Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

At 50,349 I claimed my eighth win in a row.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this is your reference: http://www.nanowrimo.org

And those of you who do: before you give me a shout of huzzah, consider that this has been honestly one of those years where I had no idea which way was up in terms of my writing. As I learned the very hard way when I had first started out on my journey as an author, if I do not market my books on a constant basis, I cannot hope for sales. And that caliber of marketing requires either 1. money to have someone do it, or 2. time to do so on my own.

That’s exactly my problem.

As a self-published author, I don’t have a marketing team behind me. I am extremely lucky to have a great production team in my graphic artists and editors. But as far as marketing goes, I am on my own. And that’s a problem because – as you may have gathered if you are on my Facebook page – I am extremely busy. The photography business has been evolving and growing, and has been the primary object of my attention. I have two jobs, three if you count the business. In other words, I’m lucky if I remember to breathe.

But every year, no matter how busy I get, I always carve out time for NaNoWriMo, even though by now, anyone else would have trimmed that out of the annual schedule of things to get done.

But not me.

Though this year I only knew what I wanted to write, not how I wanted to write it, was entirely too scrambled with business-related and job-related commitments to actually put thought into my story. Last night, as I wrote a critical scene to the book that I knew I’d have to rearrange and stick somewhere else much later, I had to wonder how I was going to connect the dots, since until then, I wrote the bulk of the story in order, but for that one scene. And I realized that I both missed this particular outlet of creativity – having carved the setting of my books in nothing more than my own imagination from the get-go -and really, really wished I worked on my time management better, so that I wouldn’t be so scrambled in the first place.

It also reminded me that I really need to restart and rework my marketing of my stories. Right now, my photography has excellent, fantastic exposure and a measure of respect. Could I potentially parlay jazz lovers into sci-fi lovers? Maybe. They already know I write, do they not? And I’m just as sure that $3.99 for an e-book is feasible for cost.

The truth is, though, I know very well that without NaNo, the entire concept of me as an author would just be nothing more than an errant thought, something straight of Langston Hughes’s poem A Dream Deferred. In all actuality, this challenge is primarily responsible for all my creative business in the first place. I’d have never decided to go to my first jazz show if I weren’t thoroughly sick of editing Book 1 back in March 2007; that show had resulted in the one connection that had opened every single door since. I’d have never accomplished this lifelong dream of mine of writing a series if I hadn’t decided to do NaNo time and again. I’d have never formed the friendships and connections that I formed if I wasn’t able to say, “I’m an author” and speak nothing but the truth. And I would have never gotten to half of where I got if I didn’t write in this blog too.

The habit of regular writing is something that is directly responsible for everything else. A decision to participate in NaNoWriMo had ended up evolving to things far and above greater than just writing books. And it’ll get better still, of that I’m sure.

What I’m planning on doing is this: at the end of NaNoWriMo, which is November 30th, my reformatted Book 1, with editing courtesy of Cassidy Frazee, will be available for free for five days. Link forthcoming. But on top of that, I’m doing something a lot more special: I’m also working on the release of the screenplay version of the same first book. Having experimented with script writing, I feel confident that I can release the first draft to the public. It will be released similarly to the novel version: print and e-book. If you have a non-Kindle reader, either download the Kindle app, which is free for every platform of operating system and phone/tablet, or contact me directly; I’ll be glad to send you a PDF.

Happy writing to the rest of my fellow participants!

K.G.

The Real Author Solution is Research.

David Gaughran, who is a brilliant and prolific blogger as well as author, hosted Emily Suess in this post about Author Solutions.

We’re in 2013. At this point, self-publication has evolved to where it is not only taken seriously, but is seen as a very viable alternative to traditional publication, especially for new authors. And at this point, we as authors have learned enough about the ins and outs of the publication process, and we learned the cardinal rule. The rule is simple: money flows to the author.

What people usually tend to get confused about is the fact that there are publishing mediums that you pay money for. They are called vanity presses. And again, the effect is the same as self-publication: your name is in print, your book is out there, and you still end up doing the bulk of the work yourself. Problem is, with a vanity press, you’re also out some money.

Seriously, guys. If you’re thinking about publishing a book, I cannot say this enough: you have to do your research. Ask around. Ask people who have published through the press you’re considering. Ask people who did it self. Ask people who have gone small-press, Big Six, anthology, or web magazine for their publication. Ask. Ask often. But do not, under any circumstances, go into something half-cocked. You absolutely must know certain very basic things about publication.

And, considering that this is 2013 and people expect authors to have e-versions of their books on a regular basis, now’s a really good time to get real about self-publication, what it is, and what it isn’t..

Let’s begin with the obvious: a self-published author is a detriment to a publishing house. Why so? Because the same author is showing that he or she doesn’t need the publishing house to release the book. An outside editor can be hired. An outside cover artist. A print-on-demand press that withholds a nomminal percentage to reimburse for costs. And presto! you don’t need a publishing house. Similarly, if you go through PubIt!, KDP, or Smashwords, why in the world would you need to pay someone a fancy upload fee in order to be distributed to the exact same mediums that, let’s face it, you can do at no cost with, again, a nominal percentage held to counter delivery and hosting costs?

Using this logic, why exactly would you think that a publishing house offering a “self-publishing” solution has any of your better interests in mind if you are their direct competition?

Seriously. Beware of Trojans bearing gifts. No one ever disputed Homer, and now’s not the right time to start.

Listen up, people. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if a major publishing house, especially a Big Six, is offering a “self-publishing” solution, go the other way. You have nothing to gain from it. Their logo won’t be part of your book jacket. The publishing house itself will not market your book past offering you another service, which will invariably cost you more money. The fine print in their contract will not benefit you. You will lose more than you will gain, and on top of that, the money that they will take from you is much better off being in your own pocket. I can guarantee you: there is nothing that Author Solutions, Book Country, iUniverse, or whatnot offers that you cannot reasonably to on your own and on your own terms.

If you want a hard copy of your book to be available to print, go to CreateSpace or Lulu. Neither of those will claim rights, neither of those will claim exclusive distribution rights on your hard copies. They will take anywhere from 30 to 50% of your price to cover printing costs, but that half-split on a royalty is yours. Yours and anyone whom you may have subcontracted for a royalty percentage, i.e. editor and graphic artist.

This is the thing about self-publication: you do have to do the work yourself. The money you will shell out if you do not will go for services rendered. Can’t self edit? Pay for an editor. Not good with Photoshop? Pay for a cover artist. This is the real grist of money leaving your hands: services rendered. Not paying an up-front fee to publish, but handing over money in order to have a service performed. If you’re handy with the ‘Shop and know how to self-edit impartially, then hey, you’re saving some cash.

