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.

ABNA 2012, and the Importance of Long-Term Revisions

First of all, a delightfully happy New Year to everyone! It is now 2012, which means…if you’re reading this, the world didn’t end.

Ahem. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. :)

Anyway, let’s dive right in with the news du jour.

For my fellow self-published authors, A.B.N.A (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards) are coming up. If you’re unfamiliar with this, you can click the ABNA tag on my blog for past ramblings on the subject, or this link that explains it nicely.

For those who don’t feel like clicking, Penguin Publishing sponsors this shindig every year. If you’re unpublished or self-published, you submit your pitch, an excerpt, and your manuscript, and it gets vetted through multiple rounds of the contest (pitch, excerpt review, manuscript review) towards a $15,000 advance from Penguin and a publication contract.

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

This contest is something I’ve done before. I entered for the first time in 2010, and got through to the second round, only to be booted at the review stage. Second time was in 2011, and I didn’t make it. I kind of expected both of those outcomes, really, but I won’t lie that I was surprised when the reviews had come in. The reviewers, who I might point out are paid for this gig, are not matched by genre at all. So my urban fantasy/sci-fi series went to two people who don’t read it at all, and made it clear in the reviews.

Bummer. But them’s the breaks, and you can’t please them all.

The thing also is, I’ve entered the books of my series in sequence on this one. So this will be Book 3’s chance to prove its chops, and I’m feeling good. Book 3 has been an absolute hit in the e-circles, and for those who have glanced at the hard-copy books, the front cover alone had drawn them in, and Marion Meadows gets props for designing that one. (small spoiler: he’s helping out on Cover 4 as well). It’s also a lot funnier than the other books in the series, even though it takes a lot of what happens in Books 1 and 2 and begins to paint the picture of what’s really happening. And if you are a reader and you’re still wondering what the hell was going on in Book 1? Well…your patience with me is about to pay off. Together, though, all of these factors make for a really great possibility for Book 3 getting, hopefully, to the full-manuscript review stage, and that is when it will shine.

However – and you knew that there was a however involved in this – this is a Penguin contest.

Who remembers the Book Country issues?

Penguin’s credibility had been sliding for a while. Some of the worst-edited manuscripts that I have seen recently were Penguin books, and to release a vanity-press subsidiary is a nice sneer of contempt at authors, both at the self-pubs who are trying to get to the market,and the published authors, who had seen a steady decline in how much Penguin manages for them. More and more do I see authors – trad-pubs! – running their own marketing. This is with a Big-Six publishing house. Um, what the hell? I thought that the reason that people would go trad-pub would be to avoid having to do their own deal.

So if the prize is a publication contract with them, I’m hesitating. The $15K advance would be fantastic, considering that it would solve a good bit of my financial issues, but it’s the contract itself. On one hand, it’s great publicity for the series. On the other hand, how long would it take me to wrestle back my copyright if the book doesn’t do as well as Penguin wants it to?

Food for thought, that.

Now. recently, I’ve wrapped up the manuscript for Book 6. It’s an interesting story, in the sense that the plot had started to evolve – and I mean really evolve – closer towards the end. This, of course, means that I will have a nice time in retroactive editing next year, but the fact is, I wrapped everything up in time. This is only the second time that I had finished a NaNo manuscript in the same calendar year as starting one (the first time being with Book 1), and this actually leaves me quite a bit of room time-wise to play around with my writing.

Of course, this is keeping in mind with the fact that I want to take KG Creative Enterprises and make it a real money-maker…but I digress.

I have been thinking, and the more I think about it, the more I feel that I ought to shop the books around in film form. While Book 4 is getting put together and prepped for publication, it’s time for me to start researching and learning how to write a screenplay and actually putting together Mages as a movie. I’m not, however, too sure how to shop this around, which means that I will have to do a metric ton of research once again.

A lot of you who had read the books would likely be saying, “ABOUT TIME!!!” right now. Yeah, yeah, yeah, been a while coming, but I got where I’m going. :p

Musically speaking, let me be the first to say that the jazz scene, which I had adopted as my home away from home, is pulling me in different directions. I’ve done the write-ups. I’ve done the graphic design. Now I’m getting into the photography, and I’m still keen on doing all of the above. Will it pay off? Possibly. Will it replace my day job, somehow? Hopefully. But one thing is for sure, this was a year of change so far, and I am finding it extremely important to keep focus on what’s coming up, and how to keep a close eye on what’s happening.

