Tag Archives: trade publishing

Once More, GenCon

I wrote last year about the GenCon Writer’s Symposium — the enjoyment of reconnecting with a couple folks, the exasperation over the comments and panels on self-publishing. It looks as if the latter problem will be solved by reducing any direct mention of self-publishing to two single-presenter hours.

Here’s the schedule.

One presentation is called, “Self or Traditional: Pros and Cons of Each.” The other is, “Self-Publishing: Why It Works, Why It” (I’m assuming the cut-off word on the schedule is “Doesn’t).

Yes, in the year that SFWA — derided as so out-of-touch — at last opened its membership to income-earning self-published writers, the Writer’s Symposium believes the most pressing questions writers have about self-publishing is whether it’s good or bad.

There are no “Business of Self-Publishing” panels. Nothing on what tasks are involved in producing print and ebooks. Nothing on connecting with editing, art, and design professionals. Nothing at all on avoiding the numerous businesses out there intending to fleece writers. Yes, there are a couple general panels that could be of use to self-publishers. However, last year’s seemingly cross-applicable panels — such as the panel on seeking professional reviews — included direct “don’t bother if you’re self-published” references, so… yeah. Not hopeful about that.

My experience last year wasn’t unique. Deborah Jay talks here about the Loncon panel on indie-publishing that didn’t include a single person currently self-publishing.

I'm sure the reasons are out there somewhere...
I’m sure the reasons are out there somewhere…

I’ll still be going to GenCon for at least one full day. There are folks I want to meet — Cat Rambo! Lauren Roy! In person! — and people I want to see again. A few of the craft panels look interesting. And my son might give the cosplay competition a try again this year. But as someone who knows so many writers seeking information on self-publishing, I’m disappointed at the lost opportunity to include them.

So… Here’s the thing. If you’re planning to attend GenCon and want to talk about self-publishing rather than debate its worth, let me know. I’m no huge smashing figure of great renown, but I can share resources, talk about scams and pitfalls, and discuss the business side of things.

I don’t care if it’s one person or a group of people. We’ll have a roundtable discussion, an exchange of information and experience, and it will be a good thing.

#SFWApro

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Of Overused Catchphrases, Heartening Opportunities, and the Unintentional Slush Reduction Program

Sudden Moxie Press LogoVia a Twitter link, I came upon Infodump, Mary Sue, and Other Words That Authors Are Sick of Hearing. I’m a little bit in love with it, truly. Don’t even attempt the comments unless you want to watch a rehash of the years-long debate of what Mary Sue actually means, and what every single commenter means when they use it. Trust me: if you weren’t sick of hearing Mary Sue before reading the comments, you will be after. It’s rather interesting, though, that of all the terms in the article, it’s the Mary Sue that got most folks all a-chatter.

A brief Twitter conversation came up between some writers, including the comment that new writers are told not to use the omniscient viewpoint because editors don’t want to see it. I do wonder how many lovely books have been lost over the years because of that.

If you haven’t already, head over to Maggie’s journal for The Uncomfortable Trail-Blazer. (There you’ll also find a link to the interview she did with Publishers Weekly, which is, y’know, pretty darn cool.) Pay close attention to the section on the publishing reality of 100 good books for only 45 publishing slots: “At the end of the day, there were 1000 books worth publishing, and 45 got through the door. And there was nothing the remaining 955 authors could have done to better their chances. “Write a better book” is false advice, because many better books still failed. “Write a more marketable book” is better advice, but it requires you to understand the market, be willing to write to it, and get it to someone before the trends change… and the book still might fail”

That cannot be said enough, and writers deserve to know it, understand it, and plan their careers accordingly.

Lastly, Publishers Weekly presented The Rise of the Seven-Figure Advance. Ostensibly, the article is about a seeming increase in mega-advances being given out, particularly to writers who have no BookScan records. But it’s really quite a peek into how the industry is evolving, and it’s the first time I’ve seen mention of certain predictions come to pass. As reasons for high advances, anonymous insiders say the “pool of talent is shrinking” because there are now fewer submissions, and publishers are having to prove themselves because of the success being found in self-publishing.

Really, truly, go read the whole thing because that little article just quietly confirmed publishers and agents are now caught up with the backlog of slush enough to realize the number of manuscripts that aren’t there anymore.

#SFWAPro

Does Convention Visibility Matter?

In the past few weeks, I’ve seen many successful writers make mention of the issue of visibility – the connecting of interested reader with published story.  These writers were not happy with their current visibility, and all commented about how difficult it was to know what would and wouldn’t work to increase success.  And these writers are trade-published, having the same conversation self-published writers have every day.

Gen Con’s Writer Symposium was quite educational in that regard.

A panel on how to get reviews was very specific in how writers were to approach reviewers, with all emphasis on demonstrating proper etiquette and expecting nothing in return.  The writer should submit a request.  The writer shouldn’t expect a response.  One panelist stated publishers didn’t do the reviewer-approaching for most writers anymore and the other panelists nodded agreement.  The consensus was that all but the most-publicized writers should expect to actively seek and collect their own reviews.  Whether the trade-published author was expected to send the reviewer an ARC and/or eARC at their own cost wasn’t clear to me.

As the panelists went into greater detail on the methods of gaining reviews and properly reacting to reviews, I was thinking to myself it was great information.  I’d love to approach other reviewers and–fingers crossed!–achieve a little positive visibility.  Here was the roadmap, right?

Nope.

Continue reading Does Convention Visibility Matter?

Update to “Interesting Timing”

Back on May 21, I mentioned that Bowker was recommending the vanity press Author Solutions as a great place for self-publishers to find needed services.  And now–Hooray!–the endorsement of Author Solutions has been removed.

However–Boo!–the first choice on the list is now Vook.  This is a company that charges $6 per page for copyediting.  This is a company that calls ebook retailing “complicated,” thus justifying the percentage of royalties they will take.  Oh, and the payments from ebook retailers go to Vook first, and Vook will pay its customers (the writers).  Is Vook more acceptable because it doesn’t have as many complaints against it as Author Solutions?  I’m not sure.  It looks as if I’d have to “sign up” to get more information.

Never trust a company that requires you to “sign up” to learn about what you will be paying for.

If Bowker understood self-publishing, their links would be instead to the various self-publishing platforms and information centers rather than companies that charge huge fees for work that can be performed by professionals at reasonable rates

(As an aside, Vook works in partnership with Publishers Weekly on a program that has self-published writers paying a fee for a line listing in PW publications that go to folks working in the publishing industry.  Truly, if one wants to spend money marketing, it would likely be best to target readers.)

This stuff drives me crazy.

Judith Tarr on Escaping Stockholm

Novelist and equine expert Judith Tarr has had quite enough of seeing writers pushed and manipulated by publishers.  The first segment of her series “Escaping Stockholm” is here.  At the end of that post is a link to Part Two, and Part Three should be available May 30.

I never broke into trade publishing with a novel (just a couple short stories), but first met and befriended published novelists over twenty years ago.  I’ve watched and listened to their experiences.  Some years ago, I decided I didn’t want to work under the constraints and conceits of traditional publishing because what such work would require wasn’t the sort of thing I wanted in my life.*  What Tarr is discussing–the treatment of authors on all levels of what should be a professional relationship–highlight many of the reasons I chose to self-publish.

And if you haven’t read Tarr’s work, you are missing some really cool stuff.  You can check out her offerings through Book View Café and Amazon.

 

*I consider it unreasonable to give an editor one, two, or more years of exclusivity to make a decision about my work.  I get that traditional publishing has many reasons for wanting both exclusivity and open-ended time to decide.  That doesn’t mean I find those reasons acceptable.  Some writers will call me arrogant for refusing a single person exclusive rights to hold what I’ve created–without given either a decision or compensation–for as long as that single person wishes.  Most non-writers would call me crazy for agreeing to such a thing.

 

 

Interesting Timing

Today I followed a link provided by David Gaughran to a website run by Bowker (the exclusive provider of ISBN numbers in the U.S.).  The site purports to be informational for folks looking to self-publish.  The trouble is, their recommended service includes Author Solutions.  ETA: It used to be listed as the first option, but has oddly enough been moved down the list.

If you’re not sure why that’s a bad thing, check out the Writer Beware blog for years’ worth of background.

The rest of the site is also filled with misinformation that does, indeed, make self-publishing sound so immense, costly and daunting, it’s small wonder inexperienced writers, or writers who haven’t researched much, would see it as a relief to have companies like Bowker and Author Solutions on their side.

What’s interesting is that this news–this seeming support of self-publishing from Bowker–comes on the heels of big (yet oddly quiet) news from the distribution sector of the publishing world.  Book distribution company Baker & Taylor changed its policies, permitting self-published titles to appear alongside of, and be sold at the same terms as, titles published by the “Big Publishers.”

So why did this happen now?

I think it’s tempting to assume it’s because self-publishers and small presses are seeing greater possibilities for success than ever before.  But I’ve a cynical bent, you see.

I believe these two major shifts happened because, as is outlined here, the large publishers who work with Bowker and Baker & Taylor now have their own “self-publishing” divisions which are–what a coincidence!–mostly supported by Author Solutions.  While the main source of income for Author Solutions has been authors purchasing services rather than readers purchasing books, I’ve no doubt “Big Publishers” wanted a better chance of making money off bookselling as well.

That doesn’t mean small press and self-publishers can’t take advantage of the opportunities.

Warning All Writers Should Heed

David Gaughran outlines the on-going influence and growing reach of the Penguin-owned vanity publisher Author Solutions.

Follow the links he has provided.  You’ll find an extensive background on Author Solutions, as well as the current lawsuit against them.

Write down the names of publishers that have chosen to support Author Solutions by funneling their own imprints to them.

Write down the names of those publishers’ imprints.

Consider those lists when deciding which publishers you’ll submit your work to.  Expect to read your contract very, very closely, and have an IP attorney review it as well.  As Gaughran stated, “And it’s much harder to tell the scammers from the legitimate organizations when they are owned by the same people.”

After seeing the number of major publishers and writing-related businesses that have chosen to bind themselves to Author Solutions, this writer is far far far more concerned about steering new writers away from such exploitation than I am that Amazon will somehow subjugate over a 150,000 writers.  Alas, most of the business seems to be otherwise occupied.