Let’s also get real and acknowledge a certain truth, which a lot of those so-called “self-publishing options” from the Big Six will never tell you: the actual process of formatting and uploading is a one-time thing. It is also free. That’s right: free. If you check KDP – not KDP Select, which does expand your distribution in exchange for having exclusive distrib rights, but regular KDP – and PubIt, you’ll find that they are free to upload and free to host. You get, based on the price you set, either a 30% cut or a 70% cut – benchmark is usually $2.99, which is underpricing for an e-book, really, at this stage. So what does that mean, in terms of your royalties? It means that you turn a profit from your first sale. No up-front money, and immediate profit.

Gee, I wonder why none of those Author Solutions will tell you that. Oh yes, that’s right: it will cut into their profit margin.

As my editor Gayle and I have said before, on multiple occasions, why in the world would someone pay money for a one-time expense that can be done at no cost? Answer: lack of research. Other answer: because they believe that going through a publishing option backed by a Big Six house, they may have something extra. They will get cruelly disappointed. Not only will they be out some serious dough, but they will be exactly where they would be if they would’ve gone the freebie path: with a book, and needing to market it.

I am likely to shell out some money for someone to market my books. Why? Because I hardly have the time, and honestly, I suck at it. I’m a writer, photographer, and designer, not a publicist. So I’ll have to hire one. Still a self-published author, still have turned a de facto profit by not using a vanity press backed by a publisher, still in complete and total control of my distribution, and most of all, still dooing my research before even thinking about going in any other direction with my publishing. So far, KDP and CreateSpace have met both my markets (e-reader and print) admirably. I see no reason to discontinue my current path.

I can’t say this enough. Do. Your. Research. Do your research, and not only will you save some serious dough, but possibly your ownership rights. And in this day and age, your master rights are your holy grail. Under no circumstances, unless there’s a Hollywood movie with your book as a basis and even then put up a good fight, should you give up your masters.

K.G.

Who’s Your Audience?

When we the writers do our job and write our story, we focus more on plot nuances, grammar, spelling – all important things, and all essential in creating a good book. But we cannot discount than, when we endeavor to write a book, we have to keep our audience in mind and market to it.

Think about it. Let’s say you’re writing a hard-nose detective story. People who are in their early teens may not be as likely to read it unless it’s their thing. People with an eye for mystery likely would, regardless of age. YA stories are also read by people far older than the typical YA range of 13-19, but you would not market a YA story to forty-year-olds. Primarily, it’s marketing. If you feel that anyone can enjoy your story, great – but your marketing would need a slant.

To change gears just a little, let’s talk about gearing towards YA. I’ve been reading The Hunger Games lately, and I love the way it’s written. Sure, it’s out of my age range, so to speak, me being newly twenty-seven. However, the plot is brilliant, and I find myself getting into the story the same way I got into Caroline B. Cooney when I was in the YA age range. However, if I had to really analyze the plot of The Hunger Games, I have to ask myself: how did this classify as YA? Is it suitable for a fourteen-year-old to read about a battle-royale played out between poverty-stricken kids for people’s entertainment? Because that’s what The Hunger Games boil down toward. But teens are reading it, they’re liking it, and they’re asking The Tough Questions that Collins raises in the Games. And of course, Suzanne Collins’s publisher is well aware of it and models the marketing towards the audience best suited towards it: teens who are wanting to read and think.

That is the key: best suited. And that matters a great bit as to what happens with the book’s success.

I’ll be the first to admit, I had no idea how to market when I published Mages. First books for a self-pub author are usually trial-and-error; unless you study your marketing beforehand, you find yourself learning on the fly. What I knew about my audience was this:

– They’re artistic, eclectic people who ask questions

– They’re older than 15

– They’re younger than 50

– They like to follow the characters.

Theoretically, I should’ve gone to my campus and pushed this book to people in the theater major programs. The Pace University theater people were a cool, varied, hippie bunch who never hesitated to follow along with a great character. I got some interesting book recommendations from them. But I published this after I graduated, and considering that my knowledge of marketing back then was next to nonexistent, I never thought to actually use the Pace campus as a marketing platform.

Big mistake. I will admit: it cost me sales in the long run. But know what? You live, you learn, and you try again.

However, now that the first arc of the story is wrapped up, I can definitely go ahead and go back on campus and say, “Hey. You like The Hunger Games. You like sci-fi and adventure. You will like this.” Why? Because as dystopian fiction such as The Hunger Games is getting more acclaim, paranormal-fic series as a whole are gaining a steady audience, one that isn’t necessarily constrained to an age group. Major caveat: the younger people do gravitate more towards this brand of fiction. 8 our of 10 of my readers are under 30.

Therefore, I will have to gear my efforts towards YA. I also have to market in a magazine, possibly, if I want it to reach my target audience. Which means my marketing budget needs an overhaul.

This sort of knowledge, however you come to acquire it, is possibly the most valuable knowledge that you can acquire in your publication journey, whether you’re already published, or stepping into the pool for the first time.

K.G.

Call for distributors!

No, not the book kind.

But! I got some gorgeous postcards to advertise Book 4 with. The launch is coming in two weeks, and looks like I might even manage ahead of schedule, which would be AWESOME!

But…need to boost me some exposure.

So, ladies and gents, if you’d like to help me out and leave some postcards in your neighborhood cafe, bookstore, hangout, something – please comment with your address and I’ll mail you a bunch. Comments are moderated and will not be un-screened containing your information. 

I shall do the same for you if you send me yours also.

Any takers?

K.G.

Updates! New cover! Book 4!

So apparently someone found me by Googling “kg creative writing my best toy”. Wha-huh? Okay.

Now. It’s March in New York City, it’s pushing at the corporate tax deadline, so this is coming to you on a very quick tea break, because lunch has become something I work through. Phone just doesn’t stop ringing, and paper just doesn’t stop flying at this time of year in my world.

So! Onwards to the news du jour in writing, my series, the world…you get the idea.

I’m not keeping an eye too closely on sales right now, and I have realized that Goodreads also has e-book uploads available. I have messaged them and asked them to take down Book 1’s e-book upload.

