The Obligatory NaNo post…

Well, it’s that and if I have to look at the memoriam to Bruce N. at the top of my page, I’m not too sure how long my strength will hold out.

But yeah, I’m doing the challenge again. 50,000 words, 30 days,

Think it’s easy? Oh, hon, you are just so funny!

Try it. It’s anything but easy, and I have no idea how I managed to participate – and win! – for the past 9 years. My books actually have a three- to four-year cycle from concept to publication: I write most of it for NaNoWriMo, then let it sit for two years, and only then, two years after the first draft is completed, do I revise it, and send it off to my editor, and start haranguing my cover artist, and get the template together.

The first novel in my series, that I published in 2009? I wrote that in 2006. And it was before I learned about what it was to self-publish. My, how things have changed. How things changed indeed from 2009 to now, 2015, when I have five books and a script-book under my belt.

I will say, without hesitation, that there is a lot of freedom when it comes to writing sci-fi/fantasy. You create everything from scratch, you set your own rules, you set your own canon – and it’s also one of the most difficult things to maintain. You create a world, a story, a set of rules, and it’s on you to not screw it up. As I will be writing Book 9 of the series – how I got to 9, I marvel to this day – I am also going to be revising Book 6 and prepping that for publication. Target date for publishing… July 15th. And the biggest challenge will be to keep the story within canon. I have set the rules into place with the first arc; now the challenge is to stay with it.

And yes, Ragan Whiteside, this is why you wait a year between installments. :) Because really, the revision process? That’s how long it takes! I have to cut out all the excess verbiage I am prone to when I’m narrating, I have to add scenes, add characters, kill characters, and then adjust the grammar. And all of that before my editor rips it apart.

Why Book 9, if this will be my tenth year? Easy answer: last year, I stretched my Origins story from the year before last. It turned out to be such a massive to-do that I just could not manage to get it completed within just one year. It was massive enough for me to stretch over two NaNo wins, and… I did it. Again. Even though, if truth were told, my motivation has been at nil. By that point, I was just too busy with photography and travel to think about writing.

found via Google Images
found via Google Images

Considering what these last few months have been, I will also confess that I very seriously thought about throwing in the towel altogether for this year. Very seriously. I love writing, and I love my story, without which I wouldn’t even be anywhere near any of this, but there is only so much that I’m capable of doing before everything in me up and says, “ENOUGH!” I am exhausted, mentally if nothing else. Losing two very important people in my life nearly back-to-back was an exercise in perseverance that I never, ever want to repeat. I still haven’t the foggiest how I managed to get up, go to both my jobs, do the photos for Sinbad’s show at the Cutting Room, and stay on top of everything.

Indeed, strength is a funny thing. It may not always seem like it’s there, but when it’s all you have left, the caliber of it will surprise the hell out of you.

If I can survive the past few months – hell, past few weeks alone – I think that by now, it’s safe to say that I can go through anything and come out on the other side of it.

And that’s why I’m taking on NaNo this year again. 50,000 words, 30 days. Ninth manuscript in my hands. Will edit Book 6 and work on the script version of Book 2 simultaneously. Why? Because I can.


No ABNA this year?

So I thought about it. And I’m still thinking about it, because this would be the entry for my fourth book, and the final book for the first arc. But honestly, I don’t think I want to do the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards this year. Whether or not I end up doing it is another matter.

On one hand, it’s fun. It’s an awesome contest for self-pubs and unpubs, and it’s a great way to get exposure. The prize is a contract with Penguin Publishing, complete with an advance, and the winner’s work will see the full-scale marketing push behind it that a publishing house like Penguin can offer. Seems great, right?

It is. So many self-pubs want a contract that inevitably, this looks like a good idea. And I will admit, a 15K advance – even though it’s pretty meager compared to what an advance used to be – will come in real handy to most of us struggling author types.

