Back To The Days Of Brick & Mortar?

For the past few years something has plagued Amazon … that something would be sales tax and the battle surrounding it.

If you’ve ever shopped with the online retail giant, you know, part of the glory and the low price structure of the site at large is the absence of sales tax.  This goes for nearly everything in stock.  The reason Amazon could pull off such a thing when other stores can’t is simple … the entire practice of no-taxes hinges on the little law that states without a physical presence in a state, the retailer is under no obligation to charge sales tax. Hooray!

This has perhaps been part of Amazon’s appeal … especially when it comes to big ticket items like the 50 inch LCD television right down to the $200 Kindle Fire.  Couple that with the Prime free shipping … customers on the site really do pay retail and not penny above.  May shoppers, myself included, will scope out items at physical stores only to return home and order them online … Chicago has a crippling 10% tax structure in place … as you can imagine, this has saved me many a dollar over the years.

But, in the past few days this tax-free model has changed and changed drastically.  Amazon has inked a deal with California (the biggest bitcher about the tax-free stance of Amazon) as well as a handful of other states.  By fall of 2012 expect to spend a bit more on your purchases via Amazon.com if you live in one of the taxable states. So what does this potentially mean for Amazon and the consumer?

It means that Amazon may very well be taking itself offline exclusively and branching out into the trade of brick and mortar store fronts.  With no more incentives to remain captive behind your computer screen, the online retail giant may just end up taking it to the streets.

No, you won’t be able to find that obscure sock for your golf club in store if this ends up coming to fruition … Amazon is said to be exploring the idea of selling their wildly popular Kindle family as well as exclusive books in brick and mortar store fronts, and the plan is to start with their home base, Seattle.  So … yeah … in a way Amazon is going back to their roots while simultaneously exploring uncharted territory.

Lets go back to the beginning, shall we?

Amazon originally was a book store  (back in the dark ages it seems now) … and all started in the garage of Jeff Bazo’s home where he attacked the internet by offering below-retail books online.  And then, it grew.  It quickly became the Amazon we know today, offering the consumer vitamins to vacations and nearly everything in between.  But Amazon has always been, and will always be, a book retailer first and foremost, it was their bread and butter and remains steadfast in their role (don’t believe me?  Visit the site, tell me what shows up on the welcome screen) … so it seems almost natural that if they were going to break a proven, successful business model … it would be for the love of books.

The peanut gallery seems divided on this venture of Amazon’s.  Some outspoken individuals are questioning the sanity of Bezos as his plans come to light … wondering aloud why, in the dawn of brick and mortars going under at a neck-breaking pace, Bezos would gamble with a venture that seems and feels slightly ancient.  Others are just excited … and by others, I mean the independent authors who stand to have some shelf space in a store that, by all intents, could be as big (if not bigger) than Barnes & Noble where shelf space if typically reserved for the trade published.

But, why … that seems to be the million-dollar question on everyone’s lips.  Why would Amazon tinker with their success when book stores are going the way of dinosaur?  For me, the answer can be found in the behind-the-scenes antics of it all.

Last week, Barnes & Noble broke the news that they were drawing a line in sand — any book that was exclusively sold through Amazon (aka Select) wouldn’t be welcome in their stores.  And on the heels of that, Books-A-Million made a strikingly similar announcement.  Now, it’s pretty common knowledge that B&N isn’t the most Indie-friendly ground and for what it’s worth, it was exceptionally rare for an Indie to secure space in their store anyway.  In my opinion, it was no great loss for us but a tremendous loss for them.  They essentially were telling the customers, we don’t care what you want to read … we only care about having the upper hand.  This announcement was cloaked under the “fair trade” moniker … we saw the same thing with DC Comics this past Holiday season.  But, B&N is doing little more than whittling away at their own nose, since they hardly practice what they preach signing an exclusive with REAL SIMPLE and announcing it proudly mere hours after chastising Amazon for doing practically the same thing.

Whatever.

My suspicions is this: While there is a revolution in play for us writers … there is an all out war for the bookstores, one that could use the muscle and aptitude of a business like Amazon.

Amazon has always been keen on fleshing out fresh talent and growing itself as a business to include imprint publishing and a self-publishing imprint.  They are forward thinkers, always evolving to meet the needs of consumers as the consumers needs grows and changes.  And while the day of the book store may be slipping away, the era of Amazon is on the cusp of breaking free.

Amazon is creating rules as easily as they are breaking them.  They don’t look at PUBLISHING as an old-boys club where the “do-no-wrong” mantra is chanted throughout the empty halls … they look at it honestly and see the flaws … and then, they work tirelessly to correct them.  Now, they’ll do the same with BOOK STORES.  I can see them spinning B&N like a top … recreating the consumers idea of a “book store” by putting their own twist on things.  And for that, I’m excited!

 

 

 

 

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Trestle Press Is Falling Down … Falling Down … Falling Down

Imagine this … if you will …

Years of hard work collecting on your hard drive, years of reject letters collecting on the corner of your desk.  Writing short story after short story for so long you’ve nearly lost count.  And then, you get a direct Twitter Message … from a publisher … a small publisher, but who cares, it’s a publisher!  And he … without query and without approach … wants a read of your work.  Imagine that moment.  Some of us have been there, standing on the edge of “a read” waiting with our hopes and manuscript in hand.  Now, imagine, the head of company, the man out in front, e-mails you and saying the magic, three-letter word … yes.

This, is the Trestle Press Game … and perhaps it will go done in history as one of greatest Author Beware fallouts of all time.  Perhaps it will, as new authors emerge from their home offices with finished manuscripts, become the thing of lore … the thing other, seasoned authors warn them about.

Trestle Press touts themselves as a “legacy publisher” … which is comical, as publishers don’t tend to use words like “legacy” or “traditional” … they are simply publishers.  We, you and I and everyone else, have been the ones to establish the hierarchy … The Big Six, Vanity, Legacy, Traditional … those are our words for them … not their own.   That is, perhaps, the first of the many red flags in the Trestle Press Game.

In the past twenty-four hours, and probably for a bit longer than that, Trestle Press Publishing has been falling down.  It’s hard to pinpoint where the fallout began, but it’s layered.  This is what we know:

Trestle has been creating covers with beautiful images … images that were, for all intents and purposes, hijacked.  That’s right.  Trestle has taken to using photos … stock and not … without the permission of the artist.  In case you didn’t know … HUGE NO-NO.  And this is the justification give for such deceitful actions …

“We stand by the fact that if we have used any copyrighted artwork that we have contacted the artist or made every possible attempt to contact the artist. In many cases, we have requested usage permission and made payment when asked.
In cases where no contact was made or no copyright holder found, we apologize for the usage and have removed the identified images.
It is and always will be our intent and desire never to never infringe on anyone’s intellectual property without their consent” 

Some of these images include a still shot from the 1980’s movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” … another, from the upcoming movie “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” staring Nicholas Cage … and still, another image from the video game “Hit Man”.  I’m almost proof positive that there was no way those images were used with the slightest hint of consent considering the source.

Authors, in the last twenty-four hours, have taken to their individual blogs in force, lamenting that their works were poorly edited, terribly formatted and theorizing that their submitted work not even read prior to publishing.  So much for the merit and weight of yes.

Rather than apologizing for the obvious foul, Trestle has told their authors — the ones that keep the lights on and pad their bank accounts — that there is no need “to draw this out” and that they would not share “where the images came from” since it was obvious in questioning at all, the author was clearly “showed where they were” … and that trust was a “two-way street” … to which I have stress, trust in earned not given.

Others have come forward in this mess to discuss the contract … or lack there of.  Often time no more than a single paragraph, that was total rubbish … and, yes, in case you’re wondering, Trestle Press has published the works of a fourteen year old — whether his parents were aware or not remains to be seen.

It’s a disaster with multiple authors frantically trying to rescue their stories from the grips of the publishing house while simultaneously trying to salvage their careers by expressing that they will soon announce where their stories will be published … as soon as they can figure it out themselves.

In the center of this crumbling bridge stands Giovanni Gelati.  The one man band who has always said his “workers prefer to be anonymous”.  And, now, his little bridge is falling down … down … down.  You might want to know who this mastermind is … where he comes from … and just where he gets off.  There isn’t much out there about him personally, other than his blog-radio, Gelati’s Scoop.

The message in this new fallout is simple … authors, be so careful when it comes to who you get in bed with.  It’s easy to get swept away when you finally get the sort of response you’ve been chasing.  Know who you’re dealing with, be involved and vocal.

THIS Is What’s Wrong With Publishing … And It’s A ‘Shore’ Thing …

And here we can see our best selling author, Snookie, hard at work!

::Insert eye-rolling, grumblings, nausea, and a little bit of wondering what the hell is wrong with this world::

Yesterday … The Kindleboards were down … we’re talking 16.5 hours of silence on the home front.  In between doing some beta reading and review reading (of two fabulous forthcoming releases, by the way, … yea for sneak peaks!) I started mulling around the internet for bookish news I could eventually spin into a blog.

Than I found it, and I almost died … Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi … is … a … best … selling … author … ranked … on … the … New … York … Times … Holy Grail … List.  And, apparently, this is ‘old’ news.  Well people, this is ‘new’ news to me … and I’m just not having it.