Now. Considering that I’m effectively ceasing distribution of Book 1 through any medium other than Kindle and print, if you have a Nook and would like to read the first book in the series, per KDP Select terms of service, I can’t distribute it through electronic means other than Amazon for 90 days. Kindle has computer-ready reading apps for every operating system, so please download. Google “Kindle for PC” or “Kindle for Mac” and enjoy. Kindle comes in app form for your mobile device of choice too. After the 90 days, please contact me directly; I’ll be able to take a look at the TOS and tell you for sure when/if I can re-release Book 1 for Nook. I will not go back to Smashwords, and I will explore iBook uploads at a later point as well.

I won’t be able to keep an eye on the numbers in KDP Select much either, damned tax season… But I’ll keep everyone who’s reading posted on how it goes. Part of me is debating pulling the entire series off Nook and enrolling it, but first let’s see how March pans out.

The first prototype for the cover. Image copyright (c) Marion Meadows, used with permission.

Now! I’ve been noodling around with the prototypes for the cover of Book 4. Jenna is working on the character art that will comprise part of the wraparound, but I have yet to see what’ll unfold. I do know one thing: Marion Meadows’s scenery artwork knows no comparison. Case in point, have a glimpse at the first prototype…and I will likely keep it as the main cover, and work around it with the character art.

The fonts may change, and I definitely want some characters in there. Jenna, however, rocks that bit, and I got a glimpse, via email, of what to expect for one of the characters of whom it can be said that she is much-maligned.

The other thing is, I’m trying a new style with the font. Considering that The Index is so named because it’s a collection of the characters’ stories, I had always delineated them with Book 1, Book 2, etc. This time, I’m showing the number in the series by background Roman numerals, and I think I will carry this style forward to the second arc. It’s a little more…I won’t quite say grown up, but it’s definitely a step up from the previous version.

This brings me to the marketing angle of all of this. The postcards that had done a great job with Book 3? I will recreate them with this cover image, and harness the QR codes for sales purposes. If I can, somehow, miraculously, turn this around before Newport Beach, I will be good for maybe, hopefully, turning a good sales number for the launch.

Now, far as the launch…

Ladies and gentlemen, this one is for you: if you would like to beta read/review Book 4, please let me know privately. You may do so via Facebook, Twitter Direct Messaging, email, or a comment to this blog. I won’t be able to give you an e-book as a pre-release, but I will happily give you a PDF. Please keep in mind that the rewrite/edit is ongoing, and it may be a while until you receive the file. But if I can at least know who’s interested, that would be great. And remember: post your review, whether on your blog, the Amazon page for the book, or Goodreads.

Also! If there will be opportunity, I am thinking of engineering a blog tour for the launch. Again, if you’d like to have me, just message me.

I will have some copies for giveaway, and if financial opportunity allows (because the promo copies from CreateSpace, though cheap, still cost money), I am thinking of holding giveaways for the entire first arc set. Four books, ladies and gents, and it is a story that has been my heart and soul for the past six years. Additionally, Jenna has told me that she wants to re-do the covers for Books 1 and 2, so there’s a pretty good chance that the covers that you will see on those two books will be wholly different from the covers that you see in Amazon right now.

Man, this is…happening. Holy crap, I have a book series, and I’m about to launch another one, aren’t I…

Major, major, major thanks to Marion Meadows (yes, the same guy who plays the sax, in case anyone wonders) for letting me use his artwork for my books. It’s truly stellar. He also dabbles pretty heavily in photography, and you can buy his 2012 calendar, featuring various shots taken in Hawaii, right here. Warning: will not be held responsible for anyone’s urge to drop money on a flight to Maui. (and yes, I almost did that, until I balked at the price. Dammit!!!)

Also, I should perhaps mention that the bulk of this has been written in November of 2009, when I boarded a plane and ended up in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with Warren Hill and the rest of the Jammin’ in Jamaica attendees. This festival/music retreat had not repeated since, which I am quite sad about, because…the Ritz-Carlton resort in Montego Bay defies the definition of beautiful. And I have to thank Warren for organizing that one event, because I was able to win NaNoWriMo 2009 while gazing at a beautiful beach.

As far as the anthology – I’m now wondering. If I submit any of the short stories to magazines and online publications, would I still be able to publish them in the antho? Maybe?

I’m also starting to wonder if the Haunted Nightclub series I have been thinking about is even feasible. I do not want it to come off as fanfiction (because really, I’m WAY past that age), but I definitely see it happening in a surreal, dream-sequence-type of story. I just really don’t want to cross certain lines in a story like this, because it will obviously feature and concern some real individuals (though deceased). So…yes, time for me to do some thinking, and some planning.

Oh, and… Gayle is writing a small side-story to Book 3. :) Its start is hilarious, and I cannot wait to see what she had cooked up after Jason and Kai have their initial repartee.

Until next time…

K.G.

Thinking on Amazon…

There has been a lot of brouhaha on the Web about Amazon.com lately, and the entire Amazon vs. B&N thing. I’ll likely elaborate more on this later on, but now’s a good time for a quick sound-off.

Best post on the subject so far is from J.A. Konrath, who is a self-published powerhouse, and whose posts I find particularly insightful.

Amazon isn’t eliminating the competition. Just the opposite, it’s encouraging it. The only problem is, the competition is a little bit more stalwart about changing with the times. Amazon had rolled out one innovation after another, and so far, they had a smashing success with it. Go ahead, call it a monopoly, but let me ask you this: how quickly did the Kindle go from a Netbook-sized monochrome e-ink screen to the Fire version? Within three years. So effectively, just as soon as it came out, Amazon was already on the case of how to improve it.

Look: self-publishing and e-publishing is the new future of books. One way or another, that is the case. Take it or leave it. You can have the paper copies, they won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, but this is the new revolution in the readership medium. The Big 6 publishing companies are either slow to acknowledge this fact, or are playing ostrich by sticking their heads into a mountain of manuscripts in their slush piles, and their business practices and accounting alike are stuck in the same phase that they in were thirty years ago. Since advertising for books had gone online and social media-oriented, the publishing house sees no incentive to advertise the books, because they figure that hey, the author is already on the Internet and socializing, so they can do the work. There is a growing lack of follow-through with advertising and marketing on the trad-pub end, which both the author and publisher rely on for sales.

Also, let me just say that if a publisher can afford to get an office on 6th avenue and 49th Street (Simon & Schuster, I’m looking at you here) across from Radio City Music Hall, then believe me, they can afford to give their authors an advance that is above the $15K threshold. Why are the advances so pitiful for authors? Is it because the publisher already knows that the book they’re issuing an advance for is probably never going to sell past their expectations unless it might get a movie adaptation? Or is it because the publisher thinks that the author’s cut is less important?

