Publishing Contracts 101: Beware Internal Contradictions

From Writer Beware:

It should probably go without saying that you don’t want your publishing contract to include clauses that contradict one another.

Beyond any potential legal implications, internal contradictions suggest a publisher that either doesn’t understand its own contract language well enough to spot the problem–or a publisher that simply doesn’t care. Neither is a good sign for what lies ahead.

Contradictions can be tricky to spot, especially for first-time authors who aren’t experienced in contract legalese. Here’s an example that came across my desk recently: an anthology contract from Dark Lake Publishing that provides for rights reversion 12 months after publication:

(Side note: this is a crap reversion clause, since it not only allows the publisher to keep publishing indefinitely, but doesn’t say anything about paying for that privilege. That’s not the issue I’m highlighting in this post, however.)

The wording of the clause seems pretty clear, right? All rights other than publishing rights–and this is an all-rights contract, with the publisher laying claim to “all Intellectual Property Rights subsisting, either in present or in the future, in the Book in all formats”–return to the author 12 months after the contract’s effective date, which is the date of publication. But just a few clauses down, there’s this:

But…but…if all rights other than publishing rights revert after 12 months, how can the publisher lay claim to dramatic rights for two more years? It’s a clear internal contradiction.

In practical terms, there’s probably no impact: this particular publisher has about as much ability to exploit dramatic rights as I do of space touristing to Mars. But what does it say about a publisher that it either hasn’t spotted the cognitive dissonance, or is perfectly fine with it?

Another example I’ve seen recently involves royalties. This contract from Fractured Mirror Publishing appears to be planning to pay both twice a year and once a year:

Here’s more confusing royalties language from Beacon Publishing Group, which first promises to pay based on Net Receipts, but then cites percentages of retail price (guess which one will appear in your royalty check):

Another example: serial reading/writing app Popink, whose contract appears to extend for a limited term, but includes a Power of Attorney clause at the end of the contract that claims rights for the duration of copyright (you can read more about Popink’s awful contract here).

But the internal contradiction that I see most often, and most consistently, involves copyright: contracts where the grant of rights explicitly transfers copyright to the publisher, while further clauses acknowledge copyright retention by the author.

Here’s what I’m talking about. These clauses are from the contract of Histria Books.

The key wording here is “exclusively grants, assigns, and otherwise transfers to the Publisher…all right, title, and interest in and to the Work…including but not limited to all copyrights therein”. Whenever you see language like this, it means that you are agreeing to give up ownership of your copyright.

Histria’s contract includes language allowing for termination by the author under certain circumstances, so the copyright transfer is temporary rather than permanent (which doesn’t necessarily make it a better deal). However, when you transfer your copyright to someone else–even temporarily–that someone becomes the owner of all your intellectual property rights, without exception, for as long as the transfer is in force, and can do anything it wants with them, from licensing rights to third parties to creating sequels, spinoffs, and derivative works.

So you have to wonder why Histria’s copyright transfer language is followed by this:

In a contract with a conventional grant of rights–one that does not include a copyright transfer–you want to see such a clause, to make clear that the publisher can’t claim any rights that haven’t been specifically mentioned. But Histria’s contract does include a copyright transfer, which means that there are no rights remaining that can be reserved to the author. If not outright contradictory, this clause is certainly inconsistent. But then there’s this:

But wait–didn’t the Grant of Rights make Histria the owner of the copyright? So why would it register in the author’s name? To do so would be to acknowledge the author as the copyright holder, since copyright registration is made in the name of the copyright owner.

(Side note: what the hell is meant by “material contributed by the author to the Work”? Wouldn’t that be, hmmm, the work itself, given that the author wrote it? Even if nothing else in this contract were problematic, this bizarre wording would demand an explanation.)

Finally, there’s this–a pretty unambiguous acknowledgment of the author’s copyright ownership:

Bottom line: multiple clauses in Histria’s contract are inconsistent with or directly contradict the copyright transfer in Clause 1.

I have no idea what the legal ramifications are here. If there’s a dispute, whose ownership would prevail: Histria’s, per Clause 1, or the author’s, for which registration in their name provides prima facie evidence? Regardless, such inconsistencies really should not exist in a publishing contract, and their presence raises the questions posed above: does the publisher not understand its own contract? (Not a good sign of professionalism or expertise.) Does it just not care? (Ditto, and you have to wonder what else it doesn’t care about). Worth noting: I’ve heard from authors who contacted Histria about the copyright contradictions, and were brushed off.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

The author of the OP is Victoria Strauss. Her bio doesn’t mention anything about law school, but PG’s assessment is that she’s smarter about contracts than quite a few of the attorneys he has dealt with over the years.

While a single blog post could not cover all of the dishonest/stupid/evil/clumsy provisions that have appeared/currently appear/will appear in publishing contracts, all authors should read the entire post by Ms. Strauss, save a copy of it for future reference, and review the contents of the post if they receive a publishing contract, solicited or unsolicited. No single post could possibly contain all the gotcha’s that appear in the universe of business contracts, the post demonstrates some good techniques for examining a contract.

Although PG doesn’t review contracts any more (except for Mrs. PG), during his centuries-long legal career, he examined contracts from the largest tech companies, the largest banks and the largest publishers from various parts of the globe. Ditto for medium-sized and small techs, banks and publishers. Plus contracts from a whole bunch of other business organizations and a few non-profits.

Publishing (and a few literary agency) contracts stand out for their audacious mistreatment of the counterparties (authors). In PG’s experience, the only industry that approaches the nastiness of publishing contracts is the movie/TV/music business.

PG notes that traditional publishing and the entertainment industry share some common traits, including the practice of the talent employing agents, only a few of which have any legal training or experience at all.

Both publishing and entertainment feature:

  • quite a few insecure individuals among the talent
  • a business in which most of the would-be talent does not find success
  • a talent pool which is full of people who hold down some sort of job to support themselves and pursue their artistic dreams on the side
  • a few superstars that haven’t learned much about managing their finances
  • a good chance of a boom-and-bust career path, e.g.one-hit wonders

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.

Wanna Be a Paperback Writer? The Scoop on Writing Series Books

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Why am I writing a series? It’s dead simple. Because my agent wants me to.

Why does she want me to?  Here goes:

WHY WRITE SERIES BOOKS?

First and foremost:  Money.  Publishers love to market a good series because (hopefully) there is an audience built in from the first book.  The branding is established.  People who bought the first book will buy the second (assuming they liked the first.)  And in years to come, people who buy the new release at a festival or launch will hopefully go back and pick up the backlist. (I made a lot of my income from readers picking up my backlist.)

Readers get attached to the characters and want to be with them again for another adventure.  And writers?  Well, I adore revisiting the characters I came to love in the first book.  Sometimes, it’s like they’ve become my friends, welcoming me back to their worlds with open arms.  At times, I can’t believe they aren’t real. 

. . . .

You’ve heard writers declare that characters will sometimes take over a book and tell their own story.  True, some characters are the bane of my existence, ungrateful whiny creatures who permeate my brain and insist that I tell their stories rather than move on to new projects.  So before you decide to write series, make sure you like your characters enough to live another twelve round with them.

BUT SOMETIMES YOU CAN’T

Let me put it this way.  Some genres lend themselves to series better than others.  Literary does not tend to be a genre for series books, for instance.  (Note my point on character arc below.) Where we do tend to find series books is in Mystery, Romance and Fantasy/Sci-fi.

Let’s look at those genres specifically.

SERIES BOOKS IN MYSTERY AND ROMANCE

Series in Mystery and Romance are different from series in Fantasy Sci-fi, because of the rules of the genres.

In Romance, there must be a HEA (happy ever after.)  The book must end with the story of the couple getting together romantically.  However, you can write a story about their friends…secondary characters who come forward to have their own stories.  (This is common in Paranormal Romance.  A vampire series may feature a clan of vampires, each of whom finds their own love in successive books.)

In Mystery, the crime must be wrapped up at the end of the book.  BUT, you can have the amateur detective or PI or same group of cops go on to solve more crimes in future books.

Example: Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple.  Sherlock Holmes.

Big plus in Mystery:  Series books lend themselves to television series! (Especially in Britain, the lucky ducks.) And you don’t need me to tell you that’s where the money is.

That takes care of Mystery.  But what about Thrillers?

For that, we need to go back to the differences between Mysteries and Thrillers.  Here’s a definition commonly used:

Mystery fiction is a puzzle story

It starts with a murder (or crime) and emphasizes the solving of the crime. The protagonist’s job is to discover who committed the crime and why.  The reader and the detective both receive the same information at the same time (anything else is not playing fair.)

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

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.

What If You Gave Up?

From Writer Unboxed:

NOT writing as a whole. Neither of us would be here if we wanted to give up writing. But what if you gave up an idea that is holding you back? Might it free you, your writing, your creativity?

I have to finish this manuscript before I can write the next story.

What if you didn’t? What if you moved on to another story? Just tested it out. You can still come back to the old manuscript. But what if the self-imposed idea that you have to finish something before you start the next thing is preventing you from working both on the old story and on the new story? Maybe you don’t like the old thing anymore, or the story isn’t quite working and you can’t figure out how to fix it, or it reminds you of a bad time in your life, or any other reason. If you gave yourself permission to put it aside would that be so wrong?

Would that make you a quitter? Or would that make you an adult who has looked at the options and decided to go another way? Laying aside a writing project that isn’t working / that you aren’t working on might be energizing. It might even help you make your way back to that project and finish it.

This is what I’m telling myself about the trilogy I’ve been working on for several years. I indie published the first book, fully drafted the second, and mostly drafted the third. And I’m just not working on them. But I won’t let myself move on, either, because I have to finish them. It was on a walk a few days ago that I asked that scary question: What if I gave up the idea that I had to complete the trilogy before I wrote anything else?

I’m close to giving myself permission to put them aside, at least for now, so I can start the next story idea. It might take until the end of this post, but I’m working on giving up this idea.

I have to find The Best System for Writing.

It can ease the anxiety of writing to put all your trust in an expert who has a system they say always works. But when that system doesn’t work for you, or it stops working for you, or some new expert comes with a Shiny New System that throws your system into question, or the novel you wrote using The Best System is rejected, that increases your anxiety. And you think it’s your fault–either for not following The Best System well enough or because it must not be The Best System and now you have to find the real Best System.

Writing is an anxiety-producing endeavor. No system and no writing advice will help you avoid it completely. And no system or writing advice can guarantee commercial success. Not even our own beloved Don Maass’. When I was in the Writer Unboxed Breakout Novel Dissection Group, every book we read violated at least one of his characteristics of a breakout novel.

Giving up the idea that there is a Best System can set you free to pick up and run with the writing advice that gives you energy and makes your imagination churn with ideas, and set aside writing advice that stymies you. Many multi-published writers who sell well experience self-doubt and anxiety at some point in the process of every novel. Remind yourself of this when you’re tempted to put all your trust in The Best System.

My only option is to be traditionally published.

This one was mine for many years. I was seeking the approval of a publisher and trying to avoid the insecurity and steep learning curve of indie publishing. Repeated rejection wasn’t fun, but I expected it, and didn’t let it stop me from keeping on trying.

But then a friend told me a story about raccoons: they love shiny things so much that they’ll stick their paw in a jar to get a shiny thing out, not be able to get their closed fist out of the jar, but they won’t free themselves because it would mean letting go. They’ll wind up in near starvation and all they need to do is drop the shiny thing.

Traditional publishing was my shiny thing. Letting it go meant a lot of work, and learning, and decision making. But I’m glad I chose myself. I might still try to get traditionally published in the future, but for now, I’ve written four projects that are out in the world, and I’m proud of that.

What if you gave up that idea that it’s traditional publishing or bust?

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

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.

The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Changing Genres

From Writer Unboxed:

You may know me as Greer Macallister, bestselling author of historical fiction, but lately, I’ve taken on another identity. I have a new book out (you may have heard of it) and as the author of Scorpica, my identity has shifted in two key respects: my name on the book jacket is G.R. Macallister, and it’s not historical fiction, but epic fantasy.

