Posts tagged publishing
Robin Sullivan just posted to her blog this morning that she, too, was banned from the Absolute Write site. Her ban message?
You have been banned for the following reason:
Just get the hell off my site. You’re relentlessly snotty, rude, and you’re a f***cking bald-faced liar. I’m done with you.
Date the ban will be lifted: Never
Stars added by Robin; the moderator used the full expletive.
Well, seems like I’m in good company. For those who don’t know, Robin is the head of Ridan Publishing, a great little company she’s built which is helping quite a good number of authors succeed with style. She’s also helped her husband self publish a stack of his books, to a level of success that got offers made from multiple large publishers.
But for some reason, her word isn’t as good as the word of a bunch of pundits who constantly thrashed whatever she had to say. A policy which enabled them to maintain a consistent, steady attack on most posts which put self publishing in a positive light – because it’s hard to argue with folks who are able to voice their own opinion as fact and have their “industry experience” validate those claims. Even if they have no indie publishing experience.
Robin came in and backed me up (thanks!), and we called them on it. Last night, the site owner responded with this:
First off – on double standard. There is one. There is a small clique of people who frequent this forum who deliberately attack pretty much any post which actively supports self publishing. It just is. And they’re just expressing their opinions, and usually not doing so in an offensive way – so it’s really hard to report the posts.
Errr….So where is the “double standard” you’re whining about, then, exactly? Because people have other opinions and they get to express them?
A double standard?
Why? Because I don’t shut everyone up that you disagree with, so you can have a climate-controlled echo chamber? Because I let people cite statistics, facts, and anecdotes that directly contradict what you so desperately want to convince other writers of — no matter if it’s right for them or not? Because we’re not a board that’s all about how self-publishing will make the average Jill and Joe Writer rich and famous beyond their wildest dreams or the reach of the NYT Bestseller list, so none of us ever have to face the sting of a rejection slip again unless we’re irredeemable and pedantic masochists desperately clinging to the rotting dinosaur carcass of Publishing-That-Was?
You are not the only one who sees the double standard being administered. There are a lot of lurkers that send me emails and PM’s to this effect and thank me for offering a “dissenting opinion”.
“Perpencity” and “desenting” and “the lurkers support me in email” and never met a pair of scare quotes that didn’t make you positively giddy — but you wonder why some of us are a wee bit skeptical about betting our writing careers on your advice? And why we’re not quite ready to tell other writers that they should bet their writing careers and a book they love on your advice? Really? That’s still a mystery to you?
Kevin, you and Robin have both been consistently rude, snotty, condescending, evasive, and utterly unpleasant in this room. Yet you feel completely free to insult other writers here, twist and misrepresent their words, and then say that *I* run a board with a double standard because I dare to let people disagree with you?
Get lost. Both of you. Get the hell off my website.
I’m sick to death of the misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and outright bald-faced lies that some of you insist on spreading like it’s gospel truth. Go start your own damned cheerleader forum where no one gets to post rebuttals, ask questions, challenge assertions, or disagree with your awesomeness and mighty self-publishing guru-ness and wisdom(!!11!), and good luck with it.
Robin linked to the thread which got us banned. You tell me if you think we were being overboard.
In the meantime, I’ve still got some mixed emotions about this. I’m sad that such a well known site has become a propaganda mouthpiece. I’m worried for the writers who will go there and receive misinformation.
But I’m proud to be standing in Robin’s company on this one.
For the first time in over two decades of using the internet, I got banned from a site.
Not just any site, either. I was banned from the Absolute Write forums. And honestly, I’m pretty glad I was. Let me explain.
Absolute Write, for those who don’t know, is mostly a set of forums where writers, agents, publishers, and other sorts of folks in the writing industry chat. And of course, with the huge burst in self publishing, a bunch of posts about that started up. So they made a set of forums for self pub. I rolled across them a couple of months ago, and was pretty horrified by what I saw: a large number of folks claiming to be industry experts deliberately spreading misinformation about what self publishing was, how best to go about it, and whether one could actually do it successfully (outside a few “outliers”). So I stepped in and started pointing out the flaws in the logic.
But I ran into a snag, of course. There’s a dedicated crew there who actively use the forums to disabuse writers of the notion that self publishing is a legitimate career path – actively work to dissuade folks from trying to follow that path, and use the platform of the site and their own “expertise” to push their agenda. More >
Who can resist quoting Yoda?
OK, back to a more serious note. When Dean Wesley Smith commented a couple of months ago that he saw a war in publishing on the way, and sides already forming up, I really wasn’t sure. I mean, I saw folks who didn’t want to believe things were changing as fast as they were. And I saw a lot of folks still stuck in the “Writer’s Digest” myths. But I sorta thought that people would gradually catch on, and writers would settle into a new world of putting their own stuff up as ebooks and print on demand books, and then selling some books to big publishers as a loss leader to get their marketing dollars behind a writer’s name. My gut said that writers, being generally smart people, would do the smart thing.
Oh, was I ever wrong.
I’m convinced, now. Dean was right, is right.
A large chunk of writers are simply not happy with the changes taking place. They don’t want to have to be responsible for their businesses. They want to basically be employees – write a book, get paid. Unfortunately, it’s never really worked like that (despite myths to the contrary), and is less like that today than it’s been in decades. But there’s a big chunk of writers who don’t want those changes. They want their agents taking care of the business stuff. They want the publisher marketing the book. They want to sit back, write, and not have to worry about anything else.
That mindset is doomed.
Dean just wrote a new article about how the latest agent scam is taking off and blossoming. More and more agencies are becoming publishers. They offer to take your book, get it ready to publish, publish the ebook, and split “net receipts” with you after expenses for the book are paid. Dean goes into why this is a horrible deal in a lot of detail here. Short form? Your $4.99 ebook would make you $3.50 a copy if you sell it yourself. With these agents, your $4.99 ebook earns you $1.75 a copy MINUS whatever their operating expenses are – *after* you’ve paid off whatever their production costs were on the book with those $1.75 chunks. So if they decide the “net receipt” is $2 on that $4.99 ebook ($3.50 minus $1.50 for their operating expenses, accounting dept, etc.), and they decide they spent $10,000 getting your book edited, formatted, and uploaded, you will need to sell 10,000 ebooks before you get a red cent from them. And after that you’d get $1 a book.
Not saying those are the numbers any specific agent gone publisher is using. But they could. “Net receipts” is an extremely vague term unless it is absolutely defined in the contract. Basically, these agent deals are very nearly the same thing as the scam subsidy presses out there – the ones who charge writers up front AND charge a percentage of income per book. The difference is, instead of charging up front and laying the fees out on the table, these agents are potentially able to obscure their fees so that a writer might have a very hard time figuring out what they’re actually supposed to be making. Extremely dangerous.
Kris Rusch just wrote an article, too – talking about some of the other grabs going on. Agents not longer work for writers, she asserts. And that seems borne out by the flat-out dangerous and outrageous clauses showing up – not in publishing contracts, but in *agency* contracts! Clauses which give the agency a chunk of any future sale of the work, even if the agency is fired. Clauses that give an agency a chunk of any future sales in that world, or with those characters, and definitely any sequels. Even if the writer has since fired that agency.
It was bad enough that publishers were pulling those sorts of dangerous contract clauses. But now, agencies are as well.
I agree completely with her take on the subject.
- There is no longer any reason for a writer to have an agent. If you want someone to go over a contract, get an IP lawyer, it’s cheaper and they’re actually regulated by the government and actually educated about contract law.
- If a writer does not stand up for him or herself, nobody else is going to do it. It’s up to us.
- Writers now have options. We can say NO to a contract and just publish the book ourselves. If the contract is bad, and the other side won’t budge, say no.
But I’m not really sure that’s sinking in. I spent part of last week over on a writer’s forum that’s well known and pretty well regarded. It’s a very popular hang out and location to get advice. And they had forums for both self publishing and e-publishing, so I popped in. I quickly found myself embattled by a bunch of folks who were passionate in their resistance to the idea of self publishing, to a degree that was almost scary. Even the designated mods of the forums were pretty solid in their negative feedback about self publishing. It didn’t take me too long to catch on. The self publishing forum was in place to collect posts about the subject, so a bunch of folks could trash the idea regularly enough that writers stopping by see that self publishing is clearly still a bad idea, and not a valid route for writers to follow. Maybe OK to dabble in, but not as a career route.
The forum isn’t there for discussion so much as it’s there for maintaining a steady flow of disinformation.
But that, and places like it, are some of the fields where the battle is being fought right now. Writers come in hearing about self publishing taking off, and looking for ways to make it work for them. If they happen across Dean’s blog, or Kris’s blog, or Joe Konrath’s blog, they’ll hear about how to make it work. If they go to some other places…they hear about how it’s all hogwash and overblown and doomed to failure.
The level of Stockholm Syndrome in some of those places is pretty frightening.
But then, so is the alternative to a lot of folks. If self publishing really is now the *best* option for most writers, what does that mean? It means writers must take charge of finding an editor. It means writers must learn to format ebooks. It means writers must trust their work enough to put it up for public sales without the “validation” of sale to an NYC publisher. It means writers need to know good art from bad well enough to hire a good artist. It means writers need to learn some basic accounting. It means writers need to market their books (arguably, that was already true since publishers were no longer doing much marketing on most books, but the myth says otherwise).
It means writers need to step up and take charge of the business they are running.
Which scares the beejeezus out of a lot of writers.
But here’s the thing: one way or another, it’s pretty much over for those writers. The ones too scared, too badly grounded in old myths, too ill-informed about industry changes, and – dare I say it – too lazy to take charge of their business are done for. If the bad contracts don’t kill their careers, simple contraction of the ‘traditional’ publishing industry will do it instead. Only writers willing to learn business are going to survive in the years ahead, via either trade publishers or self publishing. The option to have someone else ‘take care of it’ for you is simply no longer valid anymore.
Stand up. Step up. Take charge. Make it happen for yourself. No one else is going to do it for you.
J.E. Medrick invites some of the writers for the “Twelve Worlds” anthologies to do a series of interviews and guest blogs over on his site. Mines up now – actually, has been up a few days now, and I’m a little late getting the word out over on my own blog. Been a busy week though.
I wrote about dreams, and how giving up old dreams can be a big factor in the decision to go indie writer, or not. And how it behooves the indie writer to find new dreams to dream… Upbeat stuff, take a peek!
It’s been an interesting couple of days in the publishing world. It seems like some publishers may be under-reporting ebook sales to their authors, in some cases reporting as little as 10% of the actual sales in royalty statements.
Needless to say, this has a lot of writers confused and concerned.
Yesterday, Mike Stackpole talked about this issue. Today, David Farland wrote about it in his “Daily Kick” emails to writers, and Kris Rusch blogged about it on her Business Rusch blog. All three confirmed the problem. What seems to be happening is writers who have indie and corporate published books are comparing the results of the two for the first six months of 2010 right now. And finding that corporate books whose Amazon ranking was higher than their indie books are reportedly selling 30 copies to the 300 copies the indie book sold.
The better rank (which should mean more sales, not less) is getting 10% as many sales.
Kris Rusch went into a lot of detail about what she thinks is going on: basically, bad accounting practices designed to sort of tide the companies over while they get their act together. The problem is, that’s still money (potentially, a lot of money) not being paid out to writers.
This is a dangerous road for publishers to start down. Remember when everyone was appalled that Borders had stopped paying some of the publishers supplying the company with books? When you stop paying the people who provide what you sell, you’re a heartbeat away from going out of business. It seems like right now, some publishers are doing something similar to their writers. It’s a precarious place to be.
As David Farland said, “In such a world, authors really may have no choice but to walk away from the New York model.”
A little over a week ago, writer and fellow Twelve Worlds contributor BC Woods asked me if I’d be interested in a long interview-slash-discussion over on his blog. He presented a list of topics he wanted to talk about that looked really interesting, and he complimented me outrageously, so I said “sure”. ;)
I have to admit, I was really curious walking in how a co-written Google Docs article would feel. I’ve been listening to Joe Konrath talk about using Docs for real time collaboration between writers on new fiction, which sounded pretty amazing. He obviously enjoys working that way, and this was my first chance to co-write something on Google Docs. The experience was interesting – I think fiction would be even more so.
So we talked about a whole bunch of things, ranging from strengths of traditional and indie publishing, to talking about how to deal with the perceived “legitimacy gap” for indies and working on professionalism in our publishing efforts. And then we got a little farther afield on some topics, talking about quality, awards, professional writing organizations, and more.
It’s a fun interview.
It’s also almost 8000 words. Grab a good cuppa something before sitting down to read it.
So I had a birthday on Saturday. Wasn’t really anything exceptional. I worked most of the day, came home after midnight, and brought the mail in. Wife and kids were all sound asleep, so I sat down with the mail. Couple of cards, which I set aside unopened – my wife would want me to save those for later. Paycheck. That was a nice birthday present. New nursing license, in at last. Always good.
But I also got this little letter from the Secretary of State:
My certificate of trade name registration. For my publishing company.
That was an especially nice birthday present.
I think having a company name is important. There’s a sense of professionalism one has when operating “as a business”. As a culture, we take a business more seriously than we take a person’s individual venture. We see a business name attached, and it automatically gives the project more credibility. That’s true even if it’s a sole proprietorship, because we see the person as trying to “do it for real” when they register their business.
From a publishing perspective, what does this mean? A book with “Kevin McLaughlin” listed as publisher won’t be taken seriously by as many people as the same book, same cover, with “Role of the Hero Publishing” listed instead. Or “Red Heart Press”, or “Rocketship Books”, or whatever company name you might decide to use. Just like “Joe’s Garage” will be taken seriously by more people than Joe working on cars out of his actual garage would be, adding a business name gives your publishing effort an extra leg up.
Internally, I think it matters too. We’re not unaffected by our culture. By taking the time, effort, and bit of money to register a business, we’re telling our subconscious that yes, this is real to me. This matters. This is not my hobby – this is my business. Might not be full time yet, but I’m serious about it. It says the same thing to family, too. Sometimes, being able to say that the son/daughter/grandma/aunt/father/daughter-in-law or whatever is starting a publishing business (rather than “is trying to write a book”) is just easier on everyone involved.
There’s another factor, too. We’re in the middle of changes right now, changes which have allowed indies to “get in there” and make things happen even as individual authors with no business name, no special requirements at all. That’s how it is now; that’s not necessarily how it will always be, though. Things change – right now, the only sure thing is that we’ve got more change ahead. Individual writers might go right on being able to sell books – or things might change to make that impossible.
But the small press has been around a really, really long time. And it’s unlikely that any change coming down the pipe will wipe out the small press. So to some degree, emulating the business model of a small press will add viability to your business. It’s not a magic bullet, but it’s another small step toward making sure you’ll be able to keep doing things the way you want to do them as we march on into the future.
So for a variety of reasons – I strongly advocate giving this a try. It’s usually not too expensive. Found the business. Maybe set up a website for the company (or maybe save that for later – it’s not really critical right away). Take on the mantle of professional publisher, as well as professional writer. I think your attitude toward the publishing end of the work will be improved by the change.
Joe Konrath ran an interview with Mark Coker of Smashwords the other day. Great interview. Super comments thread. Well worth reading, even the comments, as there’s a lot of meat and Mark takes the time to go in again and again to address various issues folks have had.
But there was a repeating strand of thought in the comments, about trying to break down the “odds” of self publishing vs traditional publishing. The thought seemed to be that someone could somehow do the math and show the odds of any given book making as much or more self published as it would be likely to make picked up by a traditional publisher.
OK, I’m here today to say that publishing is not a lottery. Nor is it a sure thing.
Publishing is an act of hubris.
Late last year, I predicted we would absolutely see ebook sales hit 25% of the book market in 2011, and possibly even break the 50% barrier this year as well, but absolutely do it in 2012 at the latest. That was a bit ahead of a lot of industry analysts, at the time.
But those predictions are looking pretty on target right now.
Last week, Fortune magazine ran an article talking to a Barnes & Nobles exec, who said that in the next twenty four months is when the industry will shift – meaning more than half of all book sales would be digital. That’s a big deal, because B&N has a lot invested in the print industry, so it’s advantageous to them to make conservative estimates.
Today, Nathan Bransford (agent, writer, and well known blogger) estimated that ebooks already represent about 20-30% of the market. Bob Mayer is predicting 50%+ ebook market share by the end of this year. Dominique Raccah said last month that she expects ebooks to reach or approach the 50% mark this year for “certain types of books”. We’ve also seem publishers announcing as much as 25% of their sales in certain areas have been ebooks in January and February.
Right now? I think we’re on line to see fiction ebooks break the 50% mark this year. I see non-fiction still lagging behind, and I think that will take longer to catch up. People still like having paper for their reference material, and not all non-fiction books work well on 7″ eInk readers. But we’ll continue to see growth there, as well.
I think the question is really not will fiction hit 50% this year – but what happens next? What happens when indies can hit the majority of their market with the click of a few buttons? What happens when bookstores cease to be the primary place people buy books?
That future is almost here.
In the wake of Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath’s discussion of Eisler’s move to self publishing (turning down a $500,000 contract in the process), Dean Wesley Smith has posted some thoughts that he disagreed with their views on how to get help in those bits of publishing a writer wasn’t able to do, or didn’t want to do: things like covers, formatting, and uploading the books.
Today Dean, Joe, and Barry all posted a chat they had where they discussed these different opinions. Dean insisted that these services were “day labor” and that authors should resist paying a percent. Joe was adamant that they were worth a 15% fee to agents-turned-book-packagers who would take your book, edit it, slap on a cover, format it, and put it up online, managing the book and sending you a check when sales came in. Barry sort of took a middle road.
I am firmly on Dean’s side in this issue. There’s so many holes in the percentage idea that it would quickly turn into a nightmare, I think. Let me hit some of the major points here. More >