the cold hard fact is that for most folks, it just wasn't worth it. Working a year on a book and getting a few hundred dollars for it just didn't pay the bills.

Publishers had and still have, almost no idea on what makes a book sell, or how some books rise while similar ones fall. Two good posts on the industry, one by Debbi Mack, who's been reviewed here, and another by Zoe Winters. Read these, and you'll wonder how publishers make money, when they come off as looking like clowns who don't know what they're doing.

Simple answer, until recently they were the only real game in town for someone who wanted to look like a pro. They were the gatekeepers, and you had to go through them to get taken seriously. Bookstores were the place to go for books, and they only bought from publishers. They did this because they could get credit for any books which didn't sell.

The failure rate for self-published work was even worse, as something like 98% of self-published books failed to sell more than a hundred or so copies. And it cost money that the author might never get back. You had to distribute and sell by hand, face-to-face, so the numbers remained small.

Now a revolution has occurred- the price of printing a book has dropped, there are tools to format and create cover art, there are companies who will help the independent, and websites allow an author to get the word out. People can buy books online, and they can buy them in different formats: print, electronic, and audio. They can get editing, so the book doesn't have to suck. If it's any good, they can expect to sell some copies, with a bit of marketing savvy.

So it sucks for the big publishing companies, the bookstores, the agents, and all those who are tied to the old model. They're getting beat on price, and their volumes are down. Since they never had a clue as to how to run a good business, they're in danger of becoming extinct.

The good news is for writers and readers. You can now check out a new author for a few bucks, instead of paying $25 or more for a new hardcover. I read many books, and it would costs me thousands if I had to pay bookstore prices for everything I read in a year. I'd say my book consumption has gone up 10% or more, and I don't even have an e-reader device. Sure, not all of the independent works are well-written, but I'm out only a buck or two, and I don't have to read anything else by a writer who's not good. I'm discovering a host of writers, who are starting careers. Good for them, and good for us.

As a writer, I spent years carefully following the rules set up by the gatekeepers, time I could have spent writing more and getting better. It got me nowhere. I've got good, polished work (industry pros have told me so) and I'm going rogue soon. You'll be able to read samples before you buy, and buy cheap when you find you like what's been written. My hope is to get readers who'll want more, and I'll keep writing more.

That's what the real model is supposed to be. Viva la revolution!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Publishing Debate

There's a lot of Internet debate on the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus the new style of independent self-publishing. Here's a few- be sure to read the comments for additional views:

The poster boy of successful self-publishing is J A Konrath, who started in the traditional world and then discovered he could sell more and make more money by self-publishing.

And another view:

The following has a lot of strong language:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Today, there are many options for getting your books out to readers. This is a good thing, as the big publishers resemble dying dinosaurs, more so every day.

Got a good book and want to get it printed? A couple of options here-- they're local to this area, northern Mass/southern NH, although I'm sure they'd work with you in other locations as well:

Rosstrum Publishing ( - This is a Print-On-Demand company, who will work with you to set up and print copies of your book. You pay to make it happen, but the fees are far less than other pay presses, and the value and quality are high. You can print more as you sell more, but don't have to buy a set number, or come up with exorbitant fees.

Briona Glen Publishing ( - If you don't have the cash, but have a good book, try this new company, who will partner with you. They'll release the book through Lulu, so you don't need to pay up front. They don't pay advances, but you get a much larger share of the book sale, unlike how you'd fare with a big publisher. They offer a working partnership to get you into print and promote your book.

So there you have it- no more excuses for not getting your book out. This is the year.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have more books to write!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Master Cleanse

I'm at the end of an experiment called the Master Cleanse. It's a way of letting your body rest and get rid of years of accumulated crap by not eating for 10+ days. Yup, you heard right- I've gone without food for that long. Who'd a thought?

For nutrition, you drink a concoction of lemonade and maple syrup. Add a dash of cayenne pepper as an appetite suppressant. It's enough to give you the energy you need, without climbing the walls from hunger.

