Coming of Age in the Indie Publishing Industry
It has come to my attention that there are now ‘experts’ who are cashing in on their supposed knowledge about self-publication. They are making statements such as: You should charge no more than $4.99 for a self-published book. Where do they get their figures and who can back up this statement? The Indie Publishing Industry is so new that a wild statement like this has no place in our ears, eyes, hearts or minds.
I may be a conspiracy theorist, but I have a feeling that these experts work for the Big Guys of NYC, publishing houses who are a teetering on weakened financial legs. Unfortunately, we are a new industry, where most things are still untried and unknown, so we buy into the balderdash that is coming out of an Old World Publishing Republic. We, therefore, price our books so low that we have no chance of ever making a living from the royalties or competing with the ‘professional’ authors out there. Honey, I have news for you. You are a professional if you sell your writing. Period.
If I were Mr. Joe Reading Public, I probably wouldn’t worry if something is self-pubbed or not. I likely wouldn’t know or care. My criteria would be simple: Does the book appeal to me? When I read the scrap piece that Amazon offers, does it catch my interest? Is the cover all juicy and does it draw me in? Reading and enjoying a book is as subjective as finding a nice pair of stiletto running shoes. If they fit and you like them, then to hell with what the fashionistas say you should wear.
I have been a proponent of the Indie movement for several years. I began my career with the NYC folks and soon learned that I would much prefer to be the master of my own schooner. I had to wait for about ten years for Amazon and Apple to develop capable readers, but when that happened I knew it was time to up the ante. It was time to compete with the dreck coming out of the Old World.
I have said for many years that we need to fashion the rules for our Indie Publishing Industry––and be sure that it is an industry, as vital as that of the Old World Publishing Republic.
The most important rule? Act like the professionals you are. Write a great book. Have it professionally edited. Hire an artist to create a cover that will attract attention. Market your books like your pants are on fire.
The second most important rule? Charge what your books are worth—what your time and talent is worth. Do not listen to the bleating of Old World propagandists, for they open their mouths to spit out bull twinkies. They want to see you fail. They want to see our Indie Publishing Industry go belly up.
If you are invested in this new world publishing, then you may be like me. I publish e-books exclusively. Why? Because the print services available haven’t caught up with the Indie Publishing Industry. They are too expensive and THEY set the base prices that your books will be available for sale to Mr. Joe Reading Public. With an e-book, I set the price. I base my books on the number of pages it contains, as well as the time, effort and talent that went into producing it. A 300-page novel can easily sell for $6.99. Remember, you paid an editor and an artist and maybe even someone to make you that snazzy marketing trailer on YouTube. The book is worth it. Amazon usually discounts it, anyway, but you get the royalties from the price you set.
Personally, I buy Indie books all the time and most of those e-books are in the $6.99 to $8.99 range. I feel like I’m getting a good book when I pay more for it, and I’ll bet I’m not alone. Mr. Joe Reading Public looks at the value of things the same way I do. Sometimes, cheap is not better. Sometimes, cheap is just cheap.
So, do yourself and the rest of us a favor––lift up the Indie Publishing Industry. Make it a vital place for people to find great books at reasonable (not cheap) prices. Help it to be a win-win for both the writer and the reader.
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Coming of Age in the Indie Publishing Industry--Copyright © 2014
This is something that all writers need to understand. You can’t write in a vacuum. It doesn’t behoove the blossoming author to close himself into a room with window blinds drawn against possible disturbances. Life happens, and even though you may be writing through holidays and weekends to meet a deadline, you still need to carve out a moment or two to fill the creative barrel with sensory exploration. I always give an imperious grunt when writers tell me they don’t watch the evening news, read websites that contain current events or listen to talk radio. Somehow, they feel that this information sullies their muse. How can any serious wordsmith ignore what’s going on in the world and still develop a cohesive line of thought in an article, short story, or book? Writing is not just play time. It’s the time you bring your philosophy to bear. Writing is when you pound out thoughts on new ideas and heretofore unknown ideologies. Studying current events will always impress you with something new. Granted, we Humans are a warrior race. News of atrocities greet the eyes and ears first, because journalism is just that way. “If it bleeds, it leads.” So, after you scan the words and give the Devil his dues, move on to page two or page forty-two.
Here are a couple of things I learned this past week.
May 30, 2013—TIHGAR may have found Amelia Earhart’s plane wreckage in the depth of 600 feet of water off of Nikumaroro Island. If you don’t know who Amelia Earhart was, then look her up. If you don’t know who or what TIHGAR is, look it up, too. I didn’t know what TIHGAR was. It qualified as my new thing to learn yesterday.
May 31, 2013—Stretching and mediation relieves Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. NIH studied 22 nurses suffering with the disorder and found that just two hours a week of self-centered care relieved the symptoms.
June 1, 2013—?
Somehow, someway, I can use this information in my writing. Okay, I just did with this blog post. I can also develop two fiction stories from it that will work in most any genre, but since I’m a sci-fi/fantasy/horror writer, I’ll glue them to my forehead to see what trips the light fantastic.
By learning something new each day and studying current events, you will never be without a story idea, theme, character, or plot. It’s all available for the taking.
Still, current events aren’t the only way to get fodder to fuel your writing. Make it your mission to entice your readers with new information. That means you must continually develop new skills—and not just those that involve words. Take a class, watch a tutorial on YouTube, or be an armchair traveler with a glass of cold ice tea and a travel video on the television. Not only will these skills and knowledge impact your writing, but they will also round out your life in ways you have never considered. Some of my favorite authors have learned amazing things that continually show up in their work.
Nancy Robinson Masters (http://www.nancyrobinsonmasters.com) is an airplane pilot and a prodigious author. Her ability to fly has been channeled into best selling books for children.
Elyse Salpeter (http://elysesalpeter.wordpress.com) is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, as well as a successful author. The knowledge she obtained from learning a new skill has translated into her latest book.
Frank Tuttle (http://frank-tuttle.blogspot.com) loves to create fantasy weaponry made from pipes, wood, springs, wires, and I suspect whatever his dogs drag into the house. Frank is another author whose skills in creating art have spurred his imagination when he writes his stories.
Bob Nailor (http://www.bobnailor.com) knows his ancestry. He’s an Irish-American who has made an in-depth study of the myths, legends, and Little People of the Emerald Isle. He used this knowledge when he wrote his first fantasy novel.
Make a pact like I did. Learn something new each day. Develop a skill that makes you smile, gives you fun, and helps others. Then write about it.
Writing a novel is not a linear activity. You can’t go from point A to point Z without flipping back and forth to add foreshadowing, notes to clarify a scene, or check for consistency. It can be a brutal job and it can be confusing. Unfortunately, this is the part of the writing experience that will foul the newbies. It creates what I call pocket amnesia.
Have you ever put on a jacket, checked the pouches and found nothing, but an hour later, you reach into the front pocket and suddenly there’s a $20 bill? That’s pocket amnesia. At some point you shoved that money into your coat, and being a greenback, it snuggled down into the folds of the fabric. Your fingers missed it the first time. Worse than that—you forgot it was even there.
This forgetfulness is how I like to explain the existence of those important fragments lost within the story. To my mind, they hide in the novel’s pockets, concealed among sheltering words. The writer goes off on an exciting tangent, forgetting that he set up something else altogether. The main character starts out with black hair, until chapter five, when she turned into a platinum blond. The killer used a Katana, until it transformed from a Japanese sword into a butcher knife. Your character moves through her day exactly as she should with one exception—she does 4:00 p.m. Twice.
When I first started writing science fiction murder mysteries, I had to not only keep the clues straight, but also make sure my created world didn’t jam up with inconsistencies. I would experience pocket amnesia on a daily basis. Things would be twirling around so fast in my brain that I would lose the bubble.
A few of you have read my latest book, THOMAS TALKS TO ME, where I tell the writer to avoid using lists. Well, this time I’m telling you to use them.
Keep a running list of your chapters. Write a short abstract of each—one or two sentences—but make sure you highlight the important things that can disappear into a pocket. For instance,
Chapter 1: Sally has green hair, a big mole on her nose, and braces. She talks to Gwen about how to create a magic elixir that will make her beautiful. Gwen tells her they need to see Maria, the witch down the road.
Chapter 2: Sally and Gwen talk to Maria who has long brown hair and shifty black eyes. She tells Sally she can make her beautiful for a price, and then refuses to explain what the price is.
Chapter abstracts are invaluable. When I wrote OPALITE MOON, I was given the normal nine month deadline to turn out a story. Three days into that nine months, my editor called to tell me she needed 85,000 words in ten weeks, because she had a great slot for the book in the catalog. I was in the midst of a house move. Panic nearly did me in, but like an idiot, I told her she would have it. I relied heavily on my chapter abstracts, turned in the novel at the beginning of week nine, finished unpacking the dishes, and later that year, the book was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award for Outstanding Science Fiction.
There’s also one other thing you can do with these chapter abstracts. Use them to help you write the dreaded book synopsis. Reviewing your list makes it much easier to grab the story’s highlights and craft a winning proposal without pulling out your last three hairs in the process.
So, do yourself a favor—pick your pockets.
Last Monday, I called my dad to tell him how happy I was that we shared those moments. My dad is 88 years old and he has dementia. He couldn’t recall the days that had made my childhood so special, and while understandable given his advanced age, it made me think. Our lives are lived through others and their memories of us. I think back into my own past and so many things are hard for me to remember. People I’ve touched along the way, things I’ve shared with friends––days of births, deaths, and moving on. So much is lost on the filmy landscape of time. It’s up to other people to provide the memories of our histories.
Synchronicity often appears to me as I experience moments of small epiphanies. It’s like the energy bolsters my discovery and mashes it into my brain so I don’t lose it along with what I had for lunch yesterday or the name of the big dog we had when I was ten. (Neither of which I can recall.)
The week before I called my dad, I’d decided I was going to explore poetry. I ordered two books: Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge and Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook. I’m determined to write at least one poem a week, maybe add a Poetry Slam page to my website, and generally fall in love with metaphor again. I’m not worried about publishing. I just want to free my muse (Thomas, can you hear me?) and play with words. I then got a slambang idea to invite a couple of authors to write with me. We would choose a word a week and write a poem about it, so my friend chose the word COBWEBS. The idea is that the word must appear somewhere in the poem. We then set to work.
What about the synchronicity, you ask? I believe that writers generally experience it by bringing one idea into touch with another. My dad’s loss of the halcyon days he spent with his only daughter seemed to inspire my poem and the understanding that our lives are defined by those we love.
My memories are dusted with cobwebs.
While yesterday’s events have a few silky threads laid across them,
my thoughts of childhood cluster beneath a cloudy blanket.
I try to snag the cobwebs with my mind,
recalling days of teenage angst,
recovering the excitement on my wedding day,
smiling at the recollection of my first book sale,
remembering the pain when my mother died.
Cobwebs intertwine with the filaments of my life,
thickening with the passing years,
allowing me to forget the past so that I may forge the future.
Not great art, but not bad for a first attempt. I welcome you to share your poetry with us and let us in on the epiphanies you’ve uncovered. Just leave them in the comment section on my blog.
You can leave them any time and on any post. Thanks for the memories…
I’ve been thinking a lot about this the last few days. It’s come to my attention that I need to make a shift in my perspective. For the last thirteen years, I’ve followed a street that is far too narrow. I’ve traded my dreams and possibilities for certainties—not the best outcomes, but ones I can ‘live’ with. I think we are all in danger of taking the wrong fork in the road. We can always tell when we’re traveling this street, because it has easily readable signs. Don’t walk. Don’t run. Caution. Slow. Enter. Exit. No parking. And the big one—the one that makes us pay attention most: STOP.
What would happen if one of those signs said: GO? Would we take the chance? Would we take a risk to begin a quest by putting aside some of the responsibilities of family and work? As writers and Human Beings, the quest is all that matters. When the quest ends, life and writing is over. Fear has won. The big traffic cop in the sky has thrown up that stop sign, and the only thing left is to look back down the street littered with your regrets.
Taking small steps along the road won’t work, because you do too much slip-sliding on gravel. You have to take determined strides. Maybe you have always wanted to write a horror novel, but you’re worried what others might think since you’ve already wedged yourself into the romance genre. Maybe you have the opportunity to make some good money through public speaking, but the thought of baring your imperfections before a crowd of eager-faced writing newbies scares the hell out of you. Perhaps you have an opinion on public policy that you feel needs airing, but you’re afraid some troll on the internet will pop up and begin stalking you with negativity.
Do it anyway. My friend and fellow author, Gwen Choate, took a chance. She wrote a young adult novel called THE SACK and Cool Well Press bought it. It’s selling well and has brought many speaking engagements for Gwen. THE SACK was recently nominated for the prestigious Spirit of Texas Award by the Texas Library Association.
Now you may think this is a nice outcome for an author, but really, what kind of chance did Gwen take? Well, the chance she took has to do with age. Gwen is 90 years old. She began writing THE SACK when she was in her late 80s. Had she not stepped forward with confidence, these wonderful opportunities would never have happened. Was she afraid she might twist an ankle in a pothole or be asked to pay a toll that would take almost everything she had? Of course. Did she, nevertheless, grab her pens, paper and granola bars and set out fearlessly along that winding road? You bet.
So do whatever is necessary for your quest. Fight dragons. Woo princesses. Sharpen your sword on an ogre. Keep searching for that Holy Writing Grail—and carry a sign that says: