Dean Wesley Smith

When Writers Face the Deadly Saying… “What’s the Point?”

16 November 2015

From Dean Wesley Smith:

A couple people got angry at me in letters because I told them that following sales numbers (the number of books you are selling or what Amazon list you are on) is an addiction.

A deadly one to your writing and your career for the long term.

So what are the first signs you are into the deadly part of this addiction?

Easy. When you are sitting at your computer, your creative voice really, really wants to write a certain story or a new book in a certain series, and you hear yourself think, “What’s the point? It won’t sell.”

Oh, oh…

Tust me, folks, I am not immune from this in the slightest. When I realize that one of my books or series is selling better than others, and yet I am firing up a book that is in the poor-selling series, I hear myself ask that question.

How I get around it is tell that tiny part of my critical voice that is trying to stop me that maybe this book in this lower-selling series will be the one that explodes. That answers the question, “What’s the point.”

And makes the critical voice crawl away whimpering.

But realize, I’ve been doing this a very long time, I never read reviews of my work, and I do not follow any sales numbers or bestseller lists. Yet this still creeps in at times because one of the wonderful things we have about this new world is immediate information on sales.

. . . .

So how exactly does this kill your writing and career?

A thousand ways with a thousand cuts, actually.

If you listen and act on the question, you won’t learn, you won’t write anything except stuff that you think will sell and chances are it won’t, or at least not for long.

And the first time you write a couple things you don’t like just because you think they will sell and they don’t live up to some made-up expectation your critical voice has put on the project, the “What’s the Point?” question gets so loud, you can’t hear yourself think, let alone write.

Coming back from a life event is never easy, and you feel behind, so what’s the point of even starting? So you don’t do anything, because something might happen again to stop you.

You are too old (by some made-up yardstick in your head…I heard a 28 year old say this once) so it’s better to not start.

And so on and so on.

This question, when you hear it, is your critical voice trying to stop you. It is mostly triggered by watching your own numbers, reading your own reviews, or comparing yourself to someone else’s numbers or success.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to Deb for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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Not Editing New Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

13 October 2015

From Dean Wesley Smith:

I edited Star Trek: Strange New Worlds for ten fun years. It was a wonderful project that helped fans and new writers tell Star Trek stories. I was very proud of the work I did on that and the fine writers I was lucky enough to buy stories from.

This new incarnation is a scam to suck new writers into one of Simon and Schuster’s vanity publishers. Avoid this contest at all costs. More below.

. . . .

This will be short and sweet.

  1. No I am not editing or have anything to do with the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds contest. I have not been asked, even though I edited the first ten. Standard for traditional publishing.
  2. Even if asked, I would not help them in any way because of the two first place prizes which gives some poor, beginning writer without a clue free publication of their non-Star Trek book in one of the vanity presses that Simon and Schuster own. That disgusts me more than I want to think about.
  3. The entire contest, from what a few who got letters told me, is a come-on to beginning writers for their names to be pushed to the vanity presses. Sigh…
  4. AVOID AT ALL COSTS. Write your own stories. In the long run you will be so much better off.

I hope that’s clear.

Sad that such a wonderful project that lasted for ten years is being destroyed by corporation greed and the desire to take advantage of young writers. The Star Trek franchise should be ashamed of itself.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

The Top Five Dumbest Business Practices in Publishing

11 May 2015

From Dean Wesley Smith:

From the real world perspective, publishing is really, really, really known for its head-shakingly stupid business practices. But inside of publishing, these practices have become so common and set in “the way things are done” as to be defended by otherwise sane business people.

So I figured I would honor Dave Letterman’s departure with a quick top five list.

I’ll give the real world equivalent of the publishing practice, then the actual publishing practice, working down to the most stupid publishing practice of them all.

. . . .

Real World: You walk up to a neighbor’s house you don’t really know, but at a neighborhood block party you met them. You ask the neighbor to give you legal advice about a legal contract you have been offered. The neighbor teaches English at the local high school and is not an attorney. Plus it is against the law in your state (and all states) for someone without a law degree to give legal advice. But since the neighbor on his last trip stayed at Holiday Inn Express (remember those commercials?) he agrees to give you advice on the contract and negotiate it for you. Would you ever do that? Of course not. You would go to a lawyer who knows the area of contracts you have been offered.

Publishing: Recent graduates of college with a bachelors in English who have a business card that says “agent” think nothing of giving legal advice to writers and negotiating the contract for them. And writers let them without a second thought. Apply common business sense and hire an IP attorney to handle your contract and negotiations. Duh.

. . . .

Real World: You hire a gardener to mow your lawn when it needs it. In exchange for that simple task, you offer your gardener 15% of your property for the life of the property, plus seventy years past your death. That means the gardener’s grandkids would be getting money from your grandkids because the gardener mowed your lawn once or twice. Would you do that? Of course not. You would simply pay your gardener by the hour or the project.

Publishing: Every agency agreement, both from agents and inside of publishing contracts, gives an agent on a project 15% of the property (remember, copyright is property) for the life of the copyright which is 70 years past your death. And often the agent gets this for a couple hours work one day and a phone call. Apply common sense. If an agent won’t work for a set fee per property, then hire an IP attorney who is licensed and who can do all the same things an agent would do, only legally. And you only pay one set fee or hourly rate. Duh.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to Ava for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books

Days of Forgetting

6 May 2015

From Dean Wesley Smith:

As I mention every year, it is pretty amazing how being five months from the first of the year causes so many writers to just not want to think about their year-end resolutions to write more and attain goals.

May, June, July I call the “Days of Forgetting.”

What was important and critical in January with writing and learning and getting stories published fades in these three months. Of course, if I asked, I could have you all send me a book full of great excuses. Please don’t. I’ve heard them all.

The problem with the “Days of Forgetting” is August. That’s when the remembering starts and wow is it hard to fire back up, to get motivated again, and that motivation for many doesn’t return until they see there is only three months left to the year. And by that point, all first of the year goals are shot.

What I suggest to people is set goals for these three months with their writing. Take writing or business classes, set writing goals, go to a convention, whatever. But keep the focus on the writing.

It might not be as much as you can do the first three months of the year or in September, October, or November. But if you get something done, hit some goals, keep writing as a focus, your year-end goal won’t be gone.

And August will be much, much more fun as you come back stronger into writing.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to J.A. for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books

The New World of Writing: Pulp Speed

6 December 2014

From Dean Wesley Smith:

I’ve mentioned this concept a number of times on my nightly blog and in the Topic of the Night little sections. But since Pulp Speed was almost impossible in the new traditional world, it belongs as a post in this series.

Not at all sure why this idea sort of hits me right. I think because it flies in the face of all the myths. A writer has to have all myths under control to even attempt this. So this post might just make you angry because it hits at belief systems I’m afraid.

The second reason I can’t shake this idea is because for all of my life I have idolized pulp writers.

. . . .

Many, many of the great writers of the past that we still read and enjoy were pulp writers. And there are many pulp writers working today. More than you might imagine, even through the rough times of the last twenty years in traditional publishing.

. . . .

Dickens was one of the early great Pulp Writers. And there were many along the way before the turn of 1900. It was then that the “literary” group split from the “writing for the masses” group of writers.

To the literary group, their writing had to be important, something to struggle to read, and only be published in leather hardbound books.

The masses group of writers just wanted to tell stories that would entertain readers.

Around this split period of 1900, the pulp magazines were coming in, and with the pulp magazine expansion, stories were needed to fill the pages of the exploding pulp magazine field. And the writers who could write sellable stories quickly discovered they could become very rich writing for one cent per word.

. . . .

Doc Savage was a pulp character created mostly by Lester Dent and his publisher under a magazine house name. He wrote 159 of the Doc Savage novels for the Doc Savage pulp magazine, among many other books under other names, including his own name. There was a novel from Dent in most issues of Doc Savage Magazine for a decade or more. You can still buy Doc Savage novels by Dent today.

Some pulp writers got so famous, they were some of the richest people in the country. One year in the 1940s, the pen name Max Brand had thirteen movies in production from his books. Some of you may even remember Max Brand’s Dr. Kildare from television. Either the first television series or the second.

. . . .

By the way, the author behind Max Brand was Frederick Faust. Faust had a bunch of other prolific pen names besides Brand. For just one magazine group in the 1920s he wrote over a million words per year for the entire decade. Plus other stories and novels for other magazines.

. . . .

When the pulps finally died in the late 1950s, Pulp Speed writers turned to paperbacks through the 1960s and 1970s and wrote everything a publisher wanted. There were lots and lots of Pulp Speed writers producing upwards of 30 novels a year if not more. And most books were under many pen names and across many genres. Novels in this time period were still in the 40,000 word range.

In the 1980s publishers started to artificially inflate the size of novels because of the publisher’s need to charge more for a paperback. Pulp Speed writers kept on.  Numbers worked the category romance field, many worked westerns which had kept their smaller size.

And as normal, Pulp Speed writers worked across all genres. Fewer titles produced, but more words per book, so same production. Many Pulp Speed writers worked series novels for publishers during this period. And a lot of media novels.

But by the 1990s and early this century, most of the Pulp Speed writers had retired and very few new writers understood that Pulp Speed world was out there. It was almost impossible to understand when publishers limited a writer to one book per year. But some Pulp Speed writers still existed and worked through the period.

But now, with the advent of the indie world, Pulp Speed writers are coming back. It is possible again. And fun.

The golden age of fiction for readers has returned.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to Melissa and several others for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books

Why I Haven’t Been Writing Many Publishing Blogs Lately

20 September 2014

From Dean Wesley Smith:

I’ve gotten a few e-mails wondering when I was going to resume writing some of my different publishing blogs.

. . . .

But here’s why there hasn’t been many lately.

1… Most of publishing news has been focused on the fight between a bookstore and a publisher. There must be a thousand blogs on the topic now, and not a person knows what exactly the two major companies are fighting over. At least no one talking and blogging knows. I hate uninformed opinions. I love opinions and good discussions, but when pure idiocy goes on this long on both sides, I just get bored. So nothing for me to write about.

2… Writers are fighting and that just makes me sad. I think all writers should just help each other. This business is tough enough without writers going at one another for no logical reason that I can find. Yet indie writers go after traditional writers and traditional writers jab at indie writers. And respect of long-term writers by baby writers seems to be a thing of the past, from what I have witnessed on some blogs and in person. Just sad and not something I’m going to write about. However, I will say that most writers I know just keep our heads down in this fight and keep writing. That’s what I’ve been doing.

. . . .

6… I am sick to death of all the articles about how paper books are going away, yet all data shows exactly the opposite. And I am sick to death of all the articles about how B&N is going to go away, all written by people who couldn’t read a stock report if they tried, let alone understand the health of a major corporation. So nothing there for me to write about lately. Belief that all paper books are vanishing has reached religion status, where proof and data no longer matter. Time, meaning a decade or two, will tell.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to Colleen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books

Year End Summary of Writing in Public: Year One

3 August 2014

From Dean Wesley Smith:

I did (not counting comments on web sites) 1,281,675 original words in the last twelve months.

745,175 words of that was original fiction.

51,700 words of that was nonfiction. (So just under 800,000 words of fiction and nonfiction combined. More than I thought, actually.)

That ended up being twelve novels and over thirty short stories and three nonfiction books. All the novels are in the general 40,000 to 55,000 word range. The short stories make up the rest of the fiction word count.

. . . .

I tend to write fiction about 2 to 3 hours per day. I work seven days per week. I write fiction last thing every day. With workshops, being CFO of WMG Publishing, and other projects, I tend to work about 50 hours at least per week away from fiction writing.

In July I averaged about 2 hours of writing per day, about 60 hours of fiction writing for the entire month. That produced about 60,000 words of fiction, which is about my average of 1,000 words per hour.

So those of you with day jobs out there, realize and watch that I also function in my life as if I have a day job that takes about 50 hours of my time per week. Day jobs are not an excuse to not write. (How’s that for blunt? (grin))

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to Alex for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books

No One Buys New Writers

9 May 2014

From Dean Wesley Smith:

Myths ignore facts. Myths are often beliefs built from fear or past actions.

In this series, and in the previous series of Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing, I call the myths that control writers “Sacred Cows.”

Writers hold onto myths like lifelines that are keeping them from drowning in a raging river of information. Sometimes sane people in the normal world will follow a publishing myth that makes no sense at all because it has something to do with the publishing business. And they follow the myth without thought.

So this new series is an attempt to help the new world of indie publishing with the growing list of myths that plague it.

And the third biggest myth to hit indie writers is this:

No One Will Pay Good Money for an Unknown Writer’s Work. (So a new writer should make his or her work cheaper because it’s worth less.)

. . . .

Fact: Every writer started off as a new writer. (I know, shock.)

Fact: Every new writer who sold to traditional publishing for the first time in the last hundred years was paid decent, good, or fantastic money. Why? Because the gatekeepers thought they could sell a lot of copies of (you guessed it) an Unknown Writer.

Fact: A 100,000 word mystery from an Unknown Writer, when traditional publishing sells it, is priced EXACTLY at the same price as similar-sized novel from a bestselling writer. Price in old traditional publishing was based on printing and shipping costs and the size of the book and how many would fit in a sales and a bunch of other factors, including shipping cartons.

Fact:  Not once in the last one hundred years did any traditional publisher price a new writer’s book lower because the writer was unknown. (Nope, they priced it because of printing costs.)

Fact: All writers are insecure.

. . . .

While traditional publishers were fighting and breaking laws to not allow Amazon to lower e-book prices to $9.99 because it was shockingly too low, new indie writers were pricing their brand new novels at 99 cents because it couldn’t be any good since they were new writers.

And thus this myth got started.

A bunch of us were fighting the trend and getting kicked for it by shouting to indie publishing writers to not cheapen their own books, just price slightly less than traditional.

And since a lot of us saw electronic books replacing mass market paperbacks, our suggestions were to price novels and collections in the same price range as mass market paperbacks. $4.99 to $7.99.  Far under what New York traditional publishers thought was too low (back then and still in most cases).

But insecure writers (given price control) just won’t believe that anyone will pay a decent amount of money for their book. So the novels they spent a long time writing go into the 99 cent discount bin, the perma-free bin, or the $2.99 price.

. . . .

Since my wife has some open pen names, I’m going to mention her name here. She writes romance under the names Kristine Grayson and Kris DeLake. She writes mystery under Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kris Rusch, and Kris Nelscott. All her science fiction is under Kristine Kathryn Rusch. With me, she wrote five media novels under Sandy Schofield. With me, she did a bunch of movie tie-in novels under the name Kathryn Wesley. And there are others.

All of those pen names won or were nominated for awards and sold thousands and thousands of copies per book.

So she was a new writer with all those names at one point or another.


She sold all those books and started all those brand new names because she’s a great storyteller and liked to write across genres.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to Eric for the tip.

Books into Stores

17 May 2013

From Dean Wesley Smith:

For indie writers, print runs are a puzzle because they have never thought in print runs. Indie writers think in sales up to a point. How many sales this week, this month, for this book total? Print run thinking just never comes up.

And for traditional writers and publishers, it’s impossible to not think in print runs, since that made-up number controls everything from author advance to the purchase of the next book to cover copy and art and sales and tours and you name it.

. . . .

Last fall, every bookstore owner I talked to told me about how the major wholesalers such as Baker & Taylor and Ingrams had special codes on the POD books and that the standard discounts were limited to 5% no returns. Not much chance at all an indie publisher could sell a book to a bookstore with those discounts.

. . . .

The major distributors had killed most of the walls between indie published books and traditionally published books.

In other words, if you buy the $10 ISBN that puts your company name on the book in CreateSpace and put it into the extended distribution program, it will appear on the listings of Ingrams, B&T, and other distributors right beside a Simon & Schuster book or a Bantam book.

And the discounts the bookstore will get will range from 5% to 43% plus bonuses for paying quickly. And the discounts are set by the bookstore’s account, credit history, amount of orders, and so on.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to William for the tip.

Publishing Reversion Clauses

16 March 2013

From Dean Wesley Smith:

When and how do you get your book back?

. . . .

On a standard traditional publishing contract these days (in the States), you are signing over the rights in the contract for “the life of the copyright.” Now, under contract law in the States, a contract must have a firm end date, and this has been tested to be a firm end date. 70 years past the death of the author. Firm amount of time, so legal.

So the publisher is trying to get most rights to your book for your life, your kid’s life, and into the old age of your great-grand kids. Head-shaking, but true. (In other words, if you live for 50 more years, the contract could be good for 120 years. The same as if someone had signed a contract in 1893.)

Why do they need or want this? Because a license for a copyright is a form of property. And has value to the bottom line of corporation accounting ledgers.

. . . .

Now stop and think about that for a moment. The copyright license you signed over in your contract has value, so why should they just give it back to you?

Starting to see the problem? Pretend you bought a rental property. It is part of your net worth. Would you want to just give it back to the seller because they asked even though you paid money for the property and your contract says you don’t have to? Not likely.

. . . .

But wait, you say!!! (I can hear you.)  Right there, in my contract, is a reversion clause that allows me, under certain conditions, to get my book transferred back to me so that I can get it back into print indie publishing or resell it to another publisher.

On the surface it seems that way. And that land for sale in Florida looks great as well in those pictures.

Under all contracts I have seen lately, that reversion clause is phrased in such a fashion that almost no circumstance would ever allow that property to leave the corporate balance sheet. At least for the life of the copyright.

In other words, you will never see your book again.

. . . .

Also, I want to be clear to all of you traditional-published old-timers out there who keep telling writers this isn’t a problem. This clause in contracts for new writers has changed in the last eight years or so. Kris and I got every book we sold to New York publishers (that we owned) reverted except for one. (Not the work-for-hire books. All the reverted books had contracts done before the changes started.)

These new reversion clauses are one of the major reasons I won’t sign a traditional publishing contract at the moment unless it is a media or work-for-hire, which I don’t expect to ever own.

. . . .

If you have clout, meaning your advance is mid-six figures and up, you can get a termination date on the contract. Many brand names give a publisher ten years which I feel is a fair and decent time. But us normal writers can’t get a termination date on a contract. Most contracts out of Europe have either termination dates or totals sales terminations. Very simple and good for the writer. But most traditional contracts in the States define the termination date as the life of the copyright.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

As long-time visitors to The Passive Voice know, PG believes publishing contracts made for the life of the copyright are ridiculous and unfair.

PG will confirm Dean’s observation that out-of-print provisions in recent New York publishing contracts should more accurately be called never-out-of-print provisions. If you can’t understand the out-of-print clause in your publishing contract, you’ll probably have problems trying to exercise it.

While PG makes some money helping authors get out of lifetime plus 70 year contracts, he thinks the world would be a better place if publishing contracts, like all sorts of other business contracts, ended after a reasonable period of time.

One of the ways that some new small presses are competing for authors is to offer far better publishing contracts than New York offers. Some of these contracts are ending after three years, five years, seven years, ten years. When one of these new model contracts ends, if the author and publisher are both satisfied with the relationship, they can always extend it for several more years.

What a refreshing change! A business relationship continues because both parties are happy with it, not because one of the parties used its superior bargaining and market power to coerce the other into signing an unfair contract.

This is how contracts work in the reality-based business world. The fact that Big Publishing is so much different is yet more evidence of the inbred parochialism that makes that business a sitting duck for Amazon and others.

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