Disssecting a Scam: The Literary Scout Impersonator

From Writer Beware:

I’ve written several posts about a fairly new phenomenon in the world of writing scams: scammers that falsely use the names of reputable publishing professionals, including literary agents and publishers, to lure writers into paying large amounts of money for worthless, substandard, and/or never-delivered services.

This time, I’m breaking down a very similar scam that, capitalizing on the pandemic-fueled popularity of Netflix and other streaming services (as well as the eternal writerly dream of having one’s book translated into film), is appropriating the name of Clare Richardson, Senior Scout for film and TV at the New York office of Maria B. Campbell Associates, to hoodwink writers in an unusually complicated–and expensive–scheme.

. . . .

Warning signs abound. First, it’s Maria B. Campbell Associates, not Maria Campbell Associates (a small error, but it’s unlikely a real literary scout would get the name of their own agency wrong). Second, the scammer uses a gmail address (mariacampbellassociates@gmail.com), which not only is implausible for an agency with its own web domain, but doesn’t match the email address on the agency website (info@mbcbook.com). Third, not only are such out-of-the-blue approaches rare, a real literary scout won’t offer to act as your social media broker, or to hook you up with book video providers. That’s not what scouts do.

However, an eager writer–especially an inexperienced one, their head spinning with visions of Netflix fame and fortune–could be pardoned for missing these hints of bogosity. The scammer is counting on it.

. . . .

Like a reputable literary agent, a reputable literary scout won’t ask for upfront money, or make buying some sort of service a condition of working with them. Also, “Clare’s” description of the representation process is 100% not how it works–a real literary scout sends out writers’ books or manuscripts, not video trailers and screenplays written by random, un-named “professional content writers”. And anytime someone who offers to represent you tells you that you don’t need a contract, run like hell. 

. . . .

At this point, Mia takes over–by phone this time, since phone calls are a better persuader than emails. No bookseller, she claims, will place an order unless the author has insurance and is “registered” with Ingram. If you want to sell books, you really don’t have a choice. It’ll cost you nearly $6,000, but don’t faint: Tamara’s amazing book order will not only cover the expense, but make sure there’s a profit! (The scammer is hoping the writer isn’t aware of how bookstores actually buy and sell books.) Of course, Mia will handle all the arrangements, so you don’t need to worry about where to send your money. Just wire it to Chapters Media.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

Don’t Hold Out for Publishing to Make You Feel Seen. Here’s Another Goal Instead.

From Susan DeFreitas via Jane Friedman:

Every year, I return to teach creative writing at a summer program offered by the school for the arts where I attended high school (though this year, I had to do so virtually). And every year, at the end of an intense week of workshops with young writers ages 14–18, I do my best to engage in a bit of time travel.

Which is to say, I do my best to tell these talented young people what I wish someone had told me when I was their age.

Walking the tree-lined paths of my old school always brings me back to that time: My awe in discovering poets like Galway Kinnell, Lucille Clifton, and Mary Oliver, and writers like James Joyce, Raymond Carver, and Joyce Carol Oates. The strength of my yearning to write that well, to be that big—big enough that my work would be studied, in time, by kids like me, in schools like this.

And the first step toward that great success was, of course, publication. Like all my other peers, I dreamed of getting my first short story published, of attracting the attention of an agent, and publishing my first book—and at eighteen, I thought I’d accomplish all this before I was twenty.

Instead, it took me until I was thirty to publish my first short story, and until nearly forty to publish my first book. Which meant that I would go on to spend many years of my life fruitlessly pursuing the dream of publication, with what felt like very little to sustain my spirit.

. . . .

The last thing I want to do is to discourage these young writers in their ambitions, but the fact is, publishing is a tough industry, and the apprenticeship period for fiction can often feel interminable. I know from personal experience many of the most talented writers in any class will eventually just give up, because that yearning inside them has begun to sour and, in time, turns into something that feels a lot like grief.

So here’s what I try to tell these kids: Publication may feel like the thing you’re yearning for, but in reality, it’s something deeper.

What you’re yearning for is the sense of being seen.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman.

Here’s a link to Susan Defrietas’ website

Regular visitors to TPV will have anticipated PG’s response:

  1. It is not 1970 or 1990 or 2000 any more. People don’t wear bell-bottoms except in nursing homes. Sha Na Na only performs at AARP conventions. Things change.
  2. If you want to be seen, write a good book, then self-publish your book on Amazon or via one of the many useful services that will help you publish there and everywhere else.
  3. If you work diligently to let people know about your book, you will be seen.
  4. You’ll even receive some reviews by people who see your book, read your book and love your book. You’ll receive some other types of reviews by people who don’t love your book so much, but that’s gonna happen regardless of how and where your book is published.
  5. If you want to be seen some more, write and publish another book, maybe a little better than your prior book.
  6. Just like learning to ride a bicycle, you’ll get better with practice. Will you get good enough to turn pro? The answer depends on talent, but, even more, it depends on how hard you work to get better.
    1. The best weightlifters work out almost every day. Upper body one day, lower body the next. As they get stronger, weightlifters move to heavier weights. If the weights are easy to lift, the weightlifter isn’t going to improve very quickly, if at all. If you visit a serious weightlifting location, you’ll hear lots of loud human/animal noises which often happen when weightlifters try to get better at their sport.
    2. The best ballet dancers practice almost every day. PG doesn’t know if they do more spins and grunt or not, but they work hard to get better at their art as well.

Being “seen” by a traditional publisher is a different thing entirely.

It’s a lot more work and most writers never get seen by anybody but a bored and unpaid/bored and underpaid intern who sees the first paragraph, pulls a reject letter from a stack of them, inserts the letter into your postage-paid return envelope, licks the envelope (without wondering where it’s been before you put it in with your manuscript), drops it into a basket with a lot of other rejection letters for Bob to pick up later in the day to take to the post office on his way home.

If you’re the one out of thousands of authors, you may be seen by someone who works for a publisher and gets paid for for doing so.

If that happens, learn how to wait. And wait. And wait. A couple of additional people who work for a publisher might see your ms., but it doesn’t exist for the world yet.

If you make it through the seers inside the publisher, you might see a publishing contract.

If you want an advance that is large enough to keep you from being evicted while you write another book, don’t quit your day job right now. As a matter of fact, don’t quit your day job ever because you’re probably going to need it regardless.

You’ll be even older if you ever see your book in your local bookstore for a couple of months before it disappears because not enough of your friends bought a copy.

OTOH

If you had kept writing and self-published your books during the time between mailing your ms. to the publisher and seeing it disappear from the bookstore, you might well have three or four books for sale on Amazon and receive a monthly payment from the Zon. The payment might be big or little or in-between, and might not cover the rent, but you’d be receiving money for your work.

That said, PG’s business advice to writers is do what you feel will work best for you.

I Am An Author But Not Who You Think I Am!

From Woman Writers, Women’s Books

A few years ago, someone commented on my Facebook post, “Sweta, you must be ready to retire now that your poetry book has become an Amazon bestseller”.

According to this person, my royalty payments, from my poetry collection, would keep me smoothly sailing for the rest of life. I laughed so hard at the irony of this person’s ignorance.

Media portrays both incredibly rich and realistically impoverished writers. People choose to believe what suits their needs. Truth is that we, the writers and poets, don’t have a wand that we wave to magically create money from a book. Words and writing take discipline, sacrifice, and many hours (often years) of rumination.

Completing a book and bringing it into this world takes persistence and years of hard work. Writing, sometimes, takes us into dark places and unknown emotional territories. What readers see is the final product with the book jacket; the journey to get to that point is hardly rosy. Most importantly, NOT everything we write gets published. Ask any writer, and they will point you in the direction of the dark corners in their homes stacked with unwanted manuscripts catching dust.

Writing and the arts in general don’t pay much. That’s why most of us in the creative fields have a day job or a side hustle to buy food, pay bills, and follow our creativity. We don’t become poets, novelists, and nonfiction writers for the money. As writers and poets, we write because that’s how we see, experience, and navigate the world. We definitely don’t get into writing because we aspire to buy a mansion in the Hamptons from the advance. Most of us wouldn’t turn down that offer, but the probability of such a deal is far and few in between.

But we also didn’t get into writing, so we would become an unwilling charity for those who don’t care or understand that writing doesn’t come for FREE and continue to ask for help without ever offering to pay. It’s not an easy task to work a full-time job, care for a family, keep your creative passion alive, and respond to preposterous requests.

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

Reclaiming The Future

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

There’s something hopeful about going to school. School is about the future, no matter what your age. There’s a sense that you’re studying something because you’ll need it at some point. Or you’ll need the degree, and since you need the degree, you need to take these five classes whether you want to or not.

Sure, there’s the day-to-day drudgery of class, online or in person. There’s the day-to-day drudgery of homework and the frustration of testing. There’s a lot about school to dislike, and a lot to love—even in these trying times.

I think it was the return to school in the form of my Spanish class that started a realization for me, and then the calendars, as I mentioned in the last blog, cemented the realization.

The future will come, no matter what.

The problem I’ve been having—that we’ve been having, if the articles I’m seeing and the discussions I’ve been having are any indication—is that the future has been incredibly uncertain.

Not that we wouldn’t have a future. As I said, the future always arrives.

. . . .

 As with everything else, we’ve had to pivot a little, because the upcoming decade looks very different from the perspective of August than it did in January.

Rather than being discouraging, the pivot is bracing. Because it shows the students—and reminds us—that the best-laid schemes of mice and men, as the poet Robert Burns said, usually go awry. (or, as he wrote, “Gang aft a-gley”)

I’m old enough to know, though, that there are opportunities in the chaos, and that some will look at the problems and find a better solution for themselves than they would have had if they had stayed in the same old rut.

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 suggests that, for most indie authors, their professional/writing lives were less impacted than the professional/business lives of those in many other businesses.

Amazon certainly faced challenges, but it has thrived and grown during the last several months of craziness.

Trainwreck Fall Edition

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

I adore a good gothic and a somewhat creepy novel (but not too creepy, mind you), so in June, when a reliable friend recommended Simone St. James’s The Sun Down Motel, I ordered a copy immediately, and read it the moment it arrived. Loved it. It’s in my recommended reading list for July.

As soon as I finished, I ordered a copy for my sister, who also likes this type of book. Immediately, a notice flashed on my screen: she wouldn’t get the book until September. I was stunned. I looked at the publisher, thinking I was dealing with a specialty press, but no. I wasn’t. How odd.

That was my entire reaction: How odd. The book had released in February, so I should have been able to get my hands on a copy quickly. But I couldn’t.

That same thing had happened with a couple of other books I had ordered for my sister back in May. They were backlist for an author I knew my sister hadn’t tried, but would love. It took six weeks for her to get the books, with the shipment getting delayed more than once.

Because so many other things were going on, I hadn’t put my experiences together with something I wrote about at the end of April. Traditional publishing was headed for a trainwreck, and I was worried about it.

Part of the trainwreck was—and is—the closed bookstores. Many are still closed. But a lot of that trainwreck had to do with publisher panic, old systems, supply chains, and more.

When the pandemic hit, everyone thought we would get through the damn thing in a few months. We’d club that virus into submission, and return to normal life—or close to normal—by summer.

. . . .

Some industries aren’t very nimble. They can’t just shuffle one thing to accommodate something else. Traditional publishing is like that.

(This is where a handful of my indie-writer readers usually check out. I suggest you don’t, because I’ll be talking to you below. We’re part of an industry and a large part of the industry is mismanaging a crisis, which will have an impact on you. So, breathe, and dive back in.)

With the bookstores closed, some companies moved their biggest spring and summer releases to the fall, hoping that all would be better by then. There was some wiggle room, because traditional publishers had tried to avoid publishing anything important in November since it is a presidential election year. So there were some empty weeks.

But not enough of them. The schedule got shuffled, then reshuffled, then shuffled again. I know some books got canceled entirely, but many have just been moved to the next available slot on the schedule.

That is, they got moved to an available slot on the schedule, if the book is expected to do well. If it was a standard midlist book, it got shoved somewhere random, so that it can be printed, shipped, and sent to bookstores—who ordered their copies pre-pandemic.

Yeah, even if the book doesn’t come out now until fall of 2021, many of those orders remain exactly as they were. Even if the bookstore isn’t selling as many copies in its brick-and-mortar store. Or if the bookstore has shuttered its brick-and-mortar store—or closed entirely.

Here’s what a lot of readers don’t know—consciously anyway. Traditional publishing is built on velocity—that is, how many books sell in a short period of time.

The system that traditional publishing is using was designed post-World War II (or as I said to a friend yesterday, after the World War II generation survived its once-in-a-lifetime crisis). Back then, there were very few bookstores, and those that existed had limited space. Most books were sold in other retail venues—drug stores, department stores, magazine stands, and the like—which again, had limited space. In other words, there was only so much room for books in those places. Rather than keep old inventory on the shelf, retailers who sold books churned them—getting rid of those that were still on the racks after a month or two, and replacing them with new inventory.

This was easy to do, because in the Great Depression, the publishing companies subsidized anyone who sold a book by removing cost of excess inventory. Retailers could return books for full credit within a specific window. Which meant that retailers could make bad decision after bad decision, and not lose a heck of a lot of money.

They could also churn at no cost to them, replacing the old inventory with the new.

That practice created the idea that books were like bananas; they spoiled if they didn’t sell within a few weeks. And, indeed, there are horrid photos from the 1990s of Dumpsters filled with books behind shopping malls, because many publishers allowed retailers to strip the cover off books (and toss the rest of the book away) and still get full credit. Saves shipping costs, doncha know.

Even though it’s a stupid 75-year-old business model, traditional publishing still banks on velocity. And traditional publishing is fairly stupid about velocity. If an author’s sales numbers go down, no matter what the reason (y’know, like closed bookstores and a pandemic), that author will be offered a smaller advance next time—or will be cut loose. It’s brutal and unrealistic, and it’s on the horizon for so many writers.

. . . .

In addition to the messing up of the schedule, there were supply chain problems and the bankruptcy and auction of the two remaining major web press printers here in the States.

. . . .

The best way to sell books (as demonstrated by study after study) is word of mouth. My sister is at the end of a recommendation chain that went from my friend to me to my sister. My sister hasn’t even had a chance to read and recommend yet. By the time I wanted to give a copy to my sister, the book was out of print. The reason for the nearly three-month delay was because there were no copies of the hardcover in the warehouse—and no printing scheduled until September.

That September printing was probably ordered in May, which meant that the May numbers might not reflect the actual interest. The Times noted that one of the hot political books of August, which I had actually forgotten about (because so many hot political books have followed) had a similar problem:

The CNN anchor Brian Stelter’s new book “Hoax,” about the relationship between Donald Trump and Fox, was out of stock on Amazon this week shortly after its August 25 publication date, and showed a ship time of one to two months. Mr. Stelter’s publisher, One Signal, a Simon & Schuster imprint, which initially printed 50,000 copies, has ordered another 100,000 copies.

Two-month delay from August 25 on a political book places that 100,000 copy rerelease at the end of October, a week from the November election. 

. . . .

Ah, I hear you all now. What about the ebooks?

This is where traditional publishers have—pardon my crudity—fucked themselves blue. Stelter’s ebook costs $14.99. The ebook for the St. James that I mentioned above is $13.99.

Ridiculous, right? But it’s part of traditional publishing think. They want readers to buy the hardcovers, so they’ve priced ebooks unbelievably high, which is causing another problem. From that same New York Times article:

Some worry that the current crunch could reverse the yearlong trend of stable and sometimes rising print sales, sending readers back to digital books, which are less lucrative for publishers and authors, and especially brick and mortar retailers.Sa

Less lucrative for authors? On what planet? Oh, yeah, right. The traditional publishing planet. I’ve seen article after article that talks about how ebooks are a bust, that they don’t make money, and that sales of ebooks are “depressed.”

Yeah, if you overcharge for them.

. . . .

So, if the reader can’t get the novel that caught their attention this week by ordering it online, and if the reader won’t pay over $10 for an ebook, and if the reader can’t get the book from their library, what does the reader do?

The reader moves on to a different writer, another book, something new and different. Sales—and fans—aren’t allowed to build.

At all.

. . . .

As The Guardian noted, the blockbusters will make it into the retail stores. But those midlisters won’t. There just isn’t room. And with overpriced ebooks and no library access, there’s no way to discover these writers.

So many writers have gone to traditional publishing because those writers believe traditional is better at getting books into stores (really?) and is better at promotion. Let’s ignore the first part, shall we, and assume that some poor traditionally published writer was actually slated to get promotion on their book.

First, as The Guardian notes, there’s not enough room in the literary press to cover all 600 books that were released on September 3. There isn’t enough room to cover the books that will be released after September 3.

And if you were lucky enough to get a rave review from a reputable publication? Well, you better hope your publication date remained the same. Because review copies were mailed months in advance, and the review was written months in advance and published to time with your original release.

The Times quotes Sasha Issenberg whose book The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage was slated to release in June for Pride Month. He got a stellar review in Publisher’s Weekly. Only his book got pushed to early September, then late September, and now won’t come out until June of 2021.

Will the bookstores that ordered the book even open the boxes when it arrives? Remember the order at all? Will the bookstore even be in existence when the book arrives? Will readers remember that they wanted the book in June of 2020? Will the publishing company redo their promotional efforts for the book?

Oh, wait. I can answer that last one. No, they won’t. They’ll expect Issenberg to do it, and maybe he might be able to finagle some interviews and additional reviews on his own, the way an indie writer would do things. But his book is going to tank, unless someone does an intervention. And believe me, there will be a lot of other things that will have grabbed our attention by Pride Month 2021, and none of them will be his book.

. . . .

[N]ewly published traditional writers? They’re screwed. They really are.

A handful of them will be resilient enough—and smart enough—to learn how to indie publish their next books. But most of these traditional writers won’t be that resilient. Their dreams are going to die a horrid, horrid death.

I empathize…up to a point. If they want to learn how to publish books, point them to our Publishing 101 class, and then stay out of their way. They’ve had years of warning to stay away from traditional publishing, and they didn’t listen. They’re probably not going to listen now. You know the rules about drowning victims, right? Send them a lifeline. Don’t get close enough to let them grab you and pull you down.

After I published the first Trainwreck piece, I heard from indie writers who panicked. They asked if they should stay away from the crowded fall schedule. I said no.

Because the real business model for publishing in the 21st century is this: readers will discover books over years, not weeks. Put your book out there. Yeah, maybe some reader won’t find it until 2022. That’s okay. Then they get to read your entire backlist.

Indie writers aren’t dependent on velocity. To have a successful career, we need widespread availability. We need to be in all the possible markets we can. We want our readers to find reasonably priced ebooks from all the major vendors

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

This is a first-class Kris Rusch analysis of traditional publishing and PG strongly suggests reading the entire OP (which is substantially longer than this excerpt).

PG will add only a bit of reinforcement for the main point Kris makes in the OP: Traditional publishing is a very poorly-run business. It might be compared to that great restaurant you used to enjoy, but don’t think about much any more because the prices are steep and the last time you went, the kitchen wasn’t doing the job it used to.

The other factor PG has mentioned before is that even if the New York top brass was inclined to really innovate and make aggressive changes, the companies that own the large New York publishers – large European media conglomerates plus CBS (Simon & Schuster) are not going to be receptive to innovative changes, particularly if such changes might possibly result in lower short-term profits.

The CEOs of the major New York trade publishers are really middle-management in their business organizations. From PG’s prior personal experience with large European media conglomerates, he is 99.99% confident that cutting ebook prices to potentially goose sales numbers is a non-starter. The people who own the NYC publishers are just as locked into traditional strategies and practices as the NYC underlings Kris describes.

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.

If you want to make a contribution directly to Kris for her insights, here’s a link to her Patreon page.

Lessons Learned From 9 Years As An Author Entrepreneur

From The Creative Penn:

Nine years ago, in Sept 2011, I left my day job to become a full-time author-entrepreneur. Every year since I have reflected on the journey and what I learn along the way.

. . . .

(1) The global, digital, scalable, location-independent business model is incredibly resilient — especially in pandemic times

When I decided to build an online business back in 2008, I always intended it to be global, digital, scalable, and location-independent. Just to be clear on what that means:

Global — I focus on reaching people internationally instead of locally. I’ve sold books in 155 countries (and my books are available in 190 countries) but not in my local high street bookstore. 

. . . .

Digital — I create for the digital world first. I do have physical products — print books — but I use print-on-demand, so I don’t have to manage inventory or pay upfront for printing.

Scalable — I create once, then sell over and over again. Once I have written a book, I can license it innumerable times and make money from it for the life of copyright (if I manage it well). I prefer to create products that can be sold an unlimited number of times e.g. books, online courses, digital audio, although I would like to do some limited edition print products at some point.

Location-independent — I do not need to be in a particular physical location. I run my business from my laptop and have worked all over the world since 2008.

This business model has always been good to me, but in 2020, the global pandemic meant it really demonstrated its value. I have had no disruption to the business because there is nothing physical to disrupt. If anything, people have bought more books and courses online.

. . . .

(2) Goals change over time — and that’s okay!

When I started writing way back in 2006, my first goal was to leave my day job and make a full-time living online. Writing books was only one part of that picture because I couldn’t see past that first book. I started earning money with speaking as well as blogging and affiliate income, plus I kept my day job.

By the time I left my job in Sept 2011, I was making money from multiple streams of income. I had a few books by then but only one novel, so fiction was a small part of that. My next goal was to get back to a six-figure income because I had left a six-figure job for writing.

I also had a goal to enable my husband, Jonathan, to leave his job. I thought that running our business together would be the next logical step and that it would give us both freedom. He was also stressed and traveling a lot at the time and we wanted to move out of London so the timing was right for a change.

In 2015, Jonathan left his job to join the company and we moved to Bath. He helped the business by scaling operations and putting appropriate systems in place which actually ended up freeing more time for both of us.

And then we lived happily ever after … 🙂

. . . .

My goals have also changed.

I don’t want to grow the business to 7-figures in a way that involves moving into publishing others or author services which is the way that many companies scale in this industry. I don’t want employees — and now it’s just me again (although of course, I still work with creative freelancers).

I still want to be a 7-figure author as I discussed with Emily Kimelman in this week’s podcast, but through scaling my creativity and producing a body of work that I’m proud of, that creates income streams for the long-term, not just for short-term cash-flow. That means creating and licensing my intellectual property — which, let’s face it, is the fun part anyway!

I often talk about the author journey — but it’s also a life journey, and our goals change as individuals and as partnerships and families. I’m still figuring out what this next step looks like but I’m certainly excited for the next year ahead!

Link to the rest at The Creative Penn

Fact Checking Is the Core of Nonfiction Writing. Why Do So Many Publishers Refuse to Do It?

From Esquire:

When I set out to write my first book, I wanted to write a book that examined the very nature of facts and how we turn them into stories. To do this, I knew, I would have to get every fact that was verifiable correct. The more you want to ask the big, shifty questions, the more your foundation must be rock solid.

My book, The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia, concerns the deaths of two people who have many living family members, the incarceration of a living man, and a protracted emotional and social trauma of enormous meaning to a great many real and living people in a region with enormous (rightful) distrust of media and journalists. I’d done my best to get the facts correct as I wrote, but I had thousands of pages of archival documents, photos, trial transcripts, and newspaper clippings, as well as hours of interviews. The text had been through too many revisions, both large and sentence-level, for me to count. In quiet moments, I felt the anxiety of getting something wrong grip my stomach. I could hurt someone, open myself up to lawsuits, or just make a reader lose confidence in everything I had to say. Getting my book fact checked was not optional.