All in all, the genre shift has been a pleasure. I wrote something ambitious, complex, and satisfying, proving to myself I was capable of something entirely new. As to the less-pleasant aspects, I went in with my eyes open. I knew that putting out a new book in a new genre, different from the one in which I’ve established myself, would require flexibility and patience. Of course that’s what’s needed as an author in general, but the genre switch put extra pressure on both of those character traits, to say the least.

Do I regret changing genres after four books (while reserving the right to switch back at any time)? Not at all. But do I have advice for those thinking about making the switch? You bet.

If you’re an author with an established readership in one genre looking to publish in another, here are three things to watch out for:

Don’t underestimate the time that it takes. Maybe if you’re shifting between subgenres this might not be an issue, but in my case, making the move from writing historical fiction to writing epic fantasy wasn’t just about writing a different book. It was about learning to write a different kind of book, almost from the ground up. Reading up on current fantasy was a fun task to assign myself, but it was a task nonetheless — hours and hours of reading, to fit in among all the other reading I do for work and for fun. So that’s a bunch of time up front. Plus there’s…

You might need to shake up your team, which takes even more time. The agent who has sold all of my historical novels is fabulous and wonderful, but she doesn’t represent epic fantasy, and the publisher who published those books doesn’t really do adult fantasy either. Which meant it wasn’t just the writing itself that was different, but every other aspect of managing and selling this new book. My incredibly kind agent gave me the go-ahead to connect with a separate agent just for my fantasy work, and my agreements with both were written to accommodate the other, and it’s been a dream so far. But making that dream happen through querying and negotiation took an extra half-year on top of the writing work, and without extraordinary luck it could have been much worse. Other friends shifting genres have had to leave old agents and find new ones, or strike out on their own with self-publishing ventures, and both of those are even more time-consuming. And on top of that…

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

Do What You Love

From David Farland:

When you choose to do what you love, you have the greatest job in the world. If you love writing, it’s worth doing.

Years ago, I had a reporter call and ask, “If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” The only answer I had was, “I’d just keep on being a writer.” Since it was Career Day, the reporter wrote an article in which he posed that question to dozens of people. As one person chose a career, he would call someone with that job and ask what they wanted to be. So a teacher wanted to be a doctor, a doctor wanted to be an astronaut, an astronaut wanted to be a senator, and the senator wanted to be? Me.

I’ve always loved that. As an author, I’ve got the greatest job in the world.

First of all, I can write in my pajamas. I don’t have to get up in the morning and shave.

In fact, I can keep my laptop by the side of the bed and write from bed, if I want.

On my average day, I don’t have to spend an hour getting up to dress properly, nor do I have to worry about my commute.

I rarely have to concern myself with office politics, so my stress levels are low.

I get to schedule my own work hours and my own vacations. Guess what? Because I love what I do, I get up at 4:00 A.M. to start the day, and I will work as long as I like without my boss whining about how I put in too much overtime.

I can work anywhere in the world. In the past, I’ve gone to Cabo San Lucas to focus on a project. My favorite place is to write on the beach, just as the sun is coming up on a perfectly still morning. But I’ve also had good writing days in mountain cabins, in busy airports, and even while relaxing in a coffee shop.

And I make good money as a writer. When my daughter was twelve, she came home from school one day and asked tearfully, “Are you a drug dealer?” I told her no. She knew I was a writer. But she said, “Well, that’s what everyone says.” Apparently, my new neighbors felt that I had no visible means of support, that I spent too much time sun-bathing in the middle of the day (usually by 2:00 P.M. I’m ready for a break), and that I wasn’t smart enough to be a hedge-fund manager.

To be honest, I often feel bad for those poor folks who aren’t writers, folks stuck in dead-end jobs. I was on Facebook earlier and saw that one friend had been “made redundant” at his school in England, another had found himself in the same crappy job for 14 years and had never been able to get ahead, since his managers felt that his health issues kept him from being the kind of person that they could trust to be at work every day.

Several friends that I’ve known for more than thirty years wanted to be writers but took nice safe jobs with major corporations. Over the years, many of them lost those nice jobs time and time again.

So I’m feeling very grateful to be a writer today. Even when the going sometimes gets tough, I just keep doing what I love.

Link to the rest at David Farland

Here’s a link to Dave Farland’s books

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part III

From Writers in the Storm

The advice you can find about the “rules” of writing and publishing goes from one extreme to another. Some say there are no rules. Others give you a list of rules. 

Traditional Publishing

When you consider traditional publishing, remember that these big publishers are corporations and they have both public and more private rules. They call their public rules “submission guidelines.” Often those guidelines are about how to format your manuscript. 

The harder to find or see rules are those common to corporations. Certain departments handle certain things. One publisher may tolerate stories that include guns or sex scenes. The next one won’t. Often these corporations do not share internal policies such as risk tolerance or political leanings or their alignment with causes you care about. 

Even the editors you submit to have rules. They don’t call them rules, yet they have certain expectations. They expect stories to be entertaining, to progress from beginning to middle to the end. Each editor has genre expectations and life events that influence their interpretation of your story. Some editors are flexible and open to having their expectations exploded by a skillful author. Others will not be.

What can you do? Know what’s important to you. Research the publishers and editor you’d like to publish your work. Ask questions of authors, agents, editors, and librarians. Can’t do it in person? Try social media.

Don’t be so eager to be published that you sign your first contract without knowing what it means to your book and to your values. Decide which issues are a no-deal for you in advance.

Rules in Independent Publishing

You may get the impression that there are no rules in independent publishing. You’d be wrong. There are tons of rules. Amazon has a set of rules. So do Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Draft to Digital, and Ingram Spark. There are cover sizes and images they will and will not tolerate on covers. Genres they will and will not allow on their sites. Advertisers have rules, too. Those are a tiny part of the rules associated with independent publishing.

While independently published authors don’t have to contend with corporate editors, we have to please the readers of our genre. Readers have expectations and those are their “rules.” 

There are also the expectations or rules we impose upon ourselves. Sometimes, independent author-publishers impose harsh, unrealistic, unsustainable rules on themselves. 

What I Wish I Knew About the Rules Before I Published

The anonymous “they” say that you need to know the rules before you break them. I wish I’d understood the unsaid part of that advice. If you break the rules, there are consequences. Sometimes, the consequences are that the editors and readers love what you did. But if you break too many rules and expectations, you may alienate some editors and readers. Your book may not sell.

As an independent publisher, it’s up to you to understand the rules and what consequences may result if you decide to break a few.

Things I Wish I Knew About the Writer’s Life

No matter the publishing path you follow, you are a writer. A writer’s life is not as advertised. Hollywood films set up expectations that writers solve crimes or have exciting adventures. Magazines and other media hold up the rags to riches stories of fabulously successful and wealthy authors as something all writers can become. 

Hollywood vs. Real Life

While it depends on what you call adventures, few writers get much in the way of real-life adventure. Many of us do some traveling associated with our writing, but it’s rare that a writer is a successful detective or devious murderer or a terrified kidnap victim.

Most of the time, we sit at our writing device of choice and write. If we aren’t careful, we develop physical limitations because of too much sitting. Most of us self-isolate. It’s nearly impossible to get into the creative zone and socialize at the same time. 

It used to be very unlikely for a writer to earn a living. Thanks to independent publishing it is less rare today, but for every Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, there are thousands who do not earn enough to break even.  

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

Brandon’s Kickstarter

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The conversation started about 10 hours after Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter went live. That’s when the press noticed that a writer made millions in the space of a few hours—without the help of any major publishing house.

Brandon’s own fans are doing this. I’m writing this post about 3 days after the Kickstarter went live. Sometime in the last 24 hours, this Kickstarter campaign became the largest campaign ever held on Kickstarter.

It only took two days to see the panic in the company town newspaper (The New York Times):

But self-publishing on the scale Sanderson is proposing is an enormously complicated proposition. Fundamentally, most authors want to write books, not run a publishing house.

Books require editors, designers and lawyers. Someone has to register the ISBN number and file for copyright. Someone else has to proofread the manuscript, then proofread it again. Printing thousands of copies of physical books, then storing and distributing them, is expensive and onerous.

It’s as if the past 12 years hadn’t happened at all. As if there weren’t hundreds of freelance copy editors and designers. As if registering for an ISBN is hard. As if hiring a lawyer is even harder. (And really, who wants a lawyer who works for the tiny salaries paid by a publishing company? That lawyer is clearly not ambitious or maybe even a great lawyer.)

But, you see, Brandon has a company (how lucky for him!) and that’ll enable him to do this. Sigh.

Two days.

It’s long enough for the press to pick up the story, but not long enough for them to understand it. Most of them never will, just like they haven’t understood publishing for decades. (If ever.)

It’s also long enough for the stupid to have started. On Twitter, Brandon had an entire thread and it was filled with stupid.

I was going to have a Kickstarter this week, but he sucked all the air out of the room.

What? It would be a great time to run a publishing Kickstarter campaign. Readers are crawling all over Kickstarter right now.

He’s only getting this money because he’s a privileged white guy.

Um, anyone can do a Kickstarter. And while there is a great argument to be made about white privilege and traditional publishing (y’know, that thing promoted by that company paper, The New York Times), platforms like Kickstarter and the various ebook companies don’t care what anyone looks like. BIPOC have the same access that Brandon does.

Why is he so successful here?

Because Brandon has tended his fannish garden. In other words, he cultivated his fans. He has a lot of them. He has worked with them, promoting items to them and giving them free stuff for more than a decade.

Much more important than that, though, is this: his readers love his work.

You might not love Brandon’s work but think about it this way:

Take Brandon’s name off this and insert the name of your very favorite writer, the one whose books you buy no questions asked.

Then imagine that writer just told you that he’s written four books that you can get in special editions or early or in totally cool ways and not through the usual publishing channels.

You’d run, not walk, to plunk down your $40  and get four novels in 2023. Be honest. You would. (Or your teenage self would, if you’re too cool to have a favorite these days.)

Brandon has that kind of fanbase. But here’s what the press and the jealous people on Twitter are missing.

Brandon beat the record on Kickstarter in three days. (He has most of a month left to go, as I write this.) Within three days, his Kickstarter was $21.8 million. At that point, only 90,020 people had backed the Kickstarter.

Yes, I said “only.”

Because his novels have sold 20 million copies, according to that company paper, The New York Times. Of course, the Times isn’t telling us how many copies each individual novel has sold, but let’s say that Brandon has a million readers who never miss a book.

That means that only 9% of his regular readers have ponied up the money on Kickstarter.

Only 9% in three days.

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.

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part II

From Writers in the Storm:

I love being an independent author-publisher. Being in control of my business gives me a great deal of satisfaction. It also gives me a lot of responsibilities and a heck of a lot of things to know. In part one of this series, I discussed some of the big picture things I wish I knew before I published. Part II continues with big picture things.

Know Your Motivation

You are a writer. You already know how much self-discipline it takes to write a book from first idea to polished product. Applying the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair may not be a problem for you when you’re writing. That kind of motivation is a big picture motivation. But what about the other stuff that a successful author must do?

Motivation for the Traditionally Published

A traditional publishing company will create deadlines relayed to you by your editor. Revisions are due on this date, approval of copywriting is due on a different date. Motivation to complete those tasks cannot be the money or the hope of publishing fame. It takes a distinct set of self-discipline skills to finish creative tasks in a certain time frame. Your publisher may dictate other things as well. Your contract may dictate where and when you make appearances. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it. It’s part of your contract. 

These situations and time-frames do not have to be negative. Many authors have very pleasant and lucrative relationships with traditional publishing. Educate yourself on what to expect. Ask authors published by that company what their experience has been like. Know what your contract obligations are. Understand yourself, your self-discipline, and your expectations. Be prepared and you won’t lack motivation.

Motivation for the Independent Author-Publisher

When you’re self-employed, no one will yell at you if you’re late to work or even skip a day. You have no boss to remind you of your deadlines. You must be self-motivated enough to glue your butt to the chair to get the work done. 

Winging it isn’t the path to success. Have a plan. Have tools ready to help you stay on track. You also will need tools to get back on track when you’re depressed or after a hurtful review or an illness. When you are self-employed, you have to be worker bee, cheerleader, and taskmaster, sometimes all at once.

What I Wish I Knew About Motivation

I do not lack motivation to write. I love the entire process, from idea creation to rough draft to editing and polishing. What I wish I knew from the beginning was that I needed a system to ensure all the other tasks get done. I also wish I’d found the motivation to learn self-promotion techniques earlier.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

The Top Eight Publishing Trends For 2022

From Written Word Media:

What publishing trends will 2022 reveal? What will change for indie authors in the coming new year?

Every year at Written Word Media we analyze our own data and talk to industry experts to get an idea of what’s going on in the world of publishing, and what publishing trends authors and publishers can expect in the upcoming year. Here are our top eight publishing trends for 2022.

. . . .

Direct Sales for Authors Continue to Grow

More authors saw success with direct sales from their own websites in 2021, and we see this continuing in 2022. Bryan Cohen of the Sell More Books Show says that authors with a following could see the largest gains here.

“Many higher-end authors who are looking to expand their brand will consider the wild world of direct sales on their own website,” said Cohen. “The learning curve there is steep, but these authors will embrace the value of growing their team to help them pull off the seemingly impossible.”

Mark Leslie Lefebvre of Draft2Digital also sees direct sales growing in 2022.

“As tools and platform availability make it easier, such as plug-ins for WordPress or other sites, and as savvy authors continue to build upon their author newsletter strategies, they can drive more people to get their books direct,” said Lefebvre. As more tools, like Shopify and BookFunnel proliferate, direct sales become a more viable channel for authors.

. . . .

Book Prices Will Increase

At Written Word Media we’re big believers in discount promos or free first-in-series books, but we also see some authors increasing their set prices in 2022. An increase in price can make a discount promo even more appealing, especially a Kindle Countdown Deal where readers can see how much they are saving, and it can signal quality to readers.

Craig Martelle, best-selling author and 20 Books Vegas host says that changes in the entertainment and social landscape in 2022 will contribute to price changes. “Prices will go up. We’ve already seen that with paperbacks since paper and shipping have both increased in cost, but we’ll see it with ebooks, too,” said Martelle. “Entertainment value for discretionary income leads us back to quality over quantity. Good books will always be able to find an audience.”

In 2022 we see more authors increasing the prices of backlist titles to increase revenue and experiment with better margins.

. . . .

Bonus Trend

More authors will consider writing and publishing serializations via reading apps
This trend comes to us via Jane Friedman who thinks that more authors will experiment with new formats in 2022.

“If you have kids who read any fiction at all, they likely have read something at Webtoon, Tapas, or Wattpad,” said Friedman. “While many see online literature and webcomics as separate from the traditional publishing market, that thinking is likely to change. Webcomics companies are adapting popular novels into their format, and popular online stories are moving into print.”

While Amazon’s Kindle Vella hasn’t had the readership many authors hoped for, a slow start doesn’t mean serialization, or Kindle Vella, are dead. In fact, Friedman says that serialized storytelling is poised for continued growth and sees signals coming from international markets.

“Webtoon, Tapas, Radish, and other online reading apps have seen dramatic growth during the pandemic and operate profitably. While online and serialized literature continues to be more popular with writers in Asian markets, they also attract US authors, especially genre fiction authors, who can earn extra money from serializations and adaptations into mobile storytelling formats. Royal Road is now seen by digital-first publishers as rich territory for mining talent (like Wattpad before it), and Inkitt received millions in funding for its serialized storytelling app, Galatea,” said Friedman.

Link to the rest at Written Word Media

On “Significant Authorship:” Writing as a Team

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

“We should write a book.” My husband, Jon, said it casually, five or six years ago. I adjusted our baby son on my lap and laughed a little.

“Write a book.” My voice was deadpan as I repeated it, as if I thought he were joking. Hell, half of me hoped he was joking. Write a book? I was a new mother. Sleep-deprived. Frazzled. Probably hadn’t washed my hair in a few days. But the other half of me felt something else. A strange brew of hope and trepidation. 

The suggestion had opened a door inside me…one that had been closed a long time. One I’d probably closed myself, for reasons I’ll never quite know. Well, I guess that’s a lie: it was mostly fear that had closed the door. I did that slow, backward walk away from writing that people often do from the things (and sometimes the people) they care about when they’re afraid to mess up. I’d written constantly as a child. My nine-year-old self had churned out fun, whimsical stories about kids who could change the past through lucid dreaming, and melancholy ones about the sinking of the Lusitania. I’d written poems, songs, retellings of fables and myths. I’d fill Lisa Frank notebooks with my preteen musings, commandeer the family Compaq for hours to clack out my manuscripts on Microsoft Word, much to my sister’s dismay. I’d write on napkins. In the margins of my school papers. But somewhere between college and adulthood, that part of me had faded.

Yes, it had been years since my writing life had flatlined, but Jon’s suggestion had begun to breathe life back into it. We had an enthusiastic conversation around our kitchen island that day. We’d call our book “Time Teams,” we said. We argued about whether it would be for middle grade or young adult, and bantered about the main characters. Still, it would be another couple years still until we’d sit down and actually write that book.

 It happened during the summer of 2018, when I was teaching summer school and our second child was learning to scoot around our living room. We’d moved to a new house, I’d started teaching in a new district, and we were more sleep-deprived than ever. Most nights, we’d fall asleep while binge-watching old seasons of Survivor.

“Let’s start that book.” Jon sat down in our living room and started the first scene in the “Notes” app of his cell phone. I watched him, eyebrows raised, as his thumbs moved across his cell phone keyboard. When he got stuck writing a dialogue scene, I jumped in, and we spent the rest of that June passing the document back and forth, using an Expo pen on our dining room window as a storyboard, until the first draft of our first book, a young adult sci-fi novel about a grieving teenager who finds himself sucked into a competitive time traveling club, was done. Thus, we became what Jon termed “Significant Authors.” 

After a year of unsuccessful querying, we were offered a revise and resend by Tiny Fox Press, who published our book in September 2020. The Fifth Timekeeper, the book’s first sequel, is slated for publication this summer.

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

PG had never heard of Tiny Fox Press prior to reading the OP. He checked the sales ranks of the most-recently-released books he could find and didn’t see a single book that was ranked higher than 500,000 by Amazon.

While PG wishes the authors in the OP well, he knows many, many indie authors who sell significantly better than the books PG looked at that Tiny Fox Press has released recently.

Imagination

From Dave Farland:

Come Original

The first thing that I seek in a great story is originality. You may not realize it, but the most common problem with stories is that they’re tepid. The same ideas crop up over and over again. So I look for new and intriguing concepts, especially when I’m judging science fiction and fantasy.

. . . .

[S]tories come along in thematic clusters. For example, the quarter after the sheep Dolly got cloned, I had dozens of stories come across my desk about cloning. Now, were any of them publishable? Sort of. The writing was often good, the story fairly interesting. But I don’t think that I had a finalist about cloning that quarter. The idea felt tepid.

One quarter, I got several good stories that featured mind transference. The quarter before that, it was ghost stories. One quarter, I got no less than twenty stories written from the point of view of sperms making a heroic journey. (Life is hard when you’re dodging gobs of spermicidal gel, white blood cells hell-bent on destruction, and struggling not to get bounced out of the race by the sperms of Hitler wannabes.)

Stand Out

So when I see several iterations of the same idea, I have to ask myself, “What makes this story stand out? What makes it better than others?”

The truth is, that sometimes one of the authors stretches himself or herself further than others. They look for a new idea to couple with an old, twisting it, so that we get something that I haven’t seen before.

For example, in that quarter of Writers of the Future where I got several good ghost stories, one of them stood out to me. Alisa Alering’s take, “Everything You Have Seen” is a ghost story in an unusual setting—Korea—during the Korean War. In it, a young girl meets a ghost, a young American boy who can communicate by holding his hands up and creating visions, windows into his own world, that the girl can peer into.

So we have a ghost story in a bit of an unusual setting. It features two interesting characters, one of whom has a unique power that I haven’t seen before. Beyond that, Alisa writes beautifully and evocatively, with subtle twists of phrases that “recreate” the language, heighten it. So she scored higher on the originality scale, than did some of the other authors who had written ghost stories that quarter. I sent hers on to the other judges, and she won first place for her quarter.

 Do you see how a story can manifest originality in a number of ways?

1. Premise

Your story may explore an idea that no one has ever written about before. Greg Bear’s “Blood Music,” for example, is a story about a man who engineers the DNA in his blood so that each cell becomes a miniature computer. The cells begin creating their own vessels to explore his body, and become sentient . . . and, well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But it’s a great idea. Similarly, the concepts of mathematical sociology that lead to social engineering in Asimov’s Foundation series really intrigued me as a teen. In science fiction and fantasy, the unique idea shows the highest form of creativity.

Link to the rest at Dave Farland

Art and Commerce Need Not Be at Odds

From Jane Friedman:

The apparent conflict between art and commerce is probably as old as commerce itself. Many writers tense up, glaze over, or even freak out when they think about “the business of writing.” Creative writing is, after all, creative. But here we are in a capitalist soup, love it or hate it, and you have to find your place herein. I choose to be an empowered creative, envisioning innovative ways to work within and transform the system.

So what does creativity have to do with business? A lot, it turns out. It’s just a different kind of creativity than you engage with when you write. Imagining dynamic characters, creating distant or exotic landscapes, and devising whimsical or harrowing scenarios uses another part of the brain than conjuring up a business idea or planning for your new product or service. But you are still imagining, still wondering, still dreaming.

I’ve had to remind myself of this as someone who started out as a poet. Poetry is the writing form probably most seen as antithetical to business. But as I’ve gotten older, the distinctions between creativity and business have started to soften and melt away. I am not only a poet but also, as a person who runs a private online writing school, very much a business person engaging in commerce.

. . . .

Thinking about audience gets me thinking about purpose. I ask myself, “Why am I writing this, really?” Connecting to your purpose as a writer offers another bridge between creativity and commerce. I want my writing to have impact—preferably to inspire. I want to stimulate my readers to think differently about themselves and the world. I want my words to remind them of their inherent creative genius, their innate imaginative power to manifest real change. Why are you writing? To inform, instruct, engage, encourage, motivate? Whatever your intention, if you can touch repeatedly into the heart of your desire around writing and hunker down in that love of process (yes, even when it sucks) I think you’ve struck gold, and audience blooms forth as a natural extension.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG asks, “Do you want people other than your parents to read what you write?”

If the answer is yes and you think there’s something unseemly about commerce, post your writing online all over the place, announcing that it’s in the public domain and you claim no rights to it and people will read it.

If that’s not what you had in mind and you want to see your writing in your cozy little local bookstore, then you’re interested to a greater or lesser extent in commerce. PG will assure you that every single author of the books you see in your cozy little bookstore is interested in commerce.

Tolstoy, Dickens, Twain, Faulkner, Hemingway and Fitzgerald were each interested in commerce. Are you a better writer than each of them?

Shakespeare was very interested in commerce and this interest rewarded him richly. One of his principal reasons for writing writing plays was to get paying customers to show up at the Globe theater. Shakespeare was part-owner of the Globe.

The Globe was a large commercial enterprise. Attendees paid one penny for standing room, two pennies for entry into a part of the theater where they could sit down on a hard bench and three pennies for a balcony with cushions to sit on and a decent view of the stage.

Additionally, The Globe had a separate entrance for the more refined members of the audience who sat in yet another balcony. Entry to this part of the Globe cost one shilling – twelve pence.