Also, why is it so damn long to release a book in traditional publication? Up to a year, year and a half? Two years? Come the hell on. Formatting to template, sending the files to the printers, getting the cover art on – all of those are one-time jobs. Altogether, from start to finish, it took me maybe three hours to get the entire book formatting to the way I wanted it to appear, upload it to CreateSpace, and let them print it. Three hours. I know that the bulk of the publication process is editing, but I cannot think of any reason that it would take this long, unless the publisher’s idea of what the book should be greatly differs from the author’s vision, which is a whole other post altogether. My editor is a pro, and despite other obligations, she and I bang out a full-scale book edit in six months at the longest.

So. Lackluster advances. Delays on publication. Lack of marketing. And some won’t even offer an e-book version until there have been some sales of the paperbacks. What, exactly, in this day and age, is the benefit of traditional publication?

The thing is, Amazon had offered a very real, very viable alternative with Kindle and publishing through KDP. B&N followed suit with Nook and PubIt. Borders followed through with Kobo. Smashwords offered a one-stop self-pub shop for all other e-book versions. Moreover, though, Amazon has CreateSpace, which is a print-on-demand service. Then there’s Lulu, also a POD. Then there’s iUniverse, which is an expensive but worth-its-money vanity press. Why do I say it’s worth the money? Because it spends a lot of time on developing the author as a brand and as a businessperson, as opposed to just taking the money, printing the books, grabbing the distribution rights, and having done. In other words? Amazon embraced self-publishers with open arms, and gave them a much-needed medium for book distribution.

Borders didn’t do the same. Their e-reader popularity was lackluster compared to that of the Kindle and Nook. Borders went bankrupt.

B&N introduced PubIt!, which opens up the door to a self-publishing medium, but would not carry paperbacks from self-pubs. Then it dug in the heels and said that if there is an Amazon impression on the cover, it wouldn’t be stocked in stores, which is a nice way of saying that CreateSpace-printed POD books aren’t welcome.

That decision was a massive screw-up on B&N’s part. Why? Because they have just alienated a source of revenue.

Self-published authors want one thing above all: distribution. Small bookstores are that much more likely to stock self-pubs, especially local self-pubs, but B&N had driven a lot of those small bookstores out of business. In other words, they shrunk the distrib options for self-pubs, from whom they could’ve otherwise gotten a very healthy cut of revenue. Self-pub authors are only continuing to grow in numbers, and more trad-pub authors are finding it more profitable to either self-publish or change to a small, independent press, which does not follow the same model of operations as a Big 6. Why in the world would B&N not work with the very people who are, effectively, responsible for the revenue of both the publisher and the distributor? From a purely business standpoint, what they’re doing makes no sense. Amazon, however, is only opening their doors to the self-pubs and saying, “Thank you very much.”

What else is Amazon doing? Rolling out an e-book library. Its sister company, CreateSpace, killed the Pro plan and only charges for expanded distribution, while giving all the authors working with them the perks of the Pro plan. Improving the Kindle further, to where the Fire may be an alternative to Apple’s iPad. Hell, there are Kindle apps for pretty much every mobile device that you have. In other words, Amazon is taking their distribution platform and improving it, and most of all, they do not alienate the people who may bring them more revenue, that is to say, self-pubs. In fact, Amazon is the first stop for self-pubs.

Whose fault is it, really, that B&N is more concerned with staying within the same comfort zone of trad-pub-first? Definitely not Amazon’s. They’re thinking like innovators, and they’re reaping those results first.

 

Frankly, I’m sticking with them. Not quite sure about KDP Select, still, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

K.G.

Woohoo!

Juliet Kachyk had thrown my blog into the mix for The Versatile Blogger Award!

 

Wow. I think this is the first award for this blog! Okay, so now I…

1. Thank those who nominated me.

2. Nominate 15 other bloggers who I think deserve it.

3. Share 7 random facts about myself.

4. Add a picture of the award to this post (see above)

Thank you, Juliet!!! And happy editing to you too!

So…seven random facts about myself.

1. I have a weakness for pomegranates. I love them, adore them, and can’t resist them every winter. They’re in season around mid-December, and a properly ripened one tastes like something between a cranberry and a black cherry, just a little more tart.

2. I am nearsighted and wear glasses/contacts to correct it. But, even though I am myopic, I have excellent perception for color and contrast, and excellent night vision on top of that.

3. I research random things when I’m bored, and spend enough time researching to write a paper on it.

4. I have an actual, hard-copy list of places that I want to visit. I’ve been steadily crossing them off.

5. I play the lottery, but nowhere near on a regular basis…and nearly always end up getting the small prizes. Most I’ve won was $20.

6. I assemble my own furniture, and had done so since I was 12. It’s a workout, and there’s something very satisfying about building.

7. I’ve been awake for 24 hours straight only twice in my life. I slept for 24 hours straight only once.

Now, for the blogs! I do have to limit to ten, though. A lot of the blogs I read are incredibly political, and/or concerning VERY specific issues that are of value to me. An award is not something that I want to get political on. This one will be for my fellow writers.

1. Gayle F. Moffet – My editor, in all her versatile, sarcastic glory.

2. Wide Awake but Dreaming – run by Raymond Frazee. Discovered this via Facebook, promptly subscribed. Beautiful writing style.

3. Lisa Marie Basile – One of my oldest friends, whose field of choice is surreal travel-inspired poetry. Owner and proud operator of Patasola Press

4. Sheldon Nylander – CA-based, strong, concise, and to the point.

5. Kate Policiani – Concise, well-written reviews and more.

6. J.W. Manus – an author who doesn’t mince words one bit.

7. Let’s Get Digital – by David Gaughran.

8. A Newbie’s Guide to Self-Publishing – by J.A. Konrath. If you’re a self-pub and you need resources, he and David Gaughran win the best go-to blog.

9. S. R. Torris – A fellow author with a flair.

10. The Geeky Chic – Book reviews, promo, and then some! Run by Olivia Melancon

K.G.

Stigmas in Self-Publishing

This is another of those posts that we all knew was coming.

I’ve already addressed the differences between the two methods of publication. They both have their drawbacks and benefits. They’re pretty similar in terms of the steps that a manuscript needs to go through before it hits the market, but vastly different insofar as who does the work.

I’ve waxed analytical on this in this post right here. In short, big difference between trad and self is that in self, the author does the work. Sometimes it costs, sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s no secret that I’ve gone self-pub. I’ve tried the traditional route. A year of querying got me nowhere fast, and the free proof copy code from CreateSpace was sitting there, beckoning me to make a book happen on my own. And I promised myself that, if by my 24th birthday I wasn’t going to land an agent, I would use that code. Being a woman of my word, that’s what ended up happening. What also ended up happening was a whole lot of learning,and one of the lessons I had to learn the hard way was that self-publication carried certain stigmas that, while they are being slowly overridden, are as pervasive as ever.

