Wednesday, October 31, 2012
I feel like there's been an increasingly acrimonious discourse lately on traditional vs. self-publishing, and frankly, I'm tired of it. I'm seeing it at conferences, online, and everywhere in between. Both camps are equally guilty here, in terms of snide comments and blatant put-downs. Those who are under contract with traditional publishing houses sniff at the fact that self-published authors skipped over hurdles to publish what they suspect (but rarely say publicly) must be drivel, or what one writer friend of mine referred to as a "tsunami of swill."
In the other camp, the self-published authors extol the fantastic revenue returns they're receiving, a far greater percentage than what they would have gotten from a standard publishing contract. They make lots of references to an archaic business model, implying that anyone who still partakes in it is a fool.
I don't really care how someone is published, or how many books they sell, or how much money they're making. But the overall nastiness that's becoming commonplace is off-putting. The prevailing attitude used to be, "we're all in this together" among writers, whereas now there's a schism. And that's a shame, because both models have their merits.
To those (like me) who are still publishing with the major houses: I've read wonderful novels in the past few years that failed to find a home. Sometimes the reason for that was clear--the book was aimed at a very niche market, one where publishers couldn't envision making a profit. Other times, I was at a loss to know why a particular book didn't sell. One was an amazing YA novel written by a friend of mine, who ended up self-pubbing on Wattpad. After reaching an extraordinary amount of downloads, she moved it to Amazon and started charging for it. And it's doing well- IMHO, the publishers lost out on this one.
To self-published authors: The traditional houses aren't going anywhere. People frequently point to the music industry, which is a fantastic example. What they fail to take into account is that musicians still aren't, by and large, self-producing music. Eighty-five percent of the music sold worldwide is still produced by the same music companies that were producing it a decade ago. Many of those companies have merged and/or consolidated, sure. But they're still around, for the same reason that the big 6 will still be around in a decade. Like it or not (and I'm not, personally, a huge fan of this, but so be it), most of the houses are part of much larger conglomerates. And News Corp and CBS aren't going anywhere; they're also unlikely to shed an industry that still feeds into their film and TV franchises. So, no, people who still follow the old model aren't going to be shoved out, by and large. The midlist might diminish further, but books will continue to be released by those companies well into the future.
There are pros and cons to each model. Self-published authors don't have the benefit and protection of a contract, so if Amazon decides tomorrow to change those royalty rates, they're well within their rights to do so. It's also far more difficult to secure foreign and film/tv rights when you self-pub, and that tends to be the bread and butter of traditional authors.
Traditional authors, meanwhile, do lose out on some royalties that they could potentially be getting. They also have to wait months, and occasionally years, for a book to finally appear on shelves. And advances are not what they once were.
But there's no right way and no wrong way. Write your book. Publish your book, however you prefer. But please, stop with the mud slinging. At the end of the day, we're all still pursuing the same dream.
By Joe Moore
As far back as I can remember, Halloween was and is my favorite holiday. My first memory of All Hallows Eve is when I was 6 or 7 and was invited into a neighbor’s house where my two best friends lived. At one point, their mother showed me a small trap door in the ceiling inside a linen closet. She said that it led to the attic where Hector, their family ghost lived. As my friends and I sat around eating the candy we had collected earlier that night, I swear I heard something moving around up above our heads. Hector was my first ghost. There have been others.
Down through the years, I did my share of tricking and treating once the sun went down, and loving every minute of it. And the #1 reason (besides my never-ending hunger for candy corn) that I loved Halloween so much was that it was the one day of the year when I could be anyone or anything I wanted. I could take on a totally different persona and it was okay. Sometimes the real alter ego would emerge. Sometimes it would surprise my family and friends. Most times, it would surprise me. Interestingly enough, I’ve found a way to duplicate that Halloween identity switch every day. I became a novelist. Whenever I want, I can take on my characters’ identities and live through their lives within a world that exists only in my mind. What a cool job!
When our two boys were growing up and Halloween rolled around, I would take the day off from work and spend it getting the house ready for what we called Haunted Theater. I had a huge 6’ Sony front projection TV and an equally huge bay window. I would roll the TV up to the front window and move my big theater speakers outside. Each year we would show a traditional Halloween movie like Ghostbusters or Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy, and invite all the little ghosts and goblins to come back to our front yard after they had roamed the neighborhood. At our house, they could enjoy their sweet bounty while watching a great movie. We served Halloween spirits to the moms and dads from a caldron overflowing with dry ice fog. There were many years when we had 20-30 kids camped out on the grass watching that year’s feature film. It became a decade-long tradition.
Years later, when my wife and I would be out at the mall or a restaurant, we would often run into a stranger who would say, “Weren’t you the guys who showed the movies on Halloween?” It always reaffirmed that using up a vacation day each year to get the house ready was worth it.
So tonight when the knocks come on your front door and the shouts of Trick or Treat echo through the neighborhood, remember that Halloween is a night dedicated to kids and fun, and an evening that those boys and girls will remember for the rest of their lives. Make it special. Happy Halloween!
What about you? Any Halloween memories or traditions you treasure?
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
When it comes to our attitudes toward guns in real life, however, I would guess that writers' opinions vary wildly. My own relationship with guns is complicated. I was raised as a regional hybrid; I spent half my youth in the Deep South, where guns are considered a rite of passage. The other half I spent hanging around Harvard types in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that bastion of anti-gun sentiment.
The South won the first battle. I was shooting skeet by the time I was 14, and target practice was a regular hobby. As a freshman at Wellesley College, I thought it was wildly amusing when I posted one of my shot-up targets on the door of my dorm room (doing that today would undoubtedly get me sent straight to Mental Health).
After college, my interest in guns waned. I didn't want to own them around children. Plus, I'd witnessed first-hand how firearms and flinty Irish tempers can prove a volatile mix, especially when combined with alcohol. (One male relative in my extended clan was shot--twice, on separate occasions--by his then-girlfriend. The couple later wed. I'm still scratching my head over that one.)
Recently my feelings about guns have been put to the test. I'm about to inherit a small arsenal of weapons from a gun-toting relative. I have mixed feelings about this impending bounty; on the one hand, the children are out of the house, and there's been a recent uptick in violent crime in my area. A gun might be useful, especially if I could somehow wrangle a concealed carry permit. On the other hand: owning a gun is still an awesome responsibility. I never can quite relax when there are guns in the house.
For now, I'm simply trying to get familiar with the darned things again. One of my bequests-to-be is a Walther PPK, the gun of choice for James Bond. With apologies to Ian Fleming, it doesn't seem all that easy to use. When a bad guy's coming at you, who has time to draw and then push back a balky slide before aiming? Maybe the one I'm getting needs oiling. Or maybe I need training.
For now, I'm just having fun getting acquainted with all these firearms. We took a few pictures--I think the fur adds a certain Jane Bondish je ne sais quois, don't you?
Monday, October 29, 2012
Janet Reid, a literary agent, posted an item on her blog last week on the issue of self-published authors querying agents in the hopes of getting a larger publisher to notice them. She emphasizes that basically you need to have sold more that 20,000 copies of your book to have even a remote chance of having this happen. She went on to stress just how daunting this can be (no kidding!) and though she states that it isn't her intention to dissuade someone from self-publishing, her main point is that self-pubbed authors need to be realistic about what they can accomplish. Needless to say this blog post got me thinking...
- So for all of you our there considering the indie route - what numbers are you aiming for? Are you considering this a first step towards getting an agent and a traditional publisher, a parallel option, or are you solely going for the indie route? What sales figures would you be content with?
- And for those who have already gone the indie route - what kind of sales figures are we talking about? (if you don't mind me asking - I confess to being clueless on this front). Do you agree with Janet's statement that you probably need to sell in excess of 20,000 copies to get the attention of traditional publishers?
Janet also states that self-publication cannot launch a mystery series and I must confess, I don't see why not - but perhaps some of you TKZers would like to weigh in on this as well!
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Friday, October 26, 2012
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Sorry for the delay in posting. I just got back from the trip from traveler’s hell. I had a speaking gig in the beautiful Madison, Wisconsin, but the weather on departure day resulted in our flight being cancelled. It took us two days to get back. I felt like I was in a John Candy & Steve Martin movie, without the trains.
For this post, I wanted to share my recent experiences with creating an audio book for my YA debut, In the Arms of Stone Angels. My publisher omitted audio rights from my contract, which gave me an opportunity to try Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), a site from Audible that I learned about through the International Thriller Writers (ITW). Others using ACX are: Neil Gaiman, M. J. Rose, award winning voice talent Tavia Gilbert, Tantor Audio, and Random House (a key ACX launch partner). ANY narrator with a home studio (or access to a studio) can be listed as a voice actor and audition for work.
ACX provides a central location where authors, publishers, agents, narrators, studio producers, and other rights holders can match up projects to create an audiobook for distribution through Audible (and elsewhere) under two different royalty models.
Parties can create a profile of the project for others to see. Narrators can audition, audiobook publishers can express interest, producers can make offers, and rights holders don’t have to let their rights languish. Setting up a profile is easy. I started the project in July and listed my book. Within a short while I had narrators auditioning, but I waited to see if I could get an audiobook publisher or producer interested, since I had no experience with this.
Narrators can be their own producers. I could have been more aggressive about seeking narrators and sending them a message through ACX, but I waited to see what would happen. In October, Audible added a stipend incentive to my project, meaning they offered to subsidize a producer to create my book by giving them $150/finished hour (up to $2500) for a 10-hour completed project. This stipend flag brought more auditions and producers to my project. The stipend had a deadline so Audible could get my book by year end for the holidays.
Once I decided to be more proactive in pushing my project, I decided on a narrator who had experience, awards, and a solid producer to go along with her voice actor talent. The steps from there are all online. I extended the offer, based on a royalty sharing model with my narrator, so I wouldn’t have to shell out money. The Audible stipend helped entice the narrator and producer I chose. Royalty rates will vary depending upon whether you give Audible exclusive or no-exclusive distribution rights. You decide how this can work and set it up. For more details on how ACX works, click HERE. For FAQ, click HERE.
Once I extended the offer and the deadlines ACX wanted for the stipend, I got a standard agreement printed through ACX between the parties, and my narrator had her deadline for acceptance (up to 72 hours). I talked with my narrator on the phone to share my thoughts on my central character, to help her create the voice of my teen girl, sent my book in PDF for her to read, and a 15-minute narration came within 5 days for my approval. In 60 days, I will have a finished audiobook to approve, but Audible will also act as a quality control checkpoint. If you opt for Audible to be your distributor, your book will be set up for distribution through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. If you don’t give Audible exclusivity, you can distribute your audiobook anywhere you want to go.
I’m very excited to “hear” the voice of Brenna Nash, my character, through my award-winning narrator, Michelle Ann Dunphy. ACX has been very easy to use and I like the control aspects I keep with this project. I’m working with my German cover designer to develop the audiobook cover now. ACX is self-publishing for audio.
If you’re an author, do you retain your audio rights? How many of you like to listen to audiobooks? I love them for long road trips and for camping, listening to a story over a blazing fire.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
For mystery writers, having a dirt file is akin to keeping a gold mine in your house. What is it? I’m referring to a folder full of clippings you've taken from the newspaper or magazines that may be relevant to your work someday. I get out a pair of scissors whenever I read a paper copy of the Sunday newspaper. A recent issue’s headline caught my eye: Bomb Case Awash in Mystery.
As soon as I saw mention of a pipe bomb found under an SUV in a suburban neighborhood, I knew I'd hit gold. Suspect A noticed something strange under his car. It turned out to be a homemade bomb. He accused his wife's lover of planting the device. This man, suspect B, said that he was framed by Suspect A and the wife. But it didn't help his claim of innocence when the wife was found to have a $500,000 life insurance policy on her husband. Then the lover’s DNA was found on the bomb. But was it rigged to go off, or was it set as a false trail? To complicate the issue, police discovered videos of Suspect B and his stepdaughter having sex. Oh, man. I couldn’t have made this up! You know how truth is stranger than fiction? Here’s a perfect example.
When might I use this information? When I'm determining the suspects in my next mystery. I'm always looking for motives and secrets people may hide. Or an article like this might kick off a new plot. Think about the puzzles here. It seems an open-and-shut case about the wife and her lover trying to do away with the husband. But what if it's really the husband and wife trying to frame the lover? Why would they do that? What if…? And here we go. Our imagination is off and running.
Stockpiling clippings doesn't only apply to the mystery genre. For my science fiction romances, I obtain articles on futuristic technology, whether it's on flying cars or electromagnetic weapons. Even the power of invisibility has a basis in reality. I have articles to show for these topics. I also cut out stories of true adventure travel. You never know when my hero might have to explore a volcanic crater or traipse through a jungle. Even off the beat pieces that tickle my fancy go into a general research file. You might need inspiration and one of these printouts could fire your imagination.
So are you a crazy clipper like me? I make sure my husband reads the newspaper first before I put holes in it. What kind of dirt do you look for?