Tuesday, July 31

99Designs.com: How I Solved My Book Cover Dilemma, and How You Can Too

Ryan Casey, What we saw

I'd visited Ryan Casey's blog a few times to read his posts, so when he approached me about doing a guest post I was thrilled!

And curious. "What," I wondered, "would he write about?" I imagine this might be a bit like turning your car over to one's teenager for the first time. You are proud and terrified all at once.

As it turned out I needn't have worried. As with all his other articles I was entertained and informed all at once. One can't ask for better than that.

Ryan: Shall we get the elephant in the room out of the way, then? Okay, here goes: a lot of self-published books look ugly.

Before you sharpen the pitchforks and start declaring me a traitor, bear with me. I too am a self-published author, or at least will be when my debut novel, What We Saw, drops this Autumn. I also believe that we’re in the midst of a revolution, and that there really has never been a better time to be an independent writer.

But, I think we need to start taking responsibility for ourselves. We can begin by setting some basic standards with regards to design.

About that cover…
Didn’t you get the memo? Unfortunately, people do judge books by their cover, it seems. Actually, I say ‘unfortunately’ lightly, because I don’t think it’s such a terrible thing. Having something aesthetically beautiful really adds to that sense of achievement upon novel completion, after all.

So, be honest with yourself. Are you a Photoshop pro? Then give it a spin, and see how it goes. If not, then don’t kid yourself. It’d be much wiser to employ a designer to do the work for you.
‘But designers are so expensive, and don’t necessarily understand my vision. What should I do?’
I’m going to argue for a somewhat unpopular stance in the design community. I held a design contest with 99designs.com to find my winning What We Saw cover.

Have a look at it…

What we saw, Ryan Casey

It’s not bad, is it? It cost me £199. That’s… around $300 dollars; much cheaper than some of the ‘premium’ alternatives.

How it works
I’ll explain how 99design’s unique interface works: you pitch an idea, and write a brief for your project. You pay the money, which acts as a cash prize. Designers from around the world read your brief, and enter a design of their own into a competition. You work with your favourite designers to create something truly eye-catching, and can ask for revisions at any time. Often, they are more than willing to co-operate.

Eventually, you pick your finalists, work closely with them, and choose a winner. You both sign a copyright agreement, and the rights are transferred to you, 100%. The designer receives their cash, and everyone is happy. Oh, and if you don’t like any of the designs, you get a full refund. It’s perfect, right?

The flipside of the argument

Well, apparently not so, for designers anyway. I can see the argument: imagine if someone were to put hours on end into a design, only to find themselves shot down by a harsh 1-star rating, just because it doesn’t quite match your vision.

Also, the winning designer might receive a cash prize, but they lose control of their work as soon as you sign that agreement. That technically means that you can ‘claim’ you designed the piece yourself, if you’re a real ass.

However, the internet is a changing landscape. Sure, some designers will complain, but nobody has to take part in a design contest. If you’re looking to set up your own service, then go ahead. I’m just saying that, as an author, the sheer amount of designs that came my way in a 5 day period was overwhelming to say the least. For an approximate figure: well over one-hundred.

And, now I’ve used it, I don’t think I’ll ever turn back. Holding a design contest taught me that there are hundreds of talented designers out there, but not all of them match my own personal vision. By being able to see a myriad of designs, it enabled me to work out just what my vision was, and actually also helped strengthen my synopsis. Think about it: if your designers keep incorporating something completely off the mark, then aren’t your readers going to get the wrong impression from your blurb too?
I don’t speak for designers, because I don’t pretend to be one; I can’t even draw a four-legged animal. But for authors looking for options, at a competitive rate, a design contest might just be the way to go.

And no, I won’t show you my sheep drawing.

How do you go about creating a good cover for your book? Have you had any good or bad experiences hosting a design contest?

Karen: Thanks Ryan! I'd encourage you all to take a look at Ryan's blog, Ryan Casey Books, and sign up for his free Top Ten Tips For Writing A Mystery Novel.

Ryan Casey is a 20-year old author from England. He is set to launch his debut childhood mystery novel, What We Saw, in Autumn 2012. He offers writing advice, social media guidance, and documents his writing journey over at Ryan Casey Books.

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- 50 Shades Of Alice In Wonderland: Another Indie Success Story
- Marketing Strategies For Writers
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

Derek Haines: Are Free Ebooks A Good Marketing Strategy?

Derek Haines over at The Vandal talks about whether offering one of your books for free is a good marketing tool. His conclusion:
I suppose the conclusion I have drawn is that the free book promotion option offered by KDP Select is a worthwhile marketing tool and a chance to get noticed and get your name out there as an author. Although it’s a bit pot luck, that’s still better than nothing. Trying to get a few good free book listing sites to add your book is certainly a way to help boost your exposure and is definitely worthwhile as is a bit of good old fashioned self promotion on your own social media networks.
It looks as though, even after Amazon's changes to its ranking algorithm, making ones ebook free can still be effective in raising paid ebook sales. It's interesting, though, that it doesn't always work. Out of four books Derek tried this with, only one did amazingly well. Still, he writes that "I can see from my unit sales and borrows that July was a very good month. A five fold increase on June".

You can read Derek's entire article here: Do Free Ebook Promotions Work? My Conclusion

Of course luck will always be a factor, but, if Derek's experience is representative, it's a mistake to put too much weight on how any one book does. If one book doesn't take off, that doesn't mean another won't.

Related articles:
- 50 Shades Of Alice In Wonderland: Another Indie Success Story
- Writer Beware: The Return Of The Vanity Press
- Forget NaNoWriMo: How To Write A Novel In A Weekend

Photo credit: pix.plz

Monday, July 30

Penelope Trunk: How To Win In Life? Trust Yourself

This is a blog post I wish I'd read when I was in my 20s. I wouldn't have changed any of my choices but I would have worried about them less. Penelope writes:
“What should I be doing now?” is a question I get a lot from people in their 20s. The answer is that you should be respecting yourself as you learn about yourself. You should give yourself the space to do anything and then look closely to see what you enjoy. You do not need to get paid for what you enjoy, but you need to find a way to commit to what you enjoy, and then use that as a foundation to grow your adult life.
Read the rest here: Best advice to twentysomethings: trust yourself.

Related reading:
- 50 Shades Of Alice In Wonderland: Another Indie Success Story
- Forget NaNoWriMo: How To Write A Novel In A Weekend
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

Photo credit: RenoTahoe

My New MacBook Air: The Adventures Of A PC Gal In The MacBook World

A couple of folks have asked me to talk about my experience as a former dyed-in-the-wool PC gal who, just recently, made the transition to Apple with my brand new 13" MacBook Air. So, for anyone curious about a PC-to-Mac transition, this is for you.

My Experience So Far

I love my MacBook Air. No, more than that, I am in love with my MacBook Air. I feel like writing sonnets to it, I hear music when I look at it and, above all, I wonder why on earth it took me so long to get one.

And then I remember: Money.

Let me play devil's advocate for a moment.

The PC Argument
It goes something like this (I know, because I've used it often enough!): You are going to pay about 400 dollars more for a MacBook Air than a PC laptop and the PC will weigh about the same, have about the same processor speed, RAM and memory.

Windows 7, the OS I use on my desktop, is a decent operating system and I'm used to it, so why change? Also, the functionality of the software I would run on a Mac laptop is about the same as the functionality of the software I would run on a PC (and I already have the programs).

Yes, the Mac is definitely prettier. No question. It has an elegance that no PC can match, but a person can do basically the same things on a Mac as on a PC so the only reason to buy a Mac is because it looks pretty.

Conclusion: If you buy a Mac laptop you're getting basically the same machine as a PC but you're spending around $400 more.

