Business Musings: All Good Things

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I should have seen it coming when I couldn’t figure out how to write the year-end blogs. I found a dozen topics that fit, but none really interested me. They’re all important from different perspectives. The perspectives are so different from each other that they no longer feel like part of the same industry.

For example, traditionally published writers claim they care about craft, but really, they care about old-fashioned readership—which has been declining through the trade channels for the past five years or more. Bestselling books published by traditional publishers sell half of what they sold in 2009, and that was already down by another third from 1999.

Traditional publishers don’t help writers get an audience. Traditional publishers buy up copyright for the term of the copyright so that they can have assets on their accounting books. They take years to publish something, which is often unrecognizable from what the author initially intended.

Still, traditional writers hope for “legitimacy,” whatever that means, and strive to get agents, even though book agents take 15% of the book for the life of the book and do very little work (as well as often practicing law without a license).

Traditional publishing has changed for the worse in the decade plus since I started this blog, and still writers get sucked into trad pub. I was done about five years ago writing for writers who want to go that route, because I hate to see their dreams crushed.

Just this week, I watched a writer whom I respect, who should know better, try to find a new agent because the writer’s partner, also a writer, has a New York Times notable book (which is also a bestseller), and can’t get their book agent to return phone calls.

How discouraging. When someone else (not me) suggested hiring an attorney instead of a book agent, the writer (whom I respect a bit less now) essentially called that someone an ignorant idiot.

That same interchange could have happened in 2015 or 2009. No one learns on that side of the fence, and very few people change. They don’t want to.

On the indie side of the fence, learning is essential. Writers share knowledge and ideas, all while writing the books of their hearts (to use the romance term). Some writers go awry because they get caught up in analytics or trying to write “what sells” but writers have always been like that.

The problem with indie these days is that there are so many good ways to make a living that there’s no longer one path.

Okay…that’s not a problem. That’s a good thing.

I started writing this weekly blog at the advent of the indie movement, mostly to remind myself that this is a viable career path. Now I can’t imagine existing without indie publishing. Going back to traditional wouldn’t be possible for me.

It was barely possible in 2009. The contracts got worse, the editors were a nightmare, and I wasn’t about to give my copyright to some corporation for a mere five figures, when I knew the copyright on a single book could bring in licenses worth tens of thousands of dollars.

I wasn’t that desperate in 2009 and I’m certainly not that desperate now. As I noted in some recent blogs, my books are all in print. The books of my traditional friends? Not in print at all. Or if they are in print, my friends aren’t making a dime off of them.

It’s discouraging, but as I’ve seen over the past few years, people have dug in. It doesn’t matter that traditional writers now have to get a “real” job to make a living. Or that the changes in indie have made it possible for those of us who understand business to make a good living while writing what we love.

We’ve changed.

The world has changed.

And honestly, I’m not that interested in writing about the publishing industry weekly. There is no publishing industry anymore. There are different aspects of book publishing, all of which fascinate me, and none of which make me want to pontificate for a few thousand words every single week.

Then there’s my writing itself. In the spring, I made a list of the books clamoring to get out of my brain. The series that need finishing right now, the standalones I’ve been dying to write, the books I’ve intended to write since the turn of the century if not longer, as well as the short stories that rise to the top of my to-do list because I read an inspiring article or saw an amazing play.

I will have time to write all of that if I double down on my fiction writing. Or triple down. When I write fiction, I write a minimum of 1,000 new words per hour. The blog takes a minimum of 10 hours per week from idea to page, including the audio (which is maybe 20 minutes of that 10 hours). I love the audio. It’s fun.

The blog, not so much.

In fact it had become such a drag that I put it off until the last minute, and then have to give up even more fiction writing time to get it down.

And while the blog makes me more money per month than someone would earn making minimum wage (not counting all the nonfiction books I get out of it or the other perks), I could make more money if I write three novellas a year, whether I sell them to traditional markets or not.

The blog is self-sustaining financially, but it’s actively costing me money. My earnings as a fiction writer have gone up dramatically in the past fourteen years.

The earnings—for those of you who still have a traditional publishing dream—do not come when a book or story is released but slowly over the course of a year. I used to say that indie writers don’t get advances, but with presales and the rise of Kickstarter, indie writers make money before the book comes out. Sometimes that money is more than a typical book advance. Sometimes it’s less.

But it’s always at the beginning—and then the writer goes on to sell copies of the book for years, rather than a few months as it happens in traditional.

So each moment I spend writing fiction brings me more money than I made even five years ago. I used to clock my writing time at $500 per hour, but it’s more like $1000 per hour…and that doesn’t count other licenses like sales of related merchandise or movie options. I haven’t done that math.

Thirty dollars per hour writing a blog post that has little resale value or $1000 per hour writing stories that can sell for decades. It’s really a no brainer.

I never really worried about that when I needed the blog to explain the changes in the publishing industry to myself. I just wanted the blog to pay me for my time. I did turn the posts into many books, some of which sell really well and some of which need massive updating. But I don’t want to update them. I have other things to do.

Yes, you’re beginning to understand where this is going. The weekly blog on my website is going away. I will be using the time to write more stories, finish some book projects, do other book projects and, oddly enough, do a lot more promotion of my existing work.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

PG will miss seeing the thoughts Kris shares on a regular basis and hopes she posts her thoughts and insights from time to time even if they don’t appear as frequently as they have in the past.

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Totally Different Careers

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Every year, the Las Vegas Book Festival takes place three blocks from my condo. Every year, I watch the tents go up for the outdoor presentations and the book sales, and every year, I think, Hmmm, maybe I should go.

A few years ago, I tried to get a ticket the day before to see one of the featured speakers, not because of a book he’d written, but because he’s a personal hero of mine. Unsurprisingly, since he’s uber-famous, the tickets had disappeared months before. (The festival is free, but you still need tickets to attend the big events.)

As you can probably tell, I don’t pay a lot of attention to the literary scene here in Las Vegas. There’s a writers institute here that focuses on traditional publishing. It condescendingly includes “genre fiction” in some of its programming, but the people it puts on panels wouldn’t make a panel at a major sf convention or comic convention. Maybe a small town sf convention in the 1990s that had no budget at all. Maybe. Because they just don’t have the credentials.

This year’s Las Vegas Book Festival has some good panels on romance and a rather silly “genre fiction” topic combining…wait for it…history, horror, and sci-fi. There is a worldbuilding panel with a few writers who actually build popular sf/f worlds. But for the most part, this festival still shows its literary and traditional publishing roots.

Which is why I keep forgetting about it, year in and year out.

I do keep an eye on the book programming of the various tiny local festivals, just to see if a friend will show up or to get tickets to see someone whose work I adore. Last year, a friend and I went to see Roxanne Gay as part of the Wave In festival (which included music and art as well as books). We sat outside in the heat at Springs Preserve to listen to her excellent talk, as well as the interview conducted afterwards.

My friend, also a writer, asked why I didn’t go up and introduce myself to Roxanne Gay before the event, when she was sitting alone. I didn’t for a variety of reasons. Usually those introductions are awkward. If the featured writer hasn’t heard of me, then they’re embarrassed or dismissive. If they have, and it’s through my editing, there’s a chance that I rejected them. If they have, and it’s through my writing, there’s a chance that they don’t read or like that sf (mystery, romance) crap.

Just better to let me be a reader-fan than it is to try to impose on their moment in the sun.

Besides, I’m keeping a low profile with the local literary scene, a decision that I realized was a good one when another friend with a long career in science fiction moved to the area. She was treated by one of the organizations like something that needed to be scraped off their shoes. That’s embarrassing too, but not as bad as being recognized.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Business Musings: The Aging Writer

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

This past week, I had a fascinating text exchange with one of my very best friends. We have known each other for more than forty years. We met in college—and no, this friend isn’t Kevin J. Anderson. This is another friend. We worked in different professions, but we’ve been at each other’s side, either physically or virtually, for decades now.

He’s retired now. I met him while he was a late-returning undergraduate, looking for a new career. Then marched beside him through the milestones, from getting an advanced degree through marriages and divorces (his and mine), children (his), successes, failures, and the health challenges that we’ve both suffered over the years.

We talked about the life trajectory this week, because my one class per semester at UNLV keeps bringing up bits of the past. This week, I watched a couple of students bond on a project. Over the past month or two, I watched them get to know each other and slowly become each other’s support system. Whether that lasts another forty years—or even six months—I don’t know. But they’re working on it.

I’ve seen a few other friendships grow too. These kids are just beginning to figure out who they are deep down. Watching that discovery is great. I think I finally understand why my father, a college professor, got so inspired by his students. I’m seeing it in real time.

But my friend and I also discussed age. He has one of those time-markers—children—that I don’t have. So it’s easier for me to pretend that I’m the same as I was in my forties (I’m not; I’m healthier) or that time really hasn’t passed—not unless I look at my hands, and see how they’re aging. They don’t look like mine anymore. They have the same short stubby fingers that my grandmother’s hands had, and now I’m starting to get that same web of lines that she had.

Occasionally, articles hit me hard as well. One, a Buzzfeed clickbait piece, said, You’ll Never Guess Who Is In Their Mid-Sixties! And I thought: Sure, I would, followed by…Crap! I’m nearly to my mid-sixties.

That was a bit earth-shattering in the weirdest of ways. The societal message about growing older, which means in U.S. parlance that I’m becoming less relevant. My friend mentioned that he has a lot of time now because he’s retired, and he struggles with that, although he doesn’t want to return to his old job. It intrigued him thirty years ago, and left him battered by the end. He doesn’t want to return and he doesn’t want to reinvent himself…yet. I suspect he might, though.

It gets worse: I’m female, and the message in American society is that older women are not beautiful or attractive or even interesting. Except that there’s this undercurrent of Don’t mess with grandma, implying that women my age, particularly in non-white cultures, have a lot of strength and power.

I was raised by a weak alcoholic woman who constantly told me that I would have to bend my life to my husband’s (as she did) and who got progressively weaker as she got older. I became quite good at negotiating hospitals because my alcoholic parents had to be taken to the ER with startling regularity (don’t ask). I learned, as a teen, how to ask the right questions and get them in and out quickly.

The survival skills you acquire…

Anyway, my role models, except for my grandmother who was 69 when I was born, were not very good ones. And even my beloved grandmother wasn’t a good role model on aging. She would often go to the hospital herself and then we’d get a call: Hurry! We think she’s going to die! She didn’t. She outlived my father, a few grandchildren, and at least two great-grandchildren, dying years after her hundredth birthday.

For decades I held her up as a beacon, but she was lacking in a few other areas as well. She hadn’t had a career. She’d been a housewife and not the best one, since she really couldn’t cook. (She could bake.) She didn’t have a career to fall back on or one that interested her or kept her active. Neither did my mother. My father retired at 75 and died within six months, just like his father who, at age 69, retired in January and was dead by March.

My brother was deathly afraid that when he retired, he’d follow the Rusch male tradition and leave the planet a few months later. Thankfully, he lived another 15 years after his retirement and might have made it longer if it weren’t for the sacrifices he made for others during Covid.

Of course, no one else in my entire family had a career in the arts. Not a one. My mentors in the writing field were…mentors. They were people I knew and, in some cases, cared deeply about, but not people I observed in everyday life. I knew how long they lived and I also knew that almost all of them (with one exception) kept writing until the day they died.

Knowing that…and seeing that…are two different things.

I turned sixty during Covid, and then pretended that I hadn’t. I stuffed that birthday aside, and the next, and the next…during which I got sick, for the first time ever on one of my own birthdays. I had weird health problems this year, maintenance stuff that required minor surgery or some changes in habits.

Dean had a serious health crisis this past year as well. He’s ten years older and remarkably healthy, but he has age-related problems too. He said to me, in the waiting room of our third medical professional’s office last June (two for me; one for him), that we had better get used to this: seeing doctors was our future.

And that sent me into a mental funk. The word “future” and “doctors” became a nightmarish vision of all those ERs of my teen years, carting unwilling and belligerent adults around, driving without a license to get them to and from some kind of help that they didn’t want and ultimately never took.

I suddenly saw the next decade or two as a long slow decline with only death at the end of it. Most people would say I came face to face with my mortality, but that’s not really true. A few near-death experiences of my own, as well as losing my high school best friend to breast cancer at 36 and other friends throughout the past three decades, made it really clear that death comes for us all whenever it’s ready and not a moment later.

. . . .

I figured out that I am in the last third of my life, and that I’d better hop to so I can complete everything. That added to the doctors/decline panic I was already having. It didn’t matter how many discussions Dean and I had about realistic time. If this is the last third of my life and provided there is no cognitive decline, well then, thirty years is damn near (not quite) as long as I have been with him.

Wow, has a lot changed in that period of time. Wow, have I written a lot. Wow, am I underestimating what I can do.


Those conversations weren’t helping. I intellectually knew that I had more than enough time to write everything and more, even with illness and life events. I had had more problems before I moved to Las Vegas, years when I had migraines 21 out of 28 days every month, and I still managed to get a lot done.

But nothing was getting through to that weird panic about the last third of my life. Then Dean and I had a very serious discussion about role models on the way to the second WNBA finals game on Wednesday. He pointed out that I really had no role models growing up—all that stuff I put above were things he helped me put together.

And then that game gave me a gift.

Midway through the game, two women helped an elderly woman into the nosebleed seats. Seriously, our seats are so high up that people who are afraid of heights have trouble climbing the very steep staircase.

These two women—obviously relatives of the older lady—helped her get up the stairs, but primarily, she did it on her own power. She was ninety-eight years old and fierce. She wanted to see her team in the finals.

She stayed until the final minutes, when the other two women—probably her granddaughters—insisted she leave before the crowd did. Fortunately for her, the Las Vegas Aces were so far ahead that there was no way they could lose as she headed down those stairs.

Still, she fought. She wanted to see the game through. But they convinced her, and down she went, watching the game more than the steep stairs ahead of her.


She was going to see her team win, and she did.

At ninety-eight she had a dowager’s hump and looked a bit frail, until you saw her face. That fierceness and intelligence. That determination. She was in good enough shape to take the stairs six times (there was a pit stop).

She needed to see something that no one could imagine in 1925, the year she was born. I do not know her history. I couldn’t tell from her size if she ever had athletic ambitions, not that it mattered. She had no hope of fulfilling them born as she was in those years.

But she saw something amazing—a championship team, two female coaches who were as fierce as the woman before me, and some players (on both teams) who are so great they could go toe-to-toe with most NBA players and beat them.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris’ author page on Amazon. Check out her books if you’re intrigued by her thoughts.

Business Musings: Platforms

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

At the beginning of August, Patreon had what some termed a payment meltdown. Some creators couldn’t access their payments. Banks notified some Patreon backers that their payments were being flagged as fraudulent.

Patreon claimed that the problems weren’t one problem; they were two problems. For the creators, the problem was a payment partner of Patreon that wouldn’t let them cash out. For subscribers, the problem was a lot more arcane than I want to go into here.

The secondary problem for creators, though, was that the subscriber issue brought the subscription to the attention of the subscriber. The great thing about subscriptions is that once people subscribe, they tend to forget how much they paid for the subscription.

If that subscription in any way loses value in the mind of the subscriber, or if their financial situation has changed, or if they had completely forgotten the subscription existed, having that subscription brought to their attention makes them reevaluate it. When they do that, many cancel. In this latest kerfuffle, one creator claimed they lost 300 subscribers.

A friend on Facebook gleefully reported all of this, and mentioned this was why they avoided all outside platforms, choosing to go through their website and with the systems they had built. (And yes, I see the irony of a friend using a platform to claim that they never use platforms. Don’t go there.)

They did have a point about platforms, though. We’re moving to our own online store for a variety of reasons, but one is that it gives us a cushion should one of the bigger online retail platforms change its way of doing things.

Another friend complained about online store platforms like Shopify, and said that they preferred to design their own. Turns out when I looked at their site, they had defaulted to WooCommerce, which we had tried and didn’t like.

The first friend’s point about outside platforms caught me, though, and got me thinking. My initial gut reaction to both of these folks was that my website has had a lot more problems over the past 25 years than I’ve ever had with the platforms. The idea of depending solely on my website scares the bejeezus out of me.

Having only one point of contact for all of my work is too risky for me, even if I supposedly control that one point. I don’t control the platform on which my website rests. It’s also taken forever to get someone to help me rebuild the website here. Some of that is me stalling, but some of it is finding the right fit.

Still, outside platforms have their own issues. At Christmastime last year, Amazon caused a lot of turmoil by dropping its newspaper and magazine subscription service. Some magazines were invited into the Kindle magazine program, but others were not. As Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld wrote at the time:

Earnings from Amazon subscriptions provide a varying and sometimes significant portion of the revenue that these publications require to stay in business. If you don’t already know, genre magazines are subscription-driven, meaning that subscriptions make up the bulk of their income. Some people think advertising is a major source, but it actually represents a tiny fraction for us….

None of these magazines are entirely reliant on Amazon, but as the largest ebook retailer in the field, the cancelation of this program will hurt and in some cases, hurt badly. Badly enough to shutter a magazine? Maybe. It’s too soon to tell …

Platforms change all the time. They make decisions that have a huge impact on the people they partner with. Amazon’s change was a cost-cutting measure driven by severe layoffs in the fourth quarter of 2022 and into 2023. The Patreon problem had a lot to do with a platform they had hired to help them process payments.

PayPal also changed its fee structure in late 2022, closing a loophole that a lot of businesses used as well as upping some fees. I’m sure online store platforms like Shopify will change how they do things as well over time, and many of those changes will harm some group of their partners.

Sometimes these companies do things seemingly en masse. They’re not. (Well, some of them might, but mostly, no.) Generally, they’re responding to market conditions which were not favorable in the last half of 2022 to anything online.

. . . .

The online boom started roughly fifteen years ago, when I already had an established career. Frankly, it saved my novel career. I couldn’t sign the contracts from the major publishers any longer. I couldn’t take the rights grabs.

I was looking at a short-story-only career. At that point, I thought I could still bring in some money from royalties. That changed as well.

I had assiduously gotten my rights back for almost every book that was an original. I owned the books and could relicense them; I just wasn’t sure how to proceed.

Then the online revolution, from viable ebooks to print on demand to easy-to-produce audio to podcasting to video podcasting to video production—well, you were there. You know.

All of these things go on various platforms. I have too much product to put it all on my website or on websites controlled by me. I would never get to all of it.

Dean and I had to hire people to help us put our books and short stories up on the various platforms, otherwise we would have had to give up writing. That’s why we started WMG Publishing, so that we had people to handle the various platforms.

We have a good staff, but they’re horribly overworked. They can’t control everything, just like Dean and I couldn’t. We’re constantly researching and finding the best way to put our product out into the world. We do a lot of experimenting. That’s why we were on Kickstarter in 2012. It was an experiment—one that worked. We did a variety of experiments that did not work.

. . . .

I decided long ago to use other people’s platforms for a lot of the work that we do. We use Amazon and Barnes & Noble and D2D and Bookfunnel. We use Mailchimp and Kickstarter and Teachable and YouTube. I use Patreon. We now use Shopify. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of platforms that we use. I do know that there are many that we are investigating and some we used to use. There’s a lot we’ve tried and a lot we abandoned and a lot that we have learned to love.

But that doesn’t mean we’re going to use them forever.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

My Magazine. My Voice. My Rules.

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I did not want to write this post. In fact, I would have skipped the topic altogether if maybe a dozen different people hadn’t asked me to weigh in. I also felt that I was one of only a handful of people who could explain some of what editor Sheree Renée Thomas went through this summer. She can’t be 100% honest without jeopardizing her job.

In brief, a U.K. author mentioned on his website that he had sold a story to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in July. Writer Christopher Rowe saw that notification and immediately asked F&SF why they were publishing this particular U.K. writer. Turns out he’s affiliated strongly with the National Front, a U.K. political party with horrible white supremacist views.

This all took place in public, putting editor Sheree Renée Thomas in the forefront of a social media shitstorm. Eventually, the acceptance was rescinded, which caused another shitstorm. She got no support in this at all from owner and publisher Gordon Van Gelder until he issued a very tepid statement at the end of August.

Before I go deeper into this, let me say that this sort of thing has happened hundreds of times before at many publications over the decades. In the days before the internet, it would happen in public after the story was published if the editor and publisher were unlucky. If they were lucky, they would somehow catch the problem before the story made it to print.

In those days, there was a grapevine among editors which worked about 50% of the time. The worst failure during my tenure at F&SF was when a male writer of great ability sent out his first few stories. When a male editor rejected him, he was all sweetness and light. When a female editor rejected him, this writer wrote a long screed in great detail about how he would rape the editor and maybe even kill her when he saw her next.

I got one of those. Every female sf/f editor got one.

The male editors thought our warnings were “exaggerations” and we were “overreacting,” even though the writer in question was a violent paranoid alcoholic who had been imprisoned for assaulting women in the past. The night of the 1998 Nebulas, during which his story lost, he got drunk at the event and tried to assault a friend of mine running the SFWA suite. Fortunately, others saw this and managed to stop the attack.

As I was looking up this man’s name, which I will not repeat, I saw a recent article by another male friend of mine asking if the writer was a victim of cancel culture because the man’s career only lasted until 2008.

Nope. He was published for a decade after that horrific event. A male sf editor even published another story even though he had been terrified by the writer, because he believed that no one should be judged by their behavior. Only by their writing.

He was wrong, as publishing learned with Norman Mailer and Jack Henry Abbott over four decades ago.

I have been quite reluctant to weigh in on the F&SF mess for personal reasons. I believe that rescinding that contract was the absolute right thing to do, and I will get to that in a moment.

But let me say this first:

I try very hard not to discuss The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I think Sheree Renée Thomas is a fantastic editor. She’s done a spectacular job at F&SF. I think she’s managed to honor the magazine’s traditions and bring it solidly into the 21st century.

I wish she had a better boss. But I have remained mostly quiet about Gordon Van Gelder. The transition between my editorship and his was ugly, with him sending a form letter to everyone with a story in inventory, telling them that the editing on their stories was poor and the stories needed to be re-edited. That was but one thing that he did when he came on board. The microaggressions continued for decades, including leaving me out of as much of the history of the magazine as possible (including the Wikipedia page, except as a name, until people complained).

The behind-the-scenes stuff got so ugly that a friend of mine, a big-name corporate lawyer, wanted to take my case for free because he said it was a textbook case of tortious interference. I did not let my friend or, later, another lawyer who offered, take the case because I was not going to edit any longer. I didn’t need editing work. If I had, I would have had to take them up on going to court.

But I was no longer interested in editing. I was more concerned with my fiction career. If Gordon and his friends managed to destroy my reputation under the Rusch name, I could—and did—write under pen names. I didn’t want to spend time in court, even though a few other lawyers (and one appellate court judge) who learned the story agreed that the case was a slam dunk.

But let’s just say that I have very little good to say about Gordon, and the lack of respect he showed, not just me, but most women in his orbit.

When he hired Sheree, I thought, Gosh, maybe being married and becoming a father helped him grow up. I was pleased that he hired a person I consider to be one of the best in the field. I was stunned that he hired a woman at all, given the crap he had said to me even before he followed me at F&SF. (He had bought The Best of Pulphouse from us when he was at St. Martin’s Press. That was…well, it’s another story.)

I thought of contacting Sheree directly when she was hired and warning her about my experiences with Gordon, but there was a distance of more than 20 years from my direct experience of the man to the start of her tenure. I thought that he had become a different person. After all, most of us change as we age.

But clearly, from his terse statements about a crisis in which he should have had Sheree’s back and did not, and from statements from Sheree’s predecessor, C.C. Finlay, Gordon has not grown up. He has just stayed mostly under the radar.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

PG had (and still has) a policy that basically boiled down to “Don’t work with jerks.” When he was practicing law, he wouldn’t accept jerks as clients. Even if they were rich.

Once, shortly after graduating from law school, he was working for a very, very bright man 35 years his senior who seemed like a wonderful guy when he asked PG to go to work for him. He gave PG a big bump in pay and PG was very pleased with his new job and the wide range of interesting new people he met in connection with his work.

All went swimmingly for a couple of years, then PG’s boss rather quickly evolved into a jerk. In short, he hired a curvacious woman with few job skills to be his secretary and spent quite a lot of time in his office with the door closed in meetings with his secretary. PG also knew his boss’s wife, who was a wonderful woman.

In short, a formerly nice guy had evolved rather quickly into a jerk.

PG skedaddled out the door at the first opportunity, and several months thereafter, the company collapsed. PG received a call from his former boss’s wife asking why he hadn’t told her what was happening with her husband.

So PG’s reactions to working with a jerk had caused him to behave badly toward the boss’s wife.

He can say that he only had to deal with one more jerk/boss in his life. A very nice non-jerk person had hired PG, but then the owners of the company fired the nice boss and replaced him with a jerk boss.

Fortunately, for the majority of PG’s working life, he was self-employed as an attorney and he worked hard to be a non-jerk boss for the people who worked with him.

Business Musings: Reading And Writing

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

A series of articles have appeared over the summer about the ways that the pandemic affected us as human beings. One of the most obvious is that people have forgotten how to behave in public. Vox did a long article on this, citing various examples, including many that featured concert goers throwing things at performers and actually injuring them.

Here in Las Vegas, we hit a lot of this behavior earlier than other communities. We’re a destination entertainment site. Some of the behavior I witnessed during the pandemic from people who didn’t believe in it was quite appalling, from hitting security guards who wanted them to walk through metal detectors to throwing drinks at bypassers on the sidewalk. These were mostly on my early morning runs in the heat, when I wouldn’t go anywhere near the gym.

In 2022, at a musical, I shamed some guy in intermission. I was sitting in a great orchestra seat, with friends across the aisle from me. The guy behind me was cracking jokes at the top of his voice throughout the first twenty minutes, so I finally turned around and told him to shut up. He did for a little while, then started again before intermission.

Intermission hit and I got up. My friend across the aisle thanked me for shushing the guy, and I said in my loudest voice, “Well, it didn’t work. The idiot seems to believe we paid to hear his truly awful comedy routine rather than the performers on stage.”

He was blissfully silent during Act Two.

As Vox noted in their article, shaming works.

All of us ended up with behaviors and coping mechanisms and various means of surviving those years. One of my survival mechanisms is to pay attention to everything, which is probably why I saw those people fighting, worrying that they might get too close to me, or felt I needed to shut the idiot up at the theater. (Okay, full disclosure: I would have shut him up pre-pandemic.)

But being on that level of alert for me meant that I couldn’t sink into story in any form—not all the way, anyhow, unless I knew I was completely safe. When we moved to a different condo in 2021, I got an office that has windows all around me and a clear door that I can see through.

This little space made me feel safe. It felt almost hidden even though I could see everything around me if I wanted to. I was able to sink into my own storytelling and get back to writing things that required my full concentration.

But with very few exceptions, I couldn’t sink all the way into someone else’s story in written form. I didn’t realize that I had lost the habit of going all the way into someone else’s book until this summer, when I had to recover from two different surgeries.

I took a stack of books with me, sat on the couch, and lived in a very dark and funny version of London for days. I sank so deeply into Mick Herron’s Slough House series that I can’t tell you much of what happened in my condo, let alone Las Vegas, during that period of time.

Oh, did it feel good.

I have long believed that fiction writers need to read fiction in order to write fiction. Not just the fiction that they read growing up, but now, today, as they continue with their craft. Part of learning is to see what other writers are doing.

It doesn’t matter if those writers are producing fiction in 2023 or if they’re long dead and their books have lived beyond them. What matters is the act of reading itself, the act of sinking into the story and letting it take you somewhere else.

A writer friend of mine has said for years that he doesn’t have time to read fiction anymore. I keep waiting for him to tell me that the stories in his head have dried up. I know he’s having a rougher time writing right now, but that could simply be because of shedding his pandemic skin.

I have heard writers say that they slowed down or stopped writing as they got older. In the next breath, they would tell me that they had stopped reading for pleasure years ago.

One writer actively told me that he’d seen all the stories and all of the plots and there was nothing new for him.

I’m very sad about that. The best writers make everything new. I recently read a time travel novel that had me on the edge of my seat because I had no idea how it would resolve. I’ve read a lot. I too see patterns and know how many stories will end.

That doesn’t bother me, maybe because I’m a romance reader. Romance carries with it the expectation of a happily-ever-after ending, so we readers know the couple will work it out in the end.

The key to a great romance isn’t the ending. It’s the journey.

That’s the same for me in many other genres where I see the patterns. It’s the key for me in lots of other books.

Reading informs writing. We get to live different lives by opening a book. Right now, I’m reading a lot of fiction by writers half my age. Their world is different from mine, and their perspectives—while familiar—are a product of the time in which they grew up.

Granted, I get some of that by taking a few classes at the university every year, but it’s not the same. It’s not that visceral understanding of difference. Difference and common humanity.

But I don’t just read for difference. I still read for entertainment.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Another Example (Niche Marketing Part 7)

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

So, this week, I settled into the trusty writing chair, reviewed what I had on the Grayson novella…and found myself looking up restaurant menus in search of soup (teeth, remember?). I figured I was just distracted, so I went back…and found myself peering at the weather for the next month.

I shut off the wireless, went back to the novella…and found myself organizing the papers on the desk to my left.

Okay, that’s a sign.

I opened a new file, and asked myself what was going on—and my muse had a fist-pounding, tear-streaked, screaming fit about not meeting my July schedule and how she wasn’t feeling like writing a romance since she has no teeth (I have teeth) and how much she admires hardboiled noir fiction and why weren’t we working on finishing the big Fey project?????

I boiled it down further and figured out that what was really going on was that I had planned the Grayson project as a palate cleanser between the third Fey book and the fourth.

Well, that palate has been cleansed, drilled, stitched, and sanitized, thank you. I had promised my muse the Fey in August, and she expected me to deliver.

What does that mean for this post in the blog series? Well, I had thought I would deal with the Santa series. Then I figured maybe I’d poke at Winston & Ruby. (Cat dishes as merch, anyone?)

I had said I would do things that float to the top, and what has floated to the top? The Fey, which is just too big, and frankly, if I make it small as an example here, this post will be filled with spoilers.

So I think I’m going to use this post as an unplanned example of when to leave well enough alone.

My scheduling brain—which comes mostly from my critical voice—had slotted in the Santa Series. I was ready to do the Grayson, if it was short, so that it wouldn’t mess with the Fey.

But, life intervened, the Fey got messed with, and while I know (and love) the new topic for the new Grayson, it’s not what I’m going to write.

I could force myself here to fill out all of the categories that I did in the previous post. I could pretend that I’m going to do the niche marketing on the Santa series.

But I’m not. And I don’t want to confuse the folks at WMG. I probably won’t finish the novella until next year, and by then there will be new things to try and think of, as well as new items that we’ve tested that might be perfect for this series.

I considered using the Holiday Spectacular itself as an example of niche marketing, but we’re not there yet. We’re putting this year’s together, planning the Kickstarter, and figuring out what we want to do there. That won’t hit until October.

It hasn’t floated to the top of my brain yet.


I don’t want to be a full time marketer. I’ll wager you don’t either. If I wanted to figure out how to market all of the product that I have, the effort would take me until January, if not longer. And the staff at WMG would work on nothing else.

If I thought my muse was cranky this past week, I’d hate to see her after six months of no writing and just marketing. Oh, I’m not sure this condo building would still be standing…

So this has turned into a different kind of example than the one I expected. This is how you decide to hold your fire on some marketing project because you already have too much on your plate.

It takes some self-examination (and maybe some soup and a glance at the weather for the next month). It takes scheduling. It takes a realistic look at what you can do in the time you have available to you.

It all sounds well and good to do everything all at once, but none of us can do that. Big corporations can. I was overwhelmed by the amount of promotion I saw on the Barbie movie. One of our casinos was bright pink for the release week and had a Barbie theme throughout.

But that was the tip of the iceberg, or the Malibu Dreamhouse or whatever. For the last half of July, everything was Barbie…on TV, in magazines, online, on Facebook…

And since I was thinking about niche marketing, I wondered how someone could do all of this.

Until I remembered that Mattel and Warner Bros. have been working on this for more than a year—and to them, it’s a niche.


Barbie is but one of Mattel’s toys, and the Barbie movie is but one of Warner Bros. offerings this summer.

All of this Barbie stuff went live in June/July and will slowly disappear. The casino looks like itself again, after the promotion.

That’s niche marketing on a grand scale, with dozens of advertising agencies and maybe hundreds (?) of in-house staff working on all of it.

But I’m a single writer with a small company that I share with my husband. The staff we have works on both of our promotions and WMG’s stuff individually.

We couldn’t do a Barbie-sized niche promotion if we tried.

But we can do promotions like the ones I outlined last week.

I think more important than that, though, is learning how to say no. How to figure out what’s important in August of 2023. What we can reasonably do to augment our various enterprises, rather than harm them.

That’s the discussion I had with my very angry muse this past week. My planning brain told me I had enough time to finish that novella and get to all the cool marketing stuff before the Holiday Spectacular Kickstarter. My muse wanted to finish a big project that I had promised her.

The big project won.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Niche Marketing Part One

From Kristine Katherine Rusch:

Niche marketing has existed since the beginning of marketing. Back in the day, though, companies didn’t call it “niche” marketing. These places marketed to their category or their type.

The idea that something could be marketed to everyone was a mid-20th century idea, bolstered by television. When programs went out to 120 million viewers or more every week, the way that Norman Lear’s shows  did in 1976, the idea of placing an ad on those programs was less niche marketing than trying to reach a percentage of that huge audience.

It wasn’t quite marketing to everyone, because advertisers were targeting Norman Lear shows like Sanford & Son and All in the Family, shows that were known for their liberal points of view. But still, the advertisers were trying to appeal to a broad swath of consumers rather than a select group of people who might fall in love with the product.

Now, appealing to a broad swath of consumers is almost impossible. We don’t have many venues—anywhere in the world—where we can advertise to hundreds of millions on a weekly basis. Here in the United States, the only programming that consistently brings in what’s now considered to be a large viewership are sporting events, and even that’s niche.

Most people here watch American football’s Superbowl, not because of who is playing, but to see the ads. Now, the ads play on YouTube and other venues before the big event, so people don’t even have to watch it.

This past week, I watched a lot of hockey, because the Las Vegas Golden Knights made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. The ads were different than they had been during the regular season. Less Vegas centric, and more product centric—anything from certain types of beer to…well…certain types of beer. The Vegas centric ads were less about local products and casinos and more about online sports betting.

Advertisers were aware that they were appealing to a wider audience, one that now included people in Florida, because Vegas was competing against the Florida Panthers. As a result, we also saw a lot of Disney vacation ads and even Disney movie ads.

It’s the job of many people at advertising agencies to make the decisions about how to market to a wide group of consumers and how to target consumers.

Social media created a frenzy for a certain kind of marketing, particularly by using influencers to target a very well known kind of consumer.

I had to laugh, though, as I went deep into the definitions of niche marketing for this blog series—and it will be a series, as I promised last week.  

Niche marketing is what traditional publishing is doing, and doing wrong.

Now, for that statement to make sense, you have to look at the history post that I put free for everyone on my Patreon page two weeks ago.

Here’s some information from that post that’s relevant to this one:

Sixty years ago, traditional publishing’s marketing was 100% niche marketing, geared at bookstores and book distributors. Eventually, the markets expanded outward to include department and grocery stores. But that was still niche—or in those days, targeted—marketing to a specific subset of businesses.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, traditional publishing is built on a Business to Business model (B2B). You’ll note that the targets above are all other businesses, not consumers. Up until the 1990s, it was the job of regional distributors to know what each bookstore and each grocery store needed for their racks.

I distinctly remember a regional distributor tell me that a certain Canadian fantasy writer was a bestseller in the America South, but that they couldn’t give his books away in Oregon.

That’s niche marketing on a B2B level.

It matters a lot less now to have B2B marketing in books. There are very few brick-and-mortar bookstores left. The online stores have infinite shelf space.

Writers have been relying on the algorithms of those online bookstores to target readers for their books, but the writers don’t know how to go about it. As Amazon and Google ads lose their effectiveness because the European Union (and other places) have policed them for privacy violations, writers have to figure out their own way to market to consumers.

The problem is writers in particular are stuck in the old traditional ways of doing things. Even the pioneers in modern book marketing are relying on the old traditional model.

When you see the gurus talk about marketing, they’re talking about marketing to a large swath of readers, rather than finding the right readers. Even when they’re discussing things like drilling down in Amazon ads to the also-boughts or a reader who might like a different book similar to yours, these gurus are still thinking like traditional publishers.

Ten years ago, I started up a series of newsletters. That was back in the day when writers were gathering 50,000 names on their newsletters with free promotions and giveaways and other gimmicks that would bring in names.

Those gimmicks died down, particularly when writers realized they had to pay for those names of people who signed up for free. Those people wanted the free book or the chance to win an iPad. They didn’t give a rat’s stinky behind about what book that writer promoted two months later, just like I didn’t care about the various kinds of beer pitched to me during the fifth game of the Stanley Cup finals, as Vegas dominated its way to victory. Those ads were wasted on me.

. . . .

Since I designed marketing ten years ago with my reader self in mind, I created different newsletter lists for my different pen names. I also created newsletter lists for my various series. I did the same with websites, although I let some go fallow. (That will change in the next six months as well.)

The gurus jumped all over me, telling me that I was wasting my time and energy and I should combine all of those lists into one giant list.

Well, I have one giant list. It’s for people who like all of my work. That’s the Kristine Kathryn Rusch list. It’s about three times bigger than my biggest list for a series. But if you take all of the pen names and all of the series and combine them, then I have way more names than I do on the Rusch list.

I don’t do that. I’ve promised readers that if they subscribe to, say, the list for my Diving series, they’ll only get news about my Diving series. I don’t bother them with information about any of the other series.

If I look at the weekly stats for my newsletters, I find it’s not uncommon to see someone unsubscribe from the Rusch newsletter and then turn around and subscribe to one of the series newsletters. Why? Because about every third Rusch newsletter, I remind people that they can get information targeted to the series that they’re interested in.

That, my friends, is niche marketing. To consumers. Who are self-selected.

A lot of those gurus who yelled at me are out of business now. They had 50,000 names on their newsletters, but only about 50 of those names were from people who liked their work.

Growing a readership is painstaking work. You tell good stories, let your readers know where they can get more stories like that from you, and ask them to join your newsletter so you can keep them informed about what you do.

You don’t goose the numbers. You let the readers come to you—after they’ve sampled your work.

The definition of niche marketing is this: You promote your products to a specific, well-defined audience. That audience is usually small, but it can be very loyal.

That loyalty will help you build your brand.

Link to the rest at Kristine Katherine Rusch

If Not Big Names, Then What?

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I opened a can of worms in my own head when I wrote last week’s blog which I titled “Stars.” The post deals with the fact that there are no big names in entertainment any longer, except for legacy names, like Harrison Ford in movies and Stephen King in fiction. A source I quoted from The Hollywood Reporter believed that there were no new stars created in the movies since about 2008, which he blamed on the collapse of the DVD market.

Although he had his finger on part of the problem, I don’t think he saw all of it.

. . . .

What happened in movies in 2008? The same thing that happened to books at the turn of the century. Part of their distribution system collapsed.

The music industry started dealing with this in the 1990s as well, as the record stores vanished and iTunes took over. I don’t know if any of you have looked at iTunes recently, but trying to find the latest hit single by anyone let alone someone you like requires using the search function, rather than seeing what’s happening on the home page.

The collapse of the distribution system—or rather, the changes in distribution—have had an impact on us all. One of the things the change has done is level the playing field. Now anyone with the proper equipment can enter an artistic arena with more than a snowball’s chance in hell of not only having a success but having multiple successes.

The problem is as it always was—discoverability.

I’m going to move off of the entire entertainment industry now, and look at books. As I wrote last time, books were part of a curated system, in which tastemakers (editors, publishers, publishing houses) determined what choices readers had in the books that hit the shelves.

Those shelves were limited, both in time and space. As a local bookstore owner learned back when I lived in Oregon, if you keep books on the shelves until those books sold, your store went from a store that featured “new” books to a store that featured books from years gone by. The product (books) had to be refreshed constantly or readers had no reason to browse.

Twenty years ago, the publishing industry was a B2B industry. It sold books to bookstores—business to business—and hadn’t learned any other way to do so. Traditional publishing is still a B2B operation, even though most bookstores have gone online or gone away entirely.

Indie publishers are a B2C business—Business to Consumer. It’s a much better system. We need to market to readers, not to some bookstore chain or nameless distributor somewhere.

The problem is that the book promotion shorthand is based on B2B, not B2C.

What’s the difference (besides the obvious final letter)? The owners of other businesses do not have the time to read all of the product in their stores. Back in the day of the megabookstores like Barnes & Noble once strived to be, there were literally thousands of books on the shelves, with hundreds more clamoring to get in each month.

No one can read all of that.

The local bookstore I mentioned above, the one that got stuck in amber, probably had five hundred titles in the store, and even when those titles remained on the shelf for 18 months, the employees still did not have time to read everything.

The consumer, on the other hand—who shall, from henceforth, be called the reader because it is more accurate—has one of two attitudes toward a book that floats past their eyeballs.

The first attitude is hey! I haven’t read that yet! What is it?

The second attitude is oh, yeah! I like that series and/or the previous book by that author. I’ll take a look at this one.

Then there’s the third attitude, one that doesn’t happen with a book in front of the eyes. The third attitude happens when there is no book. That attitude is Hey! Does Suzette T. Writer have a new book out? I should check.

Or that third attitude might be framed this way: Hey! Is there a new book in the AngelCat Extraordinaire Series? I should check.

Nothing in B2B marketing does more than answer the second two questions, maybe. And probably the only question it might answer is the one about Suzette T. Writer…provided Suzette T. Writer is what traditional publishing called a big name.

Readers buy stories. They want stories that will appeal to them. In addition, they want more of the same but with a surprise or two packed inside.

Traditional publishing did do one thing right in its quest for shorthand. It created genre categories. Genre categories and the subgenres within made it possible in a B2B world for readers to find the type of stories that they liked without relying on big names.

Ironically, genres weren’t created with marketing in mind. Or maybe that’s not ironic, considering how averse traditional publishing was to actual marketing. I was about to launch, yet again, into the history of traditional publishing marketing which I’ve written maybe a dozen times. I plucked history out of a past post and put it up on my Patreon page for everyone to read. I suggest you go there, so you understand how the marketing for traditional publishing evolved.

Anyway, genre and subgenre categories were the only thing that made life easier for the reader. The rest of what traditional publishing did made life easier for the distributors and the bookstores, by freeing up shelf space. This is why book series would often stop in the middle with no hope of finishing the saga or why an author would completely vanish from the shelves.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Business Musings: Stars

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Me and the Google (as a friend of mine calls it) spent what I almost termed a “dispiriting” hour as I searched for the 21st century’s superstars in a variety of fields. I say “almost termed” because, when I think of it, “dispiriting” is the wrong word.

Adult me, who loves this modern world of indie publishing and going directly to the reader, doesn’t mind the lack of superstars or “big names” as most people call them.

Teenage me, who was trained to figure out the coolest, latest, most “in” superstar (and to judge people based on who they liked and who they didn’t like), feels…well, not dispirited either. But at sea, maybe. Because it’s not as easy as it was fifty years ago to figure out who is guiding the culture.

That whole concept—guiding the culture—comes out of curation. And class-based curation at that. Hardcovers, considered permanent and as a result difficult to afford, were for upper class and/or educated readers. Paperbacks came out of World War 2, and became even more popular thanks to the GI Bill (here in the States) paying for the education of anyone who served.

Paperbacks were considered disposable, though, like the pulp magazines before them. So anything that was in cheap paper was considered cheap fiction, and not worthy of all the things we used to measure “good literature.”

Curation is an important part of the creation of superstars. Yes, the fans have to like what they see, but to get the maximum number of fans to like something or someone, there has to be an information funnel. People need to see that something or someone in very, very, very large numbers.

Even so, those numbers don’t mean a lot when you move across the globe. Global superstars were extremely rare, even back in the day, and were often only in the movies—especially action films that didn’t have a lot of dialogue. Global superstar writers really didn’t exist ever. Each language and/or country had their own stars and often those writers didn’t translate well into a different culture.

Instead, books became blockbusters across the globe, and I’ll get to that in a later post.

One of the many, many reasons that global superstars are rare has nothing to do with language or cultural barriers in the arts. The reason is that there were no curators worldwide. Here in the States, we had a tightly regulated curation system in the mid-20th century, and it was all based on distribution.

There were only so many shelves in bookstores across the nation. Books that went into department stores (remember those?) were the cheap disposable kind (or as we knew them, the mass market paperback). Records had similar issues. There was a large struggle to get radio play, considered free advertising, and then record stores and yes, those department stores, clamored for the music that their customers came in and asked about.

Even then, nothing remained on the shelves long. There just wasn’t space.

Just like there wasn’t space in the movie theaters for more than a handful of films. The movie theaters expanded from showing one film for a month or two (the 1970s) to three or four films at the theater in the mall (the 1980s) to multiplexes (the 1990s), but even that didn’t make distribution easier.

Someone curated who saw what film, just like someone curated who heard what record, just like someone decided who read which books.

Television expanded outward faster, thanks to the arrival of cable, but the networks, which had dominated since the 1950s, held sway until we entered the new century.

Curators told us what to watch. We, the audience, chose among the curated product and accepted or rejected what we found.

Along the way, we found our favorites. Since the curators were nameless and faceless to people outside of the various industries, we couldn’t follow the curator, so we had to find a different way.

We followed the artist, the author, the actor. We couldn’t even follow the television program or the book series because the curators would often discontinue the television program or the book series for reasons that had nothing to do with popularity, and everything to do with contract negotiations or the difficulty of controlling the producers or other behind-the-scenes problems.

Because there was so little actual product out there, we had “watercooler” conversations in which everyone—and I do mean everyone in a particular country/culture—had an opinion about the latest bestseller, the latest movie, the latest album released.

Now, movies can appear and disappear without anyone noticing. It doesn’t matter if we make it to the theater before the movie leaves because the movie will eventually stream. Finding music that we like is as easy as picking a playlist on one of the streaming services, and in many ways, we curate those ourselves based on algorithms of things we have listened to before.

Books are similar. I’ve complained here before about the fact that I have to actively search to find a new release by one of my favorite authors. Many of those authors don’t have newsletters, not that I always open the newsletters that I get, letting them clutter up my inbox.

Distribution has changed, which is something I deal with on this blog a lot. Curation still exists, but it’s essentially worthless. It’s a dying profession in a dying corner of dying parts of the various entertainment industries. 

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

 Living In The Past

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Three things happened in quick succession recently, that forced me to write this blog now, not, say, months from now.

First, a writer friend astonished me by saying they have finally gone indie, after being urged to do so for more than a decade. They’ve been unable to sell a book traditionally for that entire decade, but they’ve kept writing.

Only…they’re not really ready to go indie, because they want to pay someone to design the book’s interior for both ebook and for paper. They want to pay someone else to design their cover, and they want to pay yet a third person for marketing.

I’m afraid my hair was on fire as I answered them…as gently as I could…informing them that they could do most if not all of these things on their own. They were looking at a cash outlay per book of a minimum of $5,000—and they wanted to publish a book per month.

I have no idea if this friend is wealthy. I do know that as a start-up, with zero track record outside of nonfiction and short fiction, this person would not earn back the full $60,000 they spend on this plan for years and years. I warned them about scammers, I gave my writer friend links, and I know that I overwhelmed them. But Good-freakin’-God, this person and I had the same conversation in 2012, when doing everything they discussed was a lot harder.

Then I sent them to a service…that went out of business, like every other service. (Except this service did not steal the writer’s IP in the process, like so many others had.)

I know other writer friends are trying to triage with this poor person, but I’m thinking, just let this writer spend the money. They’re actively refusing to learn modern publishing and have actively avoided it for 12 years. It’s not going to matter how much most of us yell; that person will not take the leap into indie.

Then, at lunch, I mentioned an older writer friend of ours, a writer in his eighties who declared fifteen years ago that he was retiring from writing because he was about to hit seventy. He crept into indie publishing with some unpublished backlist titles, then published all of his out-of-print titles and finally, about eight years ago, published a brand-new newly written book.

Yeah, this writer has help, because he’d run a business in the past, so he built a new business (after he retired) that resembles WMG. Someone else handles most of the publishing details, and he has social media folks because he can afford them. (He is wealthy, having had movies made from his work and because he’s a good money manager.)

Lo and behold, this guy, who fifteen years ago said that the words have dried up, has published at least 10 newly written books since that first one eight years ago.

I got a newsletter from him on the same day as I had gotten that other email about the writer who wants to be taken care of. Dean got the same newsletter and we discussed it at lunch.

I mentioned how this eighty-something writer had secretly unretired, and Dean said, “If he had stayed in traditional publishing, he wouldn’t be writing anymore. It’s indie that brought him back to life.”

Completely true. Not only has indie brought his fiction back to life, but he’s doing all kinds of creative marketing things, like limited editions and special editions and fan-favorite editions. He’s participating in bundles and is talking about a Kickstarter, but worries that he lacks the time, because he doesn’t want to take time from his latest novel.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Business Musings: Assessing Pandemic Damage

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I suspect spring in Las Vegas will always have reminders for me. In those first dark days of the pandemic, when we were wiping off our groceries and viewing our neighbors with great suspicion, when we were wearing cloth masks that were makeshift at best, and running out of toilet paper as well as hand sanitizer, I ran outdoors.

Very early in the morning, taking the stairs from our condo down to the street, actually crossing the street if I saw anyone at all. There was a group of us who were out at that time of day—a redheaded runner who lived on Fremont Street (and ran the same route, only going the opposite direction), a middle-aged woman who walked and was usually on the phone, and a man from my building who walked his three bulldogs every day at the same time.

We didn’t talk. We waved from a proper distance. All of us carried masks, but weren’t masked. We’d hastily put the mask on if someone came close. I actually wore a neck gaiter that I could pull up like a bandit.

This morning, I was sorting my clothes for the upcoming summer and found some cloth masks. I’d already noted last fall that I was unwilling to throw my cloth masks away, even though I haven’t worn any since late 2020. I’ve been wearing K95 when I need to wear masks.

I did stash the cloth masks, though. They’re in a bag I got from the musical Hadestown. I think that’s appropriate.

There are many things that remind me of that spring. Not people—I haven’t seen the first two from my early morning group since 2021. I see the neighbor often. I also see the spring changes.

Back then, I would run, and later in the day, Dean and I would walk, around the neighborhood. We looked at little round cacti that got their spring growth (and sometimes bloomed). At the pollen that littered the street three blocks down. At the spring flowers that had a moment just before the summer heat crushed them.

The neighborhood is different now—there’s been a lot of building and remodeling and growth—but some of those pockets remain. And at this time of year, the sight of those things immediately sends me back to those fearful days.

I like to think I got through them pretty well. I was as realistic about the pandemic as I could be. My history background both informed me and worried me. Dean stopped asking me when I thought the pandemic part would end because my answer was always, Give it three years. That’s when the pandemic started waning in the 1920s.

Here we are, three years later. Yes, I know, dear readers, COVID-19 is still with us. Friends have had it all through the fall and winter. A friend just had a bout last week. If I log onto Facebook, I see even more friends who are suffering with the virus, even if they’re vaccinated. That disease is pernicious and it wants to infect us all.

. . . .

Markus Brauer, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison teamed up with professors from the School of Journalism and Communication on a study conducted in the early days of the pandemic. The results were published recently.

It found that “higher media consumption—seeking out the news—was associated with more emotional distress.”  I read an article about it in the University of Wisconsin alumni magazine, On Wisconsin, and had a visceral reaction:

I wasn’t extremely emotionally distressed.

Denial much?

I even had trouble getting through the article. Then I found this paragraph:

The study doesn’t allow for causal conclusions. While it is likely that seeking out news updates about the pandemic led to emotional distress, according to Brauer, it is also possible that people who are distressed try to manage their emotions by checking the news more often.

The second half of that paragraph describes me and my coping mechanism. When I’m upset, I seek information. The more information I have, the calmer I become.

Although I doubt I was calm after March of 2020. I doubt I was calm for years.

. . . .

I knew how to survive minute to minute, hour to hour. I also knew how to calm myself in moments of political stress (which we had an abundance of in the U.S. that year). I had been a reporter for a reason. When something goes haywire, I seek information. I look for causes and solutions. I gather data. I check the data to see if it changed overnight.

I am very aware of these habits and actively sought them out.

What I didn’t realize was the impact this all had on my fiction writing and reading. I noted a few things. Such as…I couldn’t read romance novels at all. A part of me no longer believed anyone would ever get a happily ever after. I didn’t want to read certain types of mysteries either, because they were distressing.

Science fiction and fantasy provided a lot of escape, but I have a problem with those genres. My years as an editor made me highly critical of them, so I needed to approach them sideways—trying not to look too hard at what the author was doing.

I defaulted in my reading to a lot of favorite authors because I knew I’d get a reliable read. That was helpful, but my reading declined and as it did, so did my writing.

Or so I thought.

What really changed was this: I had become what I call outer-directed. When I’m threatened or in crisis, I focus on what’s around me, not on what’s inside me. I can’t get lost in a made-up world, because that’s just too dangerous. I don’t dare go through this world with blinders on. Something even worse might happen.

I struggled and wrote and read what I could. I found other things to focus on, though. Writing and reading didn’t give me an escape, but learning Spanish did. It took concentration and felt like I was feeding that outer-directed part of myself.

That lead me to taking school (which was online at that point) too seriously, something I had to work my way out of last fall. I am not a young student with a bright future ahead of her. I really don’t need these classes. They’re for me. So I don’t need to be anal about it, and I don’t need straight As. I’m taking classes for myself, not to get a career or figure out my future. I’m there to learn, and, sometimes, to have fun.

During lockdown, I had to start running in the mornings, which took my best writing time, because the gyms were closed. Those morning runs became a lifeline. I met a lot of (properly distanced) Las Vegans on those mornings—everyone from the security guards at a parking garage (imagine that job) to the street vendors who slowly returned to Fremont. There are a lot of people who glue Las Vegas together in the hours before 7 a.m, people you don’t see later in the day.

I was out there with them, earlier and earlier, because it gets so damn hot here, and no way in hell was I going to the gym and trying to exercise masked among people who felt they didn’t need to follow the rules. (Yes, it was that bad, even into late 2021.)

