The Business Rusch: The Old Stone Path

The Business Rusch: The Old Stone Path

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Once upon a time in a land not so far away, publishing made sense. Okay, it didn’t exactly make sense, but there was a set way to do things. For writers, it was pretty easy. We wrote something, and mailed it to an editor who decided whether or not to buy that something. If the editor did buy it, then we negotiated a contract, sat back, collected our advance and occasionally our royalties, and wrote a new something. With luck that new something would sell, and we would start the process all over again.

That first something would wend its way through the publishing system—copy edits, edits, cover conferences, sales force meetings, advance reading copies, early reviews, orders, print runs, and then publication. Sometimes the writer had to dust herself off and give a few interviews or go on a book tour to goose sales. After a few weeks or a few months (depending on what era we’re discussing), that something became inventory to the publisher and little else. The push ended and, like the writer, the publisher moved on to other things.

If both publisher and writer were lucky, then that something continued to sell without a push. Otherwise, that something became less and less desirable and eventually went out of print, forgotten except by the occasional reader who trolled used bookstores or libraries or read old copies of old dusty magazines.

There were things that could revive the something—a Hollywood sale, a “rediscovery” by someone important, a new trend (zombies are cool now: let’s reissue that zombie book)—but for the most part, forgotten was forgotten, the new was the most important thing, and the churn of somethings (product) continued unabated, the next hot thing replacing last month’s hot thing with rather predictable regularity.

Sometimes I miss those days.

I do, even though they weren’t very kind to me. Like most midlist writers, I had years where I struggled to remain afloat. And like most professional writers with careers that lasted longer than a decade, I had years where I made more money than I ever want to admit to anyone except my accountant. Professional writers or, if you will, full-time freelance writers (maybe the better term is career writers who have stayed in the business longer than ten years), learn how to manage money, learn how to survive the feast-and-famine aspect of the business, learn how to take advantage of every single opportunity before it vanishes. Always moving forward, filled with regret that this favorite book didn’t do well, filled with puzzlement that this awful book written under duress did fantastic, and filled with hope about the next opportunity, the next thing that might—might—jumpstart the career.

Every writer has a dozen jumpstarts in them—and it doesn’t matter what level the jumpstart might be. I remember a rather plaintive remark in an Entertainment Weekly column by Stephen King a few years back. He was defending J.K. Rowling against cries of trash, which were hitting her because her work was so very popular. As a credential, he wrote that he knew how all of criticism worked because he was once as big as J.K. Rowling was—back in the 1980s.

The implication was that King had fallen from a high perch, at least in his own mind. It might not have been a more preferable perch, but it was farther up the food chain. And any writer who thinks they’ve fallen has a career that needs changing, needs a jumpstart.

We all knew how to pursue that jumpstart. Sometimes it was a new publishing company with a good marketing campaign, taking already-excellent books and finally letting the public know about them. Sometimes it was a new genre or a “big book,” something a little different. In the 1990s, my mystery publisher wanted me to do a “big book” to jumpstart my Smokey Dalton mystery series. Of course, the publisher wanted to approve the new book long before I wrote it and turned down every “big” idea that I had. Stupid me, I didn’t jump to a new publisher at that point because I didn’t see the bigger picture: the old publisher was out of ideas on how to market me, and wanted a fresh start.

I can see that now, with the benefit of hindsight and years of publishing experience. Back then, I just had a glimmer—and an sf career and a burgeoning romance career, so I probably didn’t care as much as I should have.

But what the publisher was doing was clear, because the path was old and set in stone and everyone knew where it lead. It was like a endurance event: we all knew the roads, we all knew the end goal, but we couldn’t always make it with the support staff that we had.

Now, the paradigm has shifted so dramatically that none of us know where the hell we’re going or even if we’re on a road.

This week has brought that home to me in several ways.  On Tuesday night, the excellent mystery writer Lawrence Block was on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. In that appearance, Block pitched his latest traditionally published novel, but he also pitched his self-published book of short stories. And—those of you who still insist on thinking that self-publishing is e-pub only—he had given Ferguson a trade paper copy of the self-published book to promote with the traditionally published book.

If Block hadn’t mentioned which one was self-published, no one would have been able to tell.