Before I launch into a total tailspin and mock the world of publishing at large, let me share with you some choice quotes from our “New York Times” best selling author:

*Word of the day: sympathetic. That’s a big word. (Really, NYT best selling author … sympathetic is a “big word”?)

*I’m not sure what lobsters eat, but I think they eat like insects or something… so I was gonna feed them worms. (Good God, lady)

*[Vinny]’s like my big brother, I love him … but usually you don’t have sex with your big brother. (No, Snookie, you shouldn’t ever have sex with your big brother … and if he just feels like a big brother, you probably shouldn’t have sex with him either.  That’s good advice, girl … you can take it to the bank.)

*I wanna go on a boat, an island.. filled with gorillas. (High aspirations, I see … way to dream big girl, way to dream)

Oh, sweet Jesus.

I’ve watched The Jersey Shore … I own the fact that I do like trashy reality television and the train wrecks that join up, ironically, I view it as a break in reality — because no one really acts like that … right?   But, they do, and that’s the hook … kind of like animal’s in a zoo … you watch them from behind glass, because it’s safe there … and you laugh because sometimes they do cutely hysterical things.  But that’s where they belong, along with their antics … safely away from the public at large.

Snookie’s book, A SHORE THING, topped out as a NYT best seller.  It’s a bubble-gum book, totally YA, a beach read that will probably have zero impact on your life:

It’s a summer to remember . . . at the Jersey Shore.

Giovanna “Gia” Spumanti and her cousin Isabella “Bella” Rizzoli are going to have the sexiest summer ever. While they couldn’t be more different—pint-size Gia is a carefree, outspoken party girl and Bella is a tall, slender athlete who always holds her tongue—for the next month they’re ready to pouf up their hair, put on their stilettos, and soak up all that Seaside Heights, New Jersey, has to offer: hot guidos, cool clubs, fried Oreos, and lots of tequila.

So far, Gia’s summer is on fire. Between nearly burning down their rented bungalow, inventing the popular “tan-tags” at the Tantastic Salon where she works, and rescuing a shark on the beach, she becomes a local celebrity overnight. Luckily, she meets the perfect guy to help her keep the flames under control. Firefighter Frank Rossi is exactly her type: big, tan, and Italian. But is he tough enough to handle Gia when things really heat up?

Bella is more than ready for some fun in the sun. Finally free of her bonehead ex-boyfriend, she left home in Brooklyn with one goal in mind: hooking up with a sexy gorilla for a no-strings-attached summer fling. In no time, she lands a job leading “Beat Up the Beat” dance classes at a local gym, and is scooped up by Beemer-driving, preppy Bender Newberry. Only problem: Bella can’t get her romantic and ripped boss Tony “Trouble” Troublino out of her head. He’s relationship material. Suddenly, Bella’s not sure what she wants.

The cousins soon realize that for every friend they make on the boardwalk, there are also rivals, slummers, and frenemies who will do anything to ruin their summer—and try their relationship. Before July ends, the bonds of family and friendship will be stretched to the breaking point. Will the haters prevail, or will Gia and Bella find love at the Shore?

For everyone who loves MTV’s hit reality show, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s sweet, funny, and sexy novel perfectly captures the heat, the energy, the fun, andthe drama of Jersey Shore.

So, our lead Gia Spumanti (or as I affectionately call her — Vanilla, Chocolate, Pistachio) and Bella Rizzoli are essentially fluff … slutty, tanned, men-chasing fluff.  Nice, Simon & Schuster … way to shoot for the stars … way to save yourself with literary integrity.

It’s not Snookie’s wild success with A SHORE THING that kills me … I can find value in all sorts of books, and appreciate their shelf value through the eyes of their individual demographics.  What kills me is this:

I remember the Golden Age of books.  For me, I was a senior in high school taking a self-guided reading class.  For an entire semester, we’d go into class with a journal and a book of our choosing, we’d sit at our tiny desks for the expanse of fifty minutes and read.  I have always been a fast reader, and gravitated towards thick, heavy, very wordy books … I made it my goal to read every book on Oprah’s list that semester.  And, I did.  It was there that my eyes really opened up towards the genre of Literary Fiction.  I was captivated by these stories of all different values — some heartbreaking, others hopeful … but I fell in love with reading in a different way in that class as I was asked to navigate a book and lean on my own interpretations.  It’s a love affair that has continued on since.

It was in that class I discovered Tawni O’Dell and her book BACK ROADS.  It was dark, disturbing, and exceptionally graphic … and I ate it up with a spoon.  I swallowed her words and invested myself in story and have been a huge fan of her writing ever since.  That’s the book I relished when I was “of age” to be consuming YA.

Now … in that class, with the teacher I loved so much for her nurturing the written word and her value of the English language, I can image a girl walking in with a copy of A SHORE THING and it makes me feel sort of sick.  Is that what coming generations are going to see as a good, worthy book?

I get it, kind of, that publishers are aching.  Gone are the big advances given to new writers … they want, ironically enough, the sure (shore) thing.  They know the massive fan power behind Snookie, and many of her NYTBSing counterparts. Popularity, in their mind, will flow-chart down into sales numbers. It has become less about the merit of a book and more about the reputation of it’s writer (though, I’d imagine many are Ghosted).

When people talk about the slaughtering of Traditional Publishing aka The Big Six, they think it will be because of the Indie Revolution taking root and then blooming.  I disagree with that stance, always have.

If we were talking strictly Big Six vs. Indie and the battle to the death, I’d say … whoa, wait, there is room of everyone.  If one dies, we all die.  Keeping everyone in play is in the best interest of books in general and at large.  The readers will be the ones who will suffer if one goes under.

But, I think the momentum of the Indie Revolution has less to do with the popular “us vs. them” mentality and more to do with what is in the market place.

If the Big Six are publishing books like A SHORE THING, then they will polarize an entire nest of readers who don’t find that sort of novel remotely valuable.  Those readers will make the decision NOT to spend $16.00 on a copy.  They’ll find a book they would prefer … or several books … from independent authors for a fraction of the price.  And that will be the ultimate undoing the traditional publishing, in my opinion.  It will ultimately boil down to a lack of viable, salable books which will be rooted in the fear of failure on the part of the Big Six.

Snookie is not to blame for this.  She’s just part of the bigger machine.  My guess would be that the publishers approached her … rather than the traditional, other way around.  My guess is that they offered her a Ghost and an advance and all she had to do was agree to sign her name on the dotted line — I find it hard to believe a writer, of anything, would consider sympathetic a big word.  And for that … I’m sympathetic towards her, because she has caught the brunt of people feeling outraged and disgusted — myself included.

I guess the moral of the story is this …

If you want a deal with the Big Six:  Get a reality show, act like a complete asshole on camera, and then wait for the offers to roll in.

2001

2011

Reward Or Punishment? I Can’t Decide.

The dream of being traditionally published … we all started with it.  It was the place where we saw ourselves, our work … a place on the shelf at Barnes & Nobel, a write-up in a big-time heavy hitting magazine like Publishers Weekly.  An advance, some royalties, maybe a multi-book deal. An agent who adores you, an editor who understands you.  The ability to slough off the workday grind for a slower paces of life, 9-5 spent in your pajamas instead of a suit.  A full-time job telling stories and then talking about those stories.  We, as authors in the prenatal stages of publishing, romance the ideals and rewards of being “traditionally published”.

Don’t think … for one minute … the Big Six and all their minions don’t realize that, even in the face of this digital publishing revolution.  Sure, some Indies become wildly successful … they are the ones we romanticized after the traditional publishing well has dried to nil, they become deities and are idolized for their unconventional, screw-em’ success.  But, even those Indies after selling millions tend to agent up and go trade … not all, but some.

All of this sums up the reason there is an ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award).  It’s the reason why Amazon, the hub for many self-published, hosts a contest through their CreateSpace imprint each year.  10,000 entries whittled down to 2 winners through various milestones, ending with a grand prize of $15,000 (by way of an ‘advance’) and a nonnegotiable contract with Penguin.  Yea … ish.

The Passive Voice, a highly legal-eagle minded blog, broke down the downfalls of this contest in a series of “gotcha moments”, which you can read all about: here

The bottom line, the Achilles heel, of the ABNA is in the prize … leading me wonder, is it a reward or a punishment for writing a good book?

No author should ever be asked or, worse yet, required to sign a stock contract.  Agents will tell you that as gospel all day long, a good agent will fight the terms to land you a much more lucrative, long-term deal.  The first draft of a contract to publish is never, ever favorable to the writer.  Actually, that’s why there this little thing called negotiation. But, if you win, you’re bound to sign on to what terms are handed forth.  There is zero wiggle room … and what that means to the writer… no one knows.  Penguin has not made a sample contract of terms available, so what you agree too by signing up for the contest is cloaked under nondisclosure.  And that could mean is any number of things.  You may not be able to publish another book, either self or otherwise, for years.  You may end up with a nominal royalty rate that will never outsell your advance, essentially capping the potential of your book by terms you can’t control and ending the dream of making a livable wage off of it.  Worst case scenario: Penguin has control of not only over your book … but you as well.  They’re effectively stepping up and into the spot light as your boss.

Let’s address the whole nondisclosure thing for a moment.  It’s not uncommon when you’re working on a deal to have a nondisclosure cap put on the proceedings.  Penguin has stepped this up by saying that … if the author makes it further into the contest, they must remain hush-hush about their advancement.  Why?  The Passive Voice speculates it’s because Penguin doesn’t want to draw attention to the novel or the novelist.  But, WHY? Because, even if you don’t win the contest per say, Penguin reserves the right to acquire your book anyway.  They actually grab FIRST and LAST right to bid on your novel.  If you win the whole, you’re automatically on board … if you don’t, but they liked it anyway, they can approach you and try to woo you independent of ABNA.  But, imagine for a moment that you’re in the acquiring department of Harpers & Collins or Little, Brown … there is this book … and it’s a serious contender for a big award … you’d be stupid to let the chance of a best seller slip through your fingers.  Penguin wants to stunt them where they stand … if they don’t know about you because you’re not talking and Penguin’s not talking and nothing is being broadcast … get where I’m going with this?  It’s another form of holding a writer hostage.

Signing up for ABNA without the proper awareness is a dangerous, slippery slope.  I’m not saying don’t … I’m saying do if it works for you and you have all the pros and cons hammered out.

So … with that said … whose jumping on the ABNA train bound for publication?

 

 

Publicity and All That Jazz

I’ve been a bad blogger lately … and I’m sorry.  This blog has been painfully slow as I try to balance writing my second novel with putting the finishing touches on The Milestone Tapes.  I apologize and I’ll try to be better.

Before we jump into this latest post, I have a little housekeeping to do.

1. Please, please, please remember to sign up for the The Milestone Tapes Giveaway!  We have just under a month left!  More information can be found here under the “books and events” page!  Thanks for your continued support as we round third towards home.

2. I’ve finally, thank you Jesus, broken the curse of writers block.  Abandoning my initial idea allowed me to tell a story I’ve been haunted by for years.  Like with THE MILESTONE TAPES, IN THE AFTER will hit close to home for me as I explore what it means to really be a friend in the darkest of hours.  IN THE AFTER, unlike with THE MILESTONE TAPES, is a morbid story that will ping directly into current events and hopefully put a looking-glass over the definition of spousal abuse and the ricochet effect it has on relationships.

Okay … now, onto the topic …

Yesterday I posed a question on the Kindleboards about whether a new author would be better served going Select or if they should branch out into the wider distribution of B&N, Smashwords and the like.  I also mentioned that I had hired a publicist to work with me on the launch.

While some people stayed on topic, hashing out the highs and lows of Select … others broke off into the idea of a new author using a publicist to spread the word of their release.

I was told that with one novel my success will be nil and that it’s only with the what I do next that I will see what kind of author I meant to become … of course, I’m paraphrasing, but more or less, that was the gist.  That, rather than investing time and money into my first book, I should be killing myself for the second — dedicating every waking minute available to seeing the second novel through to completion.  Of course, this was from authors will multiple books in their signatures.  I was told that I should just publish, publish, publish … and if, in a year or so, I decide my work reads as “amateurish” … I can always pull particular works down.

…Ummm….

As I’ve said … over and over again … I’m not a seasoned vet, rather, I’m a first timer with no back-list and yes, that puts me a real disadvantage.  Everything I publish will be from the moment, and I will give to it all I can manage.  I won’t ever have the luxury of being a fast and furious author.  If I can publish one a year, I’m doing good.  Each book will come from its own place, literary fiction doesn’t lend itself well to sequels by the nature of it being.  And, the audience of literary fiction is an interesting bunch itself.  There is a set expectation of a book that is written for the genre … and it’s different from YA or SciFi or Romance.

So … let me tell you why I’m still going ahead as planned …

THE MILESTONE TAPES, draft one, was finished in August — or rather — five months ago.  I’ve held on to it now for longer than it took to write.

The editing of THE MILESTONE TAPES was completed November — or rather — nearly three months ago and I’ve still kept it to myself.

The cover, number two that is, was finished in November as well, for three months I’ve stared at it.  But, cover number one was completed in October.

The formatting for THE MILESTONE TAPES was finished earlier this month — I have the proof in hand and it’s flawless, but still, I haven’t clicked “publish”.

Why?

Because it’s not ready. The book in and of itself is as good as it ever will be … and its publishable material.  As I write this entry, the truth is, I could be a published author.  I could have had THE MILESTONE TAPES up for sale for nearly a week now.  Heck, I could have slapped a cover on it and it could have been for sale months ago … but that isn’t my style.  That’s not what I wanted for this story and it won’t be what I want for any story that shall follow… and that’s not how I’m going to step into the publishing world now or ever.

When a Big Six publishes a book there is hoopla.  It gives an author — new or old — a presence.  This mantra of letting the pot boil is one that was honed by trial and error.  They obviously know what works when it comes to launching a book and meeting sales quotas.  I, do not.  But, to my credit, I’m a researcher.  I was a reader long before I was a writer and I that sort of branches out into my quest to get it right.

The irony is, is that when an indie author grumbles about poor sales … the first thing that is often suggested or commented on is promotion.  Why?  Because it’s a way to get the word out, inspire interest, cultivate excitement … as the Big Six regularly do.  In the case of sluggish sales, either the author didn’t do enough or didn’t manage to target the correct areas.  But, in my mind (and to quote Larry the Cable Guy) … that’s like checking on your burgers after they’re burnt.  It’s an after the damage is done kind of thing.  New books have a short shelf life before they become old books.  Strike while the iron is hot is my personal philosophy.  Make as much of that moment as you can, give yourself every opportunity possible and you’ll never wonder what if.

With all of that said, I also know that everyone is on their own journey.  That what works for one may not work for another.  So, rather than make blanket statements about what you must do … I think it’s more pertinent to encourage all options.  Success comes in many forms … and that path too it is often different and designed by an individual.

So … now it’s question time … as a new author, what did you do to spread the word?  🙂

 

 

 

Now I Know Why Authors Write Sequels

I have writers block … and it’s bad, like really, really bad.

I have the idea for book two fleshed out … it’s titled and outlined and plotted down to the very end … and still, I cannot write it.  I can’t figure out how to put these characters into their lives and how or why they’d be where they are.  Well … that’s not exactly true … I do know the why and the how … it’s the elaborating that I simply fail at.

It’s absolutely the most frustrating thing in the whole world … I could literally rip my hair out at the root, bash my head against the wall, quit and just walk away.  Oh, I’ve tried to get past this mental road block.  I think — counting today — I’ve started this story eight times over the last three months.  I have started from various points of view, places in the story, points in time.  I’ve closed the computer and walked away … I’ve forced myself to sit in front of it for hours watching the annoying optimistic cursor flashing.  I’ve tried reading … tried watching movies … tried thinking about one hundred other things hoping that along the way the small fire of brilliance would kindle itself to self.  Yet … here I sit with a few thousand useless words.

Truthfully, I’ve got nothing … nada … zilch.

Now I get it, the reason why authors squeal over sequels … because they just know everything there is to know, the map is draw, the characters are flesh and bone, the conflict is primed and ready for paint.  New books … they give you nothing.

I was lucky the first time around.  I came home with a story … and I wrote it so quickly.  I lucked out big time.

My greatest fear is being a “one-hit-wonder” — and I’m not even saying book one will be a hit, just that, in this moment, I fear that’s the only solid story in me.  There is no longevity in doing something once.  Its the time and time again that gives a person fulfillment.

Recently I read an article about that girl from Hairspray (the movie) … Nicky Blonsky.  You may remember her story.  She was working at Coldstone Creamery … the ice cream store … when she was discovered.  Thrust into the world of Hollywood, she starred opposite John Trivolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Amanda Bynes, and Zac Effron.  She was a big deal for a hot minute.  Now … she works at a hair salon … doing makeup.  Take it from me … that is not glamorous work.  She’s talented … she can sing, she dance … but she could never recapture the fire of her Hairspray … she couldn’t turn it into a career.

She tried, sure.  Some ABC Family network show and a few other little gigs on Lifetime, but nothing stuck … and now, she’s just another MUA working the counter in a small town salon.  And I’m not saying that isn’t honest work … because it is, believe me, I know … but it’s not what she wanted, and I’m sure it’s nothing she ever saw coming.

Writing is hard work … it’s frustrating work.  I am at a place where I realize I may need to give up the ghost … walk away from my idea and my work and either breathe for a while or start something new — what that would be, I don’t know — but this is not a good thing.

 

Why Does It Have To Be All Or Nothing? Let’s Try To Share The Sandbox, Okay?

It seems to me that every other day or so there is a new article about the death of publishing.  It usually revolved around the revolution of Indie Authors, Trade Publishers slitting their own throats and other mumbo-jumbo of the like.  At first, it was thought-provoking … the “what if” hung in the air … but now, it feels more like a diatribe in which you’re asked to pick a side and stay there forever.  Honestly, I can’t even read about it any more.

I’m left wondering … why does it have to be all or nothing?  Why can’t publishing be like any other industry?  Why can’t Indies and Trades flourish side by side?  We’re not in 4th grade … we know cooties don’t exist … we’re highly functioning, creative adults … we should be able to share the sandbox.

