Sunday, May 15, 2016

When You're Reading to an Empty Room

We've moved!

Please go to our renovated blog, THE SFF SEVEN.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Self Publishing Can Spin On a Dime

I LOVE self publishing because I'm very much a control freak and I have a business background, so I also enjoy running my own 'small business' in terms of all the activities required besides the creative writing.

The Carina Press imprint of Harlequin plucked my book from their slush pile and gave me a wonderful start as a - gasp - published author! with Priestess of the Nile and Warrior of the Nile. I learned so much from my association with them - which was harmonious and collegial - and even now, I see people's eyes light up when I tell them my first publisher was Harlequin. Everyone has heard of HQN, even the scientists and engineers at the old NASA/JPL day job.

But along the way I got into self publishing too, so I'm a hybrid. I like working to my own schedule, choosing what I want to write next and when I want to release it. I love the cover design process,working with Fiona Jayde for my science fiction romances, and with Frauke Spanuth for the ancient Egyptians. I have terrific independent editors and a wonderful formatter, so I'm set. I pick, choose and pay for my own promo and truthfully, I'd be doing that even if I was still traditionally published because the burden is on the author for the most part.

I can spin on a dime and make decisions before breakfast, and implement them by lunchtime. (Yeah, I'm not very patient either.)

IF I were to be offered a traditional publishing contract in the future, I'd have to consider long and hard whether my goals for the specific project could be met without giving up too much of my control AND my intellectual property rights. The things I've read recently about the clauses in publishing contracts make my blood run cold. I have an extensive background in government aerospace contracting, which is a specialty of its own, but rest assured I know how to read the teeny tiniest of fine print. I'm not signing away my rights till the universe goes bang. Not unless it meets my goals in that case to do so. Offer me seven figures and a movie deal and we can talk LOL. Negotiaions open!

Speaking of all this, I released a new book this week: LADY OF THE STAR WIND. Here's the story:
Are they merely luckless lovers … or a legend come back to life?
Mark Denaltieri, ex-Sector Special Forces, has been hired by the Outlier Empress to rescue her granddaughter, Princess Alessandra, from kidnappers. Since the Empress once had him tortured and banished, she’s the last person Mark wants to work for. But he takes the job. He’ll save Alessandra, his first love, and discover why she didn’t speak for him when he desperately needed her. Then he’ll be on his way, finally free of his past.
Alessandra would rather her rescuer was anyone but Mark–after all, he let her believe he was dead all this time. But when the couple are forced to flee her captors by Traveling via a strange crystal globe, they find themselves in a lovely Oasis on a desert planet, the old attraction sizzling between them again.
They soon discover they are far from alone. The Oasis holds the entrance to another world, one in which the inhabitants are convinced Sandy and Mark are the Lady of the Star Wind and her Warrior, come to free them from an evil Queen.
Mark and Sandy must work together to unearth an ancient mirror, and crown the true king of this land.  Can they fulfill the prophecy of the Lady and her Warrior … and this time, will their love survive the test?
Buy Links: Amazon    KOBO     Barnes & Noble  iBooks will be up on the 18th

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Hanged Man

Are you familiar with the tarot card The Hanged Man? He's from the Robin Wood Tarot Deck, which is available here.

He means "Life interrupted. Change in your point of view."

This has happened. Not so much the 'change in point of view', but the life interrupted thing? 100%.

That means this won't be about publishing options. You know what those are. We've all of us peered at the various modes, venues, pros, cons, contracts, pitfalls and deathtraps. And wondered if maybe, just maybe, the grass isn't greener in someone else's pasture. I've come to the stunningly obvious conclusion that there is no right answer. Only the right for you answer. And I still don't know what's right for me. That's all I have on the subject because Hanged Man.

Except. It isn't the man that's hanging. Nope. It's my house. Look.

That's our boat. And our home. High and dry on the hard. At Christmas time, a key component on the drive leg (part of the engine) broke and we could no longer put the boat in reverse. Not a problem, unless you want to dock. Ever. Or get out of dock. Think of trying to get your car into or out of your garage without reverse. Now do it on ice that's moving under you. Yeeeeeeeeah. Clearly, this has to be fixed. Got into the process of fixing that itty, bitty broken part only to find the metal of the drive disintegrating. Seriously. BIG chunk of metal was gone like something had taken a bite out of it. Apparently Poseidon takes what sacrifices he wants and in this case, he needed a chunk of cast aluminum for something. We went from $10 part needing repair to having to replace the entire drive leg. That isn't a $10 part. Multiply by 300.

Anywho. The leg was ordered from the UK, ransomed from customs, and delivered. The boat yard gave me a haul out date and time. And here I am. Took three people to get the boat out of dock to make the trip. Docking here in Port Townsend was a bit like playing bumper cars, but I limited it to bumping my boat and the dock, not anyone else's boat - all under the eye of the local Coast Guard station. Sigh.

My brain is all boat right now, because I'm paying by the day for that spot on dry land while I replace that drive leg, and my family is scattered to the four winds because we can't live in our home while it's in the yard. So I'm crazier than usual. Sorry. Still. The trip up did have it's good points. I even had help navigating.

Photo credit to Emily Olesin, friend extraordinaire who was willing to get up at 5AM to help crew the boat several hours north to our haul out.

Also: Happy Friday the 13th!



Thursday, May 12, 2016

Publishing Options and the Real Gatekeepers

The_Thorn_of_DentonhillLet me answer the question "What Publishing Method Is Best?" with the vague answer, "That depends on you."   I can tell you that, for me, the Traditional Publishing route was the best route.  Hands down.  I'm thrilled to have my books with DAW, and all the benefits that gives.  I'm not cut out for the self-publishing game, which requires a larger degree of chutzpah and hustle and salesmanship, let alone having to wear the Editor and Publisher hats.  Not for me.  
"But, Marshall," you'll say, "Not everyone gets that option.  There are the gatekeepers, Marshall!  The gatekeepers!"  Yes, that's true.  I think that's a value-added feature, but for someone striving to get through the gatekeepers to a publishing deal, I can see how it's mostly a frustration.  And thus self-publishing can appear alluring.  You get your stuff out there!  The people will decide!   
AMurderofMagesYeah, it doesn't really work that way, because "out there" isn't enough.  There's the next level of gatekeeping; the quieter, more insidious one.  
The Filter of Who Gives A Damn.
The fact that your book is out there, even with a pretty cover and the sabre of a Big Five Publisher to rattle, doesn't mean much when there is SO MUCH OUT THERE.  
For example, the now-shuttered SFSignal (sniff) would put out a monthly list of All The Stuff they could find that was coming out that month in SF, Fantasy and Horror.  For February, the month The Alchemy of Chaos came out, they listed 229 books.  That's just the ones that have some form of publisher behind them.  And Alchemy is there, at #61.  
But most of the review sites, news sites, blogs, etc. that talk about Genre Lit only have so many that they can talk about.  They have to pick, say, 10-12 each month to highlight as the ones they think are the most interesting.  When it comes to actually reviewing, there's the logjam of how many books the reviewer can actually read and write about.  Even a hyper-prolific speed-reader isn't going to break, say, 50 reviews a month.  
But the thing is, it's not that no one gives a damn, it's that they only have so many damns to give.  Publishing in and of itself isn't a zero-sum game, but the inches devoted to talking about what books are coming out is. 
The Alchemy of Chaos final front coverThe thing is, no one really knows what the magic bullet is for having a book be one of the Books People Are Talking About, beyond that special alchemy of a great book at the right time that gets into the right people's hands.  And even with the power of a Big Five Publisher behind you, they have limited power of what they're going to push, and how much they spent on something is a factor on how hard they'll push.  The book they gave a half-million dollar advance to is the one they're gonna try to get Time or Newsweek to talk about.  Not the twenty they gave $10K advances to. 
And for a self-published book?  Getting one of those limited supply Damns is pretty damn hard.  Not impossible-- just ask Andy Weir-- but pretty damn hard.
 If you aren't a person who can hustle to get one, just getting your book "out there" isn't going to be enough.  
So make good choices, and good luck out there.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Traditional vs self publishing

Let me make my disclosures before I reveal my judgment call... 
 
 
I have six mass market novels available from Simon and Schuster's imprint Pocket Books.


I have a prequel short available in a trade paperback anthology, as well as from my website via e-version...or I used to. The title of the short MARLBOROS & MAGIC apparently, after a year of availability, triggered something in Amazon's system that said I can't use Marlboro in the title because it is trademarked.


--SIGH--


 So I have to rename it, reload it, and somehow manage to help folks understand it is not something NEW.


I really don't want to piss folks off because they were 'suckered' into buying something they already have...



Shhhh...I also have an unrelated novel coming out from a small press next year (announcements coming later).
 
And there's that 7th installment into Persephone's world...

Every week I get emails from someone new asking about the rest of the series. Sadly, there is no interest from the original publisher. So I will be forced to finish it without them.

I have inquired with the fans if they want ebook or print. So far, it's about 50/50. So however I choose to 'deliver' the novel, it must have book options.

I may offer it to the small press; I may make it self-published. I am still totally on the fence about it and uncertain which is the best option for me. To acknowledge the pros and cons of both possibilities that my blog-family have been talking about this week, I like the idea of the amount of control self publishing provides, yet I'm not sure I want the total commitment of time. Relinquishing some control gives me more time to, yanno, write. Social butterfly that I am not, letting others handle promotional stuff is an attractive feature.

Traditional publishing:

-is so SLOW
-typically need agent to even be considered by editor
-likelihood of being the editor's selection for his/her available slot in publication has odds similar to those of winning the lottery
-print and ebook, distribution
-there will be some sales
-expectation of quality should be sound
-they (should) do majority of marketing, author does some, they may pay for some marketing such as banner ads or blog tours at the author's request
-they do editorial, copyediting, typesetting
-they do cover (little to no control by author)
-they format all ebook types
-price is set by them

Small press publishing:

-faster, but still takes time
-agent good but not necessary
-likelihood of being the editor's selection for his/her available slot in publication has slightly better odds than those for winning the lottery-there will be some sales-expectation of quality can vary by press (do your research)
-ebook and print on demand, possibly print and distribution
-they do some marketing, author does some; books included in regular marketing that small press does and is present wherever they have tables, etc.
-they do editorial, copyediting, typsetting
-cover may be negotiable, may be their choice
-they format all ebook types
-price is set by them


Self publishing:

-FAST 
-no agent necessary
-you will be published when you hit the publish button-there may be single digit sales (0 is also a single digit...reality)
-quality (often in the eye of the beholder) is entirely your responsibility (and your reputation is on the line)
-ebook and print on demand, 'distribution' unlikely
-author does ALL marketing, pays for promotion and ads, sets up and pays for blog tours and signings, sets up and pays for tables at conventions, etc.
-author pays for editing, copyediting, typsetting
-author pays for cover
-author pays someone to format all ebook types
-author decides price


And this is just off the top of my head...so it is a lot to think about.





Tuesday, May 10, 2016

5 Pros & Cons of Self-Publishing

I am one of the self-publishers in the bordello; some call us "author-preneurs" or "indie-authors." Some have other less than awesome names for us, but thhhpppp on them. There are advantages and drawbacks to this path, just as there are with Traditional Publishing. Since I don't have firsthand experience with NYC, I'll defer to my housemates and stick to what I know.

Here are my Top 5 Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing:

Pros:
  • Control: For better or worse, you have the final say in 90% of what, when, and how your book is unleashed on the world. It's awesome. It's frustrating and frightening. It's an enormous time-suck. If you're not comfortable with managing processes and owning accountability, this ain't the path for you.
    • That missing 10% goes to technology, distributors, and collaborators.
  • Content: Whether you write super-niche stories or last month's trendy genre, nobody is going to tell you "you can't." How well your book is received by the public is something you can influence but not control. Accept that. 
    • Pay for an editor, please, for the love of any Divine Being, pay for an experienced editor. A dev editor is good, a proof editor is a bonus. A copy editor is a must. 
  • Deadlines: They are yours to set, to meet, to watch fly past, or to constantly adjust. Because self-publishing does require you to collaborate with other people at various points, you can't be completely blasé about schedules and dates. But if you're a slooow writer like me, you can create a release plan that accommodates your sloth-like creative process. If you're one of those super-fast writers who can churn out quality books quarterly or faster, then there is nothing to stop you from doing so.
  • Ownership: Of your name, your world, your characters, your rights, your time, your everything. Want to release an audio version of your book? Do it. Want to branch into graphic novels? Go for it. Want to finish out the series even though sales have declined? The fans will thank you. Prequel? Novella? Why not? No asking permission. No worrying about conflicts of interest or interest in general. You're limited only by time and resources.
  • Do-Overs: That cover you loved last year fall flat with buyers? Redo it. Those super-modern references now out of date? Change 'em. Find all the typos after you hit "publish"? Fix 'em, reupload. 
Cons:

  • Financial Investment: Like any start-up, don't expect to be in the black in your first year. How quickly you can build a large backlist directly affects how long it will take you to earn a profit. Maintaining a profit depends on how often you release new books. 
  • Predators, Plagiarists, and Pirates: Yes, it's a Trad Publishing problem too. They have legal departments and parent companies with teeth. You have a bookmark file of the DMCA & Take Down Notices to deal with Pirates. You pray for enough readers who care to tell you if chunks of your work are showing up in someone else's book, blog, anthology, or toilet paper roll. You're hooked into at least a half-dozen self-pubbing communities to stay abreast of the latest predatory practices, people, and tech. 
  • Brick & Mortar Placements: Don't expect to see your book on an actual tangible shelf anywhere, especially not a national chain or airport kiosk. You might be able to swing it with local indie shops. Part of it is stigma (there is a lot of shitty self-pubbed work out there, not gonna pretend otherwise; OTOH, there's a lot of awesome work out there too). Part of it is the Unsolds and Returns bookstore business model. Part of it is bookstores' slow adoption of the Expresso Print-In-Shop-On-Demand technology. Yes, there are ways to get your book in a store. Is the ROI worth it? YMMV.
  • Conventions: Not every book convention welcomes self-pubbers. Even if we provide our own paperbacks and/or manage the sales of said books. Initially, convention organizers simply didn't know how to incorporate self-published (and at the time typically e-book-only) authors, promotions, and sales into their traditional Con model. Self-publishing has been around long enough now that the know-how is there; however, the desire isn't. It is 100% marginalization.
  • Translations/International: So.Many.Boobytraps. Beyond the expected distribution challenges and finding quality translators, there's a quagmire of legal differences. It's not impossible, and there are authors who have success in non-English markets. But this is a time you really, really want to hire a boutique firm who deals with everything for you.  If you can connect with a US agent who specializes in foreign rights sales, that is a sweet spot for many self-pubbers.

So, is self-publishing something you want to try? Check back every day this week to see what other self-publishers, hybrid-published, traditionally published,and micro-press published authors have to say.  You may find a mix of options is the best path for you.


Monday, May 9, 2016

Kicking it Old School

I'm an old fashioned guy. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I vote my conscience. I try to remember to pay my bills on time. Oh, and I prefer traditional publishing.

Here's the thing: I have no problem with self-publishing, but if you're going to do it you have to do it right. i was recently on a lunch date with the lovely EJ Stevens who is, in fact, a very successful self-published author. We were discussing the matter in depth and what she said made perfect sense. She said, And I'm paraphrasing," Self-publishing works for me, because I'm a control freak. I want input on everything and I want the world to fit my schedule."

I respect the hell out of that, I also know that trying to be in control of everything would make me homicidal. Because I know in my heart of hearts that I would fail at least as often as I succeeded.

So for that reason alone I'm a traditionalist. Do you know what the publishing houses have? An ARMY of people working with them to make sure the books un on time. Oh, don;t misunderstand me. I KNOW most of that army is dedicated to other authors. But they re there and they can be employed in some circumstances.

Angry Robot, for instance, the publisher on a good number of my books, employs a small army, God love them, and in a most unusual fit of circumstance and intelligence, they use that small army to spread the word on books coming from all of their authors. That means the PR team in the UK and in the US of A are actually looking at my work and finding the best places to market it. They may not have a zillion dollars for advertising, but what they DO have is people who know how to employ that smaller budget properly (as opposed to spending more than I make in a year on a single ad in Publishes Weekly for an author who is already selling millions of copies, but I'm not pointing fingers here.).

Aside from that, they also have editors, book designers, distribution deals,  the aforementioned marketing department, and EXPERIENCE. I'm not saying that said experience is always monumental and all knowing, all wise, but I'll take my chances with someone who knows all the things that I am too high strung to learn about publishing myself. Too high strung and too busy. Full time job, full time writer. Got a novel due in three weeks. No time to worry about marketing plans and edits. That's what my publisher is for.

Lastly, what you get from a publisher with any smarts is a good vetting. Is my book any good? No clue. I'm too close to it. Maybe. Hey, I know, I'll try sending it through a few publishers and see what they think. No takers? It might need more work. Someone wants to buy it? Wants to PAY me? Sweet! Let's get the agent in there to handle the dirty work. now I can go back to writing. Later, when it's dreadfully inconvenient, they'll send me edits, and I will pause in what I am doing and take care of them. but that is another tale.