Thing is, I have some experience with that contest, and having entered it three times already, I’m hesitating about having a fourth go. The top thing that gets me about it, though, is that the the judging is skewed; the Amazon panel of reviewers who cull through the books in the second round – the first round is based purely on a 300-word synopsis, and the merit in it is whether or not that synopsis would grab an agent’s attention; the second round is the excerpt read-through – is…odd. Not unfair, no; it’s meant to be arbitrary, and it is. But that said, I have no idea under which criteria the panel is picked. I also have no idea how the excerpts are divvied out among them. But I do know this: many a good book had never made it past Round 2 in ABNA, and the reasons that they had not made it were ridiculous. In the CreateSpace forum, after the second round reviews are coming in, there is no shortage of authors with otherwise solid excerpts expressing their dismay at getting the boot over something so minor as a reviewer saying, “I don’t get it”, when, really, the plot has just the right hook. It involves some actual reading comprehension, but it’s there.

I got booted out of Round 2 and one reviewer of two told me that while sci-fi wasn’t their thing, they enjoyed it. The other one, though, told me not to have profanity in the text, and told me point blank that I shouldn’t try to be imitating Battlestar Galactica, which is a show I had never seen in my life. This was Book 1, which I’ve actually very purposefully sanitized. There was nothing four-letter in it. This made me ask, “did the person even, actually, I don’t know…read the story?” And you know, chances are they hadn’t, which in turn begets the question of, “Then why the hell are they judging a writing contest? That requires reading!

You may say, “Well, you can’t expect something less than perfect to make it anywhere!” – please. Let’s quit with the standards of absolute perfection; first of all, it doesn’t exist, and second of all, its entire perception is arbitrary. Let’s also not forget that some of the most popular books today are not only poorly edited, but poorly written. My friend Amanda is still trying to convince me to read and blog about Fifty Shades of Grey, which I obstinately refuse to do, having read the reviews and…okay, guilty…a Wikipedia synopsis. There is a lot of subpar fiction out there, and it all depends on what your par happens to be. If yours is grammar and spelling, then you’d likely be cheesed off by most of what comes out, regardless of publication medium. If yours is a good story, then you may want to consider compromising. You can’t always get what you want, say the Stones, but in writing, with the number of authors out there, you can likely end up with the story you need.

ABNA reviewers don’t consider that, and really, they get their fee either way. So they don’t have to. And that’s actually why I’m leery about it: not even the fact that the judgment is arbitrary, but because I feel that the judges don’t bother to give the excerpts their due diligence and actually read them. And if it’s because the bulk of the applicants are either self-pub or unpublished authors, then I’m more than a bit cheesed off. It’s the same ol’, “It’s shitty because it’s self-pub” and its less savory sister, the, “If it were good, it would’ve been published by now” surfacing back up again.

Again and again, ad nauseum: publication method is not indicative of quality.

I’ve read plenty of self-pub fiction and it varied in quality. 90% of the time, I came away satisfied with a great story that, in the cases of a series, left me wanting more. Same for trad-pub. And on both sides of the fence, there were books I regretted buying and killing time on. My personal deal-breaker is not lousy grammar or conventions. It’s when the plot is either lacking or weak, or if the errors are taking away from the story as an overall.

There’s 6 days left until submission begins for ABNA. So I don’t know. I might, just for the hell of it, but until then, I’m not going to think about it too much.


Back on Nook for Christmas!!!!

Ladies and gents, a small announcement.

Because in part I got tired of having only one digi-medium, and in another part because it’s Christmas, I’ve temporarily disabled my subscription to KDP Select. Don’t get me wrong: I love my KDP Select a lot. It’s garnered me a lot of exposure, and more sales than I’ve seen so far. However, it’s not enough right now.

In other words: I’m back on Nook now through Dec. 31st!

Nook lovers, rejoice, for this one is all for you. Grab my books while you got ’em on there, and don’t be afraid to review.

Kindlers, your link is here:

And of course, you can find the hard copies through either medium as well.


Oh, Big Six…foot, meet bullet.

The Big Six publisher companies have declined to renew a contract with Amazon.

Which can also mean that all the trad-pub books available for Kindle can get de-listed.

Seriously? Oh, traditional publishers, what the fuck are you doing.

