Feeling Grateful

I often point over to Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch in this here blog.  Naturally, I do that because they’re both very experienced writers, very smart with business, and they make a hell of a lot of sense.  Plus, they both seem like great people, and their thoughts are fun to read.

Well, I’m going to do it again.  Kris, today, had yet another great post about the transition the publishing industry is going through, and in particular how it’s affecting writers’ state of mind.

Now that I’m done with this quarter’s Writers of the Future submission, I intend to get back to novel number two: the science fiction thriller I started a few weeks ago that continues the tale from Passing in the Night.  I had been toying with sending it out on the guery-go-round, to borrow a phrase from Robin Sullivan.  No, I wasn’t going to send it to agents: straight to publishers, thank you very much.

But geez, every time I read one of Kris’ articles about the current state of the publishing world, I just cringe.  Today’s post, with its several paragraphs detailing the litany of chicanery being perpetrated out there, left me thinking, “Yeah.  Never mind.  I’ll just indie-pub this one, too.”  Because I don’t need to deal with all that crap.  It’s not worth the headache.  And frankly, I’d probably get in big trouble if I found myself having to deal with it, because someone from the publishing house would get hurt.  Badly.  Daddy don’t play that, son.

But I’ll probably go on the query-go-round with it, regardless.  It’ll be fun, in a sick and twisted way.  Plus, it makes sense to try both sides of the publishing coin.  I can always work hard to negotiate myself out of the truly horrid clauses they’re putting into contracts these days.  So that initial reaction was short-lived.

Then, reading the rest of her post, I had two other thoughts.

The first came from my mean Navy-trained mind, when I read her description of the various states of despair some of her friends are in.  The thought went something like, “Geez, would you people stop whining?  Suck it up, grow a backbone, and get to it.  Grow a pair, will you?”  I suppressed that thought rather quickly, because it was mean.  But I don’t necessarily think it was completely invalid.  What Kris said at the tail end of her post was more or less what I was thinking there, just in a much nicer way.  The future isn’t all bleak and dreary.  You can improve your situation if you try.  You can do it, so get started!  Oh, and have fun!  Good words of advice.

The next thought was that I am really grateful I’m starting this writing gig now, vice five or ten years ago.  Because now, I don’t have to deal with all that soul-crushing crap that Kris is talking about here.  Not if I don’t want to. 

Man, I love the freedom that innovation and entrepeneurship brings.  Of course, that’s a bit of circular logic, because without freedom (I’m talking economic freedom here), innovation and entrepeneurship is impossible.  But my purpose here isn’t to go off on a diatribe about why everyone should be a libertarian like me, so I’ll just stop here.  🙂

I’m also grateful that there are folks out there like Kris and Dean, and David Farland, Bob Mayer, Joe Konrath, Robin Sullivan, Mike Stackpole, the guys at Writing Excuses, and, hell, numerous others.  Folks who take time from their busy schedules to pay it forward to the little people like me who are just starting out.

I don’t want to think about what my thought process about this business would be if I hadn’t come across these folks. 

So that’s me feeling grateful.  Right.  Back to it, then.

Deadline – Met!

Right.  Well, today’s 30 June, the last day of the quarter for Writers of the Future.  Submissions have to be in by midnight tonight.

A week ago, I was starting to sweat the deadline, because I’d barely started a story for this quarter.  Last weekend, I was sweating it because I only had 3 or 4 thousand words down, and there was a lot of story to go.  Tuesday, I was sweating worse, and last night I realized I was in danger of not making it.  So I cranked, but by about 11:30, I was beat and couldn’t continue.  But I wasn’t finished yet!  So I set my alarm for 4:30 (normally it’s set for 5:30 or 6:00…and of course the kids always wake us up shortly after 6:00 regardless).  It was painful when that alarm went off, and I didn’t really get going to about 5:00. 

But, around 6:15 or so, I typed the last word on Delphinus, a harrowing tale of seven people who survive the destruction of their star cruiser (ruining the main character’s honeymoon), crash land on an alien world, and then have to figure out how to survive until the rescue comes.  If it ever does. 

Final count: 9,300 words.  I thought it would be about 7,000.  Goes to show what I know, right?

This evening I’ll get feedback from the better half and proofread it, then send it on in!  We’ll see what happens with this one.  Hopefully an honorable mention at least, but wouldn’t it be cool to win?

A Book on Contracts

I love The Passive Voice.  Well, maybe love is too strong a term.  But Passive Guy does a great job linking to and commenting on the latest goings on in the writing world.  And with his background as an attorney, he’s proven to be great at seeing around a lot of the corners out there.

Lately, he’s spent a lot of time analyzing book contracts and pointing out all the little “gotchas” he sees.  Well now, he’s decided to write a book on the subject.  Obviously, it won’t be out for a while, since he’s just announced he’s doing it, and is asking for suggestions on what questions he can answer with it.  But still, that’s going to be a keeper.

I’m looking forward to reading it.

Ranking or Cash Flow?

As is obvious from my last several posts, I’ve been spending a lot more time on the Kindleboards lately.  Considering that Masters is primed and just about ready for release late next month, it seemed appropriate to link up with other indie-types more.  Plus, it’s just fun to talk with people who share your interests, right?

One thing I’ve noticed on there, though, is that folks have a really big focus on Amazon rankings.  As though ranking is everything.  Now granted, your rank corresponds with how many sales you’re making, and how fast.  So it is indicative of how well you’re doing.  But there seems to be a lot of focus on doing whatever is necessary to raise the Amazon rank, and not so much on other business concerns.

A big one being cash flow.  Getting a high (low?) Amazon rank is all well and good, but from a business perspective you really shouldn’t care.  What should you care about?  Cash flow.  And in some cases, seeking the better rank can actually screw you in that regards.  I’m speaking, of course, of those who hop on the $.99 novel price bandwagon.

I’ve seen several people on the boards who are understandably happy to have sold 1,000 or 2,000 copies of their books in a month.  That’s a great thing to have happen, and of course I’m happy for them.  But then I notice that some of them have their books priced exclusively at $.99 (ostensibly because new authors CAN’T price higher if they want to be discovered…which I don’t really buy).  When I see that, I’m a lot less happy for them, because they’ve earned $350 to $700 for the month.  And that’s it.  If they’d priced their books more reasonably, they could be making $2,000 to $4,000 or more.  That’s a lot of money to leave on the table.

John Locke left even more on the table, as Robin Sullivan and others have pointed out, by exclusively pricing at $.99.  But then, he already made a bunch of money in his previous businesses, and he decided on that price point deliberately, as a rational business strategy.

Others decide on it, I’m convinced, based on fear or insecurity.

Well, to heck with that.  I’m in this as a business, baby.  And a business makes cash flow one of its primary concerns.  I did a little cash flow analysis a few months back, showing how one can make good money with relatively low sales if one just keeps putting out product.  Writing and publishing guru Dean Wesley Smith has, for the last couple days, been posting quite a bit about how silly he thinks $.99 is for a novel.  Today, he added another cash flow analysis to the mix, that pretty much says it all.

As usual, I’m in agreement with Dean here.  Full novels shouldn’t be priced at $.99, except MAYBE for very brief periods as a promotional sale.

That’s all I have to say on that.

Cutting Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face

It seems that’s what some independent bookstores are doing.

I went by Joe Konrath’s blog today, and read his post about J K Rowling self-publishing Harry Potter in ebook format.  In that post, he also discussed other developments in the publishing industry, and linked to this post, where an independent bookstore owner lays out his rationale for not working with authors who are signing with the new Amazon imprints.  This isn’t the first time this has come up; Joe talked a couple weeks back about how he and Barry Crouch were being boycotted by independent bookstores for the same reason, and how silly that was.

As a business guy, I’m flabbergasted by this bookstore owner’s attitude.  I mean: really dude?  Really??

This guy’s not thinking clearly. 

Ok, I get it.  Amazon sells books cheap, and that’s cut into bookstores’ business.  Well sorry, pal, but that’s the evolution of business.  But I can understand him, and his colleagues, being a bit bitter toward them as a competing retailer.

But to refuse to sell a book…that people would buy…just because Amazon is the publisher makes no sense at all.  Think about it.  What if this dude said, “I’m not going to buy any books from St. Martin’s Press because Amazon also sells them”?  It would be exactly the same thing as what he’s doing here.  He’s refusing to make money for himself off a book because his competitor could also make money off of it.  And that, my friends, is lunacy.

He makes a bunch of lame excuses to try to make it seem like he’s thought the thing through: 

  • He doesn’t know what terms Amazon would sell these books under, so he’s not going to buy the books.  In other words, he doesn’t want to do his job as a businessman and investigate potential business opportunities.  Yeah, no points for that one. 
  • He’d have to give Amazon his business and bank account information, and he doesn’t trust them with that data.  Erm, yeah.  Right.  Whatever.  Millions of other individuals and businesses have traded that same information with them, and the sky doesn’t seem to have fallen yet.  Fail.
  • Amazon is a big corporation.  Yeah…so?  Again, not a rational argument.

In the end, his thinking seems to come down to an assertion that Amazon is evil (presumably because businesses that are big and sell cheaply are evil by definition, yet another idiotic meme that seems unwilling to die, no matter how often it is shown to be utterly false).  And therefore he must hurt himself in a completely meaningless show of…I don’t even know what to call it…that will only serve to limit his own revenue and eventually turn his customers into Amazon’s, when they’re unable to find the products they want at his store.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense.  Well done, good business owner.  Well done.

Cover – Done!

Well, the cover journey is now complete.  Last night, I told Jeroen that we’re good to go and paypal’d (Not sure that’s a word; oh well, I made it up) him his money.  So now we’re all set on the cover.  Sweet.  I did ask him to make one more minor change: he brightened the fallen road sign in the foreground a bit, to make it easier to see.  Depending on the screen I’ve looked at it on, it was almost invisible.

So that’s it: the official cover.  🙂

Now I just have to finish squaring away the MS.  I lined up an editor last week.  After looking at the options, and considering what others have said on Kindleboards and the like, I went with Hazard Editing.  Their fees are reasonable, and they’ve worked with some writers who I know are good.  Plus, they seem good to work with from the initial 5 page editing sample.  But then, I may just be saying that because they said I seem to “know my chops” based on those pages.  😛  Guess we’ll see.

Anyway, that’s all that’s new on the Masters front. 

In other news, I’ve got about 4,000 words down on my story for Writers of the Future.  I think this one’s going to be shorter than the last one.  Which is probably a good thing.  It’s been pretty fun to write, but it’s funny how a story will evolve.  When I got started on it, I had no idea what to even write about.  Then, at about fifteen hundred words in, I knew exactly where I wanted to go with it.  Now, it seems to be going the exact opposite of what I thought back at that point.  And this way will work out better, I think.  Ah, discovery writing.  Gotta love it.

Right.  I’d best get back to doing work stuff.  Later.

Masters Cover – Round 3

Ok, I got a lot of good feedback from people on the last two drafts Jeroen sent me of the cover for Masters.    And so I’ll ask you guys for feedback on the third draft.  I think this is the best one, and frankly I’m pretty much sold on it.  I think it captures the post-apocalyptic setting better, with the city burning in the distance and the fallen road-sign in the foreground.  I also dig the different color scheme.

What do you guys in internet-land think?

UPDATE: A kind person pointed out that it’s hard to judge without seeing the earlier versions for comparison.  Now granted, one can just scroll down to the previous posts, or go to my Facebook page, to see them.  But how about we make this easy?  Here’s versions 1 & 2: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d say version 3 is a big improvement. You?

Sales Anxiety, and Why It’s Silly

I “strolled” by the kindle boards again today.  Once again, a thread caught my attention.

The original poster was somewhat distraught that his books weren’t selling.  A completely understandable sentiment.  I fully expect to be in a similar boat next month, when I release Masters.  I’ve managed to not worry about sales of the two short stories I put up on the ebook stores a couple months ago, but I put them up mostly as a learning experiment.  Masters will be different.  It’s a book I spent just over four months writing.  I think it’s good, and the feedback I’ve gotten has been, for the most part, positive.  But still, I’m a nobody.  It’s unrealistic to expect it’ll sell much at all for a while.  If ever.

But I’m ok with that.  I think.  There’s no rush, after all.  I’m developing a six year plan for this writing gig (assuming I dig it enough to stick with it that long…and I think I will).  Why six years?  Because that’s when I can retire from the Navy.  So I guess I’m in a different boat than many other wannabe writers out there.

But not that different.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.  Yes, some amazingly lucky folks out there will have their books catch on very quickly, but most will not.  Many will never sell many copies of any particular title in any particular month.  But that’s not necessary to earn some good money.  Dean Wesley Smith posted about this, and I did too, a couple months back.  If you look at either of our cash flow analyses, you can see that with enough titles, over time, you can earn some good money with just a few sales from each title.

So my first inclination when I read this kindle boards post was to think, “Dude.  Relax.  Just write more stories and put them up.  It’ll come.”  Some folks in the replies said essentially the same thing.  Others gave all sorts of other advice.  Some good, some maybe so-so.  But then I had another thought.  “Dude, maybe your stories just suck, and that’s why they’re not selling.”  Not a nice thought, but it’s a distinct possibility.  What’s the cure for that?  For those stories, nothing.  The cure is my first thought, really.  Write some more and put it out there for sale.  You know, Heinlein’s rules.

So, going forward, I’m going to do my best to not dwell on sales.  I’m going to try to focus on finishing the next project and either mailing it to an editor or putting it up for sale myself.  No reason not to take both indie and traditional publishing routes, after all.

That’s enough pontificating for one night.  I’m off to try to write that story for Writers of the Future.  I’ve had no luck getting going on it the last couple nights.  But then, I’ve allowed myself to get distracted.  Not tonight though.  Tonight, I’m focused and raring to go.  🙂

Time Crunch

So I went ahead and gave myself a deadline for the follow-on to Passing in the Night, and a word count target: end of August, and 80,000 words.  That works out to a bit less than 1,000 words a day.  Totally doable, if I’m disciplined.  Of course, the heist story is still lingering out there, as is the “Eyes on Fire”-inspired story.  And of course, there’s still that dragon-hunting story I had in mind too.  Ah, the things that go through my brain.

But all that has been supplanted today by a dreadful realization.  It’s June 14th.  Yup, that’s right: just 16 days until the Writers of the Future deadline for this quarter.  And I’ve got nothing to submit.  So now everything’s going on the back burner for a week or so.

Nothing like waiting til the last minute, right?  Fun, fun…