So you find out a lot of things while on this regime. How much of eating is habit or emotion, and how much you can do without. I was amazed at my ability to stay the course. Sure, I had cravings, but I had a goal in mind, and had to persevere. You also get more free time, because you're not always thinking about food and meals.

This last stretch is hard, because afterward, you have to ease back onto food. Two days ago, it was just orange juice all day. Yesterday, I had some oranges and broth. Today I had vegetables in my soup, and a salad for dinner. Tomorrow I can try regular food again. I will most likely weep for joy. I love food, and my wife Mindy is a fantastic cook. I've had to skip some pretty tasty meals these last two weeks.

Another benefit is weight loss. I carry far too many extra pounds, but I dropped 15 of them during the cleanse, with 3+ inches off my belly. Pretty good. And I felt great through it, and better now.

It's not just a crash diet, it's a way of changing your thinking about food. I'm declaring victory.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dealing With Rejection

So while still riding high from the great praise for my story "Heartsounds," out at Every Day Fiction, today I get two story rejections, and the notice that another market I've submitted to has folded up shop, leaving my story in limbo.

My way of dealing with rejection is working that much harder for success. Sent all three stories to new markets. I'll repeat as necessary until each finds a home, while writing more.

One market had a requirement word length, so I had to trim 700 words from a story, about 15%. Not easy, to keep the quality, but it worked. Takes time, though, as does reformatting for specifications. You can spend a lot of time redoing a story for a few-dollar market.

Now I'm researching another place to send something else. Writing the stuff takes time, and finding a home for it takes more time, and getting the word out even more. This is why writers live more than one life- we have to!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Sigh. Another typical New England January weather day, which means at least a foot of fresh-fallen snow. Soon it will be time to:

A. Dig out the vehicles.

B. Warm up the cars and move them to temp parking, which is usually a half-mile away at this point.

C. Return home, peel off wet clothes, try to warm up, and wait for the Bobcats to come through and partially clear our parking spaces.

D. Redress in layers, finish the clearing with a shovel, at least a half-hour of work.

E. Go get the cars and bring them back.

F. Peel off wet clothes, and try to warm up.

G. Hope it doesn't snow a lot more, or might have to repeat this!

At least we're used to this routine. Down south, they're getting snow and don't know what to do with it. Happy Snow Day everyone!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Latest Publication

My flash story "Heartsounds" is out today at Every Day Fiction:

Even though it just came out, have a half-dozen good comments on it already. Very nice.

If you like the story, please consider leaving a comment and a rating.

Am very pleased, as this is my first mainstream, non-genre piece.

Happy Sunday!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book to Read

Just read "Least Wanted" by Debbi Mack, one of the series starring the character of Maryland attorney Stephanie Ann "Sam" McRae. Sam is a hard-boiled, tough-gal lawyer who helps the downtrodden, and this book is a slam-bang action ride. In the classic vein, the book opens with the arrival of a troubled (and troubling) client. Sam starts off on a simple matter, and soon becomes entangled with a batch of baddies, bodies, bruises, and blood.

Sam's gritty background and determination enable her to go where others could and would not. She can navigate different worlds, from the street-hard gangbangers to the suited sharks of courtroom and boardroom.

Despite growing frustration and ever-increasing personal danger, Sam is determined to find out the truth, amidst a nest of deceit and depravity. Because she has to keep others safe, her moral code allows for lapses in strict legal conduct. And she admits she can't save the world and everyone in it, but she can try to help a few of those in need.

If you like your mysteries with a hard edge, and enjoy reading of the tribulations of tough lady lawyers, you'll want to meet Sam McRae. You can find this book (and others by the author) on Smashwords:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year

Managed to stay up to see the ball drop on New Year's Eve, but truthfully, wanted to go to bed at 9. Stayed up for the family. We don't drink, so we toasted with sparkling apple cider at midnight. Hoo-rah.

So that decade is over. Let's hope this one is a LOT better. Heck, let's just see if we can survive the year.