Fact checking is a comprehensive process in which, according to the definitive book on the subject, a trained checker does the following: “Read for accuracy”; “Research the facts”; “Assess sources: people, newspapers and magazines, books, the Internet, etc”; “Check quotations”; and “Look out for and avoid plagiarism.” Though I had worked as a fact checker in two small newsrooms, did I trust myself to do the exhaustive and detailed work of checking my own nonfiction book? I did not.

From reading up on the subject and talking to friends who had published books of nonfiction, I knew that I would be responsible for hiring and paying a freelance fact checker myself. This is the norm, not the exception; in almost all book contracts, it is the writer’s legal responsibility, not the publisher’s, to deliver a factually accurate text.

As a result, most nonfiction books are not fact checked; if they are, it is at the author’s expense. Publishers have said for years that it would be cost-prohibitive for them to provide fact checking for every nonfiction book; they tend to speak publicly about a book’s facts only if a book includes errors that lead to a public scandal and threaten their bottom line. Recent controversies over books containing factual errors by Jill Abramson, Naomi Wolf, and, further back, James Frey, come to mind.

Editors who acquire nonfiction books and work closely with authors subscribe to ideas of factual accuracy, but are usually not trained journalists, meaning that they might be unfamiliar with the fundamentals of reporting and fact checking (there are some exceptions to this norm, including recently named publisher of Simon & Schuster and former New York Times writer Dana Canedy). Despite the common sense idea that books are the longer and more permanent version of magazine articles, there is an informal division of church and state between the worlds of book publishing and magazine journalism. The latter is subjected to rigorous fact checking, while the former is not.

. . . .

A spokesperson for Hachette Book Group, one of the “Big Five” publishing houses and the publisher of my book, shared this statement with me: “We do have procedures in place to ensure that certain nonfiction books and some fiction books are vetted for libel and other legal issues. Relevant facts may be reviewed during the vetting process as necessary.” But ultimately, the spokesperson emphasized, “The responsibility for the accuracy of the text does rest on the author; we do rely on their expertise or research for accuracy.” (Inquiries to Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan went unanswered).

Yet readers and some editors often mistakenly believe that the fact checking of nonfiction books happens somewhere in the typical copyediting process, and in the case of more news-heavy or potentially controversial books, the legal process. But this is not so. These processes may catch contradictions of date and season, name misspellings, or, depending on the copyeditor, glaring errors in research, but they are fundamentally designed to make sure that the book is readable and won’t open the publisher up to lawsuits—not to ensure rigorous accuracy.

. . . .

Hachette Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, bought my book in October 2017. They paid me $50,000 in the first of three installments constituting an advance against royalties. That first payment netted to around $29,000 after agent commission and taxes. This money was supposed to cover the cost of the time it would take me to write the book, as well as all additional research and reporting—to say nothing of the years of research and reporting conducted on my own dime before the book’s sale. I spent about $2,500 on the trial transcript of the case spotlighted in my book, and about $2,000 on travel and reporting. I have no children or adult dependents, and I am in reasonably good health without major medical bills, so I was able to live relatively frugally on the remainder during the period between sale and “delivery” of the completed manuscript to my editor.

My contract stipulated, “The Author warrants, represents and covenants… all statements contained in the Work as published are true or based on reasonable research for accuracy,” and that my book could not plagiarize any other work, “or give rise to a claim of libel or defamation, or invasion of the rights of privacy or of publicity of any party, or violate any law or regulation.” My wonderful editor at Hachette understood from the beginning that it was my intention to get the book fact checked, but confirmed to me that I would have to pay for the checker myself; a legal read to protect Hachette and I from potential lawsuits would, however, be covered.

. . . .

Just as we entered the small window inside which my editor had told me we needed to fact check so as not to delay the book’s publicity plan, the fact checker I had hired needed to bow out of the project. I turned to acquaintances and to Twitter.

I received about thirty quotes from freelance fact checkers, most of them young reporters who did freelance fact checking on the side to gain experience and to pay the bills, as well as a few more experienced checkers who had worked for magazines like The Atlantic and The New Yorker. Some gave me payment quotes by the hour, and others by lump sum. My book was 110K words, about a third of which were memoir and about two-thirds of which were heavily reported material with extensive interviews and archival material. The quotes to check it ranged from $1,500 to $20,000. Ultimately, I chose a very capable young journalist and freelance fact checker named Maia Hibbett, who had just gone through the The Nation‘s renowned fact-checking internship program and was interested in the subject matter of my book. I paid her $4,000 in three installments to check my book in about six weeks.

Hibbett was excellent—and she found mistakes. Lots of them. A few examples: using more updated census data than had been available when I started writing the book, she corrected 24,170 square miles that make up West Virginia to 24,230. She inserted the word “before” into the sentence “Small-scale coal mining had been happening sustainably in pockets of the state since before the Civil War,” noting in the margin that the coal industry in West Virginia was active by 1840. She pointed out that a quote I attributed to a police statement was not ever written down, only said in court. And on and on. But not just small errors—also major errors in timeline, law, and geography. She pointed out mistakes in my presentation of cause and effect, and in my logic of interpreting the meaning of events and statements. “The larger the mistake,” the author Susannah Cahalan told me, “the harder it is for the writer to see it.”

. . . .

There is no industry standard for which books get fact checked—the ones that are checked get checked because someone (almost always the author) cared a more than average amount about the truth. There is no industry standard for what it means for a book to be “fact checked.” There is no industry standard for where the fact check should go in the production process of a book. And finally, there is no industry standard for how to hire a fact checker, nor how she should be paid or by whom, nor what should happen if the fact checker’s work isn’t good quality or the author refuses to pay for work already completed.

Of the 18 authors I spoke to, half had not hired a fact checker, but had instead relied on some combination of their own diligence, their publisher’s copy editing process and/or legal vetting process, as well as correcting mistakes in the paperback brought to their attention by readers of the hardback.

Literary agent Chris Parris-Lamb cites money as the main reason writers decline to fact check their books. My research suggests that this is partly true, but not the whole story. I spoke to writers publishing across the genres of memoir, essays, cultural criticism, and reported nonfiction; their reasons for not hiring a checker broke down along lines of both money and publishing experience. Regardless of genre, all of those who did not hire a checker were debut authors publishing their first book, or those who could not afford to pay a checker due to the size of their advance or other reasonable financial reasons—moving, illness in the family, a child’s school costs, etc.

. . . .

One of the authors I spoke to, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, hired a fact checker recommended to her publisher by another of their authors at an agreed-upon rate of $5,000.

“It looked pretty good when it first came back to me, but then I started noticing some things that I had corrected before, which she had changed to incorrect things,” the author told me by email. “Or I noticed that she had caught some errors, but she had corrected them in a way that was still wrong. And she didn’t make any notes about how she had sourced her corrections, so it was nearly impossible for me to retrace her steps. And then there were all these things I’d specifically asked her to check, which she completely skipped over. It was a total mess.”

. . . .

“Fact checking was unexpectedly the most stressful part of the whole book process.”

. . . .

On the opposite end of the spectrum for publishers offering fact checking services lies the two original content imprints at corporate behemoth Amazon: Little A and Audible. Like Bold Type, Little A hires and pays the fact checker, while authors receive fact check edits simultaneously with copy edits. In 2018, in an unconventional move, Audible began acquiring the audio rights to the works of prominent nonfiction writers like Michael Lewis and Ada Calhoun. The goal was to produce audio books that would drop in advance of their hardback counterparts. Calhoun told me that Audible suggested and paid for the fact checking of her book; it’s no surprise that Amazon has the money.

. . . .

But the reason why the publishing industry has been slow to implement such guidelines for fact checking may lie further down in the foundation of the whole system. Without widespread consumer awareness that most books are not fact checked, or about which imprints publish which books, there’s no real reason for publishers to care about fact checking. If it comes to light that a book contains major errors, it’s the author, not the publisher, whose reputation takes the hit.

“No one looks at the publishing house’s name on the book they bought four years ago when Newsweek exposes it as inaccurate and says, ‘I’ll never buy a book published by them again!’” Scott Rosenberg of the now-defunct service MediaBugs told The Atlantic in 2014.

Link to the rest at Esquire and thanks to C.E. for the tip.

PG feels that a most salient fact was not included in the OP – If someone claims injury and hires a lawyer (likely on a contingency fee basis), the lawyer will want to make certain there is a deep pocket available from which to extract a large settlement payment or court award of damages.

PG thinks it highly unlikely that any contingency fee law firm would accept a case unless there was a publisher (and, preferably, a large publisher) on the other side of the suit. Why sue an author, who probably doesn’t have a lot of money and who is much more capable of hiding assets than a large publisher owned by a major multinational publishing conglomerate?

The answer will be exactly the same as it would be for an attorney taking a claim by a person injured in an auto accident. “Is there insurance? How much?”

Debbie Driver who works at the local Walmart all week, then goes out and gets together with her girlfriends on Friday night to talk about what jerks their ex-husbands are and get drunk together is not likely to be able to pay a jury verdict when she slams into a school bus bringing the band home from a football game. (Ditto for Darrell Driver).

Debbie or Darrell may well be able to file for bankruptcy, discharge the claims of all their creditors, including the people in the car they ran into on their way home from the bar, and go on with their lives, likely keeping most or all of their personal property.

If the band members want any money, they’d better hope there’s a big auto liability policy floating around somewhere. Unless there is, even if some of the parents of the band members have enough money to pay an attorney to sue Debbie, they’re unlikely to collect enough to pay their attorney’s fees, let alone damages for their children’s injuries, medical bills, etc.

In a former life, when PG practiced retail law, on more than one occasion, he had to tell a prospective client not to hire him to sue someone who had carelessly done something that harmed them because whatever he was able to collect wouldn’t be worth his client’s money or PG’s time.

Back to the calculus of someone suing an author for damaging their reputation, causing them emotional distress, etc. While it is possible to purchase liability insurance for this type of claim (an author’s home or auto policy won’t cover it), such insurance is expensive and only J.K. Rowling can afford to buy it.

Who’s the deep pocket that makes a lawsuit worth while? Hachette, Penguin Random House, et al. Since they published the book, it is quite likely they will bear responsibility for any damages their publication caused.

A concept usually described as “joint and several liability” means that if more than one person or entity harmed someone by their act, it’s not up to the person harmed to figure out who to sue for how much. The individual who was harmed is able to sue everybody and collect some or all of any judgment the court grants from any of the defendants who have the bucks or the property to pay the judgment. It’s up to the defendants to fight among themselves if one defendant is required to pay more damages than might be the case if a lot of the fault for the damaging act was really caused by something someone else did.

So, the bottom line is that, if a book is factually wrong regardless of whose fault the error is or what the publishing contract between the author and the publisher says, a lawsuit that would likely never be filed at all if the author had self-published the erroneous book will be filed if Simon & Schuster is on the hook for damages.

Additionally, it’s quite likely that Simon & Schuster, etc., has liability insurance to cover such claims, albeit with a very large deductible. It is not unusual for commercial liability policies to include a provision and permits the insurance company to sue anybody (Hello, again, author!) to recoup part or all of the money the insurance company paid to resolve a claim against the insured.

But, of course, everyone knows that smart and talented authors always work with a traditional publisher, the bigger, the better. The only reason not to do so is if they can’t write well enough to catch the fancy of an agent who, in turn, catches the fancy of an acquiring editor, etc., etc.

PG apologizes for going into full blather mode. He blames Covid.

A number of intelligent and experienced attorneys visit TPV on a regular basis. In addition to the comments of anyone else, PG invites those attorneys to clarify, expand upon, correct, etc., etc., any of PG’s thoughts or simply share their own thoughts on the OP.

Bad Practices, Good Practices, Best Practices

From David Farland, Story Doctor:

I was speaking with Forrest Wolverton about a writer we both knew who “couldn’t seem to write.” He’d written well before, but now just wasn’t getting the words on paper. He felt blocked. Forrest asked him to remember back to times when he had written easily three years earlier, and he described how he would sit down with a cup of coffee, open his word processor, and then begin to compose.
However, he’d changed his routine back then. He’d decided that he would check his email before writing. So before he began to write, he checked his email. Then he’d go on Facebook, since he often had messages there. Then he’d “play a videogame for a bit.”

Therein we found the problem. This string of behaviors that delayed his writing actually ended up sabotaging him.

He’s not alone. I know one New York Times bestseller who recently told me that he had gotten addicted to a videogame that cost him three years of his life. Another one spent eight hours a day on social media. A third drank beer after beer while waiting for inspiration.

It seems that all of us, from time to time, can fall into bad habits. Most people with bad habits don’t publish often. But just because you don’t have terrible habits, doesn’t mean you’ll do well. Some people who manage to write consistently at a high level still don’t have stellar careers.

. . . .

I ask our authors about their writing practices, how they publish, and what works for them. Sometimes it has surprised me to find one author’s indie tactics have worked at all. There are more ways to make a living in this business than I imagined. As I listen to their publishing methods, I’ve discovered that nearly all of them—and nearly all of us, I’m sure, fall short of our potential. Authors typically find a way to write and sell books, and then they settle in at that plateau.

I’ve sometimes suggested things the author could do to boost his or her sales, but many feel they are already working about as hard as they want to.

It raises a question: Are you satisfied with doing what works, or would you prefer to change a little and do what works best?

For example, instead of opening your email before you write, could you wait for three hours and do it on a break (setting a time limit to answer)? Instead of just putting your books up on Amazon and advertising to your mailing list, would you consider some targeted ads that might double your income?

Link to the rest at David Farland, Story Doctor

Green Eggs and Shoes: Dr. Seuss Licenses Footwear

From Publishing Perspectives:

Kust when you thought it was safe to step out in your new Vans National Geographic sneakers without fear of being out of date, the Dr. Seuss empire is ready to put you on a different path with a new collection licensed to Skechers.

As the Seussians like to say, the Skechers people are “stepping into the iconic world” of Theodor Geisel. No need to tiptoe around the obvious metaphors, right?

The characters laced up in the new line of Skechers are from The Cat in the Hat. And, like the National Geographic kicks at Vans, these Seuss slippers are made for both children and adults who hope that walking in whimsy might offer traction on the slippery slope that is 2020.

In describing Skechers’ rationale, the company’s president, Michael Greenberg, starts with the obvious, saying in a prepared statement, “Dr. Seuss is one of the world’s biggest cultural icons—read, shared and celebrated by millions since the 1950s.”

Greenberg gets closer to the actual issue, then, saying, “We’ve taken our most popular footwear styles and infused them with Dr. Seuss’s one-of-a-kind designs, delivering the unique charm that only he [the late Geisel] can offer—even creating matching pairs that parents and their kids can wear together.”

. . . .

And as it turns out, branding specialists are fond of shoes not least because, as Emma Bedford wrote at Statistica in July, the American consumer averages US$392 on footwear over the course of a year. The biggest age demographic for the popularity of shoes, the report tells us, is 35 to 44 years. Much of the trend is concentrated across the age breaks of 25 to 54—lots of those folks old enough to know Seuss, right?

As we know, Seuss Enterprises is an expansive juggernaut of rights and licensing, most recently, as we reported, going into Slovenia, Albania, and Germany with new and/or broadened licensing agreements.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG noted that the publisher of The Cat in the Hat, Penguin Random House, may not be the one doing the licensing (and receiving the licensing fees). Per the OP, licensing is conducted by “Seuss Enterprises” (formally, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.)

Per the Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. link above:

Dr. Seuss Enterprises is a leading children’s entertainment company committed to care taking Theodor Seuss Geisel’s (Dr. Seuss) legacy, ensuring that each generation can experience the amazing world of Dr. Seuss. Established in 1993 and based in San Diego, CA, the company’s global portfolio complements the roster of iconic Dr. Seuss books, and includes films, TV shows, stage productions, exhibitions, digital media, licensed merchandise, and other strategic partnerships. Ted Geisel once said he never wanted to license his characters to anyone who would “round out the edges” – a guiding principle at Dr. Seuss Enterprises. For more information about Dr. Seuss and his works, visit seussville.com.

Don’t Fall Into the Trap of ‘Precrastination’

From LifeHacker:

We live and work in a culture that values productivity (and in turn, profits) above pretty much everything else. But we’re also big fans of instant gratification. (Isn’t the best part about making a checklist adding a few things you’ve already done, just so you can tick them off right away?) As it turns out, when you mix the push for productivity with our love of instant gratification, you can end up falling into the trap of “precrastination.” Here’s what that concept means and how to avoid it.

Dr. David Rosenbaum, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, first coined the term “precrastination” in a 2014 article in the journal Psychological Science. He describes it as “the hastening of subgoal completion, even at the expense of extra physical effort,” but it can apply to tasks (like office work) that don’t involve physical labor.

Basically, you precrastinate if you opt to put in extra effort in the rush to complete a task (and tick it off your to-do list) that may end up being unnecessary with a little more time and planning. Chris Bailey, writing for CNBC’s Make It vertical provides this example:

You and your team are gearing up for a complex project, and they’ve sent a number of emails asking for clarification on certain points. Rather than taking the time to write back in a thoughtful and deliberate manner or schedule a call to discuss, you send back a series of half-baked replies.

Task complete, right? Not quite. While you may have temporarily dealt with a few items on your to-do list, your lack of clarity generates further questions. As a result, more effort is needed to get everyone back on track.

How to avoid ‘precrastination’

The key here, Bailey says, is to identify when zipping through tasks is a good idea, versus when it’ll actually end up costing you more time in the end. 

Link to the rest at LifeHacker

How to Survive a Pandemic, According to an Academic Publisher

From Publishers Weekly:

Like all businesses, Oxford University Press has responded rapidly to the changing market conditions and customer needs resulting from the Covid-19 crisis. The stages we’ve gone through will be recognizable by anyone in the sector: an initial rush to enable remote working, extensive financial scenario modelling, and then accelerating digital programs and sales in anticipation of a very different-looking post-pandemic world. It’s been demanding, but with lots of learning points along the way.

After reviewing the past four months of our activity and talking to colleagues at other houses about how they’ve responded, I recommend publishers and IP businesses take these five steps to stabilize their operations and position themselves for what comes next. Most of these are simply good business responses, but I hope they are helpful as a checklist.

1.Shorten your planning time horizon and carve out spare bandwidth. In publishing, planning horizons are generally 18–24 months. We’ve shifted ours to six. Which of your activities have the most immediate return? Could longer-term projects be put on hold? Carve out capacity (even if you’re not sure where to deploy it yet) by deciding what you can afford to stop. This shift in perspective will help you identify and redeploy resources to support short-term, opportunistic activities.

. . . .

3. Audit your IP and services. Before offering deals to grab quick sales, perform an audit of all of your content and outputs, and then rank them in terms of how valuable each one is in meeting current market requirements. The order might not have changed since the last time you did it, but you might be surprised, given how many market conditions have been radically upended. Who knows what gems you’ve got on your backlist, or what services you offer that have become more or less useful.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Kickstarter: Is it right for you?

Visitor M.C.A. Horgath graciously shared her Kickstarter lesson:

Many authors are using Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms to connect with fans and fund their work. But how can you tell if Kickstarter’s for you?

You need a project. A nebulous “pay three months of my expenses while I write something” notion is not a project: at the end of the campaign you need to have a deliverable for your backers, something you’re all excited about. So have a clear goal in mind: you want to write a specific novella. You want to produce an audiobook edition. You want to get one of your out-of-print editions back online. You want to publish an anthology.

You need time. Preparation for a Kickstarter requires scheduling, accounting, planning prizes and pricing them, recording a video, writing your marketing materials, planning publicity and asking your test audience for feedback. Running the actual campaign will take at least half an hour a day of writing updates, keeping up with publicity requests and managing your prize production. And then if your Kickstarter succeeds you’ll be spending time fulfilling your backers’ prizes. Make sure you’re ready to commit that much time for the next 20-40 days of your campaign, and enough time afterwards to do what you’ve promised. Remember to plan for unexpected success: fulfilling prizes for 50 backers might not take long, but what if 1000 show up?

You need a fanbase. Statistics show that most Kickstarters attract 10% of their browsers from Kickstarter’s site. All the other backers are going to come from your efforts, and your fans’. If you don’t have a broad or energetic fanbase, keep your goals reasonable, and remember that 90% of that money is going to come from your marketing efforts.

Link to the rest at SWFA

And here’s some additional advice on Kickstarter for authors

The Kickstarted Game Changer

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

For decades publishing has been a stagnated industry, relying on fifty- and sixty-year-old methods to sell books. Most of the practices within the industry are also at least fifty or sixty years old. Sure, the industry has made some modifications to accommodate innovation, like the ebook, but those are minor tweaks.

Those tweaks do not take into account the actual changes in the world. What traditional book publishers could do for writers in the mid-twentieth century was vast and impressive. What traditional book publishers can do for writers now is pretty minimal, and getting more so, thanks to the damn virus.

If you’ll notice, most of the repeat New York Times bestsellers (even at the small numbers that it takes to hit the list) have been around for at least ten years. And that includes Brandon Sanderson.

Sanderson provoked this mini-series of blog posts when he launched a Kickstarter this month, and it flew past a million dollars within a day. This is important for a variety of reasons, a handful of which I explored in the previous post.

The real reason this large Kickstarter is important is that, if we writers do this right, the Kickstarter is the game changer that the industry needs.

I’ve long had the sense that the publishing industry is moving at lightspeed—away from traditional publishers. If there’s an innovation, it comes from the indie (self) publishing side.

. . . .

The opening line of this very silly sales pitch from a promotion company is this:

Nowadays, some traditional publishers won’t even consider signing an author who has less than 10,000 email subscribers. Even indie authors see a big jump in sales after they build an email subscriber base…

Even indie authors? Even indie authors? This technique for building sales came from indie authors. They’ve refined the email marketing list long past what this particular article proposes. The things it espouses were hot in the mid-teens, and aren’t effective now.

Except, maybe, to get a traditional publishing deal, which pays increasingly less money for scooping up most of the copyright. That copyright detail will become important in the third and final installment of this miniseries.

Traditional publishing is floundering. Its overhead is top-heavy, it’s still locked in expensive production contracts, it’s also paying New York rents, which, as of January of this year, had the second highest rental prices in the nation (only San Francisco cost more).

I’m sure a round of layoffs is coming in traditional publishing which follows the last-hired-first-fired method of getting rid of people. Which means that the innovators—the young people—will disappear.

And now this.

Brandon’s Kickstarter should send waves of fear through traditional publishing for a variety of reasons.

1…The monetary size of the Kickstarter. As of this writing, the Kickstarter has earned well over 5 million dollars. It will cost money to fulfill the Kickstarter, not just for the items promised, shipping, and the salary of the staffers who will handle fulfillment (or the cost of a fulfillment service).

But for the sake of argument, let’s say that this Kickstarter finishes at 8 million dollars (which is what Dean is estimating, based on the way the Kickstarter is going in the middle here). Let’s use super huge fulfillment expenses and say that it will cost half of the earnings to produce and ship the rewards. (It will cost significantly less, but go with me here.)

That still means this Kickstarter will clear 4 million dollars.

In today’s market, no publisher can pay 4 million dollars for a book advance. Even if some publisher did manage to cough up that kind of money, Brandon wouldn’t get it all at once. He’d get it, probably in 5 (or more) installments—signing, turn-in, copy-edit, page proof, hardcover publication and paperback publication.

The most would be on signing—maybe a million right there or maybe not because again, I can’t see a publisher shelling out that kind of cash in 2020. The rest would be split in payments under $500,000, with at least 15% taken for the agent.

All in all, it would take three years to get the four million dollars for the book—if the publisher moved at lightspeed. Even then Brandon wouldn’t get the full 4 million. He would get 3.4 million, with $600,000 (minimum) going to his agent.

With this Kickstarter, he’ll get the full 4 million sometime in August. (This assumes that Kickstarter’s 5% fee is in the 4 million I set aside for expenses.)

Here’s the kicker though: This Kickstarter is for a single license—a leather-bound hardcover with beautiful interior art. Not for paperback rights or standard hardcover rights or ebook rights. Not for audio or anything that you might find in a standard traditional contract.

Just one little slice of the copyright.

In other words, the fans on Kickstarter are paying for just one version of a book many of them might have already read. There are still other licenses out there that could be monetized should an author (not Brandon) want to do this.

So if Brandon can clear 4 million on one slice of the copyright pie, think what would happen if he decided to Kickstart his next hardcover novel. Then Kickstart the paperback. And Kickstart the audio book.

Not all of them would earn 4 million, but that doesn’t matter. If he makes $500,000 on each of those Kickstarters, he would add another 1.5 million to his Kickstarter total (9.5 million) and since we’re saying it would cost half to fulfill, that’s another $750,000 up front, not counting the money that would come in from the ebook (which I haven’t listed here) or the sales to the general public.

Instead of 3.4 million over three years on a book, he’d clear 4.75 million in about a year (or less).

2….The backer size of the Kickstarter. As of this writing, over 19,000 people have backed Brandon’s Kickstarter. This is a tiny percentage of his fan base—and that’s a good thing.

Not everyone who reads books goes to Kickstarter. Not everyone who reads Brandon’s books buys them. (They’re also in libraries and other such places). I couldn’t quickly find the sales figures for Brandon’s solo books. (We can’t count the Wheel of Time books he completed for Robert Jordan.) But I do know that Brandon’s sales are in the millions of copies.

With that measure, 19,000 backers is a mere drop in the potential bucket.

Imagine if Brandon self-published all of his books, not just a handful of them. His fan base is not going to diminish. It is going to grow or at least remain the same.

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.

Writing for a Living

From David Farland, Story Doctor:

As Cicero put it over 2000 years ago, “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” What was true in Rome is true today.

We’re facing a global downturn in the economy due to the Corona virus. Whenever that kind of thing happens, a lot of people begin looking toward writing as a way to support themselves. Very often these are people who always wanted to be writers but have put their writing dreams on hold to do other things. Some are entrepreneurs or lawyers or work running newspapers—anything that they imagine will make them feel more secure about making money. But now they’re looking seriously at their dream job once again.

So I often hear the question, “Can you make a living as a writer?” My answer of course is “Yes, I’ve been doing it for thirty years.” The real question is, “Can YOU make a living?”

The question gets couched in a number of different ways. “How long does it take to learn to write?” “Are publishers buying books?” “Can you make money writing as an Indie?” “Is one place better for a writer to live than another?” and so on.

Over the past few months, with our Apex writer’s group, I’ve been interviewing successful writers. Some are #1 New York Times bestsellers in different genres—thrillers, romance, fantasy. Others are killing it as Indies—in adult, young adult, and middle grade lit. It has surprised me how each of the writers has his or her own path to success. One author might be writing huge thrillers for adults and pays little attention to social media. Another focuses on advertising on Amazon.com, while a third is making big money just by hand-selling his work to kids. My friend and old student Brandon Sanderson is doing a Kickstarter this week for his “Way of Kings” anniversary edition and is right at $5 million this morning. His efforts were so successful, he just made Newsweek Magazine. But I know lots of authors who are using Kickstarter and Patreon as distribution methods to support themselves.

In short, I see dozens of paths to success.

Link to the rest at David Farland, Story Doctor

Harnessing the Power of Coauthoring

From Writers Helping Writers:

I always knew coauthoring had benefits – half the workload, and twice the platform to launch from are the obvious bonuses. Sure, you have to split your royalties, but you also share the costs. But I had reservations (how do you allocate who writes what? What if you don’t like each other’s ideas or writing?), so it was relegated to something other authors did.

Until a fellow author approached me, asking me to cowrite an urban fantasy series. I was nervous. I was intrigued. I asked some questions. I hesitantly agreed. Not long later, I approached another author friend wondering if we should do the same with an idea I had percolating. One that felt like it could be far better served if it was molded and cultivated by more than just one mind.

And so my coauthoring journey began.

And it’s been such a delightful adventure that it sparked the very words you’re reading. With a highly successful dystopian series (which may or may not have interest to option the film rights…), and a twelve book urban fantasy series releasing next year, I discovered the benefits of sharing the writing and marketing process. 

. . . .

At this stage, Amazon only allows authors to publish under a single name. That means one person from your writing duo (or trio, or septuplet if you’re feeling ambitious!) will be publishing your books on their KDP dashboard. It will be their role (aka headache) to split the royalties each month for the lifetime of your books. 

What’s more, another writer is going to see your work at varying stages of draft (personally, this was a challenge for my perfectionism tendencies). If I didn’t trust my coauthors to be positive and constructive, it would’ve been a much more difficult process. 

Ask yourself:

  • Who will be publishing the books? How will you report earnings and costs? 
  • Do you feel the feedback you’d be getting is valuable? Do you think it strengthens your writing?
  • Are you willing to be tied to this author for the life of your books? 

. . . .

In the same way you’ll need differences and contrasts with your coauthor/s, you’re going to need similarities because these commonalities will be the foundation for your writing endeavors. A shared passion for the story concept and its characters. A desire to see your books succeed, even when life gets busy or the kids get sick. Ultimately, writing a book takes dedication and hard work. If you’re writing a series, then the workload and timeframes just multiplied. 

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

PG read the article hoping he would see one word – contract.

Actually, two words – written contract, followed by by four more words – signed by all authors.

Partnerships, joint working arrangements, etc., can be wonderful as the OP indicates.

However,

  • Somebody’s gonna die first
  • Somebody’s gonna die second and the copyright to the jointly-written book will continue on and on
  • Some delightfully normal people have weird heirs
  • Not all relationships, working, marital, etc., endure over the long run
  • Any lawsuit costs more than any agreement between two writers
  • Even a slow lawyer is likely to finish a partnership agreement much sooner than a fast litigator can finish a lawsuit

There’s Something About Being Quarantined for Too Long

PG has been receiving inquiries from prospective clients about publishing contracts from various organizations with which PG is not familiar.

He won’t name names because he has only seen a couple of the contracts and not done any checking on any (except to confirm that a notorious vanity press is still in operation).

Like (he expects) many of the visitors to TPV, PG has also seen an uptick in spammy email offers.

PG needs to do a content analysis to learn a bit more, but he wonders if there’s a style guide somewhere that is used by many for whom English is a (distant) second language for the purpose of creating fraudulent-sounding emails.

However, short of a more in-depth review, here are a few style elements that show up in PG’s inbox on a regular basis:

  • The author claims to be a ministry-level official in the government of an African nation
  • The Minister is telling me that I have qualified to receive a lot of money from some government fund
  • Sometimes the money is sitting in an Unclaimed Property fund
  • The general style of the email is quite obsequious and archaically formal, “My Dear Kind Sir or Madam”, etc.

PG doesn’t believe that even the most credulous among us deserves to be defrauded of money he/she has rightfully obtained. However, he wonders if someone who is victimized by this sort of approach might not be in need of a court-appointed conservator to manage the individual’s financial affairs to protect the individual from being financially victimized.

Postscript regarding Vanity Presses and Other Occupants of Publishing’s Swamps:

  1. Don’t pay money to a “publisher” or “press” to publish your book
  2. Always do a series of online searches based on the name of any organization or person who solicits you for money to assist you in publishing your book.
    • You might structure some of your searches as follows: “Shady Publisher” fraud, “Shady Publisher” crook, “Shady Publisher” cheat, etc., etc., etc.
    • Look for a website for the Publisher. Don’t necessarily believe what it says, but see if it looks like one for a major publisher. See if the site lists any alternate names, imprints, etc. the Publisher uses and do all the searches described in this list on those alternates.
    • Do a lot of searches about the Publisher, not just a few.
    • If the Publisher has a physical location listed on its website, Google “Better Business Bureau” and the city named in the physical location. Once you find the local Better Business Bureau (it may be in a larger city near the city where the Publisher is located) use its website to search for the name of the Publisher.
    • Go to several websites where authors gather to talk shop and ask whether anyone has heard about the Publisher
  3. Go to Writer Beware© and look for any mentions of the Publisher. Make sure you don’t miss the Thumbs Down Publishers List and look around there.
  4. Go to Amazon’s Books section and search for the Publisher’s name. If you don’t find it, consider its absence to be a giant red flag with spotlights shining on it. If you do find the Publisher’s name, look at the Sales Rank of the books it has published.

Don’t Do Business with Crooks

A couple of months ago, PG had a post titled Don’t Do Business with Jerks, explaining that this was one of the more common non-legal pieces of advice he gives his clients.

Recently, PG was reminded of another common piece of non-legal advice he gives to his clients.

Don’t do business with crooks.

If you do business with a crook, sooner or later you’re almost certainly going to regret it.

Certainly, some crooks appear to be selective with their targets. You might feel that, since you don’t fit the target profile, you’ll be safe.

The problem is that given the choice between a friendship/relationship and getting something he/she wants, ultimately the crook’s gonna crook.

A crook may be honest in a dozen small business matters. That is an admirable series of decisions, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the crook isn’t a crook any more ever again, that he/she has turned their life around and will never crook again.

It may mean that the crook has decided that whatever non-monetary or monetary value involved in the non-stealing relationship might be present, such potential is speculative when compared to the direct financial benefit of simply stealing something. Or perhaps the crook decides to see if he/she can get more money by not stealing, thinking that stealing is an option if the first path doesn’t pan out.

Yes, crooks can change their ways, turn their lives around and never steal again. Or they can change their ways, turn their lives around, then revert for one reason or another. The reason may be one that makes financial sense or it can simply be that the buzz involved in pulling off a good heist is just too tempting to resist.

While there are many honest publishers, there are also a few dishonest publishers. While there are many honest literary agents, there are also a few dishonest agents. (In the interest of equity, there are many honest attorneys and a some dishonest attorneys.)

The publisher/author relationship is a potential opportunity for thievery because the publisher has control and access to all the information about sales, etc. The author knows only what the publisher discloses.

Yes, most (but not all) publishing agreements include audit clauses, but conducting an audit using a qualified accountant is nothing close to cheap. A forensic audit/auditor is more expensive than a standard audit. (A forensic audit is an examination and evaluation of a firm’s or individual’s financial records to derive evidence that can be used in a court of law or legal proceeding.)

If the publisher is working hard on short-changing an author, the publisher may have taken effective steps to prevent an auditor from discovering the truth.

Perhaps the person/organization has either initiated or been on the receiving end of several lawsuits. Perhaps the person/organization is constantly involved in public disagreements with others over money or other topics. For PG, both of those are large red flags.

One specific type is an individual who has been married and divorced several times with the breakups involving lots of fireworks, nasty accusations, big legal bills, etc. Again, such things happen even if both spouses are perfectly upright and honorable in every way, but long experience indicates that the probability of this being the case is not high.

Without getting into politics, if a client came to PG for advice on entering into a business deal with Donald Trump, given Trump’s history of lawsuits and other public disputes with business partners, PG would likely remind the client about the benefits of a quietly efficient business and personal life.

All of this notwithstanding, people can and do change, turn over a new leaf, repent of past bad behavior, etc.

In such cases, PG suggests that his clients not be the first new business partner of the repentant counterparty. It’s one thing for a person to change their behavior when the sky is blue and birds are singing. However, if a storm appears on the horizon, newly-acquired virtues may take a back seat to unfortunate old habits.

To be clear, PG is not advocating permanent banishment of someone who has made bad decisions or serious mistakes in the past. However, if a client wishes to be a good gal/guy and help someone who is down on their luck, PG suggests that a purely charitable act, one undertaken with no expectation of a return or profit, may be a wiser approach. With no expectations, one may avoid disappointment and estrangement if the repentance is less permanent than anticipated.

You may want to consider writing person with a dodgy past a check instead of giving them one of your books to publish.

PG’s bottom line is still Don’t Do Business with Crooks.

Praying for Clients? Pro Tips to Earn Well as a Christian Writer

From Making a Living Writing:

Can you make a living as a Christian writer?

Maybe you’re praying for new clients, wondering if you’re on the right path.

After all, the Christian market for freelance writers has a reputation of low pay or no pay which makes for an unlikely way to make a living.

Median annual salary for freelance writers fell to a historic low of $6,080 in 2017, down 42 percent from 2009, according to an Author’s Guild survey.

And if you’re trying to carve out a niche as a Christian writer, you might think there’s even more gloom and doom to come.

Why? Some Christian writers make even less because many of these publications have low pay for articles and expect you are doing it for “the ministry” instead of the money (which may be true and more about that later).

And it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ve successfully made a living as a Christian writer for many years, and I want to give you some of the “secrets” to following this path…

. . . .

1. Learn to write well in the print magazine area

Even if it is low pay, you’re gaining publishing experience. Book editors and literary agents are looking for authors who have publishing experience.

One of the best ways to gain that experience is writing for magazines. You learn to:

  • Write for an audience
  • Give the reader a solid takeaway or single point to remember
  • Develop good storytelling and writing skills

These are critical skills for every writer—Christian or not.

2. Low-paying articles can lead to higher paying opportunities

While working on a magazine article assignment, I met the leading African American in Promise Keepers when it was the fastest growing faith-based men’s group in America.

No, the magazine assignment didn’t pay all that great. But…

  • My new relationship led to writing a Christian book with Bishop Phillip Porter.
  • That project paid a good fee, but it was also another stepping stone.
  • I was able to work with a New York literary agent and get a six-figure book contract for the second book.

Before you blow off low-paying assignments, take a minute to consider the possibilities. Follow every open door. You never know where it will lead.

. . . .

4. Diversify your writing and income streams

No one has a crystal ball to see the future of publishing. But I have learned the hard way the Christian writer needs to create multiple streams of income. For example:

  • I’ve had full-time day jobs which have suddenly come to an end.
  • I’ve had book contracts cancelled and other unexpected events.

The best protection for any writer is to earn from different places

Link to the rest at Making a Living Writing

Starting Hard Conversations: Writer Edition

From Writers in the Storm:

One of the things that’s surprised me the most as I’ve advanced in this writing journey is how many people change agents, editors, publishing houses. It’s not something that is discussed widely on the internet, but it happens. A LOT.

Why do these changes happen?

Part of the problem is that writers forget they are allowed to have questions, and they will have questions – questions about something related to publishing, something that their agent or editor might know, but for reasons including mental health issues, insecurity about writing, or a desire to not be that client, they have each paused and let the stress fester a little.

It can be a very scary thing to send an email to someone who you respect, but with whom you have some feelings of frustration, whether it be something that you don’t understand as well as you should, feedback that wasn’t provided when you thought it would be, or writerly imposter syndrome in general.

For these kinds of situations (and so many others in my life) I reach into the vault of brilliance provided by Brené Brown – this time from her book Rising Strong.  In it, she states repeatedly about the importance of acknowledging the story we are telling ourselves. Please note that this isn’t the story that is true or the story that is rational – it is the story we are telling ourselves.

For example, I endure depression. I don’t like to say I suffer from it, though sometimes I do. So, the voices that tend to visit me circulate around being enough of whatever the flavor is of the day. I talk to myself as I’m getting ready for the day, greeting those thoughts when I am able to recognize as depression thoughts by their name (our theme song for this meeting is “The Sound of Silence.” The Disturbed version is best for me).

If I am able to tell when I’m in a depression cyclone and when I am having valid concerns, it helps. Then, I choose key moments to share this reality with the professionals I work with.

. . . .

1. Do NOT write/call when you are on an emotional rollercoaster.

There are going to be times when the initial response to something sends your thoughts and feelings on unpredictable loops and that is not the time to talk.

I have a colleague who has a sticky note on her computer that says “24 hours.” As soon as she has an email/voicemail/hears of a conversation that gets her heart racing, she looks at it and waits. This wisdom works for many situations. Practice it often and even in excess.

2. Always, always, start with a humane greeting.

A sincere inquiry into how things are going, an expression of gratitude for what has been done. Agents and editors work very hard for a lot of people, and you have the opportunity to be part of that. That’s amazing. Express your gratitude often.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

How Authors Can Invent Their Own Advances

From Publishers Weekly:

Funding a book-length project, whether it’s a first book or a fourth, can be challenging—even more so without an advance, or with a nominal one. However, with some research, organization, entrepreneurial spirit, and persistence, a writer at any career stage can find resources to “invent” an advance and obtain the support to complete a manuscript. Below are some options writers can look to.

If you’re working on a first book, the Elizabeth George Foundation provides one-time yearlong grants. Funds may be used for living expenses, travel for research, artistic residencies, writers conferences, necessary enrichment or related coursework, or tuition in accredited MFA programs in the U.S. Short story writers, poets, unpublished novelists, emerging playwrights, and unpublished creative nonfiction writers who are U.S. residents may apply.

The Sustainable Arts Foundation supports writers who are parents by giving unrestricted cash awards to individuals as well as by funding family-friendly artist residencies. Recent individual awardees received $5,000 each.

For creative writing projects with an international focus, the Fulbright Awards considers and funds both teaching/research and research awards. If you have a BA or are a recent graduate, you’ll likely want to apply under the Fulbright Student Program; graduate-degree holders who have been published will likely apply under the Fulbright Scholar Program for midcareer and established professionals. Many countries do not have a foreign language requirement, so you may undertake your book project research in English. For some awards, the Fulbright now offers a “flex option,” which means if you are granted that award (either for a semester or full academic year abroad), you may allocate the research over shorter time periods.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Learning to Love the Loneliness of Writing After My MFA

From The Literary Hub:

When I went to grad school, I brought Harold. Harold is my dog. He’s 80 pounds, a pit bull terrier mixed with something larger than a pit bull terrier, meaning most of the few pins on the Craigslist rental map that “allowed dogs” would not allow Harold. So I had to settle with renting a tiny standalone house a few miles from the university and, more importantly, outside the neighborhood where many of the other students in my program lived. This made me nervous. I worried that I would struggle to find my footing in the community.

Which is odd, considering that the solitude of it is what drew me to fiction writing in the first place. I’ve always enjoyed having the freedom to build out, refine, and reshape my ideas on my own, seeking input only when I myself deemed something ready to be seen. Writing fiction is one-pot creativity. You take your ideas into a room, you let them stew, and what comes out is not the starter for another thing that involves other ideas and other processes; it’s the thing, the whole thing.

The problem is it gets lonely. Crushingly so, at times. But crushing loneliness can be dealt with. Emergency protocols can be initiated, loved ones contacted. I’m privileged to have this vocabulary, but I have it nonetheless. What I struggle with more is the lesser loneliness of writing, when every word I put on the page is fine but not great, when every song I try and listen to fails to hook me, when I get up to do the dishes and find only a mug and a bowl in the sink, because I’ve already used this as an excuse to stop doing the thing I should be doing. It will feel like the days themselves are suffering from a low-grade sinus headache, and all I’ll want is to get out, and be around people whose mutual desire for escape will confirm that I’m okay, actually.

. . . .

This was what I sought from a writing community: not connections but a connection to something bigger, a network of people who “get it.” And despite Harold, despite the small standalone house, despite the distance, which some nights, on the way home from the bar on my bike, seemed to double or triple—despite it all, I found it. I experienced the elusive IRL writing community, experienced having a phone full of numbers to text when I needed reprieve from sitting by myself staring at a Word document, and places to go if not one of those texts yielded a concrete plan.

In my workshops, I received a lot of advice that I’m still not entirely sure what to do with. There often seemed to be a sinister trade off at play. The notes of my peers alerted me to my strengths and shortcomings as a writer and made me really consider what I wanted and didn’t want to do with my work. In exchange for this insight, they padlocked the very projects they were in reaction to. Many of the stories I worked on during those two years remain unfinished, residing on my hard drive as individual files or as part of a collection that I tried and failed to sell with an agent I don’t work with anymore. Upon graduating, I shipped a large box of marked up stories to my new address. When it was lost in transit, it felt like divine intervention.

Which is all to say, the things that occurred outside of class—the time spent in bars and crowded rooms filled with those who knew both the exhilaration and profound itchiness of writing—was not a neat side effect of attending a writing program. For me, it was everything. And for some time, I was content.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

PG is reminded of law school students who decide they hate the idea of working as a lawyer after they graduate. These folks tend to have huge student loan debts from their undergraduate and law school educations that could best be paid by getting a high-salary job, but they don’t want to be a lawyer with a high-salary job. (There are many lawyers with jobs that aren’t so high-salary, but we’re talking about paying off student loans.)

PG doesn’t know enough MFA graduates well to know if there are similarities between the law school graduates and MFA graduates who decide they don’t want to do what they spent a lot of money preparing for. However, as a general proposition, if anyone asked PG whether they should enter a career-oriented course of graduate studies (anthropology doesn’t count) without being convinced they really wanted to do work as a lawyer or writer/editor, he would suggest they find a job and see how they feel about writing or law in a couple of years.

Participating in the adult working world will introduce most college graduates to occupations and business lives previously unknown to them. They may surprised to discover that they really enjoy helping people find the right life insurance policy.

There are more than a few mature adults who discovered a wonderful field they had never considered entering while they were in college. PG has always been happy as a lawyer (save for dealing with one bizarre senior partner and a couple of crazy clients), but had no idea that he would ever find legal work interesting until he had been out of college for a few years.

These observations and accompanying advice are definitely not original with PG. During the spring of his senior year in college, PG’s academic advisor, an older woman who was greatly respected in her rather exotic field of study and was always addressed as “Miss Lee” instead of Doctor or Professor Lee, called him into her office following a class.

Miss Lee asked PG what he was planning to do after he graduated. He threw out vague possibilities that included traveling to Africa or Sweden and looking around when he arrived there.

Miss Lee’s response was direct and forceful. “You need to get a job. Here is the address of the student placement center. Go there right now and tell them you want them to help you get a job.”

PG followed Miss Lee’s advice and, a couple of days after graduation started a job he hadn’t previously known existed. That job lead to another job which lead to law school, etc., etc.

PG hasn’t been to Africa or Sweden but, to this day, has been exceedingly grateful for Miss Lee’s advice and acknowledges that his life would not have been nearly as rewarding had she not told him to get a job in a manner that persuaded him to promptly follow her advice.

How to Kick the Next Book Blues

From Publishers Weekly:

In the literature biz, there is no rush like a debut. Before that first book hits, anything seems possible, the improbable feels likely, and that proposed media blitz seems like it might just actually work. Also: that starlet with the production company could (let no doubts linger) love your plot and—even more flatteringly—your prose. That photographer charged with freezing your face for all time will (there’s no stopping hope) trick your age out with the lights. The airport bookstores will stock your book, Trevor Noah will slot you in for an interview, conference organizers will rain their keynotes down upon you, and there are just so many prizes to be had.

Indeed, there’s no rush like a debut.

It’s the aftermath of the debut that crowds the heart and head—not all the time, but mostly. It’s then when we writers take stock: we stumbled or we didn’t; we were seen or we were not; we were loved, we were not loved, we were neglected; our emails were answered or they were ignored. Failure is one thing. Success is something else. Success breeds the need for an even better next book.

All of which requires hyped writers embarking on their next books to find a quiet room in the house inside their heads—a place where the imagination has not been spent, diffused, defected, defeated, harassed, minimized, bullied, or drowned out by the story already told, the book already made, the praise already compressed, the expectations already sparked, and the rumors of other superstar writers who somehow wavered in the shocking aftermaths of success. What, after all, kept Harper Lee from finishing a second novel for all that time? How much, precisely, did F. Scott Fitzgerald suffer in the afterglow of early fame?

. . . .

But what if the writers of series grow desperate to move to a new writing room inside their heads? I’m not suggesting that all do, of course, but, what if? What if what they want to do next is not precisely within their lucrative, reliable brand? What if their next is, to the Ps and the Ls, a most terrifying risk?

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG notes that indy authors can make their own decisions based on how they feel and what they think their readers would enjoy.

In PG’s exhaustively impartial opinion, smart authors are better at marketing their books effectively and efficiently than whatever sort of people are going to work for publishers these days.

Lessons in Waiting for Yes

From The Millions:

I used to be in a band.

We played more than 600 shows in our roughly seven years together. We lasted seven years and 600 shows and three full-length albums and four EPs and two tapes, and dozens upon dozens of sessions, interviews, and videos. We weren’t the best. We weren’t the coolest. We weren’t the hippest. But we were good. . . . And we outworked everyone. Beyond any music we ever created, we became most known for that work ethic. We were the Road Dogs, the writers said, the Working Man’s Band, the Hardest Working Group in Rock ‘n’ Roll.

. . . .

Yet all of that hard work yielded nothing.

Well, that’s not entirely true. It yielded seven of the greatest years of my life, the majority of which were spent driving around the country, playing my guitar every night, making new friends and fans, seeing old friends and family, watching our small but devout fan base singing words that we wrote right back in our faces, and spreading our beer-soaked gospel in every corner of the country. We got to see our world in a way few people get to see it, and I’ll never suggest anything other than our being amongst the luckiest people on Earth.

But in the end, it resulted in nothing other than fond memories and a lifetime of experiences. As far as tangible returns on our years-long investment, we had nothing to speak of.

And yet here I am, starting at the same point I started at almost a decade ago. Only now, in place of a guitar and a bunch of songs, I am armed with a laptop and a bunch of stories.

I’ve decided to parlay my life and career from (arguably) the hardest industry to break into to break into (arguably) the second-hardest industry to break into. I’ve decided—thanks to a resume whose main body attempts to explain how being a “guitar player” can bring value to your company—to try and get paid doing one of the few things I know I can do well: writing.

Because being a musician—a decade of noes and passes, of agents and managers and labels and distributors and venues and bigger bands and producers telling me (in their kindest boilerplate language) that they’d rather not work with me—wasn’t enough, I’ve decided to have another go at failure in an attempt to start a writing career.

. . . .

I write about sports and about wine. I write about the local flair of my adopted hometown and about the Italian-American food that is my family’s heritage. I write about my son, 18 months old and nearly half as tall as his mom.

Last summer, I pecked away every morning at a story about him, about her, and about me, and emerged with a 45,000-word manuscript of which I am very proud. I wrote it for myself. I wrote it for my mom, who’s been dead half a decade, and for my family, who are still here. I wrote because I felt that I had a story I had to write. I wrote for all the reasons the half-cocked self-help gurus tell you to write; “Don’t write the story because you want to get published. Write the story because you need to write the story.”

I needed to write that story. But I also wrote it with the intention of selling it to a publisher.

. . . .

But first I have to wade through another cycle of the endless noes and passes, as the 50-plus literary agents whom I’ve queried and the 50-plus more that I’ve yet to query tell me in their kindest boilerplate language that they’d rather not work with me.

Link to the rest at The Millions

YouTube Adpocalypse is No Surprise

From The Illusion of More:

YouTubers call it the adpocalypse.  It’s a word is used to describe the steady erosion of YouTube’s support for small and independent creators by demoting or demonetizing their channels in favor of more traditional, mainstream material.  Julia Alexander at the The Verge wrote in April of this year …

Between 2011 and 2015, YouTube was a haven for comedians, filmmakers, writers, and performers who were able to make the work they wanted and earn money in the process…. In 2016, personalities like Philip DeFranco, comedians like Jesse Ridgway, and dozens of other popular creators started noticing that their videos were being demonetized, a term popularized by the community to indicate when something had triggered YouTube’s system to remove advertisements from a video, depriving them of revenue.”

While not directly related to copyright, I would include the adpocalypse in a chapter about the broader copyright debate because one of the underlying premises of the “copyright is obsolete” narrative is that the new opportunities created by the internet could replace traditional licensing regimes with legacy “gatekeepers.”  With an evangelical zeal, some of the loudest copyright critics sermonized that the internet was replete with untapped sources of revenue for creators, and YouTube was their Zion—a place where creators could slough off tired notions of ownership, share their work with the world, and earn a living from Google’s advertising machine.

The fact that people were making a business out of being YouTubers—ranging from profitable side-lines to multimillion-dollar payouts for a handful of stars—was sufficient anecdotal evidence to bolster the talking point that concepts like copyright were anachronistic and regressive.  The lecture at old creators was a general theme that they should stop “whining” about lost sales, piracy, devaluation and embrace the unprecedented prospects before them.

. . . .

That was a theme my fellow luddites kept reiterating—that YouTube will “empower” new creators until it is no longer in its business interest to do so, at which point the company will change the rules without warning or transparency.  That was the underlying absurdity of the entire line of argument against creators’ rights—the illusion that a company like YouTube was liberating new creators, even making them feel a sense of ownership in the platform itself and that this apparent symbiosis would last indefinitely.  “The golden age of YouTube — the YouTube of a million different creators all making enough money to support themselves by creating videos about doing what they love — is over,” writes Alexander.

Perhaps.  But I wouldn’t think of it as the party is over so much as a party to which most YouTubers were never going to be invited in the first place.  The promise of millions becoming YouTube entrepreneurs was never attainable, or at least sustainable.  “96.5 percent of all of those trying to become YouTubers won’t make enough money off of advertising to crack the U.S. poverty line,” stated a 2018 article at Fortune.com. YouTube was always a casino, and Google is the House.

. . . .

More than a few of my fellow luddites have mentioned that YouTube’s monetization in not about creators, and never has been.  As composer Kerry Muzzy describes in a sit-down interview with Neil Turkewitz, “So far I have identified 97 million views of videos with my music in them, representing 303 million minutes of watch time. Those 97 million views happened before Content ID located my music in them and under YouTube’s policies, I can’t monetize them retroactively — so YouTube and the uploader made a small fortune in ad sales on those videos, but I got nothing.”

This post is not a gloat.  I legitimately empathize with most creative people, and YouTubers are no exception; but one thing the “old” creator can tell the “new” is that very few favorable tides last a lifetime, which is one reason owning copyrights in successful works can be so critical for so many creators.  Like the aging jazz musician whose royalties in a pre-1972 sound recording just might be her medical bills for the year.

Link to the rest at The Illusion of More

PG suggests the same pattern has applied/will likely apply to indie authors on Amazon. The idea that writing and publishing an ebook is a sure path to financial success and security was an initial Amazon meme.

Plenty of one-shot-wonder “authors” may still receive small payments from Amazon each month, but long-term success for indie authors requires hard and smart work – writing good books, promoting them well, keeping readers involved to the extent they want to be involved, building and sustaining a brand that equates with quality, understanding the segment of the book market in which you exist, etc.

That said, PG would feel better about the long-term well-being of indie authors if Amazon had more successful competitors for online ebook publishing and sales. No disrespect to the variety of start-up publishers who provide good service, quality ebooks, and fair treatment for authors, but PG hasn’t seen anyone who seems to have the ability to scale up to become a second Amazon in terms of sales and reader mindshare. (He would loudly cheerlead for anyone who looked like they could pull off such a difficult feat.)

For all its childish grumbling about Amazon, major publishers and the infrastructure that surrounds them are likely as dependent upon Amazon as indie authors are. Other than in a handful of high-income neighborhoods that support all sorts of retailers that exist nowhere else, and perhaps a few college towns, PG thinks the physical bookstore business is on its way to financial oblivion as well. PG hasn’t seen any credible demographic study of consumers who regularly visit physical bookstores and purchase from them, but he suspects it’s becoming more and more of a niche group.

PG also suggests that the lending of ebooks via traditional libraries is another potent force that will impact the bookstore market. For PG, borrowing an ebook via the local library system isn’t quite as frictionless as Amazon’s purchasing experience, but it can still deliver a quality book from a traditional publisher to PG’s ereading device at 11:00 PM when he’s not quite ready to go to sleep yet.

Advice for Women with Book Advances

From Publishers Weekly:

My first love was in a band. His advice about music translated easily to the writing life—or I made it fit, those nights I was killing time backstage in dive bars during sound check. “Leave them wanting more” was his advice on playing. So I won’t drone on when I give readings, erring on the side of reading too little.

“All money made by the band goes back to the band” is another one of his sayings—easy to follow when I made only $10 here and there publishing poems. My first three books were poetry, published because they had won contests.

I put that prize money back into my band—back into my writing—using it to print postcards, to enter contests, and, importantly, to acquire gas and food as I traveled around giving readings. That was back when writing wasn’t my full-time job. It is now, by necessity. And the world is different now, fueled by a gig economy seemingly hell-bent on driving us into the ground with exhaustion.

Elizabeth Gilbert famously used her book advance to travel while writing Eat Pray Love. V.E. Schwab says she spent her (more modest) first book advance on, “in order: Rent. Groceries. Bills. Self-promotion.”

Schwab was responding to a Twitter thread on advances. Writers’ responses to what they had spent or would spend advances on included college, a new roof, and an adoption, as well as on evergreen expenses such as bills and insurance and paying down debt. Michelle Belanger said her “book advance story speaks to the failure of U.S. health care”; she spent it on oral surgery, which she had to pay for out of pocket.

These responses were overwhelmingly practical. And the responses overwhelmingly came from women.

The idea is that you spend your book advance on the living expenses accrued while writing the book. But many people have already finished a book before it sells. And most of us aren’t paid enough of an advance to live off it, or at least not for very long—not in our era of sky-high rents and insurance costs.

. . . .

A few months after the novel sold, I was laid off from my job. My coworkers and I were in the process of joining a union, and I didn’t receive severance. As soon as he learned I had been laid off, my literary agent, Eric Smith, suggested I polish up the next book he knew I was writing. He said we could sell it on the strength of sample chapters and an outline. And he was right.

The idea of spending all of a book advance with the expectation of future earnings that may or may not ever come is dangerous. But I did spend every cent of an advance once. And it was the smartest thing I have ever done.

That advance, for a novella, was the first one I earned. And I can tell you exactly what I spent it on: I hired a lawyer. Because of that advance, I was able to get a divorce, get custody of my child, and get child support established. That advance saved my life.

. . . .

My advice for all women writers: save your advance. Save every single penny you can. Because your survival is not guaranteed—as a writer but also as a person who is still thought of as less than in this world.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

A Comprehensive Guide to a Content Audit

From ReadWrite:

In content marketing, it is always the 80/20 rule. 20% of content brings 80% results. This holds water for every content marketing audit I have done. A handful of articles pull the maximum number of clicks and conversions. When we talk about content marketing, the first thing should be to create and distribute content that often we don’t reuse.

According to a study, most content marketers don’t feel the need to audit, which is strange as it helps improve content marketing strategy.

What is a Content Audit?

It is a process of systematically reviewing all the content on your website. The process allows you to pay special attention to the optimization efforts and see whether you meet your business objectives or not.

If performed adequately, you can find gaps in your content which can be fulfilled to serve your target audience better. Finding your target audience will not only step up your content game but will also help mature your digital strategy following the dynamic industrial trends.

. . . .

Before creating content, you must ask yourself who your audience is? What is your audience looking for? How can you solve their problems? All these questions will help you to write a clear and crisp copy that is as relevant to your audience as possible.

Once you’re done, you’ll be all set to write content copy that can move mountains. Every content marketer has their way of creating and publishing high-quality content, but there are a few things you must ponder before creating a writing piece. The first one is the audience.

Your content should resonate with your audience, so they keep on coming back to you. Seek feedback from your current customers through social media pages, emails, and surveys.

. . . .

Identify where your SEO stands:

  • Identify your high ranking web pages and keep them aside from the low ranking ones. Take the help of Google spreadsheets or any other spreadsheet while doing so.
  • Understand what content you need to remove or update on your website.
  • Check for backlinking and interlinking.

Link to the rest at ReadWrite

Authors Break Silence with Complaints About ChiZine Publications

From File 770:

ChiZine Publications, the Canadian horror publisher run by Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory, has been under fire from writers this week for slow payment and nonpayment, accused of bullying and blackballing an author who complained, and in connection with remarks made by some individuals associated with CZP of a sexist and racist nature.

The social media outpouring seems to have been precipitated by the sharing of what passed between author Ed Kurtz and ChiZine Publications. I haven’t sourced the beginnings of this conversation (which may not have been public), but the details appear in CZP’s denial and Kurtz’ rebuttal below. But before turning to them, it’s helpful to look at one of Michael Matheson’s posts.

Matheson’s comments on Facebook include:

…Just now catching the edges of what happened with Ed Kurtz and CZP. And I can’t even begin to say I’m surprised. Honestly, I’m just glad we’re finally as a field starting to talk about the problems with CZP a little more publicly.

If you’ve never had a problem working with/for them, that’s fantastic, and I know it’s true for a number of people. But having been on the inside of that company for two years (2013-2015, longer if you count time spent working for Chiaroscuro Magazine doing reviews and review management before that), the issues that are coming up around Ed aren’t unusual. These are longstanding issues, spread across CZP’s interactions with writers, editors, interns, publicists, cover artists, agents (some who flat out won’t allow their clients to work with CZP), multiple distributors, several book printers, and they’re not going to get better.

…Long story short, you could not pay me to work with CZP ever again – not least of all because beyond the collected freelance payment of $3,200 for working on 30 books in whatever span it was (which I think was also in the two years I worked directly for them), I never did get paid. Nothing like hearing “Oh we’ll be able to pay you a salary/stipend when we get the Book Fund,” for two years running.

ChiZine Publications has publicly responded to charges about their payments to Ed Kurtz and allegations of mistreatment.

Given the recent discussion on social media about our professional relationship with author Ed Kurtz and other authors, we feel some of the mis-statements that have been made need to be corrected.

In 2018, Ed approached us, asking about monies due him from a Russian translation of his novel. At the time, we told him the monies had not yet been paid to us, and we checked with our foreign rights agent, who confirmed that they had received no monies either. We did not receive the translation rights monies until late April of 2019.

Once we received the translation monies owed, we paid Ed within 48 hours.

Earlier this year, we were approached by the Horror Writers Association to mediate the situation—and we do acknowledge that Ed’s author royalties were late at the time, which we regret, and which situation was corrected promptly. ChiZine Publications remains a small press run by two people, and while we do our best to stay on top of the business, we occasionally fall short. This is not something we take lightly—our author relationships are important to us.

Ed Kurtz’s royalties are currently paid in full. Any other monies he might be due will be paid on his next royalty statement, which will be in spring 2020.

As to an accusation that we, along with other small presses, attempted to blacklist Ed Kurtz, or threaten him in any way—that is categorically untrue, and we deny it. We were proud to publish Ed’s novel and were eager to publish his next one, as per our contract option. But when he wished to withdraw that novel, we respected his wish.

At no time has Ed ever asked for a rights reversal, although of course he is entitled to do so. We are happy to revert his rights if he makes that request.

We are aware that this discussion has brought to light instances of late royalty statements or payments, and we believe it is important to address this with our authors.

Accordingly, over the next four to six weeks we will be reviewing our financials, and reaching out to our authors and/or their representatives, to ensure that royalties are up to date, and promptly address any shortfalls.

If any of our authors have any specific questions—whether regarding royalty statements or any other business-related concerns—please contact us and we will do our best to provide answers in a timely fashion.

. . . .

Meanwhile, there is concern that the authors will unfairly receive the brunt of the punishment when customers stop buying books from CZP, or reviewers don’t cover their CZP books (as a couple online critics have already announced they will refuse to do in the future).

Link to the rest (in a much longer post) at File 770 and thanks to SFCN for the tip.

Expect Failure

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Not too long ago, I made a suggestion to someone I’m working with. I thought we should send our project to a Big Name Magazine, for consideration in one of the many things they’re doing. (Yes, I’m being deliberately vague.)

The response I got from my partner on this project was purposely discouraging, questioning my desire to even try because Big Name Magazine gets thousands of submissions. I pushed—hard—and the project got submitted.

I’m not sure I got angry about that response, but I did get peeved. I personally hate it when someone refuses to try because thousands of other people are trying too. Guaranteed failure, that’s what that attitude is, and not the good kind of failure.

It’s the kind of failure that shows a lack of belief, either in the self or the project.

A lot of people refuse to try anything because they’re afraid of failing. And I find that ironic: because failing to try is failing.

. . . .

“Expect Success” is all about attitude, about approaching everything—including submitting a project along with thousands of other people—with the idea that your project could succeed. Be optimistic and try.

The other point of expecting success is to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep pushing until you do succeed.

But if you do that, then the subtext is this: you will fail.

A lot.

And for some reason, most people see failure of any type as a failing.

So imagine my delight when I was reading an article in, of all things, a magazine that I get for free because I went to the Consumer Electronics Show. In the May/June issue of I3, entrepreneur Jake Sigal explores something they do at his company, Tome.

Tome both shares and celebrates failure. Sigal writes:

We have a fail brick with our logo that is earned. Whenever anyone fails, we post a message on Slack and show off  the brick on our desks as a badge of honor.

Why? Because Sigal’s company “encourage team members to push personal technical limits, without fear of the consequences of failure….Failure is not only tolerated, it’s expected. We use it to decommission certain techs while others are prioritized.”

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 is hybrid publishing?

From Nathan Bransford:

In the last twenty years there has been an explosion of new publishing models that take advantage of new opportunities afforded by the internet and advances in printing on demand. There’s also been a corresponding rise in scams. So what is “hybrid publishing” and how does it fit into all of this?

Hybrid publishing isn’t quite traditional publishing and it isn’t quite self-publishing. Essentially: A hybrid publisher takes on some or all of the functions of a traditional publisher, but the author shares in more of both the initial investment (in the form of fees) as well as the upside (in the form of higher royalties).

It’s tough to generalize about hybrid publishing because there are so many different models with so many differing levels of legitimacy. Many scam artists out there have taken advantage of the hype around hybrid publishing in order to put a glossy spin on exploitive practices.

One more reason for confusion around hybrid publishing is that a “hybrid author” is a totally separate term. This usually refers to an author who has been both traditionally published and self-published (such as yours truly), not necessarily someone who has published a book with a hybrid publisher.

Hybrid publishing is still viewed with quite a bit of skepticism in some corners of the publishing world, with some still viewing it as little more than vanity publishing by another name. But as publishing continues to evolve away from the virtual monopoly of traditional publishing, expect to see new upstarts continue to pop up in this zone.

. . . .

One helpful way to think about the book publishing process is as a collection of services, such as editing, design, and distribution. In traditional publishing, the publisher handles all of the services and pays the author an advance on top of that. In self-publishing, the author handles (or outsources) all of the services but receives more money per copy sold.

In hybrid publishing, the hybrid publisher usually manages these services, including distribution, but the author shares in the cost of production and an initial print run in exchange for royalties that are higher than traditional publishing but less than self-publishing.

In theory, hybrid publishers offer value by managing these tasks for the author, and some offer better design and print distribution than a self-published author would be able to achieve on their own.

Some hybrid publishers are selective in the authors they choose to take on, others are more like assisted publishing models that will take on all comers.

. . . .

There are really two types of authors who should consider hybrid publishing:

  • Authors with cash who are looking for a bit more upside than regular self-publishing.
  • Authors with cash who don’t want to manage the publishing process on their own.

Notice the “with cash” part? Yeah. If you don’t have cash to burn there are more economical ways of getting your book out there. Traditional publishers will pay you to publish your book, and self-publishing tends to cost less than hybrid publishing, especially if you handle some of the tasks on your own.

Some authors might appreciate having the publishing process managed for them and are willing to pay to not have to get into the self-published weeds. Or you might come across a hybrid publisher who genuinely seems to offer a value add with their design or distribution.

. . . .

At worst, a hybrid publisher is really just a vanity press or scam artist in disguise, taking advantage of the buzz around hybrid publishing and exploiting your ego to charge you top dollar for things you don’t need.

. . . .

  • Know what you’re signing. What rights are you handing over? What costs are you committing to? How can you get out of the arrangement if things go south? Be absolutely sure of what you’re getting into before you commit.
  • Be very skeptical of agents and publishers who use a bait and switch that steers you to their self-publishing arm. Many publishers, including some of the major ones, use extremely scuzzy services that are at best extractive of your cash and at worst wholly exploitive. Some reputable agencies have established legitimate hybrid publishing enterprises, but unless you’re already a pre-existing client, be very skeptical.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

PG will second the warning about scam artists contained in the OP.

At this point in the self-publishing revolution, there are quality cover artists who are happy to work with indie authors for an appropriate fee. There are quality editors who are willing to work with indie authors for an appropriate fee.

Book formatting for most fiction books and many non-fiction books has become much easier to do on your own with Amazon’s Self-Publishing Resources, including Kindle Create. However, it’s not difficult to find a professional book formatting artist who will work with indie authors for an appropriate fee.

If you want help, email and online marketing service specialists are not difficult to find . . . online!.

PG thinks in all but very unusual cases, the author should be the boss and everyone else should be a contractor, providing a particular service. The author needs to be in the position to advance fees to the various specialists, but that relationship puts the author in control. If money is very tight, friends, acquaintances, high school or college art students looking for opportunities to build artistic résumés, etc., are possibilities.

The author is the one who publishes the book and receives all sales proceeds directly from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, etc. If accounting or business management help is needed, the author can send copies of royalty reports to those specialists providing assistance.

Yesterday

Not much to do with writing, but perhaps a writing prompt.

The premise for a new movie PG just stumbled upon, Yesterday, is that due to some cosmic occurrence a small-time struggling musician is the only person on the earth who remembers The Beatles and their songs. For everyone else, The Beatles never existed.

Here’s a trailer:

From The Wall Street Journal:

How much is an idea worth? In show business it often depends on who came up with it.

In the surreal comedy “Yesterday,” a struggling musician catapults to fame by singing Beatles tunes as if they were his own, following a freak occurrence that erases the band from the world’s collective awareness.

The real-life story behind the movie, in theaters Friday, tracks nearly the opposite trajectory: A struggling screenwriter comes up with an original idea, but can’t get the project made until he passes the torch onto someone much more famous.

. . . .

Moderately successful TV writer Jack Barth had spent many a hard day’s night trying to write for the big screen, penning more than 20 scripts over the course of his career—none of which he had ever managed to sell. Then, inspired partly by his own failures, the 62-year-old Mr. Barth had the idea for “Yesterday,” and spent a few years trying to get his script made into a movie. But it wasn’t until Richard Curtis—the acclaimed writer and director of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Love Actually”—heard Mr. Barth’s idea that the dream started to become a reality.

Although Mr. Curtis had experience adapting other people’s ideas—most notably with Helen Fielding’s novel “Bridget Jones’s Diary”—in this case he preferred to write his own version of the story. Mr. Barth, selling his idea for what he calls “a fair price,” hoped for the best, knowing he no longer controlled the film’s fate. He didn’t reveal the price.

Mr. Barth credits Mr. Curtis with writing a charming movie, even though their respective scripts take different turns; in Mr. Barth’s more cynical version, the film’s protagonist, also named Jack, fails to attain stardom.

“My view was, even if I woke up and I was the only person to know “Star Wars” or Harry Potter, I probably wouldn’t be very successful with it, because that’s kind of the way things have gone for me,” Mr. Barth says.

. . . .

“When I wrote my version I hadn’t actually read Jack’s; that was the deal,” Mr. Curtis says. “So I guess it was my natural instinct that went for a more optimistic version.”

. . . .

Because of his decision to sell the script, Mr. Barth can’t take credit for writing the movie and isn’t accorded the coveted “Screenplay By” credit. Instead, he shares the less prestigious “Story By” credit with Mr. Curtis, which means he is also ineligible to receive major awards.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

The Economics of Writing a Technical Book

From Medium:

I am not an expert. I have co-authored a single book in 2017 called Cloud Native Infrastructure for O’Reilly Media. Many people have asked me what it was like so I will attempt to explain the process, time investment, and financial incentive here.

. . . .

The process was about what I expected. I was introduced to Brian, our first of three editors, from someone I knew who was already writing their third book. They thought I might be a good fit for what they were looking for so they made the introduction.

I thought about it for a couple weeks and then submitted a formal book proposal which entailed filling out a Word document template and emailing it to the editor. I didn’t hear back for about 3 weeks and then, after a follow-up email, heard the proposal was approved. After a kick-off call it was suggested that I find a co-author to help write the book. I had a week to find one and then needed to sign a contract with O’Reilly for dates and deliverables. I interviewed a few people and Kris Nova and I complemented each others skills perfectly for the content we wanted to cover in the book. She agreed it sounded like a good topic and she was excited to take on the challenge.

The contract seemed fairly standard and focused around content ownership and royalties split. The default split between authors is 50/50 which we stuck with. The contract stipulated that Kris and I own the copyright for the content, but O’Reilly has exclusive rights to use the content any way they see fit throughout the world now and in the future for the duration of the copyright.

Once the contract was signed there was a steady pace of work as we both figured out how to lay out content and what we should write about. O’Reilly provides a platform called Atlas for writing which is quite good. You write in plain text AsciiDoc and then O’Reilly’s Atlas platform can generate a PDF, or other formats, via the web interface or API. We both used atlas-cli to generate PDFs as we wrote. Generating the PDFs was a good feedback loop on the content. It helped make sure formatting was right and also allowed us to take a step back to read what we wrote.

. . . .

On March 1st we were assigned our cover animal which Kris and I named Andy O’Connor the Andean Condor. We were pretty excited to see the cover for the first time even if the subtitle went through multiple revisions. We didn’t get to pick the animal or the picture. We were told up front we wouldn’t get to pick the animal so we knew what to expect. We were also told that Tyrannosaurus Rex and unicorns are not allowed.

We kept writing until the 1/2 draft was due in early June. We turned it in and got less feedback than we expected, but it was still good to have a fresh set of eyes looking at it. We didn’t like what we had created. We had written almost 6 chapters and threw away 3 of them. The first two were heavily edited and the remaining chapter was trimmed down significantly and turned into an appendix.

We had some more planning meetings and came up with a revised outline that we submitted to our editor for review. By this time we were on our 2nd editor who wasn’t very familiar with the project so we got very little feedback and went with what we had.

. . . .

The first Tuesday of September the full draft was due and then went into a review process. There were technical reviewers we were able to suggest but mostly O’Reilly pulled from a pool of their trusted reviewers. We got minimal feedback from most of them (a survey form) and one returned notes on the PDF. We had a week to make edits. During this time the draft was made available as a preview on Safari books. In retrospect I wish we had posted preview chapters sooner which was something our first editor suggested, but we were both too embarrassed to follow through.

It wasn’t enough feedback for me so I reached out to more people and sent them chapters looking for someone to tell me it sucks and why. Luckily, I found someone who would give me the harsh feedback I wanted and I had about 3 days to incorporate their changes into the book before it went off to post production.

The last push was very difficult and stressful. There were a lot of big changes on the last weekend which was a risk, but I think in the end made the book better. The final weekend we moved some chapters around and wrote a chapter from scratch for content we felt was missing.

. . . .

I believe the first PDF came back with more than 1300 edits. Overall there were more than 2000 changes made during post. I later found out this amount of edits is fairly standard for our book length. We had about 3 weeks of emailing large, heavily notated PDFs back and forth which was no fun compared to the plain text git workflow of writing.

. . . .

All in all I worked from Feb — Oct for roughly 5 nights a week at 2–3 hours per night. I also worked about 3 weekends non-stop when a draft or final edits were due. Roughly I’d say I worked about 500 hours total. That was only my time and doesn’t include Kris’. I was lucky to have a co-author to share the load.

. . . .

At the end of final edits I was done (contractually and mentally). I had read through the entire book at least three times and much of the content was starting to lose meaning. After sending the final edited PDF I wanted to stress about missing an edit before going to bed, but I was too tired to care.

. . . .

O’Reilly provides an affiliate program which was terrible to set up and in the end hardly worth the time. You get a cut from all sales that go through your link but I have never received any money from affiliate book sales. The only money I got was when someone used my link and then bought a ticket to an O’Reilly conference.

. . . .

I attempted to set up an affiliate program for Amazon but my application was denied. Amazon offers an author central site to create a 1998 inspired author profile page and an out of date book sale statistics and rankings. I’m really not sure the point of creating the Amazon author information outside of claiming the book(s) you author and confirming that you have a terrible book rank.

. . . .

I would suggest anyone writing a book spend a night to register a domain and set one up. I launched it on August 31, 2017 and it has over 4,600 visits which is terrible by most website standards but good as a place to funnel users for info.

. . . .

From December through March the book has sold 1337 copies. I have no idea how well other books in this category sell. This total also includes 2 book signings at conferences that were sponsored by the CNCF (Thank you!) which was roughly 150 physical books total. On average, the book has sold 222 copies per month which is greatly skewed by the first month which had 930 sales. The last month (March) had 34 physical book sales. I suspect that number will go down even more over the next few months.

Sponsorships was an unexpected source of income. We have been lucky enough to have 3 sponsors so far. The sponsor pays O’Reilly for exclusive rights to provide a PDF and optional print version of the book. The company gets to put a forward in the book that Kris, me, and an O’Reilly editor approve. Once the sponsor completes their contract with O’Reilly they can do whatever they want with the books. Usually, the PDF gets put behind a web form so you fill out your email address and the company uses it for marketing services and getting customer leads. Physical books are usually given away at conferences where they can scan badges.

. . . .

Each full book sponsorship for one month nets me $3,705 and partial sponsorships give an amount based on percentage of the book sponsored (e.g. 5 chapters in a 10 chapter book is 50% sponsored). That’s much better than I expected because a one month full sponsorship is more than all other sales combined.

. . . .

There are also some other sponsorships that I think count as ebook sales but I never got a clear answer how royalties work for those. Book licensing incurs a small payment but I’m unclear how that is used. From my statements, three people have licensed the book or excerpts from it which has netted me $2.37.

. . . .

My April 2018 statement (sales from December — March) says I’ve made $11,554.15 which roughly breaks down to $23 per hour for the estimated 500 hours of work. Without the three sponsorships that would have been $5.29 per hour.

. . . .

The book has provided a few other opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have had. So far I’ve done a couple podcast interviews, spoken at a few events, did one webinar, and have had a few opportunities for more writing projects with O’Reilly (some of which I’ve taken).

Would I write another book? Not for the foreseeable future. I would like to update Cloud Native Infrastructure to keep it fresh with current industry trends, but another book from scratch is not a year long project I’d be looking forward to at this time.

Link to the rest at Medium

Here It Comes

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

[F]or years, I’ve been wondering why big traditional publishing companies aren’t licensing their backlist. There’s a million ways to make money off copyright licenses, and the most obvious is to keep books in print. Yet so many big traditional publishing companies don’t keep their books in print.

Or, worse, in my opinion, those companies don’t publish ebook versions of their catalog. All of their backlist in their catalogs. Realize that this isn’t thousands of titles for them. In the case of some of the larger companies, the title list has to be closer to a million.

But the companies have no idea which books they still can license, whether or not the old contracts have clauses in them that allow ebooks, or even who handles the estate of those old books. I had just read a Daphne Du Maurier novel, My Cousin Rachel,  which had recently been made into a movie, and it took me a lot of scrolling to find that book. I want to read more of her work, but I’m going slowly in ordering it or buying it.

. . . .

We’ve hit the point in the ebook revolution—the online revolution really—where we expect everything (and I do mean everything) to be at our fingertips.

So back to Led Zeppelin. The band is fifty years old this year. And yeah, jeez, that hurts. Because I remember when they were the epitome of cool (and being young and not being understood by the old fogies). Anyway, the folks at Warner Music Group which apparently owns or licensed most of Zeppelin’s catalog, were planning some kind of celebration of the band.

Instead of issuing a retrospective album, they set up a website with a logo name generator. You plug in your name, and it comes up in the Zeppelin iconic font. That’s not the coolest thing about the website, though. The coolest thing is the playlist generator, which allows users to compile their own playlist of Zeppelin songs or covers of Led Zeppelin songs, and then share those playlists on social media.

Think about that for a moment: the website, if set up properly, will help Warner Music Group know what songs from the Led Zeppelin catalog (and related catalogs, like Jack White’s, are the most beloved). That information can be used in marketing later.

This little landing page, with its logo generator and its playlist generator, will then direct users to the Zeppelin website, where you’ll find all the fiftieth anniversary goodies, including the ubiquitous best-of collection and an authorized book about the band.

. . . .

According to Rolling Stone:

The [logo] site received more than 200,000 unique visitors in its first 10 days, with users making 230,000 logos and 20,000 custom playlists. The “biggest uplift” was from White’s playlist, branded as “Led Zeppelin x Jack White,” which drew thousands of users each day — which translates to hundreds of thousands of streams, which translates to a steady stream of cash to Warner and Led Zeppelin without the band lifting a finger.

Hundreds of thousands of streams, “without the band lifting a finger.” Passive income, based on one idea. Yes, streaming services don’t pay a large amount for streams, but they pay. And even a small amount of money adds up when it is multiplied by hundreds of thousands. Not counting the visibility, discoverability, and all those other “abilities” that come from the social media shares, and the links between the various playlist generators. They all play into the streaming services algorithms, which results in even more recognition, and more plays.

Once upon a time (maybe as recently as three years ago) working with what we call the backlist and what the recording industry calls “catalog marketing” was the unlit basement of the industry. No one wanted that job. It wasn’t glamorous, and it barely earned its way.

But that’s changing, and changing rapidly. Apparently, consumers no longer care about the latest and greatest thing. They want what’s new to them. More than that, they want something that they like.

This is where sync marketing comes in. A lot of younger consumers buy music because they heard it on their favorite TV show or in an important scene in a blockbuster movie. From the Rolling Stone article:

Tiffany’s 1987 cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” has seen 42 percent of its all-time Shazams come after it appeared in Netflix’s 2019 series The Umbrella Academy, and several tracks from the 1940s to 1970s climbed up the company’s global charts after floating into people’s ears from the background of Avengers: Endgame.

. . . .

I’ve noted for years now that traditional publishers have become reluctant to let go of a license once they receive it. In other words, books don’t go out of print anymore, no matter how badly the publisher is mismanaging the book. (In the past, if the book wasn’t in stores, the writer could get her rights back. Not anymore.)

Someone in that megaconglomerate knows that these rights are worth money. They’re worth a lot as assets on a balance sheet, but in the music industry, anyway, they’re also being turned into active revenue streams.

When this starts happening to books—and it will—writers are going to have to be vigilant about their contracts. They’re going to have to see if the contract’s vague 1997 language covers things like streaming rights or omnibus rights or any one of a dozen other ways to license that print book into something new.

What will probably happen is that publishing companies will do what they always do—figure it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask for permission. They’ll also not want to make payments, so writers are going to have to start auditing their publishers (which no traditionally published writer will do for fear of being blacklisted—because that’s what agents tell them to do. Sigh.

. . . .

So…be warned. Changes are coming, traditionally published writers. Within five years or so, expect a department of back catalog management in your publisher’s offices (if that department doesn’t already exist now). Expect to have every inch of your contract exploited by that department—and maybe some rights you didn’t license as well.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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

PG says that many authors have so much emotional energy (and more than a bit of insecurity) tied up with their publisher that they desperately want to believe that publisher will always be honest and considerate of their welfare. Unfortunately, such is not always (or even frequently) the case.

Why Do Employers Lowball Creatives? a New Study Has Answers

From KQED:

Larissa Archer has been asked to perform for free so many times she’s lost count.

Despite her years of training, impressive resume and credibility as the founder of San Francisco Bellydance Theater, she often finds herself turning down invitations to dance for a few wrinkled dollar bills.

As Archer explains it, event producers “can’t cut corners on how much beer costs. They can’t cut corners on the rental of the venue.” But many can, and often do, skimp on the take-home pay of the talent that attracts showgoers in the first place.

And it’s not just small clubs. As KQED first reported in March, despite reaching a valuation of $1 trillion last year, tech giant Apple doesn’t pay the artists performing in its stores, compensating them with low-end merchandise such as AirPods and AppleTVs instead.

Following our report, we heard from graphic designers, musicians, muralists and comedians who say they’re frequently asked to work for “exposure” by companies large and small, sharing tales of missing payments, false promises of paid work and full-time jobs disguised as unpaid internships.

In the arts, working for low or no pay has long been an industry standard for all but the upper echelon. But as workers in other professions prone to exploitation organize for a living wage, including teachers and rideshare drivers, creatives are questioning why event producers, venue owners and companies find it acceptable to pay below the minimum wage for their work or subject them to subpar working conditions.

. . . .

Recent Duke Ph.D. graduate Jae Yun Kim, Professor Aaron Kay, University of Oregon Professor Troy Campbell and Oklahoma State University Professor Steven Shepherd studied the ways that workers’ passion is increasingly being used as a justification for their exploitation in today’s labor market.

On one hand, passion for one’s work can lead to greater satisfaction. But the researchers’ new paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “Understanding Contemporary Forms of Exploitation: Attributions of Passion Serve to Legitimize the Poor Treatment of Workers,” lays bare the unique ways passionate workers can be taken advantage of in a culture that encourages us to find our life’s calling at work.

Through eight different studies with over 2,400 participants, researchers discovered that people find it more acceptable for managers to ask passionate workers to work extra hours without additional pay, sacrifice sleep and family time, and take on demeaning tasks outside of their job descriptions.

. . . .

“When people read about the exact same job but learned that the person enjoyed their work, they think it’s more fair, or less illegitimate, to have them do things that would objectively be considered approaching exploitation,” says Kay. “Meaning having them do things they’re not paid for, or the company getting more benefit without giving people more of the profits.”

“Passion, or expected passion, out of that work can be seen as compensating for poor treatment,” Kim says, adding that in his native South Korea, young professionals refer to low-paying gigs as “passion wages.”

Kay explains that there’s a common misconception that if someone loves their job, they would prefer to work instead of doing other activities that contribute to a fulfilling life, which he says can be a slippery slope. “A graphic designer who works for a cool website and gets to make cool art may love their job, but they may not want to miss hanging out at their kid’s softball game over the weekend,” he says. “Forcing them to do more of it assumes it’s more joy for them, when you gotta realize that, like everyone else, they’re trying to balance their lives.”

Link to the rest at KQED

So, are authors with day jobs (or not) asked to use their writing talents for inadequate compensation on a regular basis?

Dude, Where’s My Royalties?

Here’s a follow-up post to the post that is directly below this one in the online TPV parade of blog posts. You might understand this post better if you read the other one first.

From Dan Rhodes:

In other news, I’ve been busy severing ties with Canongate Books. For some years I’d found them to be evasive when faced with basic business queries, and when it came to certain financial and contractual issues it reached a point where I just couldn’t get answers out of them. I thought this was as fishy as Milky Pimms, so decided to conduct my own amateur audit (in the absence of any knowledge of financial procedures, this involved going in like Chris-R) and – boom goes the dynamite – discovered they had chronically underpaid me. Twice.

I did not take this well.

Everything goes to the dogs when the sums don’t add up. It’s a long and rotten story, and nobody enjoys hearing other people moaning about work (I’m finding it hard not to come across like Les McQueen), so I’ll keep most of it off the front page. I have, though, written an epic account of what has gone on so far. It’s a wretched read, and the last thing the Internet needs is another incandescent middle-aged man sounding off at length about things he doesn’t quite understand.

. . . .

Having to pull almost my entire life’s work out of print because of a publisher’s malpractice has been something of une saison en enfer. Anthropology? Gone! Gold? Kaput! This is Life? Splat! It goes on… Creatively, it has ground me to dust. With two non-showbiz day jobs, totalling around 70 hours of work in a normal week, time is hard to come by; the precious moments I could have spent loitering in green lanes have been obliterated by having to deal with this bollocks. It’s hard to muster the delicate balance of joie de vivre and hubris required to write a novel when your slumber is broken, your doublet is torn and a gaggle of exasperating Sloane Rangers are up in your grill.

. . . .

Apart from the soul-crushing Canongate Books shitshow, all is well. We’ve spent some of the recovered money on having a spare toilet installed – those of you who share living space with other humans will understand that this is a great leap forward.

. . . .

There’s no need for you to arrange a benefit concert or a sponsored walk. Were it not for my every moment being blighted by the unfolding horror of this excruciating debacle, everything would be fine.

. . . .

I am all at sea, and have no idea what to do with my back catalogue. Above all things I’m raising a family, and the bad vibes this has brought across our threshold are more than I’m willing or able to put up with. I’ve been stuck dealing with people like this for twenty years – they seem to be lurking around every corner, and I’ve had enough of them. Writing’s the only thing I’ve ever been any good at, and I love my books to distraction. I’m very sad at the prospect of them fading away, but if staying in the book trade means I’ll be inviting this kind of poison into our home then it’s just not worth it.

Link to the rest at Dan Rhodes

The Curious Incident of the Dog & the Missing Royalties

From Dan Rhodes:

Every once in a while my reader in Cheltenham will get in touch, asking why I’ve not had a book out for such a long time. What follows is the short answer.

In October of last year, 2017, I made the heartbreaking decision to pull all but one of my books out of print. I had lost faith in their publisher, Canongate Books. The main problem was the lack of communication. This had been an issue for some years, and I’d even discovered, by chance, three editions of my work that nobody had told me about. I wonder how many more there are that I’ve never seen (seriously, publishers – if you’re going to print a distinct edition of a book, the least you could do is tell the person who wrote it. It’s balls-out dereliction of duty not to). Every time something like this happened, and I found out, they would say, Oooh, it won’t happen again, but there seems to be no introspection at management level and, with stultifying predictability, it would happen again. This was frustrating enough, and when my main contact took to ignoring my humdrum queries about contracts/royalty statements/rights, etc., alarm bells rang. (I can sense you stifling a yawn. You’re right, this is tiresome, but having set up these deals without an agent I had to keep on top of this sort of thing myself.)

I’d lost patience with them and had taken my most recent book elsewhere, but my backlist remained in place. I’d hoped we could stay on civil terms for the sake of the children, but it wasn’t to be. Not wanting to be stuck doing business with people who were cagey about finances, I requested they return the rights. They insisted on keeping hold of them (while still not answering the questions I’d been asking – they were, and continue to be, particularly evasive about the editions they’d published in the U.S. a few years back) so I dug in, looking for a way out by spending every spare moment combing through old correspondence, contracts and royalty statements, with all the joy that brought.

Throughout all this, something kept niggling: I’d not been paid a penny for my novel Timoleon Vieta Come Home since 2004, the year after it came out. I’d raised this with my main contact in 2010, after yet another demoralising £0 balance on a royalty statement. This kind of enquiry is an awkward one, because you wouldn’t be making it if you weren’t concerned that something was amiss; an author/publisher relationship is built on trust, and the clear subtext here is that your faith in their accounting has wavered. It’s obviously a very big deal to raise these reservations, yet a recent trawl through old correspondence reminded me that it took three letters of decreasing diplomacy to get an answer (seriously, publishers – if an author makes an enquiry, just answer it. It’s part of your job, and if you don’t we’ll start wondering whether you’re up to something. Perhaps you are). Eventually I was told that they’d looked into it and that everything was as it ought to be, that I’d accrued a debt on the title for deep accounting reasons that I couldn’t possibly understand. ‘Fair enough,’ I said, embarrassed for having asked.

It never seemed quite right, though – I couldn’t help feeling as if they had patted me on the head and told me to run along. I tried to push these suspicions away, because quite often people who think that money is being kept from them are having a funny five minutes. And besides, I’d had my answer: they’d looked into it, and everything was fine. Where do you go from there?

These misgivings – loopy as they seemed – kept coming back. Years of demoralising £0 balances and questioning-my-sanity later, I tentatively mentioned this odd-seeming number-crunching to a few allies in the biz (I do have some, believe it or not), and every one of them spluttered into their cornflakes. I don’t know why they were all eating cornflakes when I told them, but they were. The more people I mentioned this to, the more cornflakes were spluttered into – everybody I spoke to thought it sounded as fishy as Milky Pimms. Only Canongate Books’ cornflakes remained unsullied by splutter; only they didn’t seem to think it was odd that I’d not been paid for this book, which had been a modest success, since the year after it came out. I asked them again to look into this, but my increasingly desperate enquiries were casually batted aside, and then blanked. The old Closing Ranks/Wall of Silence trick. At every point I was treated as though I were Foolish and Deluded and an Author of No Brain at All. There were times when I thought they could be right, but the longer this went on the surer I became that my books were not in safe hands.

. . . .

I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to send in auditors or pay for legal letters. I am, though, blessed with the tenacity of a rabbiting terrier. In the absence of civil answers to civil questions (or, latterly, incandescent ones) I decided to conduct my own audit. I have no idea how to conduct an audit, so I just gave it the full Chris-R. Faced with this, they finally – finally – scuttled back to their financial records. In the days before Christmas they returned with the admission that my hunch was bang on: in spite of their assurances to the contrary I had indeed been horrendously underpaid for ‘Timoleon Vieta Come Home’. If you want to know how it feels to find out that you aren’t mad after all, that your publisher really hadn’t been paying you properly for thirteen years, this just about sums it up. It was not a fun time.

In hindsight, this was a sort of grotesque deus ex machina: having spent such a long time haughtily dismissing my concerns, there was now no way they could continue to hold on to the books. They paid the acknowledged missing cash, and put a bit on top that they had unilaterally decided would make up for lost interest over the preceding years. I didn’t agree with the figure they’d settled on, and couldn’t convince them (still can’t) to acknowledge the arbitration clause in the contract, so it took a further six months of gruelling warfare, culminating in a close reading and furious waving of the as-fun-as-it-sounds Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998, to squeeze an acceptable settlement out of them.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: everybody makes mistakes – it could have been an oversight, a slip of the quill. Maybe it was, but it didn’t just happen once – it happened twice. Twice! I wonder whether Lady Bracknell would have had something to say about that. So why did the dough go missing in the first place? I wish I knew. The extent of their explanation was: The team here has calculated that due to errors on the royalty book that happened in 2004 and 2005 – where duplicate records of unearned balances were noted – you were underpaid £x. I expect that made your eyes hurt. (Seriously, publishers – next time you find yourself explaining how a huge amount of a hard-working author’s royalties came to end up in the silken pocket of your company’s Oxford bags you might want to try doing a bit better than this). A request for clarification didn’t yield any more than it having been human error. That’s something of a catch-all: a human had certainly erred. Beyond that, it was all left vague. They sent through some single-page summaries of accounts, as if that would clear things up. All I knew for sure was that a lot of money that should have come my way had, for deep accounting reasons that I couldn’t possibly understand, stopped shy of my bank account. I asked for a fuller picture of how this could have happened – twice – at which the human error line was modified to the comparably helpful Oooh, it’s all very complicated and we don’t really know. Unlike me, they weren’t interested in finding out. In lieu of proper answers they sent some further impenetrable spreadsheets, none which helped me get my head around it all. Somewhere along the line I discovered that these anomalies had happened in the vicinity of the U.S. operation that I’d had (and still have) so much trouble getting answers about.

Canongate Books’ final line is that it was a mistake. I’m not going to argue with that, but again it’s a catch-all. Maybe it really was a simple case of my royalties being innocently siphoned away on two separate occasions. I am very much open to the possibility that the version of events that they’ve settled on is correct, that the quality of their bookkeeping really was in freefall to the point where they were inadvertently, and repeatedly, keeping one of their authors’ wages to themselves. (And these are wages – though this may be in conflict with popular perception, people who write books are still sent electricity bills, and every sale counts towards our livelihoods. It’s rarely enough – most of us have to work shifts at Spatula City to make ends meet. I know I do.) I can’t help wondering, though, who was doing their internal stocktaking at this time. Sooty & Sweep I would guess, judging by the quality of their work. It’s all very well playing the human error card – and it may of course have been just that; everybody makes mistakes at work from time to time – but a company that is fit to trade should surely have a system in place to see that errors are caught and corrected. Mistakes of this magnitude, however accidental, should have been spotted, if not shortly after they were made, then when I pointed straight at them in 2010. We’re talking thousands and thousands of sales. Thousands!

Link to the rest at Dan Rhodes and thanks to A. for the tip.

The OP continues further and is well worth the read.

This is a cautionary tale for all authors.

Here are some basic business steps to take with royalties:

  1. Check your royalty statement – carefully – promptly – every time you receive one.
  2. If you see anything fishy or anything you don’t understand, send a letter pointing out the fish and ask for an explanation. (An email will probably work as well, but why not send both a letter and an email!)
  3. Save a copy of the royalty statement (of course) and save a copy of everything else you receive from or send to the publisher. Make certain it’s stored where your dog (digital or actual) can’t read it.
  4. If you don’t receive a useful response or at least an acknowledgment of receipt with a promise to send more information shortly within a week, send another communication reminding them that they owe you information and copy someone else at the publisher who ranks higher in the organization than the person to whom you sent.
  5. Continue until you receive a useful response. Add a paragraph that lists all your prior communications with the date and a note describing the nature of any response or that you received no response. Keep adding more people to the list to whom you are sending copies and note all the people you are copying at the bottom of the letter, email, fax, etc. Don’t remove anyone from the cc: list for subsequent letters/emails, just add new recipients.
    1. If your publisher is part of a larger publishing group or owned by another company, start copying people higher up the chain.
    2. If the publisher or an owner of the publisher has a legal department, send a copy to someone in the legal department.
    3. If this doesn’t generate a response, look up the contact information for the Attorney General in the state where the publisher has an office and add her/him to your copy list.
    4. If the publisher or its owner is a publicly-traded company you can probably find a list of its board of directors and add them to your CC: recipients.
    5. Send a copy of your letter to any authors’ organizations you can think of.

Your childhood etiquette instructor would probably say this isn’t polite, but you tried polite with your early communications and failed to receive a polite response. You might conclude that polite isn’t going to work in this case.

There is an old saying (at least in the US) that a squeaky wheel gets the most grease.

If you’re not being treated in a professional manner by a publisher, you’re not receiving grease.

If your bank misplaced some of your money and didn’t respond to your questions right away, you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) hesitate to make a fuss. If your publisher is keeping money that belongs to you, it’s the same situation.

Accounting mistakes can and do happen. When such mistakes occur, ethical business organizations promptly own up to those mistakes, make the numbers right for their customers and tell them what happened.

Properly-run businesses don’t repeatedly make accounting mistakes, particularly accounting mistakes that reduce their payments to others. PG says don’t patronize or partner with businesses that aren’t managed properly.

Don’t fall into the insecurity trap of thinking something like, “If I cause too much trouble, my publisher won’t publish any more of my books.”

If you’re an amateur who writes for fun, that might be a reasonable train of thought.

If you’re a professional and want to be paid for your work, it’s irrational.

Allow PG to rephrase the insecurity trap: “If I cause too much trouble, my publisher won’t publish any more books that I won’t get paid for.”

First, You Have to Write the Damned Thing.

From Medium:

I have a strategy for blogging that involves checking out Quora to see what questions people are asking.

I checked Quora this morning and saw this.

Good answer, Orson Scott Card. Good answer.

. . . .

It’s not even a chicken and an egg thing. You cannot publish what you haven’t written.

You can publish what you haven’t edited. You can publish what you haven’t tried to sell to a traditional publisher. You can publish long. You can publish short. You can publish poetry, blog posts, picture books, and 500,000-word tomes that would make literary agents insta-delete your query letter.

You can publish late — long after you should have just shipped that thing.

You can publish early — before your work is polished well enough to avoid being ripped apart in Amazon reviews.

You can publish pretty much anything.

But you cannot publish it until you’ve finished writing it.

. . . .

Let me say that another way. You cannot build a literary career out of files on your hard drive that you never let anyone read. Or out of half-finished stories that get abandoned every time a shiny new idea bites you in the ass. Or out of completed novels that you never feel are good enough for public consumption.

. . . .

If your goal is traditional publishing, then this isn’t actually a simple yes or no question. Being published is out of your hands. Or it will be, once you get brave enough to put your work out there into the hands that can get it done.

You’ll need to write a query letter and send it out to literary agents. Not one or two. Not a carefully selected list of ten. Once you know your letter is doing it’s job (it’s only job is to get an agent to request your work), then send that sucker out wide. To everyone.

Last summer I needed a new agent. Once my query letter was bringing in a ten percent positive response (one in ten agents asked to read the manuscript,) I sent it to more than 140 agents. I had seven offers to represent me. Which is mind-blowingly awesome. For a couple of weeks there, I felt like one of those movies that’s up for all the Academy Awards or something.

But the hard truth is that I had more than 130 rejections, too. I was getting rejections after the agent I went with sold my book.

. . . .

If you’re planning to go indie then you are the publisher. Publishing is 100% up to you. Which means you have the responsibility of creating the most professional work you can. It’s your job to hire an editor and a cover artist. It’s your job to position your book in the market place.

Link to the rest at Medium

When PG read the OP, he wondered how much time the author spent selecting 140 agents, preparing at least semi-personalized packages for each and reviewing responses which, hopefully, involved careful vetting of the agents who were interested in seeing her manuscript.

PG has received more than one agent horror story recently, so he’s particularly sensitive to that potential problem. Without going into detail, agents and literary agencies can and do change over time. An excellent agent from ten years ago can be a far less than satisfactory agent today. If the agent is receiving checks that include money the agent should be promptly forwarding to the author, “less than satisfactory” can make the author’s life extremely difficult.

Not Just Self-Published

From Joy E. Rancatore:

More than once or twice, I’ve heard an author apologize, “I’m just self-published.” That phrase hurts my heart. Why? Because what I hear beneath their choice of words and tone is something I want them to hear:

“I wrote something straight from my heart that I believed in so much, I backed it with my time, energy and money so other readers could believe in it, too.”

. . . .

1. Wash that just right out with a shot of confidence.

Before I dive in here, please take extra note that I wrote confidence. I did not write pride or hubris or boasting.

Now that we’ve got that clear, you are just as much an author with your one book that you published as an author who’s been published countless times by one of the Big 5.

You plotted and outlined—or pantsed—your way to a first draft where you went beginning to end (or zigzaggy) until you had a completed story baby.

Then you revised, rewrote, edited, rewrote, got help and feedback and critiques and outside—hopefully professional—edits and rewrote again until your book shone as bright as any polished diamond.

Whatever your reason, you chose to put your money behind your dream and publish your own book. You’re kind of a rock star, my friend!

. . . .

2. Chase it down with a slow drink of professionalism.

I’ve got to give you a note before we tumble down a cliff on this one, too. You may not have done this on your book—or your first five, depending on where you are in your journey. And, that’s OKAY. Reread that last sentence until it completely settles in your soul, because your commitment to fulfill your dream is what makes you the author I declared you to be in the first point.

Sure, there are still a few pockets of folks who look down long noses over horn-rimmed glasses at anyone not traditionally published, but they are few and far between and transitioning to the land of the dodo bird.

Chin up, writer friend, and let’s make ourselves better than we were yesterday! How do we do this? I’m so glad you asked!

You’ve got your shot of confidence warming your resolve, so now it’s time for some slow sipping. I have to add here that some folks sip slower than others and that is just fine.

Don’t compare your rate of progress to someone else’s. The only person you should ever compare yourself to is yesterday’s you.

Link to the rest at Joy E. Rancatore

How to Differentiate Your Startup in a Red Ocean Industry

The OP is about tech startups, but PG was interested to see the parallels between authors in the indie book business who are working to stand out from the crowd of competitors and startups in the tech businesses.

From ReadWrite:

We all dream of coming up with the next ingenious idea that redefines [an] industry, or creates one from scratch. (PG note: Industry could also mean a genre or sub-genre)

. . . .

[B]lue ocean opportunities, as defined by the popular book Blue Ocean Strategy by professors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. In case you aren’t familiar, they posit that there are two types of market opportunities when you create a startup from scratch.

There are red oceans, which are filled with blood from fierce competition. These oceans, representing mature industries in a free market, are incredibly difficult to enter—at least without paying a price, either in more aggressive marketing and advertising costs or by settling for a smaller market share.

Blue oceans, by contrast, are all but free from competition, giving you more flexibility, lower costs, and domination over nearly 100 percent of the market share.

. . . .

The Truth About “Red Oceans”

If we’re following the ocean analogy here, then we need to address the true nature of the competition. These red waters aren’t uniformly infested, nor are they infested in every corner. Instead, there are pockets of blue ocean to be found within those red oceans. In more literal terms, even mature industries, filled to the brim with competition, have untapped market segments and new opportunities for those willing to look.

For example:

Specific product features. The product itself may not change, but you can certainly add something to it. New product features may be enough to differentiate the product, and enter a world free from competition, even within a competitive industry. For example, the fast food industry is currently saturated with burger joints, but McDonald’s has introduced and maintained the Big Mac, a unique burger that can’t be replicated without violating copyright laws; if you want this specific taste, you can’t simply go somewhere else.

Target demographics. You can also target a different demographic, or capitalize on consumer preferences that aren’t being met by the leading competitors. For example, in the past few years, Dollar Shave Club practically took over the subscription razor industry, and giants like Bic and Gillette quickly followed suit. Yet in the razor battle, Shave.net was able to enter the mature shaving industry and make a name for itself by focusing on the smaller niche of wet shavers who prefer straight razors and safety razors.

Price points. One of the more obvious points of differentiation is price. If all your competitors are selling something around the same price, you could easily capitalize on their existing audience, or target a new audience by offering it cheaper. You could also capitalize on a luxury market by charging more (assuming you can offer a higher-quality product).

. . . .

Peripheral services. It’s also possible to stand apart from the competition by offering services that aren’t available from mainstream competitors. For example, the Home Depot initially stood out as a competitor to traditional lumber yards because they offered a wider variety of products in one location, as well as classes to help DIYers.

. . . .

The Role of Brand Differentiation

The secret to finding success in a mature industry is twofold; first, you need to find a way to differentiate yourself, and second, you need to make that differential element evident to the people you’re trying to persuade. That often means adjusting your brand values, your core products, or your overall marketing strategy for these key benefits:

Competition reduction. Pursuing a path of your own instantly reduces the number and ferocity of competitors you’ll face. Fewer competitors means you won’t have to worry about someone else poaching customers from you, and you’ll probably spend less on marketing and advertising.

Increased visibility. Being different immediately helps you stand out. Capitalizing on what makes you different from the major players in a mature industry is a strategy certain to attract attention naturally, aiding you in your marketing and advertising efforts.

Niche exploration. Exploring a specific niche within the mature industry can help you cultivate and nurture a sub-industry. The more you learn about these customers and the more you cater to them, the more loyal they’ll become—especially if they never had an options like yours before.

. . . .

Define your differentiators (or make new ones). The most obvious answer here is to play up what makes you different in your advertising strategy. A simple message, like “sick of paying high prices for ____?” can be a good start (though you’ll want something a little more original). Are you cheaper? Higher-quality? More convenient? Targeted to someone different? Make this clear in your ads from the get-go, and try to include at least one brand element that encapsulates this, like a company name or tagline.

Leverage untapped channels and outlets. There are invariably marketing and advertising strategies that your main competitors aren’t currently using. That could be because the strategies are new and unfamiliar, or because these channels haven’t historically worked for the industry. But because your company is different, it may be able to leverage these channels more efficiently. For example, if your competitors are all over Facebook but you’re differentiating yourself by targeting a more professional, older audience, you could turn to LinkedIn for your needs.

Exploit key differences. Chances are, what makes you different from your existing competitors is a pain point for their current audience. You can use this to your advantage by portraying these unpleasant experiences or perceptions.

. . . .

Piggyback on existing brand value. As long as you aren’t lying about your competitors, you can mention them directly in your marketing and advertising campaigns, as a way to capitalize on the brand value they’ve already established. You can do this with a side-by-side comparison, or with a catchy tagline, such as “like COMPETITOR, but ________.”

Link to the rest at ReadWrite

Patreon Introduces New Tiers for Creators. Can It Avoid Another “Fiasco”?

From Fast Company:

In 2017, Patreon rolled out a new fee structure. Today’s it’s known internally at the company as “the fiasco.” A revolt from creators and patrons prompted it to retreat almost immediately.

Today, Patreon, which is valued at a reported $450 million, is trying again. It is announcing Patreon Lite, Pro, and Premium as a means to tailor fit its services to the needs of the platforms’ 100,000-plus creators. “We wanted to make sure and do right by the creator base that’s been with us for all these years,” says Wyatt Jenkins, SVP of product at Patreon. “I’ll talk to a painter with 50 patrons and then later in the afternoon, I’ll talk to a media company with 25 employees that makes over $1 million a year. So it’s pretty clear that [Patreon is] not one product anymore.”

Every creator with an existing Patreon account will automatically be grandfathered into the Pro tier with no changes being made to their account. Essentially, this new system is giving creators the option to pare down with Lite (which is meant to be the easiest onboarding option for creators who just want a page with no tiered benefits for patrons) or upgrade with Premium (which charges an additional $300 per month charge in exchange for services like team accounts and a dedicated partner manager). Patreon’s cut–5% in Pro and 9% in Premium, respectively–will also be locked in for existing accounts but will increase to 8% and 12% for new ones created after these membership plans officially launch in May.

. . . .

In addition to the tiered membership, Patreon also announced changes to its processing fee structures: Pledges over $3 will be charged 2.9% plus 30¢ per payment. Anything below $3 will be charged 5% plus 10¢ per payment–the latter being a direct response to 2017’s “fiasco.”

Patreon’s 2017 changes to its fee structure were met with instant backlash because the processing fee was heaped onto the patrons instead of being taken out of the creator’s account (with no ability to opt in or opt out). In addition, the proposed fee of 2.9% plus 35¢ disproportionately affected anyone pledging between $1 and $3. As TPR Jones accurately summed it up in his tweet at the time: “Pledging $100 to one creator will now cost $103.25, which is reasonable. Pledging $1 each to 100 creators will now cost $138, which is not reasonable.”

. . . .

“Creators don’t want somebody in between them and their fans,” says Jenkins. “What I learned and what Jack learned and the way we’re doing this new rollout out is the business relationship is between us and creators. We are a membership platform that empowers a strong relationship between creators and their fans.”

. . . .

The primary complaint comes down to a lack of flexibility in even this three-tiered offering. Qaadir Howard started his Patreon account about two years ago in response to YouTube’s exorbitant cuts in their payouts and its demonetization of non-family-friendly content. In reviewing Patreon’s new offerings, Howard isn’t particularly moved to upgrade his account to Premium, even though he, like many other creators, could benefit greatly from the services offered with it.

“I don’t know if I’d be willing to pay $300 for it–that’s a car note,” Howard says. “I think they should have it where it’s more à la carte: Let me pay for the thing that I want instead of it just being a flat $300, and maybe I need only one thing.”

Link to the rest at Fast Company

Priorities

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I write a lot. I always have. When I was in college, I wrote essays instead of taking tests, wrote fiction, and worked as a freelance nonfiction writer. I also worked in the news department of a listener-sponsored radio station, where we reported and wrote a half-hour newscast. I did that twice a week on top of everything else.

Nowadays, I write books, nonfiction, and short stories. I don’t have a target weekly word count, but I do put in time, almost daily. I’m generally disappointed if I get only 1,000 words in a day, and super pleased if I get over 5,000.

Remember, I only count new words, not rewrites or anything else. All of that happens at other times, not during my writing time.

My writing has been the constant in my life. I took writing classes in college, not to learn from the instructors (most of whom had less success than I did even then) but because I needed to block out time for writing in my busy life, and I knew myself well enough to understand that if I was writing for a class, I would block out time every week.

Mind games. Writing is all about mind games and understanding yourself.

Even though I don’t understand myself as well as I think I do.

For years, I would say that I get so much writing done because I have no life. Turns out that was true. Due to the constrained circumstances I lived in on the Oregon Coast, I had no life—or very little of one. I couldn’t go out to movies or dinner with friends; I had no opportunity to see concerts or plays; I couldn’t take in-person continuing education classes; and I couldn’t make the one to two hour one-way drive that would take me to the bigger cities, because I couldn’t guarantee I would make the ride home.

I had the time to write—when I was healthy, which was rare. So I learned how to write while ill.

The key, for me, turned out to be a structure I didn’t have to think about. I knew what I needed to do—not in the deadline sense, but in the daily sense. It took me a long time to form that structure, but once I had it, I could function inside it almost instinctively. When my circumstances changed due to our move to Las Vegas in 2018, it took me weeks to realize that I had demolished my structure when I changed locations. I had to rebuild from scratch.

Rebuilding forced me to reexamine my priorities. I can’t build a structure until I know what I put first, second, and third in my life. So, priorities before scheduling—or I’ll blow everything up and get nothing done.

. . . .

I was irritated to learn that exercise made me feel better. All those studies that say eating right and exercising will improve your health and mood? Those damn things are right. I wish they weren’t, to be honest. It would be easier to sit on my butt and eat lots of bad-for-me stuff. But when I do that, I feel much, much worse.

So eating right and exercising makes me feel better. The other bonus is that I sleep better. (Yeah, also irritating.) And the third bonus? I have more energy. Even as my health declined, my energy level remained consistent because of my commitment to exercise.

. . . .

Sometimes, when I was really really sick, I had a word count quota. Or an hours-at-the-desk quota. I try not to work with quotas, though, because I love to write. What’s the point of doing it otherwise? All of my efforts are aimed at keeping the writing fun.

Except…I would rather be reading.

So, I have learned the hard way that reading is a reward for a good day’s writing. The same with any other kind of story I could consume. No TV shows until I’ve written; no movie until I’ve written; no games until I’ve written.

Sometimes I’ll stumble around my condo or my neighborhood, grumping aloud at myself: You’re not writing, are you? Shouldn’t you be writing? And if I’m not tending to my health or doing something for my relationship with Dean, that complaint is a valid one. And one I need to listen to.

Sure, I would rather read a book or sometimes, I’d rather clean the cat boxes than write. Especially if some project is going slowly.

Email isn’t writing. Research isn’t writing. Rewriting isn’t writing. Only new words is writing.

Remembering that has made me prolific, even with all the health problems.

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.

Hack of Email Provider Destroys Servers and Two Decades of Data

From LexBlog:

We predicted last year that hackers would become more malicious in the future, not only stealing and selling data for nefarious purposes, but actually destroying data and even systems. That reality hit email provider VFEmail last week, and on February 12, founder Rick Romero tweeted “Yes, @VFEmail is effectively gone. It will likely not return. I never thought anyone would care about my labor of love so much that they would want to completely and thoroughly destroy it.” The tweet went out after he watched the intruder reformat the hard drives of his email service, which has been in existence since 2001. The intrusion wiped out two decades of data. This is a tragic story.

Link to the rest at LexBlog

You may not need to keep the meandering emails about the old days from Uncle Fudd that make their way into your inbox all too frequently, but, if you’re a professional writer, you probably have some business emails sitting there as well.

PG has used Thunderbird as his email software almost forever. After reading the OP, he backed up his important emails to a couple of different locations using Thunderbird’s export function.

He’s also going to try a couple of third-party email backup solutions as well.

One of the practices that make PG’s backup job easier is that he has Thunderbird set to route important emails to some specific folders, so he knows where to go to find good files to backup. He also uses different email addresses for different purposes. (Thunderbird can handle multiple email accounts without any problems.)

For example, if you’re wandering around online and sign up for some update service you’ve never seen before, until you learn whether the updates are going to be really useful for you, you might want to use an email address that is just for those online sites that haven’t yet demonstrated they won’t fill your inbox with junk.

The last time PG checked, Gmail and Outlook.com were still providing free email services. You won’t be able to get bob@gmail.com because that was gone a long time ago, but when PG just checked, bobthehackwriter@gmail.com was available. He has 3-4 Gmail accounts he uses for different purposes. If you don’t want to check 10 separate email boxes all day, you can set most email services to automatically forward any incoming emails to another address, so all your separate email addresses funnel into a single place.

If you have multiple emails, it’s not a good idea to use the same password on each one. (Ditto for almost everything else you do online). To keep the various id/passwords straight, Windows will offer to save them, but PG prefers LastPass, which offers a free version that works just fine. He has also heard great things about 1Password. If you use more than one computer or a computer and a smartphone, a password manager like LastPass syncs all the passwords you store in it to your LastPass account wherever you install LastPass. When you trash the old computer and get a new one, LastPass will bring all your passwords and other secret stuff to the new computer as soon as you install it.

For client emails, in addition to the mass email exports to backup locations, PG often simply prints important client emails to PDF, then stores the email in the appropriate client file folder. It’s much easier to do a quick check of emails that way than to dig through a giant email archive. His client files are backed up seven ways from Sunday, locally and remotely.

PG invites one and all to post comments with their backup solutions for important emails in the comments.

Nine Lessons from a Small Indie Publisher

From Publishing Perspectives:

Last October here at Publishing Perspectives, I wrote about starting my new publishing house—actually more like a publishing room—Mensch Publishing.

I promised/threatened an update when its first book hit the streets, and February 7 saw the release of Guy Kennaway’s affectionate, funny, and important story of his mother’s desire to end her own life. Time To Go will be available around the world in English, in print, in ebook, and in audio formats.

What, if anything, have I learned? Perhaps nine lessons to follow up a Christmas theme.

Lesson 1. Finding the right book is by far the most important thing, but getting the small things right is vital and unbelievably hard work.

Lesson 2. Being a small (tiny) independent publisher is liberating in its avoidance of group think and corporate bureaucracy but challenging in its complexity. I have more than 1,000 emails in my files all for one book and that’s computed after I’ve assiduously deleted the several thousand I was copied into for no reason.

Lesson 3. Treat your suppliers with respect. I’ve taken a policy decision to pay cash owed into a freelancer’s account the same day I receive the invoice. My cash flow is important but respecting other people’s cash flow generates goodwill, and better relationships are vital for a small enterprise—perhaps for big enterprises too.

Lesson 4. Everything costs more than estimated, and income is always less. Those who see publishers, large or small, as greedy monsters making large profits should try it for themselves.

. . . .

Lesson 8. Managing a site. Tweeting. Communicating with authors, agents, sales, distribution, rights, design, production, finance, agents. Setting up accounts with Publishers Licensing Society. With Nielsen. All take time, obsession, attention to detail and all are essential.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

When PG read the OP, he was curious about whether a publisher with a single employee (the author of the OP) used the same types of contracts and paid royalties at the same rate a much larger publisher would. PG notes from the book’s Amazon listing that the one-person publisher is pricing the book at the same level a major international publishing house would.

The Beginning of the End for Patreon

From The Digital Reader:

There comes a time in the life of many companies when the owners (or investors, or vulture stockholders) decide that they want to extract more profit than is healthy for the company to survive. This is one of the things killing American newspapers, and it’s even impacting B&N, and now it’s about to kill Patreon.