I look at my town … Naperville, Illinois.  It’s a pretty little place nestled on the outskirts of Chicago.  I was born here … and I’ve lived here my whole life.  Back in the 80’s our downtown was small … locally owned stores dotted the busy tree-lined streets.  In the 90’s we saw the birth of big box business.  Talbots, Barnes & Noble, Starbucks all converged on our space in force.  Some independent stores faltered and failed because they couldn’t compete … while others thrived in the onslaught of the new traffic.  Now, in the 2000’s stores … locally owned and otherwise share block space just fine.  The two bookstores in the heart of the town — 1 Indie, 1 Big Box — both see high volume traffic.  You can buy a $500.00 table from Little Luxuries or a $500.00 table from Pottery Barn.  It’s your choice … they both are set mere steps from each other.

Why does publishing have to be any different?

I’m not going to go all “why can’t we all just get along” on you … but I am going to say that books are an important resource in this world … we need them.  If one avenue of that dies … we’ll all suffer.  You don’t have to pick a side to understand that.  It’s pretty much common sense.

Traditional Publishing has its flaws … as does Self Publishing.  Not every author is suited for Trade … not every author is suited for Self.

When I listen to an Indie Author smack about the evils of Traditional Publishing … I’m curious to know what was the first book they fell in love with.  I’m sure it was something their mother bought for them in the bookstore.  So, it can’t be all that evil right?  It was a source of love, a pot of inspiration, a good part of their childhood.

When I listen to a Traditional Publisher spout the evils of Indie Publishing … I’m curious to know why that hate it?  How can someone chasing a dream possibly hurt them?

It seems like someone feels that they need to have the upper hand … when that’s not always the best option.  And … worst of all … it’s boring.  Like, really boring.  Because no one is right.  Traditional Publishing will adapt.  Self Publishing will grow.  And that’s what will happen.  That’s pretty much it.

So … let’s just share the sandbox like adults, shall we?  Stop predicting doom and just celebrate the way one leads into the other and vice versa.

 

 

We Have Some Answers!

Rarely do I ever do two posts in one day … however, this is a revisit to a prior post about Amazon and their new incentive program and before it becomes old news, or gets overlooked, I wanted to share this … Enjoy!

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On December 4th I posted a blog about how Amazon was attempting to monopolize the market by taking the lion share of Indie authors, essentially removing our works from the competitors shelves by systematically offering us amazing perks and bonuses.  You can read more about that here.  Very hush-hush in the beginning … the details are now being leaked … it stacked up to almost being an offer you can’t refuse (read: me using my big, bad, mafia voice).

At the time I initially posted, I suspected that Amazon did fear no longer being king of the eReader castle with their beloved Kindle and needed to figure out someway to continue to draw the readers and newbies into their lair.  Whether that’s right or wrong … it does appear that the rumors were true.  Amazon wants you — and they want you exclusively.

Mark Coker at the Huffington Post shed some light on this ongoing issue with his article which can be found here.

Pun totally intended … but man, Amazon has made it a jungle out there.

The brass-tacks are this:

-Amazon is giving up $500,000 per month IF you opt into their lending program … so while you’re not “selling” books, you are still netting a potentially huge profit.  The example given was, if your lent book sums 1.5% of all the books borrowed, you stand to make a tidy sum of $7,500 for that month.  The pool is shared between all authors with no promises … you may do well, you may not.  It’s a gamble.

-Exclusivity deals are signed in 3 month spurts.  You’re not locked for life … but pulling yourself down from other sites like B&N, iBooks and ePub as well as Smashwords, even for that period, can drastically hurt your sales, visibility and really fumble your accurate sales data.

-If you violate the agreement, you may lose the ability to sell through Amazon forever … as in, the rest of your life.

-While the deal spans 3 months at a time, if you fail to opt out at the close of your 3 months, you’re locked in for another 3 … or … read the above dash.

These are things you, as an author, should know.  I’ve always said, when your an Indie — you’re more than an author, you’re a business owner.  All things considered, this must work for you if it is going to work at all.

My reaction to that is this:

I love Amazon.  I own a Kindle, and I do believe it’s kind of magical.  I do a shit-ton of shopping on Amazon, and they are already a monopoly when it comes to me spending my money.  But … that’s me as an individual, as a person … not me as a business woman running my own little thing out here in Indie Land.

Do I think it’s a sweet deal?  Heck yes.  If your sales via Amazon are proven, if they account for most of your business … signing on to this would make you, in the words of Charlie Sheen, WINNING.  You’re selling, you’re lending, you’re moving books, you’re making money … you’re one flippin’ happy ass author.

…BUT…

If you’re new, you stand to really shoot yourself in the foot.  Like, with a 12 gauge shotgun.