He made some references to a few other things that probably missed The Late Late Show audience, but didn’t get past me, mostly because I’m reading Block’s blog (and his marvelous book Afterthoughts, which are afterwards for his novels [fascinating stuff]).  Block mentioned that he couldn’t retire, that he had published six books this year alone. What he didn’t say is that the self-publishing revolution got him going again, and got him quite excited about the work.

When Ferguson offered him fifty dollars to answer a trivia question, Ferguson said jokingly that Block could publish a pamphlet with the money. Block’s wry answer? “Easily.” Because he knows how very inexpensive it is to do e-publishing these days.

A lot of shows feature writers, Ferguson’s more than most. But this is the first time in forty years of paying attention to writers on TV that I have ever seen an established writer promote his self-published book—and be taken seriously.

The times they are a’changing, folks. If you had told me this two years ago, I would have laughed merrily and accused you of imagining the program as a bit of wish-fulfillment.

Another interesting shift took place recently came in the area of awards. Right now, most of the prestigious fiction awards in most genres (I’m saying most because I’m not familiar with all the genres) only consider traditionally published work eligible for the major award.  In the past, that was a good way to keep the award committees, juries, and organization members from getting overwhelmed with amateur material

Now, however, major writers like Lawrence Block are self-publishing their work. The Mystery Writers of America won’t consider any work that is self-published, no matter if a previous Edgar Award winner and Grand Master published that work himself.  I’m sure that policy will get revisited in the future, particularly as more and more name authors self- or indie-publish.  But for now, that policy stands, not just for the Mystery Writers, but for most other major award-giving venues.

The first change in that old-school way of doing things came from the International Thriller Writers.  They modified the rules of the Thriller Awards with this statement: “The Awards Committee recently announced that Active-status members ONLY may submit independently published PRINT work to the appropriate category of Thriller competition (Best Hard Cover, Best Paperback Original, Best Short Story). Please note that this does NOT include 2011 novels published solely in electronic format. At present time, there is no ‘Best E-Book’ Thriller Award category.” [Emphasis theirs]

But it sounds like there might be in the future.

What is an Active-status member of International Thriller Writers? Their website says that “Active membership is available to thriller authors published by a commercial publishing house.” The International Thriller Writers has a list of approved commercial publishing houses and a form you can fill out to get your publisher approved.

Yeah, it ain’t perfect.  New writers eventually have to have a commercial publication in order to qualify for active membership. When I quickly scanned the qualifications, I didn’t see anything about short story publication as a way into the active part of the membership (unlike, say, Science Fiction Writers of America), but I’m not sure if I just missed it.

Suffice to say, this is a beginning: a way of recognizing that writers like Lawrence Block who are self-publishing their own material haven’t suddenly lost their ability to write and compete for the best-of awards in the biz just because they decided to take publishing matters into their own hands.

Expect other organizations to follow, maybe not quickly, but eventually.

Not all of the shifts this week have been pleasant. Last week, I discussed the “free” phenomenon in relation to a writer whose work got mistakenly priced for free on Amazon’s website. That day—literally—Amazon announced its lending library for Amazon Prime members and started a storm of controversy.

A little background: Amazon decided to add a book lending feature to its prime program (in which customers can spend $79 per year for free shipping, streaming videos, and other perks).  Amazon asked most (many? I don’t know) publishers to participate, and most (many?) said no.

Still, when the lending library announcement was made—telling readers they could download certain titles for free as part of their perks of membership—many of the available titles were from those very same publishers who had said no in the first place.

A large hue and cry was heard upon the land, and Amazon shrugged, saying that it planned to pay the publishers their set price per download, so why were their undies in a bundle? (Okay, the language was probably more formal than that.) But that didn’t stop the storm, nor should it.

Because Amazon treated the big publishers like other suppliers, assuming the publishers have full control of the content they’re providing. The publishers do not. And in most publisher/author contracts, there is no clause for digital lending, which means that there’s no real honest accurate way to distribute any money made to the author herself.

Secondly, Amazon acts like it has a distribution agreement with the publishers when it might have a licensing agreement instead. I haven’t seen the agreement that Amazon has with most publishers, so I’m not certain what the actual language is. But that distinction is an important one, and one that must be settled in court—and probably will.

A writer who sent the link to the Publishers Weekly article I cite above put in her header: Amazon thinks it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission, which pretty much describes American business across the board these days.

Because what made me chuckle darkly as this entire mess unfolded was this: Amazon is treating the big publishers the way that big publishers treat their writers.  Amazon is making decisions for the traditional publishers and basically saying, Take it or don’t work with us. In fact, Publishers Weekly reports that Amazon did even offer the traditional publishers who have an agency pricing structure on their e-books the opportunity to participate in this program. (If you don’t know what agency is, see last week’s blog.)

Publishers are suddenly being treated like the powerless ones in the relationship, and they hate it as much as writers have over the years. In fact, Amazon is going direct with authors more and more.  Why? Conspiracy theorists believe Amazon is dividing and conquering, preferring the little guys to the big guys so that Amazon won’t have to negotiate as much. I’m sure that has some truth. But Amazon is also set up as a retailer used to dealing with thousands of accounts. Right now, the contractual issues between publishers and Amazon, writers and publishers, distributors and publishers are so baroque that I’ll wager that it’s easier for Amazon to deal with writers directly.

After all, I might choose to have my traditional publisher put my book into a lending library and my writer-husband who is with the same publisher might not choose to go with the library. And what do we do if the publisher makes yet a third choice? It’s quite crazy, and quite difficult.

We’re only on the tip of the difficulty iceberg here. Right now, the only group who seems to be worried about the publisher/author contracts here are the agents. They’re right to be worried. The Association of Authors’ Representatives issued a statement about the Amazon library last Friday.  The statement reads in part:

“The agent and author community have not been consulted about this new sort of use of authors’ copyrighted material, and are unaware of how publishers plan to compensate authors for this sort of use of their books, which is unprecedented. But we think free lending of authors’ work as an incentive to purchase a devise and/or participation in a program is not covered nor was anticipated in most contracts between authors and publishers—nor do most contracts have any stipulation for how an author would be compensated for such a use….”

If you’re truly curious about what this might mean for you, then look at agent Simon Lipskar’s blog on this very point on AARdvark, the digital publication for the Association of Authors’ Representatives.  (Realize, then, that this is an agent writing for other agents.) He goes into great detail about the potential contract problems in the future to set up this sort of publishing model, and then he adds this intriguing sentence:

“All of which is meant as a recommendation to agents to make extremely clear to the publishers you do business with that they not decide for themselves how to step into this brave new world of subscription models without solving all of this [contractual/payment issues] before they receive their first dollar.” [emphasis mine]

In other words, folks, yet again, we are in such new territory that no one—not Amazon, not the publishers, not the agents, and certainly not the authors—knows how to operate. From legal agreements to payments, we have no idea how to proceed or even how to define what we’re doing.

The days when there was an easy and direct action for every mistake made, a proper way to deal with something a bit unusual, a legal recourse for a problem like the one James Crawford had last week or the one Big Publishers find themselves in this week, are long gone. We are in a strange place without roads or maps or even a clear idea of where we’re going.

So yes, there are days when I miss those old stone roads. Not because life was better on them or even (in retrospect) easier. Those roads were familiar. If you stopped along the road and glanced at everyone else on that road with you, you knew their status, their chances for success and failure, their entire histories—sometimes just from where they were.

Now it’s impossible to tell anything. Are the best-of-the-year awards truly the best? Or are they ignoring work from top-notch writers because those writers have stepped off the old stone roads? Are those books you’re downloading from Amazon truly free or the result of some “mistake” that Amazon makes? And where are the bookstores? I miss my bookstores.

With me, however, the  nostalgia only takes hold for a few  minutes, and then I remember how awful the old ways could be for writers. In addition to the good news, I had to deal with a really awful proof from a traditional publisher (yeah, right: they can do better than an indie publisher. Not), and an annoying piece of e-mail from one of those problem editors I mentioned in a previous blog. And I won’t even mention the math I did when I received last month’s batch of royalty statements.

Or, actually, I will. Just not in this post. I’m saving that for a future post.

