Thursday, September 27, 2012

Numbers Game

For anyone interested in a writing career, a couple of must-read posts.

First, the book-selling numbers of Joe Konrath:

He's the guy who's the thumb in the eye of traditional publishers, who has made a ton of money-- selling books that traditional publishing wouldn't touch, because they couldn't sell enough of them quickly. Their world is about hitting big, fast. But that's not how most books do, they sell over time.

Konrath doesn't seem to mind, though, not having best sellers, just lots of some sellers, enough to make a living from. A writer making a living is not in the agenda of the Big Pub houses- they want to make a killing for themselves.

Konrath says that a lot of writers could do well his way, and it sends the New York Old Guard into a But-lather.
Merely mention his name, and they start going-  But-But-But

He includes the frightening statistic that close to 7 out of 10 books shipped get returned. If that's even remotely near the truth, what an incredible waste!

And cogent comment with her own numbers, from long-time professional writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

She says:
"Joe’s numbers are good, given all that, but they’re small for a lifetime average. Of course, he hasn’t been publishing for ten years yet, so he’s still—by the career standards I mentioned above—a new writer."

A "new writer" making thousands a month outside the Big Pub world, appealing to readers directly.

So tell me again why writers should play that traditional publishing lottery?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Separating the good from the bad

With the new world of publishing, many pros of the traditional system are stuck in the former way of doing things, and if they've benefitted under the traditional system, they see no reason to change.
Sure, it's great if you have a publishing house that wants to push for you, but that's a tiny portion of the active writers out there. That leaves the 99% of writers who need something better, like small independent publishing or self-publishing.

Sue Grafton (A is for Alibi, etc) is a very popular writer of the traditional system, and she recently caused a firestorm with comments she made in an interview, describing self-publishers as "lazy."
Many people jumped on this remark to rip her, and the rhetoric has been rather heated.
For the record, I've met her, and she's very nice.
I don't believe she wants to harm other writers, but she does have an outdated and unrealistic view of modern publishing-- no surprise-- since she's been doing well under the old system for over 25 years.
She apparently based her remark on a couple of self-published ebooks she'd seen, which she thought were not of professional quality.

Granted, there are numerous inferior examples of self-published ebooks, but one should not make a sweeping judgement based on a couple of bad examples-- we can find similar bad examples of shoddy editing and printing in mainstream published books as well.

In the past, traditional publishing houses had in-house editors, and books did go through a better process. But now, editing has been relegated to junior people, or outsourced entirely.
So independent and self-publishers can outsource their editng services, same as the big trad houses do. But the perception lingers that independent and self-published books don't get the same level of editing.

With the modern advent of quick and easy "push-button publishing," the field is wide-open for everyone, including a lot of people who aren't going to take the time to learn the craft of writing,
or even decent cover art and formattingand here's where the problem lies--
how do we, as readers, separate the good from the bad?

A big publishing house product is no guarantee of quality, and independent and self-publishers can span the range of bad to extremely good.

Many bookselling sites have reviews, which are one way of screening, if a reader is careful to read into the review itself.
There have been a few incidents of writers posting multiple overly-complimentary reviews of their own work. Rather sleazy.
There have also been cases where some people trashed other works, to lower the desirability of what they see as competitors. Also sleazy.

You have to remember, independent and self-publishers don't have the reach of a professional review journal such as Publisher's Weekly or Kirkus, which in many cases are heavily influenced (and in some cases outright paid for) by the publishing house.
So a few independents are trying to stack the deck by adding a bunch of one-sided reviews for a particular book.

One way to check a review is to look at the profile of the reviewer, and see what else they've done.
So another good screen on what a book is like is to see non-selling review sites themselves: places like Goodreads, Library Thing, or Shelfari, sites where readers tell what they thought of a work. These are good places for book fans to say what they like or dislike about the books they read.
Some genres have particular websites that review books in that field. Usually you can find good recommendations.

The best way to separate the bad from the good, however, is to read a sample of the book itself- easy enough to do on Amazon, and with ebooks, the Smashwords site. You'll quickly see what the quality of the writing is like, and whether or not you wish to purchase said book.

Now there are some people who don't care-- they only want a good story-- but I find it rather offensive if a book is poorly written or worse, or if it's apparent the author hasn't learned basic grammar and spelling. I've spent years learning to do writing well, and someone who puts out junk is a blight on those who take care to put out professional work.

So screen those new purchases before you buy, and help out other readers by posting your own reviews-- tell people what you think and why-- good or bad.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Do It Yourself Artistic Career

There was a great article in Sunday's Boston Globe about new artists going the do-it-yourself route for launching and maintaining their artistic careers. This applies to many endeavors: writers, musicians, painters, cartoonists. anyone who produces art for consumption by others.

They profiled Louis C.K., a comedian who is doing all the work of posting his material online and booking his shows, including ticket sales. A lot of work.

And Amanda Palmer, a musician, who raised over a million dollars with a crowdsourcing Kickstart venture, the first musician to do so. How cool is that!

There are many others as well. This is an incredible time, to be able to do this, and have complete control over your career, and not have to rely on "being discovered" by the major distributors. Many musicians have been ruined by their label, who insisted on a particular sound, when the band wanted a different direction. Many a writer was constrained by contract to keep producing a similar book, year after year.

The problem with being owned by a large corporation is that they want to make money from the artist, and will often control the output. But art should happen at the whim of the one creating the content, not by some suit in a boardroom looking at a poll or chart of what they think will sell that month.

It's a great time to be a content creator. You can now reach an audience over the Internet, instead of relying on corporate-owned distribution and selling channels. Viva la revolution! You get to go direct, and cut out all middlemen, if you so desire.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New stories, lots of Work

Howdy. It's been a productive week- probably the previous vacation time helped to clear the mental buffers and pave way for this.

Sent a story off last Monday.

Tuesday, started a new story. Finished it on Wednesday and sent it off.

Thursday, saw a notice of a new anthology with specific instructions for what they wanted.
Got sparked, and began a new story, The Atomic Kid.

Four days of work, and I thought I'd nailed it by this afternoon. Then I noticed the required word count meant I had to add another half-story in. So I took another 5 hours (missing the Patriot's first regular-season game in the process) to finish up and submit. 5000 words is a good-size story.

All I can say is-- Phew!

I had a big list of things to get done. But it took all day to finish one thing. That's the way writing goes sometimes.

But I'm happy. This is what successfulw writers do.

That was my "weekend off". How was yours?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Long Interview Reposted

Morgen Bailey recently reposted my long interview from last year, quite a good one:

Happy Labor Day

Today we have a legal holiday (as opposed to an illegal holiday?) because of the toil and sacrifice of many people in the past. They suffered to bring us relief from endless hours of drudgery.

We've also got the 40-hour work week and the abolishing of child labor due to the efforts of people working for basic, decent human rights against big businesses.

Remember them in your definition of "heroes"-- those who put out extraordinary effort and sometimes put themselves in harm's way to give us all a better life.