Very similar to Barnes and Noble deciding to point a 12-gauge at its business-model foot and pull the trigger, the Big Six are doing the same. For the last damn time, people: you cannot hold onto an outdated way of doing business. The key benefit from having Amazon listing your product is exposure. You gain it. Amazon is a great marketplace, and what it claims for a distributor’s percentage is basically couch change to them. The publisher gains something major: revenue. If more people are keen on buying the same book online, then there’s a source of revenue that counterbalances the decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores.

I know that Amazon is starting to look like the Big Business Trust from the 1900s. Well, here’s a question: where’s the competition? Borders and the Kobo market folded, and B&N seems to be clinging to the idea that e-material just ain’t as popular as print books, even though sales of the Nook e-reader are just as popular as the Kindle. The publishing world is having a very hard time accepting that the business model of book publication is changing rapidly.

As a result, bad business decisions are being made across the board on the side of those who are used to the old model; that is to say publishers and bookstores.

Look, I have no love for the Big Six. Their treatment of authors can stand to do better. They shamelessly appropriate the author’s rights to their work under such draconian terms that it is next to impossible for the author to wrestle out their rights from under the Big Six thumb if they want to take the story to another market. And for the trad pub authors who end up going self, they find that there is a lot more flexibility with the sort of stories that they can get published, because the publisher just doesn’t want to take a risk with a book that doesn’t fit the mold. As a result, many books that would otherwise be a smashing success with the trad-pub marketing engine never see outside the slush pile.

However, distributing within the e-medium and with Amazon is possibly the smartest thing that they could have done. It opened them up right to the new and rapidly growing e-book market.

But the fact is, e-books are immensely beneficial for the author, whether self-pubbed or trad-pubbed. It’s quick exposure, easy revenue, and much easier to market. The more mediums, the better. Why, why in the blue everloving fire of Hades’s head, would anyone knowingly limit a distribution medium? Unless there is a massive no-no in the works – which this article is suggesting is the terms of the contract – then I see no reason to limit the author’s distribution. That’s just bad service to the author, whom the publisher is supposed to, you know, take care of.

This is the thing, though. Amazon had been offering this contract to the Big Six for quite a while now, I think ever since the first Kindle had come out. They jumped on board. Did they realize that the authors now see better options for distributing their e-work than to go through the trad-pub medium and see only 15% royalty for e-sales? I understand 15% for print sales in trad pub, but e-sales…come on. So what’s changed? Why are the Big Six digging their heels on something that will easily benefit them more in the long run?

The other side of that same coin is if Amazon’s terms really are that draconian, then I want to see where. Are they taking a larger than previous cut for their distrib? That could be solved by cutting the publisher’s own overhead costs on e-editions, which will 1. keep the author royalty the same and 2. not hamper distribution, so that 3. the publisher can recoup losses in volume of sales. Amazon needs things to distribute, if its main purpose is to be a distribution engine. They benefit from the arrangement too, and again – I want to see their terms.

I am well aware that the publishing world is in disarray right now, but we can all agree on one thing: cutting out e-books and wider distribution options is not a good idea. So can someone explain to me exactly what benefit the Big Six have from doing what amounts to exactly that?

I also want to know what the trad-pub authors, who are losing out on revenue, thinking about this.



Finally, at last, Book 4 rewrite has been wrapped up.


Now what, you might ask? Well, first things first, I want to see if I can get something written for the anthology. These stories have been swirling in my head for a while, and I will at least attempt to put them down. I will hunt for contributors at a later point, too, but right now let’s see what my brain can produce.

Revival has been sent along to Gayle, and now, the line editing begins. Believe me, this is the easy part. Artwork for the cover is In Progress; the front is set, but I need to create the back. That would take a bit of thinking.

The rest of the books are on Amazon.


KDP Select Experiment

You know, it was bound to happen.

Thinking on my post about Amazon, and the new “developments” by Barnes and Noble, I can’t help but think twice about the distributions for my books.

