Tag Archives: publishing

Resistance is Futile: A Poem about Writing

“You don’t have to write,” I whispered to me.
“There’s dishes to wash and stuff on TV,
Books to be read, chores to be done,
You could even, perhaps, go out and have fun.”

“You don’t have to write,” I said with a smile.
“Just lay your head down and rest for a while.
The clock keeps on ticking, the day’s getting late,
Too late to be writing, too late to create.”

“You don’t have to write,” I said once again.
“There’s always tomorrow. Why don’t you write then?”
“I’m going to write,” me said with a smile.
“I’ll write every day, if just for a while.”

“The writing of words is ingrained in my blood.
Too long without writing, my soul turns to mud.
I’m going to write. Now get out of my way.”
“But wait!” I shrieked. “Must you start it today?”

“Tomorrow’s a good day for getting things started!
If you start it tomorrow, we’ll both be clear-hearted!”
But me interrupted, “I know you’re afraid.
You’re afraid, for a start, that we’ll never get paid.”

“You’re afraid that our writing will suck really bad.
You’re afraid that our story is complex and sad.
You’re afraid that our hero is secretly lame.
And there’s millions of others exactly the same.”

“You’re afraid that our plot is one clichéd mess.
You’re afraid that the romance is tragic at best.
You’re afraid that they’ll laugh when they read what we wrote.
Afraid that we’ll finish. Afraid that we won’t.”

“You’re afraid of what’s next when the novel’s complete.
You’re afraid to be published. Afraid to compete.
You’re afraid of which publishing pathway to choose.
Afraid that you’re secretly destined to lose.”

“You’re afraid of so much. I hear you. I do.
But I’m going to write. And that much is true.”
“Yes, but not now!” I screamed. “Not just yet!”
“There’s something important you must not forget!”

“Enough!” me yelled. “Now you leave me be.
Your procrastinating is not for me.
Your lame excuses are just a sham.
Resistance is futile. I’m writing. Scram.”

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Filed under Poems, Writing

Should eBooks be Available for Free?

Jar of Coins

This is not a post about self-publishing vs traditional publishing.

This is not a post about eBooks vs Print books.

This is a post about the way we think about pricing books, regardless of how they’re published, or by whom.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve read numerous articles regarding the “best” or “correct” way to price eBooks. I’ve heard stories about the benefits of giving away books for free as a promotional tool, and diatribes about the insanity of devaluing your own work by giving it away. I’ve heard arguments for pricing eBooks at no less than $4.99, and arguments for pricing eBooks at no more than $1.99.

I’ve not gotten involved in the discussion before. I’ve listened to the arguments, formulated my own opinions, and let it go. After all, I don’t have an eReader, don’t read eBooks, and don’t have any books of my own published (yet). So I figured the debate didn’t really concern me.

And maybe it doesn’t.

Or maybe it does.

Maybe it concerns everyone with an eye to the future and a care for the way artists interact with their fans and the rest of the artistic community, from writers to musicians to visual artists. Because when we talk about how we price our books, we’re not just talking about a simple matter of ‘Price = Cost + Profit’. We’re talking about wider issues.

We’re talking about the changing face of publishing.

We’re talking about the way the internet informs our choices, as both writers and readers.

We’re talking about the new and varied ways we communicate and connect with each other.

We’re talking about the way being an Author has changed and is changing.

No matter whether you’re self-published, traditionally published, or hoping to be published, I can guarantee you are well aware that being a writer is not just about being a writer anymore. It’s not enough to write a book. You’ve also got to market that book. You’ve got to build a platform and create an online presence and use social media and so on and so on.

As writers, we no longer connect with readers through book tours. We can’t sit in our fortresses of solitude, trusting in our publishers to get our books into bookstores, and trusting in the bookstores to put our books into the hands of readers. Now, we’re directly and intimately involved in the process. We connect with readers online, using blogs and Facebook and Twitter and whatever other social media sites you frequent. We forge personal connections with our readers, sometimes  long before they even are our readers.

But what does building personal relationships have to do with the price of eBooks?

Nothing. And everything.

Let me explain.

One of my heroes in the creative world is Amanda Palmer. If you don’t know her, she’s a singer/songwriter who first came to fame as half of the Dresden Dolls punk cabaret duo. She’s now a solo artist, touring and recording with the Grand Theft Orchestra band, and made headlines last year with her Kickstarter project.

She asked for $100,000 to fund her new album.

She got $1.2 million.

Amanda Palmer is a big believer in music being free. She supports downloading, torrents, file sharing, and good old fashioned copying of CDs to give to your friends. If you visit her website, it’s possible to download all of her music free of charge. All she asks is that if you like it, you come back and pay what you think it’s worth and what you can afford.

I’d love you to take a few minutes and listen to Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, ‘The Art of Asking’ where she says, “Don’t make people pay for music. Let them.”

One of my favourite quotes from Amanda Palmer’s TED talk is this one, in relation to her Kickstarter project:

The media asked, “Amanda, the music business is tanking, and you encourage piracy! How did you make all these people pay for music?”

And the real answer is: I didn’t make them. I asked them. And through the very act of asking people, I’d connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you.

You see where I’m going with this?

As writers, we connect with readers online, using blogs and Facebook and Twitter and whatever other social media sites you frequent. We forge personal connections with our readers, sometimes  long before they even are our readers.

We connect with our fans in exactly the way Amanda Palmer is talking about. We do it already. We blog and tweet and connect on a personal level. But we don’t take advantage of that.

We don’t ask for help.

We just tell them that if they want our book, they’ll pay the ticket price.

Imagine what would happen if we did things differently? Imagine what would happen if we offered our eBooks for free, and asked our fans to pay what they think the book is worth.

I’m not just talking about self-publishers here. As I said to start with, this is not a post about self-publishing vs traditional publishing. This is a question for everyone.

I know the current publishing model doesn’t support giving away books for free. I know the current model is all about making people pay, not asking people to pay. But we’re in the middle of major changes in the way that publishing works. And if we, as writers, don’t have the right to have some say in the future of publishing, who does?

I’d like to leave you with another quote from that TED talk.

For most of human history, musicians — artists — they’ve been part of the community. Connectors and openers, not untouchable stars. Celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance. But the internet, and the content that we’re freely able to share on it, are taking us back. It’s about a few people loving you up close, and about those people being enough.

Do you think eBooks should be available for free?

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Filed under Opinion, Writing

Goals & Desires — The “Why” of Being Published

Photo by Ben Gallagher

I’ve wanted to be a published author since I was four years old.

Despite the twists and turns my life has taken, that dream has never changed, and certainly never died. I’ve never questioned the desire. But a couple of weeks ago, I read something that posed a question I’d rarely, if ever consciously considered.

Why?

Not “What do I want?” but “Why do I want it?”

That question made me stop. And think.

Two weeks on, I’m still thinking.

On the 9th of January, the always inspiring Vaughn Roycroft wrote a  heartfelt blog post examining his motives for pursuing publication for his fantasy trilogy. His journey of self-discovery touched me deeply, and encouraged me to question my own thoughts, feelings, fears, and motivations.

Vaughn is a writer I admire deeply. I got to know him first through the Writer Unboxed Facebook Group, and then through his blog. He has the ability to express his thoughts and emotions in such a way that it’s almost impossible to avoid being drawn into his story, what ever that story may be. (And this is just one of the many reasons I’m eagerly awaiting the day when I can buy and read his novels.)

Over the last two weeks, I’ve thought about his post a lot. It’s rarely been far from my mind. And that’s why I want to share both Vaughn’s beautiful words of wisdom, and my own response to it. Please click through to Vaughn’s blog and read Goals & Desires — Not What But Why. I’m certain it will touch you as much as it touched me.