Let’s start debunking them one by one, shall we?

1. A self-published book isn’t a “real book”. 

Well, you guys know me, I had to dive right in there.

First of all, what makes a book a “real book”? Having the publisher’s logo on the jacket? Or, if you have to go for the fact that a bulk of self-pubs are e-book only, would a “real” book qualify as being on paper as opposed to an e-reader?

Let’s start with a dictionary definition of a novel, per the gods of Merriam-Webster: an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events. If you have to get slightly technical, we’re talking about a work of fiction that is anywhere from 50,000 to 125,000 words in length, per most literary guidelines. Word count differences are, occasionally, determined by the genre of the book.

Note that nowhere in this explanation did I note method of publication, book jacket, or reading medium.

And also, let’s state the keen and obvious: most of the so-called “qualifications” for a real book are bunk. That’s right, bunk. Crap. A load of hokum. A real book only requires being written. The publication medium, especially in today’s world, had never mattered less.

Think about it in terms of logic, and logic alone. Would you consider an audiobook real? Yes? Then why not an e-book? And if you don’t consider an audiobook real, tell me please: is it any less a real text if someone reads it aloud or if it’s not presented as a stack of dead tree? Not to get environmentalist on you, but with all the going green hoopla out there, have you considered the trees that can be saved if someone would just get an e-reader?

And as far as publishing houses, let me get into…

2. Self-published books can’t possibly be good enough if they couldn’t get to a major publisher.

Let’s consider that some of the best fiction out there had been thrown out of publishing houses for not being X enough or Y enough. Harry Potter had been rejected by multiple agents, and again by multiple publishers before it finally got picked up and made into a global franchise. And right now, some of the best fantasy and science fiction is all but guaranteed to be self-published – why? Because publishers don’t take risks. They get books going less for the reasons of quality, finding an audience, etc. and much more for sales. This makes for a double whammy: writers with a great plot concept and a pitch for multiple books in a series get nowhere, while writers who stick to the same formulas that have brought success to their predecessors would get picked up, regardless of their quality.

If I really have to go there, think about Twilight. Yes, I’m going there. It is a franchise by now, a brand name, if you will. It got picked up because there was a market – teenage girls – and it was presented to the market in such a proficient way that it got snatched up like hotcakes. But the writing itself is not good. It’s 80% purple prose, the main character is a complete Mary Sue who doesn’t grow or progress with the series, and if you analyze the messages presented to teenage girls in this book, it is just downright unhealthy.

But it was marketed well, and it sold. Which is why Little, Brown and Company is very happy.

Also to note: about 85% of currently self-published authors have, at some point or another, queried agents and publishers, and had gotten rejected each and every time, for the above reason. This is part of the publishing routine in trad-pub: you keep asking until someone doesn’t slam the door in your face.

As you can imagine, this gets exhausting fast. And if you’re going to sit there and say, “Well, that’s what you have to do!”, then I’ll scoff in your face. Self-publishing is a legitimate, and even lucrative, alternative to traditional publishing.

Let me elaborate for a minute.

We all know the saying: money talks. So let me clarify the point a little by saying that royalties talk. Or, rather, royalty rates.

Royalty rates for self-published authors are, hands down, much better than the ones offered by traditional publishing houses. If a self-pub author goes through specific (mostly free-to-use channels), then the author enjoys a nice 70% on e-sales, and 45% on print sales. The traditional publishing alternative would be somewhere up to 16% on e-sales, and about half of that for print.

To make it clear, self-publishing is a more profitable alternative for the author if you crunch the numbers. And yes, that does make it very much a preferable alternative to going through the well-known gamut of trying to land an agent and spending months, if not years, waiting for a response other than a form rejection.

That’s right: people actually choose to self-publish because it’s more profitable.

Does that make their books less “real”? I personally don’t think so, if only on the account that those things on my shelf are hardly zombies, and same goes for the e-books that are populating my Kindle. They seem to be taking up space, they contain text that’s broken into chapters, and in a huge majority of the cases, I paid for them.

3. If it hadn’t sold millions, it’s not a book worth reading.

See above about Twilight.

Now, repeat after me, with feeling: a best-seller only sells well; it doesn’t make a good book.

Really. Little, Brown and Company made a killing on Twilight as a franchise, as well as a book. That doesn’t mean that the books are good. I lost a bet and had to read those books, and believe you me, I wish I had never made that bet. But it sold in the millions of copies, in multiple languages. Does that mean that it has to be great fiction if it had done so well in the market?

Absolutely not. And there are eggs like that every genre under the sun: they sell spectacularly, but the writing and storyline are very, very lousy.

Some of the best stories are mid-listed or dropped by publishers altogether because they hadn’t met sales-quota expectations. Why? Because of this very mentality, which people are very keen on buying into. If it must have sold well, then it must be great, right? Wrong. Again, Twilight. Also, half of what was written by Judith McNaught…seriously, if you want historical romance, read Philippa Gregory. I’m no romantic, but Gregory has a very rich, flowing style to her writing.

4. Self-published authors are lazy and not willing to put in the work that it takes to get published traditionally.

See #2, especially the part where I talk about money.

Now, let me give you a this-or-that scenario. Suppose you’re an author, looking to get your work published. You spent a year on rewrites, and another year of letting it sit and then rewriting it again. You have a choice. Do you:

a. send hundreds, if not thousands, on query letters and hope you hit jackpot somewhere, spending months of hopes and prayers for a five-figure advance sum but trade it off on low royalty percentages,

or

b. do a little bit of extra legwork, get your book on the market fast, not get an advance, but collect your royalties right away at a higher rate than most trad-pubs?

If you’re willing to wait and think that you would see a payoff in terms of volume sales at the lower royalty rate – okay, then you can go trad-pub. But also consider the tradeoff of publication rights. The publishing house isn’t just printing, marketing, and releasing your book: it’s also acquiring first publication rights, copyright, and distribution rights to your work, and depending on your contract, this can go into a ten-year stretch. So if your book is mid-listed, doesn’t sell well, and is otherwise not meeting the publisher’s expectations, then you will have a fun time wrestling your rights back under your purview. You will not be able to re-publish as a self if it doesn’t do as well.

With legitimate self-publishers, you do not give away your rights. Which, in turn, brings me to rehash something.

5. Self-publishing is paying to publish, and it can’t possibly be good enough if the author had to pay for printing/releasing it.

Call to your memory: first post about Book Country, second, and third. And fourth, about an Aussie vanity press.

If you’re not willing to click to read back through my last repeated ramblings on the difference between a self-publisher and a vanity press, I will reiterate: self-publishers never ask you for money up front for use of services. They may offer certain services for a fee, but none of them are required.

As a bonus, they let you keep the rights to your work. So you’re free to shop your work around after release, if you so feel like.

Vanity presses do charge you money up front, and their contracts and terms of use are sometimes so vague that you don’t notice that you’re signing away your distribution rights, copyright, and first-publication rights. Moreover, there are precious few vanity presses that actually deliver on their promises. iUniverse is probably one of the best ones, because it focuses on developing the author’s brand and business name.

If you don’t know what PublishAmerica is, then this subforum in AbsoluteWrite will give you a nice picture of what authors go through to get away from them. They pose as a legitimate publishing house, then proceed to fleece authors at every turn, even for their own book copies. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a vanity press and a scam.

Also, to clarify, a scam doesn’t necessarily have to be against the law. It’s just making money by dishonest means. And fleecing authors is dishonest.

However, back to my point. You don’t pay to self-publish. In fact, you keep more of your royalties because you’re covering only distribution and raw materials (if you choose to print). However, does CreateSpace charge a “set-up fee”? Not once in my three and a half years of use have I encountered it. It comes with default Amazon distribution, at no charge, and offers a one-time fee for expanded distribution. Is it required? No. But if $40 is all it takes for CreateSpace to list my books on the site of its parent company’s (Amazon) biggest competitor, that being Barnes & Noble, then you know what, it’s a good deal, as opposed to forking over $99 to upload and do everything myself (see Book Country posts). Is it required? No. But I like having expanded channels.

6. Self-published authors don’t work as hard as traditionally published authors.

Bull. Sorry to be blunt, but that’s just plain old-fashioned bull.

I’ve yet to meet a single self-published author who didn’t put in years – yes, years – of blood, sweat, tears, and sleepless nights into their work. Because a self-published author is, quite essentially, going through the publication process on his/her own, then the workload quadruples. There’s no in-house editing team to fillet the manuscript and make sure that the plot flows, the spelling’s proper, the grammar is cohesive. There’s no graphic design team to draw or photograph and create the perfect cover for your book. There’s no layout and printing expert to ensure that the PDF file that goes to the printers will meet their expectations precisely. There is no help. So the author is doing everything.

Daunting? Yes. But that’s what self-pubs do. They may hire outside help, or they may take a couple of months to learn all of that on their own. There has been many a self-pub author who had gone to class to learn Photoshop just for the sake of that perfect cover, and there will be plenty more, at that.

So, really, don’t give me the line about self-pubs not working as hard. Traditional publishers hold the author’s hand when it comes to the pre-release gamut. Self-publishers have no one but themselves and whoever is willing to lend a helping hand.

7. The self-published books aren’t worth their price, therefore a reader shouldn’t have to pay for them.

Now this right here, which is something I’ve encountered more and more in recent time, is utterly infuriating.

A writer is not just writing for the sake of telling a story. This is an intrinsic enough part of the process for a writer that it shouldn’t even need to be said, or spoken of. However, a written work – just like a painting, a meal in a restaurant, a cup of coffee – is a product. And last time I checked, in the world of commerce and retail, customers are required to pay for the product they are receiving.

I will repeat the prior point: self-publishers work very hard to produce their product. They work harder than most trad-pubs. The money that you’re paying for the book is what enables them to pay for the web access bills, for the electric bills, and the roof over their heads so that they can continue to produce their product. Same as where the money goes for a traditional publisher.

At risk of being blunt, I will ask you point blank: what makes you think that you are entitled to someone’s work for free?

Seriously. What, pray tell, makes you or anyone else so special that you think you don’t have to pay for your books? You don’t expect a coffee shop to give you a free cappuccino. Don’t expect an author, regardless of publishing avenue, to give you a freebie either.

I give away free copies from time to time, but there is always a tradeoff involved. It may be a review, or it may be traffic, it may be recommendation, but there is a tradeoff. But to give away a free copy just because someone thinks that being self-published means that I just have to give it away? No way in hell.

8. Self-published authors are greedy and don’t want to share their wealth with others.

At risk of, again, being blunt, why should they share? I call it fair trade. If a traditional publisher is going to help the author at every turn with turning a manuscript into a book, then the 85% of royalties that they withhold from the book price are fair for keeping the production team paid. The editor, the cover artist, the marketing specialist, the book signing coordinator – all of them need a paycheck at the end of the day. Where does that come from? The royalties.

So why, exactly, should a self-pub share any more than they share already? Every time they publish a book and price it below cost to stimulate sales, they’re paying for it by taking a financial loss. Every time they give away a copy, they take a loss. The distributor takes a small cut of the royalty too. And considering that they didn’t have the editor, the cover artist, the marketing specialist, etc., why exactly should they share?

9. People self-publish because there’s no traditional option for their brand of writing.

Now that one actually holds some truth to it. That or, again, the big publisher will not take a risk with that particular genre because it doesn’t think that the book would sell well, even if there is a genre for it enough to, at the very least, mid-list the book.

Niche genres, and niche subgenres at that, are notoriously difficult to make a success, because the audience is limited. Most people reading mainstream books do not know what steampunk is. A lot wouldn’t understand the term urban fantasy.  However, both of those subgenres have a very dedicated and surprisingly large following. Do the publishing houses consider that? Rarely. Which, again, is why an author in a genre like urban-fantasy, steampunk, or even poetry – which is notoriously difficult to publish traditionally – would consider self-publication.

Self-publishing doesn’t differentiate by genre; it’s simply there. It does, however, put the onus on the author as a businessperson and marketer, and necessitates the correct outreach and brand-building, both for the book and the author alike. Building a brand from the books and the author alike is that ends up selling the self-pub. Yes, it’s infinitely more work, but it’s more work with a solid, long-lasting fan base. Which, in turn, produces sales.

—-

The unfortunate truth to the above is, while I can refute and dissect the preconceptions, until the public at large will get with the program and acknowledge self-published authors as individuals who have made an informed decision about their writing future, these stigmas will continue.

I won’t lie: it takes a long time for a self-published author to generate some steam. This is why cross-marketing, as so very well put in this post here (by Candace Mountain, awesomely), is crucial. Authors supporting authors goes a long way, and it pays off in the long run by generating readership.