Quite obviously, Amazon is coming up with better, bolder innovations for the self-pubs, regardless of their level of success. They’re coming up with better ways to work all. the. time. Barnes and Noble, conversely, seems to be grasping at the old norm of a Big 6 publisher and a brick-and-mortar store as The Best Distribution, which completely doesn’t reconcile with reality or current trends.

As it were, I enrolled Mages in KDP Select. I have three months to see how it will do, and then I will decide if the others will follow suit. The thing is, though, by now I’m pretty confident that it will end up working out for the best.

So you know what? I’m putting my eggs into the Amazon basket. B&N is shooting itself in the foot with a devastating effect, and if they roll out something else that puts a cramp into the self-publishing and e-book style, then they will find themselves going the way of Borders.

So, if you feel like getting your hands on a copy of my first book, which I will admit has its own foibles, then it’s right here:

Secrets and Lineage will follow suit if Mages pans out well enough.



Oh, Barnes & Noble…

Before I begin: I cannot wait until the election is over. The news in politics are starting to give me a headache. (I know, starting? gah)

All political brouhaha aside, I have to sound off about Barnes and Noble.

What are they doing?

No, really. Far be it from me to speak ill of one of my distributors, but right now I’m wondering if B&N wants to go bankrupt.

First things first, they had stopped carrying Amazon-imprinted books in their brick-and-mortar stores (google it, please, on account that my link to this seems to be in the ether) and I’m written a post on the subject of that already. But now, I found out that they’re cutting the amount of money that affiliates get with e-book sales.

B&N, seriously, are you trying to go out of business?

This is the thing. As I’ve stated previously, eliminating Amazon-imprint books from the brick-and-mortar stores, B&N is sending a message to self-pubs with hard copies that they’re not going to be welcome. The Nook has an excellent number of affiliated e-stores, and this is a nice little message that discourages affiliates from listing Nook versions of their material. The affiliates make their money by taking a percentage of the sale due to their role in supplying the material and driving traffic to the storefront. So if there’s less of a cut to affiliates, there’s less of an incentive for an affiliate to drive traffic, and consequently, less of an incentive for the affiliates to host or link to e-material for Nook.

Now, affiliate cut is something that is worked into the trad-pub contract before the book goes to print. PubIt contracts would have a clause. Amazon has the same clause exactly, because it thrives on affiliates.

But to reduce the cut, and therefore reduce the incentive to host Nook content, is the exactly wrong thing for B&N to do.

Look, no one wants a monopoly, and Amazon is quickly leading the way in the e-book market. B&N is dragging its heels, clearly, and has made more than one bad decision in a row. So far, they’ve shown their back to indies by nixing Amazon-imprint hard copies (CreateSpace is a very popular print-on-demand press, and it’s an Amazon-owned company), and now they’re shooting their digital platform in the foot. The Nook is pretty damn popular, just as popular as Kindle, and if material becomes less available, then what do you have? Reduced exposure. As a result of which, the author loses out, whether indie or trad pub. Because seriously, if a publisher sees that there’s less money to be made in a market, would they go into that market? HELL NO.

B&N, you did something very, very stupid. Considering that the e-book sales are on the rise – although 85% of the book market is still dominated by print – the last thing you want to do is limit those sales.

As I said before, Amazon had done nothing but embrace indie authors and e-books with open arms, and it paid off but good. E-books alone have paid off for Amazon to last them for a damn long time, and they have already established themselves in the marketplace as a storefront and a distribution engine. B&N, which also has a long-established reputation in the book world, should know better than to alienate its affiliates, who happen to be its customers as well. What’s the best way to lose business? Piss off the customers. And B&N is doing exactly that.

And, in light of this, and after a chat with my editor, I have removed Book 1 from Nook and Smashwords for the next 90 days, and have enrolled it in KDP Select. For 90 days, I will get to see how it does in the KDP Select world, and if it works out, then the other books will follow suit. I feel a lot more secure in doing this now, after B&N had been pulling this crap, because I know for a given that Amazon will continue rolling out innovations for e-publishing for a long time to come. Amazon is the dominant market, and will remain that way. I go where the best opportunities are.

Book 1 sold here: