The Business of Writing

Top 10 Reasons Why I Would Never Publish Traditionally

25 January 2015

From Dean Wesley Smith:

Got an interesting question last week when sitting having dinner with an old friend. He wanted to know why I said I would never go back to publishing novels with traditional major publishers.

Now over dinner, with my friend having no background in what was happening in publishing, that question because impossible to answer. So I muttered something about bad contracts and moved on.

Now understand, I published over a hundred novels with traditional novel publishers and made my living doing that for a few decades. So why not now? What changed?

The industry changed, that’s what. Traditional publishing is flat not what it was when I was selling books to it a decade ago. Not even close.

. . . .

Reason #9… Editing. If I sold a book to a New York traditional publisher, I would be stuck with an editor who hadn’t yet been born when I started selling novels. And this “editor” would need to try to tell me how to “improve” my book because the editor would feel that it was his or her job.

I am flat not interested in working with someone on my book who hasn’t learned as much as I have forgotten about storytelling. Once again my life is too short.

. . . .

Reason #6… Non-compete in contracts.  Seriously, why would a publisher put this in a contract? As much as I write, I could never, ever sign one of these. I have no idea why any writer signs these clauses. But writers do.

. . . .

Reason #4… Money. I can make a ton more money writing and indie publishing my novels and stories than I ever could or did with traditional publishing.

. . . .

Reason #2... Control. In indie publishing, for good or bad, I have a measure of control. Instead of some bored editor writing the blurb for the sales force, or some “let’s-try-him-out” artist doing a cover, I get to write my own blurbs and either do or approve my own covers.

No control in traditional publishing at all for 99% of all writers. The top 1% might have some control, but none of the rest of us do. Traditional publishers just don’t have time to give us that control in any measure.

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

Traditional Numbers

23 January 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I’ve started this blog four separate times in the past week, and each time, I stopped about 1,000 words in. I have been planning to analyze some bestseller numbers that I found two weeks ago, numbers that truly had me shocked. In doing so, I wanted to check some other numbers as well, because an article about numbers is only as good as its data.

It didn’t seem to matter how many numbers I found, how much data I linked to, or how I did the math, something was confusing me. The harder I worked, the more confused I got.

It wasn’t until I was complaining about this at the weekly professional writers’ lunch that it all came clear to me: Most of the numbers I was working with were suspect in one way or another.

. . . .

Let me give some examples of confusing information that I explored these last two weeks:

  • In an article titled “Real Data On Print Sales In the eBook Era — And the eBook Plateau”  Publisher’s Lunch reported that ebooks have “cannibalized” sales in trade paperback editions, not in hardcover editions. The conclusion comes from a presentation that Jonathan Nowell at Nielsen Book gave at Digital Book World last week.

I like numbers, and there are some fascinating ones here, and even more fascinating ones in Nowell’s slide show presentation but they are completely untethered to anything. By that, I mean, I could find no information on how the study was done, how many data points Nowell worked off of, and what he based his conclusions on.

Granted, Nielsen Book is the company that does Bookscan, so in theory, they have raw data, but as I examined thePublisher’s Lunch article (which is on Publisher’s Marketplace, mentioned last week), I found a statement that set my teeth on edge:

[Nielsen Book’s] quiet PubTrack Digital service — the only source of real, granular ebook sales data, based on invoices for ebook sales from participating publishers — shows adult fiction still accounting for 65 percent of all ebook sales.

Um, what? I’d never heard of PubTrack Digital. Where did it get its numbers? How does it track things?

. . . .

But here’s where PubTrack Digital comes in.

The description for that service isn’t based on a physical product. It doesn’t seem to go by channel either. It uses information from 30 publishers (according to this site) to examine “the top e-book categories, authors, and titles based on unit sales and revenue.”

So, thirty self-reporting publishers send their numbers (unverified, I guess) to PubTrack Digital in order to receive information from the other twenty-nine.

. . . .

Both PubTrack Digital and Publisher’s Lunch also tell me that PubTrack Digital is the only source for aggregated ebook sales in the country.

. . . .

But the data is self-reporting, which makes it flawed from the get-go.

. . . .

Digital Book World . . . hired PubTrack Digital specifically for the conference last week.

. . . .

“Digital Book World asked this guy to examine the impact of ebook sales on hardcover sales, making the study flawed in the first place.”

Words straight out of my subconscious. Of course, the study is flawed. Because we have no way of knowing if ebook sales have any impact on paper sales at all. No way. None.

We don’t know if people who bought paper books in the past are buying more books due to ebook availability while still buying the same number of paper books—or if those people stopped buying paper books altogether, or, if faced with a choice of ebook or paper, choose ebook. We don’t know.

And because we don’t know, looking to see if ebooks have had an impact on hardcover sales by looking at ebook sales and looking at hardcover sales doesn’t answer the question. We don’t know if hardcover sales remained steady (as Nowell reported) because hardcover readers are hardcover readers and have sought out the hardcovers in various markets. We don’t know if the rise of ebook sales over the years is because ebooks are cannibalizing print sales or because more readers have ereaders (or tablets or phones) and therefore have 24-hour access to books and can order easily and quickly.

We don’t know if the reason trade paper sales have gone down (which Nowell reports) because most people don’t like the format or because the number of retail outlets carrying trade paper books has gone down (witness the loss of many chain bookstore locations, where most trade papers were sold) or because given a choice between trade paper and ebook, the average reader will choose ebook.

. . . .

So we can’t do a legitimate study of how ebooks impact the sales of paper books until we have done a study that tells uswhether or not ebooks impact sales of paper books. Looking at the sales figures of hardcovers, ebooks, and trade paper does not give us that answer, because that data doesn’t address the initial question.

. . . .

[D]uring my entire career, the “numbers” in traditional publishing have always been based on extrapolations from one piece of evidence.

For example: traditional publishers used to base all of their accounting on books shipped not books sold. Why? Because books shipped was the only number traditional publishers could be sure of. The books sold wouldn’t be known for six to nine months, maybe even for a year or two. That’s because of the returns system. A bookstore could return a book, depending on the account the bookstore had with the distributor or publisher, for as long as a year after purchase.

. . . .

In other words, all of traditional publishing from the introduction of the returns system in the 1930s to the early part of this century was based on educated guesses by the sales department in consultation with editorial.

Not based on actual numbers. Not based on real sales figures. Not based on any kind of fact-based system at all.

The traditional publishing industry is in transition because it’s gotten gobbled up by international conglomerates who need real numbers for their own internal reports. Digital book and online sales actually allow for real numbers. Since the American Booksellers Association has taught independent booksellers how to manage their inventory (at the ABA’s Winter Institute), those booksellers have lowered their returns to a maximum of 25%.

So the traditional publishing data is becoming solid, but it’s not there yet. And because so many people in traditional publishing—particularly those in its upper echelons—have been in the business as long as I have, they’re a lot more accepting of wishy-washy numbers and fake statistics. Reports that have lovely graphics and percentages that seem real are still the norm in this industry, rather than studies based on real methodology.

. . . .

I know of no traditionally published bestselling author who regularly audits their agents and publishers. Not a one.

I know of a handful who have audited when something went wrong. But a standard business audit? Never.

Yet all of those traditionally published bestselling authors are million-dollar businesses, just like the local businesses our accountant/writer friend worked for are. These local businesses, these small town businesses, as a matter of course, audited their sources of revenue every year.

But writers, who make millions, and often funnel those millions through a single point—an agent and/or an agency and/or their publisher—never audit that agent, that agency, or their publisher.

In fact, several years ago, when I ran into some glaring errors in my payments from a former agency, I threatened to audit that agency. It was still handling the books my once-agent had sold for me. It wouldn’t release those books or split payments. When I pointed out the errors and demanded an audit,  the agency did the literary equivalent of flinging my books at me. The day after my threat, made in December, just before Christmas, that agency decided it no longer wanted 15% of my business, and sent letters to all of my publishers telling those publishers to send any monies owed directly to me. That agency—on its own volition—cleared me out of its entire company.

Within 24 hours of me stating that I wanted an audit, I was finally free of that agency.

This was—and is—one of the biggest, most famous agencies in New York, with several repeat #1 New York Times bestsellers. I found irregularities in royalty reports coming from overseas, irregularities that made it clear someone (probably a foreign rights affiliate agency) was pocketing my money—and, most likely—pocketing a lot more money from all those #1 bestsellers.

Because I personally know that those bestsellers don’t audit their revenue sources.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Bruce for the tip.

PG says the insights Kris shares with authors are extremely valuable. You can make a direct donation to Kris at the bottom of the blog post or buy her books to show your appreciation.

How ‘Preparation for the Next Life’ Became a Big Hit for Tyrant

17 January 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Atticus Lish ’s “Preparation for the Next Life” got the kind of reception that first-time novelists only dream about. The gritty debut novel, set in the violent, dangerous margins of New York City, was one of 2014’s genuine literary sensations, earning ecstatic reviews and landing on many top-10 lists. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, critic Sam Sacks called the novel, “a tour de force of urban naturalism” and “a love story that’s as bold and urgent as any you’ll read this year.”

But in a stark illustration that fiction writing often doesn’t pay, Mr. Lish has so far made only $2,000 for his novel, which took five years to write.

. . . .

Mr. Lish struck a deal with an obscure publisher, Tyrant Books. By eschewing a larger publishing house, Mr. Lish potentially left a hefty advance on the table. In October, for example, “The Longings of Jende Jonga,” a debut novel by Cameroon-born Imbolo Mbue, was grabbed up by Random House for seven figures.

The bleakness of Mr. Lish’s novel may have precluded an advance of that magnitude. But all involved agree he could have gotten more than he did.

. . . .

Tyrant’s founder, Giancarlo DiTrapano, had high hopes for the book but wasn’t prepared for the avalanche of critical praise it would trigger. Opting to print it in paperback, not hardcover, he says he took the advice of his distributor and ordered an initial print run of 3,500 copies—the largest the publisher had ever done. The book was released on Oct. 20. By Nov. 12, the day the first glowing review came out in the New York Times, it was clear it would sell out quickly, just as the critical holiday season got under way.

. . . .

When the Times review appeared, Ms. Urban asked Mr. DiTrapano how many books were in print.

“He said 3,500,” Ms. Urban recalled. “I wanted to kill myself.”

While Mr. DiTrapano scrambled to order an additional 10,000 copies, he made an expensive deal with Amazon to print copies of the book on demand for the three weeks or so until the reprints arrived.

. . . .

The publisher, out of money and out of credit, was on the verge of shutting down his press. Mr. Johnson wanted to help. Partying together late one night, they struck a deal: Mr. Johnson would invest in Tyrant, ultimately in exchange for 50% of the company. Mr. Johnson would take care of the business end while Mr. DiTrapano would stick to editing. “He said, ‘You’re a great editor but a terrible businessman,’” said Mr. DiTrapano, age 40. “I said, ‘I know.’”

“I thought that he had good taste,” said Mr. Johnson, 45. “Just because he doesn’t have any money or credit doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be a publisher.”

. . . .

He launched Tyrant Books in 2009 and quickly developed a reputation as a bad boy of the publishing world. In 2013, the Los Angeles Review of Books published a story about him: “He Offered Me Cocaine.” (Mr. DiTrapano says he parties less now, but is still an unashamed user of recreational drugs.)

. . . .

Mr. Lish signed for an advance of $2,000. He acknowledges that if he had used his father’s connections, he could have gotten more money. But the author, who for 12 years was estranged from his father, said it was important to do it on his own. “It was life-changing,” Mr. Lish said, describing the moment when Mr. DiTrapano offered to publish the novel. “He let me put out the book that I wanted to do. That was the most important thing for me.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Dave for the tip.

The Rise of The Backlist

16 January 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The new year hadn’t even had a week to catch its breath before the first year-end numbers for 2014 appeared. The definitive numbers—if you can call any numbers “definitive” in traditional publishing—won’t show up until late February or early March. But the early numbers reveal quite a bit.

. . . .

I often find Publishers Marketplace’s analysis of the publishing industry useful, not because it’s accurate, but because it gives me a fairly clear snapshot of what the traditional industry’s thoughts on the business are. Publishers Marketplace’s focus on traditional means that it misses a lot of the trends and changes that happen because of indie.

. . . .

Nielsen Bookscan reported that print book sales—in the outlets that report to Bookscan—went up 2.4% in 2014 over sales from 2013. Half of the gain in sales—1.2%—came from a better-than-expected holiday season.

In that first week, Publishers Marketplace went deeper into the numbers than Publishers Weekly did and came out with some fascinating information, some of which I’ll deal with in the next week or two. But here’s the take-away:

All of the year’s gains and then some came from backlist, however, not newly-released titles. Frontlist unit sales fell 2 million units to 276 million, while backlist sales rose 17 million units to 359 million…

Those of us who’ve been publishing indie have known how powerful the backlist is since 2010. Fortunately for most of us early adapters, the traditional publishing industry didn’t get the memo for about three years. They started to get a clue in 2013 that there was wine in those dusty old bottles, which is why it’s become harder and harder to get rights reverted from traditional publishers in the past couple of years.

. . . .

Traditional publishers still don’t have a complete clue about the importance of the rise of the backlist, as evidenced by this comment from Publishers Marketplace:

[backlist sales rose]…reflecting the lack of new breakout hits…

Sorry, Publishers Marketplace, no. The backlist rose because the industry is changing. The way books are being sold everywhere, not just online, is changing. Readers are changing.

Well, actually, readers are staying the same. They want “what they want, when they want it, and at a reasonable price” to quote Kevin Spacey on the lessons Netflix learned from House of Cards.

Readers have always wanted that. But traditional publishing, like all other media in the 20th century, was based on the scarcity model: if you make readers hunger for a book, they’ll pay more when they see one. They also buy it immediately, and they’ll be grateful for what’s offered, rather than buy what they like.

The internet broke the scarcity model.

. . . .

Because the entire traditional publishing business is based on the scarcity model, Publishers Marketplace can’t understand the rise of the backlist. The rise doesn’t fit into the scarcity model.

Here’s the logic of the situation when looked at from the scarcity model: if people are buying “old” books, then the new books aren’t satisfying. The new books aren’t “good.”

That analysis was true-ish before backlist was constantly available. I say true-ish because, remember, not a lot of “old” books were available—just the ones that readers would keep recommending to their friends, so publishers couldn’t take those books out of print.

Back then, breakout books happened for two reasons: First, the books stayed on the shelves long enough to get word of mouth; and second, the books dominated the conversation.

It’s almost impossible to dominate the conversation now. Traditional publishing doesn’t control every book that makes its way into the media now. One book might get some traction, but definitely not all of the traction.

And the conversation moves faster as well. We might discuss Book A today, but tomorrow we could be discussing Book J. Or not discussing any traditionally published book at all.

. . . .

My dollars are finite, just like yours are, but book-buying dollars are not. Now that more books are available to more people, book sales should—logically—go up.

And they are. But they are going up outside of the traditional models. At least 20,000 of my ebook sales in 2014 did not get counted by any traditional measure—Bookscan or otherwise. I say “at least” because I don’t know if Smashwords sales count toward Bookscan numbers or if some of the other ebook sites (like Kobo) count as well. I do know that Amazon and Barnes & Noble ebook sales get counted.

So there is a shadow industry. There always has been. Even Bookscan itself says that it only covers 80% of the print book business. That’s up, by the way, from the old days, when Bookscan was less than 50%. There’s a lot of give in that 20%. And that’s in the traditional industry.

There’s even more give when you consider indie publishing. A lot of indie writers publish their print books without an ISBN, so the books don’t get tracked by traditional means. I suspect Bookscan covers 80% of the traditional market, but in all of trade publishing? I think that Bookscan misses a lot of books. How many? I have no idea. I doubt anyone does.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Andrew for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s books


Churning It Out

8 January 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Toward the end of a pretty good Entertainment Weekly article about the romance side of the publishing industry, this sentence appears:

[Bella Andre]’s a naturally fast writer — on average she churns out four to six books a year — and she released the first one in June 2011.

Before we get to the reason I’m telling you about that sentence, let me say one thing that might or might not be related: There’s a slight snobby tone to EW’s romance article. What’s that all about? The magazine’s called Entertainment Weekly, not The New York Times Book Review. EW sings the praises of The Walking Dead and video games, and everything in between, for heaven’s sake, but somehow romance fiction doesn’t meet the high standards of entertainment?

Sorry. I had to get that off my chest.

. . . .

So why am I objecting to that single sentence?

I’m not, really. It’s a common sentence from any media that covers books. And I’m not even objecting to the entire sentence. Bella Andre does write fast by most writers’ standards, and she does so comfortably.

What I’m objecting to is the phrase “churned out.”

It’s become a cliché. Any writer who writes fast “churns out” material. Or she “cranks out” or “pounds out” whatever it is that she writes. Because clearly, no writer who writes fast can think about what she writes.

There are other implications in that phrase. The material “churned out” isn’t very good. It’s also an exact copy of what has come before. It has no real value, primarily because of the speed with which the writer “churns” the material out.

In the olden days of traditional publishing, those of us who “churned out” a lot of books did so under a lot of pen names. Here’s how it worked in my case: Kristine Kathryn Rusch might, at best, put out two books per year; Kris Nelscott one every two years; and Kristine Grayson one every six months.

. . . .

While reading a midlist thriller novel in bed one night several years ago, I laughed so hard that I woke Dean up. What made me laugh? The author’s bio, which stated that the byline of the novel I was reading was a pen name for a “well-known #1 New York Times bestselling author.” Ballsy and hysterical. That writer wrote so many books that his publisher refused to publish them all under his bestselling name.

. . . .

Think about this, people: How many other industries that have megaselling products demand that the producer of popular, high-quality material slow down? What happened to providing the consumers with what they wanted?

When Nora Roberts started out, she was fortunate to begin with Harlequin, which could publish as many books as she produced. She stayed with Harlequin even after she moved to a bigger publisher (Bantam for a once-per-year hardcover, which then became a once-per-year hardcover and twice-a-year mass market paper, and then became twice-a-year hardcovers and three-times-a-year mass market paper, and finally, she had a big fight with Harlequin, and started up the J.D. Robb pen name (twice per year) and her publisher (by then, Putnam) threw in the towel. The publisher finally agreed that Nora could put out a lot of books. But not the publisher’s other writers.

Her speed didn’t matter to that publisher because the publisher had no expectation of quality based on the genre. As we all know, and Entertainment Weekly’s snobby tone confirms, romance is trash anyway. No one expects quality fiction from writers who crank out cookie-cutter books for women.

. . . .

Romance has a lot of respect now compared to thirty years ago—and still writers see phrases like “churned out” and that slightly school-boyish tone that every Literary Critic uses when discussing romance.

It’s about love and mushy stuff. It can’t be good. It might include kissing and touching and actual irony-free emotion. Anyone can churn out that crap if they put their minds to it. But most people are sensible enough to want respectability instead of…whatever it is that these romance people have.

Oh, yeah. Money.

And readers.

Who actually like the books.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Deb for the tip.

How Not To Sell 1000 Books A Day

5 January 2015

From Digital Bootstrapper:

There’s so much helpful advice out there on book publishing that it seems almost impossible NOT to do well if you want to publish a book today.  So I wanted to give some advice to all you people out there who are tired of so much success to help raise your chances of abject failure.  Here it is, in no particular order.  I hope you take it to heart!

1.  Decide what you’re going to do based on nothing but your own whims.

You like your Grandma’s watercolors, so they’d make an excellent thriller cover.  Or maybe do it in crayon.  You don’t see any errors in your writing, so put it out there as it is.  What you really want to write is a romance with a sad ending and a mystery where no one finds out who did it.  Write it!  Publish it!  You’re well on your way to not selling 1000 books a day.

. . . .

3.  Sign your rights over to someone who can’t (or won’t) sell your books.

This is like a shortcut for not selling books—give up your rights to someone else who sucks at it, too.  That way, they can provide you with everything from bad positioning and covers to blurbs without you lifting a finger!

You might even get a nice four-figure advance from a publishing house through a slightly larger failure of an agent and/or publisher.  Who cares if your print run is lucky to be 10k?  It’s Random House!  Take that validation.  You can definitely eat that.

Super bonus:  Give your rights to someone whom you pay to publish your book.  That’s like an extra fast-track to failure.

4.  Believe that you can fail upwards.

Buy into the idea that every sale is progress in an inevitable climb to the top.  That way, you don’t have to recognize and reassess your own failures.  You don’t have to repackage, replan, relaunch, or eventually rethink your hopes of being a fulltime writer.  You can continue to live in delusion and not have to face reality until you’re too broke to continue.  Even better, you can pay people to lie to you and tell you you’re doing the right thing.  That’s an even faster path to financial ruin.

. . . .

18.  Don’t meet reader expectations.

I’ve mentioned this a bit above, but if you foolishly decide to write in an actual genre, make sure that you do things in it guaranteed to leave readers unsatisfied.  Don’t solve the murders in your mysteries, and put a sad ending on your romances.  Pissing off readers really helps ensure they won’t be back for more.

19.  Don’t change your strategy for each retailer.

If it works for Amazon, it should work for Kobo.  If you change your strategy and learn the platforms deeply, you’ll end up selling books outside of the one platform you’ve figured out, and you wouldn’t want that.

Link to the rest at Digital Bootstrapper and thanks to Anthea for the tip.

The Death of the Artist—and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur

3 January 2015

From The Atlantic:

Pronounce the word artist, to conjure up the image of a solitary genius. A sacred aura still attaches to the word, a sense of one in contact with the numinous. “He’s an artist,” we’ll say in tones of reverence about an actor or musician or director. “A true artist,” we’ll solemnly proclaim our favorite singer or photographer, meaning someone who appears to dwell upon a higher plane. Vision, inspiration, mysterious gifts as from above: such are some of the associations that continue to adorn the word.

Yet the notion of the artist as a solitary genius—so potent a cultural force, so determinative, still, of the way we think of creativity in general—is decades out of date. So out of date, in fact, that the model that replaced it is itself already out of date. A new paradigm is emerging, and has been since about the turn of the millennium, one that’s in the process of reshaping what artists are: how they work, train, trade, collaborate, think of themselves and are thought of—even what art is—just as the solitary-genius model did two centuries ago. The new paradigm may finally destroy the very notion of “art” as such—that sacred spiritual substance—which the older one created.

Before we thought of artists as geniuses, we thought of them as artisans. The words, by no coincidence, are virtually the same. Art itself derives from a root that means to “join” or “fit together”—that is, to make or craft, a sense that survives in phrases like the art of cooking and words like artful, in the sense of “crafty.” We may think of Bach as a genius, but he thought of himself as an artisan, a maker. Shakespeare wasn’t an artist, he was a poet, a denotation that is rooted in another word for make. He was also a playwright, a term worth pausing over. A playwright isn’t someone who writes plays; he is someone who fashions them, like a wheelwright or shipwright.

A whole constellation of ideas and practices accompanied this conception. Artists served apprenticeships, like other craftsmen, to learn the customary methods (hence the attributions one sees in museums: “workshop of Bellini” or “studio of Rembrandt”). Creativity was prized, but credibility and value derived, above all, from tradition. In a world still governed by a fairly rigid social structure, artists were grouped with the other artisans, somewhere in the middle or lower middle, below the merchants, let alone the aristocracy. Individual practitioners could come to be esteemed—think of the Dutch masters—but they were, precisely, masters, as in master craftsmen. The distinction between art and craft, in short, was weak at best. Indeed, the very concept of art as it was later understood—of Art—did not exist.

. . . .

Artisan, genius, professional: underlying all these models is the market. In blunter terms, they’re all about the way that you get paid. If the artisanal paradigm predates the emergence of modern capitalism—the age of the artisan was the age of the patron, with the artist as, essentially, a sort of feudal dependent—the paradigms of genius and professional were stages in the effort to adjust to it.

In the former case, the object was to avoid the market and its sullying entanglements, or at least to appear to do so. Spirit stands opposed to flesh, to filthy lucre. Selling was selling out. Artists, like their churchly forebears, were meant to be unworldly. Some, like Picasso and Rilke, had patrons, but under very different terms than did the artisans, since the privilege was weighted in the artist’s favor now, leaving many fewer strings attached. Some, like Proust and Elizabeth Bishop, had money to begin with. And some, like Joyce and van Gogh, did the most prestigious thing and starved—which also often meant sponging, extracting gifts or “loans” from family or friends that amounted to a kind of sacerdotal tax, equivalent to the tithes exacted by priests or alms relied upon by monks.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to SFR for the tip.


Vanishing Stories

2 January 2015

From author Nancy Fulda via Live Journal:

Today marks the beginning of the new European Union VAT requirements. As an EU resident, I’m required to verify that any online vendors I work with are VAT compliant. Amazon is. Audible is. Smashwords… isn’t, and the only public announcement they’ve made on the topic is that they are not currently planning any changes to their web site.

Until that changes, my self-published fiction is no longer available for sale on Smashwords. Because Smashwords will not distribute to Kobo, iTunes or Barnes & Noble unless my work is available in their store, my work will soon be disappearing from those venues, too.

Link to the rest at Live Journal and thanks to Antares for the tip.

Here’s a link to Nancy Fulda’s books

Things I Learned (Or Relearned) in 2014

31 December 2014

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

2014 was one of those years where frustration seemed to be the dominant emotion for me. Some of the lessons I learned twenty years ago got refined for the new age, and some of the new things I learned took more time than I anticipated. I also learned a few things about other people in general, some of which I did not want to know. The good things about other people though, came through strong, and that was truly wonderful.

One of those good things happened in the last few weeks. It’s been great to come back to the blog, and to find so many of you still reading, still waiting, and still supporting. You’ve touched me with your kindness and your good words. Thank you.

. . . .

Big Projects Suck All of The Air Out of The Room

When people are working on a massive project, they can’t do anything else. So even important stuff goes by the wayside.

I finished the big Retrieval Artist project in the fall and have been cleaning up ever since. Lots of projects left undone, lots of people waiting for things, lots of little details missed.

I should have expected that, but I stumbled into this big project. I truly thought it was going to be smaller—three books instead of six. Jeez. It kept growing and growing, and I kept triaging.

I doubt I’ll ever plan something that big—I didn’t plan this one!—but next time I won’t be surprised by the way it took time from everything else.

. . . .

I’ll Probably Never Stop Working

When most people say that phrase, they’re whining. Me, I simply don’t understand retirement or relaxing. I tried to relax in a traditional fashion when I finished the massive Retrieval Artist project. I took a small trip, I saw a bunch of movies, I’ve read a lot of books, I’ve tried to stay away from my desk. I keep wandering back to it.

I guess when play is the same as work, time off isn’t necessary.

. . . .

Success Costs Money

Those investments I mentioned above, those wrong roads? Sometimes they happen because people like me try many roads and experiment and take chances. Those chances cost money too, but they always have a good return on the investment. So…the lessons are mixed here.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kathryn Rusch’s books

Things Indie Writers Learned in 2014

26 December 2014

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I’d love to say nothing, but that’s not true—if we’re discussing indie writers who have remained in the business for several years. There will always be new indie writers who know very little, and there will always be those with “experience” who turn a year or two worth of sales into a know-it-all platform.

However, those indie writers who’ve been at this since the beginning of the self-publishing revolution in 2009 have learned a lot in 2014.

. . . .

I’ll be using “indie writer” instead of “self-published writer,” following the music model. I’ll also talk about “indie publishing” instead of “self publishing,” because so many writers who are not with traditional publishers have started their own presses. It’s not accurate to lump all writers who are not following the traditional route into the self-publishing basket any longer, if it ever was.

. . . .

Telling stories is fun. Every person does it. Some of us do it better than others. When we’re in school, those of us who tell stories verbally often get pushed into theater or the dramatic arts. Those of us who tell stories well on paper often get rewarded with excellent grades and much acclaim. Teachers love good writers. And good writers are told they’re talented.

As a student, I often wrote essays instead of taking multiple-choice tests, partly because even then I was a good writer, but also because I’m dyslexic. I screw up a multiple-choice test most of the time.

Writing was easy; multiple choice was hard.

When something is easy, then you should do it, right?

The problem is that when you go from the high school or college stage to the Big International World of Storytelling, your chops can’t be just okay. They have to be wonderful. Even if you have an innate talent, you have to improve on that talent.

Plus, writers spend most of their time alone. Writers get no feedback, and what feedback they get is often negative.

It takes a certain personality type to persevere through the solitude and negative feedback. I often say I’m a writing junkie, but more accurately, I’m a storytelling junkie. I consume and create story in equal measures. Take my stories away, I’ll wither and die.

Most people have a real life that writing gets in the way of. I have a writing life that real events interrupt. Most writers who have committed a novel or two find the writing life not to their taste.

Solitude and making things up is not for everyone.

. . . .

Sure, your first book can have 50,000 free downloads. Is that success?

Not to a long-term writer.

Sure, your first book can have 50,000 99-cent downloads. Is that success?

Not to a long-term writer.

Sure, your first book can have 50,000 $4.99 downloads. Is that success?

Well, that’s a hell of a start, the kind that’ll make the long-term writer start rooting for you, and hoping you make it through all the upcoming pitfalls. Why? Because readers are spending noticeable money (not pocket change) on your book. Lots of readers. You’re developing a true fan base, and you’re making real money.

We all measure success differently, and we should know what it is before we start publishing. But most writers don’t. Success is finishing a novel (check). Success is getting that novel published (check). Success is getting good reviews (check). Success is getting paid for that novel. (check) Success is making a living. (um, what?)

Making a living means doing the process all over again. And again, and again. Most writers achieve the first goals or a version of the first goals. And then, the real work hits them.

Lots of writers have been publishing indie long enough to realize that self-publishing is as much work as a day job, if not more work. Lots of writers who started their own publishing companies have learned that indie publishing is more work than a day job.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Elka for the tip.

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