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Business Musings: AI, Copyright, And Writers

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Here we are—the mess of the mess of the mess. Right now, we’re in one of those technological befuddling moments, where the technology is ahead of the law.

What that means, exactly, is this: We’re not sure what the technology can do, so we don’t know if what it’s doing is legal, in a whole variety of ways.

The law is both a scalpel and a cudgel. If we use the law one way, it becomes a cudgel that smashes behavior and does its best to prevent the behavior from ever occurring again. Look at the laws against homicide in your state. Those laws are not scalpels. Those laws are cudgels, deliberately. As civilized humans, we don’t want other humans to commit murder for any reason. End of story.

(Please don’t write to me about exceptions. I know. I write entire novels about them.)

There are many times, however, that we need the law to be a scalpel. We need it to delicately carve good behavior from bad. We also don’t want it to accidentally smash something good to smithereens.

Just today, Dean and I were walking home in a wind tunnel created by the buildings near ours. The wind was bad anyway, but in that little area, it was extreme, like usual. Dean mentioned that there are entire computer programs that could explain why.

Those programs are often used now to examine how the wind works around bridges and tall buildings in relation to other tall buildings. In the past, those calculations were done by engineers and often by hand. One mathematical error and even brand-new bridges and buildings collapse.

. . . .

Now, though, tech allows us to prevent all kinds of wide-ranging disasters because of computer modeling.

In some ways, generative artificial intelligence in art, audio, and writing is nothing more than computer modeling. The artificial intelligence isn’t intelligence at all, at least as we know it. It’s an algorithm trained to respond in a particular way to a variety of inputs.

The inputs make the AI program reactive, not creative. My post last week titled “AI And Mediocre Work” dealt with a lot of this, but a comment by Matt Weber capsulized it with a quote from Oliver Sacks, in his book, An Anthropologist on Mars:

Creativity, as usually understood, entails not only a “what,” a talent, but a “who” — strong personal characteristics, a strong identity, personal sensibility, a personal style, which flow into the talent, interfuse it, give it personal body and form. Creativity in this sense involves the power to originate, to break away from the existing way of looking at things, to move freely in the realm of the imagination, to create and recreate worlds fully in one’s mind — while supervising all this with a critical inner eye.

These generative AI programs are useful for a variety of things, some of them mentioned in the comments on the last post, others mentioned in analysis about the programs that you can find most anywhere. What they are not is creative.

Let’s set that aside, though. We will all end up using these programs for one task or another.

What started this little miniseries of blogs was, in fact, my desire to start using AI audio. It had gotten to a level that I feel comfortable putting not only the blog posts into audio, but some of the nonfiction books as well. If you want to find out what I’m thinking about the various audio opportunities for my own work, please look at this post.

Up until that point, a lot of my readers thought I was opposed to using generative AI. I’m not. I have already used several different programs for minor things, and I’m going to use others for relatively major things.

I’m just as interested in the AI art programs as I am in the AI audio programs. I’ve used some mapping programs to help artists visualize the layout of my various worlds. I’m using the free programs, so the tools are often wrong in a variety of ways. I have to use words and bad maps to get my point across. But that’s okay.

I like some of the art I’m seeing from the various programs, and that art would be good enough to use on, say, short story ebook covers, where we don’t want to spend a lot of money. (If any.)

We’re not doing that yet, though, and there’s a really good reason.


The copyright issues on much of the AI usage are a complete mess and that, in my opinion, makes them dangerous to use in any commercial manner.

I don’t use the word “dangerous” lightly. Copyright issues could mean something as simple as removing the item from sale to hundreds of thousand paid in statutory damages.

The problem is that we don’t know what’s happening yet, and because we don’t know, we have to be really careful.

Some of the copyright issues can be resolved with a contract. The Terms of Service on these sites are contracts that you agree to, either by affirmatively clicking I accept or by using the site or by paying money for the service.

The problem with Terms of Service is that they can change on a whim. In its paper on artificial intelligence and copyright published in February, the Congressional Research Service made the passing comment about OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT and DALL-E.

OpenAI’s current Terms of Use, for example, appear to assign any copyright to the user: “OpenAI hereby assigns to you all its right, title and interest in and to Output.” A previous version of these terms, by contrast, purported to give OpenAI such rights.

As I said, these terms can change drastically. It’s up to the user to check the terms constantly.

Contracts can supercede copyright if done properly, but doing the contracts properly means understanding the law.

And the law is just plain unclear. The article that I quoted above, from the Congressional Research Service, has a good overview of where the law stands right now in the U.S., and provides links.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

PG says AI is going to continue developing very quickly with or without changes in the copyright laws.

Yes, there undoubtedly will be changes in copyright laws, but legislators move at a snail’s pace compared with software engineers and designers. AI is a huge breakthrough and it will take some time for humans to coalesce around where lines are to be drawn between permitted and not permitted uses of AI.

There are certainly going to be some copyright infringement lawsuits and judges (who are anything but technically-oriented, but generally possess a respectable level of general intelligence) will make different and sometimes conflicting decisions for awhile.

Legislatures gonna legislate. Some will do better than others, but the first laws are going to be rough around the edges.

Wherever there are meaningful copyright laws, copyright attorneys are already thinking hard about AI and there will certainly be some lawsuits. That said, on the internet, there are plenty of places that are effectively beyond the reach of western copyright legislation. (China, Russia and a variety of island kingdoms come to mind.)

It’s going to be a legal Wild West for awhile. PG has already read articles about the various ways attorneys can use AI in litigation and contract drafting. He expects to read a lot more.


You should check out the comments to this post. Two valued and prolific TPV commenters elaborate on their forecasts and expectations regarding AI and courteously disagree with some of the thoughts the other has posted.

How Writers Fail Part 11: They Want To

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I know, I know. The title is harsh. Because the topic is harsh.

Remember, I have decades worth of experience watching and trying to help writers. And I have learned, to my chagrin, that some writers are beyond help.

Or rather, the help those writers need is beyond anything I or any other writer/mentor can provide.

The writers who are beyond help often ask for help, especially early on. They take classes. They try a few things. They talk a great game. They might know everything that there is to know about writing/publishing/agents or whatever holds their interest.

But when you actually look at what they do, the one thing they do not do is write.

Let me amend that.

They do not write for publication, whatever publication might mean.

There are a handful of these writers who actually write a lot and put it all in a drawer. This has been the behavior of some writers since the dawn of time. Ever hear of Emily Dickinson’s sister? Her niece? Well, they’re the ones who got her work published after she died. (Even that is a long sad story, filled with anger and lawsuits and tampering with the poetry.)

In her lifetime, ten of Emily Dickinson’s poems were published, and some speculate that she had nothing to do with the publications. She wrote the poems, handbound them, and sent them in little booklets to friends and family. Speculation is that some friend or family member had the poems published—anonymously, mind you—because someone believed that Dickinson’s voice should not have been silenced. When asked if her work could be put into a charity anthology or even an anthology of anonymous work, she dithered and ultimately, through dithering, let the opportunity pass.

Does that sound familiar to any of you? That dithering is often the subconscious, worrying about what might happen if something is published.

Whatever fears the writer has—a fear of failure, a fear of success, a fear of being “revealed” for who they really are—mount. The writer simply can’t overcome them, and so, rather than publish, the writer dithers or fails to mail things or indie publish things.

The writer often guarantees their own failure.

I’ve watched so many writers do this. If you don’t try, then you can’t fail on a large level. If you don’t put your work out there, then you won’t have to see that the world won’t fall at your feet just because you published something. If you don’t put your work in print, then you won’t have to see what readers or critics or your friends will say about it.

These fears are paralyzing for many writers (heck, for many creatives in all disciplines). I still run from singing, mostly because singing in public brings memories of my mother. The last time I sang with a group, when I was around 40, we participated in a competition at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

We performed on a riser, and I was toward the back. After I climbed to my position and turned around, I could see the front rows of the audience. And there, for a moment, was my mother. She sat in one of the chairs to the side, a frown on her face. I figured I was seeing a woman who looked like my mother.

We started singing, and the woman who looked like my mother started shaking her head. Then she sighed and rolled her eyes, just like my mother would have.

I made myself look away.

When I looked back, the seat was empty. I doubt anyone had been sitting there. Or maybe I had been right; a woman who looked like my mother sat there briefly.

It didn’t matter. My throat closed up, my voice failed me, and I couldn’t wait to get off that stage.

I haven’t sung in public since.

What would it take to get me to sing in public? I’m not sure. I’ll probably find out in the next few years. I’m hoping to muscle my way past it. But if I can’t, then I know what I would need to do.

Therapy. Talk therapy, focused on exorcising that woman from my brain so that I can enjoy an art form I’ve loved since I was little.

What happened to me on that stage (and on most stages where I had to sing) happens to writers too. Something terrifies them on a deep level about either writing or publishing.

So those writers do what they can to guarantee the failure.

The problem that we creatives have when they have this kind of paralyzing fear is that the fear encompasses success as well as failure. Success—singing on stage in a competition that we were winning—is just as hard if not harder than bombing.

I always expect to bomb when I sing. When I realize that I’m not bombing…well, then the throat seizes up and the voice quits.

It’s not conscious.

Nor is it conscious for a writer who needs to fail to protect themselves. They don’t get to the writing. Or they don’t publish their work. Or they don’t mail it (if they want to be traditionally published).

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Business Musings: It Begins

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I have a lot of big plans for 2023. I have to revamp the business side of my writing career. That requires a lot of work from me.

I’m making this blog a process blog because it’s taking me longer than I want to get the pieces in place. But, I’m finding, that’s the way of things for me. I can imagine it, so of course, I figure I can finish it quickly.

It seems like nothing in my life is quick right now—at least that kind of quick. When I look at what I actually do, such as the latest novel I finished (Diving, not a Boss book), I realize I wrote 150,000 words in three months (about 30,000 of which I have set aside, because they don’t fit into the book. That’s 50,000 words per month or roughly 12,500 words per week during the holidays, while I was sick, while I was in school, and while I wrote this weekly blog, a month other things.

In other words, by most measures, 150,000 words in three months is fast. But it’s not as fast as I wanted it to be.

. . . .

I had spent my “free” time this weekend figuring out one new aspect of my social media and the rest looking at new themes for this website.

Why? Because my first order of business is to revamp my advertising.

Now, before I go too far here, let me clear up something. I do own a publishing company. WMG Publishing publishes all of my work. (Eventually, anyway. I do publish some things in anthologies and other venues, sometimes first.) The team there does a huge amount of advertising, usually on a budget, and always effectively. They’re refocusing their efforts because we have a new Shopify store. They’re slowly getting our 1,000 titles on the site.

Once they have a preponderance of the titles up, WMG will be taking advantage of the various tools Shopify offers to promote things.

They also do things like Book Bub ads, Facebook ads, and other in-house projects, such as their newsletter, “Every Day is A Holiday,” which offers great weekly promotions. To be frank, I’m not sure of everything they do, because they do so much.

But they need me to promote as well, and I’ve gotten lazy about it. I mean, really lazy. My newsletters are not regular. I forget to promote a new book or a new project. I haven’t changed the widgets on this site in a long time.

Some of my laziness is a habit. I was great at promotion until I wasn’t. That started in 2016 or so, as I got sicker and sicker up in Lincoln City. My ability to do anything became less and less, and so I gave up a lot of things.

What I couldn’t give up, I did by rote. That included most of my Twitter feed, and what I post here. I would try to get a newsletter out, but that only happened when I had the time to give up a writing session or two.

. . . .

I had spent my “free” time this weekend figuring out one new aspect of my social media and the rest looking at new themes for this website.

Why? Because my first order of business is to revamp my advertising.

Now, before I go too far here, let me clear up something. I do own a publishing company. WMG Publishing publishes all of my work. (Eventually, anyway. I do publish some things in anthologies and other venues, sometimes first.) The team there does a huge amount of advertising, usually on a budget, and always effectively. They’re refocusing their efforts because we have a new Shopify store. They’re slowly getting our 1,000 titles on the site.

Once they have a preponderance of the titles up, WMG will be taking advantage of the various tools Shopify offers to promote things.

They also do things like Book Bub ads, Facebook ads, and other in-house projects, such as their newsletter, “Every Day is A Holiday,” which offers great weekly promotions. To be frank, I’m not sure of everything they do, because they do so much.

But they need me to promote as well, and I’ve gotten lazy about it. I mean, really lazy. My newsletters are not regular. I forget to promote a new book or a new project. I haven’t changed the widgets on this site in a long time.

Some of my laziness is a habit. I was great at promotion until I wasn’t. That started in 2016 or so, as I got sicker and sicker up in Lincoln City. My ability to do anything became less and less, and so I gave up a lot of things.

What I couldn’t give up, I did by rote. That included most of my Twitter feed, and what I post here. I would try to get a newsletter out, but that only happened when I had the time to give up a writing session or two.

. . . .

I wasn’t the only one doing things by rote. Most marketers were and are. I read The Hollywood Reporter somewhat religiously, and several other media trade journals less religiously, but every single one of them had spent 2022 trying to figure out how to make advertising work in a changing world.

None of us knew or know what the next best thing is. I’m beginning to believe that it’s what I’ve always preached—building your own community, somewhat slowly. Not that our culture does anything slow anymore.

In fact, the idea that I’m doing the same thing I did six years ago makes me feel like I’ve been doing the same thing since…oh…1950 or something. Really, what I have been doing is that out of date.

To use one of terms I used in my year-end blog, my marketing had become stale

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

The Year in Review Part 3: Bestsellers

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

In my Pocket Reader app, I stored a September article from BBC News as much for the article’s title as its content. That title? “When Is A Bestseller Not Necessarily A Bestseller?”

I think that’s been the burning question in publishing for the past ten years. Bestsellers haven’t entirely lost their meaning, but they’re not relevant the way that they were twenty years ago. Back in the day when traditional publishing controlled 99% of the books that we saw on shelves (before ebooks), a bestseller was the book that sold the best out of the myriad of bookstores.

Even then, those bestseller lists were rigged. I can’t tell you how many times I had colleagues who gamed The New York Times list (the easiest one to buy your way onto, if you had the list of “acceptable” bookstores). It was a relief to have USA Today base its list on actual reported sales across all stores, including the chains. Even those numbers were flawed, though, because they were self-reported by most of the publishers.

Data has never been traditional publishing’s strong suit.

Last week, I examined traditional publishing and the mess that it has become, a mess that has led at least one industry expert to conclude that the services traditional publishers provide are essentially meaningless.

The anecdotal evidence has existed for years. I know several Big Name romance writers who can no longer live off their royalties like they did twenty years ago. Fortunately, a lot of them were good at money management, so they have cash stashed away and their homes are paid for.

Last year, Kat Martin, at 20Booksto50K here in Las Vegas, stated,

I think [the backlist is] a real negative for traditional publishing. Once you sell them your book, they have your book and they own it for years. And they do pay you a nice fat fee up front, so it’s kind of a trade off, but it’s not a long-term, it’s not a retirement thing, because they’re making money off the backlist. You don’t. They give you a percentage, but…the big money, I think, for long term is probably in self-publishing.

. . . .

Because everyone comes to Vegas at one point or another, Dean and I had a lot of opportunities to talk with writer friends who are (or were) traditionally published bestsellers. Dean had lunch with a person whose work would be considered a major (mega) bestseller. That person expressed shock that the backlist, which once earned a tidy income, earned little more than a trickle now.

That person could no longer sell their books to the Big Five, despite the continuing good numbers on the backlist. The small publisher the person went with is going belly-up, and the author was looking at other ways to publish.

I can’t tell you how many conversations we have with writers in a similar position.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

PG started TPV nearly twelve years ago to talk about the book business with an emphasis on self-publishing.

For those with long memories, PG blogged about the 2012 antitrust litigation brought by the US Justice Department and 33 state attorneys general against Apple, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Books, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette Book Group, Inc., alleging that the defendants conspired to fix prices in the sale of e-books, primarily motivated by the challenge presented by Amazon’s price discounting of books to their traditional business model and agreement to keep ebook prices high to support their print book business and their close-to-exclusive access to prime shelf space in traditional bookstores.

Some of the major publishers caved and settled charges against them by paying large fines. Apple Penguin, and Macmillan didn’t settle and ended up losing at the trial level and in the US Circuit Court of Appeals. Apple tried to take its appeal the the US Supreme Court, but that court declined to accept the case, meaning that Apple, Penguin and Macmillan ended up losing and paying large fines to the US and the 33 states that joined in the antitrust suit.

In essence, Apple and Big Publishing tried to crush Amazon’s book business and, especially, its ebook business, an effort that flamed out in spectacular fashion. Amazon kept doing its thing and grew into one of the largest tech companies around, including selling more books than anyone else by a large margin.

Traditional publishers continued their long decline as self-publishing through Amazon kept growing. Unfortunately, Covid shutdowns finished off more than a few bookstores and nobody pays much attention to Barnes & Noble any more.

PG hasn’t seen anything about the physical bookstore business in the UK or Europe recently, but would be surprised if ebooks weren’t steadily increasing their market share in those places as well.

As for himself, PG reads about 98% of his book pages electronically. He has a hard time finishing the occasional physical book that comes into his hands because his Kindle allows him to read while his creaking spinal column is in a far more comfortable position.

Thinking Big

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Writers are curious creatures. We’re a mix of insecurity and ego. The ego is there whether we admit it or not. Why else would we write stories and put them out into the world? Deep down, we believe that other people want to read these stories. For some of us (all of us?), we believe that our stories will be read by millions of people and that we will become the most famous author of our generation.

That ego keeps us going through the rough early years. It keeps us writing even through the discouragement that we all receive, sometimes from well-meaning folks and sometimes from malicious “friends.”

But…the insecurity is there as well. Are we good enough? Are we delusional? Are we trying for something that hardly anyone ever achieves? Are we crazy? Are we wasting our time?

The longer we strive, the more the insecurity grows. We have failures and setbacks. Once we publish, professional critics chime in with their professional negativity. Those words get stuck in our heads, and we haul them out when we’re feeling down.

Sometimes we even heed the negative, taking it all in. Some writers stop writing because of that. The rest of us soldier on, sometimes changing our behavior to silence the critics (never works) and sometimes letting anger fuel us to help us move forward.

The ego remains, but it’s been tempered by years of negativity. Or by social conditioning. When a writer—an artist—heck, anybody with a dream—talks about that dream, other people feel that it is their duty to warn.

Most writers never achieve that.

Make sure you guard your heart so that you don’t get hurt.

Maybe your expectations are too high. Maybe you should temper them back a little.

And on. And on.

What makes this worse is that writers, in particular, never hear the praise. When I teach craft workshops, I admonish writers to write down everything someone says about their work, the good and the bad. Most writers still pause over their notes as I say something like, This story is marvelous. I loved reading it. They don’t write that down. They think those comments are irrelevant, and yet the positive comments are the truly important ones.

Because they’re the ones that show us the pathway to success. Not to make us write another work exactly like the one we just finished, but to show us that yes, indeed, there are people who love what we do.

No one will love everything that we do. It’s just not in the human DNA. If we were alike, then we wouldn’t have variety. Some of us like sf and some of us hate it. Some of us like to windsurf and some of us are afraid to try. Some of us love cities and some of us would rather live in a remote place.

. . . .

You’d think that someone with a large enough ego to start writing in the first place would have planned for great financial and/or critical acclaim.

But writers never do.

Sometimes it’s superstition: If I plan for it, it will never happen.

Sometimes it’s embarrassment: I’ll look stupid if I constantly say I’m going to be a Big Name Writer.

And sometimes it’s just that old insecurity, winning again.

But you as a writer can prepare for success without dealing with the insecurity at all. It’s easier now than it ever was, because writers can publish their own work and keep it in print for decades.

How do you plan for success?

Mostly you leave the door open. Every possible door, in fact. You look at every contract, every terms of service, every deal, every possibility with an eye to the future.

You ask: How would I feel if the best possible thing happens? Would this contract enable me to profit from that thing? Or even participate in it?

There were two great examples of this. The Kate Bush example, as I mentioned above. She kept the door open by handling her own songs for the past thirty some years when most musicians sell damn near everything. That means she gets to profit from the success, not some major corporation.

Sure, she still would have had the ego boost of a song that was central to a TV show that was also a cultural phenomenon, but you can’t eat ego boost. Still, you can capitalize on it.

Imagine for a moment that she had sold most of the rights to that song decades ago. Her name was still in the news and there was a revival of her work. If the worst had happened and she didn’t make a dime off the song, she still could have made future money on selling new songs or performing live or leveraging the momentary fame into something else.

Most writers/artists never do that either. Sadly.

Instead they whine about how unfair it all is.

Which is exactly what happened with the second example which was in the news at roughly the same time.

In an article titled “Marvel’s Movie Math: Comic Creators Claim It’s ‘Bait and Switch’ on Payments,” The Hollywood Reporter showed how little most of the creators of the most famous comic book characters in the Marvel universe made, particularly those who developed some of the newer characters.

Seems those writers signed something called a Special Character Agreement which purported to give the writers money when a character they originated was used in media other than the comic book itself. Buried deep in the contractual language, though, was this: Marvel had the right to dramatically lower any promised payment based (it seems) on its own discretion.

And then there’s this paragraph, which is the kicker, I think:

Some who spoke to THR say it is more beneficial for a creator to avoid signing any paperwork with Marvel, noting Special Character Agreements give the company wiggle room to pay essentially whatever they want and include an NDA clause that muzzles creators from speaking out. One source, who reps the creators behind several A-list Marvel characters, notes one client who never signed paperwork is better off than those who did. “He has a lawyer that doesn’t listen to Marvel,” says the source.

He has a lawyer. Who probably read and understood the document and explained it to the client, who then planned for the future.

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

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

How Writers Fail (Part 9): They Quit

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

The title of this post seems obvious. How do writers fail? They quit. Yes, they do.

But it’s about more than quitting, really. This post is about when they quit.

Let me start with a quote from John Mellencamp that slapped me about the face and neck when I was casually reading the AARP Magazine. To celebrate his seventieth year, Mellencamp was interviewed about his seven tips were for living his best life. All seven are really interesting, including one about being productive. But here’s the related—and more important—one to being productive.

He said, “Usually I have to write about a hundred songs to get one good one. Painting is the same way. You’ve got to keep slugging. The problem with most people is that they quit too early.”

Because this is a short little article, filled with pithy tips, there’s something missing from the first part of the quote. Mellencamp doesn’t define (here) what he means by “a good one” in reference to songs and paintings.

So I get to define it.

The good one is decided by the viewers or the listeners. They buy the singles or download the songs or sing along. They enjoy the art. They love the stories.

In Mellencamp’s case, he wrote some “good” songs, some forgettable songs (to me), and more than one that almost every modern rocker has referenced, either in their own songs or in tribute. I’m sure you’ve all heard “Jack and Diane” and if you haven’t, you’ve heard someone mention that a couple was a true “Jack and Diane.”

Yep, every now and then, writers get lucky enough to actually have an impact on the culture. Mellencamp did it with “Jack and Diane,” which I’m sure he sings at every concert he performs.

But I’m sure he does not perform several of his good songs or many, many others. That puts me in mind of Paul McCartney. When Dean and I were lucky enough to attend one of his concerts in 2019, Sir Paul informed the audience right from the start that he would probably not be playing “your favorite song.”

McCartney has been writing and performing songs longer than I’ve been alive. He knows that some fans love, love, love the obscure song that was on only one not-very-successful album from forty years ago. He might never play that song in concert. Or he might have stopped playing a “good” song decades ago for personal reasons.

I learned that lesson too as an artist. When I started posting my Free Fiction Monday stories, I was stunned to realize that stories I thought were mediocre or stories that some editors told me were bad or stories that didn’t hit the idea I’d started with as fully as I would have liked were adored by some readers. Not by all of them, of course. But some of them.

I learned even before that not to bad-mouth anything I’ve written because someone might like it. I watched Marion Zimmer Bradley reduce a fan to tears by telling her that the book she wanted Bradley to sign was “a piece of dog****.”

Never do that to someone who loves your work. Don’t even tell them that you’re surprised by their love for that work. Be gracious, and understand that we’re all different, and stories, songs, paintings—anything creative will have a different impact on each person who experiences it.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

How Writers Fail (Part 6): Words

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

Lately, I’ve been stuck in words. The right word, as a matter of fact.

As some of you know, I’m studying Spanish, rather intensely, truth be told. I’m slowly moving away from being functionally illiterate in Spanish (where I know every word except the important one) and moving toward marginally literate in Spanish.

But you should hear me talk. Or maybe you shouldn’t. It’s somewhat embarrassing. I go along great guns and then I forget—if I ever knew—some word. In class one day, the word I forgot was the word for sixteen. Which I have known since I was sixteen, if not since I was eight. That word just left my head.

Of late, I’ve made it a point not to ask anyone in Spanish, “How do you say sixteen?” with the word sixteen in English. A lot of my fellow students do that, and someone usually provides the word. That doesn’t help.

. . . .

There are a million ways to make yourself understood, many of them imperfect, but they work. Work how? They communicate, which is the entire point.

. . . .

When you’re in the words, though, the words become important. Learning languages teaches me that on a weird level. The goal, when you speak another language, is for the language to flow. I don’t want to talk rapidly and then stop and fumble for the right word…or any word.

If I make too many mistakes in a conversation, I suddenly become tongue-tied because I’m afraid of making more mistakes.

I’m trapped in the words and I lose track of my thoughts as well as the thread of the conversation. That’s when the other speaker jumps in and tries to supply a word, not to make me more comfortable or even to make me feel stupid, but to recapture the flow.

We want to lose ourselves in the conversation. We don’t want to think about each word. Imagine how difficult it would be to discuss anything if everyone was pausing and searching for the perfect word.

It simply doesn’t work.

Yet so many writers write that way. I have known many writers over the years who were so happy to get a paragraph done in their daily writing session. I know one writer, badly broken in his years in Hollywood, who spent eight hours getting that one paragraph, which he would then erase the following morning and start again.

It took him months to finish a short story, and he wondered why everyone thought his writing had declined.

His writing hadn’t. His storytelling skills had.

He spent so much time searching for the perfect word, the perfect phrase, that he wasn’t getting lost in the story.

When stories flow, we writers tell those stories to ourselves. Most of us actually have stepped into the world of the story. We can hear the dialogue, see the people (characters) talking, feel what the protagonist feels, and feel the events unfold around us.

Most writers lose track of where they are, which is why writing in a safe space is important. When I’m in the flow, someone could tell me that they’re going to give me a million dollars and I wouldn’t hear a word. I know Dean is that way too.

Writing is, in many ways, akin to the act of reading. After a certain point, it’s not an intellectual exercise. It’s a full-body escape. You might be sitting on the couch, reading your favorite author’s latest, but in your mind, you’re climbing an ice flow or running from a vampire or kissing the sexiest person in the room.

We all know what that kind of reading feels like. The act of writing—really, the act of storytelling—does the exact same thing.

Too many writers worry about the words. They worry that they have the wrong word or that they stated something “incorrectly.” It took me years to realize that only I knew if something was or was not incorrect. It was my story after all. No one else knew what was going to happen next, and no one else knew what I was trying to communicate.

I found that realization quite freeing. I could stop worrying about words and their cousin, grammar, and start focusing on the story.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

 Long-term IP Management

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

[W]riters should consider their IP a living breathing entity that has a lifespan all its own; IP is not something to be easily discarded or sold for a quick buck.

Writers who do that will live to regret it.

In the previous post, I discussed how the most valuable intellectual properties are the ones with longevity, even if they’re not the most famous properties. A property with a long history also has a long relationship with its fan base, something that businesses which license intellectual property for things like games and toys truly value.

. . . .

In May, Authentic Brands Group issued threatening cease-and-desist letters to wedding chapels around Las Vegas. The reason? ABG told the chapels that they were using Elvis Presley’s image, music, and iconography without permission.

I’d often wondered about some of these places. I live in wedding chapel central, not far from several chapels that have a silhouette of Elvis as part of their logo. Not a week goes by in my neighborhood without an Elvis getting into a Cadillac or a group of Elvises (Elvi?) standing around a fake grass lawn or Elvis hits wafting from the cupola of a nearby wedding chapel.

If I’d given this anything—and I really hadn’t—I’d assumed that these Elvis appearances were licensed. I do recall discussing Elvis impersonators in my recent Entertainment Law class in regards to some music copyrights: the Elvis estate routinely denies Elvis impersonators synch licenses, licenses that allow the impersonator to marry their video to Elvis’s music. I get that; the estate wants videos of Elvis singing to be Elvis, not someone else.

. . . .

When Elvis died, in 1977, there were no impersonators, no Vegas Elvis weddings, nothing like that. There were no laws on the rights of celebrities to control their own images. All of that—what little there is—was developed long after Elvis died, and is still changing and growing.

The Elvis impersonator industry, including the wedding chapels, evolved over decades, and the Elvis estate did not actively pursue imitators. So the industry flourished.

The Elvis estate fascinates me, because of its management history. Elvis essentially died broke, and when his ex-wife Priscilla took over, the estate had little ability to generate revenue. Priscilla, with the help of advisors, created Elvis Presley Enterprises “to manage all Elvis image rights and remaining royalties, which primarily included turning Graceland into a tourist attraction. Between Graceland profits, merchandising, image deals, and royalties from songs recorded after the RCA deal, Priscilla and her co-executors of the Elvis Estate helped grow its value to a reported $100 million by 1993” according to Forbes.

That year, Lisa Marie Presley turned 25, and was able to claim her part of the estate. Then things got messy.

I’m not going to go into the mess here, but suffice to say that Lisa Marie got her father’s business acumen, not her mother’s. She appointed a business guy, one Barry Siegel, to handle the financial affairs. He sold 85% of Presley’s interest in EPE and invested some part (this is murky to me) in a holding company that included American Idol and eventually went bankrupt.

. . . .

During this great financial upheaval, Authentic Brands Group acquired the rights to license and merchandise all things Elvis. ABG calls itself “an intellectual property corporation,” and it handles the images of Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali, among others. The details of the deal aren’t easy to find, but suffice to say that this deal was made for money, not because EPE wanted to lose control of its cash cow.

. . . .

Bullying often works in IP cases because the costs of going to court are so very high. If a company like ABG comes after a small business like a wedding chapel, then the small business usually has no recourse but to cave. A long-term lawsuit on these issues can cost upwards of $100,000 or more. Very few small businesses can absorb that.

But ABG made a biiiiiiig mistake going after wedding chapels in Las Vegas. The wedding industry in this city is a two billion dollar industry, and Elvis-themed weddings are a big part of it.

So, when ABG went after the chapels (and not all of them, either), it screwed up. Within days, the chapels had banded together to fight this overreach, and had the entire city behind them. Eighteen-thousand jobs were suddenly at risk, not to mention all the other Elvis themed products.

ABG didn’t randomly pick this spring to go after the chapels. There’s a big Elvis movie coming out on June 24, and some person at ABG figured that would increase interest in Elvis. They sent these letters so that no one would profit off the Elvis revival but them.

Big problem, though. People have been profiting off Elvis for decades. Yes, EPE and the estate have occasionally gone after trademark infringers, but not in any organized way. Neither has ABG.

. . . .

This has serious implications for potential lawsuits. ABG expected the wedding chapels to roll over and either give up their work or pay hundreds of thousands without a fight. ABG did not want a legal fight, because they have not correctly defended the Elvis brand.

No one has. It would take years, but there’s a strong possibility that lawsuits over the IP could result in ABG and EPE losing their trademarks over Elvis. To maintain a trademark, you need to vigilantly defend it. EPE and ABG did not defend much at all. In fact, for years, EPE and ABG allowed this to go on, and so to try to shut it all down now might be impossible.  (Lawyers, feel free to correct if I’m wrong.)

Given the fact that ABG reversed course the moment the wedding chapels and the city got involved tells me that some higher up in the company blinked. I’m sure some junior lawyer has been fired and now ABG is trying to clean up its mess.

The clean-up is ugly as well. ABG is now trying to charge for a license, which they should have done in the first place. The charge went (in less than a week) from tens of thousands to $500 per year. No one has signed anything or agreed to anything, and if the chapels are getting advice from some of the good IP attorneys in this city, I doubt anyone will pay for a license.

. . . .

Why am I telling you this? Because Elvis Presley is the 7th highest earning dead celebrity, according to Forbes. The estate earned $30 million last year. Yes, some of that was Graceland, but it also included licensing a TV channel and a Netflix animated alternate history series in which (I’m not kidding) “Elvis will explore an alternate history where he faked his own death to fight crime with a secret government spy program.”

As I mentioned before, long-term IP is worth a lot of money. Even when it’s badly mismanaged, as the Elvis estate has been since Priscilla stepped away from it all. The dang thing keeps earning money. Clearly a lot of that money is going into the pockets of people who have no connection to the long-dead King, but that’s because of the mismanagement.

Had Lisa Marie handled everything—or let her mom remain in charge—that $30 million would go directly to the estate instead of others. And clearly, someone would have known better than to mess with the wedding chapels and Vegas, which have done more to keep Elvis’s legacy alive than almost any other group.

. . . .

Story number two is one many of you sent to me. Each one of you sent a different article, and all of those articles were different from the one I initially saw.

Yep, there’s a copyright lawsuit over the new Top Gun: Maverick movie. A lawsuit so serious that should some judge really want to, the judge could pull the movie from the theaters.

The lawsuit was filed in early June, and so far, the movie is still playing well, so I doubt that any injunction will happen. But what’s going on here is almost the exact opposite of what happened with Elvis.

In 1983, Ehud Yonay published an article in California Magazine called “Top Guns.” The original movie, Top Gun, was based on this article. In fact, Ehud Yonay received a single card credit in the movie, which I noticed when I rewatched the movie in late May.

Yonay’s involvement wasn’t hidden, like the involvement of so many writers. It was there for everyone to see.

Yonay died in 2012. In 2018, Yonay’s widow and son filed a notice to reclaim the full copyright…and notified Paramount Pictures that it was doing so. The rights reverted to the Yonays in 2020, and in January of 2020, they filed a notice of termination of the copyright with Paramount Pictures, knowing full well that the Maverick movie was in development.

The Yonays claim that Paramount needed to reacquire the film and ancillary rights to the article. In other words, they needed a new agreement.

Paramount claims they do not need to do that, since the movie was more or less complete before the notice of termination hit. The pandemic messed everything up, including timing here. The Yonays claim that the movie wasn’t completed until May of 2021, long after Paramount received notice.

This will be up to a court to decide. What’s happened in most of these 35-year reclamation cases is that ultimately the licensing agreements are renewed, with a boatload of money going to the copyright holder. Most of these cases are settled and the terms are not disclosed.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

How Writers Fail (Part 2)

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

Because of last summer’s move, we reorganized our books. We are in a smaller space than we were in Oregon, so we got rid of a lot of our books—the ones we didn’t need for research or the ones we liked, but didn’t love.

Now, we’re left with the ones that are actual favorites. It’s rather interesting to both of us to note how our tastes change over time. Dean got rid of works by a writer whom he once loved, but who became a factory, writing with others whom Dean didn’t like as well, and that colored his entire attitude toward that writer.

I got rid of over 100 romance novels because I either couldn’t remember them or they no longer spoke to me. That still left me with a rather large collection. Every time I look at them, I feel inspired, which is why they’re still in my life.

The hardest thing, though, the saddest thing, to me anyway, are the writers whose work just stops. Not because Dean or I got tired of reading them or the writer veered into territory we weren’t interested in. But because something got in the way of the writing.

We discussed one writer recently who was badly—and I mean badly—treated by Bantam Books. That highly acclaimed writer hasn’t written anything that I know of in the past five years or more. They could still sell books traditionally to a smaller company than before. They also have a wide open short story market. But I’m pretty sure that what happened at Bantam, which isn’t something I’m able to discuss, literally broke their spirit.

And, as an older writer, they didn’t feel like they could pivot into a world of publishing that is strange to all of us.

That conversation with Dean, combined with sorting and refiling all the books, and a line in an article I read some time ago about Liz Phair combined into this post.

First, the little passing remark from a reviewer about the musician Liz Phair.

I was reading the July 2021 issue Entertainment Weekly. I turned to an article on Liz Phair’s newest album and realized I hadn’t thought of her for years. She’s not a personal favorite, so I was aware of her work, but not following it.

My sense of Liz Phair, really? was an accurate one, though, because, it turns out the new album, Soberish, is her first in eleven years. She hasn’t been idle. She wrote a book, wrote for television, and did a variety of other things.