The Brave New World of Publishing, as odd and uncomfortable as it is, is a much better place for writers—should they choose to walk the new path.

What became clear this week is that things are changing for everyone, not just for writers. Even traditional publishers are finding themselves in uncomfortable (somewhat terrifying) territory, no longer in control and uncertain how to proceed.

As screenwriter William Goldman says, “Nobody knows anything,” a statement that is becoming more and more accurate as the years go on. When I keep that in mind, I can go blithely along the path I’ve chosen, whether I occasionally venture onto that old stone road or trailblaze through prairie grass so high that I can’t see the next few feet in front of me. If I remember that nobody knows anything, then I am—oddly—content.

One of the new paths that I’m taking on the road is to ask my readers to directly fund my nonfiction writing. I make my living as a fiction writer, and if you poke around this website, you’ll find a lot of free fiction. But if you want me to write more nonfiction, then please click on the donate button below. Look at it like a tip: if I provide something you like, leave a few bucks in the jar.

Thanks to everyone for the comments, the e-mails, and the donations. I truly appreciate it.

“The Business Rusch: The Old Stone Path” copyright 2011 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

 

 

 

 

 

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45 Comments

  1. Kris,
    I have been reading all of your posts and Dean’s, but overwhelming time constraints of things-in-life-that-are-not-writing have prevented me from commenting.

    One thing that stuck with me in this post is what you mentioned about awards. I do hope, as more and more writers self-publish, that self-published works will be seriously considered. SFWA is starting to dip its toes in the water, with serious articles on self-publishing in the Bulletin. Let’s hope they think the water’s fine and dive in.

    I also wanted to mention that I appreciated last week’s post. It was an eye-opener and caused me to seriously consider offering stories for free at appropriate times for promotional reasons, something I have always had an aversion to. (You know – the writer must get paid.)

    Overall, thanks for the continuing posts.

    Reply
    • Thanks, John. Yeah, the free stuff does create a different mindset–it all does, really. :-) As for the organizations, it’s tough to figure out how to recognize good work. I think ITW’s way is the best I’ve seen so far.

      Reply
  2. Hi Kris,
    Great post as usual.
    As for the issue of eligibility into ITW — published short stories by one of their approved publishers is enough to qualify for active membership. All I have published traditionally so far is short stories and they let me in :)

    David DeLee
    Fatal Destiny – a Grace deHaviland novel

    Reply
    • David, thanks for the clarification. I hoped that’s what they did. Since they do accept short stories in pro markets, then the best thing to do is to publish short fiction traditionally, and use that as a jumping off point for joining as an active member. Then you can still indie publish your novels–and your short stories down the road. Btw, your story in The Rich & The Dead was kickass.

      Reply
  3. Hi, Kris. Another fascinating post (as usual). I’m so glad you’re carrying the lantern as we make our way off the stone path.

    I’m one of the authors who is gratified by the forward-thinking ITW decision. I’ve submitted a self-published novel (my first full length one, btw) for paperback original. Apparently, they’ve had so many submissions they’re way behind in their processing. Compare that to MWA whose major ebook announcement this year is that they will now consider e-published work, but ONLY if it is published by a “verifiable” e-publisher.

    Huh? Isn’t that just more of the same?

    And so it goes.

    Reply
    • Libby, I was pretty annoyed at MWA’s committee after I saw the announcement, considering that one of the people sitting on the committee is a self-pubbing guru. The way to be valid in the MWA system is to publish more than four authors over a certain number of years. That also meant that Pulphouse back in the day wasn’t eligible for the Edgar, even though we were an award-winning, very prestigious press. Sometimes rules are just plain silly and sometimes they’re confusing. The only thing we can be sure of right now is that they’ll change as the industry changes. Thanks for the post.

      Reply
  4. Thanks, Kris. Another great post and a perspective I would have never considered otherwise.

    Getting into the industry at the dawn of the Big Change means I have no pre-conceived notions on how things should be or what I should be doing. I seem to be going day by day and week by week, making adjustments on the fly and at times, probably doing things the wrong way. But thankfully, I don’t know enough to know that I’m wrong! And even if I’m wrong, I’m still having fun and making money selling books.

    Tom

    Reply
    • Tom, I’m not sure there is a “wrong” any more. I think that’s probably a good thing. I love having the readers determine what’s best. Thanks for the post.

      Reply
  5. I watched Lawrence Block on Craig Ferguson, too. I expected him to promote his Jill Emerson book. It’s got the kind of cover and title that would go over well with late late night TV. I was really surprised — pleasantly surprised — to see him promoting his self-published short story collection The Night and The Music.

    What’s been even more fun is reading his blogs and Twitter posts and realizing he’s having a blast publishing his own work and going through the same steps all of us indie publishers have taken. I really love this Brave New World of publishing. :)

    Reply
    • So many of us old-timers really love the freedom. I think Block in particular is having a blast. It’s a joy to read his blog these days. Thanks for the comment, Annie. :-)

      Reply
  6. Yeah. It’s scary.

    When I quit my job and decided to start doing this for reals, my path was very clear. Write, submit, write, submit.

    Now… it’s tougher. All the popcorn kittens are dancing in my head and I don’t know what to write for who or when. The world is wide open and I’m spoiled for choices.

    Which I can recognize is good (after all, I’m less than 3 years down this road and already pulling in money regularly, which I never expected when I started). But it feels scary.

    Though I guess, in the end, the primary method still holds. Write. Write more. Keep writing. That’s pretty much my anchor right now in this storm of choices. Just write.

    Reply
    • Annie B, that’s one of the good changes. Do you know how hard it would be to earn money three years in using the old system? Almost impossible. But in the new one when you’re a good writer, quite possible. Congrats on that. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  7. I definitely have moments when I wish the entire e-book revolution hadn’t occurred – at least I knew the path. I appreciate the options available now, even if things are so in flux that some of them (legacy publishing) barely seem like options, they’re so afraid to make a move on anything. Interesting times.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment, Mark. Yeah, I look at some of the things I recommended 2 years ago and think that’s soooo 20th century. :-)

      Reply
  8. I know it’s a good change. But… the damn kittens. What to write? What to write?

    (Thanks for these blog posts, btw. They are calming.)

    Reply
    • Calming. That’s not a word folks usually associate with me, Annie. LOL. Thanks.

      Reply
  9. Nice article. have you considered the conflict of interest between Amazon the
    Publisher and Amazon the Distributor? Look at the Kindle fiasco when the
    publishers’ refused to continue losing money based on Amazon’s pricing model; so
    they just stopped selling the books from those publishers, not just the Kindle
    versions. Plus, if you publish through Amazon there is no way to verify the
    numbers they give you, you just have to accept on faith that they are giving you
    honest numbers on sales (Are their numbers as honest as the movie industry?
    Remember the fiasco when K-Mart bought a book/magazine distributor and then
    completely ignored the contract with the magazines as “non-binding” because
    K-Mart didn’t sign the contracts–that ended up with K-Mart losing the lawsuit,
    but that didn’t help companies like my former magazine company, PCIC, that lost
    $50,000 in newsstand sales that were never paid to us).

    Reply
    • Yeah, Terry. Any time you deal with a big company like Amazon, you’re going to run into troubles. The thing is that it’s a publically traded corporation that’s being audited and watched by dozens of industries. (As opposed to just one.) That doesn’t mean they won’t cheat. It just means the legal penalties are pretty severe, and might not be worth the hassle. As for Amazon the Publisher and Amazon the Distributor, that’s an old old old publishing model. B&N has its own publishing company too, usually doing remainders. But that coexistence has been around more than 100 years (Publisher/Distributor). Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I personally am in a wait-and-see mode on almost everything, including the changes at Amazon. I sometimes feel that if I blog about something today, it’ll be different tomorrow.

      Reply
  10. Kris, thanks for the kind words. One thing to bear in mind re MWA is that their judges have to read all the nominated works; if you open nominations to self-pubbed books without some sort of ITW-style qualification, you’d never find anyone willing to serve as a judge in the Best Novel or Best First Novel category. (I gather it’s difficult enough already.) I don’t know that being shut out of award contention is that high a price to pay.

    And now back to work. No matter who publishes it, I’m chagrined to find that the damn stuff won’t write itself.

    Reply
    • True enough, Lawrence. A lot of judged awards are going to have this issue. It’ll be fascinating to figure out how to deal with the problems of too much stuff, changing publication dates, different formats, etc. I’m glad I’m not on the committees. :-) I agree that being shut out of award contention is a small price to pay for all of the wonderful benefits we writers are getting from this new world of publishing. And you’re welcome about the words. I very much enjoy your work and am happy to see your comment on the blog.

      Reply
  11. >If I remember that nobody knows anything, then I am—oddly—content.

    So true, Kris. I made a decision this week re the self-pub branch of my own career – to stop checking the numbers.

    Whether they were good or bad, the monitoring of them was messing with my head, and I rediscovered an old rule of mine re writing as a vocation and a career:- Focus on a) what you love and b) what you can control.

    In the current climate, you do have to add c) what you can learn. But I wasn’t learning enough from the numbers to compensate for the head messing.

    Now feeling – oddly – content, too!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Lillian. Yep, Checking the numbers messes with my head too. Always has though. Never have been one to use math–payments or sales–to keep score. I’d rather be writing. :-)

      Reply
  12. There has been an enormous shift of power and most writers, perhaps, don’t realize it yet. I quit submitting decades ago because the process felt inhumane. Kept writing, of course, but the fiction submission process was humiliating and disheartening and I couldn’t stand it.

    But now the truth at the heart of the matter has become clear. Without us, the writers, there is nothing else. I know that sounds rude, but it is the simple truth. Without us, all the rest would not exist.

    That truth used to be crushed in the process because centralized power over distribution channels made it hard to see. But it’s not hard to see any more.

    Of course there are other tasks to be done than writing: editing, formatting, art design, publicity. But every writer now gets to decide for herself who does that work, and what she’s willing to pay for it. Publishers can be useful, but as you say, Kris, they don’t control the channel any more, and we’re all free to swim where we will.

    I find it completely liberating. For the first time in decades, I can do exactly what I want without asking or waiting (for years) for anyone else’s decision.

    And while success is not sure and never has been, at least I have some hope of success based on my own efforts and not outside structures. I love that.

    Reply
    • Like you, Jnfr, I’m not easily caged. So I’m loving this new world. :-) I do find it liberating, if a bit daunting at times.

      Reply
  13. Very interesting. I suspect Lawrence Block will avoid all these problems with his new self-published book. He will probably also be well positioned to easily deal with any other innovations that develop.

    Reply
  14. Writing — at least writing well — has never been easy. But now it seems that writing just keeps getting more and more complicated. What we lose in the security of a big house doing everything for us, we gain in more choices and freedom. “But,” the whiny voice inside me protests, “I don’t wanna be a business man. I just wanna write!”
    Alas, I’ve never been very good at letting others run my life, so I guess I should just suck it up and get on with learning the business.
    Thanks so much for your wonderful posts.

    Reply
    • Good points, Gary. The problem with not wanting to be a business person and being a writer is that it doesn’t matter–now or 30 years ago–the successful writers have always been business people. Everyone else got chewed up by the system. So that pure writer thing has always been myth. The fact that it is a myth is just more out in the open now.

      Reply
  15. The Amazon lending library is an interesting thing. I see all kinds of people (publishers, trad-pubbed authors, indies) yelling about it, and I get that it comes with some issues to solve, but I’d give my eyeteeth to include the first book of my series in there. On a zero royalties basis.

    But KDP authors aren’t eligible. Even bestselling ones (not me – I’d be one of the solidly midlist kind). There is irony in there somewhere…

    Reply
  16. Great blog post. As both a writer and reader, I’m very excited about the new world of publishing because there are many more experimental books available and an environment in which writers can create them and sell them.

    I hope that eventually more book award contests will open to self-published authors. Not only would that be a boon to writers, it would also allow readers to find more excellent self-published books.

