Before this rant gets started, let me be clear on what my definitions of the various types of publishing are:
Legacy/Traditional Publishing is where the writer licenses her story's copyright to a third party for an advance, advance plus royalties, or royalties alone. The third party is responsible for costs of producing a book, regardless of the final format(s) of the item, i.e. digital file, bound paper, etc.. The third party then seeks to recoup costs and make a profit by selling the licensed final product to the public or certain sections thereof.
Indie Publishing/Self-publishing is where the writer assumes the costs of producing a book, again regardless of the final format(s) of the item. The writer may do certain production tasks herself, or she may subcontract production tasks. The writer then seeks recoup her costs and make a profit by selling her product to the public or certain sections thereof.
Vanity publishing is where a third party charges a writer for ALL production costs. These charges are often well above the market rate. The third party may or may not produce a book. If the third party does produce a book, they may or may not try to sell that book to the public or certain sections thereof. The third party relies primarily on charging the writer for any profit it makes.
In any gold rush, there are people who have no interest in the hard work of mining, but have no problem finding ways to make money off the miners, i.e. scamming them. The same is true as the publishing industry shifts from a primarily legacy publishing model to a self-publishing model. New companies are popping up everyday to take advantage of the naive writers who are unsure of what to do or the lazy writers who want to be taken care of.
The following rant is for the naive writers. I already know the lazy writers won't listen and will be taken advantage of.
My #1 rule when a new writer asks me for advice: Writing is a business. Treat it like one.
If you've stumbled across my blog accidentally, looking for the secret of the publishing universe, that's it. It means lots of research and hard work. If you're not willing to do either, then you will be taken advantage of. Hell, even my husband suggested I start publishing other writers who were too scared to do the research and learn new techniques; we could make some serious moola off their insecurity.
As much as I found that idea abhorrent, I knew there were others whose scruples were not...how do I put this...as mired in legal ethics classes as mine were. Since that discussion with DH, Penguin Random House bought Author Solutions. If you don't know who AS is, go read David Gaughran's blog.
Part of the reason PRH bought AS was to prop up their own sagging profits. They believed their name would counteract AS's negative reputation. However, in the U.S., the opposite has been true. Also, as writers become more educated in the working of the publishing industry, AS hasn't been bringing in as much money as PRH thought they would.
AS's growth is flat partly because they've become notorious in American writers' circles. If you're a visitor and a writer from outside of the U.S., please spread the word far and wide to your friends and colleagues. AS uses high pressure tactics on writers because this is where a majority of their income comes from. Writers.
Not book sales.
Now, with more and more writers taking a chance with indie publishing, especially the growing e-book market (Don't let news reports of stagnate sales fool you. Most news outlets are owned by the same conglomerates that own the biggest legacy publishers.), a new breed of vanity publishers are popping up. These companies prey on the writers who aren't tech savvy. The ones who write long-hand because they don't understand or are afraid of their computers. The ones who don't know the difference between HTML and WORD.
(If you're one of them, your education starts now. HTML is a programming language that is the basis for most e-books. WORD is document processing software produced by Microsoft Corp. See that wasn't so bad, was it?)
What scares writers the most is formatting an e-book or creating a cover. These are not difficult tasks, but they are time consuming if you haven't done them before.
I strongly suggest that you try doing it yourself first, preferably on a short story or novella. Why? You don't go out and run a marathon when you've been a couch all your life, do you? By learning the basics, you'll know when you're getting ripped off.
If you still don't feel comfortable, ask for referrals. Seriously, the indie publishing community is very supportive. You'll get recommendations for knowledgeable editors, formatters and artists who charge reasonable prices.
By reasonable, I mean even if you subcontract every task, it shouldn't cost you $1000 to publish your book. Nor should any of your contractors EVER have control of your retail accounts!
I'm starting to get e-mails from companies doing exactly. Like DH, they see the money-making potential of growing self-publishing movement. The latest was from a firm called Publish Wholesale. They format a print book, create a cover, purchase an ISBN, send you one proof copy, list your book under their Amazon, B&N, etc., accounts, and a staff member to hold your hand through the process. All for the bargain price of $959.
That's right. You're handing them control of YOUR book and YOUR money for a measly $959.
And that doesn't even include e-book production.
Please understand something. I'm not saying don't get help if you need it.
For example, I'm way behind in my own writing and production schedule thanks to the move from hell. I've already talked to a formatter who will do the e-book and print formatting for the last three books in the Bloodlines series, as well as redo the e-book formatting and format for print the first six books in the series.
That's right. I'm getting nine books done, both e-book and print, for what the bozos at Publish Warehouse will charge you for one.
Think about it for a minute.
I'm getting books formatted, no one's holding my hand, and I control the money. Not my subcontractor. ME!
That's the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing.
So, as the day shift briefing sergeant, Phil Esterhaus, would say before his people left the police station on Hill Street Blues, "Let's be careful out there."
1) Hatchette let short-term profits override it's long-term interests.
Amazon and Hatchette signed their deal on November 13th, two weeks before the American Thanksgiving holiday, which also happens to be the start of the winter holiday retail season. Americans call the Friday after Thanksgiving "Black Friday" because for many retailers, this is the turning point in the profitability of their store for the year.
Amazon has diversified enough that it isn't dependent on selling books in December. Hatchette is dependent on books alone. Without the U.S. largest book retailer, Hatchette Book Group USA would be in a world of hurt at the end of the year. They didn't have a choice but to sign a deal with Amazon at least two weeks before Black Friday in order to get their stock in Amazon warehouses in time.
The real question is will the holiday shopping season make up for the 18% loss in sales Hatchette saw in the last quarter, a loss they blamed on the conflict with Amazon.
2) The multi-year deals between Amazon and the Big 5.
Publishers have been signing writers for eons to contracts for the length of copyright, i.e. life of the author plus 70 years. Such a term makes it next to impossible for the writer to capitalize on their work. Writers are hobbled by the very contract they desired.
With the rapid changes in the publishing industry, Amazon has just done something similar to Hatchette with their four-year deal. Four years ago, I was still submitting to agents. Three and a half years ago, I self-published my first book. Two years ago, I quit my day job. Yes, things have changed that rapidly as far as fiction publishing and distribution go. If changes keep up this pace over the next four years, Hatchette may have crippled itself.
3) Hatchette's Author Mouthpieces Won't Shut Up James Patterson and Doug Preston are still railing against Amazon. The usual suspects are mentioned: literature, culture, children, puppies. But if you read between the lines, not once does either author mention other writers. Their entire concern is for publishers, aka the entities that made them both very rich men. How many writers pull in $90 million a year?
It's those millions per year that the star authors are seeing slip through their fingers. And guess where it's going? Yep, into indie writers' pockets.
That's the real reason the Big 5 and folks like Patterson and Preston hate Amazon. Bezos and his people opened publishing's doors to the unwashed masses. Even worse, those same unvetted, uncensored books are being bought by readers. Lots of readers. To the point that the unwashed masses can pay their electric bills, their mortgages, and their children's college tuition. How much more will the mega-stars like Patterson and Preston lose?
Adding onto Hatchette's PR problems is Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild. She's making noises about how Hatchette should be rewarding loyal authors who stood by the publisher during the dispute. Hatchette has every legal right to adhere to the contracts signed by their loyal followers, but how many of them will stick around if they feel they've been dissed and dismissed by Hatchette?
Hatchette needs to take a good long look at the mess Harlequin has become to see their future.
So, ladies and gentlemen, what are your bets on Hatchette surviving the next four years?
You guys know I don't pimp books that often, but I've discovered a new author I adore. Ava Morgan writes steampunk and fantasy. She has an incredible steampunk series called the Curiosity Chronicles.
The first in the series, The Lady Machinist is a delightful, romantic-fantasy romp. Think Leia and Han in a 19th century setting, except Han's the diplomat and Leia's the genius mechanic. It's action and adventure and biting wit without everyone being hung up on Victorian manners and propriety. (Really, it's a super, major plus because I've read too many books that sound like history textbooks.) Ava does a fabulous job of relaying her story that make you want to jump to the next book, which is...
The Armored Doctor. It's on sale for $0.99, but even better, Ava is participating in The Indie Steampunk Book Extravaganza 2 over at Facebook. There's contests and prizes, and there's more steampunk authors I'm dying to check out!
Don't worry, regular readers! I'll address the Amazon-Hatchette settlement on Monday. Have a wonderful steampunk reading weekend!
Over the weekend, Taylor Swift's label Big Machine Label Group and Spotify couldn't come to terms over their contract negotiations. As a result, Swift's music is no longer available on the popular streaming service.
The backlash has been epic. People have been screaming that their access to music is being censored. The anger is on a scale not seen since the Amazon/Hatchette negotiation dispute started earlier this year. The difference is the scorn is heaped on...
What happened to the greedy distributor meme using the poor artist as a pawn in their plan for world domination? Nearly every news organization in the U.S. (and quite a few in Europe) accused Amazon of trying to rule the world by refusing to sell Hatchette's books.
But here's the funny thing. Amazon HAS NOT taken Hatchette books off their website. They are still selling ALL PUBLISHED Hatchette tomes. In fact, I can buy Lilith Saintcrow's The Damnation Affair through the Evil Empire's One-Click(TM) right now. Or I would if I hadn't already I bought it last week through Barnes & Noble because I had a $5 credit.
Nor has Hatchette pulled their books from Amazon. They continue to ship both paper and e-books to the retailer despite their pretty hostile and very public catfight.
And that's the difference between the Amazon/Hatchette battle and the Big Machine Label Group/Spotify dispute. BMLG had the balls to pull their catalog when the companies couldn't come to an agreement.
Maybe Amazon and Hatchette are more sensitive to public opinion than BMLG since they snipe at each other, but neither has taken the step of totally severing their relationship. Maybe BMLG really is looking out for their artists by refusing a contract that pays $0.006 and $0.0084 for every play.
Probably what is more disturbing is the attitude of Swift's fans. They accuse Swift of greed in removing her music from a "free" service. However, Spotifiy charges $5 or $10 per month for access depending on the package the customer selects. Also, Swift's music is still available via other retailers and streaming services. (Ironically, Amazon is one of them.)
So how does either corporate dispute really harm consumers? It doesn't. The public can buy Hatchette's books and Swift's music through a multitude of alternatives.
Is it censorship? No. The government is not halting distribution of either Hatchette's books or Swift's music. No retailer is required to sell either parties' materials. A case can be made for collusion is all retailers and services joined together and refused to distribute Hatchette's books and Swift's music. But as I pointed out above, such a scenario has not happened.
Unfortunately, there is a sense of entitlement among a certain class of consumers. They believe all art should be free. That artists only do it for the love. That's part of the backlash against Swift. She's the most prominent of BMLG's artists and part owner of the label. So why can't Swift decide what to charge for her work?
That's right. How dare she! She sings for LUURVE!
Do they also expect their waitress to serve them out of love? Their mechanic? Their doctor?
Do these people do their job without any expectation of recompense?
Of course not. Artists have every right to charge for their services as anyone else does for theirs. And maybe that's what bugs the entitled most of all. How dare someone claim they are the same social status as they are!
I love road trips when they're for fun reasons. The adventure of seeing new places. Trying out new restaurants. Marveling how similar and yet how different areas of the United States are.
But over 5,000 miles in less than a month when I'm still sore from getting the house on the market and a bad cold on top of that? Definitely not as fun.
If you're reading this on the day it posts, I should be somewhere between Houston and Memphis. Memphis, being the rough halfway point between Houston and Toledo. As DH comments every time we make the drive, it's the most boring leg of interstate on the trip.
And before any Arkansas and East Texas folks get their panties in a wad, DH is not into logging, camping, fishing or country music. Which, let's face it, is all there is between the mighty Mississippi and the Gulf Coast.
And if y'all feel the need to bitch, I'll include your crystal meth production in my list. At least the rednecks where I grew up produce something a little more beneficial like pot.
Anyway, my convertible has a new heart (engine), new brakes, new tires, and she's purring again. I'm so very glad not to be in a mini-van anymore. Before anyone gets their dander up about THAT, (1) I've been driving either my Saturn or the convertible for the last twenty-three years, and (2) I tend to forget that a mini-van has a higher center of gravity and can't take turns as fast or as sharp as a sports car. So far I haven't had any mishaps. (*knocking on wood*)
So I've got my CDs (my baby's a '98, i.e. before MP3 connections became standard) and my trail mix (Archer Farms Cashew, Cranberry & Almond--best stuff evah!), and I'm on the road. Can't wait to be writing and cooking our new place!
I just need to remember to slow down through the tiny burgs along U.S. 59. I don't need Officer Bailey pulling me over for speeding for the second time in a week.
(*sigh* Yes, I broke my ten year, seven month record for no tickets.)
The last eighteen months haven't been the greatest for me and my family. We had plans. Plans that would be best for each of us to fulfill our personal goals. And the great god Murphy laughed maniacally and did everything he could to fuck those plans up.
As I write this, I'm sitting in a hotel room hundreds of miles from our new home, waiting for my car to be repaired. Yep, Murphy has been so good to me lately. (If you couldn't tell by the dripping sarcasm.)
But all the problems doesn't mean I haven't been writing! However, it does mean that the 2014 production schedule has been officially shredded into more pieces than Iran-Contra documents.
So here's the 2015 plan:
The Bloodlines Series
I'm writing the last four books as we speak. In edition, I've re-proofed the first three books, and I'm half-way through re-proofing #4. I've already talked with someone about contracting her to format the entire series for both e-book and print starting in January. I'm also on the search for a new cover artist so there's a unified theme and style for the covers. The plan is to re-launch the entire series late winter/early spring. I'll post a chapter from the new books once a week over at the Blood Lines blog.
The Justice Series
I've thought long and hard about how I want to launch this series. There's a particular artist I want to hire for Justice Anthea's stories, but he's expensive which means I need to save my pennies. Also, I don't want leave readers hanging between books, so I plan to release the first three books, A Question of Balance, A Modicum of Truth, and A Matter of Death, hopefully around next Halloween.
I'm collaborating with another ex-attorney/fantasy writer, Laura Kirwan. (P.S. I highly recommend her book, Impervious!) This is my first time working with someone, and I'm really enjoying it! It's about a couple of attorneys who handle the legal problems of superheroes. Our projected release date for the first book is May 1st.
All the credit for the series tagline goes to Laura:
Franklin & Winters, Attorneys at Law — You saved the world. Let us handle the cleanup. For a free consultation, call 888-555-HERO.
Seasons of Magick Series
If I have any spare time next year, I plan to do a collected edition of the Seasons of Magick series.
* * *
The money side
As far as sales go, they are down. We're talking the $200/month ballpark collectively across all platforms for all of 2014. I blame it on my lack of publishing. I've found the best marketing is releasing a new book every few months, and needless to say, my last releases under the Suzan Harden name were over Halloween week last year.
Ironically, the reason I'm selling anything at all is thanks to Nora Roberts. The title of the third book in her O'Dwyer trilogy is...Blood Magick. So my book of the same name is showing up on e-book searches, and people have been trying it out.
Alter Ego has been doing slightly better in sales because the last novel of a trilogy was released in May and she participated in a charity anthology over the summer.
I'm hoping all of this will improve once I start releasing books from both of us this winter. Keeping my fingers crossed anyway.