But she hadn’t produced an album in quite a while.

In the middle of the article, there’s this analysis:

Phair recorded the new album with Brad Wood, the engineer and producer who helped bring her ’90s albums to life. Their pairing is even more ideal three decades out; they’re not afraid to take chances, like starting a big comeback album on an uncertain note, as Soberish does when Phair asks “Is something wrong?”

The part that struck me is this: they’re not afraid to take chances. And, the reviewer, Maura Johnston, seems to believe this is because they’re not afraid because they’ve been in the business for a long time.

That might be true. It might not.

Because what I see from writers who’ve been in the business for a very, very long time is a lot of fear. 

. . . .

When you get burned the way that the Bantam writer above got burned, the natural human response is to try to prevent that from ever happening again. Some writers prevent that by refusing to work with that company or editor, or these days, by publishing indie.

Others stop writing altogether to prevent that kind of problem.

And then there are the writers who are on the flip side of the badly burned problem. Sure, they’ve had serious and frightening setbacks, but they’ve also had so much success that they’re afraid to mess with it.

The phrase we use in our house is that they’re “protecting their lead.” I learned it from Dean, and he initially used it to talk about tournament golf (which he used to play). A lot of players end up in the lead after 3 days of play because they were playing loose or freely. And then, they wake up on the final morning and become cautious.

They’re protecting their lead, and it often leads to failure, because golf courses, like life sometimes, require a certain style of play. If you change your style of play midstream, you’ll probably tamper with your success.

The writers who protect their lead write the same thing over and over and over again. They read their reviews, know what’s expected of them, and try to deliver it. I just read a book like that from a writer whose work I used to love.

Lately, his work has shown the tendency to write what he’s known for, which is (in some circles) twists and plot surprises. Those things only work when you’re not expecting them, and he’s been putting them into his stories like tinsel on a badly decorated Christmas tree. I hope he gets past it, I do, but I suspect he’s afraid of losing his success, so he’s trying to replicate it, rather than let the stories flow the way they want to.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

How Writers Fail (Part One)

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I keep forgetting that working in the arts requires a very specific sort of attitude. It’s an attitude that can be trained, but to do that, an artist must want to change. This is a complex and sometimes difficult thing to do.

First, the attitude itself.

It’s a combination of optimism and pragmatism, with a bit of cynicism mixed in. Yeah, I know, confusing. So let me give you the example that sparked this small series of blog posts.

Moving to Las Vegas four years ago now enabled me to get in touch with dozens of artists in very different fields. I haven’t had that experience on a daily basis since I left Wisconsin mumble-mumble years ago. When I lived in small-town Oregon, going to conferences and conventions provided some of the contact, and the openness of the internet both helps and hurts, but nothing replaces an in-person experience, particularly with other art besides writing.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been taking a series of classes. Some of them are in disciplines that I wasn’t able to practice due to that West Coast move, although I kept my hand in through online study. Some I simply needed to do in person for me, to get the feedback that comes from an audience and/or from an onsite instructor.

. . . .

But, about a week ago as I write this, I sat in the first class of a discipline that has changed a lot in the past forty years, due to the internet and the connectivity of the world. I’m being deliberately vague about the discipline for a variety of reasons, not the least is that I don’t want a bunch of people (on Facebook or here on the blog) asking me why I’m abandoning writing.

I’m not. I’m just reviving some other parts of myself.

. . . .

What type of class we’re dealing with isn’t exactly relevant to the story. I was sitting next to another person who desperately wants a career in the arts. That person had confessed as much to me.

We sat through the same presentation. We learned a whole bunch of really cool stuff. By the end of it, my internal optimist saw so many opportunities that had I not already chosen a writing career, I’d have been jumping on all of those opportunities. As it is, I’m looking at how to use what I learned just in the first class in my own writing career. (You’ll see posts about this scattered throughout what I’m doing the next few months, as I learn more.)

I was so excited. I’m still excited. The entire class made me realize I had felt this way when the indie publishing movement started—the whole popcorn kittens feeling. That feeling is essentially so many cool ideas that it’s almost impossible to corral all of them.

. . . .

So many opportunities! So much choice! How can I best use all of this to the advantage of my various businesses? How can I add more without losing something that I want to do?

After the class was over, I turned to the person beside me.

“Wow, this is incredible,” I said. “I hadn’t realized there were so many possibilities.”

The person made a sour face. “I don’t believe any of it,” the person said. “They’re going to have to prove to me that these opportunities exist.”

Prove? Heck, it was obvious to anyone who looked. It was obvious through just by going through daily life. And the class itself was obvious: It was being offered by people who worked in that discipline. If there weren’t opportunities, there would be no class.

Instead, if the opportunities did not exist, those who had the expertise would jealously guard that expertise so no one else could even attempt to participate. That’s how doors close, particularly in the arts. You have to break them down or sneak in sideways or be even better than anyone already practicing that art.

That was how traditional publishing was back when I first broke in. It took work, perseverance, and a willingness to ignore the word no over and over and over again.

. . . .

So, I said, in response to this person, “Prove it? What do you mean? It’s obvious.” (And sometimes I’m oblivious.)

The person said, “[this particular discipline] has never been open, not when I first tried it years ago. I doubt it’s open now.”

We’d just sat through a long presentation about all of the opportunities, and the instructor even talked about the way this discipline was once the most difficult to break into in the country and is no longer.

I opened my mouth, closed it, and finally got a clue. This person did not want to hear that they had just walked into a place with a lot of opportunity.

I said something polite (God knows what) and turned away to talk to another person who wanted to reinvent themselves because they’d lost their job in the pandemic. That person was very excited, as was an artist in another discipline who joined the conversation. That artist was trying to figure out—as I was—how to blend what we had just learned with what we were already doing.

We didn’t see dollar signs: we saw opportunity.

The first person? Opportunity had just given them an hours-long presentation, and that person turned their back on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that person does not show up to any future classes.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.


From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

For more than a decade, writers have asked me what they can do to sell their existing books. I always tell them to write the next book. Some writers don’t have time for promotion. Others don’t have the constitution for it.

. . . .

The one thing that will sell your next book is the ending of the current book.

If your book ends well, leaving the reader satisfied, then they’ll want to repeat the experience with your next book. If your ending falls flat, then some readers won’t care about your next book. If your ending is truly awful, the readers will avoid your next book completely.

What made me think of this was a movie that Dean and I watched on Amazon Prime. The movie is called Parallel. We knew nothing about it before we watched it, except for the bit of advertising copy. The movie’s about multiverses, which we both love, and it looked promising.

When we watch something together, we have a rule: either one can veto the movie at any point in the movie. We figured this one would be an early veto. Instead, it was a good way to spend an hour-plus. The script was tight, the characters—though unlikeable—were well drawn. There were some quibbles (no way could those bodies have been disposed of easily), but they were minor.

The movie hummed along. It even had the perfect ending. I was enjoying it…and then some idiot tacked on a scene with a minute and a half left.

That scene ruined the movie. I have since looked at reviews, and everyone calls the ending a jumbled mess. Yeah. It is. But had the movie ended a minute and a half earlier, it would have been just fine.

Here’s what the ending did wrong:

  1. It introduced new information that contradicted the information in the movie.
  2. It threw in a plot twist that literally made no sense.
  3. It was pointless and emotionally flat.
  4. It did not match the tone of the rest of the movie.
  5. It raised questions that could not be answered.

What that last scene was going for was a gotcha! sequence that you often see in horror films. You think everything is fine, and then—nope—there are little plants growing in suburbia (as in Little Shop of Horrors) or a hand rises out of the grave (as in Carrie).

But Parallel, for all its terrifying moments, isn’t a horror film. It’s a science fiction film. It even tells you that midway through by quoting Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein.

The gotcha! ending doesn’t work in a science fiction film. The movie needs to be about the ideas and the characters, which it was, until 90 seconds before the end.

. . . .

Endings are really important. They have to be done right or the reader/viewer is going to be turned off completely.

What does “right” mean?

It means offering an emotionally satisfying ending, one that says “The story is over, and here’s the emotion you’re left with.” Sure, we all know that the couple in a romance will marry, have kids, fight before bedtime, and occasionally storm through the house. But they’ll still be together at the very end. They’ll probably die on the same day around their 100th birthday, hands clasped and declaring their love for each other in whispery voices ravaged by time.

The mystery ending will put order on chaos. Not every mystery ends with the killer behind bars, but at least we know who done it. And we know what the repercussions are.

. . . .

The real key to all fiction is an emotionally satisfying ending, one that ends, and does not leave things hanging. You certainly can’t introduce new ideas in your last chapter that changes or contradicts what has come before.

If you are going to change or contradict what has come before, you must set the seeds for that earlier. Little teeny hints of things not being as they seem.

And if you kill your protagonist, well, we need to know that on page 1, paragraph one, or even in the title.

“On the day that Devon died, he discovered the secret of the universe….”

Usually readers forget that you told them Devon would die, but when they get to it, they go “oh, yeah” and are okay with it. If you have Devon discover the secret of the universe and then hit by a bus without any warning at all, no one will read your next book. It’s that simple.

So the conundrum comes when you’re writing a series or linked stories. Most writers opt for the stupidest and least effective way of handling it.

They just end the action, with nothing resolved.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Focus Again

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The other challenge I gave myself in 2021 was to work on the Fey. I had blamed traditional publishing for the fact that the next series didn’t exist and while that was true, it’s not the whole story.

I have a lot of baggage on that series. A lot. All the bad things that can happen in traditional publishing happened to me on those books.

. . . .

An editor rewrote me horribly, and did some of the work without my permission to make chapters shorter. So the rereads were traumatizing. I did them by hand, so I had to put in the corrections and restore what I could (because some of the original files were lost). I stalled out.

But I kept writing on the Fey project. Since I write out of order, it took me most of the year to realize I was writing outlines for the next several books. I’d write maybe 100 pages of the book and then outline. I’m good at writing something that seems like fiction, but really isn’t.

That’s what I was doing.

I finally sorted out that mess, but the story just wasn’t flowing. I blamed the pandemic. Then I found the novella at the heart of everything, figuring that would solve the problem. Nope.

. . . .

Until one morning, I woke up and realized I needed to schedule my writing year. I hadn’t over-scheduled my writing year in maybe ten years. First, I was so sick that I didn’t dare. (I underscheduled then.) Then, I stopped trying to schedule at all. (Nearly died, so was focused on just finishing words.) Then we moved (always disruptive). I got better…and the damn pandemic hit and ate my brain.

So figuring out the schedule made Dean happy. (“You’re back!” he said. Yeah, maybe he’s right.)

But it also made my subconscious happy.

What does figuring out the schedule mean? It means I had to figure out what I was writing when. Then I had to figure out a realistic word count for the week/day. Then I had to do math to figure out when I would finish Project #1 and so on and so forth.

I know myself well enough to know that I can’t write the same subgenre for each and every project. So I had to switch off.

I outlined it all…and I not only mentally relaxed, the stories started flowing. I was able to get lost in them. I would wake up and there, in my brain, was the solution to some problem I hadn’t even realized I had in the book(s).

I’m excited about writing again.

I think this is because I believe I have a future. Or we have a future. Or as much of a future as the human race always has, subject to the whims of crazy leaders and stupid viruses and personal emergencies (note the word personal, not a worldwide emergency like we’ve been living in).

It’s not normal. As some grumpy pundit said about the whole returning to normal movement: there was no normal before the pandemic. There was just what we were used to.

My brain has transitioned into a world filled with Covid and other problems. I feel less of a need to be hypervigilant about the world around me, and I’m able to escape into a world I invent.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

The Final Brandon Sanderson Post

From Kristine Kathryn Ruch:

Well, Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter is one for the record books. It became the highest grossing Kickstarter about a month before his Kickstarter closed. And then it continued to make money, finally ending at $41.7 million.

Brandon himself estimates that when this is all said and done, and every one of 185,341 backers have received their books and swag, he will get roughly a high-end novel advance for each book. That’s disingenuous, though, because these orders on Kickstarter are pre-orders.

I have no idea how many of his readers didn’t want to spend money on Kickstarter or lived under a rock somewhere and somehow didn’t hear about the Kickstarter. Those folks will buy the books in a bookstore, either online or brick-and-mortar. Libraries haven’t picked up their copies yet, and to my knowledge, no foreign sales have been made yet either.

The earnings potential for these books has just started, and they technically aren’t published yet. (I dealt with that in my first post, oh so long ago, on this Kickstarter.) One more thing about the way that Brandon will earn money on these books: the publicity for this Kickstarter alone is the kind that money can’t buy. He’s been all over TV and the financial media, talking about the Kickstarter.

Of course, this has sparked a heck of a backlash, particularly from those who work or have worked in traditional publishing. Some regular readers of this blog made me laugh out loud with their private letters, telling me that Brandon won’t know what hit him at tax time and that this is actually bad news for writers because it gets their hopes up.

I dealt with a lot of the jealousy and the willful blindness in this post, but let me simply say this: Brandon knows business, and I’m sure he’s aware of the tax consequences. I’m also certain that he has advisers who will help him through the financial maze ahead of him, especially considering he’s done this before (albeit on a much smaller scale).

The jealousy, the back-biting, and the fear from traditional publishing folks was to be expected, I suppose. A lot of people don’t want to see success.

And as I predicted at the beginning of March, the bulk of the argument against (against!) this Kickstarter is that Brandon is a unicorn.

But he’s not. Any writer who wants to spend the time cultivating their fanbase can grow a huge Kickstarter. Brandon put a lot of time and effort into his. He does things that I know I could do, and over the years I have actively chosen not to. Not because I disapprove, but because I know who I am and how I work best.

That’s what writers do.

But let’s move past the pettiness and the stupidity to something much more important.

The fact that, no matter what the trad pub folk want to believe, this is a game-changer.

I’m writing this in early April. A few days ago, I read a thread on Facebook filled with my trad pub pals—some writers, some former editors, at least one publisher, and to a person they agreed that no other writer will ever have success at Kickstarter. Ever, ever, ever. It’s sad too, because (these folks said) now writers will become even more disillusioned than before.

Here’s the thing: as is often the case with traditional publishing, these folks were going with their gut and not looking at the facts.

Because as they were pontificating, writers were making more than their usual novel advances on Kickstarter.

Kevin J. Anderson made $46,000 for the next book in his Dan Shamble series. The series, which he is now doing indie, originally started in a New York house. He never made that much as an advance on any of the Dan Shamble books. Kevin was doing it for the love. And as with Brandon, the earnings have just started.

Christina F. York set a modest goal for her Christy Fifield mystery novel and as of this writing it looks like she will triple it. She was dipping a toe into Kickstarter with an already finished (but unpublished) book, and has been surprised and pleased at the response.

Over two Kickstarters, which we conduct through WMG Publishing, we’ve made $54,000 so far in 2022—at least according to the front-facing data. We made so much more, through other means that the Kickstarter (um) kickstarted.

. . . .

A quick search of the publishing category on Kickstarter, sorted for active campaigns, showed me book projects that have funded and brought in (so far) anywhere from $50,000 to $500. The bulk of these are in the $10,000 category per novel…which is, roughly, what any new writer can expect from traditional publishing these days.

Of course, if the writer goes traditional, their advance will be split into (at minimum) three payments. I also have to assume that anyone who is going traditional also has a book agent, and they’re paying that person 15%. So, instead of getting the money up front, these traditionally published writers are getting 85% split into payments scattered over a year or more.

. . . .

What it means is that he is teaching his backers to look through Kickstarter as another way to discover books.

That’s 185,000 people who now know that they can find good books on Kickstarter. Often, those people can get the books early or at a discount or both.

Not all of those 185,000 people will ever back a Kickstarter again. Some of them will only back Brandon’s Kickstarters. But there’s a goodly percentage who will now browse Kickstarter as a way to discover new books.

The fun thing about Kickstarter is that it’s a great way to gauge reader interest in a project. We did so with Fiction River ten years ago. I was sorta kinda doing it with the Fey. I was wondering if readers even remembered the books, since they had been published so long ago.

We got a great response.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Business Musings: Copyright Fun Part 3

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Let’s talk money for a minute, because really, copyright and copyright licensing translates into money, if you do it correctly. Copyright is one of those lovely assets that will continue earning for writers if the writers manage the copyright correctly.

A short story can become a novel (more money, different licenses), sell in foreign editions (more money, different licenses), become an audio book (more money, different licenses), be reprinted in anthologies (more money, different licenses), become an hour-long TV special (more money, different licenses), become a TV series (more money, different licenses), become a movie (more money, different licenses), become a video game (more money, different licenses), become a board game…

Well, you get the idea. And the writer really doesn’t have to do any more writing after finishing that short story. Everything I mentioned above is licensing little snippets of copyright. Once writers start understanding that, then they can manage their assets for the rest of their life…and beyond.

. . . .

One thing we all know, because we read books and watch TV, is that lots of money makes people crazy—both in fiction and in real life. Financial expectations, even in the smallest instances, can cause some people to become homicidal when those expectations go awry. That’s the basis for entire subgenres of mystery fiction.

In real life, few people kill over financial matters. Most people go to court, and those court cases drag on for years.

As an example that hits the publishing industry, let’s take a look at the big shocker that happened to the supposed heirs of Scholastic Corporation in June of 2021.

For context, Scholastic Corporation grew from a magazine published in the 1920s to a $1.2 billion dollar corporation with most of its revenue still in publishing. Scholastic has had amazing success over the years. They publish Clifford: The Big Red Dog, Captain Underpants, The Hunger Games, and…oh…some little series called Harry Potter. Their contracts, while not draconian, aren’t really writer-friendly either, so all of that merchandising you see for most of the big series that Scholastic publishes? Yeah, that money mostly goes to Scholastic, not to the writers.

Scholastic has done some great things for literacy and for children’s literacy in particular. It also has worked with schools for more than fifty years to make sure that kids get books to read. I still remember Scholastic Day at my school, and I looked forward to it.

Corporations aren’t really soulless things. People exist behind the corporation. And in this case, Scholastic was a family business. That little magazine was started by Maurice R. Robinson. His son, M. Richard Robinson Junior took over the company as CEO in 1975, and ran it until 2021…when he died suddenly while on a walk with one of his sons.