 The Mac Rebuttal
Although my belief in the soundness of the PC argument wavered in the weeks before my Mac purchase I held onto it until the first time I sat down with my Air and took it for a whirl.

Here's the flaw in the argument: There IS no comparable PC.

I don't want to offend PC folks. After all, I'm one of you. My desktop is a PC and I love it. I bought all its parts and built it from the ground up. It works beautifully and if it ever has an issue, hardware or software, I feel secure in my ability to fix it. I have oodles of RAM and my video editing programs run like a dream.

In my experience so far, the biggest difference between a PC and a Mac is the user experience, not what you can do with the machine. For me, that was worth the money.

The Teensy-Weensy Problem
Okay, that said, there was one little hiccup I encountered.

If I could give one tip to a PC person using a MacBook for the first time it would be this: The spacebar is your friend.

Odd advice, right? Here's the thing. On the PC if you ever want to get a program to accept a command you press 'Enter'. You want to accept the changes made to a picture? Press Enter. You want to close down a program without saving? Press Enter. You want to shut the computer down for the night? Great! Press Enter.

So there I am going through the install for my MacBook Air trying to figure out how to advance to the next screen and wondering why the 'Enter/Return' key wasn't doing what it was supposed to.

It was embarrassing. I built my own PC and I can't advance to the next screen on a Mac!? This did not bode well.

At first I tried pressing return, then I tried return and every other keyboard combination possible, then I took a break, scratched my head and started pressing keys randomly. And yes, I agree, reading the instruction book probably would have helped, or even calling AppleCare.

But no.

I had to figure this out on my own. Besides, I didn't want to be That caller. You know, the one joked about in the coffee room, the clueless PC gal who couldn't figure out how to get from one screen to the next. Yea. That was SO not going to be me.

In any case, just as I started to believe the world didn't make sense anymore, I accidentally pressed the space bar and advanced to the next screen. I kid you not, it was a religious experience.

So, you PC people who are thinking of transitioning, learn from my ineptitude: the spacebar is your friend.

Whichever computer you use, I hope you have a good writing day. Cheers!

Related reading:
- Apple's MacBook Air: A Bundle Of Awesomeness!
- 19 Ways To Grow Your Twitter Following
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

Photo credit: Quang Minh

Sunday, July 29

Changes In Publishing, Signs Of Hope: A speech by Stephanie Laurens

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I just finished reading the keynote address Stephanie Laurens gave to the Romance Writers of America during their enormous, and enormously wonderful, yearly convention.

Stephanie Laurens admonishes writers not to lose hope but, rather, to embrace the changing world of publishing. It is a speech filled with hope and enthusiasm about the seismic upheavals rocking the industry. Here are a few excerpts, but I would encourage you to read Stephanie's address in its entirety (WEATHERING THE TRANSITION...KEEPING THE FAITH). It is beautiful.
[W]hile the shift from print to digital consumption is a major driver contributing to the critical transition that's causing the upheaval in our business, it's not the critical transition itself - which is the migration of readers from buying offline to buying online. Whether they buy print or digital doesn't matter - it's the fact that readers access our works online that's key, because once a reader is buying online, the author can reach that reader directly, and that alters one critical segment of our business irrreversibly.

.  .  .  .

[W]hat is the definition of success in our business? Recently I've heard some contend that success for an author is getting published. Really? Getting published is you handing your manuscript over for transmittal - how can that be success? No - we're entertainers, and as an entertainer's success is measured by their box office draw, our success is measured by the number of readers lining up to buy our next book. Not the book that just went out, but our next book. Our success is measured by the size of our already captured audience.
.  .  .  .

That - multiple routes instead of one - is one critical difference between the Online Industry and the Offline Industry. 

Here's another - in the Online industry, only Author and Reader are essential - meaning cannot be done without. Publishers and Retailers, no matter who they are, can never be or make themselves essential - not unless they can take control of the internet. Not just a part of it, all of it. Which is why I waste no time worrying about anyone controlling my business again - that's not going to happen while I can reach my readers direct. And thanks to JK Rowling and Pottermore for establishing that beyond question. One way or another, if authors are forced to it, it can and will be done.

.  .  .  .

My principal message for you today is this: We are the storytellers. Whether its offline or online, we are still the storytellers, the spinners of tales, the weavers of emotional magic, the essential creators. We tell stories - we create them, shape them, write them down - and none of that changes.

To successfully weather this transition, all we as authors need to do is keep faith with our calling, and remember all the things about it that do not change.

A good story well told will always find its audience - that will never change.

A great story excitingly, thrillingly, and intriguingly well told will establish a career - that doesn't change either.

And if you consistently tell stories that fall between the good and the great, you will have a long and prosperous career in this business - and that won't change.

.  .  .  .

Now it's entirely natural to stare out of the window at the earthquake that's rocking the property next door and worry that it's going to crack the foundations of your house. This earthquake won't. It will alter the landscape on the boundary between you and that publishing house next door, and it will certainly reshape that publishing house itself, but your house won't be materially affected as long as you protect the bedrock on which your house's foundations rest - as long as you keep telling your stories, and tell them well.

So yes, lots of things are changing in the industry segment of our business, but for us as authors, what we must do to succeed remains the same.
I SO want to go to the RWA conference next year, everyone comes back from there raving about the experience, energized. Thrillerfest looks great too, though. Choices, choices!

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Saturday, July 28

50 Shades Of Alice In Wonderland: Another Indie Success Story

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Melinda DuChamp is following in E.L. James' footsteps--or at least riding her coattails--with her novel 50 Shades Of Alice In Wonderland, free till Monday (July 30th). In a way, this is fan fiction as well since it is based on the characters in Lewis Carroll's novel, although this version is definitely for adults only.

Joe Konrath interviewed Melinda on his blog, here is an excerpt:
Joe: Why did you start self-publishing?
Melinda: I've had shelf novels that never sold for various reasons, and it seemed like an obvious way to supplement my income. Now they have become my main source of income.
Joe: Would you go back to legacy publishing?
Melinda: I go where the money is. When my agent gets an offer, I listen. But the offer has to be serious to make me consider it.
Joe: So why call it Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland?

Melinda: I'm not above riding on coattails, and I don't believe Ms. James will mind, considering the inspiration for her trilogy.
This is something for writers to consider if they don't have a large backlist and want to increase sales, and by 'this' I do not mean writing erotica. Writing erotic novels isn't easier than writing in any other genre, in fact isn't likely more difficult.

What I'm talking about is associating yourself or your book with something already popular. In Melinda's case she is doing this with both Lewis Carroll and E.L. James. So far her strategy seems to be working. Joe writes:
Also worth noting is this ebook was only released a few days ago, and is already on the Top 100 free list in the UK, and close to the Top 100 in the US. It got there without any name recognition, publicity, promotion, marketing, or advertising. I tweeted about it earlier today, and got in touch with Melinda to request this interview after I'd read the book (my cover artist showed me the cover last week) but it was already at its current rankings before I did so.
It's something to consider! Hmm, I could write, "50 Shades of  Bourne Identity In Wonderland," ... or maybe not.

If you're a first time author, or just using a pen name for the first time, I hope you find something that works for you. Remember, whatever happens, keep writing! Cheers.

Related reading:
- Fifty Shades of Grey - Oh My!
- How To Increase Your Sales: 6 Tips From A Successful Indie Author
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer
- Marketing Strategies For Writers

Friday, July 27

Marketing Strategies For Writers

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I've written several posts about Amazon's KDP Select program and whether exclusivity is worth it. Joe Konrath says it's not, but other authors who sell the overwhelming majority of their books through Amazon appreciate the marketing opportunities the program provides. For instance, being able to offer your book for free and having it included in Amazon's enormous borrowing library.

Here is a case study brought to you courtesy of Dee DeTarsio, author of Haole Wood. Dee enrolled her book with Amazon's KDP Select program and made it free from July 7th to the 11th. During that time she had 5,301 downloads.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Did that translate into lots of sales after it went back to $3.99 per copy? Not exactly. She made 32 sales between July 1st and July 14th and her book was borrowed 14 times. Furthermore, Dee spent $200 in advertising in the first week of July. She doesn't state this explicitly but it seems she spent this money with Amazon.

So here are the figures: 70 percent of $3.99 is about $2.80 and $2.80 times 32 is about 90 dollars. So that means that Dee is down by 110 dollars.

Was it worth it? It's good to keep in mind that advertising can put your work in front of new people, it can gain you exposure. As those 5,301 people read Dee's book I'll bet that a good percentage of them will be interested in reading her other books.

One thing Dee doesn't discuss is whether any of her other books sold better during her one week advertising drive or during her free days. Other authors have noticed when they offer one book for free, or for a reduced price, it's their other books that get the sales bump.

Dee's blog post about her advertising adventure can be read here: A Small-Budget Advertising Experiment.

Update (April 13, 2013): Joe Konrath has recently changed his mind about the worth of Amazon KDP Select. See: Joe Konrath says KDP Select Made Him $100,000 In 6 Weeks.

Related reading:
- How To Increase Your Sales: 6 Tips From A Successful Indie Author
- Mark Coker of Smashwords: $2.99 Is The Best Price For A Book
- Self Publishing: 3 Steps To Success

8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

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This morning I got up, blinked the sleep out of my eyes, and read the newspaper. That's how I came across Colson Whitehead's whimsical piece for the New York Times. It inspired me to say a few words of my own about what I feel lies at the heart of good writing.

1. Show and tell
That's right, both. Generally we're told to show, not tell. It's funny, I've come across two writers in as many weeks who have said it's okay, sometimes, to tell. I can see their point. Sometimes you just want to say, "He was angry" rather than "His face turned red and he regarded me through narrowed eyes," or some such thing. At least sometimes telling is okay and can help speed up the pace of your writing.

2. Let the subject of your story find you
This is the point that made me think Colson Whitehead had recently done quite a bit of writing--or something--and was just a wee bit punchy when he wrote this wonderful, sparkling, unusual article. He writes:
Once your subject finds you, it’s like falling in love. It will be your constant companion. Shadowing you, peeping in your windows, calling you at all hours to leave messages like, “Only you understand me.” Your ideal subject should be like a stalker with limitless resources, living off the inheritance he received after the suspiciously sudden death of his father. He’s in your apartment pawing your stuff when you’re not around, using your toothbrush and cutting out all the really good synonyms from the thesaurus. Don’t be afraid: you have a best seller on your hands. 
In a way I know what he means. For me it's more like the characters are alive in you somewhere and they clamor for their story to be written. They don't just want to live inside you they want to do things. Preferably interesting things.

3. Get even and have fun doing it
Need fodder for creating an antagonist? Just dip into the well of memory and dredge up one of someone who made you wish you'd stayed in bed. There, you've got a nice blueprint for your villain, just change a few details to keep the legal department happy. Remember the mantra: I have no idea where my characters come from. Yea. That's right.

4. Clarity is king/don't be wordy/kill your darlings
These all come to the same thing, or are different ways of approaching it. A passage can't be clear if it's wordy and we must kill our darlings--those passages that sparkle with wit and showcase our potential as a writer (at least this is how one feels about them)--if they don't advance the story.

This is the number one 'rule' of writing. Or it would be if there were rules. You have no idea the casualties the above paragraph suffered, but I comfort myself that they, my dearest darlings, are at piece now.

5. Only say just enough to tell the story
I remember my first draft of Until Death. I'd asked a friend to read it and she came back looking as though someone was holding her feet to an open flame. After a few vodka martinis cups of coffee I got it out of her that she thought I explained too much. She was daft of course, who wouldn't want to know all about the intricacies, the minutia, of the world I'd created? Oh. Wait.

Hemingway, from what I can remember, was skilled at this. Remember his short story, "Hills Like White Elephants"? That is a story anyone can understand, you don't need to be in an English class, or have the worlds best English teacher. But what it's about, what's going on, is never directly stated. If it were it would be a completely different story and I doubt it would be in the cannon of great American literature.

6. Have experiences
Or, as Colson Whitehead says, have adventures. Get out and see the world you're writing about. Even if your story is set in a mythical universe the grist for your mill comes from good old terra firma so it's a fabulous idea to leave your writing cave every once in a while and nose around.

7. Writing is revising
Not everyone believes this. If there were an award for being the most controversial rule-of-thumb, this point would receive it. I think there may be two kinds of writers, for some writing is revising and for others they've pretty much got it on the first draft.

For what it's worth, I'm a re-writer. I hope the idea I've gotten hold of, the heart of the story, comes out in the first draft, I hope that the soul of the story is exposed and I get a sense of the characters. For me the first draft is about getting to know my characters and orienting myself in the world they inhabit. The second draft is for details. Making sure all the clues are there and in the right place, making sure the story reads well, that my writing says what I want it to (sometimes I feel it's gossiping behind my back), that there are no errors of logic and so forth. Well, that's the second, third, fourth, ... , draft.

8. There are no rules
Writing is deeply personal and, ultimately, there are no rules. Write what you like and share it with whom you want or no one at all. I know there are a few stories of mine that won't be seeing the light of day any time soon. And not because they're horrible. One of them is, I think, the best work I've done, but it is about an intensely personal subject. Writing doesn't have to be shared. Although, scary as it is, sharing ones work really is the most fun.

To read Colson Whitehead's article, click here: How to Write

Do you have anything to add? Another rule to share? Or perhaps there's one rule too many here. Whatever the case I hope you're having a great day and that you find time for at least one great adventure and some writing. Cheers!

Related reading:
- Self Publishing: 3 Steps To Success
- Forget NaNoWriMo: How To Write A Novel In A Weekend
- How To Increase Your Sales: 6 Tips From A Successful Indie Author

Thursday, July 26

How To Increase Your Sales: 6 Tips From A Successful Indie Author

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Elizabeth S. Craig, a Penguin/Berkley author who has recently taken the plunge and self-published, writes about what has worked for her. These are her tips, paraphrased:

1. Use a loss leader
This is what grocery stores do all the time, they price one thing low, the loss leader--for some reason it's often bananas--to try and get customers in the door then they sell everything else at a normal price confident that the average customer will buy much more than the loss leader.

2. Release your self-published title about the same time as a traditionally published one
Many folks aren't going to be able to take advantage of the publicity push arranged by a traditional publisher, but if you have one then take advantage of it!

3. Use your real name for your self-published books
It's easier for fans of your traditionally published work to find your self-published work that way. Elizabeth writes:
I’ve made more money following a traditionally published release in my own name (i.e., the recent Quilt or Innocence release) than following a release with a pen name (the November 2011 release of Hickory Smoked Homicide as Riley Adams.) This tells me that readers are looking for other books under my real name.
4. Make sure everyone is on the same schedule
This point isn't so much about increasing sales as making sure there will be a book to sell! Elizabeth advises keeping in contact with everyone on your team (if you have one)--your editor, formatter, and so on--to make sure that they have time to devote to your book.  Elizabeth writes:
From a production standpoint, I’ve learned that I have to think ahead in terms of reserving editors, artists, and formatters. Last year I was ready to put my first self-published book through the production process and everyone I contacted was busy. This time I will contact everyone on my team before I complete my final draft.
5. Release a print version as well as an ebook
This will help keep your fans happy.  Sometimes folks are used to reading paper books and they don't want to change. Setting up an account at CreateSpace is simple and cost-effective so there's no reason not to. (I haven't done this yet because I don't want the bother, but I know I should.)

6. Write the book your readers want to read
If, for example, niche books are popular in your genre, then think about writing one, especially if you're at the beginning of your writing career and few readers know your name. For instance, if you're a mystery writer, cozy mysteries are popular and might be a good way to build an audience. Elizabeth writes:
I'm thinking that niche books with built-in, dedicated audiences (like cozy mysteries) tend to do well with self-publishing. It certainly doesn't hurt, in my observations, to have traditionally published books releasing regularly, either.
To read Elizabeth's entire article, go here: A Few Self-Publishing Thoughts and Discoveries

I hope you've found something useful in amongst these six points. If anyone has anything to add, please do!

Elizabeth's self-published books:
- Progressive Dinner Deadly (A Myrtle Clover Mystery)
- A Dyeing Shame (A Myrtle Clover Mystery) -- [July 26, 2012: Only $0.99!]

Elizabeth's traditionally published books:
-  They're all listed over on Elizabeth's book page.

Related reading:
- Self Publishing: 3 Steps To Success
- 10 Reasons Why Stories Get Rejected
- How To Find The Right Freelance Editor For You

Mark Coker of Smashwords: $2.99 Is The Best Price For A Book


The actual title of Mark Coker's post was How a Traditional Publisher Could Harm a Writer's Career.

I never thought I'd see that sentence in print. Wow! Times have changed. Granted, this is Mark Coker writing, the founder of Smashwords, one of the largest self-publishing portals. But still.

So how could publishing traditionally harm one's writing career?

Mark's answer: by making you poorer. He writes:
[W]e found $2.99 books, on average, netted the authors more earnings (profit per unit, multiplied by units sold) than books priced at $6.99 and above. When we look at the $2.99 price point compared to $9.99, $2.99 earns the author slightly more, yet gains the author about four times as many readers. $2.99 ebooks earned the authors six times as many readers than books priced over $10.

If an author can earn the same or greater income selling lower cost books, yet reach significantly more readers, then, drum roll please, it means the authors who are selling higher priced books through traditional publishers are at an extreme disadvantage to indie authors in terms of long term platform building. The lower-priced books are building author brand faster. Never mind that an indie author earns more per $2.99 unit sold ($1.80-$2.10) than a traditionally published author earns at $9.99 ($1.25-$1.75).
Another interesting point Mark brought up was that it seems that the Apple store's "rankings favor unit sales over dollar volume (unlike the bestseller list at our small Smashwords store, which measures aggregate dollars spent).  Look at the Apple bestseller list and you'll see which authors are building their brands the fastest with readers."

Huh. That's good to know. If Amazon's ranking algorithms begin to more steeply favor higher priced books then selling through Smashwords on the Apple store--or just selling there directly--would be more attractive.

Mark Coker goes on to discuss Pearson's acquisition of Author Solutions and calls the acquisition "icky". I agree. He writes:
There are signs that some publishers are beginning to realize they need to implement strategies to bring indie authors back into the traditional fold, as witnessed by Pearson's acquisition last week of Author Solutions, Inc., which will be operated under its Penguin imprint.  I'm still scratching my head over this.

Does Pearson think that Author Solutions represents the future of indie publishing?  Author Solutions is one of the companies that put the "V" in vanity.  Author Solutions earn 2/3 or more of their income selling services and books to authors, not selling authors' books to readers.  Does Pearson think so little of authors that they've decided they can earn more money selling them services than selling their books?  Don't get me wrong, I have no qualm with indies investing in professional editing, proofreading and cover design. I encourage that.  There's just something about this that feels icky.

For months, blogger Emily Suess has been challenging the business practices of Author Solutions, and her posts make for some fascinating if not disturbing reading.  How will Pearson prevent Author Solutions from tarnishing the Penguin brand?  Seems to me Lulu or Blurb would have been a smarter acquisition if Pearson wanted a reputable print self-publishing firm.

Surely, they didn't acquire Author Solutions for their ebook revenues, which accounted for only $1.3 million in 2011 sales, or 1.3% of their nearly $100 million total, according to a story in Publisher's Weekly by Jim Milliot.  Smashwords ebook sales this year will do 10 times that $1.3 million, and with only 16 employees here in California as opposed to 1,600 employees at Author Solutions, 1,200 of whom are in the Philippines.  I'm making an unfair comparison, though, because Author Solutions is in the print business, and we don't touch print.  Compared to ebooks, print production and distribution is more complicated, more expensive and less rewarding for indie authors.
So, will someone please tell me, if print isn't the future, and vanity isn't the future, then why did Pearson pay $116 million for Author Solutions?  Do they think Author Solutions offers authors a more compelling print solution than Amazon's CreateSpace, or Lulu?  Does Penguin think the imprimatur of the Author Solutions brand will help it retain its most precious authors?

The good news is that publishers are beginning to realize that the power in publishing is shifting to authors.  The question remains, however, how they'll keep authors in the traditional stable now that the gates are torn down and greener pastures abound.
Here's a link to Mark's article:  How a Traditional Publisher Could Harm a Writer's Career.

Mark Coker is at the RWA annual conference that's going on right now. I really really wish I was there! By all accounts it's a fantastic conference and many of my favorite authors/presenters are going. Next year.

Related reading:
- Amazon's KDP Select, Kobo & PubIt: Joe Konrath & Blake Crouch Share Their Experiences
- 5 Points To Ponder Before You Self Publish
- Penquin's Purchase Of Author Solutions: Going To The Dark Side?

Wednesday, July 25

Writer Beware: The Return Of The Vanity Press


I was first introduced to the idea of the vanity press by Umberto Eco in his book Foucault's Pendulum. Eco does an excellent job of explaining why vanity presses have such a bad name: they are the literary equivalent of carnies and writers are their marks.

Years ago, before I had discovered Joe Konrath's blog, I confused vanity publishing with self publishing. Vanity publishing strips the author of their money and gives next to nothing back while self-publishing--publishing ones book oneself--is a sound business strategy.

I used to think vanity publishing was dead, driven out by a tsumami wave of embowered writers publishing their own work themselves.

I was naive.

For the past week or so I haven't paid much attention to the ads on my site. I apologize. Over the past two days I've noticed many of these ads were for businesses offering to help writers publish their books.

At first I didn't think much of it. It can make good sense for a busy person to pay someone to help with certain aspects of publication--help with cover design, line editing, content editing, formatting, and so on. These services can sometimes cost as much as $1,000 dollars. (I'm not including the cost of a book trailer, website, and so on.)

What I've just mentioned is still self-publishing because, and this is the key point, the writer themselves uploads the finished file to the stores where it will be sold (e.g., Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and so on). If a book is self-published it means the writer published it rather than paying someone else to, as in traditional publishing. Yes, in traditional publishing the money flows to the writer. The publishing company shares the proceeds from each sale with you, the writer, because they are the ones who shelled out the money to publish your book. They've earned it.

At the very least, even if you get someone to help you upload the file to, for instance, Amazon, it is very important that you are the one who controls the accounts. This gives you access to your sales figures. You'll know exactly how many books you sold at each place (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc.), you'll set how much each book will be sold for and the retail outlet will give you detailed royalty statements. No guessing involved.

Now, someone might say, "But, Karen, I just don't want the bother! I'll gladly pay someone to do that sort of thing for me. I just want to hand my finished manuscript to someone, have them take care of the formatting, the cover design, the uploading. I don't want to have to bother with all those different accounts--one with Amazon, one with Smashwords, one with Barnes & Noble, one with Kobo; my head is hurting already!--I just want someone to take my manuscript, do it up, publish it and then send me a check every so often."

Okay. Fine. But that isn't self-publishing. You have two options: go the vanity press route, which I do not recommend, or shop your manuscript to traditional publishers.

If self-publishing isn't for you--and there's nothing wrong if it isn't--then by all means don't do it! There are many reputable publishers out there and sometimes small presses will accept projects that larger ones won't. But please don't waste your hard-earned money by going the vanity press route.

How to recognize a vanity press: The company charges you to format your book and then also takes a percentage of each sale.

One vanity press I contacted was offering, for the 'mere' sum of $5,000, to set the writer up with a website--how generous! When I asked if that included a blog they said no, a blog would be $350 extra. Uh huh.

Sorry for nattering on about this. I'm steamed. It bothers me when folks try and prey on writers. I'm not against writers paying others for help--cover art, formatting, editing, and so on--but for a company to charge outrageous sums for these services and then to also want 50% of all sales ... Wow. That's chutzpah.

Related reading:
- Self Publishing: 3 Steps To Success
- Penquin's Purchase Of Author Solutions: Going To The Dark Side?
- International Writers And The U.S. 30% Withholding Tax: Getting It Back

Links to reputable tradespeople:
After I published my post I got to thinking, it's one thing to say, "Stop! Don't do that!" and quite another to provide a solution. So I went over to Joe Konrath's page and looked at who he gets to help him out with formatting his books, his cover art, and so on. You can go over to his page and get this information, but I know he wouldn't mind my including it here as well:

- Joe Konrath's cover artist
- Joe Konrath's ebook designer
- Joe Konrath's print designer

Joe's books look fabulous so I have no hesitation offering these links. If anyone knows of any links they'd like to add to this list get in touch with me.

The Harlequin Class Action Lawsuit Explained

Claudette Colgert, Harlequin
Claudette Colbert, Harlequin

I read a half dozen articles on the lawsuit brought against Harlequin and became more confused than ever. Then I came across a comment Laura Resnick made on Joe Konrath's blog and the fog cleared.

Emboldened, I went over to the website the defendants put up to inform the public of the suit and read the actual complaint. That's what I'd encourage anyone to do who's interested in understanding this thing. The complaint is well written and anyone can understand it with a bit of perseverance.

Since her explanation was the best write up I had come across, I wrote to Laura Resnick and asked her permission to reproduce the comment she left on Joe Konrath's blog post (Harlequin Fail Part 2), permission which she kindly gave. To put Larua's remarks in context, here is the official response from Harlequin:
TORONTO, July 19, 2012 – Harlequin announced today that they have been made aware of a class action lawsuit brought against them by three former authors.

The publisher wishes to make clear that this is the first it has heard of the proceedings and that a complaint has not yet been served.

“Our authors have been recompensed fairly and properly for their work, and we will be defending ourselves vigorously,” said Donna Hayes, Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of Harlequin. (Harlequin responds to Complaint)
 Laura writes:
Yep, they [the defendants] did try to settle. They tried long and hard.

This filing of a legal complaint comes after months of attempts to negotiate with Harlequin via legal counsel, whose fees have been paid by dozens of involved writers (all part of the "class") pooling their financial resources. The writers' legal representation has been trying to reach an agreement with Harlequin since =last year.=

So if Harlequin is "surprised" by the lawsuit, then it was apparently dropped on its head recently, with tragic results. This is much like expressing surprise when you're ticketed after ignoring multiple warnings NOT to park in that no-parking zone where you're trying to park.

Harlequin's Donna Hayes' statement also describes the plaintifss as former Hq writers. Er, NO. They are current, not former. Since Hayes is apparently fuzzy on these concepts, let me explain.

–I- am a FORMER Hq writer; I am –former- because I got all my rights reverted to all books that I ever licensed to Hq, and I have =no= contracts still in effect with them. (That's also why I am not part of the "class" in this lawsuit. I got all my rights reverted before Harlequin launched any sort of digital program, and so my works were never subjected to the egregious fiscal practices specifically described in the complaint.)

By contrast, the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are authors who have contracts CURRENTLY IN EFFECT with Harlequin, and whose works =are= being subjected to the egregious fiscal practices described in the agreement. As explained in a post yesterday by one of the authors in the class (one who is not a named plaintiff), these writers would be =delighted= to be "FORMER" Harlequin authors—but to make them "former," Harlequin needs to revert their rights to them, rather than retaining their publishing rights in order to contiunue subjecting their intellectual property to these egregious fiscal practices.

But, wait! There's more. The named plaintiffs are not involved in =new= contracts or =new- releases with Hq for obvious reasons: Wriers with -new- contracts and -new- releases fear retaliation from Harlequin for their involvement in this lawsuit, i.e. attempt to be paid fairly by this company, so they don't want to be named. However, though not -named- in the conplaint, many members of the "class" are what even Ms. Hayes, with her flawed understanding of current/former, would presumably describe as "current" Harlequin writers.

If Ms. Hayes assumes only these three writers are involved in the lawsuit, then she has not been paying any attention (which certainly seems to be the case, based on her "surprise") to a YEAR of writers trying to negotiate with Hq over these issues through their legal counsel, -and- she is also presumably unfamiliar with the phrase "class action" lawsuit.
It boggles my mind that Harlequin would feign ignorance of this suit when so many in the industry were aware of it and that Harlequin would call the defendants former authors when Harlequin is still selling their books! At least one of Barbara Keiler's ebooks (she was writing as Judith Arnold), Married To The Man, is (as of July 24, 2012) being sold in Harlequin's online store. [Edit: Before posting this article I checked this link and Barbara's novel seems to have been taken down.]

If Donna Hayes got those two things wrong, why should we think she has any idea whether her authors were, in her words, "recompensed fairly and properly for their work"?

Just in case all that is clear as mud, Laura generously gave me another example of what's behind this lawsuit against Harlequin, and gave me her permission to use it in my blog post. (She used me as an example, I feel like such a star!)
"Let's say I collaborate on a book with Karen. I make a deal to split the proceeds with her for our book 50/50. The way we structure it, I will receive the advances/royalties income directly from the US and foreign publishers or distributors, and then I will distribute Karen's 50% to her.

But then, in the course of handling the contract and money with the publishers (or, for example, with Amazon and Smashwords), I structure my deals with them to pay the advances and royalties directly to a separate business entity called Evil Mastermind, of which I own 100%, rather than to me as an individual.

Over the course of a year, publishers or distributors pay out a total of, say,$20,000 for the book–to “Evil Mastermind, Incorporated.” Evil Mastermind, Inc., then writes me, Laura Resnick, a check for $1,000 for the book.

$1,000 is all that I, Laura Resnick, have received for the book. And since the collaboration contract is between Laura Resnick and Karen (not between Karen and Evil Mastermind), I pay her only $500, i.e. 50% of what I have received as Laura Resnick. Regardless of the fact that $19,000 for that same book is sitting in an account which I own, which funds I can distribute to myself as “dividends, company profits, and salaries,” from a corporation I own and which corporation isn’t mentioned in any profit-sharing contract or agreement that I have with Karen.

This is more or less how the class action suit alleges Harlequin has been handling the author's e-royalty earnings. (But, Hq being a large multi-national corporations with offices in one country, its bank in another, editorial in another, etc., etc., they can presumably do more complicated juggling than one lone blonde Evil Mastermind can.)"
Thanks Laura!

Laura Resnick was the keynote speaker at a Romance Writer's of America convention in my home town a few years ago. Since then I've read and enjoyed her books, she's one of my favorite authors. I can't recommend her work highly enough.