There’s a book I’m about to start up, before my fellow self-pubs, and it’s one written by Bob Baldwin, who took his knowledge and organized it into a music-business survival guide. As someone on the sidelines, and kind of sort of peripherally involved in the music world – at least in the imaging/writing capacity – I am keen on acquiring and applying this knowledge to the best of my ability. It can, and one of these days will, save my skin, I think.

I can’t even tell you how much I’m looking forward to doing all of these things. Of course, this means that this would very well be another year in which my personal life is nil, but I am confident that this will be for a good cause. Besides, if The Index will become a title that you will one of these days see on the silver screen, then I am sure that my efforts now will be worthwhile.

All of this, from screenwriting, to jazz writing, to photo, to graphic, to noveling – my stylistic flexibility is getting quite a workout. I will be the first to admit that I have never written a full-length movie script. I’ve read them plenty, and I think I will be able to figure it out if given enough time. It’s been some years since I’ve written poetry, and there’s a pretty good chance that I will be writing nonfiction in due time. I need to work out my style muscle very frequently, and very often.

Not that I make New Year’s Resolutions, I want to be able to write a vignette, a short story, or a prompt, once a week. If I manage to release an anthology, much like my editor had, then awesome. If not, then at least I will be able to say that I have had practice in multiple avenues of writing.

Happy first day of 2012, everyone, and at the risk of outing myself as a total nerd…may the Force be with you. :)

K.G.

ETA: WordPress was having issues in regards to the scheduling. I apparently had an auto-save that overwrote the entire second half of this post. Big no-no. Fixed. Sorry.

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.

The Great Publishing Debate Info Post.

You knew this was going to happen, one way or the next. The essay of self versus traditional publishing.

Mind you, this is for info purposes only. I have people reading this blog who know exactly what I’m talking about, and just as many people who go, “Whaaaa? What does that mean?” This is for both, really.

In the wake of the brouhaha that had trailed the past week with the Book Country stuff, my banker, who is an all-around cool dude, handed over the Wall Street Journal to me, with this article on the front page. This is about Darcie Chan’s journey to become a self-published author – and a best-selling one at that.

And you know what, considering that WSJ’s last article was on Book Country, I like this article. It presents a great example of what happens when you 1. get off the beaten path to find your own way and 2. work hard at it.

Especially with the advance of the Kindle, there is an ongoing debate as far as which method of publishing is better: traditional, via the brick-and-mortar publishing houses, or self-publication. Bear in mind that the majority of publishing houses do e-book publication in any case, but that the e-market is still only 15% of all books sold.

Which is still millions on millions of books.

This is the thing: traditional publishing and self-publishing have very little difference, but for one major factor: instead of the publishing house vetting the work and making sure that it’s market-ready, self-publishing puts every bit of work associated with making a book work is on the author.

You may know, either by virtue of common sense, that a book has its stages in the journey from brain to paper:

1. Concept
2. Writing
3. Revision
4. Publication

The first two stages don’t depend on the method of publication. The third one is a pretty standard step, because it is VERY rare that someone will release a book in any form without going over it first. The fourth one varies.

With traditional publication, you have the following as #4:

1. Research
Look, if my past series of posts about Book Country and Gayle’s blog in general don’t teach you, then I will say it again, and will accent with a book to the head until it sinks in: do. your. research. You cannot query an agent if they don’t represent your genre. You need to know which publication will print your short story and pay you, versus one who will not pay you a dime and will print only for the sake of it. You need to know the royalty percentages, what’s normal for which publishing house, and you need to know the language used in publishing contracts  so that you know exactly where your copyright will be going. You are absolutely required to have the knowledge of the business before you go into it. Otherwise, you’re asking to become the victim of a scam. There are many “agencies” looking to profiteer off authors, just like there are vanity presses posing as legit publishing houses (Publish America being the best example). There are websites such as AbsoluteWrite, Preditors and Editors, Writers Beware, to name a few.  Read them egregiously, but also learn and research in your own right so that you know when and if an article by any of those sites is full of it.