    Reply
  17. Hi Kris,
    That is exactly what I’ve done.
    I see the short story as a key component for today’s indie and e-publishing world. A means to grow a writer’s name and brand that didn’t exist much a short time ago.
    My strategy has been to write and submit short stories to traditional (print) markets (few that there are — especially for mystery/crime). IMO it’s a great way to validate your brand name with readers, gain exposure and for me to get my foot in the door with the traditional publishers (something that I still think hold value). If I sell a short story traditionally, then when the rights revert back I can still publish the short story independently. Thus the story does double duty for me.
    While at the same time, I’m also writing stories straight to e-pub that promote my existing (and soon to be existing) series characters and my brand identity. Providing an inexpensive way for potential readers to test out me as a writer and my series character without investing to much in time or money. If they like what they read, they’ll come back.
    Thanks for your kind comment about my THE RICH AND THE DEAD story. I’m glad you liked it. That means a lot to me.
    David DeLee
    Fatal Destiny – a Grace deHaviland novel

    Reply
    • Exactly, David D. I see the short stories in exactly the same way. You can get paid for advertising to new readers you’d never encounter otherwise, and you can get professional credentials (and have fun) and, and, and…. Like you, I see no downside. (And I’ll be putting the R&D story in an upcoming recommended reading list–probably in December.)

      Reply
  18. I find it completely liberating. For the first time in decades, I can do exactly what I want without asking or waiting (for years) for anyone else’s decision. And while success is not sure and never has been, at least I have some hope of success based on my own efforts and not outside structures. I love that.

    I find it liberating, too. I heard so many disheartening stories about people being turned down by agents, that I never submitted. I still wrote, here and there, hoping that one day a different system would come along…not that I ever envisioned the whole self pub phenomenon…but I’m liking all the control. I consider myself a personal control freak, so it’s very, very much to my liking. :-)

    Reply
    • I’m glad you’re enjoying this, Nancy. Me too, and so are many others, as this comment section shows. It’s really a fun new world.

      Reply
  19. For some reason in reading this post by you, Kris, I was reminded of a 1939 British government poster that has become popular again–“Keep Calm and Carry On.”

    Though there’s also a pun by Churchill back in ’39 that I like. He said in a speech that “For each and for all, as for the Royal Navy, the watchword should be, ‘Carry on, and dread nought.'”

    Ditto on what several other people said. I find your posts *calming*. Thank you for doing them.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Lisa. :-)

      Reply
  20. I’m fascinated by the Amazon Lending Library issues… Mostly, fascinated that there are issues at all.

    Amazon is reportedly marking up one sale of each book for each Prime member who borrows it. I’m not exactly clear on whether they even intend to TELL publishers how many times the book is lent out. ;) They might simply send the publisher a check for books sold, and keep the numbers on actual sales and sales made because Amazon bought a copy when someone borrowed it to themselves.

    Bottom line for writers is that I don’t think writers should be in an uproar at all. They’re still getting paid.

    One interesting tidbit, though – something almost every book in the ALL has in common. They’re almost all marked as lending enabled. Not all – I spotted a couple which are not, so I’m not sure what the deal is with those. But for the lending enabled books?

    I’m speculating here, but I think there’s probably no legal barrier to starting a business, charging customers $X a year for a library card, buying a bucketload of ebooks, and then loaning them out to members. Once you buy a license to an ebook, who you loan it to is up to you. If your business loans those books only to paid members, well – that’s your business.

    So I’m not sure there’s really any barrier to Amazon buying licenses to a whole bunch of books, and then loaning those books out. The publishers already agreed to enable lending. It’s just that they were not expecting *Amazon* to be doing the lending. ;) But if the Amazon corporation owns ebook licenses, they have the right to loan them out just like any other ebook owner.

    But if publishers and writers are still getting paid the same, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. If anything, getting in that library would be absolutely brilliant right now, from a marketing perspective.

    Reply
    • Amazon is doing a brilliant marketing campaign, Kevin. I’m fascinated by all of this as you are. What intrigues me the most is the increasingly shrill way that traditional publishing is dealing with Amazon and with all of the changes. It comes from being afraid. Once the big publishers controlled everything and now (suddenly in publishing terms) they don’t. And they’re reacting in a variety of fascinating ways. Good comment. Thanks.

      Reply
  21. Here’s what’s yanking my chain. Some of the most recent, and loudest critics of indie publishing, haven’t be Ye Olde Timers. It’s been people in “my” generation: 20-something through 40-somethings.