If a new play was premiering, the standard prices were doubled. Additional money was earned by the sale of food and drink by vendors walking through the crowd.

It’s estimated that Shakespeare earned 40 pounds per year from his ownership interest in the Globe. This was enough to support a gentleman’s lifestyle in London.

In addition to money he received from the Globe’s entrance fees, Shakespeare earned a fee as the author of his plays, likely 8 to 10 pounds per play.

In one more addition, Shakespeare and other authors received all of the Globe’s receipts from the second night of a new or rewritten play. Records show that the second night of Othello earned 9 pounds and sixteen shillings. A printed collection of all of Shakespeare’s plays appeared in 1623 and sold for a pound.

Shakespeare was also a professional actor and was paid additional money for his performances at the Globe, whether in his own plays or plays written by others.

In addition to performances at the Globe, Shakespeare’s plays were also performed at the royal court for a fee. Queen Elizabeth typically paid ten pounds for each performance.

Putting all of this together, Shakespeare’s annual income is estimated to to have totaled about 100 pounds per year. This is roughly equivalent to the amount of money earned by an internationally best-selling popular author in the world today. As you’ll see below, 100 pounds would buy you a very large house.

In 1597, Shakespeare repurchased his original family home in Stratford-upon-Avon (which his father had lost due to poor investments), known as New Place, for about £120 in 1597.

New Place was the largest house in the borough, and the only one with a courtyard – a significant purchase for the 33-year-old Shakespeare in 1597. There were ten hearths, which means it had between 20 and 30 rooms, plenty of space for the whole of Shakespeare’s family. Towards the back of the courtyard stood a large, late-medieval Hall, the main gathering point of the Shakespeare’s’ family life.

See much more about how Shakespeare earned his money here.

See more about Shakespeare’s house here.

Here’s a drawing of New Place:

Image from The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which appears to include active commercial enterprises of its own.

Navigating Self Doubt

From Writer Unboxed:

Some of us run into it right from the beginning, when we first begin to put words to paper. Others are luckier and don’t encounter it until later on their journey. But either way, if you’re a writer, at some time or another you are bound to run into Self Doubt.

Self doubt hits all of us differently. It can be an uncomfortable itch between our shoulders or a paralyzing force that prevents us from getting any words down on the page. Whatever form it takes it can be, if not conquered, at least managed.

There are three distinct branches of the self-doubt tree.

Competence is about craft and skill. Do I have the writing chops to pull this story off?
Permission is about judgment and authenticity. Who do I think I am trying to tell THIS story?
Worthiness is about self worth, agency, and voice. Who do I think I am trying to tell ANY story?

Competence

Of all the causes of self doubt, competence is the most easily fixed. It’s about rolling up our sleeves, digging in, and committing the time and energy necessary to get better.

But of course, if merely proving our competency were all that was involved, no published writer would ever have self doubts and I am here to assure you that is most definitely NOT the case. Many published writers find their doubts grow stronger the further they move into their career. Their initial doubts are compounded by a sense of expectations they must meet, or new milestones or metrics they must achieve. Which brings us to head games and hard truths, essential tools in any writers’ backpack.

We’ll start with the hard truths first.

Our story will never be as sparkling and fabulous on the page as the idea of it in our heads. In the act of trying to capture it, in choosing specific actions and details, it loses some of the glorious sense of infinite potential, which is always a part of a new idea’s magic.

Knowing and accepting that helps us adjust our expectations. We won’t be writing a perfect book, but we very well might be writing a terrific book, and that’s good enough.

Another hard truth: Your journey to publication will likely take longer than you think. The industry average is 10 years. Knowing and accepting that helps us give ourselves the time and permission to improve our writing skills. With patience and persistence, all of us can improve and draw closer to mastery.

Now for the promised head game regarding competence:

When your goal is paralyzing you and filling you with debilitating self-doubt, change the goal.

Mind blowing, right? But the trick is to find a goal that feels like a challenge but doesn’t suffocate us. Instead of finishing a manuscript to find an agent or land a contract, shift the goal to finishing a manuscript. Or, finishing a manuscript that has an actual plot. Or middle. Or distinct internal and external character arcs.

Focus on nailing one or two things in this manuscript rather than having the entire forward trajectory of your career hinging on it. Try on different goals until you feel that tight knot of doubt inside you begin to ease up.

It is okay to attempt a story you can’t pull off. If you only ever train for a 5k, you will never be able to compete in a marathon. Most writers have practice manuscripts! But the thing about practice stories is, you can often do another revision. Or start over from scratch. Also? Practice stories CAN turn into break through or even break out books. (That is what happened with GRAVE MERCY.)

Be willing to produce a lot of material that won’t make the final cut. Writers don’t have so much as a block of marble or lump of clay or even paints with which to create. So recognize that your early drafts and story journaling are essentially creating the material, rather than writing the story you will be telling.

Revising is not polishing. Revising is taking the whole thing apart and putting it back together again in an entirely different way. Or starting all over again, from scratch. Be willing to do that if necessary. Over and over again.

Most of us have one or two areas that we seem to know instinctively and do well from the get go. Then there are a number of other elements that we must work at. And usually most of us have a couple of areas we are going to really struggle with. The goal is to see if you can identify which are which. But here’s an important tip—it is a better investment of your time to identify your strengths, shore those up, and play into them than it is to try and become achieve expertise in your areas of weakness.

I want to repeat that for emphasis: It is a better investment of your time to identify your strengths and play to them than it is to try and achieve mastery in every area of weakness.

If you’re an amazing plotter–lean in to that. If your characters breathe on the page, delve even deeper into them. If your use of language is so lyrical or clever or quirky that people would read your grocery list, play to that strength.

The goal should be to become competent enough in your weaknesses that they don’t detract from the overall reading experience. It is your strengths that will make your work stand out.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

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.

The Power of Trust

From The Wall Street Journal:

Ralph Waldo Emerson is rarely invoked when people are discussing business and national economies, but he captured a nice point when he observed that “distrust is very expensive.” When individuals lack confidence in the quality and reliability of the products they’re buying—from meatloaf to mutual funds—commercial exchange is impeded and economic growth thwarted. It’s no coincidence that countries with high levels of distrust have high rates of poverty as well.

The U.S. experienced an episode of mass distrust in 2008, when collapsed confidence in the banking system sent the economy into a tailspin. Today, with the products and policies of major companies becoming ever more deeply integrated into our lives—particularly companies in the technology sector—there is ever more need for chief executives and their teams to build trust and maintain it.

That is the backdrop to “The Power of Trust” by Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta, a Harvard Business School professor and research associate, respectively. The authors provide an overview of trust’s role in business, drawing on academic studies and describing companies that have fostered trust, lost it or regained it. Their goal, they say, is to provide readers with a road map “to build, improve, recover, or sustain the trust of the people and groups who rely on you, and whom you rely on, to build a thriving business.”

That is the backdrop to “The Power of Trust” by Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta, a Harvard Business School professor and research associate, respectively. The authors provide an overview of trust’s role in business, drawing on academic studies and describing companies that have fostered trust, lost it or regained it. Their goal, they say, is to provide readers with a road map “to build, improve, recover, or sustain the trust of the people and groups who rely on you, and whom you rely on, to build a thriving business.”

The road map they provide follows a four-part design in which each element contributes to trust in business. The first part centers on competence, which refers to a company’s ability to deliver what it has promised. The next part takes up motives: Does a company have what the authors characterize as “good intentions”? The third part addresses means—“the fairness of your processes and treatment of people when distributing rewards and pain points.” The fourth part registers the “impact”—both intended and unintended—of a company’s actions on the consumers it serves and the communities in which it operates.

None of these elements alone is sufficient to achieve trust, the authors say, and progress in each ultimately depends on companies having their houses in order: “To establish trust with your customers,” Ms. Sucher and Ms. Gupta write, “you need to first establish it with your employees and create processes and standards internally to ensure your products or services are up to standard.”

In their chapter on competence, the authors lavish praise on the Ritz-Carlton, pointing to robust management training that results in its employee turnover rate being much lower than the industry average. They describe the company’s simple “Three Steps of Service”—warmly greeting guests, using their names, and bidding them a fond farewell—as a “brilliant piece of behavior engineering.” The motives chapter features an inspiring story of Tommy Hilfiger producing a line of clothes designed to be easily accessible to people with conditions such as muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease.

But much of the book’s narrative focuses on companies that have lost trust. In the “means” chapter, Michelin is criticized for its move in 1999 to lay off 7,500 Europe-based workers in order to slow (or reverse) its erosion in market share. As for an example of the “impact” effect on the broader society, there is the tale of Volkswagen, which, in 2008-15, used software to cheat on emissions tests. The authors quote a European government official saying of the company’s actions: “We felt betrayed.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (This should be a free link to the OP. If it doesn’t work, PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

While not necessarily directly related to the work of authors, PG thinks trust is an important component in the ongoing success of an author.

One of an author’s most important business assets is the group of readers who enjoy the author’s books and tend to purchase more than one of them. These readers may sign up for an author’s newsletters so they know when a new book will be released. Amazon’s algorithms are likely to point a reader who has purchased one book to other books written by the same author, whether already available or released at a later time.

PG will rely on the comments of visitors to TPV to provide more informed comments on this topic, but he thinks that reader trust will be enhanced by a consistent level of quality in the author’s books. Cranking out a potboiler may undermine this trust.

Additionally, consistency in the types of books an author writes, an ongoing leading character, secondary characters or a setting that appears in more than one book may also contribute to readers developing a trust that an author will deliver a new, but familiar general experience with a new story. Agatha Christie comes to mind as an example. Arthur Conan Doyle is another.

PG understands than an author may begin to feel emotionally or creatively trapped by feeling forced to write what seems like the same book over and over again.

The Most Significant Choice Of Your Writing Career

From Jane Friedman:

The most significant choice of your writing career happens long before your story makes its way into the world. This choice impacts every single aspect of your career, and it is a choice you make over and over and over again. This choice could leave you a husk of a writer, ravaged by the publishing industry, bemoaning the success of everyone else around you; or it could propel you to the next stage of your career and embolden you to try things you’d never thought possible. The funny part is this choice has nothing to do with the act of writing, but everything to do with words.

The most important choice you will make in your writing career is how you choose to talk to yourself about said career.

And for 99% of writers I know, the default setting of this conversation is: doubt, worry, and frustration. Fears on repeat include: Why would anyone ever buy my book? My story isn’t important. I’m never going to get an agent. I don’t know how to do this. Somebody already wrote a story like mine…

When we’re Uninitiated and breaking into the industry, we all have these thoughts, and we often feel powerless. But that feeling of powerlessness dissipates when you master your interior dialogue. You go from being a pawn in a multi-billion-dollar industry to an active player with a say in how your career unfolds.

You can change your default mental settings, and as you rewire your brain you may even learn to enjoy the current stage of your writing career.

But the jump from Why would anyone read my work? to My work is great is not natural. If you try to go directly from the former to the latter, you’re probably going to feel delusional, as opposed to empowered.

Rewiring progresses quietly, in stages. Mindset milestones include: That will never happen to me. Maybe that could happen to me. I can do this. I’ve already done it.

Here are a few exercises for both inside and outside your brain to lead you from That will never happen to me to Maybe that could happen to me.

Inside your head

  • Acknowledge how you think is a choice. Negative narrative is on auto-pilot by now, but someone had to turn on the auto-pilot function and that someone was you. Are you ready to turn it off? Does that idea terrify you? What about those negative thoughts are you holding on to? The choice is yours, all you have to do is make it.

For me, clinging to negativity offered a sense of security. I knew how to be an aspiring writer. But owning the fact I was a working writer put me out of my comfort zone. It forced me to realize people may actually read my work and that triggered a fear of judgment on about ten-billion different levels. But stasis equals death doesn’t just apply to our characters. And it’s only by making a choice to think and therefore act differently that I was able to move forward.

  • Notice when you’re having a crap-tastic garbage person way of talking to yourself moment and shut it down. Take a deep breath, and say out loud with your voice-box, “I choose not to participate in this conversation.” Add a physical movement, like snapping your fingers, as well. If you’re in public and catch yourself thinking negatively, you can use the physical movement to interrupt the negative pattern. That way people aren’t staring at you for uttering, “I choose not to participate in this conversation” when you haven’t been conversing.
  • Replace trash talk with a new line of dialogue. Once you’ve asserted your choice to disengage from self-trash-talk a few times, take it a step further. Replace your negative monologue with a question of possibility. I like Why not me? If somebody else has done it, there’s no reason I can’t do it too.

Rewriting your brain is hard work. It is physically exhausting to create new neuro pathways. That old wiring for negative thinking will always be there, so rewiring is something we have to practice as frequently as we practice our writing craft. And, just like mastering our craft, adjusting our thoughts and tweaking our mindset is never done—but with practice, your transition time from self-doubt to self-empowerment increases exponentially.

You can do some serious rewiring work on your own, but it has even more impact when you step outside your own brain.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Moving Forward or Onward or Whatever

From The Mad Genius Club:

By now, you’re probably tired of reading about my journey away from being Amazon-exclusive. In some ways, I am as well. It’s been an interesting voyage. Not because of the move away from Amazon but because of things it’s made me consider, things I’d been taking for granted or had let slip for much too long. In other words, I’d gotten too comfortable and that is a bad thing for writers, especially right now when we don’t know what is going to happen with Amazon’s KDP program or its publishing arm.

Before I head back to going wide, let’s talk about some of the changes coming to Amazon that may impact some of us. Jeff Belle has headed Amazon Publishing since 2009. He’s leaving–may have already left–and Mikyla Bruder is taking over. She’s been with Amazon for 10 years–that’s a good thing because it means she’s familiar with the system and the authors–but she comes from a traditional publishing background. That could be good or bad.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, Bruder doesn’t anticipate any problems in the transition or plan to make any big changes. That’s pretty standard boilerplate for any exec taking over a company or division when there’s no real problems the public is aware of. However, PW is quick to jump on the PC wagon:

Though Bruder does not see a shift in the overall vision for Amazon Publishing, that doesn’t mean there won’t be some changes. Most importantly, she brings a completely different life experience to her job than Belle did. Bruder, who is Asian American, said she has lived as an “other” in the largely homogenous world of trade book publishing and knows how tiring that can be. “I have seen firsthand how difficult it can be to work in that environment,” she added.

What this means beyond the fact PW is being, well, PW is up to interpretation. We’ll have to wait and see if Bruder continues to buy books from authors based on how well she thinks they will sell–and thus make profit for Amazon–or if a political/social agenda takes the forefront. If it is the latter, I don’t expect her to have the lengthy career with the ‘Zon her predecessor enjoyed.

Speaking of Amazon, while other companies are recovering from the limitations put on them by the pandemic–fewer employees, more working from home, etc–it seems Amazon’s KDP support staff is still at a low. I contacted them a week ago about an issue with my Honor & Duty series. For some reason, I can’t edit the series information. So I sent an email–always have a paper trail, even with the ‘Zon–detailing the issue and what I needed done. Usually, I get a response and resolution within a few hours. The longest I’ve waited for anything since trying to go wide has been 18 hours. This time? I was told they’d get to it within a week or so. Color me not happy. But they will be even less happy if I have to contact them again about this.

. . . .

I knew when I started it more would be involved than just uploading my books to the various storefronts or 3rd party aggregator. I hadn’t anticipated having to retrain myself to think in ways I haven’t since going exclusively with Amazon. 

Without going into too much detail, I had to look at how to get my books into the various storefronts, which storefronts I wanted to go with, etc. Initially, I decided to upload direct to BN, Kobo and Apple. I’d use Draft2Digital for the rest. I’ve changed my mind. The time saved alone by using D2D for everything is worth the few pennies per sale I pay to D2D to handle things for me. All I have to do is upload a generic ePub of the book, fill in the blanks and they do the rest. 

There is an added benefit of allowing them to handle it. Draft2Digital has a “sister” site called Books2Read. I’ve mentioned the site before but I am really starting to appreciate how powerful of a tool it can be for a writer. For example, here’s the landing page for Witchfire Burning. It shows the cover, gives the description and below lists other books (showing covers) I’ve written. It’s a much more attractive landing page than the product page at Amazon. If you click on the “get it now” button, it will take you to a new page where you can choose which storefront you want to visit (and I need to update it to pull in the Amazon link). 

The great thing about something like this is you can use it as your landing page for the book on your website. But even better is you can use this universal link in your books and promotional material. Think of it as a one-size-fits-all link you can use pretty much anywhere. That includes in your ebooks.

. . . .

Going wide has also made me look at book covers. Some of my covers were five years or more old. Let’s face it, genre cuing has changed in that time and sub-genres have grown. Because of that, I’ve taken time to redo a number of my covers. Some have been subtle changes: a change in font, the addition of a visual element. Others have been complete redesigns. It takes time but it helps give the books a fresher “image” and it will help draw in new readers.

. . . .

I know going wide isn’t for everyone. But I do urge each of you, whether you are Amazon only or wide or whatever, to take a long, hard look at what you’re doing now. Are there things you could do better? How much time and effort are you putting in on promotion? When’s the last time you updated your website? Do you blog on a regular basis? When you are on social media, are you on it as a private person or in your writer persona and how much time is spent in each?

Yes, going wide has me scared. I know my income will probably take a bit of a hit for the first few months until everything is released across the board and new titles are hitting. But, and this is interesting, as the number of books in KDP Select decrease, it appears that my Amazon sales are actually increasing. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

In the meantime, here’s my Books2Read author page. It is a work in progress, partially “thanks” to Amazon and the issue with the way they have the Honor & Duty series listed. But it is a quick and easy landing page to send your readers to, one that certainly looks nicer than your Amazon Author Page. I do wish it listed your website and blog the way the AAP does, but you can’t have everything and it is just one more tool in your author’s toolbox.

Link to the rest at The Mad Genius Club and thanks to T for the tip.

Business Musings: Traditional Writers

From Kristine Kathryn Rusc h:

The other day, I got an email from a writer friend who was about to give advice to one of their friends. Seems that friend had a niche how-to book for parents who are dealing with a certain kind of health issue. My writer friend asked me, Is there any reason for this person to go to traditional publishing?

I looked at the whole thing with an unusual thought for me: Some niche products might do well in traditional. The friend of the writer friend (hereafter known as FoWF) wasn’t in this for the money or even to hold onto rights. FoWF wanted to get information out there, and really, wasn’t trad pub the way to do so?

I started answering my friend by email, and as I did, I realized that publishers know nothing about this niche field because there are no books about it. Which meant that FoWF would have to educate an editor, find places to market the book on their own, do all the social media, and…eventually FoWF would discover that the traditional publisher has no in with the places that could effectively sell this book, like seminars for parents of kids with this issue.

The more I typed, the more I realized that, nope, trad pub wouldn’t help FoWF at all. It might even hurt them, because the book wouldn’t sell well, which meant that it would probably go out of print. And it would be priced too high, so that parents struggling with this issue and day jobs and all the things parents struggle with probably couldn’t afford it. So I wrote:

But as I type this, I realize they can probably do all that on their own.

So, never mind.

No, there’s no advantage to traditional publishing.

Yeah, even I get tripped up once in a while, thinking—hoping—wanting traditional publishing to have some benefit for writers.

There really isn’t any. And anyone who would do a modicum of research about the field they’re trying to enter would learn that pretty darn quick.

In fact, traditional publishing itself tells you that in a myriad of ways—and has since I got into this field forty years ago. The evergreen article just appeared in that company town rag, The New York Times, in April under the title, “What Snoop Dog’s Success Says About The Book Industry.”

The article had this little tidbit: “…about 98 percent of the books that publishers released in 2020 sold fewer than 5,000 copies.”

That would be new releases, not backlist.

But here’s the thing that the company town rag doesn’t tell you: For decades, the majority of new releases from traditional publishers sold fewer than 5,000. For decades.

The new figure in this little equation isn’t the 5,000 copies; it’s the 98 percent. If you combine that with the other statistics that came out about our pandemic year, you’ll see that this is up by maybe about a third. Bookstore sales, which are generally frontlist, were down 30% in 2020.

We don’t have the statistics on how many frontlist books felt the impact of the closed bookstores which is why I think that percentage is higher, but we do know this: trad pub doesn’t know how to market direct to consumer, nor do they know how to market to any place other than a bookstore. Their ebook prices are too high, so a lot of readers migrated to other new-to-them books, which included a lot of backlist.

But the backlist isn’t up as much as trad pub would want you to believe. Backlist sales were 69% of all book sales in 2020. In 2019, backlist sales were 63%. Yes, the pandemic accelerated the rise of the backlist, but not by as much as the trad pub editors are screaming about.

And yet, traditional publishers don’t put any money into their backlist. They make backlist books extremely hard to find. They take the paper books out of print.

In May, I got Nora Roberts’ new book, and in the Books By Nora Roberts section up front, it had this gem: “Ebooks by Nora Roberts.” Those ebooks were the titles she wrote for Harlequin back in the day. Apparently, some not-so-brilliant exec figured that Nora’s fans who hadn’t read those books were undeserving of a paper edition.

Yeah, that’s pretty damn dumb. But I’m not seeing much intelligence from traditional publishing these days.

. . . .

I get emails all the time from writers like her, writers who are happy to have an agent for the book they want to publish through traditional, writers who like telling me that my head is up my ass for not promoting traditional book publishing, and—last week—a writer who asked, sideways, if I would be his agent for traditional publishing because I “clearly know so much about the business.”

What are these writers doing?

Well, not thinking for one.

But there’s more to it than that. They’re terrified of going down a path that they see as mostly untested. Never mind that many writers have been making a living at publishing their own books for a decade now. One of those writers, Lindsay Buroker, mentioned on Twitter last month that she’s been freelance for ten years now and has published roughly 80 books.

In the same amount of time that this other writer wrote one entire novel—and made zero dollars on it.

Examples like Lindsay’s, though, seem to make no difference to writers like the one I mentioned, because that writer is operating out of fear.

The writer wants someone to take care of her, and she’s not alone. She doesn’t want to learn the business. Like that writer who wrote to me, she wants someone else to learn the business so that she can…what? Be famous? Because writing clearly isn’t her passion, or she wouldn’t have wasted all this time on one book.

. . . .

But writers who want to go into traditional publishing feel they need several things. They need a curator—an editor—to tell them what they’re doing right or wrong with their books. They need an agent to “defend them” and do the messy stuff like learning contracts and dealing with money. They need a marketer to buy ads in all those (non-existent) places that advertise books. They need someone to handle sales and bookstores and…

They’re just too scared to do any of it themselves.

And that’s a shame.

The fact that there are vestiges of the 1950s and 1960s versions of publishing, where some of that stuff actually did happen, still around makes it hard for these folks to step out of their comfort zones and learn how the business is actually done these days.

And if these writers manage to sell something to a traditional publisher—a big if, as you can see from that writer above—they will sign away their copyright for a 4-figure advance, and lose their chance to ever have a writing career outside of what has become a small and narrow niche of publishing.

That niche is small and narrow. Bookstat with its narrow little focus on the big players in the bookstore economy found that of the 2.6 million books sold online in 2020, only 268 of them sold more than 100,000 copies that year. (I added that year because remember, traditional only looks at recent sales, not cumulative sales).

One blogger wrote this after she found that statistic:

As an author, this is distressing. If I can spend two to three years writing a novel and my best case scenario is having it sell a couple hundred copies on Amazon, perhaps it’s time to face the music and realize that writing books—like knitting or playing the harp—is nothing more than a hobby. Something I can do for fun on the weekends but should never hope to earn a living from.

Yep. Distressing.

Note all the fear in that paragraph. Two to three years writing one novel. What the hell? What is she doing the rest of the time? Actually playing the harp? Because real writers write. They don’t have people look over their shoulder, go over every word, churn out a paragraph a day, and then have agents ask them to rewrite the book to make it presentable for some editor who is going to lose their job in a year or so anyway.

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.

Write What You Know—But Not Exactly

From veteran author and teacher, Dave Farland

Yesterday I got an email from a former writing student who had dazzled me a couple of years ago. He worked as a shepherd in New Zealand, and so had no ability to network with a local writing group, but his writing skills were superb. To me, it seemed he had the sophisticated sensibilities of a Hollywood pro.

Yesterday he mentioned that he had just self-published his first book a few weeks ago. Sales are exploding. He’s got nearly a thousand reviews on Amazon already, and they’re nearly all five stars. His book is doing so well that he has now gone to writing full time. 

like that. I’m excited that he’s making his dream come true. The title of his book is fun:  Oh Great! I was Reincarnated as a Farmer: A LitRPG Adventure : (Unorthodox Farming: Book 1) by Benjamin Kerei. That sounds like him. Benjamin packs a bit of humor in his tales, along with a lot of adventure and a truly wild imagination.

But when you hit your first jackpot as a writer, there are some dangers to avoid. I often tell writers in this position, “You need two income streams.” 

Why? Because writing income can sometimes get blocked.

Let me explain. If you’re publishing traditionally, your writing stream might get blocked by a publisher. An editor may decide that she doesn’t like your next book, or the publisher goes bust. I’ve even seen publishers dawdle on signing new contracts apparently in order to force a writer to take a bad contract. 

Of course, the same kinds of things happen even when you are self-publishing. I’ve seen authors have their books pulled off of Amazon precisely because the book is doing too well! It looks so suspicious that the book police pull the title until they can figure out how the author has gamed their system. In fact, I’ve had books pulled on a couple of occasions. And sometimes, with a writer as good as Benjamin Kerei, it really might look fishy.

So I recommend that the author have a second income stream. This might be outside money—a spouse who works, or an investment portfolio. But it could include a hefty savings account meant to get an author through hard times.

And there often come hard times. Authors can lose time due to medical issues—either his or her own, or a family member’s. I’ve seen authors stop writing for up to three years as they grieve the loss of a loved one. Sometimes a writer can get writer’s block due to stress, depression, anxiety, brain fog, or just because a new novel is harder to write because it breaks some molds.

So a writer needs multiple income streams.

There’s one piece of advice that we hear over and over as writers: “Don’t quit your day job!” 

But day jobs might not pay very much. 

So I often tell writers, if you really want to write full time, get a second stream. For example, dabble with a different genre, perhaps with a whole new identity! (Sometimes, a writers’ name can turn bad, as happened with two writers named Timothy McVeigh. One serial killer can put a stain on your entire literary persona.)

So as a hot new writer, you need to nurture a second income stream, either by making money outside the writing field, by amassing enough in savings so that you can support yourself for a couple of years, by writing under more than one name, or writing in two separate series at the same time. 

That way, if one career path becomes blocked, you can still support yourself and your family!

Link to the rest at David Farland’s Writing Tips

How Much Do Authors Earn? Here’s the Answer No One Likes.

From Jane Friedman:

We need more discussion of what writers earn, with specific authors talking about their advances, royalties, sales, expenses, connections that led to earnings and profitable gigs—all of it. In an industry where talking about the money is often taboo or even shameful (few want to admit how little or how much they earn), the more we all open up, then the more we can normalize the practice of talking about art and commerce, and the more people can make the best decisions for their careers. And I’ll disclose my own book earnings by the end of this post.

. . . .

I do not like this question. Of course I understand why it’s asked, and I empathize with those who ask it. But it’s like asking what does a musician earn? Or what does an artist earn? The answer will be influenced by all kinds of factors that may or may not apply to you—and that are entirely misleading about your own potential.

So, with the posts above, you’re going to find limitations. Someone will react to the information and say, “BUT [exception here].” From my POV, these exceptions can often be categorized thus:

Traditional publishing earnings can have little in common with self-publishing earnings.
Your genre/category can determine a lot about your potential earnings. So does how much work you have out on the market. More books equals more earnings potential, period, no matter how you publish.
Authors who participate in the so-called Creator Economy can have little in common with authors who do not. (Here’s one perspective on the creator economy if you’re not familiar with it. This is a more optimistic view; there are pessimists, too.)
This is also why it is a tortured exercise to try and run any kind of meaningful survey on what authors earn. I’ve written at length about the problems of these author earnings surveys. However, authors organizations engage in these surveys regularly, partly because they have to. How else can they pressure lawmakers and advocate for their members? They need some kind of evidence that says, “Look! Writers are suffering. They earn less than ever before. This is an emergency!”

Is that true?

No.

But is publishing and literary culture changing?

Yes.

Are the changes bad?

It depends on who you ask.

The majority of writers don’t earn a living from book sales alone.

This hasn’t really changed over time. We all know people don’t go into the writing profession for the big bucks unless they’re delusional. Rather it’s the pursuit of a dream, maybe the pursuit of fame and prestige. And it’s like playing the lottery if you’re hoping to become one of the bestsellers.

The good news, for some? I referenced The Creator Economy above. In short, there are more opportunities than ever for creators (including writers/authors) to earn money directly from readers. But that has very little to do with writing and selling books in the traditional, old-school, pre-internet manner. And that’s what traditionally published authors (like those who belong to The Authors Guild) really care about. Can I earn a living from publishers’ advances and royalty checks, while I focus solely on writing more books? And the answer to that is: for the majority of traditionally published authors, most of the time, no. You should not expect this today. Yes, it happens. But without some other support or income (a spouse, a day job), it’s tough. Should this be the ideal the book publishing industry strives for? That’s another post.

There are a good number of self-published writers, though, who can make this happen. They work largely in genre fiction. They have to put out a ton of work each year—multiple titles. It’s a treadmill. It’s not for everyone. But it can be done, and some enjoy it and wouldn’t trade that model for a traditional publishing life.

I’m a writer and author—and also a “creator.”

I traditionally publish and self-publish books, but that’s a very small part of my income—less than 5 percent. I’ve made about the same amount of money from my self-published book as my traditionally published book. I was paid a $5,000 advance for The Business of Being a Writer and I earned out that advance after the first year of sales. After my advance earned out, I’ve received an additional $20,000 in royalties (since 2018).

But most of my money comes from teaching and hosting online classes (by myself and others) and by selling a paid subscription newsletter, The Hot Sheet. I also offer some services and consulting, but I’ve been drawing that down to focus on my own writing and publishing. Why? Because over time, I’m earning more from my writing and publishing activities. This is the way it works for most people. You don’t earn that much at first, but you keep at it. If you can stay in the game longer than others dropping away from discouragement and disillusionment, it’s possible to see results.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Your Final Responsibility to Your Story: Creative Stewardship

From Jane Friedman:

As writers, it can feel daunting, vulnerable, and impossible when we contemplate sending our own stories out into the world. So when end stage paralysis strikes you, it’s time to step away from your identity as writer, and into your role as creative steward.

Creative stewardship fulfills our final responsibility to a story— placing it in the best position to connect with readers. Yet, it’s in this final act of stewardship that many authors find themselves paralyzed.

If you find yourself sitting atop a mountain of work you haven’t shared with anyone but your cat, I have good news for you. You can (and will) get better at this critical piece of the writing puzzle. Even better, once your stories are released into the world, they have the potential to significantly impact readers’ lives, bring you devoted fans, and earn you some cash. All those writing craft skills you’ve refined while writing the story will help in your role of creative steward.

First, detach from the role of writer with the use of personification.

You have finished your story. It is now time to acknowledge this beautiful shiny thing as an entity entirely separate from you. To help me detach, I personify a project by giving it a new, friendly, human sounding name. E.g., the book I want to sell right now, The Color Eater, became Gretel. Gretel is entirely her own being, independent of me. By detaching, we take I and me out of the equation, which eliminates the problems of self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and fear of personal rejection.

Build an extra layer of emotional resilience through a point-of-view shift.

Before personification, every thought related to your WIP was solidly in first person. I’m writing. I’m editing. I’m sending out to beta readers.

Now that you’re acting as a creative steward, it’s time to change the point of view when you think or speak about the project. Switch from first-person to third-person language and build another level of psychological distance between you and the work.

Gretel is out with beta readers. Gretel is out on sub to publishers. Gretel just made it past an editor and had her first acquisitions meeting.

This added level of disassociation diminishes the sting of rejections. It also makes it easier to speak with confidence about the project. I know Gretel has mad skills to entertain readers for hours, and I can’t wait until she has the chance.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Writers on Textbroker, Upwork Earning Signficantly Less Than Those Working Outside Content Mills

From Making a Living Writing:

Let’s face it — 2020 was a disaster for most people.

In addition to the tremendous health impact the pandemic had on our country, there was also a significant economic toll. Tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs due to the pandemic, leaving so many people struggling to find work and make ends meet.

But there’s one industry where, at least on the surface, things weren’t disrupted quite so much — freelance writing.

As freelancers, we already work from home. We set our own hours and make our own rates (unless you’re stuck working in a content mill).

Of course, freelancers still require clients who will actually hire them and pay them, and with so many businesses struggling in 2020, it got us wondering:

What was the impact of COVID-19 on freelance writers? Did their income take a hit? Did they have to lower their rates to accommodate clients who may have been struggling to keep their own businesses afloat?

With that in mind, we surveyed over 700 current US freelance writers to get a better understanding of how they fared in 2020. We asked a number of questions about their overall income, their project rates, how they found clients, and more, and the results were pretty interesting.

. . . .

Of those surveyed, about 26% have been freelancing for 3-5 years, 17% for 10+ years, 25% for 1-2 years, 12% for 6-9 years, and 20% for less than a year.

. . . .

Overall, most writers saw their income either increase or at least stay the same in 2020 compared to 2019.

Let’s start with the good news. Only 28% of freelancers said their income decreased in 2020 compared to the prior year. 55% of writers said their income either stayed about the same or increased in 2020. That’s great news! About 16.5% of writers still haven’t run the numbers on their 2020 income totals just yet.

Content mill & gig site writers are about half as likely to earn a six-figure income as those who work with clients outside of those sites

Now let’s get to some of the sadder news, at least for those who are getting their clients from content mills (e.g. Textbroker, Writer Access, etc.) or gig sites (e.g. Upwork, Fiverr, etc.).

2 out of 3 full-time freelancers who get their clients from content mills and/or gig sites make $25,000 a year or less. On the other hand, just 1 out of 3 freelancers who get clients outside of those avenues earn that little.

Furthermore, freelancers who get their own clients or work with marketing/ad agencies are roughly twice as likely (about a 17% chance) to make $100,000 or more than those who write for mills or gig sites (about a 9% chance).

Content mill & gig site writers earn far lower rates for projects on average

We asked writers how much they charge for various projects (blog posts of various lengths, feature articles, sales copywriting, etc.), and there’s one very clear trend — writers on content mills and gig sites get significantly lower rates than other freelancers.

Here are some examples:

  • 23% of freelancers working on content mills or gig sites earn $20 or less on average for a 500-750 word blog post. On the other hand, only about 13% of freelancers who work directly with their own clients or get outsourced work from marketing agencies report making that little. Furthermore, freelancers who work outside of the mills and gig sites are twice as likely to earn over $150 for this kind of work.
  • About 27% of freelancers on mills and gig sites say they earn less than $100 per article for print or high-end digital publications (non blog) on average, while only 8% of freelancers who work directly with their own clients say the may that little.
  • Just 2.5% of freelancers in the mills or gig sites say they earn $75 an hour or more on sales copywriting projects, while over 12% of freelancers working outside of those spots report earning these great rates.