Links list:
Laura's homepage: LauraResnick.com
- Laura's homepage contains a list of all her work, but don't forget to take a look at the Esther Diamond books, as well as The Chronicles of Sirkara. Don't start any of them if you have an important deadline in the next day or two, they are addictive, but in the best of ways. Just don't say you weren't warned!
- Here are a few of Laura's articles on the business of writing. I cannot recommend these articles highly enough to writers.

Here are a few more truly excellent links Laura Resnick passed along to me, they help explain the current lawsuit against Harlequin.
- Patricia McLinn's response to Harlequin's pulic statement.
- The website set up by the "class" to explain the reasons for their lawsuit.
- A lawyer who'll be speaking at RWA National next week gives a quick four-point analysis of the case (and why Hq, at the moment, appears to have little room for defending its actions)

Thanks for reading!

Photo credit: carbonated

Tuesday, July 24

An interview With Jamie Sedgwick: Tinker's War Coming Sept 15th

Today I'm doing something different. Jamie Sedgwick is one of the first people to leave a comment on this blog and one of my first contacts in the indie community. When I heard he was coming out with a new book I knew I had to have him over for a visit.

1. Hi Jamie, it's wonderful to have you on my blog. I've chatted with you through blog comments so often over the last few years I feel as though I know you. Please tell those who might be meeting you for the first time a bit about yourself and your upcoming book, "Tinker's War.” 
Thanks for having me, Karen. Your blog is such a constant stream of information that I check it every day just to what’s news! You’re doing a great job. 
Tinker’s War is the sequel to my novel The Tinkerer’s Daughter, which is by far my best selling book. One reviewer described it as a: “…fabulous combination of YA, Elves, social issues and steampunk, I know go figure but it worked.” That about sums it up. My Tinkerer series is a fusion of high fantasy and steampunk, but clever readers will also find the influence of Japanese anime. 
I approached this series with the main character -a half-breed elven girl named Breeze- stuck in my head. I’ve always been fascinated by the social and cultural clashes over race, and I think this subject lends itself nicely to fantasy. That doesn’t mean it’s the overwhelming theme of the story, but it’s integral to the main character. Take this character and drop her into a frontier setting (like early 1800’s America), add an industrial revolution and a political coup, and you’ve got The Tinkerer’s Daughter. There’s a whole lot going on.

2. How long have you been a writer? What made you want to be a writer? 
2nd grade. I remember the day. I had an assignment to write a one-page story, and our teacher discussed the fact that some people did this for a career. I already loved to read but it hadn’t clicked yet that someone wrote those books. I started dreaming about being a writer that day and in a way, I still do. The reality of being a writer is that it can be real work, but it’s the best possible kind. 
3. I never know which term to use, independent author or self-published. In any case, are you indie and, if so, could you say a few words about why you made that choice? If you could do things over, would you do anything differently? 
I think those terms are two ways of saying the same thing, but I will admit that the self-published moniker brings a certain amount of baggage with it. I think Indie is a nice way to say self-published, but this term also implies that the author has done a lot of homework in the publishing process, whereas self-published draws up images of vanity publishers and people who will pay any price to see their work in print. I think the term Indie implies a certain degree of professionalism regarding editing, artwork, etc. In my case, it also means that I filed for a business license and started my own publishing company. 
I made this decision out of necessity. Sadly, I couldn’t get published, mostly because I couldn’t get a second glance from any of the literary agents out there. I still have several hundreds of rejections stored on my computer and in paper files; rejections for books that have gone on to sell thousands of copies. I may not be buying a new house and paying cash like some Indie authors out there, but I do feel a certain sense of validation from my experience. I’ve proven to myself that I can make a real business out of this, and my books that didn’t fit “in a competitive marketplace” might actually have some life in them. 
4. I noticed you've given your website, JamieSedgwick.com, a makeover. Very nice! Let me ask you, do you think every writer needs a web-presence of some sort, whether that be a website or a blog or simply a webpage with information about their books? 
Thank you! I’ve gone through a love/hate thing with my website over the last few years. I became convinced at one point that blogs would replace websites completely for writers, and I shut mine down. I assumed that readers would want personal contact with writers and nothing else would suffice. I was wrong. 
What I have learned is that the majority of readers do not go to your blog and they only glance at your website. Authors who sell thousand of books rarely have more than a couple hundred followers. Even authors who sell millions never seem to get more than a couple thousand followers. That’s a tiny fraction of their market. In fact, most of those fans seem to be other writers, rather than readers. 
However, readers do expect a website because they consider it a sign of professionalism. Anything less and some people assume you’re an amateur. So the website’s back, but I’ve made sure to keep it very simple and streamlined. Links and info… what more do you need? 
5. One person who has influenced me and my writing is Joss Whedon, Buffy was the first character I remember feeling was a take-no-prisoners kind of person who happened to be a girl. Who are your artistic influences? What authors or cultural figures have inspired you? 
Whedon is a genius, no doubt about it. I’m a huge Firefly fan and I remember seeing Buffy in the theater and kind of staring at it with my jaw hanging open. For me, it was pretty much the first urban fantasy. It was like the next generation of The Lost Boys and I knew then that it was going to be something huge. 
Literarily speaking, J.R.R. Tolkien was my first influence. I started reading fantasy very young and I found The Hobbit at age nine. I devoured it and reread it several times before moving on to LOTR. Of course, I branched out from there and I was probably influenced in some ways by most of the fantasy writers out there. Over time, I did find that movies started influencing my writing almost as much as literature. I love the rhythm of film, and the way the story moves through the acts and keeps our attention with all these little tricks. I keep trying to find a way to integrate some of that energy into my writing. I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded, only the readers can make that decision. 
6. The publishing industry has changed radically over the last few years, what advice would you give to a new writer? 
New is a relative term, I suppose. If you’re really, really new, don’t go Indie if you haven’t gotten some feedback on your work. If you’ve cranked out some work and you feel that you’re ready to face public scrutiny for better or worse, (and you have a thick skin) then go for it. Of course, it’s still not a bad idea to submit to agents and publishing houses. Your chances are one in a million, but who knows? You just might be that one. In that aspect, I’d say follow your heart. 
If you do choose Indie, this is my advice as of right now, but bear in mind this business is subject to overnight change: Write short! Some of the most successful writers out there are doing their books as a series of novellas. If you can capture an audience in thirty thousand words, then you can probably write a new book every month or two. Then you can combine those into a novel-length collection and sell that as well. E-book readers don’t seem nearly as concerned with word count anymore, they want regularity. They want a steady stream of new material. 
7. Here's a fun question -- or at least it's supposed to be! Someone asked me this in an interview and it was a lot of fun to think about. If you could live in one of your fictional worlds would you and, if so, which one would it be? 
That is a good question. My answer is Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre, without a doubt. The setting is San Francisco (which is located less than an hour’s drive from where I live now), but there’s a magical undercity in a cavern beneath the streets, and it’s home to all sorts of fantasy and fairy creatures. The series tries to capture the feel of a pulp/noir detective story and bring that into a contemporary urban fantasy. Elven gangs packing sub machine guns, goblins who are pixie-dust drug dealers, and a stony-faced ogre representing the law… seriously, how cool is that? I have a feeling I’ll be writing that series for a while. 
8. When is your new book, Tinker's War, coming out and where can folks buy it? Also, are you going to have print copies available for purchase as well as digital? If you are coming out with a print version would you mind saying a few words about which POD solution you chose and why? 
September 15 is the official release date for Tinker’s War. It should be available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.com on that date. I’ve pulled my distribution from other vendors in order to partake in Amazon’s Select program. I’ll probably stick with them through this year, and then reevaluate the program’s value. 
All of my full-length novels are available in paperback as well as e-book, and I publish them through Createspace. There are pros and cons to every P.O.D. service out there, but I found Createspace to be very affordable. They also allow me a great deal of control. Technically, it’s possible to upload and publish a paperback for less than $10 if you do it all yourself. They have a nice website that allows a complete overview of the process, so that you have a fairly complete idea of what you’ll get before you ever even order a proof. 
I do have plans to put out some hardcover work in the future, and I’m afraid that as they are now, Createspace will not be able to fulfill that need. But for trade paperbacks they’re hard to beat. 
9. Coming up with questions is hard work! Is there anything you'd like to say before this interview is over? 
You did a fantastic job, these were some great questions. Thanks for having me here! I would also encourage your readers to visit my blog if they like my books, and to follow it. Those who follow the blog and/or sign up for the newsletter get opportunities for special giveaways regularly. I’m currently publishing three to four novels a year, and most of my promotion goes right there. You’ve got nothing to lose, so swing by and sign up! 
Readers can find my entire collection at Amazon right here!

Thanks for all your kind words Jamie! My cheeks are burning. And thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. I love your blog! You have eclectic interests and an addictive writing style. I'm looking forward to reading Tinker's War. Best of luck with the release, not that you need it!

Related links:
- Jamie's blog: jamiesedgwick.blogspot.ca
- Jamie's books: www.jamiesedgwick.com/books.html
- Jamie's website: www.jamiesedgwick.com

Monday, July 23

The Department Of Justice Accepts Publishers' Settlement

I just read this and I must admit I'm jumping up and down. The DOJ rejected objections its proposed settlement with HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster. A number of authors I read regularly were singled out for mention in the ruling, among them, Joe Konrath, David Gaughran, Lee Goldberg and Laura Resnick.

This isn't an excerpt from the ruling itself, it's from The Bookseller:
Barnes & Noble's objections to the settlement had claimed it would injure booksellers. The Authors Guild had said the proposed settlement was "not in the public interest". Referring to Amazon, the US authors body had stated: "The Justice Department is sanctioning the destructive, anticompetitive campaign of a corporate giant with billions in cash and boundless ambitions."

In a response published today
(23rd July), the DoJ said: "In the course of its investigation, the United States examined complaints about Amazon's alleged predatory practices and found persuasive evidence lacking . . . Even if there were evidence to substantiate claims of 'monopolization' or predatory pricing' they would not be sufficient to justify self-help in the form of collusion."

Responding to Barnes & Noble's comments, the DoJ asserted that Barnes & Noble was "worried that it will make less money after the conspiracy than it collected while the conspiracy was ongoing" and that that was not a matter for the court to consider. Many of the benefits B&N attributes to collusive pricing could be achieved in other ways, such as lowering costs, the DoJ said.

The DoJ also rejected an implication it said it drew from the Authors Guild submission, that price-fixing should be permitted in the publishing industry because of the cultural role books play in society. "An argument that a particular industry or market deserves a blanket exemption from the antitrust laws should be directed to Congress, rather than the United States or the court," the DoJ stated. It also noted that some members of the Authors Guild, including authors Joe Konrath and
David Gaughran, had written in support of the Final Settlement.

The DOJ said that after "careful consideration" of the public comments, it had concluded that the proposed final judgement was an "effective and appropriate remedy for the antitrust violations alleged in the complaint".
You can read the rest of the article here: DoJ rejects B&N/Authors Guild objections to settlement.

Here is the DoJ's entire response. I just finished reading it. It was, IMHO, very well written and what I would call a 'good read'. Joe Konrath, Lee Goldberg and Laura Resnick, amoung others, are mentioned on page 41.
It is worth noting that members of the Authors Guild also wrote in support of the
proposed Final Judgment and against the Authors Guild’s position. Joe Konrath, author of 46 books, clarifies that letter-writing campaigns by the Authors Guild and the Authors
Representatives “did not solicit the views of their members, that they in no way speak on behalf of all or even most of their members.” Konrath (ATC-0144) at 1. He observes that agency pricing has slowed global growth and hurt consumers and writers. Lee Goldberg, a published author and member of the Authors Guild writes, “I believe that it’s detrimental to authors and readers, as well as to the establishment of a free and healthy marketplace, for publishers to collude with Apple to create artificially inflated prices for ebooks.” (ATC-0553). Author Laura Resnick writes, “breaking the law is not a reasonable reaction to being faced with aggressive business competition.” (ATC-0801).

David Gaughran is also mentioned (page 42):

Many comments from self-published authors, in particular, expressed appreciation that
Amazon opened a path to publication that was immune from Publisher Defendants’ hegemony. David Gaughran, writing on behalf of 186 self-published co-signors, writes that “Amazon is creating, for the first time, real competition in publishing” by charting a “viable path” for selfpublished books. Gaughran (ATC-0125) at 1, 3. Mr. Gaughran observes that “[t]he kind of disruption caused by the Internet is often messy,” and those who “do quite well under the status quo” naturally resist change. Id. at 2. He compares publishers and literary agents to “[a]ll kinds of middlemen,” which have “gone from being indispensible to optional” with the rise of the Internet. Id. Writing in support of the proposed Final Judgment, Mr. Gaughran confirms that self-published writers, in particular, see opportunities in a market not subject to collusive pricing.
I'd encourage you all to read at least the summary at the top.

Happy reading!

Related articles:
- Joe Konrath's Letter To The Department Of Justice
- 17 More States Join The Class Action Suit Against Apple et al
- The Passive Guy writes about monopolies

Self Publishing: 3 Steps To Success


I love Kristen Lamb's blog! She doesn't pull her punches. This week she takes aim at 5 common mistakes of self publishers--last week she wrote about the 5 top mistakes that are killing traditional publishing--and that was an excellent article as well.

Kristen's post made me think about what advice I'd give to someone brand-new to self publishing.

1. Master the basics 
As writers we're constantly learning, both about the business of writing and about ourselves as writers. A writer standing at the beginning of her journey--if they're anything like I was!--needs to study both the craft of writing and the book publishing industry.

The craft of writing
There are many things a writer can do to improve their craft. Read books, attend writers' conferences, get together with other writers, just to name a few. If you don't know anyone in the place where you live, search for kindred souls online (I can recommend Critters.org).

You've probably heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master any skill or, in the case of writers, about one million words. That's right, a million! It makes sense, though. At 100,000 words a book, that's 10 books. But you don't have to write 10 books and condemn them to live out their lives beside the dust-bunnies (or dust-ghoulies as the case may be) under your bed.

You can write short stories, blog posts, love letters (always the most fun!), blurbs, critiques, book reviews, and so on. Also, no one is saying that your first 1,000,000 words are going to be horrible, not fit to see the light of day. It will likely take you a while to find your voice but no ones saying you can't have fun along the way.

The publishing industry
It is easy to get taken advantage of. After reading Joe Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, Kris Rusch, Laura Resnick, and many others, I've ... well, I've probably become cynical, at least when it comes to the publishing industry. But writers as a class seem to be easy marks. It's our responsibility not to be so we need to educate ourselves and help spread the word to our fellow writers.

2. Give it time
Although there's an exception to every rule, even this one, success at anything takes hard work and a lot of time. Don't rush it.

Yes, getting your book edited will take more time but it's worth it. I know some of you don't have the money to pay a professional editor--I've been there!--but you can get a fellow newbie to to look over your manuscript and give you feedback. Ideally many more than one.

Don't take the advice/criticism of any one person to heart, no matter who they are. Ask yourself: What do they know of the genre I'm writing in? Also, if you give your book out to, for example, six readers and they all say different things you know you're hearing their personal opinion. But if, say, four of your readers say the same thing--e.g., the pacing in your second chapter needs work--then listen to this! Even if you think your pacing is impeccable. It doesn't matter what you think about this, it matters what your readers think.