Patreon is fairly healthy, but apparently not profitable enough for its capital investors.

From CNBC:

The number of active patrons supporting artists on the platform in 2019 has seen significant growth, up 1 million over the last year, the company said. The company is also on track to pay out $500 million to content creators in 2019, pushing the company to surpass $1 billion in payouts since its inception in 2013.

Under the company’s current business model, 90 percent of funds are paid directly to content creators. Patreon takes 5 percent, and the remaining 5 percent covers transaction fees.

Patreon CEO Jack Conte said in an interview with CNBC that the platform will soon be facing the challenge of maintaining a profitable model as the company continues its growth.

“The reality is Patreon needs to build new businesses and new services and new revenue lines in order to build a sustainable business,” Conte said.

The company does not currently provide contracts, which allows users to retain 100 percent ownership of their work and full control of their brand.

The company plans to provide creators with new “value services,” like options for merchandising, to generate new revenue. Creators will be given the opportunity to participate in these services, and it could ultimately reduce Patreon’s generous 90 percent pay-out model.

What this means is that Patreon’s investors want the company to be more profitable, and if necessary they’re going to force the company to pay its users less.

. . . .

I do not currently use Patreon; I closed my account when they tried to jack up costs in late 2017. But I had been thinking about going back to Patreon in order to fund the blog through donations and pledges.

Now I think I’ll just still with Paypal (not exactly a nice company either, but beggars can’t be choosers).

The thing about Patreon not being profitable enough is that Paypal has a very similar model and they turn a profit on a smaller cut of the funds they transfer. Paypal only collects payment processing fees (the 5% transaction fees mentioned above) and yet Paypal is so profitable that they spun off Ebay as not being worth the hassle.

Of course, Paypal had a unique advantage when they were starting out; they were acquired by Ebay, which then forced buyers and sellers to use the service (when you’re growing your business, there’s nothing like having a captive audience who can’t say no).

. . . .

Folks, Patreon’s attempts to increase its profitability are doomed not because this is going to drive away users but because their niche is too damn small. Patreon only handles one small segment of payment processing (what are essentially charitable fundraising campaigns); in comparison, Paypal covers dozens of segments.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG suggests that, unless an internet-based business has some sort of moat around it (patents, must-have technology, unique voices or expertise, etc.), raising prices is very difficult because someone else is always ready to clone the business plan and offer the service for less.

PG is only passingly familiar with Patreon, but is not aware of any patents or similar limits to those who might build a similar platform for the same purposes – providing an online means for people to help fund various creative endeavors.

However, while PG was looking at Patreon’s Terms of Use to see if there were any mentions of patents, trade secrets, etc., he did find a rights grab that may be troubling to authors and other creators:

You keep full ownership of all content that you post on Patreon, but to operate we need licenses from you.

By posting content to Patreon you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your content. The purpose of this license is to allow us to operate Patreon, promote Patreon and promote your content on Patreon. We are not trying to steal your content or use it in an exploitative way.

You may not post content that infringes on others’ intellectual property or proprietary rights.

Patrons may not use content posted by creators in any way not authorized by the creator.

On the front page of Patreon’s site, the company makes a representation that some might construe as conflicting with the quoted portion of the Terms of Use:

You own your content

There are no contracts to sign and you retain 100% ownership of your work. You made it, not us.

Under Patreon’s equivalent to an FAQ, the following is a question and answer about ownership of creative works:

Wait, does Patreon own my content?

Nope! Your content is 100% yours, unless a record label or studio owns part of it, in which case it’s partly theirs too, but it’s definitely not Patreon’s — not even a little.

PG suggests that Patreon’s Terms of Use are, in fact, a contract between Patreon and its creators. It is a “click-to-accept” contract with an electronic signature by the creator which is not physically “signed”, but is still enforceable by Patreon against the content creator.

In the United States, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (15 U.S. Code Chapter 96) explicitly authorizes electronic signatures in interstate commerce and makes electronically-signed contracts enforceable. Here are the first paragraphs of the law:

(a) In general Notwithstanding any statute, regulation, or other rule of law (other than this subchapter and subchapter II), with respect to any transaction in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce—(1)a signature, contract, or other record relating to such transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form; and
(2) a contract relating to such transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because an electronic signature or electronic record was used in its formation.

In particular, the quoted portion of the Terms of Use above explicitly create a license, which is most definitely a species of contract, between the content creator and Patreon.

Furthermore, the license cannot be unilaterally canceled by the content creator – it is a “perpetual, irrevocable”, “sublicensable, worldwide” license.

What about all the “you own your content” messages on Patreon?

In a traditional publishing contract granting a publisher all rights to an author’s book, the author continues to “own the content” in that the author is the owner of the copyright to the book. However, the publishing contract grants the publisher the exclusive worldwide right to print, publish and sell the book in all its various forms, including the right to license subsidiary rights for movies, television shows, etc.

Under such a contract, the author owns the content, but can’t do anything with it because the publishing contract grants the publisher all rights to exploit the contract.

Let’s briefly unpack the licensing paragraph:

By posting content to Patreon you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your content. The purpose of this license is to allow us to operate Patreon, promote Patreon and promote your content on Patreon. We are not trying to steal your content or use it in an exploitative way.

PG suggests that the first sentence is inconsistent with the second sentence in tone and, perhaps, in the manner in which it may be enforced.

The portion of the first sentence beginning with “you grant” is precise and definitive. The second sentence is squishier. “The purpose of this license is to allow us to” . . . .

Under general principles governing the interpretation of contracts, if there is a conflict between a specific and a general provision, the specific provision will govern. If PG were representing a content creator, he would suggest that the second sentence above be reworded for clarity:

“The license granted in the preceding sentence is expressly limited to grant Patreon the ability to include content created by the author in various ways that are reasonably calculated to promote the author’s content on Patreon’s website. All other rights of author in and to the content are expressly reserved to author, including, without limitation, the exclusive right to grant others the right to print, publish, license and/or sell the content and/or any derivative rights arising from the content to any third party. After termination of this Agreement for any reason, at author’s request, Patreon will provide a document disclaiming all rights to author’s content if reasonably requested by author disclaiming any and all rights in and to the content.”

 

 

The Growing Importance of Intellectual Property

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I need to be clear as I start this post. We writers create intellectual property. We license our copyrights. We do not sell stories. In fact, the stories we tell, along with their titles, are often not copyrightable. The form in which we tell that story—the order of the events, the order of the words we use,—those things are copyrightable, but the basic boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl discovers she’s fine on her own storyline can and does fuel a thousand books and movies. (That’s why so many memes over the holiday season made fun of the romance movies on Hallmark. Because the movies—all copyrighted in their own right, all different in the copyright sense—share a lot in common.)

If you don’t understand copyright and you consider yourself a professional writer, then you do not understand the business you are in. If you have published a novel, traditionally or indie, and you do not understand copyright, you are volunteering to get screwed over and over and over again. I say this often, and I’m saying it loudly again, because the trend for 2019 and beyond is that every organization you do business with will try to take a piece (if not all) of your copyright on each and every one of your projects.

Your job is to protect that copyright.

. . . .

Forbes actually published an article in fall of 2018 titled “What Authors Should Do When Their Publisher Closes.” You can click over there if you want. The advice isn’t good, because as someone in the article says, what an author should do varies based on the author’s contract. And if the author has an agent, then they’re probably screwed. If the author doesn’t understand copyright, then they’re definitely screwed.

. . . .

I recommend publishing indie, because that’s the best way to protect yourself and your writing income. You’ll have a career if you do that. Your career might vanish on you if you try to remain traditional. Or, rather, you will write as a “hobby” while you make your living doing something else.

Yes, I’m being harsh, but that’s because the intellectual property apocalypse that I’ve been warning you about is upon us. The trends are there, and the signs that traditional publishing (and all of the other big entertainment organizations) know about the value of intellectual property are becoming clearer and clearer.

. . . .

For years now, the Big 5 traditional publishers have had contracts that essentially transfer the entire copyright of a novel from the author to them. The contracts don’t say that explicitly, but when you read the contract as a complete document (which is how you should read it), you realize that the sum total of what the clauses mean is that the writer retains no part of the copyright, and is only entitled to a tiny percentage of the money that copyright earns.

The reason these contracts changed about a decade ago had nothing to do with publishing and everything to do with mergers. As these publishing companies became part of big international conglomerates, many of them entertainmentconglomerates, the legal teams redrafted the contracts to do the copyright grabs.

Most writers had no idea what they were signing, and most of their agents didn’t either. Agents are not trained lawyers. A handful of the big agencies have lawyers on staff, but most of those agencies are concerned with making the agency money, not with making the writer money. So a lot of the contracts are structured to pay and protect the agent, while bilking the writer.

. . . .

Up until a year or so ago, most of the Big Five continued to operate like traditional publishing companies have since the 1990s—a focus on publishing a lot of titles, hoping that some will stick and become bestsellers. But that strategy isn’t working, and sales are down precipitously.

. . . .

[Simon & Schuster] has been in a media conglomerate since the 1980s. I’m not going to go through its tortured history, which runs from Paramount to Viacom and beyond, but realize this: It became part of the CBS Corporation officially in 2005. Around then, it became impossible to get book rights reverted, which is one of the tricks that is recommended for writers in the Forbes article I cited above. (How 1995. Sigh.)

S&S has experimented with electronic books since the 1990s. Dean and I personally made a lot of money in the early 2000s when S&S realized they hadn’t licensed e-rights for Star Trek books. (Dean and I wrote a bunch of them in the 1990s). S&S has tried to have a self-publishing arm since 2012, and they’re doing a lot of things that require writers to pay for services that publishers used to provide.

. . . .

The more IP a company acquires, the more its value goes up. Even if they don’t create anything from that IP. Acquiring a novel’s copyright—with all its potential spinoffs, TV shows, toys, comics—increases a company’s value tremendously.

Read that paragraph again, because the information therein is the key to this whole piece.

The more IP a company acquires, the more its value goes up. Your novel is IP. If they acquire it, their bottom line goes up, even if they never do anything with that IP. Got that?

That’s why S&S stopped, in 2000 or so, reverting the rights to the novels they acquired. Those novels equal more earnings potential—and they allow the company to maintain a value that it wouldn’t have otherwise.

I’ve been warning writers about this copyright grab by corporations for some time, but it was easy to ignore me because the Big 5 have not been (for the most part) exploiting (the legal term for developing or making use of) that copyright.

S&S finally is. That’s what Simon & Schuster’s CEO Carolyn Reidy’s heady year-end report was really all about. She called 2018 “the most successful year in Simon & Schuster’s history,” and yet she didn’t cite a single print bestseller as something that caused the success.

Instead, she touted the rise in audio . . . as well as a mention that sent a little shiver through me.

She wrote:

…[backlist sales now] comprise a higher portion of our revenue than at any time in memory…while readers wanting the tried and true is an industry-wide phenomenon, our concerted effort during the last few years to acquire books with the potential for long-term backlist sales has yielded dividends.

This article does not specify what exactly she means by “backlist sales.” Does she mean actual ebook and print sales, or other licensing, such as foreign rights and so on? Clearly S&S is exploiting the audio rights clauses in their contracts.

What is clear, however, is that a big traditional publisher has finally figured out that not only does their backlist have value in raising the company’s worth, but it also has earnings potential that can be exploited in 2019.

Why does this send a chill through me? Because if one traditional publisher learns it, the others will learn it as well. And the ability of writers who have sold their work into traditional publishers to get the rights reverted will go down to almost nil.

Big traditional publishers will finally join their counterparts in the entertainment industry—the movie/TV companies, the music studios, the game companies—in demanding control of every aspect of the copyright from the original author.

Which means that if an author signs one of those agreements, the author will get pennies on the dollar (if that) for any rights—audio, movie, TV—rather than the kind of earnings writers could have gotten as recently as 10 years ago.

. . . .

And those of you who licensed mass market rights a few years ago, thinking you’d get your ebooks into stores, you probably already signed away most of the copyright, particularly if you went with Harlequin or Simon & Schuster.

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.

As usual, Kris incorporates a lot of intelligent business thought and advice into the OP (and her other posts in this series).

As PG has mentioned before, he has negotiated, drafted and/or reviewed a great many contracts during his legal career, including some large technology copyright and patent licensing agreements. As he has also mentioned before, the typical contracts between authors and traditional publishers are some of the most unfair and one-sided agreements he has seen.

In a prior era during which it was impossible for an author’s works to reach any sort of meaningful audience without a publisher to cover the costs of printing books and provide meaningful access to buyers for large numbers of physical bookstores, perhaps the value of a publisher’s services was an extremely large portion of the income generated by sales of a book.

However, in an age in which:

  • Amazon is the largest English language bookseller in the world; and
  • Opens its electronic doors to self published authors on terms substantially equivalent to those it provides commercial publishers; and
  • Ebooks have the highest profit margin of any edition of a book a publisher sells; and
  • Ebook editing, formatting and cover design of a quality comparable to that provided by a commercial publisher can be had for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars;

the real value of a publisher for a typical author compared to the effective cost of a publisher to that author has declined precipitously.

PG was about to discuss the value of branding for either an ebook or a printed book, but he will be uncharacteristically brief.

Does anyone go to an online or offline bookstore seeking out a Random House book? Of course not. They’re looking for an author, a genre, etc.

With respect to promoting and selling books, which brand name is most valuable, James Patterson’s or Little, Brown and Company’s?

Without singling out any particular literary agent or agency, PG will say, as a general observation, that agents famous and obscure don’t do anything significant to improve the contract terms for publishing contracts other than increasing the amount of the advance on some occasions. In particular, agents rarely if ever do anything to address the issues Kris discusses in the OP.

In some types of contracts — consumer loans, for example — federal and/or state legislatures have passed laws that prevent commercial lenders from including some contract provisions that are unfair or harmful to borrowers. Compared to the number of individuals who take out loans to purchase a house, automobile or dishwasher, however, authors are a tiny constituency and elected officials have much bigger fish to fry than commercial publishers.

However, perhaps as a result of such consumer protections, some authors may believe they are somehow protected from  unfair provisions in publishing contracts between themselves and large publishers. That belief is incorrect.

Some of the most unfair provisions in a typical publishing contract are presented in the most innocuous manner imaginable.

 

 

Finally, there is nurturing. Publishers don’t just produce books. They nurture. Literary agents also provide nurturing in case publishers fall short in any way.

Like a baby duckling, a baby author needs to be nurtured and petted and encouraged and gently guided if she/he is to grow into a beautiful swan.

Who better to nurture such a delicate creature than a Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien headquartered in Gütersloh?

Off the top of his head, other than publishing, PG can’t ever remember ever having a business discussion that included the word nurture or any of its variants.

PG is reminded of a quote attributed to former president Harry S. Truman, “If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog.”

PG suggests that if you want someone to watch over you, steer clear of the publishing business.

.



The Disastrous Decline in Author Incomes Isn’t Just Amazon’s Fault

From Electric Lit:

[T]he Authors Guild published its 2018 Author Income Survey.

. . . .

This was the largest survey ever conducted of writing-related earnings by American authors. It tallied the responses of 5,067 authors, including those who are traditionally, hybrid, and self-published, and found that the median income from writing has dropped 42% from 2009, landing at a paltry $6,080. The other findings are similarly bleak: revenue from books has dropped an additional 21%, to $3,100, meaning it’s impossible to make a living from writing books alone.

. . . .

The Authors Guild has a pretty clear idea of what’s behind this disturbing trend, namely the rise of Amazon, which severely cuts publishers’ margins on book sales. Authors ultimately shoulder the cost because publishers offset their losses by giving out smaller author advances and royalties. The platform’s resale market also means that, within months of publication, books are being resold as “like new” or “lightly used,” a scenario in which no new money goes to the actual author of the book. The Authors Guild acknowledges that Amazon isn’t the only place where authors are losing out, but the culprits are of a kind: electronic platforms like Google Books and Open Library claim fair use rights in order to offer classrooms products without paying authors royalties. This is problematic because those royalties, a kind of pay-to-play model of compensation, are how artists have made their money ever since it went out of fashion to have a patron who could support your entire career.

. . . .

This year’s Authors Guild Survey is right to focus on the harm Amazon does to working writers; personally, I’ve made my 2019 resolution to put my money where my mouth is and buy all my books at local, independent bookstores. But the survey results made me wonder if that would be enough—if it’s possible, in the age of the Internet, to reverse the belief that content should mostly be free. By content I do mean to encompass all ends of the artistic spectrum, that ill-defined mass of high and low entertainment and art and news that rubs up against each other on the web in a way that makes it more difficult to separate out, and perhaps less meaningful to do so. Basically, people are insatiable for this panoply of words and images; they want mass input. If you do a Google search for “apple pie recipe,” for example, the top results include both Pillsbury’s website and the personal blog of a home cook. The point isn’t that there is anything wrong with the latter, it’s that discernment has taken a backseat to access; we want all the apple pie recipes, all the videos and photographs and articles and books. We are here now. Entertain us.

. . . .

People have always felt a sort of ownership over art, and that’s actually good. It’s why you keep a book on your shelf and return to it, it’s why you hang a picture on your wall that speaks to you. But when this gets out of hand and you mistake access or a personal connection with your rights, as happens so often in our Internet age, it leads to a dangerous sense of entitlement. That’s why readers feel empowered to complain, directly to the creator, that a book or show doesn’t have absolutely everything they want: the romantic pairing they’d hoped for, the language they find most friendly, the ending they desired. And it’s also why, for instance, the last Harry Potter book leaked on the internet before it was officially published: fans saw the book as something they were owed, not the product of labor that deserved compensation. Not that J.K. Rowling needs more money—but she, and all authors, deserve to have their work recognized as work.

. . . .

Consumers hold a pernicious power, so this trend towards free content won’t reverse itself unless we want it to. This is a sad thing, and we will all be much worse off if we can only hear stories from people who can afford to write. Nicholas Weinstock, a Guild Council member, said: “Reducing the monetary incentive for potential book authors even to enter the field means that there will be less for future generations to read: fewer voices, fewer stories, less representation of the kind of human expression than runs deeper and requires and rewards more brain power than the nearest bingeable series on Netflix or Amazon or GIF on your phone.” Maybe we will all get what we think we’re entitled to — free art — but what kind of art will that be?

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

While we will never know for certain, PG suggests that the rise of Amazon has increased the number of books sold in the United States (and maybe elsewhere) by a substantial margin. Absent Amazon, fewer people would be reading books today.

Not everyone enjoyed the trips to the bookstore in pre-Amazonian days. If a reader’s interests were much out of the mainstream, there weren’t many books available. If finances were a little tight, a shopper might not be in the mood to pay.

PG just checked the Top 10 Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers at Barnes & Noble. The average suggested retail price for the Top 10 was $25.59.

For some visitors to TPV, paying almost $26.00 for a novel would seem reasonable. For others, it might not.

Let’s assume we have an avid reader of fiction who reads four books per week. Even PG can do the math in his head.

Over $100 per month for books. Almost $6,000 per year for books.

Who knows more about pricing anything to maximize sales, the CEO of a New York publisher or Amazon?

Who knows more about pricing anything to maximize profits, the CEO of a New York publisher or Amazon?

Traditional publishers try to cultivate a particular image of books as a unique product, unlike any other. (Corinthian leather!)

Like it or not, books are a mass-market product that competes for consumer dollars. Books don’t just compete with other books. Books compete with every other product a consumer might be thinking about purchasing.

If you want to price for the carriage trade, open an art gallery. The New York book business doesn’t work without lots of titles that sell in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands. That’s a mass market.

PG suggests that “Amazon is causing the sky to fall on the book business” is erroneous. If the traditional book business is to be saved from its own management over the next ten years, Amazon will do the saving. A book business that sells an electronic version of its principal product for $3.00-7.00 has a better future than one which appears to prefer selling a physical copy of its principal product for $28.00.

 

New, Larger Authors Guild Survey: Falling Incomes for US Writers

From Publishing Perspectives:

In one of those quirky coincidences of news coverage, a familiar number has arisen in the top-line reporting from the United States’ Authors Guild about author incomes.

. . . .

Since 2009, their newly released report says, median incomes for authors from writing have fallen by 42 percent.

And when the United Kingdom’s counterpart survey results were announced in June of last year, the Society of Authors reported that the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society had found that median incomes for professional writers since 2005 had dropped the same amount: 42 percent.

. . . .

The sample comprises input from 5,067 published book authors. For the first time, the [Authors Guild] expanded its survey range, requesting responses not only from its own membership but from members of 14 additional writer organizations. That overall group numbered 9,288 people.

. . . .

·         53 percent said they consider authoring books their primary occupation, spending half or more of their work time writing

·         56 percent said they write fiction

·         18 percent said they write literary fiction

·         38 percent said they write genre fiction

·         22 percent said they are academic, scholarly, or textbook authors

·         18 percent said they write general nonfiction

·         9 percent said they publish books to advance their work or personal brand

·         46 percent said they’re traditionally published

·         27 percent said they are strictly self-publishing

·         26 percent said they are both trade- and self-published—the guild notes that “slightly more than half of the respondents have done some self-publishing”

Taken together the responses reported by the full sample of participating published authors indicate that their median income from “all writing-related activities” was US$6,080, down three percent from the guild’s sruvey work in 2013, and down from $10,500 in 2009.

. . . .

There is what appears to be a brighter spot. Authors identifying themselves as full-time, when reporting “all writing-related activities,” showed a median income that was up 3 percent over 2013, coming in at $20,300. The guild points out, however, that this is still substantially lower than the $25,000 median income that class of writer reported in 2009.

. . . .

Self-published writers responding to the survey overall reported earning 58 percent less than trade-published authors in 2017, even while citing what the guild says was a 95-percent increase from 2013 to 2017. (In the top decile, the indies had a median of $154,000 while the trade-authors reported $305,000.)

Not only did self-published romance and romantic suspense writers report median incomes “almost five times higher than the $1,900 median author-related income for the next highest-earning self-published genre category of mysteries and thrillers,” the guild writes, but “the median author-related income for self-published romance and romantic suspense writers was only $50 more in 2017 than in 2013, which may indicate that self-published romance writers as a group have reached a plateau for earnings under current business models.”

. . . .

The organization also points to “blockbuster mentality” as hurting authors, along with those stubbornly low ebook royalty rates of 25 percent and increases in deep discounting.

. . . .

Cal Reid at Publishers Weekly does a good job of summing up the Amazon-related commentary of the survey, “Unsurprisingly, Amazon—described as a dominant force in bookselling and book publishing—figures prominently in the income survey, cited as both a positive and a negative force.

“Amazon has ‘democratized’ publishing, enabling more people to publish books than ever before and the survey found that 76 percent of self-published authors used one of Amazon’s platform. Amazon’s requirement that authors sell exclusively on their platforms limits the amount of money they can make by being forced to participate in Kindle Unlimited and receiving only a 35 percent royalty on books priced at over $9.99, the report says.

“Moreover, the survey found, Amazon’s dominance over online bookselling (the e-tailer controls 72% of the online market, the report found) forced traditional publishers to effectively suppress the income for traditionally published writers. ‘Amazon puts pressure on them to keep costs down and takes a large percentage, plus marketing fees, forcing publishers to pass on their losses to authors,’ the report said.”

. . . .

Over 2,000 authors had average publisher royalties of almost $32,000; close to 1,700 self-published authors reported royalties of just over $31,000.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG suggests traditional publishers could increase the royalties they pay to provide increased income for traditionally-published writers.

Planning For 2019 Part 2

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

 The biggest issue for the latter half of 2018 was book sales. Indies and traditional publishers both complained that book sales were down, and that a crisis was imminent. Their ideas of crisis were different, but they come from a similar source, which is the current state of disruption in the publishing industry.

. . . .