My comment in response to the question of why I’m seeking publication is as follows:

“I reveled in the glory, the friendship and the honor I found in the pages of historical fantasies. I felt renewed by the sacrifices for love, and experienced cathartic sorrow and release in the losses. In a real world that seemed unmistakably darker, I found light in fiction. I was healed, in no small way, by reading.”

This section of your wonderful post moved me to tears. I know what you mean. I’ve been there, more times than I care to count. When life is too dark and too heavy, fiction brings the light of hope and wonder into my heart and lets me see the darkness for what it truly is — a shadow that will pass in its own good time.

I read to feel. To feel warmth and love and pain and despair and passion and humour. To immerse myself in worlds where integrity and honour define success. To experience good triumphing over the darkest of evils. And I cherish those feelings, those experiences, and hold them close to my heart as armour against the emotional slings and arrows of the world.

I write to share my heart’s story. My pain and triumph, my love and fear, my uncertainty and my faith that the bad guys can never truly win as long as a single person is willing to stand against them. I write because in doing so, my heart is strengthened and my resolve renewed. And I share what I write in the hope that I can do for others what so many authors have done for me and set their minds and hearts free.

Have you stopped to think about WHY you’re pursuing your dream?

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Authors Behaving Badly: The Seedy Underbelly of Reviewing

Up until a few months ago, I didn’t realise there was a seedy underbelly to publishing. But all of a sudden, I can’t seem to look anywhere without turning up odd or unpleasant behaviour from authors, publishers, or other members of the writing community. It’s actually got to the point that my husband asks me of an evening, “So, what’s the controversy today?”

“So, what is the controversy today?” I hear you ask.

First, let me run through some of the more recent incidents, just in case you missed them.

The ‘Stop the GoodReads Bullies’ Bullies

Wherein a group of authors sick of being “bullied” by reviewers on GoodReads (who had the nerve to give less than 5 star ratings) start their own website and reveal the real identities and contact information of those reviewers in a clear effort to encourage abusive retribution.

The LendInk Debacle

Wherein a group of vigilante authors use Twitter and DMCA notices to shut down a perfectly legitimate business venture because they think it’s an illegal book piracy site.

The Weird Tales Racist Book-Promo Backflip

Wherein a respected fiction magazine actively promotes a racist self-published novel, then changes their mind and claims they were ignorant of the racist themes when the internet explodes against them.

Now that we’re all caught up, let’s move on to today’s little gem shall we?

I turned on my computer this morning to find the internet abuzz with details of book reviews for sale. If you don’t want to click through and read the story, here’s the gist:

Entrepreneur Todd Rutherford used to work for a marketing department where he would write press releases and contact review sites to organise book reviews. One day he realised it was a lot of hard work, and there were more books than reviewers. So he created GettingBookReviews.com, a site where authors could pay $99 for him to review their book — positive review guaranteed!

For the value-savvy author, there were package deals: $499 would get you 20 different, positive online reviews. A mere $999 would guarantee you 50 individually hand-crafted 5-star reviews posted on the web.

Mr Rutherford was soon raking in $28,000 per month.

Per. Month.

A bit of simple maths will tell you that $28K works out to somewhere between  28 and 280 books every month. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to read 280 books a month. I don’t even have time to read 28 books a month. Especially not if I have to read 28 books then write 1400 individually hand-crafted reviews. So Rutherford outsourced. One of the freelance reviewers quoted in the article admits that she never actually read the books she was reviewing. She just googled them online, skimmed through a couple of pages, then wrote 5-star reviews. (She does say that she wishes she’d been able to read some of the books though, so it’s okay.)

When I read this story, I have to admit that I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t even surprised that authors were buying good reviews on blogs, GoodReads, Amazon, etc. (In fact, the only thing that really surprised me was how lucrative fake-reviewing could be!) But just because I wasn’t surprised doesn’t mean I was happy about it.

It got me thinking about a few things, though.

  1. Just about everyone I’ve come into contact with today has roundly condemned the practice of buying positive reviews. And yet Rutherford’s site took orders for 4500 reviews. How is it that those authors aren’t jumping up and down and  defending the practice? Or is it one of those things that’s only ethically wrong when people find out about it?
  2. Authors and publishers routinely send free copies (ARCs) of books to book bloggers and reviewers. That’s standard practice. So why exactly is GettingBookReviews.com so controversial? Is it (a) Because it involves the exchange of cold hard cash? (b) Because the service guarantees positive (and often gushing) reviews? Or (c) Because the reviewers don’t necessarily read the books?
  3. If the answer to the previous question is (b) or (c), that opens up a whole lot of other questions/concerns. For example, where do we stand on self-published authors reviewing each other’s books as a sort of quid pro quo marketing strategy? If one Indie Author provides a positive review of a friend’s book in exchange for the friend doing the same for hers (with or without reading the novel herself), how is that ethically different to Rutherford’s  services?
  4. Following on from that, what about smaller quid pro quo exchanges such as Facebook likes? Or Twitter follows? No, they’re not directly linked to book sales (although neither are reviews), but we all know that we’re more inclined to hit the LIKE or FOLLOW button if several thousand people have done so before us than if we’re the first one.

As a writer, I’m not comfortable with the idea of paying people to write reviews of my books. However, I can’t categorically say I’ll never feel differently. I can imagine sitting at my computer, proudly looking at my book on Amazon.com while my eyes flick back and forth between the “Buy this book” button and the “Be the first to review this book” link. After refreshing the page several hundred times in the first hour, I may be more than happy to pay someone to write that first review. For my own sanity, if nothing else.

As a writer, I’m not comfortable with the idea of requesting someone write a positive review. I am comfortable asking my friends and family not to write a review panning my book. Seriously, folks, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

As a writer, I’m not comfortable with the idea of someone writing a review of my book if they haven’t read it. I’m not writing so people can pat me on the back, I’m writing because I have stories I want people to read. And writing a review without reading the words I’ve laboured over devalues my work.

(If you’re interested in other points of view, both Chuck Wendig and Alan Baxter have both blogged about this issue today and their opinions are always worth a read.)

EDIT: Joel Friedlander also has a great post on this topic, explaining how paying for reviews cheapens the review process for both authors and readers.

As a reader… Well, as a reader I instinctively distrust any review that has nothing negative to say about a book. I’m more likely to be influenced by a well-crafted 3 or 4 star review, detailing what the reviewer liked and didn’t like about the story, characters, writing, etc than I am by a gushingly enthusiastic 5 star review. So perhaps this controversy, such as it is, doesn’t affect me overmuch at all.

Writers: Have you ever paid for a review? Would you ever consider doing so?  

Readers: Does this change the way you think about the reviews you read online?

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Filed under Opinion, Writing

BWF: Book Futures, Contracts and Serialised Novels

Session: Australian Writer’s Marketplace Industry Masterclass – Part 3: The Future of the Book

Panelists: Simon Groth, if:book

Did you know there’s an international organisation called if:book ? It stands for Institute for the Future of the Book. Yeah, me neither.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that the Institute started in New York, then spread to London and finally Australia. Based on what I learned during this session, the purpose of if:book is to keep in touch with people in the publishing community, and communicate ideas about the future of the book.

If it helps, that didn’t really clear anything up for me either.

Simon was interesting, in a geeky let’s-talk-about-ebooks-but-nobody-get-scared kind of way, but I have absolutely zero notes about his session.

Actually, that’s not true. I have one word written down: zeitgeist. Because I was impressed that he managed to use it in the middle of a sentence without skipping a beat.

Rating: 2/5

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Session: Australian Writer’s Marketplace Industry Masterclass – Part 4: Negotiating Contracts

Panelists: Alex Adsett, Publishing Consultant

I really didn’t expect to enjoy a session on publishing contracts. It’s kind of like going to the fair and lining up to get your taxes done. But Alex Adsett managed to be both informative and interesting, and I came away with four full pages of notes. Some of the main points were:

  • A publishing contract can be anywhere from 3 to 30 pages long, depending on the publisher and the type of book.
  • While most clauses are pretty much copper-plate from contract to contract, there are a few to watch out for. Reversion of rights is one of the biggies, so look out for both what’s said and what’s not said.
  • Don’t sign anything without having it looked over, and if you don’t understand, ask questions!

The biggest thing I got out of this session is the solid decision that if I am traditionally published, I really want an agent to double-check the 30 page legal document, thankyouverymuch.

Rating: 4/5

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Session: Australian Writer’s Marketplace Industry Masterclass – Part 5: Connecting with Readers

Panelists: Max Barry (author), Anna Lensky (Publicity Manager)

This final part of the AWM Industry Masterclass was all about interesting and unusual ways that authors can connect with readers, from utilising publicity managers to book trailers to more outside-the-box thinking. While all of that was interesting, none of it was really new to me. What I enjoyed about this session was Max Barry’s story of how Machine Man came to be written.

A few years ago, Max was working on a novel and chronicling his progress on his blog. Not in any great detail (no plot/characters/story/etc), but enough to let people know that he was working on one. Finally, the day came when he finished it and he wrote a blog post about how it was his “best novel yet” and everyone was going to love it.

Then his agent hated it. And so did his editor. Nobody was interested in buying it, and he was back to square one.

Plus, he had to go back to his blog audience and announce that his “best novel yet” actually wasn’t. Can you even imagine the embarrassment factor there? So he made a decision not to blog about his writing in the future.

Instead, Max blogged about his dog, and growing a moustache, and other day-to-day stuff. And one day he got an email from a frustrated fan. The email essentially said:

What the hell are you doing? Stop blogging about pointless stuff, and get back to writing awesome novels! If you don’t come up with something soon, I’m going to be forced to read Twilight.

Max’s first reaction was to think about how most people don’t realise the time involved in writing a book and getting it published. But then he started to think about how he could remedy the situation. So he decided to create a serialised novel via his blog.

The idea was simple. Each weekday, a new page of the story (approx 400 words) would be sent to subscribers via email or text message. They would then be able to comment on the writing as it was going, make suggestions, ask questions, etc etc.

And that’s how Machine Man was written. It was a serialised novel written 400 words at a time, and distributed via the internet. What an amazing world we live in.

Things I learned from this story:

  • Be careful what you share on your blog. It could come back to bite you later.
  • Emailing and heckling your favourite authors could lead to great innovations in storytelling and result in their next book being dedicated to you.

Rating: 4/5

(Read more about my BWF adventures here.)

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BWF: Global Publishing Trends

Session: Australian Writer’s Marketplace Industry Masterclass – Part 2: Global Publishing Trends

Panelists: Melanie Ostell (Australian Publisher) and Christine Jordis (Senior Editor, Gallimard France)

This session seemed to drag a bit, and I’m not really sure what it was supposed to be about. Rather, I believe it was supposed to be about how global trends in publishing affects Australian publishing and authors in general. But really, it was two ladies talking about how to write a book that will sell.

Both Melanie and Christine were very interesting. They each had some good advice. But the session didn’t really touch on anything to do with global publishing trends.

Nonetheless, Christine Jordis had a very interesting perspective on what publishers are looking for, and how to provide it. (This is as close to a word-for-word quote as I could get with a notebook and pen, so my apologies if anyone reading was at the session and doesn’t think I got it exactly right.)

Publishers are looking for something different. We are looking for novelty; for something unique.

You need something new to offer. But often, the only thing that’s different is your voice. You are different to other writers. Always include yourself.

The best novelty in a book is you: the unique person you are. Don’t hesitate to be yourself.

But be yourself after ten drafts.

What great sentiments, don’t you think?

Overall, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy this session, but I also didn’t get a lot out of it. I would have loved to get a better idea of global trends and so forth, and was disappointed not to learn anything along those lines.

Rating: 3/5

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