David Gaughran on Author Solutions

David Gaughran on Author Solutions

So guys. Remember Author Solutions? Penguin’s “self-publishing” option, which is little more than a glorified vanity press with entirely too high a price? 

I do. So does David Gaughran, and he wrote the post linked above. 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why you research the hell out of your options when you self-pub. My books have had a grand-total publishing cost of maybe $30. For all FOUR of them. Why? Because I researched and I went with what I knew worked for me. My books have the same market as anything that Author Solutions produces. The difference is, Author Solutions makes its money with P/R services – all of which I can easily get cheaper elsewhere. 

And their prices are downright insane.

I’m sorry, exactly why should someone pay four figures for something that, for all intents and purposes, is free? The $30 I paid was for proof copies only. Nothing else. 

Research, people. It’s important. 

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.


On Back Story Writing

Somewhere along the line in planning my series, I realized that I really, really wanted to do an entire back-story type of arc to The Index. Now that I’m working on wrapping up the entire second arc, all three books of it, I’m starting to realize that there is a lot of story to write, and I have no idea where to start writing it.

It’s not quite writer’s block. I know what the stories will be, based on what I’ve written so far. I know my characters, I know what had shaped to become what and who they are. However, the trick is in actually telling those stories, and doing so in a way that the reader will enjoy as well.

In other words, the back story has to be interesting enough, both to write and to read.

In a certain sense, it feels as though I’m retelling the same thing twice, and therein is the actor-observer bias. I’m in the story, so to speak: I know what everything leads to. But at the same time, I have to be aware that the person on the other end lacks the same awareness.

But consider this: how many times do you read a story in the fantasy/sci-fi genre and wonder exactly what had led to the story and circumstances to be what they are? How did the character’s personality and experiences come about? To me, this happened way too many times, and it’s part and parcel of why I think that it’s fairly fitting for me to write Origins as an arc.

The issue is…whom am I going to choose first?

Initially, I thought Rena. She’s the flagship leader of the universe, she knows what’s what, she’s older than most people could even conceive…and she has a past that has more than enough grist for the mills. The thing is, I’m not entirely certain just what kind of a storyline to give her for a back story, but the one with Rhyssius, and even the arc for Shourron I, are a little more feasible. They both have plenty to offer to the current storyline, and even more to offer with their own individual pasts.

There is one small spoiler I can give you, though. The First sector of Rovillus, however quaint it might seem, a monarchy over farmland nestled in an otherwise modern and thriving world, is guarding its own secret, and it is a doozie indeed.

More to come!


No ABNA this year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Back on Nook for Christmas!!!!

Ladies and gents, a small announcement.

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

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


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

Kindlers, your link is here: http://www.amazon.com/author/katherinegilraine

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


Musings on the State of Self-Pub Today

So in light of the latest outtake by Simon & Schuster, I started thinking of how self-publication has evolved, and its general current state of affairs.

What I’m seeing is that, as far as being taken as a viable route for an aspiring author to go from aspiring to published, self-publication has grown into a very viable avenue. With participation in various author forums, mostly as an observer, I saw people go from making enough to cover a meal a month from their books to making enough money to cover a few bills. Word of mouth has become a great, if not the best, marketing avenue for new authors, and I cannot tell you just how effective it is.

What I’m also seeing, most crucially, is that self-pubs do very well while working together.

About at this time last year, I was only finding out about Melissa Foster. If you do not know of her now, you should. Apart from being an author in her own right, she hd done a fantastic thing: she had built up a ton of exposure for self-pubs and trad-pub authors alike by putting together a social exchange. Immediately, the exposure factor within the author community is alleviated for the newcomer. There’s a network of people in a similar boat, all of them with their own writing, all of them doing the same thing as the newcomer: publishing, promoting, speaking out, going into details about writing as both an art form and a business.

So now that the network has been around for a while, self-pubs had gotten exposure in the public eye as well as amongst themselves and in the online communities, what’s happening right now?

You’ll find few changes. Except that now that the novelty of self-publishing had worn off, the authors are now exploring their options and doing research in the cost-benefit analysis style. Not necessarily crunching numbers, but weighing options and making decisions on how to publish based strictly on how the medium will pan out for their particular story.

This is the thing. The Big Six saw loud and clear that its client base, both the authors and the readers, recognized that self-publication is a very viable medium, and it is costing the Big Six their profit. So they’ve forayed into the world of “self-publishing” by opening up several vanity presses masquerading as legit self-pub options. The old saying goes, “The devil’s in the details.” Read the terms of service. While it may look hunky-dory to put up a book with Book Country, if you read the fine print, you’ll find that it’s anything but. What Book Country gives you for $99, you can do for free with KDP and CreateSpace.

The novelty of self-publication had been great for initial publicity, but now that it’s worn off, the cold, hard analysis begins. Because of the sheer volume of self-published stories, there is now the issue of what constitutes good reading. This is where things get hairy, because the quality of a read is very subjective. I think we can all agree that no two people will have the same taste in writing: we have seen people praise Twilight, while another segment of the reader community wholeheatedly and vociferously decry it as terrible writing. (I’m in the second segment, but bear with me here). We’re seeing the same thing with Fifty Shades of Grey. Point is, quality in reading and writing is subjective. What one person doesn’t like, another can like a whole lot, and no one truly knows what makes a book sell. A marketing plan may be great, but no one truly knows that formula.

The new thing I’ve been seeing was the call for quality control in self-pub. This begs the first question: in what terms? Layout/spelling/grammar is something that’s not exclusive to self-publication as far as foibles are concerned. We’re all prone to them, and since book publication is a very human effort, more people need to acknowledge that, like most human efforts are apt to be, mistakes are bound to come up. And yet, self-published authors get a larger end of the schtick on this, for the usual tropes of misconceptions. Now, if we’re talking content – that’s a different ball game. See above: it’s subjective. Is the author trying to tell a story, or set a story up for something else? Can you tell what the author is doing within the text of the book? If the answer is yes, then I think it’s fair to say that the book, in and of itself, is passable to the person who is able to do so. To others? Maybe not so much.

Moreover, who will be doing the quality control? That’s the question du jour. Because if we wanted our stories to be screened in the quality control aspect, then that’s what publishing houses are supposed to be for, right? Then why, pray tell, did we self-pubs decide to cut the pub houses out of the equation, if quality control by a third party is necessary?

Just musing here, but let’s be realistic about one little thing. If quality control is the goal here, self-published authors will see it in their reviews. This is why, when we send a copy for a review, we should know and be aware that we won’t please everyone. In fact, sometimes, because we’re self-pubs, we may hit and miss. For sure, I’ve missed with a few. But I’ve hit with a whole bunch more, and I’m quite happy about that. But if those reviews are public, that‘s your quality control. Honest reviews, i.e. “Story is good, grammar needs work” – that’s what quality control is in any medium.

The one great thing about the state of self-pub today, though, is the vast plethora of info available. When Book Country came out, people were actually thinking that it was a good deal, when in fact it was a thinly veiled attempt by Penguin to make money off the authors, as opposed to readership revenue. And now, when Simon & Schuster pulled the same thing, the author community came together to call them out. There is a ton of info. Whatever you do not know, you can now look up. This hasn’t been around seven years ago. Hell, this has barely been around four years ago; most of what we know now about e-books, about self-publication, royalty splits, master copyright as it applies to all of that, we have learned as we go.

Yeah, there’s a lot of changes, but there’s a lot of staying the same too. And most of all, right now we know how to market our books. After all, we don’t have a publishing house doing it for us.


An Open Letter to Simon & Schuster

This is why I’m writing it.


Dear Simon & Schuster,

Whom, precisely, do you think you’re fooling by your so-called self-publishing solution? Do you really think that we have that short a memory, us indie authors, from the time that Penguin had decided to jump on the bandwagon with Book Country?

I didn’t.

And not likely to forget.

So I would like to know, once again, Simon & Schu: whom do you think you’re fooling? Do you really think that we cannot tell the difference between self-publication and a vanity press?  Oh wait. That’s exactly what you’re thinking because you’re making this service available to the public. Here’s a big hint: most authors who are going to self-pub are not going to fork over $1,599 for your services. Why? Because they can achieve the same thing for. free.

No love,

A self-pub who has done her research.



I’m sure you got the gist just based on this short little open letter, but long story short, S&S is presenting a “self-publishing” option to the world, with a package price from $1,599 to (and I’m not kidding) $24,999 (see article linked in first sentence for reference). Okay…what the HELL? I understand that the sundry services with the most expensive one are top-notch, but let’s be realistic for just a minute and ask ourselves: what self-publishing author has that kind of money?!


Let’s revisit a cardinal law of publishing a book. I shouldn’t have to repeat it by this time, but I have to. There is only one single cardinal rule when it comes to having a piece of writing hosted in a readable medium, be it in print, digitally, etc.

It’s a simple little rule. It’s been around for centuries.

What is it?

Money flows TO THE AUTHOR.

This is non-negotiable. You may pay a little for services rendered in the production of your book (i.e. pay an editor, a graphic designer, etc) but when you publish, you should never, ever, EVER pay money up front to publish. The terms of the royalty splits should leave you with getting some cash as well. Under no circumstances are you to pay money to publish up front, especially when it comes to digital edition.

Moreover, what’s the catch about copyright with this option? You’re shelling out all this money to go through Simon & Schu; are they letting you retain distribution rights? Are they claiming distrib rights? For how long? Are they claiming your master copyright? If so, run the other way. Remember this, ladies and gents: your master copyright is your lifeblood. You will thank me later for not selling it for an advance that you’d never earn out or break even on because a publishing house hadn’t delivered its marketing as promised.

In the previous rip-apart of Book Country (linked above), I also mentioned Writer Beware as asserting that there’s no difference between vanity press and self-pub. WRONG. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Self-publishing does not take money up front, unless it is for reimbursement of production costs, i.e. hard-copy proof. If you believe to contrary, then you may have either been reading the misinformed writings of Victoria Strauss, or you just hadn’t done your research.

Seriously. Smashwords, KDP, and PubIt are all free to use. I’ve used them all at one point or the next, and stuck it out with KDP Select, which had turned out to be the best venue, since most of my sales are Kindle. I might un-enroll from Select just so I can go for the Nook market again for a stretch, and see how I do. But really, have I shelled out money for KDP or PubIt? No.  And get this: CreateSpace introduced an online proofing system, which…eliminates the need to order a printed proof. It’s something I still recommend; it’s worth the $8, but it’s no longer a prerequisite. Guess what this means: if you go through CreateSpace, the cost to publish your book through them is zilch. 

Sure, go ahead and tell me how there’s no difference between vanity press and self-pub. Vanity presses charge you up front. What they offer varies, but they all charge you. Self-pub doesn’t, so you automatically turn a profit, however meager. With a vanity press, you have to at least make enough in your sales to break even on the costs of what you paid to use their service. The max cost is about 24K. Let me ask you this, realistically: do you expect your work to make that much money quickly enough so that you can turn a profit? If you’re hesitating, you’re doing so with good reason. A lot of self-pub work doesn’t make much money. I’ve not made much money, even though I tripled my prior year’s revenue from my books. But I shelled out all of $10 to publish my current work, and that was the proof copy rush shipping. And I more than recouped it. I even recouped the cost of the sets of books that I had printed up as giveaways. But again, I shelled out $10. If you, say, shell out $1,599 – first of all, can you afford to invest that much? – and you have absolutely no guarantee that it’ll break even, how do you expect to make a profit?

This is just plain Business 101 here.

And Simon & Schuster, of all the houses, is thinking that hey, we’ll make a mint off the authors if we can no longer make a mint off the readers!

Uh, no. No thank you. And Simon & Schu, I’m quite disappointed. Of all the houses to jump on the bandwagon of vanity presses, I didn’t expect you to be in that number.


Guest Post: Brian Holers

Time to host another guest on the blog! Brian Holers, the author of Doxology, which focuses on bonding, family, and faith, stopped by for a quick chat.

1. What was the key influence in writing your book?
I’ve been away from Louisiana for half my life now, but wanted to write a story set in the
place I still think of as home. My primary goal was to write a book about relationships
between men who live with loss, who search for meaning, and who continue to believe in
a power greater than themselves, in spite of their losses. I wanted to write a story about
regular, unsanitized people whose faiths bring value to their lives, and genuine answers.

2. Your website speaks strongly of your faith. Did your faith figure into the plotlines of your
book, and how if so?
I grew up in rural Louisiana in the 1970s, in a world filled with stories. Everyone I knew was
Christian. As much as I admire those who study and study, I have never been a theological
person; faith for me has always been a feeling. I married into a Jewish family, and we chose
to embrace Judaism and raise our child in that faith; so I, in a sense, am a person in between.

3. What is the most interesting place you traveled, and how did that affect your writing?
Writing is just like any other job. It’s ninety nine percent perspiration, and one percent
inspiration. I started writing Doxology several years ago when my family and I were
traveling for a year. I found that, even if you don’t have a job to go to every day, writing is
still hard. You still have to sit down and do it. No time or place is ever perfect. Probably the
most exotic place I have traveled is Zanzibar. For a month we stayed in a dive shop hotel
there, and every day I would drag in a wooden outdoor table into my room and sit on the
edge of the bed—there was no chair in this place—and write. So traveling has affected my
writing in its logistics. No matter where I go, my mind still goes back to Louisiana.

4. You’ve written a very psychology-involved story. There’s a lot of self-analysis for Vernon
and Jody, considering their situations, and they both have a lot of self-discovery to go
through. Have you done any research in the field of psychology?
I have an undergraduate degree in psychology, which has qualified me to work in a
homeless shelter, a coffee shop and qualified me to further train to become an arborist. But
it does speak to my lifelong search for human motivation.

5. Have you had any personal experience that is similar to that of your characters?
Our experiences in life affect us, certainly, but the story in Doxology is entirely fabricated.
The central theme of boys fighting for entertainment comes from a story an old man in my
youth used to tell me, but other than that, it’s all made up. As hard as it is to create a story, it
frees the writer, in a sense, in that there are no facts to be considered and given their due.

6. What do you hope that the reader takes away from your story?
I hope the reader takes away a renewed sense that the real meaning of religion is to give
context to and add value to human life. We live life on this earth, with all the rules and
shortcomings of earthly life. But in the end, there is something greater.

7. What would you recommend to new authors? 

I recommend that new authors be patient. Writing may well be the hardest thing you will ever do, and if your writing is any good at all, there is a desire at the center of it that will do its best to eat you alive. For many of us. we have to write. It’s something we need to do, But writing will do its best to turn you inside out. It will do its best to make you crazy. It will do its best to make you believe you have never done anything in your life worth the soil you walk on top of every day. You have to put everything you have inside you down on the page, and, for awhile at least, this leaves a person hollowed out. We want to get our work out there, and show the world we’re more than just the lifelond weirdos our friends and families have told us we were. Be patient. Publishing is a bit like writing. It can’t be rushed.

8. What do you think of your publishing process (self/trad, details, impressions)

Like many, I tried to find a traditional publisher. I found an agent, and she struck out trying to get my book published. By the time I decided to publish myself, I felt I had waited long enough, and enough time had passed since I thought the book was through, and enough tinkering had been done, that I simply had to figure out how to do it. The book market, like many businesses, is in a bit of disarray; not only are we competing with more and more and more writers, we are competing with more and more and easier and easier forms of entertainment. And  whether you have a publisher or self-publish, you have to do ALL the work to sell it as a new writer. You create a quality product (your book) with quality packaging (cover, synopsis, media kit) and after that, it’s all a numbers game. You get out it there, far and wide. Thank goodness for the internet.

E-book vs. Print Book

Or, better put, more on the “real book” illusion.

You may have noticed that a lot of self-pub authors are not releasing print versions of their books anymore, but instead are going right to the e-book process. As a result, they are apt to hear, “But it’s not a real book!” for various reasons. I’ve addressed the genre-based prejudice of the “real book” here. But now let’s talk presentation medium.

In 1440 or thereabout, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Prior to this, books have been handwritten, hand-copied, and the more effort put into a copy, the more it cost. As such, they became signifiers of wealth for the longest time, until the printing press enabled mass production of print material, making books more easily accessible. The Industrial Revolution took over and made print reading material available widely.

Until the e-reader was invented, people just could not conceive of a book being presented any other way but printed.

That was in 2007.

Think about that: the e-reader has been around for only five years, and it already changed the way books are presented, and 562 years of precedent is shaken up. Just like that. With a page-sized electronic device.

However, think about this. That’s the e-reader. Not necessarily the e-book. The Internet has, inadvertently, made us all online readers since e-mail became the norm. E-reading is the same thing as what you’re doing now, except it’s on a handheld device.

Think about it. You’re reading this blog right now. I have enough entries in here to publish it as a book in and of itself. If you’ve stayed with it for some years, you’ve effectively read a book online already. If you’ve read a draft of a story online – congratulations, you read an e-book. Just not on an e-reader, but an e-book nonetheless.

No matter how solid a printed book feels – and I will be the last to deny a printed book’s effect; I have paperback versions of every book I’ve published so far – it doesn’t take a print version to call a story real. A story is real by the simple virtue of being written, as I’ve explained in the linked post above. Someone had spent weeks, months, or years of effort into making this story happen. It is completed and released. That alone, in and of itself, makes a story real. What we’re discussing here is a presentation medium, and having the presentation medium be electronic does not – contrary to whoever tells you otherwise – does not take away from the story being real.

That said, let’s discuss the print book as a medium. Apart from the solid feeling of having it in your hands, the “new book smell” – yes, it’s a beautiful flavor…come on, you know it! – it’s also not as likely to sell for an independent. Personal experience: I moved more Kindle copies per month, invariably, than my CreateSpace prints. When I run a promo on any of my books, the other books sell right alongside the free one. For a self-pub who’s new on the scene, this would mean that e-books are a more viable way to market and make revenue. And, considering that uploading is usually at no cost, it’s a guaranteed profit. To release a print book, you may pay for a proof (or not, since CreateSpace introduced an excellent digital proofing option). You would have to wait for the proof to land, read it, send it to the editor again, make the corrections, lather, rinse, repeat until it’s perfect – a standard that is extremely subjective – and then release it. And then there are the shipping costs in sending out review copies. And then the rigmarole of getting a bookstore to carry them.

But the print book has also been around for 562 years. The e-reader and the idea of having a library on a portable device is still about five years old. You know how they say that old habits die hard. The e-book and e-reader are still new, and they’re a splash in a very established and very stalwart market. We’ve seen the decisions that B&N and the Big Six had made in the wake of the growth of self-pub. Things are not going to change swiftly, but they are changing, whether the people like it or not.

Again, let’s not discount the main crux of it all: the story itself. You’re getting a book, whether or not it’s in printed form or in a file on a reader. It is real, any way you cut it. Any distinction of “more real” or “less real” based on presentation medium, genre, author’s background, publisher or lack thereof, exists only in the head of the person making the statement.

There was also an address of quality control in self-publication, with the assertion that self-pub books are poorly edited, poorly formatted, etc. I won’t deny that such books exist. However, they exist across the board. Major publishers sometimes do not format their e-books well, and proof to the fact are my copies of Philippa Gregory novels and Gone with the Wind. Great stories to read, but the formatting on the e-version, honestly, sucks. I own Philippa Gregory paperbacks. Why is there nothing wrong with the layout, but the e-version lacks paragraph breaks in several locations and is more expensive than the printed version? Let’s get real: if we’re going to do quality formatting, then let’s do quality formatting across. the. board. Don’t tar self-published books with a brush unless you are willing to put all books under scrutiny.

Self-publishers sometimes do work alone. Thusly, the editing quality may lack until they gather enough to hire a professional editor. I will be the first one to admit that someone’s first book will not be edited anywhere near as well as the subsequent books (um, guilty, and not ashamed to admit it). Understandable conditions, right? Right.

Let’s be real, people. Writing, editing, formatting, printing, publishing – being an author is a human endeavor. Human errors will happen. We are becoming a reading culture because, with our digital immersion, we’re reading a lot more (screens, but still: reading words is reading words). Human errors will happen. If that is a deal-breaker for you, that is fine, but you may want to step back and evaluate what’s more important to you in picking up a new book. Some of my favorite books (self and trad alike) are not perfect, but the story is so good that I couldn’t care less about the editing/formatting job. Conversely, some books I had were edited and formatted to perfection, but I just couldn’t finish them worth a damn. While I will never deny that editing and formatting are crucial, none of us are so perfect ourselves to have imperfection be a deal-breaker.

The bottom line is this: a book is a book. How you prefer to read it is entirely up to you, but there is no contest with which one is more “real”. They both are. Whether you like it printed or downloaded, you’re still reading a book. That is what should be the first thing to note in the e-book versus hard-copy debate.

K.G., who has both paperbacks and a Kindle.


Sh!t That Writers Hear

You know, sometimes I love HuffPo. They take a topic and sometimes hit the nail on the head.

Like this one.

And you know what, it’s the fastest way to cheese a writer off. I heard most of them. And honestly, I’m surprised that we writers aren’t shooting back with comebacks! I mean, come on. We the creatives can get creative with them too, can we not?

(In case you haven’t guessed yet, this post is mostly fun/sarcasm. And yes, I use some of those comebacks, because people really don’t think before they ask a writer a question…)

Have you been published?

Well of course I have! Else would I offer you this thing called….a book?

What do you write? [pause for answer] Oh.

Well, what do you like? [pause for answer] Oh.

Do you have, like, a real job?

Writing. Why do you think it’s not real?

I don’t read much.

So going online doesn’t count? Because seriously, you do read what’s on the screen, you realize that, right?

Do you know Stephen King? What’s he like?

I’d love to find out!

You should write a book about my life, it’s a bestseller for sure.

Sigmund Freud would agree! You certainly have a healthy ego.

I’m gonna write someday, when I have free time.

Then you never will.

[No sarcasm here. It’s the truth. You either make the time, or you never will]

My sister likes to read. Have you written anything she would know?

Well, she’ll know what I’ve written when she reads it. If, on the other hand, you’re asking me if I can give her something to read, sure!

You write novels? I only read stuff that’s real.

Are those things on my bookshelf zombies?

I read your book. It was… interesting.

It is indeed, the Amazon reviews are favorable.

My mother loves your books.

That’s fantastic! Now what about you?

I’ve got a great story for you!

I’m not a literary agent.

I thought books were dead.

Have you read any lately?

You should write a screenplay! That’s where all the money is.

How nice of you to worry! Now why aren’t you writing one?

Snappy comebacks aside, few things irritate me as much as the idea that 1. books are “dead” and 2. there’s such a thing as a “real book”. If books are dead, then why has that particular medium been alive for several centuries? Come the hell on. Books aren’t “dead”. After all, there’s new authors writing them on a fairly constant basis, and the Hollywood movie factory needs to get its ideas from somewhere.

Far as 2, I’ve written about it at length here. Long post short: there’s no such thing as a “real book”. All books are real by virtue of being written. If you like nonfiction, you say nonfiction. Don’t denigrate a piece of writing just because it’s not something you read. You wouldn’t like it very much if someone devalued something that you’ve poured a lot of effort into, so why do you suppose you can do that to an author? You just don’t do that.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – and again, until it sinks in – that writing is a job. It’s a very difficult, sometimes thankless, and rarely financially lucrative job. If you’re not writing, you’re thinking about what to write. If you’re writing, you’re always thinking about what to write next. If you’re done writing, you always think about marketing and pushing it out to potential readers. It is a nonstop job, it requires a ton of mental resources, and considering the current financial conditions of being an author, it’s not lucrative. We writers do it because it is our calling, but we aren’t so starry-eyed to believe that we’re going to instantly become the next best-seller. That takes a hell of a lot more work than people think. Just because you see the finished product doesn’t mean it doesn’t take years to create it.