2. Query
You don’t just walk into a publishing house and hand in your manuscript. If only it could be so easy; but then there would be a small mob scene outside of the publishing house headquarters in NYC. You query an agent to take your book. In other words, write a letter that, in one paragraph, sums up why the agent should represent your book and shop it around to publishers. If the agent requires you to send a segment of your book – send in a segment of your book. Make sure everything follows guidelines.

Of course, then you cross your fingers, and repeat the prior until someone says yes. Because you will, without a doubt, get rejected.

But, supposing you get an agent, then you also have to wait to get a contract with a publishing house. Supposing get that, then you have to:

3. Edit, Edit, Edit.
Chances are, the publishing house has an entire editing department. Someone will gut through your book for plot and structure, someone else will gut your story for grammar. You edit, and you edit egregiously. This is in addition to whatever editing that you may have done in Step #3. What you may feel is a sufficient story may not be sufficient for the editing department. Is your plot going into a direction they’re not comfortable with? That may also be the case.

I will now proceed to state an unpleasant truth: a book is chosen by an agent or a publishing house not because of how well it’s written, nor because of the genre. Though both of those play into it, the primary reason for you lucking out and being chosen in tradition publication is invariably because of potential of sales. Because the publishing house will take the bulk of your royalty to cover the production costs, and the agent will take a cut as well, the publication relies on volume to survive. The real question in the publishing house is always “how much money can this book make?” first.

Also keep in mind that there is a lot to be said about copyright. The publishers claim the rights to your work for a certain amount of time, usually numbered in the years. This is what lets them sell on your behalf, and claim a cut of royalty for printing and distribution.

4. Go along
The publishing house already has the marketing plan laid out. You have to now go along with it. This means be interviewed, often. Book tours, which are much more work than what you may think. And if they hadn’t established an online presence for you, then it’s on you to do so.

That stated, there are three main lists in the publishing house. The first one is the infamous slush pile. Manuscripts end up there, get plucked out once in a while, but mostly, they gather dust. Since there are e-submissions now, the easy way to explain it would be File 13. You guys know what I mean. It is RARE that a manuscript gets plucked out of the slush pile to land on the bookshelves.

The second one is the best-seller list. This is self-explanatory. This is a list of books that had sold exceptionally well. This is a list of books that have sold very well. EVERYONE knows who the author is. David Baldacci makes his living on that list, same for James Patterson (though I much prefer Baldacci; he keeps a nice pacing going). They have made their agents and publishing houses very wealthy. This is the list that everyone craves to be on, but few actually make it.

Then there’s the mid-list. Those are the books that you see, usually, in the shelves at Barnes & Noble. They are selling, but not as well as people have expected. They keep the bills paid, but they don’t do anywhere near as well as the best-sellers. The publisher releases them, hoping that they would do well, but when they do not, the lights are turned off. Those books will probably trudge along, but never meet expectations.

The mid-list is enormous for every publisher. If a book isn’t going to sell out quickly within its first printing, or the second and the third, then you can likely expect that they will be mid-listed. And that is normal. Not everyone can write a best-seller, and just because a story has sold well enough to hit the best-seller list doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. Just like a mid-list story or a slush pile story can be absolutely fantastic, but it was not given a long enough chance to reach its audience or, as in the case of the slush pile, not given a chance at all.

Now, this is not a quick process. You are looking at anywhere from 18 to 30 months – yes, months – from you initial acceptance by an agent to seeing your actual book in stores. However, the trade-off is that the legwork of marketing, printing, distribution, etc. is not on your hands.

Self-publication is a double-edged sword. The good side of that sword is that it takes all the wait, the bulk of the royalty going to the publisher, and the gamut of query-rejection-query cycle, and slices it out of the picture. Generally, a self-pub author also keeps all the rights to their work. The bad news is…all the legwork, and I mean all the legwork, is squarely on the author’s shoulders.

This gets hairy in a hurry.

As you may have seen from my earlier posts, there are multiple avenues for self-publication. Some paid, some unpaid. And there is a massive difference between vanity press and self-publication, contrary to whoever says otherwise.  The key words are up front. A vanity press takes money up front, and you are also likely to hand over your rights, because there may be a hidden clause in the contract about first publication rights. Legitimate self-publishing options do not take your rights, and the paid services are optional.