    I complained to Kris privately that sometimes I think we’re all — we in that group — just a bunch of snot-heads. I suspect it’s because we’re all still working so hard to prove ourselves. Make our bones, so to speak. And in the old model you knew you were ‘made’ when you had paperbacks on your brag shelf at home; paperbacks from New York, with your name on the spines. That was how you individuated. Stood out. Set yourself apart.

    I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. In fact, I think writers in every generation have longed to make their mark, earn their stripes, etc. It’s just a lot more murky now, and those of us raised on the “doctrines” (like I said over at Passive Guy’s blog) are loathe to see those doctrines challenged. We were raised on the idea of the A-to-B-to-C-to-D path, and now it’s clear the path does not exist. It’s not going to be consistent for any of us. We have to pick a shallow spot in the stream, and wade across on our own. Take our chances. No guarantees.

    I think the activities in various cities around America demonstrate that the 20-something-to-40-something set tends to react badly when we realize that things aren’t guaranteed the way we always thought they’d be guaranteed. But then, I think we of that group have been entirely too credulous about a great many things.

    But I digress. It’s a changing landscape. Even those doing very well with Traditional Publishing, are acknowledging and/or exploiting the changes. Some outspoken proponents of the new model have been criticized (or worse) and I find it out that people (my group) who should be happiest about and best able to make hay from the shift, are sometimes the ones whining and kvetching the loudest.

    Reply
    • Brad, as I told you privately, every generation of writers has these folks. Most of them will not have a career 10 years from now. That’s why I mention in my post that career writers have to be around–and making a living–for more than ten years. The obnoxious voices of my generation of writers–the intolerant idiots–are all gone now, as are the ones from the next generation and the generation after that. Wait ten years, then see if these loud intolerant voices are still around. Chances are, they will either have become quieter or they will have found another career (and other people to yell at).

      Reply
  22. To go off a bit on what Brad was talking about – I think you’re seeing it everywhere in our culture (American to be specific). Growing up your parents gave you A-B-C career path. You’d go to high school, graduate, go to college for four years (now 5+) and then you’d get a great job with benefits and a 401K. That was THE path. And now that path is changing and people all over the place are fighting it. Or refusing to listen to those who might have some different kind of wisdom, a different way of doing something.

    I did that path like I was supposed to, but you know what? I’m not going to force college on my children unless they want to pursue a career that needs a degree. If they want to be an artist and work for a video game developer a degree isn’t important. Their ART is important, their portfolio is what will get them a job, not the degree. I have one cousin who called up my husband (who works for a developer studio)and asked that very question because her mother was pushing her to go to college. He told her if she worked hard at her art, she didn’t need the degree. But she needed to know, to understand, and have practiced at her art.

    I think all across the board, we’re being forced to step off that set path. I think there will always be some loud, intolerant voices about this change, that change, or whether the sky really is blue. All you can really do is offer some advice and they can take it or leave it. They’ll either be in this business in ten years, or they won’t. But I’m sure in ten years there will be a whole new issue people are screaming about =). Thanks for another great post, Kris.

    Reply
    • Very good points all, Chrissy. Thanks.

      Reply
  23. I’m not surprised Craig Ferguson helped Block promote his self-pubbed venture. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if CF is tempted to self-publish in the future. After reading his book American On Purpose, I realized he is a writer at heart. (He’s also published a novel– Between the Bridge and the River and is the author of several screenplays, one of which won several film festival awards.) In his honest, funny, poignant book American On Purpose, he expressed his frustration with the process of selling a book and the patronizing treatment he got from the literary division of his agency–the same agency that was already profiting from his career as a late-night talk-show host. I imagine this is why he has more authors of various genres on his show than other hosts do, as well as why he promotes them so respectfully and enthusiastically.

    Reply
    • I think you’re right about all of that, Nina. And I too can recommend his autobiography highly. He’s a good writer.

      Reply
  24. When weighing access to awards competitions vs. the high net margins of self-publishing, I’m reminded of a song lyric:
    You take the fame, I’ll keep the money.

    High margin sales will get through times of no trophies far better than trophies will get you through times of no high margin sales.

    Reply
    • Beautifully said, Eric. :-)

      Reply

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