Link to the rest at Making a Living Writing

The Secret To This Romance Author’s Success? Breaking All The Rules.

From Amazon Author Insights:

I can safely say that every time I’ve been asked to speak to aspiring writers, afterward, I’ve had not one, but several come up to me and say, “I can’t believe you did what you said you did. I was told never to do that. I was told never to break that rule.” This does not surprise me, but it saddens me. When I started writing, I too had a set of rules for writing romance (my genre) that I was under the impression were unbreakable. And I wrote within the confines of those rules.

It was only when publishing house after publishing house, agent after agent had rejected my submissions, and I’d decided that no one was ever going to read my books, that I threw the rules out the window. I then simply wrote what I wanted to write, wrote how the stories came to me, was true to them and my characters.

Then I published myself … And I’ve sold more than two and a half million books.

What are the rules I broke? First, I didn’t write what I thought people wanted to read. I didn’t research what might be popular — what might sell — and write that. I wrote stories that felt personal to me, that I enjoyed completely from writing to reading. The first book that I did this with was Rock Chick, and with it and the Rock Chick series, I broke all the rules:

I wrote in first person, and at that time, romance novels in first person were available, but not customary.

I wrote my heroine’s thoughts in a stream of consciousness. I had paragraphs — many of them — that were just one word. I put myself, and what would eventually be my readers, in the mind of my heroine, Indy. Not describing what she was thinking, but thinking what she was thinking as she was thinking it. It’s important to note that not everyone could get into that, and that’s understandable, even expected. It’s also important to note that the ones who did, really did.

. . . .

I didn’t censor my characters or their behavior. I didn’t think, “Oh, that might make her unlikeable, I need to switch that up, make her perfect.” I didn’t water down my aggressive, but loving heroes. I let them be them — real, imperfect, sometimes annoying, more times endearing (I hoped). They were great friends and good people, but they could (and often did) do stupid things (like we all do).

And my Rock Chicks were — and still are — hugely successful.

Once I let myself be free, my writing took off — not only in that people were reading it, but that I felt at liberty to create how I needed to create. To be true to what I was doing. It wasn’t about stepping out of bounds for the sake of it. It was about opening a cage and giving myself the freedom to fly.

In other words, I broke the rules for the sake of the stories. And I didn’t play it safe after my books started selling; I had to stay true to that process. I needed to keep spreading my wings, doing this for me, but also to give my readers something new and fresh, a story I was passionate about so they could enjoy it right along with me. 

Link to the rest at Amazon Author Insights

Twelve Years

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

On April 2, 2009, I started a blog with this:

This post marks the beginning of an experiment. I will post sections of a work in progress—a book tentatively titled The Freelancer’s Survival Guide—here, on my website.

If you go back and read that original post, you can see how tentative I am about the whole concept of an online blog. Two friends, Michael J. Totten and Scott William Carter, had a meeting with me and Dean and talked to us about new ways of publishing.

In 2009, blogging—with a donate button—was new. This was before Patreon, before Kickstarter, before all kinds of innovations. And now, twelve years later, blogging the way that I do it has become…well, not passé, exactly, but not necessarily the preferred modern way to do things.

Old hat. Old fashioned.

Weird how time flies.

And it flies fast. I was going to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the blog, but Allyson Longueira, who runs our company WMG Publishing, got diagnosed with a brain tumor and was in surgery around that point. We weren’t sure if she was going to survive, and we had to keep the business alive at the same time.

Then, last year, on April 2—Well, you were all around in 2020. You know that’s when the entire world was shutting down. We were worried about survival once again, and certainly not in the way that we expected.

So here we are in 2021. Most of us are excited about getting a vaccine. We’re using words like “opening up” and “returning to some semblance of normal,” because the past year has been anything but.

Reflecting on that time and those changes is almost impossible. Trying to imagine this world from the perspective of 2009 is well, I’m either afraid I would have believed me and panicked or (more likely) I would have reacted like the character in Julie Nolke’s YouTube series “Explaining The Pandemic To My Past Self.”

Really, when you think about all that happened since January of 2020, well, yeah. Really hard to believe.

But the pandemic was easier to live through because of innovations we didn’t really have in 2009. The Kindle was just premiering then. We didn’t have Zoom. We didn’t have much social media (maybe that’s a good thing?) and we certainly weren’t as connected online as we are now.

. . . .

Just today (as I write this), I got an email from a friend who is very invested in traditional publishing. He’s worried about how something he published will play “in the field.”

I stared at the email. What field? I wanted to ask. Because you can play in the remaining sandboxes of traditional publishing, but that “field” has gotten narrower and narrower.

Since it’s no longer a monolith, and it’s possible—no, better—to publish without it, the very idea of worrying what the curators think startled me.

Yet, when I reread the original post that started this entire publishing blog, I see that attitude underlying every sentence.

I was writing a blog that would become a book, and doing so with the online support of the readers. I honestly didn’t think anyone would read the post, let alone send in a few dollars to back what I was doing.

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’s brain doesn’t do anniversaries very well. Ditto for birthdays. BC (before computers) whenever he got a new paper calendar/schedule book at the beginning of a new year, he copied all of his annual reminders from his prior calendar into the new one.

Now, of course, he has recurring annual reminders on his digital calendar (and still fumbles an annual event once in awhile).

The them of Kris’ post got PG looking back and he discovered that he started TPV over ten years ago.

His first post referenced a web post that is still up – here’s the link

His only observation is the more things change . . . .

The Emotional Cost of the Book Deal

From Publishers Weekly:

For years, at writers conferences, I kept hearing the same well-meaning pieces of advice: keep writing, keep submitting, your book(s) will eventually find a home.

Though it’s meant to encourage writers to push through rejection, the advice doubles as a toxic literary theory of bootstrapping (bookstrapping?), which suggests that hard work and persistence will yield the reward of a book deal. That isn’t necessarily true. Through my 11 years of submitting multiple books, I wish one person had taken me aside and said, “Look, it’s a brutal business that oftentimes has nothing to do with talent. If it doesn’t work out for you, know you are not alone.” It might have saved me from years of self-blame for what I deemed my own shortcomings as a writer.

“The right agent is out there for you” was another common refrain. What isn’t as commonly known is how many agents some authors go through before they find one who is the right fit. Over 11 years, I signed with two agents from two top agencies. The first worked her tail off to sell one of my books but didn’t succeed. We parted ways, amicably, when she wasn’t interested in representing my third book. The second agent represented two of my friends. We hit it off. A few months after signing me, he disappeared. I fired him two years later, though he didn’t know it for a while because he rarely ever opened my emails.

I had been querying agents for more than three years for one of my seven books—my novel, The Parted Earth—when I received yet another racist rejection from a Big Agent at a Big Agency. “This book isn’t as strong as other books coming out of India,” I was told—as if “India” is some kind of genre and there is a quota for books set there. I had also received a string of rejections from agents explaining that they couldn’t “connect with the voice”—a painful reminder that so much about getting published depends on an agent’s familiarity with the protagonist’s experiences, not necessarily the quality of the writing or the significance of the story.

These rejections were the last straw. Aside from replying to the occasional random request from an agent to see my work—a few months after publishing an essay in the Atlantic detailing a decade’s worth of rejections—I quit looking for an agent. But then, the following summer, my nearly nonexistent publishing journey had an unexpected twist. A book contract appeared in my mailbox, in response to a proposal (unagented) that I submitted a year earlier to the University of Georgia Press for an essay collection. Southbound: Essays on Identity, Inheritance, and Social Change would eventually make its way out into the world. My confidence returned full force, which led me to submit The Parted Earth (unagented) during Hub City Press’s open-reading period. Seven months later, I had my second book contract. Both books will be out this spring.

But let me be transparent. My advances from both books total less than what some writers earn from writing a single article. Subtract my out-of-pocket expenses for authenticity editing, line editing, page proofing, and hiring an independent publicist, and I’m considerably in the hole (though the sale of the audiobook for The Parted Earth has helped me dig part of the way out). My ability to go into this kind of debt is a privilege—one that most writers can’t afford. I only hope that both books sell well enough that my nonprofit presses can continue to publish minority authors like me, because if I’d had to rely on the Big Five houses, these books would never have seen the light of day.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

A Cautionary Tale (Hollywood Part 1)

From Kristine Kathryn Rusc h:

For the sake of this particular little series, assume this: When I say “Hollywood,” I mean the movie/TV industry, and I am most likely talking about the biggest one still, the one based in the U.S.

. . . .

Let’s Start With Copyright—Again

Once upon a time in a land faraway, an insurance salesman finished writing a novel. He had graduated from a private college with a degree in English, tried to enlist in wartime and was unable to, because he was too nearsighted—although he did manage to spend his college years in the R.O.T.C. He was a military junkie who read technical manuals for fun.

The novel he had finished was an overly long, much too technical, somewhat dull “thriller” with an everyman hero. “What’s wrong with a hero who’s married, loves his wife and plays with his kids?” the author asked on the cusp of fame. “That’s what most people are.” (Put a pin in that. We’ll come back to it later.)

He couldn’t sell the novel to any of the big players in fiction, or even to any of the small players. At that point in his life, he was a failed novelist, and he did what most failed novelists do: He gave up.

But he gave up aggressively. (He was an aggressive asshole, who only got worse later in life.) Instead of putting his overly long, much too technical, somewhat dull “thriller” into a box under his bed, he mailed it to a tiny nonfiction press. The editor there saw something in it, convinced her boss to buy the novel, if the author cut 100 pages out of it.

The author did. But he still didn’t believe in the book. Or maybe, he was just too damn dumb to know better. I think he was, as most authors are, that horrid mix of ego and insecurity and the insecurity won here. (Ego would win later on.) He sold all rights to the book to the technical press for a pittance.

Then he went back to writing, hoping he would have better luck.

Well, he did have better luck. The press he sold the book to was a government-owned nonprofit, and they routinely sent their books to the White House. The president, a conservative back in the days when conservative politicians actually read, found the book and, when a reporter asked him what he was reading, held the book up and said that the book was his “kind of yarn.”

That was all it took. The book sold millions of copies. It sold to the movies immediately thereafter and actually got made into a good movie with big stars.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Our damn dumb protagonist (we can’t call this author a hero. Trust me) wrote and sold more books related to the first book. The same character, actions that take place both before and after the first book—a sequel in most meanings of the word, according to the non-profit publisher. The non-profit publisher, who had already profited on their investment when they sold paperback rights to a Big New York publisher, contacted said Big New York Publisher about this sequel thing. Because, you see, the damn dumb writer had sold his next few books to that Big New York Publisher, not realizing, apparently that he had written sequels. (Sigh.)

Suddenly, everyone was in a suit with everyone else about who owned the material and who had the right to license the books and produce them and who had the right to license any part of these works to Hollywood.

. . . .

This is the turning point moment. That moment in all good stories where the protagonist (dumb or not) comes to an all-important fork in the road. You’d think this author would have learned that he needed to understand copyright and deal making and all of that stuff. Instead, he blames his error on the fact that he had no agent or lawyer to guide him.

The problem with agents is that they are often as clueless as our damn dumb protagonist. The problem with some lawyers is that they make more money in a case that drags out in court than one that can be settled quickly.

Back then, before the first movie came out, before it became clear just how much money this particular project with the Presidential Gold Seal of Approval could make over decades, there was an opportunity to settle everything.

The technical press had been cooperating. After all, they owned all rights. They wanted “a little bit of compensation.” Compensation they were entitled to, by the way. They could have been draconian about all of this. If they had been a Big New York Publisher, they would have been draconian and the author would have been screwed.

But the non-profit publisher and the writer had a deal to settle this amicably. Most likely, the non-profit would get a percentage, and our damn dumb protagonist would retain the opportunity to write and sell the sequels to the Presidential Gold Seal of Approval book. Some money—maybe a lot of money—would have gone to the non-profit press, but, honestly, in this kind of publishing and licensing movie and TV rights, there’s more than enough money to go around.

The author’s lawyer balked. The deal went into arbitration and (spoiler alert) got settled weirdly and without any clarity. The author, a well known jerk, did not make any friends (even pictures of him with the movie stars show him smiling and the stars as far from him as possible) and he got more and more egotistical over time.

The author incorporated, and did some business things to mitigate his tax burden, things that involved his then-wife. Yep, then-wife. Whoops. Because there was a divorce, and more problems and another wife, and five children, and movies, TV, more books, and lots and lots of business weirdness.

Then our damn dumb author dies. And the second wife wants everything, so she sues. Because those deals, made in the murky beginning before the first movie came out, left a lot of questions unanswered. She wanted answers—and she wanted those answers to come with money. As in, all of the money. (Or 80% of it, with the remaining 20% going to the kids.)

Here’s my favorite part. Her suit and the vehemence with which everything gets argued encourages the judge to put all of the money the properties earn into escrow, until the dispute is settled.

In other words, no one gets any money at all.

. . . .

Eagle eyes now know who I’m discussing. This is the case of Tom Clancy. I’ve oversimplified much of it, because this case also involves the 35-year rule (look it up), the statute of limitations, arcane business law, arbitration, and oh, so much more.

But it all stems from complete and utter ignorance. In the beginning, the ignorance was the ignorance of a typical writer. Writers don’t need to know business (they think) or copyright (they think) or marketing or anything else. They’ll have people to take care of that.

Clancy had no people at first. Then he hired people known to have sticky fingers. Or, at least, people known to make deals that benefited themselves as much or more than the client.

. . . .

When there was a fork in the road, Clancy always took the road that led to disaster, not the road that would clarify. His ego, never small, got in the way once Ronald Reagan gave him the Presidential Gold Seal of Approval. Every thing in this legal mess can be brought directly on Clancy’s ignorance and his unwillingness to bend.

But let’s not ignore the Naval Institute Press, which initially bought the book. They too seemed to be ignorant of a few things.

. . . .

[W]henever Hollywood makes a contract, especially when the publishers and authors involved were ignorant of the ways of movie powerbrokers, Hollywood takes everything. They want movie rights—sure—but literary rights too, and usually merchandising rights (thanks, George Lucas [insert sarcasm emoji]) and anything else their sharks…um, lawyers…can think of.

. . . .

All of this—decades of legal wrangling, an estate tied up in litigation for eight years now—could have been avoided if Clancy had understood copyright in the first place.

. . . .

[A]s I’ve often said, what hurts writers the most is success, not failure. Failure is something you can move on from.

Success can destroy a writer, a career, and an entire family. (You think Clancy’s family is one big happy huggy group? Yep, me neither.) When you negotiate a contract, you should negotiate for success, not for failure. (Although you should keep an eye on that failure side of thing.)

There’s so much money in successful publishing that leeches moved into this business a hundred years ago. Leeches can siphon funds away from bestselling writers and the writers don’t even notice. Clancy made millions on his books. I’ll wager, without looking at any numbers, that at least one of his agents (a Jabba The Hut character whom I’d met and run from) made more.

know that Clancy’s New York publishers made a boatload more money than Clancy ever did. That’s due to traditional publishing contracts. The traditional publisher makes 80-90% on the book; the writer makes 10-20%.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Nicole 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.

PG says that you definitely want to click through on the link to Kris’ post to read the whole thing. PG has a tendency to go on rants, but he is a small-timer compared with Kris.

PG will make a few comments.

Lawyers

Some lawyers truly are jerks and idiots. (This is one area where PG can claim more expertise than Kris.)

Yes, you do have to get through law school to be an attorney. Yes, you do have to pass the bar exam in some state to be an attorney.

These accomplishments don’t mean that you aren’t an idiot.

Anyone who has graduated from college knows some idiots who managed to accomplish the same thing. Law school is a bit different than college, but idiots can graduate. If you can get through law school, you can pass the bar. The bar exam is like a law school exam.

Just like graduating from a fancy college or university doesn’t guarantee that you’re not an idiot, graduating from a fancy law school doesn’t guarantee that you’re not an idiot. (Indeed, PG has known more than a few graduates from fancy educational institutions who wander into idiocy precisely because they think they’re smarter than anybody else.)

However.

If a lawyer, even a very good lawyer, has a client who is an idiot, the result is not likely to be good.

Good lawyers try to help clients avoid making dumb mistakes, but ultimately, the client is the boss.

If the lawyer strongly recommends red and the client says blue, it’s going to be blue. The lawyer might be able to negotiate a few contract clauses that are blue with a tinge of red, but the lawyer is obligated to go blue if that’s what the client tells the lawyer to do.

The lawyer can withdraw from representing an idiot (or crazy or evil) client and PG has done that on occasion in the past.

(Side Note you can skip if it’s not interesting – If a client is charged with a crime, it may be very difficult for a lawyer to withdraw from representing a crazy or evil client (particularly if a judge has assigned the lawyer to represent that client). Under the US Constitution, crazy and/or evil criminals are entitled to competent legal representation at trial and their lawyers have an ethical obligation to avoid communicating the jury by words, acts, omissions, disgusted looks, etc., that the client is guilty as hell. In a former life, PG found himself in that position a couple of times and you just (figuratively) hold your nose, push through, try to poke holes in the prosecution’s case, work to make shady witnesses testifying against your client look as shady as they really are and hope the client’s breath doesn’t smell too bad when he/she whispers to you in court.)

Since PG doesn’t know anyone who represented Tom Clancy, he’s not in a position to say whether they were good lawyers representing an egocentric idiot or they were idiot lawyers representing an idiot author.

Authors

Whether you like it or not, if you are an author who cares about getting paid for your work, you’re also a businessperson. If you’re a brilliant, superbly-talented author who cares about getting paid for your work, you don’t get a pass. You’re still a businessperson.

If you have the money to deal with smart, talented and ethical professionals, you can get help with the business side of writing. However, despite having those people helping you, you’re still in charge of your writing business.

Authors who “just want to write” are prime targets for crooks and shysters. They may luck out and hire only honest, honorable and competent people who stay that way for the author’s entire career and thereafter (if the author cares about their heirs continuing to reap the fruits of the author’s labors), but most successful self-employed people that PG knows, including authors and non-authors, who have managers/employees/helpers/etc. pay ongoing attention to how their businesses are being run.

Self-Employed Freelance Taxes: Everything You Need to Know

From Making a Living Writing:

Running a business — and that’s exactly what you’re doing as a freelancer — isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

There are lots of things freelancers have to do behind the scenes to keep their business running, and not all of them are fun. Some of these tasks flat out suck.

One of the biggest headaches encountered by any self-employed individual is how to do taxes as a freelancer. Paying your self-employed taxes can be a minefield if you don’t have the right advice or help, but luckily there are some ways you can get through this minefield unscathed.

. . . .

What is Self-Employment Tax?

Self-employment taxes cover Social Security and Medicare taxes for people who work for themselves. These taxes are similar to the taxes withheld from the pay of most regular employees.

What is the Self-Employment Tax Rate?

The current self-employment tax rate is 15.3%. The total is comprised of two parts — 12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare.

. . . .

5. Avoid These Common Pitfalls

In addition to the steps you can take outlined [in the OP], there are several common mistakes you should try to avoid as a freelance writer.

  • Don’t assume that your earnings are too little to incur taxes. If you earn just $400 or above as a freelance writer, you have to pay self-employed taxes.
  • Don’t try to avoid declaring all of your freelancing earnings. Getting into a bad situation with back taxes or even an IRS audit could put a huge damper on your freelance writing career at any point in your career. Even if you didn’t earn enough with a particular client for them to issue you a 1099, you still have to claim that income when filing your freelancer taxes.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your taxes. I get it, nobody actually wants to sit down and get their taxes prepared. I can think of a million things I’d rather do before dealing with my taxes, but the reality is the longer you procrastinate, the bigger the risk is of something going wrong. Don’t wait until April 14th to get your act together. Start ASAP and get it over with.
  • Don’t spend your freelance income loosely. If you’re serious about your freelance writing career, treat your freelancing income as you would any other income. Even if it’s just a few hundred dollars at first, if you want to become a full-time freelance writer, re-invest that money into your business. We all start somewhere. 

Link to the rest at Making a Living Writing

Foundry Lawsuit

From Locus:

Literary agency Foundry Literary + Media dissolved in September 2020, and some authors had trouble getting paid, with reports of checks bouncing as early as last No­vember The Authors Guild got involved, and some authors were subsequently paid by wire transfer, but others were not. The agency’s found­ers, Yfat Reiss Gendell and Peter McGuigan, split up to form their own separate agencies last year, YRG Partners and Ultra Literary.

Gendell initially blamed the problems with payments on the transition. The real cause of the situation remained unclear until January 18, 2021, when founder McGuigan filed suit against Gendell in New York Supreme Court, alleging breach of contract, fraud, and negligent misrepre­sentation. McGuigan says that Gendell criminally embezzled over $800,000 from Foundry accounts, made $45,000 in illegal charges to company credit cards, and even cut off McGuigan’s health insur­ance. McGuigan froze the company’s accounts when he began to suspect financial malfeasance, and says that’s the reason some client checks bounced. He also says he “dipped into his per­sonal bank accounts to pay some of the authors he represents, but several remain unpaid because of Reiss Gendell’s obstinance, and complete disregard for the authors that she represents.”

McGuigan seeks repayment, over a million dollars in punitive damages, and that “an injunc­tion or temporary receiver be placed over the operating and client funds account and that any and all money owed to any respective authors and clients of Foundry be immediately paid under the direction and oversight of the court or a temporary receiver.”

Link to the rest at Locus

PG notes that accusations and claims of wrongful behavior are being exchanged between the agency’s two principals.

PG suggests that one of the takeaways for traditionally-published authors is to always, always, always insist on split checks in your publishing agreements.

Split checks means that every royalty payment the publisher makes on an author’s books is divided between the author and the agent (typically 15% to the agent and 85% to the author) and the publisher sends the author’s check directly to her/him and the agent’s check directly to the agency.

That way, the agency never handles money that belongs to the author.

In PG’s experience and understandings from various conversations with traditionally-published authors and other sources, agencies provide a variety of reasons why it’s a better idea for the publisher to pay the author’s share of the money directly to the agency.

Without going into such reasons, PG will say that they are not good reasons. Agents may claim that it’s important that they receive the entire check so they can properly review the royalty statement from the publisher.

PG notes that, when there is a split checks agreement, the publishing agreements the agent procures provide that the author receives 85% of the royalties and the agent receives 15% of the royalties and that each royalty check is accompanied by a copy of the royalty statement. That way, the author and the agent receive copies of the royalty statement.

PG is reliably informed that all major publishers have at least one copy machine on their premises and, generally speaking, more than one of the publisher’s employees knows how to operate the copy machine. Hence, providing two copies of the royalty statement, one for the author and one for the agent, is not generally regarded as an onerous task even by the whiniest of publishers.

One additional point involves the typical relationship between an author and a particular agent in a literary agency. Despite all sorts of agency PR, an author is typically attracted to an agency by a particular agent who is working there. Jane Agent is the reason why the author is working with the agency, not whatever claims the agency makes about itself.

If the CEO of the agency is sexually harassing the interns or spending all day in conversations with various drug dealers and Jane Agent decides to move to a better work environment, Jane’s authors should be able to follow her to a new agency and instruct their publishers to designate the new agency as the agency of record for the author, thus transferring royalty reports, payments, etc., to the new agency.

Most traditionally-published authors rely on their agents to provide them with high-quality and unbiased business advice and counsel.

Just like attorneys and accountants and doctors can be fired and replaced at will, literary agents and agencies should also be subject to firing. The author should be free to stop paying the fired parties any money not be required to entrust the former agency with any money or be tied down by continuing contractual entanglements in the future.