I get perpetually stuck on asking myself WWHCD?  WWRHD?  WWLBD?  WWPD?  I doubt they’d be for this sort of business deal. I think they see any limitations as just that … a limitation.

I believe the first 3 months of a new book are so important … especially for a new author.  That’s why PR is so big … the bigger splash you need, the bigger market you allow yourself to breach.  If we’re talking an older book, I might feel differently, but I don’t think Amazon has given that kind of loop-hole.

So my question is …

How do you feel?  Are you going for it?  Thoughts?  Share … curious minds want to know …

 

 

 

Insanity Press … Oops … I Mean Vanity Press

And so it has happened again … another well know and highly respected company has crept in with promises of, um, brighter days for the Indie …

A while back I posted about Bookcountry … the twist of Penguin that was offering author’s insanity vanity publishing services.  Well, they are far from alone … joining the ranks today is Writers Digest with their Abbott Press imprint.

This time, we’re talking BIG BUCKS.  Fees that branch upwards to … hold on, you better sit down … $9,000!  Yes … that’s dollars not rupees.  I know, I know … I threw up a little too.

Here’s what kills me … It’s such a “take all” mentality.  It reads as greedy.

What Abbott Press is offering is nothing special … their “starter package” is around $1,000, and for that you get a cover, ISBN, and blah blah blah blah blah (I should mention, that editing is not one of the services) … for $9,000 you get blah blah blah blah blah blah plus a social media publicist.  Yeah.  Whose going write the check first?  (I ask in jest)

I did the query thing.  I had a few nibbles, no real bites.  Would I have liked to be published by a big brand like Writers Digest … sure, of course!  I’m not stupid, I know what that means and what doors that would open.  But … since I never agent’d up, I never had a prayer.  Writers Digest doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Now … we have a vanity press under their moniker.  They will take my money, publish my book and eat my royalties without the benefits of really being published by them.

Fair?  No.  Worth it?  Not really.

But their site is beautiful.  It’s alluring with columns heavily weighed down by check marks.  But what do those check marks mean?  Not much.  Nothing any everyday Indie couldn’t do for his or herself.  And as someone mentioned, imagine the less than tech savvy author who has fought against slush piles for years and read Writers Digest since they were a child …

And that’s my problem.

I have no issue with branding or business.  I have no problem with innovative offerings and remaining relevant in the face of a revolution like the boom of self publishing.  But be honest about it … if you’re going to charge up front, fine … but why snag the royalties too?  Because you put a sticker on my book?

Abbott Press … Thank you, but no thank you.

 

 

 

A Thousand Little Lies

Have you ever heard of Q. R Markham?  If you haven’t, you probably will.

You see, Mr. Markham (which is the pen name for the author Qunitan Rowan) is a plagiarizer.  And I’m not talking about the little borrowing of things here and there…no, if only…the truth is, it’s much deeper than that.  Quintan Rowan plagiarized an entire novel.  He took all the works that ever inspired him to begin with, mashed them up and served them up under the title “Assassin of Secrets”.  And no, he’s not some new Indie who simply didn’t know better..Rowan owns a bookstore in Brooklyn, NY (Spoonbill and Sugartown)…and the book, well, it was published by Little, Brown.

The story of this unfolds like Russian Nesting Dolls.  From the novel itself which, from the very first pages, copies nearly verbatim the works of others, dribbling down to the interviews he did where he passed off quotes of others as his own.  I’m not going to go into the gory details of this disgusting breech of trust and blunt dishonesty…but rather share my reaction to it.

When I came home this evening and told Mark what I’d learned about this–the whole story–he sort of shrugged like it was no big deal.  Then, he kind of laughed and referenced James Fry.

And it was in that moment I understood the difference in weight and balance. He couldn’t see what I saw in this. For me, what Quintan Rowan (and yes, I refuse to use his pen name…because really…what’s the point?  what did he pen?) did was take everything I did, everything we all do, and spit on it.  He’s not an author–he doesn’t deserve to be published.  While it may be funny–highlighting the gaps in traditional publishing, making a martyr of this “author”–for me, it’s just sad.

I don’t know why Rowan did what he did.  I can take my guesses, throw them at the wall, and wait to see what sticks. Maybe he was tired of the hoops and the jumping, maybe the rejections were piling up and he felt broken, maybe he wanted to see just how far this could go, maybe he has entitlement issue.  Who knows.  But what I do know for certain is that he was given an opportunity and he wasted it.  It wasn’t a rightfully earned placed on the book shelves, he piggy-backed off the work of others.  But still, he had a chance.  He could have done what we all do–he could have worked hard, taken the lumps of rejection, pushed passed it, found a way to make the literary world for him in his terms…but he didn’t.  What a shame.

Read more:

here

 

here

 

and

here