I’m doing this short series focusing on 2018 with an eye toward 2019 because I firmly believe that you cannot plan for the future if you don’t know where you’re standing right now. (And a note on terminology: I’ll be using indie published writer instead of self-published writer because indie writers are running a business, whether they like it or not. I want the terminology to reflect that.)

This series is important to all kinds of fiction writers, whether they’re traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid of both. Please remember that I write this blog for the writer who wants a long-term fiction career, so keep that in mind as well.

. . . .

What started this discussion were some alarming numbers from the Association of American Publishers, which can track fiction sales through traditional venues  but not, mind you, sales figures from Amazon, which is the largest bookseller in the United States. (Some of the Amazon numbers were reported to AAP from the publishers themselves.) There’s a lot of self-reporting in the old fashioned way that publishing numbers get gathered, from independent bookstores telling their numbers (without a fact check) to publishers doing the same.

Still, no small bookstore will deliberately underreport its numbers unless there is a business or tax reason to do so, which doesn’t seem to factor in here. Verifying the numbers from both booksellers and publishers has never been part of book sales reporting, not even after computers came into the picture. (Although, with the assistance of numbers from Bowker and book distributors, the introduction of computers did help.)

The numbers that caught everyone’s attention were two-part.

1) Sales of adult fiction titles fell 16% from 2013 to 2017.

2) That 16% represents a rather large dollar figure. Sales went from $5.21 billion to $4.38 billion.

Realize we are talking about traditional publishing here, not indie publishing at all. Those numbers aren’t really baked into the book sales numbers in any significant way. (Remember, Amazon isn’t counted here, and Kindle Unlimited isn’t reflected here at all.)

The scarier number for traditional publishers appears deeper in the article. This number comes from Bookscan, which only tracks print sales. I’m going to quote PW here. The italics at the end of the sentence are my emphasis added.

…the BookScan figures show that no fiction title topped one million copies sold in 2016 or 2017 at outlets that report to the service.

For an industry that used to sell print titles well over a million on a regular basis (at the turn of the century and before) that’s a scary, scary, scary number. For comparison, I tried to go to 1998 with a quick web search of Publisher’s Weekly, but I only managed to find 1999. It’ll do.

There were six trade paperback fiction bestsellers that sold one million copies plus, and trade was the smallest selling fiction category at the time.  There were more mass market paperback bestsellers than I wanted to count—and these listings began at 2 million sales plus. Leading that list with 2 books was John Grisham at 4.1 million and 3.875 million respectively.  Eight hardcover novels sold more than 1 million copies, including (again) a John Grisham.

. . . .

Last year, John Grisham admitted to the New York Times that his novels sell half of what they sold in 2007, which was less than they sold in 1997.  Here’s how Janet Maslin of the Times reported his comments:

He doesn’t worry much about book sales either, except he’s very alert to the numbers. “The biggest change for me has been that I’m selling about half the books I sold before the Great Recession,” he said. “Maybe a little bit more than half. This is discretionary spending, and people are not spending.”

Savvy readers will see that I used this same quote last year in discussing book sales.  Nothing has changed in the year or so since I wrote that post.

Until the last ten years or so, traditional publishing dominated the marketplace. They could sell millions of copies to readers because there was no other game in town. Nothing competed with traditionally published novels.

. . . .

We are at Stage Three in the publishing disruption, though, and traditional publishers are no longer the only game in town. Not even close. And they’ve got a really serious issue: their business model was built in the previous century. To make matters even worse, they’ve consolidated. None of the big traditional publishers are nimble in anyway. They’re part of large conglomerates who expect major earnings from each corporation under their huge umbrella.

In an upcoming part of this series, I will examine how traditional publishers are looking to keep themselves relevant to their corporate masters. It will change the traditional publishing model forever, but it won’t benefit writers in any way.

. . . .

Traditional publishers are terrified by these shrinking sales numbers. Their solutions are based in their old model thinking—and, unfortunately for them, are mostly impossible.

The reason I chose John Grisham as my example is three-fold. First, there’s that lovely quote he gave the New York Times. Second, I looked up his numbers last year and the current ones are this: His books now sell in one month what they used to sell in one week. Sometimes in one day.  The third reason? He’s still sitting on top of the bestseller list, as one of the most important big guns, twenty-seven years after he hit it.

He’s on the list, Nora Roberts is still on the list, Stephen King…

Let’s go back to that Publisher’s Weekly article that sparked so much discussion. A lot of the discussion was about what’s “wrong” with fiction sales. The discussion is lost in that traditional publishing bubble, thinking they’re still the only game in town.

They talk about movies and TV as competition (what is this? 1960?) and claim that people are either reading nonfiction or aren’t reading much at all. Worse, they’re blaming Amazon for much of their problems—refusing to see that Amazon is their biggest client.

. . . .

There is one line in here, though, that speaks to the problem that traditional publishers have had since 1997 or so—and they have not solved, despite being told over and over and over again that they need to rethink this.

They’re not building author careers. Or, as Peter Hildick-Smith of The Codex Group (which many industry insiders use for market research and pre-publication book testing) told PW:

Creating a dependable, bestselling author is a multibook investment that requires different strategies and great persistence. It’s not a one-and-done launch.

. . . .

The essence here is that the author is the brand, not the publisher, and traditional publishers are no longer putting the money into developing new brands. Which is why you’re seeing the same old same old on trad pub bestseller lists, and why the sales figures are going down.

There’s a lot to read out in the marketplace. Readers who like legal thrillers don’t have to read John Grisham. They can read a variety of other authors in a variety of different ways.

Hildick-Smith put his finger on the rest of the problem. He said that “so much inexpensive genre fiction [is] now available at ‘subprime price points under $5’ (from such channels as Kindle Unlimited), publishers must invest to develop brand name authors who can command premium-price loyalty.”

. . . .

Traditional publishing is not going to build new writers into bestsellers. They’re not even trying. That’s clear from a quote from Paul Bogaards, a vice president of Alfred P. Knopf who is apparently still dining out on his 2009 acquisition of Stieg Larsson’s books. In talking about rebuilding fiction sales, Bogaards is simply quoted as saying this:

There will be another big novel. There always is.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch


As PG was reading this excellent post by Kris, he was also thinking about flightless birds.

PG claims no special expertise about flightless birds, but he understands that most/all flightless birds have vestigial wings. Their distant ancestors could fly, but, over time, for one reason or another, flying became less important and they lost the ability to do so.

Some species of flightless birds live exclusively on isolated islands where few predators are found. These birds deal with whatever threats remain for them without needing to fly.

Other species of flightless birds have become very large – the ostrich and emu, for example. Given their size, they are no longer potential prey for predators like weasels and small cats which could pose a threat to smaller birds.

On occasion, a small flock of wild turkeys strolls through the grounds of Casa PG. They can fly and run and, particularly in flocks, intimidate a small carnivore.

These wild turkeys bear little resemblance to the domestic turkeys which may provide the main course for your dinner next Thanksgiving. The domesticated turkeys have been bred to develop outsized breasts, the better to provide more white meat which many consumers prefer. However, the domestic turkeys are so large and heavy, they are completely unable to fly. At best, they can run for a short distance while flapping their wings.

So back to books and publishing.

Thirty or forty years ago, there were a great many more publishers in the United States than there are today. There were more large traditional publishers in New York, some of which operated under the management of their founder or founder’s heirs and including many medium-sized publishers that have now been absorbed into giant conglomerates. There were also quite a number of successful regional publishers focused on serving a particular geographic area and many more specialty publishers that focused on particular interest groups – golf, military history, regional cooking, hunting and fishing, local history, cowboys, etc.

Today, traditional US publishing is much more concentrated, with the “Big Five”, five huge publishers, all of which are located within a short cab ride of each other on the island of Manhattan and are subsidiaries of even larger worldwide media conglomerates.

One might be tempted to compare them to giant flightless birds, living within a monoculture comprised of wealthier-than-average white people who, by and large, attended the same 20-25 colleges and haven’t had any real jobs outside of publishing. All five Big Five CEO’s are white. Four are male.

Each of the large publishers relies heavily on sales through traditional bookstores. Barnes & Noble is their largest bricks and mortar customer.

Perhaps the best example of the dangers of the Big Five monoculture is the illegal price-fixing conspiracy that began in 2009 and was designed to allow Apple to derail Amazon’s ebook business.

In 2009, Big Publishing was not happy with Amazon. The publishers had finally decided they needed to start selling ebook versions of their books. However, in the typical fashion of organizations who felt entitled to exert control to protect their quasi-monopoly, the publishers did not want ebooks to cannibalize the sales of their printed books. The publishers had for some time discouraged bookstores from aggressive price discounting. This policy worked well with smaller customers, but Borders and Barnes & Noble were large enough that they were less subject to this pressure

Accordingly, the publishers set the prices of their ebooks high so as not to “devalue” their books in the eyes of customers and to encourage customers to continue purchasing printed books through traditional bookstores and restrain Amazon’s book sales.

Amazon was not cooperating with this strategy, however, and was selling ebooks from the large traditional publishers for $9.99, even if the company had to take a loss on each ebook sale.

Approximately every three months, the CEOs of the Big Six (Penguin and Random House had not yet merged) would meet in private dining rooms in New York restaurants without counsel or assistant present, in order to discuss the common challenges they faced, including most prominently Amazon’s pricing policies. (When PG first learned about this practice, he was absolutely astounded. It laid the groundwork for a classic slam-dunk victory in the later antitrust case. Any lawyer who learned a client was doing this would be hoisting red flags from morning until night. It was a profoundly stupid practice.)

In 2009, Apple was preparing for the announcement of the first iPad in early 2010. Apple CEO Steve Jobs was a very sick man.

Jobs had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. By early 2009, he was a very sick man and had lost a great deal of weight. He took a medical leave of absence in late January and had a complete liver transplant in April, 2009. Following the transplant, he was better, but still not completely well. He would die from his illness in 2011.

In late 2009, Jobs’ lieutenant, Apple’s senior VP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, set up meetings with the top executives of the six largest New York Publishers. Apple wanted to announce the iBookstore in conjunction with the iPad announcement but had concerns about Amazon’s pricing.

Cue told the publishers that Apple wanted to sell the majority its e-books between $9.99 and $14.99, with new releases being $12.99 to $14.99. Apple also adopted the agency model of pricing, wherein the publishers would control the price of the e-books with Apple receiving a 30% commission.

However, Apple didn’t want to be underpriced by Amazon, so it would insist on an agreement with the publishers that Apple could match any price at which Amazon was selling an ebook.

Leading up to the agreement of five of the publishers to agree to Apple’s terms (Random House abstained), they continued their private dining room discussions and called each other over 100 times in the week before signing the agreement.

On the day of the iPad launch, On the day of the launch, Jobs was asked by a reporter why people would pay $14.99 for a book in the iBookstore when they could purchase it for $9.99 from Amazon. In response Jobs stated that “The price will be the same… Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon because they are not happy.”

The plot quickly fell apart and the Justice Department sued the five big publishers and Apple for conspiring to illegally fix the prices of ebooks. Later, the Justice Department publicly humiliated management of the Big Five by requiring an admission of guilt and forcing monetary settlements.

The whole ebook price-fixing fiasco is an excellent illustration of one of the most serious weaknesses of the groupthink monoculture that governs Big Publishing. Even after their price-fixing fiasco, they have not made any meaningful changes to avoid becoming even bigger, fatter domesticated turkeys who are unable to respond in a meaningful way to the changes in the publishing business.

While PG believes the five huge flightless birds do not have a bright future before them, as Kris suggests, indie authors need to keep their eyes open and options ready to respond to changes in the book business.

Amazon is not the same as it was nine years ago. In 2009, its net sales revenue was $24 billion. In 2017, it was $178 billion. In 2009, Amazon was filled with managers who remembered when the company was a scrappy little underdog and maintained that mindset.

Between 2009 and 2019, a lot of new people have become Amazon executives. To the best of PG’s knowledge, the KDP group has substantially changed since then. It has undoubtedly grown into a huge organization. In 2009, Amazon had a total of 24,000 employees. Today, it has 566,000.

PG continues to be pleased with Amazon, as reflected by its usual treatment of authors. However, with a large organization, things can always change and indie authors need to be wise and ready to change when change is thrust upon them or when change can provide better opportunities for their books and their business.

 

The Writer’s Vision for 2019

From C.S. Lakin:

As 2018 winds up, I’m revisiting an in-depth look at strategic planning for writers that I published six years ago. It’s all still perfectly relevant. In last week’s post, I introduced the four things we need to look at when planning our writing careers: visionstrategytactics, and action. Rather than have a nebulous idea of what we want to achieve as writers, it’s helpful and wise to think about the goals we want to reach.

Then we want to take our vague vision and form it into something not only specific but laid out with reasonable milestones to reach at certain steps along the way.

By transforming our vision into doable steps, we can measure our success, reevaluate the milestones and goals as we go along, and hone that vision into a reality with its resultant rewards.

The first thing we need to explore regarding strategic planning is our vision. That equates to a clear mental picture of what you want your career to look like by a certain date, such as the end of one year, two years, and even five years. If you don’t have any long-range goals for your career, then you may not achieve much, and your efforts to succeed as a writer may be haphazard and scatter-shot

. . . .

Last week I encouraged you to freewrite some of your dreams—imagine what your ideal successful writing career looks like in specifics. When you take time to dream, you can be as ambitious, outrageous, or ridiculous as you want. This is your dream. We all know the truth of these famous quotes:

  •  “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” (Walt Disney)
  • “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” (Colin Powell)
  • “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why . . . I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” (Robert Kennedy)

. . . .

Now, fill in these blanks by answering this question (compliments from Randy Ingermanson, who has such great resources at his blog www.advancedfictionwriting.com): In ____ years this is what I want my life to look like: (Do this for each period of time for which you are setting up your vision.)

  • I will be having a wonderful time writing ___________________________________________ (What do you want to be writing about/what kind of writing?)
  • I will be earning $____________ from my day job each month, working _________ hours per week doing ____________.
  • I will be earning $____________ from my writing job, working _________ hours per week.
  • I will also be doing these fun or cool or worthwhile things: ______________________________________________________ (because you also have a life and other things are important too).

If you are going the indie publishing route, you will want to add these:

  • I will have ___________ ebooks for sale by this benchmark date.
  • Each ebook will be selling ____________ copies per month and earning me $______________ per month.

If you are looking to get traditionally published (or have more books published via this channel), you may need something like this in your vision:

  • I will have landed an agent contract by this benchmark date.
  • I will have gotten a publishing contract for this novel ______________ or this many novels ___________________.
  • I will be selling _________________ copies per months of my published books and will have earned $ ________________ royalties by the end of this benchmark date.

Link to the rest at Livewritethrive.com

and thanks to Joel for the tip.

The Measures That Matter

From Publishers Weekly:

A fellow publishing professional told me recently that she wished hybrid publishing had a different name—that it would be better if hybrid publishing could be clearer, sexier somehow, as if that would solve its lingering challenges. But there is no name hybrid publishing could adopt that would change the fact that it’s a gray zone—between traditional publishing and self-publishing—or that it’s an emerging model that’s still being defined.

The Independent Book Publishers Association took a giant step earlier this year to codify hybrid publishing by laying out nine criteria that publishers must meet to be called hybrid publishers. The criteria are important because hybrid publishing, despite its unsexy name, does have clear appeal. It’s getting attention. The industry is writing about it and therefore further codifying and validating it. And because the business model is one in which authors pay, service providers and other entities that do not meet the criteria are calling themselves hybrid because it behooves them to do so.

Not all of these players are sinister. I’ve talked to plenty of service providers who say, “We’re hybrid. We meet most of the criteria.” The issue is that most isn’t enough, and hybrid publishing will only be fully embraced and legitimized once the good actors understand that aspiring to be hybrid and being hybrid are two separate things.

Hybrid publishing has, in fact, been around for as long as publishers have existed. In its simplest definition, hybrid publishing is traditional publishing in which authors invest in their own book projects in exchange for higher royalties. On the front end, the difference comes down to the money and who pays; on the back end, reputable hybrid publishers must adhere to the industry’s best practices and standards. Traditional publishers have been cutting these kinds of deals for decades, and often the authors who want them are the savviest and most entrepreneurial: they understand that there’s a certain insanity to giving up over 90% of their earnings and that the reality of a big advance is that it has the potential to be a career killer.

. . . .

One editor, quoted in a 2014 Publishers Weekly article titled, “The Rise of the Seven-Figure Advance,” in attempting to explain these enormous advances, said, “The whole pool of talent is shrinking. There are fewer publishers, fewer slots, and fewer submissions, so… the higher the quality of the project, the more you’re likely to get.”

The talent pool is not shrinking. Far from it. It’s just that there are fewer “sure bets”: the debut (often young and attractive) literary ingenues and celebrities. Publishers cry poor and then throw a million dollars on red. What’s actually shrinking is any space within traditional publishing for new ways of thinking about how publishers might do business. Those who think outside the box, as always, are the indies.

The big question that continues to challenge hybrid publishers is how they can prove they have a stake in projects if they’re not paying for them.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG has responses to a couple of issues raised in the OP.

  1. A fellow publishing professional told me recently that she wished hybrid publishing had a different name – Perhaps it could be called Big Five Bankruptcy Insurance.
  2. The big question that continues to challenge hybrid publishers is how they can prove they have a stake in projects if they’re not paying for them. – Include a clause in the publishing agreement that permits the author to terminate the agreement and regain all rights to the book(s) upon reasonable notice – one year should work.

PG also cautions that a hybrid publisher is not the same as a hybrid author.

PG also double-cautions that more than one “hybrid publisher” is really operated to rip off authors without providing any meaningful commercial value.

Your Basket is Leaking

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

In October 2018, Sears filed for bankruptcy. The form of bankruptcy the corporate heads chose was something called Chapter 11 here in the U.S. It means that the company—once the largest retailer in the entire world—will be able to reorganize and, if they’re lucky and the folks running the company are smart, they might be able to emerge from bankruptcy with some of the business still intact.

The key here isn’t the details of Sears’ bankruptcy. It really isn’t even Sears itself which, when I was a child, fifty years ago, was a fixture in America. It’s the trajectory of the company.

. . . .

By early 1940s, Sears’ catalogue became  known as the Consumer’s Bible. In the 1950s or so, Sears started opening brick-and-mortar stores, and by the mid-1970s, the brick-and-mortar business overshadowed the mail order catalogue.

Mismanagement, a failure to keep up with the times, and a large corporate structure led to a decline starting in the 1980s, exacerbated by the rise of Wal-Mart in the 1990s. Sears still had a lot of value after the turn of the 21st century, but not in retail. The value was in its properties and its stock, and eventually that declined as well.

And now, Sears—mismanaged to pieces, its mail-order business (and famous catalogue) a distant memory—has almost thrown in the towel. They’re fighting for their existence. Very few adults alive remember the store in its heyday.

But look at that trajectory. Mail order on one item only. Then more items. Then unrelated items. Then becoming one of the biggest companies in the world. Then adding brick-and-mortar.

Does that sound familiar? Think of it this way: instead of mail order, think online. Instead of watches, think books. And then realize that Amazon shares much of Sears trajectory, only on a slightly accelerated pace—and without the name changes and the obvious added partners.

Sears to Wal-Mart to Amazon. There is a direct line. Wal-Mart is still fighting for dominance, but they’re no longer fighting Sears. They’re fighting Amazon. And Amazon is probably fighting some other company with a good idea, some company that I’m not entirely aware of.

Why is that important?

Because currently, Amazon is the biggest online retail company in the world. (Wal-Mart is still the largest retailer, but Amazon has moved up to second there as well.)  Amazon is exceedingly important to the indie writer movement. In fact, indie publishing would not be where it’s at without Amazon’s innovation with the Kindle ereader ten years ago.

In that time period, a lot of self-published authors have used Amazon’s ecosystem to make themselves, if not wealthy, then at least comfortably well off.  Many of those writers don’t even market their work outside of Amazon at all, preferring to use the tools provided by Kindle Select to promote their series and their work.

Early on, writing advice for indies (as I’m going to call writers who work outside of traditional publishing) centered on an Amazon-only strategy. If you look at my earliest blogs on the publishing industry, back in 2009/2010, you’ll see me constantly defending myself against that very argument. I learned as a young freelancer to go wide—and that was back in the early 1980s. Relying on only one source for income—no matter how large that source is—is never a good idea.

. . . .

Having been in traditional publishing, with its weird rules and limitations, meant I had learned early on how angry readers get when they can’t get a book that they want. I didn’t want to replicate that experience for them, particularly as I took back control of my publishing, so I never even considered Select.

Although, I had to admit, I was envious at times of writers who could manipulate that system to raise their profiles—at least on Amazon. It would have been nice to have access to the same tools. Eventually, I developed a few new pen names (for a variety of reasons, and no, I’m not telling you who they are), and they experimented in Select.

The Select promotion tools are good until they’re not, as everyone who plays in that ecosystem knows. Amazon changes the system, and then the indies figure out how to best use that system, and then Amazon changes it again.

There have been complaints about Amazon and its practices from the start. But savvy writers have known that Amazon started this revolution, and no matter what they’ve done, we all owe them big for that.

But…then there’s the argument I’ve been making on this blog since at least 2010. Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Even if that basket is the biggest online retailer in the world.

I still get pushback on that advice. But not as much as I used to. Because some of the big pro-Amazon indies are beginning to see cracks around the edges of Amazon. There’ve been too many changes to Select, too many broken promises, too many costly mistakes.

Some of the formerly pro Select-only gurus are now quietly going wide. A few others, trapped in the ecosystem, are using other tools to make their novels available before they put the books into Select. They’re still gaming Amazon’s system, but they’re gaming it to keep the income coming—until they can move out of the exclusivity trap that they had allowed Amazon to build around them.

For the writers, though, who continued to argue that Select was the only viable place to play, October and early November were a difficult time. Writer after writer here in the U.S. noted that their international sales had declined dramatically.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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

PG says that very few, if any, large organizations are unchanging.

Since he has watched the tech world, from the inside and the outside, for a long time, he has seen a great many changes.

Microsoft is not the same organization it used to be. Neither is Apple.

WordPerfect was a wonderful product and a superb organization in its day, but it’s gone now. Ditto for Lotus 1-2-3, Novell and Netscape. In some cases, former tech giants continue as zombie caricatures of their former selves, but the spark is gone.

The personal influence of a strong executive can profoundly shape an organization. Think of Sam Walton and Walmart. When that entrepreneurial executive leaves or dies, it is quite common for such organizations to change. The Sam Waltons and Steve Jobs of the next decades aren’t working for today’s Walmart and Apple. They wouldn’t fit.

Jeff Bezos and Amazon have a similarly tight bond. Amazon has mirrored Bezos’ personality in many ways.

But Amazon has become an extremely large company and the Bezos influence travels through lots of management levels and and subordinants’ decisions before it reaches indie authors and individual consumers. Bezos simply can’t know about everything Amazon is doing today and he’ll know even less next year.

PG thinks the Amazon plan to have two headquarters locations, which later morphed into three headquarters locations is Exhibit A in demonstrating that Bezos has taken his hands off the wheel.

While widely-dispersed major “headquarters” locations may make it easier to tap into a larger geographic pool of talent to fill the entry-level and middle-management jobs, PG suspects it’s going to be a management mess with queens and kings of little Amazon kingdoms sprouting everywhere.

Bezos’ ability to effectively provide vision, leadership and shape Amazon’s corporate culture is going to be substantially diminished. Any future Jeff Bezos-type Amazon employees who might have the talent to continue the level of innovation and organizational excellence he established are not likely to rise through this type of management structure. And their chances of catching Bezos’ attention and obtaining his help in rising through Amazon by their job performance will be slim.