However, you have to keep in mind that everything needs to be done by the author. And I mean everything.

I’m sure I’ve blogged about it multiple times before, but editing has to be one of the banes of a self-published author’s existence. It’s necessary for any sort of a publishing medium, but the self-published author does not have a team of editors waiting to gut out the book. Either (s)he hires someone to do so – which is an expense out of pocket not for publication itself, to note – or does it on his/her own. This is a painstaking process as it is, made doubly more difficult by the actor-observer bias, and made even more difficult by the fact that there is no advance from the publisher that could at least ease financial matters for the author. The cover design also needs to be done in-house, and unless the author is also handy with the Adobe Creative Suite, then that’s something else to consider.

The thing is, self-publishers illustrate on a very regular basis that they are able to adapt. They edit, re-edit, and if they need to learn Photoshop in order to create the cover that they want, then they step up and get to work. But they’re doing this work, and yes, even set up to pay expenses before it goes to publication, in order to put out a quality product.

Let me pause right there and, again, refer to my prior entries on Book Country and vanity presses. Vanity presses’ up-front charge is for use of its publishing services. Editing is usually not included on that list of services, and although a vanity press may distribute – may, not for a fact – you cannot get out of ponying up the money. In the case of self-publication, expenses do come up. However, those are optional expenses. The author has the option of doing the work in-house; learn the ins and outs of publication, limit marketing only to online, and otherwise avoid paying money. However, because it’s squarely on the author, expenses do crop up – in leading the product towards the publication process.

The self-pub process itself, though, is easy. No, really, it is. It doesn’t take much effort to click Upload. That is not difficult. The formatting guides for Kindle and Nook, even the style guide for Smashwords, are very easy to follow. And all of those are avenues for major distributors; Smashwords pushes out their books to iTunes Books, Kobo, and Sony E-Reader markets. And they are free.

The costs in print self-publications vary because, again, there are vanity presses, and then there are print-on-demand presses. The difference, again, is money up front. Also, the difference is copyright. I cannot tell you how important it is for an author to read their fine print and find out whether their publication method will involve ownership of copyright for X number of years. I can’t tell you how important it is to do research. And know this: typically, a POD press will not hold your copyright. CreateSpace is a typical example of of a good print-on-demand press: all they do is print and distribute. There is only one cost associated as a byway of publication, and that is the proof. However, if you have a free code – which is given out pretty routinely through NaNoWriMo, ABNA, and other contests – then that cost is eliminated.

You may say, “AHA! There is a cost up front!!!” at this, but let me point out that you are not paying the market price for a book in buying the proof. You’re reimbursing CreateSpace for the raw materials used in producing the proof. Ink, paper – all of that costs money. After approval and publication, CreateSpace will take its cut from the sale for the exact same thing.

Oh, and honestly, $5-10 bucks for a proof as opposed to $100+ up front? Seriously, which one would you rather pay? Again, this is not a fee up front just to use the press. It’s the cost of raw materials that are used in production, at production cost.

The services offered by a print-on-demand press outside of the basic printing and distribution services are, in fact, paid. Again, they are optional. The author doesn’t have to have a gut-through by the editing service for $300. Nor does the author have to use their professional cover design service. There are very nice-looking templates in CreateSpace that allow the author to design a professional-caliber cover and use his or her own images. While the $40 – note the number here – is not required, it does list the book at Barnes & Noble, and the Amazon outlets around the world, whereas basic distribution to Amazon.com is free and included in the CreateSpace service.

The contrast as far as press goes would be iUniverse. They do all the work for you, much like a regular publishing house, however – it costs money. You are paying them for work performed on your behalf. They print your book, unload, distribute, and that is both time spent by their professionals in the one-on-one time that they give the author and raw materials in printing your books. However, their cheapest package is in the $600 range, with the best and all-inclusive going into four figures. Bonus is that you may get your books as hardcover as well as paperback.

Let’s once again go back to one simple fact: while the bulk of self-published work out there is e-sales, e-sales are still, at the most, only 20% of the market. The mass-market paperback is not going anywhere anytime soon. People like the feel of the book in their hands, they appreciate work by previously published authors,  or they may go for a particular publishing brand. If there is a good self-pub print, and it develops a following, it will do every bit as well as a trad-pub print, and at a greater benefit to the author.

Okay. I think I’ve rambled enough. Next post on this topic, whenever that would be, is on the stigmas in self-pub, and some myth-busting. Fun stuff!

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.

In the “Things I Loathe” department…

Raining steam.

The expression is freshly coined after something I experienced yesterday. A summer storm, which was basically a sheet of water impossible to see through, tapered off, and created an interesting effect. I could feel the drops on my head, but not on my feet; they evaporated before hitting the ground.
Hence the term: raining steam. It’s like being in a sauna, but worse. You can step out of the sauna.

Merch shop is looking MUCH better. I put the gift items as photographic; you will see the Book 1 and Book 2 covers. Everything else has a simple-yet-versatile logo for the series. The women’s black fitted T-shirt features an image, though. I will tinker so that the color choices will look a bit better, but now we’re open for business! http://www.cafepress.com/TheIndexSeries.

Kindle edition of Book 2 has been approved and is coming soon!

Now editing and adjusting the third chapter of Book 3. Much to be said for formatting as well; I have hit on a great styleset with Book 2; the dropped paragraph with the start of a new chapter works well. So I’m plodding along and formatting as I go. It should be fun to tinker; at least I managed to deal with the pagination issues early on. Whew. I do NOT remember those days fondly, trying to get Word to obey with page numbers.

But, all is looking well. And nothing is better than cold OJ and air conditioning on a day like today!

K.G.

On Digital Reading

When Gutenberg invented the first commercial printing press in 1494, the consensus was that it would change the world.

And indeed, it has. There is a reason that post-Biblical history has a period known as the Dark Ages; with the invention of the printing press, the written word became mass-produced for the public. Let us put aside for a moment that the written word was mostly religious at the time; we refer to a population that, because of the cost involved in producing a book by hand or by movable type, largely remained illiterate. To a world that valued religion, there was more of an onus to understand it. With the Protestant Reform of Tudor England, the onus to understand the English Bible went hand-in-hand with reading. The fastest promotion was by religious pamphlets and critiques, and the fastest way to manufacture them was by means of the press.

Think about it. It has been 556 years since the invention of the medium that has, until recent years, been the only way to acquire written literary material, regardless of the genre. We have major publishing houses and small presses alike, giving authors and writers dreaming of literary success a chance to have their work seen. From newspapers, to pamphlets, to books – the world accessed knowledge that was produced in print.

Until now.

Meet the Amazon Kindle. The Sony E-Reader. The Barnes & Noble Nook. And now, newly released on the market…the Borders Kobo. What do they all have in common?

Books without the ink-and-paper medium.

And they’re booming. The Kindle, with its starting price of $259, also the first to release on the market insofar as e-readers go, and right now it is Amazon’s biggest and best seller. It has an advantage; digital editions of books are often much less expensive than traditional mass-market paperbacks, and because of its sizable memory, the Kindle is capable of carrying 1,500 titles in its hard drive, on 2 weeks’ battery charge max.

Think of the size of your average favorite novel. Then think about 1,500 being carried at the same time.

You have a chance to do that at under a pound of weight with an e-reader.

You will now understand why traditional publishers shook in their shoes for a bit when the Kindle got on the market. However, you will find that many of them have embraced the opportunity and began releasing digital copies of their titles. While small presses may not have similar clout, you will also find that digital publication had given a new sort of power to the authors. Especially previously unpublished, independent authors and self-publishers.

This blog goes back to May of 2009, when I first received a proof copy of my first book and decided to go through with publishing it on my own. What you do not know is that, at the same that I was editing the manuscript, I was also trying to get it out on the market in the old-fashioned way: querying agents, publishing houses and seeing who may look at the book and like it enough to push it through to a major publisher. It was – and still is – a dream of mine to have my series picked up by Simon & Schuster or Penguin.

If you’re unfamiliar with the process of querying agents, the process consists of a short query letter, wherein you pitch a book in less than five paragraphs and with it often comes a synopsis, or the first fifty pages, or the first three chapters, whichever the given agent prefers.The guidelines are stringent. And you are almost guaranteed to get a rejection. J. K. Rowling got multitudes of rejections for Harry Potter before she got even one agent to take a look at it. You will get tens, maybe hundreds of rejections before you’ll get an agent to ask for your entire manuscript.

You can figure out what happened when I queried. I did get rejections; most of them form letters saying “nope, sorry” and some with compliments on the concept. So, I set myself a deadline to get an agent, else I would go for it on my own.

But that’s just me. Others researched the market, weighed their options, and chose to go through an all-digital medium.

You know what this means: the digital medium has authors you may not even heard about, who have amazing work that the traditional publisher would turn down if it’s not fitting with their current market.

Digital Text Platform on Amazon allows one to publish a Kindle edition of their manuscript at no charge and, as I mentioned above, the Kindle has been the introduction to digital publication. There’s well over a million titles on Kindle, and more are coming.

“But a Kindle is so expensive!” you might say.

Doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get a Kindle. The Borders Kobo, new to the market, is in the $150 neighborhood, easily one of the least expensive e-readers on the market, and nearly all readers carry PDF support, which means that if you’re purchasing an Adobe PDF, even with DRM encryption, the e-reader of your choice will support it. E-readers are dropping in price, which in turn makes reading – and discovering new authors – all the more accessible.

Which in turn makes one ask, “So what will happen to paper books now?”

My answer? Nothing.

“How do you figure?”

E-readers may be growing as a viable market, but consider this: traditional book-printing has been around since before Gutenberg invented the printing press; movable type has been around since the first millennium AD. It is a tradition of sorts and, while you may have a digital collection of your favorite works, there can be very little that can replace the charm of a hard-copy in your hands. A digital e-reader is a computer of its own kind, and will behave accordingly. You wouldn’t expect a hard copy of a novel to short out or crash.

That said, yes, I’m acquiring a Kindle this week, and digital edition of Book 1 had actually seen more sales in the past two months than its paper counterpart. Book 2 had been clicked for approval, and will be available soon, I hope.

Formats for both will be corrected and reuploaded as soon as time allows.

Until next time,

K.G.

The New Roaring Twenties

AT LAST. Finished! Emailed it to Peter Boehi of SmoothVibes.com by reference of the illustrious Jonathan Widran. Cross your fingers.
Also, if you are a jazzer, if you are a blogger on jazz, link this post out, please. I would like this to be seen. If you are a musician and would like to contribute a direct quote, let me know. If you’re a musician that I haven’t quoted or mentioned – I will correct that in the shortest possible order.

——-

The New Roaring Twenties

By Katherine Gilraine

As the key lights are turned up around the stage setup, I can’t help but look around the audience of the concert, if only to see if they’re as excited as I am. Little snippets of conversation waft up as Euge Groove gets ready for his set in Montego Bay, Jamaica – conversations about grown children in college, retirement funds, employees and comparisons to days of yesteryear.

Right about then I realize that, being in my midtwenties, I’m the youngest person to attend the inaugural Jammin’ in Jamaica event.

Hello. I am Katherine Gilraine, I’m 25 years of age, and I love smooth jazz.

So, there I was in Montego Bay, about to see Euge Groove and Bobby Lyle get their jam on, the first thing I started thinking about is this age discrepancy. Where are all the people my age? I wondered. This music is fantastic. It’s original, creative, incredibly varying. Why don’t more young people like smooth jazz?

The older fans and the musicians alike know that part of the reason is the lack of exposure. In this climate of dwindling public smooth-jazz radio stations, the level of public exposure to smooth jazz is nowhere near the same as it was ten years ago, so of course, the younger people do not hear it anywhere near as much as they should. The rhetoric behind the closing of the smooth jazz radio stations is that there’s no listener base for smooth jazz anymore.

Really now?

Let’s see. Berks Jazz Fest of Reading, PA draws audiences from far and wide, as far out as California, Arizona, and North Carolina. The Smooth Jazz Cruise, put on by Jazz Cruises LLC and owned by Michael Lazaroff, sold out so quickly for 2010 and 2011 that the franchise added on a second sailing for 2011, which is now the basis for 2012. While Haven Entertainment no longer puts on the All-Star Cruises after the 2009 sailing, the Capital Jazz SuperCruise started up and has a great success with sales. And, in just a handful of months, the Facebook group Smooth Jazz Spot all but exploded to what is now over eight thousand members, from what originally started as a group to share experiences on music cruises.

However, the marketing of these destination music getaways, and even of more local jazz club shows, is hardly ever geared towards the younger crowd. The lack of public exposure in radio echoes out into college campuses, where students of music, theater arts and literature usually are keen to ask, “What’s a good thing to listen to?”

The popular genre is always evolving and as people eschew the popular artists and go towards independent music, they just don’t look at smooth jazz. Lack of exposure? Maybe. Preconceived notions? Likely.

As keyboardist Alan Hewitt mentioned in the All Star Cruise 2009 artists’ panel, smooth jazz is a misnomer for the style, mostly on the account that every musician has his or her own flavor to add. The listener base has the quintessential paragon of smooth jazz: Dave Koz. But then there’s Boney James, who serves up his saxophones with a side  dish of R&B, to great effect. Rick Braun on the trumpet and flugelhorn with a style and a versatility to play anything from bluesy overtones to classic renditions. Nick Colionne, who takes to the stylings of the late, great Wes Montgomery. There is Jeff Golub, who is more New Orleans old-school blues than he is jazz. Newcomer Jessy J shows off her versatility with bossa nova and Latin flavors. It most certainly isn’t, as one person sneeringly told me, “elevator music.”

That isn’t to say that young blood never hears it – this music is heard nevertheless. As the parents take their kids to the shows, these same kids will come back on their own once they have the means and opportunity to do so.  The college grads that hear a show that catches their interest will come back to another, and stay in for the occasional improvisational jam session..

The youngins are there – and they are also on stage.

In a far more recent concert experience at Berks Jazz Fest, the cornucopia of the tried-and-true talent was seasoned by Eric Darius, then 26, Oli Silk at his 31, Jessy J at 29 and Jackiem Joyner, at 30. The new blood proved that they had more than enough gumption to match the existing innovators of the smooth jazz scene with their own (yes, I’ll say it) youthful enthusiasm.

Now, consider this: I’m the token youngin in the audience, so to speak, and after hearing more than one artists’ panel and getting into more than one talk on this alleged genre demise, I called up a friend of mine, an engineer who loves the alto saxophone and practices it often. “Dead? I don’t know who says that,” she told me over brunch. “I have teenagers on my sax forum and they’re getting into the classics like Miles, Coltrane… It’ll never be dead.”

Indeed. Dave Koz mentioned that rather than complain about the changes going on in the scene, we ought to enjoy it for what it is now – and I’m in agreement. The times, they are a-changing; the artists are seeing new blood on stage as well as in the audience and as more and more of the world goes digital, so does music. In conversation with Gerald Veasley while I was at Berks Jazz Fest, this realization hit me fairly out of the blue: radio may well be going the same way that TV has gone.

This is actually a good situation. The more one person is online, which is increasing, the proper embedding of a certain song somewhere can catch the ears of more and more people – especially the younger crowd. Dave Koz’s Bada Bing in all its tenor-sax and kicky-beat infectious glory, if embedded in a website targeted to a certain group – blog, campus page, reference to a Youtube link – may catch a whole new set of ears. But let us not stop there! A workshop such as Sam Ash’s drum clinics done by a musician with a strong base within smooth jazz can both pass on the knowledge to people with a love of music and to perhaps attract an influx of new audience members to shows.

So, what can the new blood do? Keep at it. Join the groups, go to the shows, download the music from iTunes, check out CDBaby.com for up-and-coming new artists. And of course, get friends involved. Euge Groove and Bobby Lyle both mentioned at the first Jammin’ that the best way to get people into the music is word of mouth: keep telling about it, keep dragging people along.

And, of course, if they like it and are dancing in their seat by the end of the night, color it a success – and invite them to chase the music.

I am Katherine Gilraine, I am 25 years of age, I love smooth jazz, and I will see you at Jammin’ in Jamaica 2010. Arrivederci.