3. Writing a new book is more important than promoting one already written
The pros are agreed: The best advertising is the release of a new book. You'll sell more copies and many of the new readers you attract will be interested in reading a few books from your backlist. Kristen puts this beautifully:
Here’s the thing. Self-publishing, in many ways, just allows us to accelerate the career path of the author. Even in traditional publishing, it usually takes about three books to gain traction. In traditional publishing, this takes three years because we are dealing with a publisher’s schedule.

In self-publishing, we can make our own schedule, but it still takes THREE BOOKS MINIMUM. I know there are exceptions, but most self-published successes hit at about book three. The ability to offer multiple titles is a huge part of why John Locke became successful.

This is why it is critical to keep writing. Not only will writing more books make you a better writer, but once people discover they love your writing, they have a number of titles to purchase. Being able to offer multiple titles is how we make money at self-publishing. It also helps us maximize the whole FREE! tactic. Even I am putting my nose to the grindstone to come out with more books in the next six months. I don’t tell you guys to do anything that, I myself, am unwilling to do.
Above all, remember Heinlein's first rule of writing: Writer's write. Be a writer.

Related reading:
- How To Sell 100 Books Per Day: 6 Things You Need To Do
- 4 Reasons Why Writers Will Always Have Work
- Why Writers Need Editors

Sunday, July 22

Penquin's Purchase Of Author Solutions: Going To The Dark Side?

penguin goes to the dark side

When I was a child, I dreamt of becoming an author and being published by Penguin. (Yes, I was an odd child, but that's a post for another day!) Even after I was stripped of my illusions about the publishing industry the name "Penguin" stood out for me as the mark of something special.

No longer.

If you haven't read David Gaughran's article on Penguin's purchase of Author Solutions you should. It gives all the facts and in David's succinct and eminently readable style. Here's an excerpt:
Penguin’s parent company, Pearson, has announced the purchase of Author Solutions for $116m – news which has shocked writers, especially given Author Solutions’ long history of providing questionable services at staggering prices.

Author Solutions are the dominant player in the self-publishing services market – via their subsidiaries Author House, Xlibris, Trafford, and iUniverse – and had been looking for a buyer for several months. According to the press release, Author Solutions will be folded into Penguin, but will continue to operate as a separate company. Penguin’s CEO John Makinson stated:

“This acquisition will allow Penguin to participate fully in perhaps the fastest-growing area of the publishing economy and gain skills in customer acquisition and data analytics that will be vital to our future.”

What does Author Solutions bring to the table? Well, for starters, around $100m in annual revenue. Roughly two-thirds of that money comes from the sale of services to writers, and only one-third from the royalties generated by the sale of their books.

Pause for a moment and consider that statistic. Penguin isn’t purchasing a company which provides real value to writers. They are purchasing an operation skilled at milking writers.

This is not a new accusation against Author Solutions. Industry watchdogs such as Writer Beware have received a litany of complaints about Author Solutions and their subsidiaries over the last few years: misleading marketing, hard-selling of over-priced services, questionable value of products provided, awful customer service, and, after all that, problems with writers being paid. (Penguin’s New Business Model: Exploiting Writers)
David gives examples a-plenty to back up his claims. Author Solutions is well known on sites like Writer Beware and Predators and Editors. The news that Penguin purchased the company astonishes me. I can only hope that Penguin discontinues Author Solutions' bad business practices and works with authors instead of preying on them.

Related reading:
- Writers Sue Harlequin For Underpayment
- Publish America: Writer Beware
- Jen Talty: Amazon's CreateSpace Vs LIghtning Source (Not about a scam, just a comparison of two good companies)

Saturday, July 21

Helping Writers De-Stress: Meditation Apps


I got a late start today and have been relaxing in my comfy office char for the past 15 minutes reading my Google Alerts. I have a Google Alert for almost everything--almost everything I'm interested in, almost everything ... well, that would be a lot of alerts!--and I came across a list of meditation apps.

For some time I've been thinking of getting a meditation tape to help me de-stress, or help me get into a certain mindset before writing, and one of these could be just the thing. I've never used an app for mediation before, the closest I've come is the fabulous YouTube video, How To Meditate In A Moment.

By the way, thanks to incomparable singer/songwriter/composer The Land Of Deborah for posting the link to this video, otherwise I'd never have known about it.

All these apps sound cool, but only two of them are either free or have a free version. Since I'm a fan of being able to try something out and getting a feel for it before I buy, I picked one of those two to try out.

Headspace On-the-Go
Headspace On-the-Go is free, and you get 10 short meditation sessions along with over 200 hours of content. I watched the introduction video and decided to try the first session.

Here's the writeup:
With a friendly, positive feeling, Headspace offers 10-minute meditations over a 10-day course. It explains meditation with cute animation of a mind that looks like a puff of cotton candy with legs. You can track your progress as the mind leaps over the hurdle of each day's program. There's no music with the instructions that lead you to focus on your breath, body and environment.

My experience: Wow!

I feel more relaxed, the room even seems brighter. I'm going to try this for the full 10 days. I'll leave an update here about what my experience was like after I've finished.

I'll let Amber Dance over at the Times tell you about the rest of the meditation apps: Meditation apps let the peace flow through the phone, if they are anything like Headspace then they're definitely worth a look.

Further reading:
- Forget NaNoWriMo: How To Write A Novel In A Weekend
- How To Sell 100 Books Per Day: 6 Things You Need To Do
- Fifty Shades of Grey - Oh My!

Friday, July 20

Writers: How To Keep Your Series Straight

Last year Anne Perry was one of the keynote speakers at the Surrey International Writers' Conference--she was completely amazing--and I had the privilege of attending one of her writing workshops.

Ms. Perry spoke at some length about her Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series and I wanted to ask how she kept track of characters, their arcs and whatnot, over the course of many books. Alas, I didn't get the chance, but the question has stayed with me.

Today, Elizabeth S. Craig blogged about tips and tricks she uses, not to write multiple books in one series, but to write multiple series at the same time. Here's what she had to say (I'm paraphrasing):

1. Stagger your deadlines
You don't want to have each book coming due at the same time. That would be stressful and extremely confusing.

2. Re-read the series
Before you start writing the next book in a series familiarize yourself again with the previous books.

3. Develop a style sheet for each series
A style sheet should include:
- character names, descriptions, ages
- the names of businesses mentioned in your series
- a list of the connections/relationships between your characters, etc.

4. Listen to your readers
Elizabeth keeps a file filled with feedback from readers, what they liked, what they didn't, and she looks at this before she begins the next book in the series.

5. Write quickly
If you write quickly there's won't be time for writer's block to set in and you'll be able to keep everything fresh in your mind.

6. Keep all the facts of a series at your fingertips
Keep each book in each of your series in a searchable file. Not sure which character is allergic to peanuts? If you're writing more than one series at a time small details can begin to blur, or you can mistakenly put a character from one series into another.

Having each of your books on your hard drive enables you to search for details like this and saves you a lot of time in rewrites later on.

To read Elizabeth's article go here: Tips for Writing Multiple Series.

Great tips! One day I want to develop a really good style sheet for characters and their relationships. I find a style sheet is especially handy when something has interrupted my writing mid-way through a story and I need to pick up the thread again. Or, as Elizabeth says, to help me remember characters and their many transformations across the span of several books.

I hope these tips have been some use to you and, if you haven't all ready, don't forget to check out Elizabeth S. Craig's many wonderful books.


Related reading:
- How To Sell 100 Books Per Day: 6 Things You Need To Do
- Why Writers Need Editors
- Scrivener: A Writer's Best Friend