Richard Robinson was 84 years old, so there’s sudden and then there’s well…not as sudden so much as unexpected right now. He did have a will, however, and rather than leaving his estate and his interest in Scholastic Corporation to his sons, he left everything to his girlfriend.

The will wasn’t new though; it was executed in 2018.

Let’s ignore the family drama part of this—that all of his belongings and such and his personal $100 million fortune went to his girlfriend. The real interest are the Class A voting stocks in Scholastic Corporation. Robinson owned 53% of those stocks, which meant that he had a majority on the board of directors. He could outvote all of them, and now his girlfriend can.

This isn’t as random as it sounds. She is Iole Lucchese, the chair of Scholastic’s board,  as well as executive vice president and president of Scholastic Entertainment. In other words, she knows business and she knows the company very, very, very well.

The adult sons are contesting the will. Neither of them works in the family business. At a quick glance, it doesn’t seem like either of them ever did.

As a number of experts have said in the various articles about this battle, companies are difficult to run when the ownership of the company is under dispute. And these cases can drag on for years.

. . . .

Music copyrights are extremely complicated. Some portions of them are regulated by U.S. law, including royalties and percentages that must be paid to the songwriters by cover artists. Music copyrights fall into several categories, which make my head hurt when I think about managing them, even as a low-level musical artist. I’m not going to try to explain them here.

Just put a pin in complicated.

I’ve done a lot of work with the heirs to writers’ estates. When the superagent Ralph Vicinanza died suddenly and his sister initially handled the estate, a bunch of writer heirs—who had been relying on Ralph to handle all things writing and publishing related—contacted me. I couldn’t say anything bad about Ralph at the time (except to hang up or walk away from my email cursing the contracts he had gotten them all into, contracts that benefited him more than the writers), so I listened.

And realized that these people, who were farmers and professors and stay-at-home parents, had no idea how the publishing industry worked and worse, had no real interest in learning it.

They just wanted Mommy or Daddy’s royalties, which to them were like a stock annuity, an income they could rely on so they could continue living their lives.

Publishing contracts and licensing agreements for novels and short stories are so easy compared to music industry contracts, copyrights, and licensing agreements, the differences are like this: Publishing is arithmetic; music is calculus.

. . . .

Cashing in is a really good idea for older musicians (and even some younger ones: John Legend has sold his copyrights for music he composed between 2004 and 2021.   Legend is 43 years old, and presumably has decades of composing and recording ahead of him. None of those rights in future compositions were sold.

John Legend makes money on more than his music. As Bloomberg helpfully explained,

Dubbed “Music Mogul of the Year” by Variety in 2020, Legend … has gone on to expand into other areas of the entertainment field, in part through the founding of a production studio that’s created shows for Netflix Inc. and ABC. Variety estimates that Legend, born John Roger Stephens before adopting his stage name, takes in between $50 million and $100 million annually from his various enterprises, including LVE, his Napa Valley wine brand. 

Legend made a business transaction. I’ll wager he and his advisors are thinking that the payments for music catalogs will go down by the time he’s Paul Simon’s age. Better to cash in now.

This is how you leverage copyright. What these musicians—these business people—are doing. They’re looking at the value of their complicated music catalogs to them over the next ten to twenty years or the value to others. Given the estate benefits as well, these deals will (with luck) protect their legacy in this way:

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Copyright Fun Part 2

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

What I want all of you blog readers to do is to think about possibilities. The possibilities exist on two fronts:

  1. What can you do before signing a contract to protect yourself and your copyright?


  1. What can you do after you signed a (bad) contract to protect yourself and your copyright?

Copyright law is a constantly changing beast, particularly here in the U.S. How we make money, as artists, is through the licensing of our copyright, not by “selling” our books. If you don’t understand copyright, guaranteed you will get screwed, maybe many times, throughout your writing career. This is why I recommend that writers buy The Copyright Handbook and read it.

I would also suggest that you learn to become a copyright geek, like Dean and I are, excited about the things you learn about copyright each and every year. Take a look at Part One of this series to see some ways to make your copyrights work for you.

This post, and the other two in this limited series, come from the copyright coolness that occurred in 2021. I was going to put this information in my year in review, but there’s simply too much of it. (If you want to read the year in review, start here.)

Copyright law in the United States comes from our founding document, the Constitution of the United States. Lawmakers have made significant changes to that original law throughout our history. Some of the changes are major. Others are minor until they’re used properly (or improperly) by someone.

We’re going to step outside of the book writing sphere to examine a few cases that have sent shivers through the spines of major corporations in 2021.

First, let’s talk about current law. The Copyright Act of 1976 gave creators the ability to reclaim their copyright, lost to a contract or some kind of agreement, 35 years after the agreement was signed.

This 35-year rule, as some call it, nearly upended the music industry as creator after creator tried to reclaim their copyrights from the music industry’s egregious contracts. Some major players in the industry stood to lose entire catalogs of works from artists like Billy Joel.

There were a lot of speculative articles written about 10 years ago, talking about the death of the larger music industry because of this. That was before the industry fought back, with all kinds of expensive lawsuits. The fight ended up being major, especially for artists who did not have the financial (or emotional) wherewithal to handle protracted litigation.

Billy Joel lost his case. Duran Duran lost theirs in 2016 and it made major international news, because the courts held that the British contract governed their copyrights, not the U.S. contracts.

After a bunch of high profile cases, the lawsuits went underground. No company wanted to be known as a company that would allow artists to reclaim their rights. So there are non-disclosures involved with artists who have sued and won, and no major press releases for artists who sued and lost.

(I went deep down a copyright rabbit hole as I was looking at these, and found a bunch of fascinating cases, including one between Cher and Mary Bono, Sonny Bono’s widow. Mary Bono is trying to use the copyright termination to stop paying Cher 50% of the Sonny and Cher royalties. It’s a complicated and probably bitter mess, and one worth keeping an eye on.)

Other industries have either fearfully watched the music industry grapple with this or chuckled behind their hands as they saw the lawsuits going by. But, they shouldn’t have chuckled, because they’re facing some serious issues on their own.

Under U.S. law, there’s a difference between works made for hire, and works that are independently created. Both can become, say, the basis of a movie or a comic book, but the question becomes who owns the copyright to the work.

A work made for hire is owned by the person who employed a writer to create the work. The word “employed” is essential here, and has specific definitions under copyright law.

Quite frankly, some of the book work that Dean and I did in the 1990s does not meet the standard for work-made-for-hire, even though the contract said the books we created were work for hire. That would take a lawsuit to settle, and there’s not enough money in that.

Some of the other books we did as work for hire (which we’ll now discuss as wfh) did fall under that definition.

Works made for hire do not (generally) fall under the 35-year rule, because the writer never owned the copyright in the first place. The writer was playing in someone else’s universe, under the guidance of the universe’s owner (or one of their employees).

But, wfh is not always easy to determine. And sometimes, big corporations just claimed product was wfh when it was not.

With that in mind…

In September of 2021, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case concerning the Friday The 13th franchise based on both the termination clause and California labor law. The 2nd Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision that the screenplay that Victor Miller wrote was not work for hire.

The decision had to delve into the various ways that employment was defined in California, not just the way it was defined under copyright law. In other words, the court had to determine whether or not Miller was an independent contractor when he wrote the screenplay.

If he was, then he could reclaim his rights to that screenplay.

The 2nd Circuit determined that Miller was an independent contractor. He could reclaim the rights to the Friday the 13th screenplay and the way that screenplay was used under U.S. law.

What does this mean? Well, for the franchise, it’s a scary moment (pun intended). Because he could pull their right to use that screenplay, which means they might not be able to distribute the movie any longer.

It’s doubtful that will happen, for a variety of reasons, most of them financial. As The Hollywood Reporter wrote in its coverage of the case:

And there’s still reason for settlement given that the producer retains (nonexclusive) foreign rights as well as intellectual property derived from Friday the 13th sequels, including maybe the monstrous “Jason” character that showed up later in the franchise

In other words, if there is no settlement, then someone would have to figure out how to keep the movies out there, how to handle the foreign rights that probably do not belong to Miller (or maybe that’s a separate lawsuit) and how to handle all the derivative rights to characters, merchandise, sequels and more.

I couldn’t find much on the state of the case at the moment I write this. I’d be surprised if the Friday the 13th franchise lawyers fail to settle this.

I actually hope they do settle, because that’s the best way to handle something this complicated. But the settlement will benefit Miller, because he’ll be asking for a new (and probably much bigger) payday for his 40-year-old work on the franchise.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

As regular visitors to TPV know, PG usually doesn’t include the links in the OP from which he excerpts his posts here. PG has followed this practice for many years for a couple of reasons:

  1. He would like it if his excerpts sent visitors to the location of the original post if the excerpts tweak their curiosity. PG has received more than a few emails over the life of TPV that say something like, “I couldn’t figure out why my blog traffic went crazy until I learned that you linked to a post I made there. Thanks!”
  2. He works to to be confident that his excerpts will fall under the Fair Use provisions of the United States copyright laws and similar laws in other nations.

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Exclusivity in 2022 Part Two

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I’ve owned a lot of businesses. I have some ethical issues that do not benefit me as a business owner. There are business practices that I do not like that, if I did them, would make me a lot more money than I am making right now.

Those practices are stupidly easy to do. They rely on the gullible side of human nature. People want to believe that the other people they’re doing business with are good-hearted and have their best interests in mind. Many business people do not have other people’s interest in mind. They only consider their interest.

So let’s look at exclusivity through that prism.

As a business model for a publishing or related industry, exclusivity makes complete sense. The more a business can bind an author to that business, the better off that business will be, particularly if the author is famous.

The problem with publishing businesses is that they don’t create anything. They buy other people’s creations and then put those creations in a form that can be distributed. Generally speaking, a writer or an artist who licenses their work to a publishing company is relying on that publishing company’s expertise in design, marketing, and distribution to get that book/project/writer out to as many readers as possible.

This is the deal writers make with traditional publishers. With the Big Five, and others that operate just like them, the writers have been brainwashed into believing those companies are the only route to distribution. And they were once, but ironically, they licensed fewer parts of the copyright in those days…when a writer, by necessity, had to be exclusive.

Now, though, there’s indie publishing and a million other ways for a writer to maintain their rights and distribute their work, if the writer is willing to run their own business. Which means that distribution companies, publishing companies, streaming companies, and others must up their game if they want bestselling writers in their fold.

. . . .

As long-time readers of this blog know, the writing business is not linear. Fortunes rise and fall. They never really go down to their lowest level. The rise always results in a much higher floor than the writer had before, but the rise itself is never permanent.

So, at some point the most popular writer in Company A will be superseded by some other writer who will sell more or whose product is fresher or more attuned to the moment. The original popular writer will still be popular, just not the Flavor of the Month. And slowly, ever so slowly, the original popular writer will be neglected.

Company A will still benefit from original popular writer’s latest releases, but original popular writer will run into new problems.

And that’s charitable. Sometimes original popular writer will fall off a cliff.

First, let me give you an example from my own business. And then, I’m going to show you some other ways that permanent or superstar or long-term exclusive can go horribly wrong.

My example has to do with Audible. Fifteen years ago, Audible was not just new(ish), but it was the only real digital audio player in the game. Unless a writer had access to a recording studio—and had the chops to read a book—the writer couldn’t even record their own work, let alone distribute it.

I’d had some audio books—on tape—from some of the best companies in the business…whose business soon got subsumed or at least offered through Audible.

Audible came to me with a great deal. I got up-front money on all of my books including backlist (under Rusch only at first, and then Nelscott, but never Grayson). In addition, I got paid a hefty bounty for each book sold, a bounty that did not get counted against that advance money. I got royalties and a bounty, and all of that translated into tens of thousands, and in one case hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I had my eye on it, though, and I had voice training. I knew that Audible would eventually get real competitors. One of my main priorities in setting up WMG was setting up our own recording studio, and we did it just as ACX got started. I was going to run the recording studio, but I got sick. We hired an audio director who turned out to be horribly unsuited for the work. (My fault: I thought she could grow into it. I was wrong.)

Had we followed my lead at that time, we would have had a lot of WMG-produced high quality audio that we could still market now.

But I was sick, the audio program fell apart, and so I relied on the money that Audible provided through the equivalent of its superstar program.

Which no longer exists. They use other incentives now.

My editor at Audible moved, a new editor got hired and then fired. He was replaced by one of those corporate employees who comes in as some kind of hatchet man—someone who wipes out all trace of the previous employees. I can’t even get my new editor on the phone or contact him by email.

Needless to say, Audible and I have parted company on new work. The old work has pretty good contracts—I can get out of them at any time—but that would make my backlist unavailable in audio, something I’m not currently willing to do.

It’s a mess, and it’s one I need to clean up.

Audible asked for exclusive, I granted it, and now, fifteen years later, I have a major mess to clean up. Part of that mess are my audio fans. There are a lot of listeners who don’t have time to actually read a book, so they listen on their commutes or whatever. And all that reaching, growing, and developing will fall by the wayside if I don’t do something in the next few years.

Yes, it’s on my ever-growing to-do list.

Here’s the thing: I benefited from Audible’s superstar program back in the day, but I’m paying the price now.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and here’s a link to Part 1 of her two posts.

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

New Tools: Indie Publishing

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

A theme of this year in review has been the hard split between indie publishing and traditional publishing. That split became clear in the numbers in 2021. The industry is no longer one industry. It’s at least two, maybe more.

But for now, we’ll go with two—indie and traditional. And one thing that has always separated these two industries is their willingness to grow and change. Indies are willing to change; traditional publishers are not.

One reason is that indie writers, in particular, are nimble enough to try new things and not have those things wreck their businesses or their business plans. An indie writer can take a book and make it exclusive in a new service for six months, and learn something. A traditional publisher has to make a legal commitment and usually cannot leave whatever service they’ve joined for a particular amount of time.

That makes sampling new tech and new software very difficult.

Also, much of the new tech is designed for the nimble indie, not for the big bloated traditional publisher. Which is why the new tools section is part of the indie publishing section of my year in review.

Many of these new tools are useless to traditional publishers. Others are impossible to sample, because the licensing agreements (contracts) those publishers have with their authors did not envision the latest, newest grandest thing. (That “any new tech anywhere in the universe” clause usually doesn’t cut it.)

. . . .


Generally speaking, the bookstores that survived that initial pandemic shut down from March to mid-summer 2020 are leaner and a lot more tech savvy. These stores, for the most part, are run by younger people. The older bookstore owners retired in that tough period or sold their stores. A lot of stores closed, particularly used stores. (Which is the position that Las Vegas is in. We had three used bookstores before March of 2020, and none now.)

Again, generally speaking, the new younger booksellers are more open-minded, a lot more willing to use the internet for everything from ordering to shipping, and receptive to local authors, even those not traditionally published.

All the information I have on this is either anecdotal or from the mists of my summer business reading. The good news here, though, is that indies who have paper editions can probably get them into a local bookstore, if only for a short time, provided the books look good (so many indie-designed paper books do not, even with all the best tools in the world), and provided the indie is willing to work with the store.

. . . .

One other U.S. bookstore development features Barnes & Noble, a company that seems to me like a mash-up between the Black Knight from Monty Python and The Holy Grail (“I’m fine”) and another Holy Grail sequence (“Not Dead Yet”). Barnes & Noble’s CEO since 2019, James Daunt, used the 2020 bookstore closures to remodel and remake the stores.

Then he did something rather brilliant—he returned control of each store to the local managers. They are now stocking books that locals ask for and want, rather than relying on corporate for ordering. Relying on corporate for ordering allowed B&N in the bad old days to get deep discounts on books, but it also meant that each store looked the same no matter where you went. And if a local author’s books were not in the store, nothing anyone could do would get them there. A special order only brought in one copy.

That’s changed, for right now anyway. Anecdotal reports are that the bookstores look bright and clean and full. The content is different from store to store, which makes the stores interesting.

From a writer’s point of view, suddenly the local chain store might be willing to order copies of a good-selling ebook or of a local author’s work for their local author section (if they have one). Writers actually have a chance to get their books into a brick-and-mortar store, at least one near their home.

Does all of this mean that B&N will stick around? Hell if I know. I don’t know if their balance sheet is good or bad anymore or what the changes mean.

But for 2022, anyway, the outlook is bright for anyone who wants to get their books into a nearby B&N. For what it’s worth.


There are so many now that I can’t keep track. Companies here, there, and everywhere. Any indie who is not using tools like Draft2Digital to upload their books to very small e-retailers is missing an important cash stream. It seems that every time I go on D2D or, more often, use its referral arm, Books2Read, I see yet another store I haven’t heard of.

So the continual growth of e-retailers is something that has gone on for years now. But the biggest change on this front isn’t the retail companies. It’s the success of retail stores on individual author sites.

This is anecdotal, of course, because there’s no way to aggregate it. But the pandemic changed buying habits, introducing a lot of reluctant people to buying from sites other than the big retailers like Amazon and Walmart. That change in buying habits means that a lot of readers want to buy directly from the author.

So individual online bookstores went from being a silly waste of time to something that provides writers with their purest income—no one takes a percentage from their online store. The writers can control pricing, sales, and everything else.

It helps that online stores are easy to build now. There are a lot of tools that reduce the build to an easy upload, and a click or two. These programs also provide a secure checkout as well.

If you haven’t tried any of the online store programs for the past five years or so, then you’ll be surprised at how easy it all is for writer and consumer alike. I personally think this will be one of the major growth areas of 2022.

If there are only one or two things you can add to your plate this year, make designing and maintaining an online ebook store one of them.

Book Design Tools

Every few years or so there is a major improvement in indie book design. The last one I was aware of was the arrival of Vellum, a software program for Macs only. At first, Vellum was only for ebooks, and then it expanded to paper books. The Mac users swore by it, and I know that WMG changed a lot of its templates so that we could use Vellum, saving hours and hours of work on each book.

But, as I said above, Vellum is Mac-only. PC users bitched about that. There was a workaround—they could use Mac on cloud, but it had problems that made the workaround uncomfortable at best.

Now there’s Atticus, which works on all platforms, or so it says. The PC people are excited about it for that reason. But I’m also hearing that it’s a good design program.

Honestly, it really doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. Because next year, there will be another program, and two years from now, another. We’ve moved out of the stage where everyone who is publishing indie is using the same tools for the same work. We’re not even doing the same work—which is probably a topic for a future blog post.

As I’ve mentioned in this series, the longer we indies exist, the more companies try to cater to us. Or rather, to all of us in the arts. For a long time, Adobe offered the best platform to help with design and producing ebooks.

Other products either didn’t have the reach or the level of protocols. That’s changing. Affinity has become very competitive, and I know of several designers who prefer their ecosystem. I’m sure we will end up with more such tools as the decade progresses.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Calendars (A 2022 Anticipatory Process Blog)

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I realized this month that I have a weird form of pandemic PTSD. As those of you who regularly follow this weekly blog know, I order at least six paper calendars for the year ahead. In 2021, I added a calendar at Dean’s request that’s dedicated just to our runs. I also ordered an extra calendar when my usual exercise calendar (which I use for reading—go figure) kept getting delayed due to printing issues.

I’m usually extremely organized with my paper calendars. By this point in the year (and I’m writing this on December 20), I should have everything that I have scheduled for 2022 logged into the paper calendars.

Right now, I have many things that I know about for 2022 logged into the computer calendar. I’m anal about that thing, with its reminders and its messages and its notifications. If I schedule something, I log it into the computer that day.

However, I said “many” because I haven’t yet logged in my class dates and times. Which I just realized as I’ve been writing this post.

I’m really reluctant to look at my schedule for 2022.

For this one, I blame 2021. I filled out my 2021 calendar at this point in 2020. I was excited about the vaccines coming, excited that we might return to in-person everything in 2021, excited about having a sane president. I was hoping that we would be able to put the increasing insanity of the previous five years behind us.

I wrote a really upbeat blog about it, coming into 2021, which, if I remember correctly, went live…on January 6

. . . .

I’d get my feet under me only to be swept away by something that I truly did not expect. I probably could have foreseen all of it if I were willing to acknowledge how dumb some people are, how gullible other people are, and how venal a whole lot of people are. But I try to be optimistic about the human spirit. I really do.

. . . .

I went forward, sometimes with great disappointment. Sometimes with a shake of the head. And sometimes with complete stubborn determination.

I was just about to type that for me, personally, 2021 wasn’t a bad year. And then the back of my brain started listing the dead friends and family members who had been alive at this point last year, the sudden move, the continually changing exterior landscape and, yeah. 2021 was…well, it wasn’t the worst year of my life. Not even close. But I can’t say it wasn’t bad.

Dean and I survived just fine, but I do feel like we’re living in a rubble-filled crater from the year, trying to make the best of the times ahead.

. . . .

I did not realize the toll that 2021 took on my scheduler brain. Realize that I schedule everything. 2020—once we got through March or so—did not have this kind of impact. Everything was canceled or we expected it to be canceled, but that was not the case in 2021.

I thought things would be on. Not much would be canceled. Lots got canceled, even now at the end of the year due to Omicron. (Dammit.)

My calendars are a scribbled mess of changes.

As I typed that section in my blog about school, I realized what my hesitation was. In August, I signed up for the Entertainment Law class ahead of my planned schedule on taking it because the class would be in-person. A different class, one I need to take and had signed up for, went from in person to online, so I bailed.

Online learning has its place, but a lot of in-person teachers suck at it. I had a prof in 2020 who was a great raconteur in person. We moved to online in March…and he just drily narrated his notes. Clearly, he needed an audience.

If I’m going to pay a lot for school online, I’ll seek out people who can teach well online, not people who are doing their best poorly.

So I canceled out of a class and took EL, which ended up being a great decision, except that my Thursdays became nightmarishly long. I don’t want to do that again.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

From Kristine Kathryn Ru sch:

I’m doing a lot of things here in Las Vegas that I only dreamed of doing when I lived in Oregon, especially small town Oregon. Sometimes I think I rolled myself into a little ball and cut out everything else. Some of that was health-related, some of it was the demanding job, but some of it was opportunity.

Not that I took advantage of a lot of opportunities when I had them.

Bear with me on this, particularly those of you who have read the blog for a long time.

The word “audition” used to scare the ever-living hell out of me. I won a lot of awards for singing, music, and performance when I was a child and as a teenager. I also modeled. I fell into it as a child because the photographer of the local newspaper wanted to date my older sister. She was one of those popular girls who treated her boyfriends like crap.

My mother used to assign her to babysit me, probably thinking it would keep her out of trouble. Instead, my sister used to pass me off on the wanna-be boyfriends, particularly the photographer. I was in the paper a lot.

Then she married, my parents and I moved to Wisconsin, and my mother still found a way for me to get photographed for the paper. I did a ton of artsy fartsy things, except actual drawing, which I sucked at. I competed a lot, but I never had to audition, until high school.

I don’t remember most of my auditions, but the last one—the very last one—sticks in my mind. I auditioned for Fiddler on the Roof. I was scared to death, and the music stuck in my throat. When it became clear to me that I couldn’t sing in tune at that moment, I apologized to the co-director.

“I go out of tune when I’m nervous,” I said.

She looked at me over the top of the piano. “Well, you’ll be nervous on opening night, won’t you?”

It was like an arrow to the heart. And that was it. I saw everything through that prism from that moment forward. If I was nervous, I would screw up.

What I didn’t see was this: I had blown the audition badly and I still got a singing part. (One of the two youngest daughters, Shprintze.) What I considered bad wasn’t awful. It just wasn’t good enough for a lead role.

I had no one to tell me these things. I had a perfectionist mother who believed one missed word, one missed note, ruined everything. So I decided to avoid anything that required auditioning…although I found ways around it.

I was in radio. I got my first job as a writer of copy, and eventually, I learned engineering and because we were short-handed, I went on the air a lot.

I had married another theater geek, and I had dreams of heading to New York. He would perform and I would write. That got tanked when he quit drama school after he had been chosen to work at a start-up theater (which later won a Tony). He “didn’t like the pay.”

. . . .

[Kris took a voice-over class.]

Seventy-five percent of the class was performance, sprinkled with a lot of learning about all the kinds of existing voiceover work. There’s an engineering course that I will take later in the year, if I can sign up (it fills fast), and there’s a lot more to learn.

Because I didn’t care about whether or not I was the best or even “good enough,” I tried all kinds of things. I had fun and I was eager to get in the booth and try something hard.

It knocked the rust off my radio skills, and reminded me how much I loved voice work. I had tried to revive some voice work back in Oregon, but I hadn’t felt comfortable, considering how much had changed.

And a lot had changed, but the fundamentals remained the same. One voice, one microphone, some engineering work, and ¡voila! a product. I had forgotten that.

So, while I was enmeshed with trying to work out which classes to take next, the VO studio sent an email about moving forward, and in it, had this quote:

Comparison is the thief of joy.

They sent it because students who finish that first class usually become a group who take other classes together. As in all of the arts, a group that starts from the same place does not stay in the same place. Some have early success. Some quit. Some work forever to make small gains. And some eventually become the solid folks in their field.

I’m not planning to become a major voice-over artist. I have a job. But I want to do a few things, and I want the skills (and the contacts) to hire the right people for the jobs I have.

Still, I stared at that comparison quote for a long time, and it got me thinking.

The writers I’ve been around, particularly those with some success, often compare themselves to others like this:

I’m more talented than XYZ Bestselling writer. How come he has all the luck?

And then they try to explain it to themselves, often with a result like this:

Oh, he’s successful because he dumbs his work down for the masses.

Or, he’s successful because he’s writing something trendy.

Or, he’s successful because he does more advertising than I do.

Or, he’s successful because he sucks up to everyone in power (in traditional publishing).

He’s never successful because of his abilities—not to that person. Not that it matters, either. In the arts, comparing two artists isn’t fair. They’re different. They’re on different paths.

Which was the point of the quote the VO studio sent.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Supply Chain Woes…Traditional, Indie, And More

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

This morning, a regular reader of my blog forwarded a tweet to me from a bookseller and writer about supply chain issues for books. He then suggested I blog about those issues.

I had planned to, but I had a vague hope that they would improve. The bookseller’s tweet disabused me of that notion.

The tweet is below. Read the thread, and note that she does have a book coming out. In fact, I had initially thought she was a writer, not a bookseller and this had happened to her. (That’s what I get for reading things early in the morning.)

Well, it had happened to her, but her as a bookseller, not her as in her current release.  Here’s the link to the tweet.

For those of you who won’t bother to read the thread, she goes on to say that this is extreme red alert territory, because the book comes from Random House. Others chimed in with knowledge about other books going through similar issues or the way that they’re dealing with this.

I know some of you live under rocks and/or have decided not to pay attention to anything right now (and boy, do I relate), but surely even you all have noted the supply chain issues.

Your favorite grocery store doesn’t stock the same things it used to. My cats’ usual cat food has been discontinued (after years) because it includes some kind of tuna that’s no longer available. (Every supplier I know suggests I get them chicken, but Cheeps loathes chicken. I know. He’s not really a cat.) Fortunately for the cats, I found a variety pack of other food that they like better (even though that has supply issues as well), so all’s well that ends well there.

But half of what I usually buy, whether in person or online, has had some kind of delay due to some missing part. In 2020, we bought a new living room set, and that included 2 ottomans. The couch and loveseat were in stock, but the ottomans weren’t. It took four months for those to be delivered.

So, when we bought another new furniture set because of the move, we instructed the poor sales person to show us only items that they had in their warehouse. That took forever, because most sets had only one or two items in the warehouse, not everything.

We also somewhat optimistically partnered with another company on a game for a 2020 Diving Kickstarter. The game manufacturer went to China for his product, which hadn’t been a problem in the past. Then…well, you know. After a year, we will be refunding the game money. We’ll do the game when we have it in our hot little hands and not before.

The game manufacturer is dealing with this kind of delay on many of his products. I can’t imagine what that’s doing to his bottom line.

The New York Times had a pretty good article on the supply chain issues. (I’m sure you can find others.)

Paper books are no exception. In fact, Ingram sent out a series of warnings about the problems it anticipates in the Fourth Quarter. As those of you who follow several indie publishers on social media probably already know, one of those changes that Ingram Sparks has implemented are price increases, effective on November 6, 2021.

These increases are not small. The U.S. market will see a 6% increase, and the U.K. and Australia will see a 3% increase. As one publisher noted, that will make some of his hardcovers $40 or more. Ingram helpfully adds that they will be “We will also be identifying titles that will move into negative publisher compensation because of these price changes…”

In other words, they’ll let publishers who are going to lose money with the new pricing structure know before the new structure hits.

That’s just one way this is impacting publishing. There are other ways.

Let’s start with traditional first, because traditional publishers are making some amazing and difficult decisions. I actually have some empathy for them, because they’re not built to absorb this problem. Then I’ll move to indie, which can deal with the problem, with patience and a bit of creativity.

Traditional publishing, as I have written many times, is built on the velocity model. Books must sell quickly out of the gate, and then taper off later. Sometimes books that sell quickly sell faster than expected, and the demand is higher than originally thought.

In the past, the solution (though not ideal) worked well enough: the moment it became clear that the traditional publisher would blow through their inventory, they would sent in an order for reprinting. In the unlikely (but joyful) event that the first reprinting wasn’t enough, there would be a second, third, fourth and fifth.

Those days are now gone. As you can see from the tweet above, a book published two weeks ago has sold very well, but the publishing representative, talking to the bookstore that wants more copies, had the unenviable task of telling the store the book would not be reprinted.

At all.

Sounds like a stupid thing to do, right? And it is. If traditional publishing had a different business model, they would simply tell booksellers to be patient. The reprint would come eventually.

But that’s not happening.

This is because traditional book publishers must reserve time with their printers. Because everything is new, new, new, the new books get the most attention. Their printings are scheduled months in advance—a practice that has been part of traditional publishing forever.

Because of the supply chain problems and worker shortages and driver shortages and a whole bunch of other things that have an impact on paper books, there is less time to be reserved from printers, not more. That means that traditional publishers are pretty much guaranteed to get their first printings on their latest releases…and nothing else.

Even those first printings are delayed. As Ann Trubeck of Belt Publishing noted, it used to take two weeks to get a book printed. In July, it was taking her eight weeks.

Ingrams is encouraging booksellers to stock up early on the “hot” books of the season (whatever you guess they might be). But Ingrams is also encouraging publishers to print more books than usual, so that they will have books on hand, rather than run out.

But that traditional publisher, Ann Trubeck of Belt Publishing, included something quite savvy in her post. She wrote,

It is entirely possible to lose money by selling more copies than anticipated because an algorithm or overoptimism or “just in case” caution leads to large orders that force publishers to print more copies, only to have that demand evaporate, and all those freshly printed, last minute copies are sent back to the warehouse in a tsunami of bruised, tired cardboard boxes.

Remember, in traditional publishing, returns get eaten by the publisher. Booksellers who over-order can send books back for full credit, if they do so in the right amount of time.

So the traditional publisher put a lot of money into the product and find that they can’t sell it.

This is hard enough for the publisher. And Trubeck isn’t the only one dealing with this, quite obviously. If you read through that thread on Twitter, you’ll see Random House authors mention that their first printing sold out in 2020, they were promised a reprinting, and it never happened.

It won’t happen.

There’s not enough room in traditional publishing right now. I like Trubeck’s voice, so I’ll show you once again her publishing perspective. She notes that on Ingram, many of her books show no copies available. But readers can order from her directly because they have copies stashed at the office. (I have no idea how big her offices are or how many direct sales she makes. Probably not enough.)

Here’s what she says about that:

It’s as scary to anticipate losing sales as it is to be too late with an additional print run, but we will have books available for those who do an extra google search. This line of thinking leads, of course, to this thought: “boy I hope CBS News does NOT cover our October release, and nothing is nominated for a major award this fall!”

Now imagine that from the traditionally published writer’s point of view. They believe they hit the jackpot. Their book came out and got reviewed positively in every single mainstream publishing venue. Their book is the book of the moment—the kind of book that gets a crapload of attention, like so many political books got last year. Suddenly everyone wants to read that book, so folks who like paper order paper…and are told the book is out of print.

Then the book gets nominated for every single major award in publishing (that the book is eligible for). There’s no way, with a minimum of an eight-week delay on printing and time reserved ahead for the new, new, new, that their book will ever be reprinted in time to catch the wave.

Their publisher, who has been around the block a few times, knows that. Knows it very well in fact. So well, that after all the early COVID returns in 2020 (for full credit from closed bookstores) and because of all the supply chain issues and everything else, the publisher won’t even try to reprint.

The publisher will pat the author on the head, congratulate them for a job well done, and move to the new, new, new.

And the writer’s big perfect and wonderful launch—in which everything went right according to the traditional publishing gods—will result in a ruined career, because the books will not sell because there are not enough copies of the book to sell.

Worse, the people who read ebooks don’t like ebooks priced over $10. So, ebook readers will hear about this book, click on it, see that the price is $14.99 and will not buy. The paper book buyer will pick up the ebook, if forced, but will look at the price and think, “What the hell am I getting for my $14.99? I want something to put on my shelf. Ebooks should be cheaper.”

As a result, the ebook sales will increase, but not enough to cover the lost print revenue. Not by a long shot.

(And if you think I’m exaggerating the ebook prices of traditional books, I’m not. I did a spot check on books released this month—books that I preordered in paper from traditional publishers—and the cheapest one I found (from a non-bestseller) was $11.99.)

Sadly, this pandemic and the supply chain problems that will be with us, according to one estimate I saw, until early 2023, will tank a lot of traditional writers’ careers.

Yes, traditional publishers will know that a book that came out in 2021 will have lower print sales than a book that came out in 2019, but honestly, they won’t care. Because there are always new, new, new writers lining up to be fleeced. I mean, traditionally published.


Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Research And Learning And Blogging

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I spent the morning researching things like BookTok and NFTs for writers and Substack. I was going to write about each, but you know what? I don’t want to.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been blogging now on the publishing industry—the indie publishing industry in particular (which some folks still insist on calling self-publishing)—for 12 years now. Which makes me a relic.

When I started blogging, it was something that everyone did because that was the way to attract readers to your fiction. You could make a living by writing a blog.

The rule of thumb for writer-bloggers was never write a blog longer than 500 words. Yeah, you see how that worked for me. I never write a blog that short.

But folks were making a small fortune blogging about topics not being covered by the mainstream media. Eventually, though, that niche went away or it disappeared behind a paywall like Patreon. Now that paywall includes Substack, which I am truly interested in.

Honestly, though, if I blog about it, it really isn’t fair to you all. My knowledge of Substack is an inch deep, which is an inch deeper than my knowledge of NFTs, and two inches deeper than my knowledge of BookTok. I haven’t even been to TikTok, although I’ve seen some great vids designed for TikTok.

I had planned—weeks ago—to learn all of this in depth, so that I actually could cite articles and experts and do a good analysis of the changes happening in the digital sphere.

I didn’t do any of it, I thought for lack of time. But I managed to research some other things which are important to my career and I also managed to learn some new skills that I will continue delve into. So really, lack of time isn’t the issue.

Lack of priority is.

And I realized, that’s where the blog is, as well as the end of this particular series of posts.

When I started blogging in 2009, the indie world was small and contained. I wrote about that in the previous blog. In indie publishing, rather like traditional publishing, we were all doing the exact same things, because there wasn’t much more to do.

New things came on the scene, and we all analyzed them. Sometimes we made group decisions about them (you have to try BookBub!) and sometimes we did our own thing, after a lot of analysis. But we were talking about the same programs or opportunities.

As new things proliferated by 2014 or so, those of us in the blogosphere tried to keep up. The problem was that many of those new things would disappear shortly after we researched them. I got paid $4000 by an app developer around that time so that he would design an app based on my Fey books. And then he literally disappeared. He paid me, said he started, and poof! gone as if he had never existed. (And he paid me by check, so he wasn’t trying to get my bank account information.)

Stuff like that happened all the time. And eventually, I started to tune out some of the new. It was either keep up or get my writing done. For some reason, I preferred writing.

A friend of mine who makes part of their living off online work advising people what to do with their indie publishing opted to do something different. They just interviewed everyone about every bit of new tech. My friend did not investigate the tech or even use most of it. The upshot of it was that my friend knew about the newest latest thing, but rarely used it themselves.

That put them in almost reportorial mode even though they had started off only interviewing things they recommended. And, let me say as a former journalist, the problem with reportorial mode is the one that I mentioned above. Journalists are, by definition, generalists. Their knowledge of damn near everything is only an inch deep.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.