While at times overcoming these stigmas may seem like a Sisyphean battle, with potential readers and reviewers turning up their nose with a sneering response that your work, which you have sweated leaden ingots over, is somehow now good enough because it’s lacking a Big 6 copyright clause, it is worth it to keep going. Whether or not it seems like it when you’re surrounded by the people who believe that your self-pub book is somehow less real, you do have an audience and you do have a following to reach. It just requires a lot more elbow grease than what people may give credit for.

Special thanks to the members of the FB groups WriMore International and SelfPubEBooks for the feedback on the stigmas.

Onward and upward, my fellow self-pubs.

K.G.

Notabene: My books are still 99c for ebook. After mid-January, back up they go to $2.99 each. Yep, I have paperback too. Click here.

Once more, with feeling

And another vanity press, this one from Australia, makes its way into the Writers Beware spotlight.

Dymocks definitely presents a bad deal. If I thought Book Country was bad, Dymocks’s D-Publishing has you forking over $997 (Aussie dollars) for what Book Country would charge $549 – setting up your cover, formatting your files, uploading and release.

It’s a damn rip-off, of course, and its contract is effectively unbreachable unless the press fails to publish (which I’m sure it will not), but the press can terminate it at any time. It’s also exclusive, which means that they effectively reserve your first publication copyright, which is an author’s primary asset.

Once again, let me reiterate a known fact: set-up of cover, format of file, and the upload thereof are one-time processes. Not for nothing, but I’m about to contract a client for a fraction of the above cost to do the exact same thing, save the upload. Guess what: my client keeps his copyright. He keeps his royalties. I do my part only in the form of document formatting, and I see absolutely no reason that a one-time set-up charge is worth that much. Being an independent contractor/designer, I could do that, but guess what keeps me from it: this little thing called business ethics.

Victoria Strauss says, “The pricing isn’t horrible, by middleman self-pub standards.”

I beg to differ. If you’re really keen on paying someone to do the formatting and cover set-up, Lulu is cheaper. So is a third-party contractor, and turning a file into e-book is not that difficult. There are, once again, alternatives. Heck, if you’re willing to go that route, again, iUniverse gives you a lot more bang for your buck in terms of developing the author’s branding, and I’m pretty confident that they would be able to do international.

But the one thing that I like about this article is that Ms. Strauss thoroughly fillets the contract. It is a bad deal, top to bottom. I cannot think of a good reason to sign anything with those people, especially if you consider that there are, once again, alternatives that would allow you to keep your rights to the work.

What I dislike, however, is the utter lack of differentiating between a self-publisher and a vanity press.

Again, see above quote. Middleman self-pub standards? Self-publishing has been created for the purpose of cutting the middleman out. As in, to NOT pay someone for something that the author could take care of on his or her own. So why is there any reference to a middleman here? Publishing medium is a more accurate way to put it, if I have to get persnickety.

Vanity presses take money up front. That’s the only litmus test for self-pub vs. vanity press. You’re not “paying someone to publish” with self-pub, you’re just doing the work on your own. Reimbursement of raw materials is doing business, but after the initial proof copy, a proper way to cover costs is, like the traditional publisher, to have those costs taken out of royalties. A vanity press, like D Publishing, and like Book Country, is charging you for use of services, and on top of that, D Pub is keeping your rights, to boot. And for how long is that, precisely?

Additionally, in comments, Victoria Strauss is asking why the people aren’t as angry or taking her to task like with the last time. Simple answer: this particular press is in Australia. An enormous percentage of the authors who had lambasted Book Country before are American. This affects them directly. And most authors know to beware of foreign presses bearing contracts, so if it will not affect them directly, they would not stir up as much of a furor as what had happened with Book Country. Book Country was set forward by a seemingly reputable publishing house, but upon careful review, it is nothing more than a money grab at the author’s expense.

Let’s call a spade a spade here: a vanity press is a vanity press. Self-publishing and vanity presses are not the same thing. Kindle Direct Publishing, being free to use up front, is not a vanity press. CreateSpace, with the only real set-up cost being the cost of raw materials in proof printing, which can be avoided by an issued code, and is comparably minuscule as opposed to almost a thousand Aussie dollars in this case, is not a vanity press either. Book Country is a vanity press, and so is Dymocks’s “self-pub” option.

And, while it’s not illegal to run a vanity press, I find the practice disgusting. Basically, it’s counting on the author to not do the research and hand over money and their rights. And while a lot of authors will do their research and select an option that’s suitable for their needs, whether this requires money or not, there will be some who will fall for it, and that is how a vanity press profits.

Again, if you want to argue the “paying to publish” angle, what’s worse: handing over 30% to Amazon, or handing over 85% to a publishing house? Even if you do end up getting picked up by a publishing house, there’s no telling that the book will ever make it off the mid-list. At the very least, if your book doesn’t do well and you’re a self-pub, you don’t have to wrestle your rights away to try another avenue in publication.

K.G.

Yep, still on Book Country

Following up to my prior post, and the post immediately following.

I got a pingback to this page in the morning. Gayle’s response is classified as shrill, and mine was interpreted as a marketing ploy. Oooo-kay.

I was also surprised to see Victoria Strauss reply to my comment on the Writers Beware post (I post as Kat), and completely unsurprised to see her totally miss the point, again and again, about CreateSpace not charging for services up front, therefore not being classified as a vanity press.

I will address her comment first.

Professional packages are offered on CreateSpace, yes, and they’re paid, but, again and with feeling: these services are optional. They are not required to utilize services, and the author, if so willing, can pay an outside contractor to do the legwork for them. I would much rather use an outside contractor and work with that person directly to get the results I want. There is no guarantee that a professional service offered by the printer would turn out a product that the author wants. A one-on-one session with an outside contractor is a much better insurance of getting the bang for your buck.

Victoria Strauss is missing another major point: publication, in and of itself, is a simple process. This is true in both avenues of publication. Traditional publishing houses take over the story once they decide to take a shot and put it into production. The author confers with the editorial department, the cover art is designed in-house, the marketing personnel devises a plan geared towards the right audience, and the author is left with a minimal workload. Not to say that editing is difficult, but when you have a team working with you, it’s a much lesser workload than doing it solo. But editing, marketing plan, and cover design is all pre-publication prep. And since the traditional publishing house is taking over the entire process, there’s nothing for the author to do to arrange printing, e-book uploads, and royalty allocations. Self-publication is easy as well: just make sure you format the files to the proper specs. Self-publishing is not designed to be difficult, and the uploads are one-time-only, for which, again, Book Country charges $549.

