Thursday, May 26, 2011

What does a publisher offer an author?

Less and less, I think.

James Altucher, at Freakenomics (here is his own blog) recently wrote about self-publishing a book.  First, to develop some cred, he notes that he has sold five books through major publishers.  His latest book didn't fit into the cubbyhole - probably finance and economics - that his publishers had put him in, so he was facing resistance in selling his book. "[So] I’m never going to publish in the morgue of the publishing industry again."
Here are his reasons for self-publishing:
Advances are quickly going to zero. Margins are going to zero for publishers. There’s no financial benefit for going with a publisher if advances are going to zero and royalties are a few percentage points. The publishing industry does minimal editing. The time between book acceptance and release is too long (often a year or more). That’s insane and makes zero sense in a print-on-demand world when kindle versions are outselling print versions.
He was also upset that his publishers didn't tell him about promotion opportunities, for example using Amazon's Author page to connect with his audience and communicate with them.  As I see it, the main jobs of publishers are editing and promotion.  If they are failing in these areas, Altucher has a point.

Then he goes into detail about how he published.  Most of the steps were free and included downloading a Microsoft Word template that formatted the book - it kept tract of the table of contents and marked the pages "left' and 'right' and such.  Converting the book to Amazon Kindle format cost around $70 and he was ready done.

At the Freakenomics site are instructions to download his "luckiest Person Alive" ebook  as a PDF free.
In the paragraph below the quoted section I described one of the jobs of publishers as editing.  I should add quality control as well.   I have read two self-published books that didn't meet my standards.  One, Frozen Beneath (no link), I bought in paper form so it was somewhat costly.  Altucher was a commercially-published author before switching to self-publishing so he already has a reputation as a skilled writer.  How can new authors sell self-published books if they aren't already recognized?

Scott Sigler reversed Altucher's strategy.  He had been denied a contract by a publisher so he offered a few books free as podcasts (actually many books as free pods), then returned to the publishers with evidence that people wanted his stories.  He managed his own promotions as well, instructing any fans (minions) who wanted the book to all buy it on the same day.  He was briefly the best-selling author in Horror (and science fiction? - I can't recall).  I wrote about his exploits here and was thrilled to find he commented on my post.

Mur Lafferty was in a similar position.  She was a professional author or articles for magazines but unable to find a publisher for her fiction.  She too went the podcast route - she is one of THE masters of podcasting- and her books now appear on Amazon - self-published, I think.

Amanda Hocking is someone I need to pay more attention to.  I have mentioned her self-published e-books before on this blog, but still have not actually read any of her work. Hocking (at novelr)

John Scalzi made a graphic covering what he thought were all the issues of e-book publishing.  I cannot find the link but he is active about describing the writing process and is offering a book (follow the link, but also other books, I think) free to attract interest.
I am still not sure how to get around the quality control issue.

Thirty years ago, in my small town, the choices were to go to the library or buy a book at Reader's World or travel an hour by car to another bookstore.  I read many of the books at the store and library because there weren't other options.  Oh, I like libraries, and have found two in Busan that have English books, but if your reading follows a theme, you often run out of choices at libraries.

Offering free books and books-as-pods are strategies that have been shown to work.  As a lazy writer who writes more about how-to write than actual content, I don't want to write two or three books to get paid for one.  Perhaps I need to look at this as an apprenticeship or the like.

The other option is to offer a book at near-free.  This seems viable as fewer groups take their piece.  The division is Amazon and the author, instead of Amazon, the author and the publisher.  Further, people may be more willing to try a new author for a few dollars than for ten dollars.
I've said Amazon repeatedly, and I very much enjoy my Kindle, but I presume the other bookstores and ebook readers have similar arrangements.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Submit to Beyond Bulgogi!

From The New Korea Files:
The New Korea Files is accepting essays, poetry, art, and list submissions for its first book of original English-language writing by blogging expatriates living in Korea.  The theme for this book is Beyond Bulgogi, a theme that expat writers should certainly be able to write about. We ask for articles (between 1,000 and 2,500 words) on elements of Korea and Korean culture that writers feel should be known outside of Korea. The book will be published as an ebook, and then published as a paperback in both English and Korean.
More at the link.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Submit to the Machine of Death!

Wait. Um...

The makers of Machine of Death, a series of short stories about people who know how they will die, are making a new collection of stories on the same theme and are asking for submissions.

Via Boingboing, I visited MOD Volume 2 submission guidelines:

Anybody can submit a story to Machine of Death, and we mean anybody. There are only two eligibility requirements: any story you submit must be written in English, and you (or a legal guardian, if you’re a minor) must be willing and able to sign a contract if the story is accepted. That’s it!
Our first book featured stories written by people who had never been published before, and people who make their living writing. There were stories by video game reviewers, lexicographers, comedians, poets, cartoonists, college students, and plenty of folks with totally square day jobs. Our writers were living in North America, Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia. (Africa and Antarctica — show us what you got!) We love this diversity; we think different viewpoints, different life experiences, and different writing styles make for a unique and awesome book. So yes, absolutely anybody can submit a story — including you!

Some more details:

Submissions will be accepted from May 1 – July 15, 2011. We expect to make our final selections by October 31, 2011.

We pay $200 (US) upon acceptance.

Stories can be any length, but we recommend a length of 1,500 – 7,500 words. We will almost certainly be printing stories longer or shorter than these limits, but we expect most stories in the book will fall into this range.

I enjoyed the first book, but the premise seemed to get old quickly.  I read every story, though.  I intend to respond to this cattle call by the end of June.
Sorta on the subject of writing and contests, Dr Deb suggests making anagrams of movie titles.  The poster images she uses take it to the next level.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I love this poster

Books - That is exactly how they work

Draw Muhammad Day

I think I did well in drawing Camping.  Not so well in the joke: Camping expects to be around until late in the day on May 21st.
The friendly Atheist has a collection that should go up on May 20, but I don't know if he has done that yet. Yes, he has.  Mine is in there somewhere.

Camping's math is 'explained' here - you would think Scientific American would have better things to do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

what writers write about when they write about writing

Gord Sellar wrote about how a draft was critiqued and what he felt that meant.

One of the great challenges for this story was the diversity of the feedback I got. Changes I made to certain characters (between the first draft and later drafts, or even during the first draft, when I realized a character could be X instead of Y) got absolutely opposite reactions from different readers.

He closed by suggesting that books, like the variety of beer he also makes, should not be forced into utter conformity.
Ultimately, great writing is about how you figure out interesting, engaging, and wonderful solutions to the problems that your stories are full of.
Beers and stories alike ought to be wonderful. That’s the point, isn’t it? And the wonderful doesn’t come from outside yourself. The wonderful comes from the friction of the interface between you, and the problems in the story.
Wil Wheaton, who wears clown sweaters, misses writing:
I used to write every day, and I looked forward to it. I kept my eyes and my ears and my soul open because I never knew when something was going to crash into my life that would make a good story. I'd like to find a way to get back to that, but I think things have changed so much, it's not really possible to change them back again.
Mur Lafferty Should Be Writing.  The link is to her podcast, well, one of her podcasts.  Podcasting takes her away from writing - she claims.  I think her super hero stories, set in the Mur-verse, are pretty darn good.  Playing for Keeps can be downloaded as a free pdf - or it could; I don't know if that was a limited time deal.

Lafferty and Scott Sigler have managed to find a creative way to break into mainstream publishing.  Sigler especially has worked to build a name for himself by offering his stories in podcast form.  Once he had a following, he got a publishing deal and prepped his podcast groupies to all buy the book when it first came out.  It was briefly the best selling horror book on Amazon.  I am not actually sure what he is doing now, but was a huge fan of his podcast for more than a year.  I discusses his podcast and book on my previous blog here.  Intensely active online, he found my post and commented on it.  I should check out his podcast again. [Later] Wow, the Starter is now being offered.  The Rookie was a lot of fun.  Time to learn more about the Galactic Football League.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Assignment: Draw Muhammad on May 20

May 20 is Draw Muhammad day.  Last year, I offered a picture of a stick-figure Muhammad playing soccer.  I am not sure what I will attempt this year but I have a few days yet.
Info at the Friendly Atheist and repeated at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.