As far as vanity publishing goes? If Victoria Strauss wants to talk about paying to publish, then let’s point out that traditional publishing houses take a whopping 85% of  royalties in order to keep the lights on and pay the team that’s behind your book being published. All of a sudden, that 30% that Amazon takes from direct publication suddenly begins to look appealing, doesn’t it? The mid-list of every publishing house is outrageously long, because not every book is a best-seller, and if a mid-list book won’t sell well enough to make it off the mid-list, chances are the author won’t be offered another contract. Atop that, rights control. If you’re that mid-list author stuck without a second contract, guess what: you’re still locked into the contract that gives the publishing house rights for X number of years. So you can’t take that book to try and work with it yourself on the self-pub market, nor can you give it over to another publishing house.

The basic point that I (and the small legion of self-published authors who had lambasted this already) was trying to make on that post, which Victoria Strauss had ignored blithely, is that Book Country is a bad deal. Not illegal, because it isn’t illegal to charge money for services, but certainly a rip-off. What is it about a formatting job, and a couple of clicks to upload that’s worth $549 when it can be done for free elsewhere, and what else comes with it? The post that she had made should have warned writers to do their research before they settled into an option, whether or not it’s paid. And, considering that iUniverse offers an excellent bang for the buck as a vanity press, I actually recommend them. They offer actual education for the author as a businessperson, making their fee an investment. Are they still a vanity press? Yes. Just a lot better than most.

What amazed me is that Victoria Strauss continued to blatantly ignore those facts. And yes, those are facts: go through CreateSpace, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, PubIt!, Book Country, and iUniverse, and compare what they offer and how much they charge, if they do. And other authors had pointed it out to her, both at the SFWA site and at Blogger, that she’s wrong, only to have her deny this repeatedly. Look, if you know more about the trad pub option, fantastic! – but don’t ignore facts when they’re blatantly in front of you with a little bit of research and a couple of mouse clicks. That’s playing ostrich, and it does not make you look good. SFWA and Writers Beware are both excellent organizations, but this post accusing self-pubs of basically overreacting is contemptuous.

Similarly, the post that I got a pingback from calls Gayle’s reply “shrill”, and is basically saying that I’m using this to plug my services. Both are wrong. Gayle’s outrage is directed equally at Penguin, for starting this operation looking to make money off the authors rather than the readers, which flies right in the face of professional guidelines in the publishing world, and at the authors who don’t do their research. I will agree with her right there: every aspiring author should research their options egregiously before taking any action. But Penguin is basically laughing all the way to the bank, because authors don’t do their research and fall for this. In the end, they still may end up doing all the work themselves, but now they’re out some money.

Far as me – look, I’m a graphic designer. I do, in fact, work on document templating from time to time. Yes, I can do e-book formatting for authors, but that is not my primary avenue of design; that would be printouts. What I said before isn’t a personal plug, it’s a comparison of services between myself and Book Country. Self-publication always leaves the onus on the author to do the legwork, and Book Country has not been clear about what services it includes for the $549. For all I know, all they’ll do is format, upload, and initiate distribution. My contracts bullet-point what I offer, and I have learned enough on the self-pub circuit to feel confident passing it along.

It seems like this entire thing had twanged on some taut nerves and pressed some buttons.

Fantastic.

Seriously, it’s awesome. Feathers need to be ruffled, because sometimes, that’s the only way that works insofar as getting a point across.

The point here is that the options of self-pub need to be researched, and they need to have some transparency, which is sorely lacking in Book Country’s case. Book Country is vague in regard of services offered, with the only thing being clear that unless you’re going to fork over $549, you’re on your own. iUniverse is very clear for what it offers. Kindle Direct and CreateSpace are pretty clear. Smashwords too. Why can’t Book Country be that clear before the money exchanges hands? Inquiring minds want to know.

Not that I’m speaking for self-published authors everywhere, but I am a little tired of the idea that self-publishing is somehow “less than” traditional publishing. Really. This sentiment is in every sentence of the Writers Beware post, and I’ve encountered more than one person, as every other self-pub author undoubtedly did too, that would flat-out refuse to read self-published authors’ books, under the BS guise that if they didn’t go through the traditional publishing avenue, then they can’t possibly be anywhere near as good as the trad-pub. They fail to consider that the trad-pub books have every bit as many flaws as self-pubs, and there has been a lot of crap released by publishing houses as well. They also fail to consider that most self-published authors – note that I’m using most, not all – have attempted, egregiously, to get representation before. It didn’t happen. And I don’t mean send one query letter, get rejected, and get done. No. I mean kept-at-it-for-years-and-nothing-came-of-it sort of didn’t happen. Also, most – again, most, not all – self-pub authors have researched their self-publishing options, saw the benefits of it, and decided to chance it on their own. The method of publication has no reflection on the merit of the work, especially now that there is a very viable e-book market.

Speaking of crap stories being published, let me bring up something that I read on the forums of AbsoluteWrite. I peruse them from time to time, and I stumbled across the PublishAmerica subforum. There have been thousands of authors taken for a ride by PA, which is a known vanity press with a massive ethics problem posing as a legit royalty-paying publisher. A small group, some years ago, banded together to write a “book” that they purposely crafted as poor writing, to see if PublishAmerica would offer them a contract. This book would not have been offered a contract by anyone…except that PA did. Why? Because PA has a long history of extracting money from authors, with the authors seeing very little for their efforts, and having their copyright held hostage, to boot, as well as any royalties that may have come of it.

So really, don’t give me that line about how self-published authors are somehow less talented, less skilled, and worse than trad-pub. My recent reading experience, which has been comprised of mostly NaNoWriMo authors who have self-pubbed, flies directly in the face of that. You cannot, for instance, read Rachel Cotterill’s The Chronicles of Charanthe series and tell me it’s bad fiction. It’s fantasy, self-published fantasy, and it blows most traditionally published fantasy out of the water. Same for Kevin O. McLaughlin’s By Darkness Revealed; it is excellent fiction, and I didn’t hear about it from a publishing house; I heard of it from McLaughlin on a writers’ forum. And those are just some examples.

Oh, and before anyone says to let it go and let bygones be bygones – sorry, I have no intention of it. Self-publishers are struggling to be taken seriously, and the reasons for it are illogical at best. They don’t spend the countless hours poring over every syllable only to get shot down as “less than” for little reason other than their method of publication. Last time I checked, masochism isn’t the intention behind self-publication. If lambasting a bad option – Book Country, in this case – gets some writers to do some research, then I know I’m doing my job.

K.G.