If Barnes and Nobles Closes, are Unknown Authors Screwed?

If you missed the news, New Republic has a new essay out on the impending doom of Barnes and Nobles https://newrepublic.com/article/133876/pulp-friction

There’s more than a little irony to the impending collapse of Barnes & Noble. The mega-retailer that drove many small, independent booksellers out of business is now being done in by the rise of Amazon. But while many book lovers may be tempted to gloat, the death of Barnes & Noble would be catastrophic—not just for publishing houses and the writers they publish, but for American culture as a whole.

If Barnes & Noble were to shut its doors, Amazon, independent bookstores, and big-box retailers like Target and Walmart would pick up some of the slack. But not all of it. Part of the reason is that book sales are driven by“showrooming,” the idea that most people don’t buy a book, either in print or electronically, unless they’ve seen it somewhere else—on a friend’s shelf, say, or in a bookstore. Even on the brink of closing, Barnes & Noble still accounts for as much as 30 percent of all sales for some publishing houses.

This happens a lot and B&N is still among us. Yet in the long run, they are clearing out space for book and selling more music and games. Borders did this, and look at where they are now.

Here’s the scary part for wanna-be trade-pubbed authors:

In a world without Barnes & Noble, risk-averse publishers will double down on celebrity authors and surefire hits. Literary writers without proven sales records will have difficulty getting published, as will young, debut novelists. The most literary of novels will be shunted to smaller publishers. Some will probably never be published at all. And rigorous nonfiction books, which often require extensive research and travel, will have a tough time finding a publisher with the capital to fund such efforts.

The irony of the age of cultural abundance is that it still relies on old filters and distribution channels to highlight significant works. Barnes & Noble and corporate publishers still have enormous strides to make in fully reflecting America’s rich diversity. But without them, the kinds of books that challenge us, that spark intellectual debates, that push society to be better, will start to disappear. Without Barnes & Noble, we’ll be adrift in a sea of pulp.

So accoring to this author, if you’re unknown, sold poorly in the past, and not famous, you will soon be beyond screwed if B&N goes out. This is because no one, not even Amazon, can or will ever create a viable national print bookstore chain again in this country, unless there’s a sudden return to reading by the public.

It’s pretty clear that without B&N, traditional print publishers will lose a massive part of their appeal. Their two biggest appeals are: Marketing and distribution. Yes, they could still send to indie bookstores, but I have a feeling that few but the biggest authors will want to give away 85% of their revenue to someone who is nothing more than a big marketing agency and seller to small bookstores, especially since there are and will be other services that can do this more effectively for less. And marketing can be done with an agency.

I’m not saying publishers will be extinct if B&N goes under, but they will lose a huge incentive to query those agents for years to land one, and then wait more years to find a publisher (unless you’re one of the lottery winners who just has ‘it’ and can sail through the process in months). The downside is, how will most people be able to get their work out in an overcrowded marketplace?

 

 

Book Publishers Support White Privilege

At least according to a survey done by Lee and Low, the independent book publishing company:

Lee and Low created and executed a large survey of publishing players in the States. The report tells us that the survey went to “1,524 reviewer employees and 11,713 publishing employees for a total of 13,237 surveys deployed.” With a gratifying 25.8-percent response rate, the team has reason to feel good about how much input they received. I’ll give you the very useful infographic here produced by the company. In addition, the results are set out in a slide presentation you can access here. And the report, itself, from Lee and Low is here, dated January 26: reactions have been coming in for about a week.

Lee and Low’s corporate information makes it clear that the company’s own mission in publishing is “to meet the need for stories that children of color can identify with.”  Writing about the story for Quartz, Amy X. Wang described the Lee and Low ethnic results this way: “In the industry overall, 79 percent of people are Caucasian while just 4 percent are black, 7 percent are Asian, 6 percent are Hispanic, and less than 5 percent are Native American, Middle Eastern, or biracial. Figures on sexual orientation and disability status are no less lopsided.”

Lopsided, clearly, and most of us, sadly, are not surprised at these figures. In such campaign efforts as #weneeddiversebooks and myriad other consciousness-raising efforts, the failures of publishing to serve major sectors of the population adequately have been clear for some time. These are serious, pressing shortcomings and the more discussion about them, the better.

Basically, Lee and Low tells us that most publishing employees are straight, physically-abled, college-educated white women. Even at the executive level, long seen as the domain of men to the exclusion of women.

From the Lee and Low Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS) 2015

Lee and Low are big promoters of the “We Need Diverse Books” campaign (disclosure: I’ve entered in two of their contests) and I do want to address that in a future post, specifically my objections. But basically, the recap here is that they believe authors who fit a mold- college-educated, straight white women, are going to be the most likely to be published, because they look like the typical publishing employee.

I do believe that kid’s literature is too female-dominant. When I went to the SCBWI conference in Virginia in October, it was 93% female (I counted) and almost all were Caucasian. Granted, that tends to be who is most likely to read and want to be authors, not to mention editors and illustrators. Now the members were polite and no one made me feel uncomfortable. But I could see how someone like me might wonder if s/he belongs. The same is true in the indie publishing world. Just about all, if not all, bestselling indies are Caucasians writing primarily from their own middle-class POV.

As a kid I had no problem reading books with girls as the main character. But Goosebumps were one thing: Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Slumber Party is another. And unfortunately, I see too many variants of the latter these days and much less of the former. I personally do not care who runs what in publishing: My contacts, smart white women, are great and I enjoy working with them. But I actually do agree with Lee and Low that there is a bias, however unintentional, that promotes certain types of stories unappealing to boys and certain groups, and favors authors who fit a certain profile and who write a certain kind of story.

If book publishers want to reach boys and increase literacy overall, especially among kids, they have work to do. Now I don’t necessarily want white people getting bumped to fit “affirmative action” programs if the books are inferior. But publishers need to consider making an effort to reach audiences like boys and men if they want to boost sales. This means taking risks on those who may be able to bridge that gap between potential customers and the authors.

The ultimate goal is to get people to read, and be interested. Not to pander to the latest fad of making works shorter and more shallow, or giving up on books to exclusively sell coloring, connect the dots, fill-in-the-blank, and whatever else is popular, or that teaches people that books are outdated and we should just tweet stories instead, but more interesting and more engaging. That does mean embracing technology and maybe making books more interactive, available for mobile devices, and making books cheaper  and somewhat shorter than what they are now so they’re affordable to more people and folks decide to read and not do other things. I saw two kids at the library last week playing games on their phones. The horror.

Indie publishing is different-the only real barrier is cost. That’s not something that can be controlled. For now, I think indie publishing is the domain of middle-class and above authors who can afford to spend several thousand dollars on something that is unlikely to earn money in the short term. That may change, and I hope it does, so more people enjoy stories and the people who tell them.

 

Do readers prefer longer or shorter books?

Big pile of books

I saw this article from The Guardian:

Books are steadily increasing in size, according to a survey that has found the average number of pages has grown by 25% over the last 15 years.

A study of more than 2,500 books appearing on New York Times bestseller and notable books lists and Google’s annual survey of the most discussed books reveals that the average length has increased from 320 pages in 1999 to 400 pages in 2014.

According to James Finlayson from Vervesearch, who carried out the survey for the interactive publisher Flipsnack, there’s a “relatively consistent pattern of growth year on year” that has added approximately 80 pages to the average size of the books surveyed since 1999.

The literary agent Clare Alexander agrees that long books are more portable in electronic formats, but points out that much ebook reading is focused on genres such as romance, crime and erotica. For Alexander, the gradual increase in size is evidence of a cultural shift.

“Despite all the talk of the death of the book because of competition from other media,” she says, “people who love to read appear to prefer a long and immersive narrative, the very opposite of a sound bite or snippets of information that we all spend our lives downloading from Google.

This would have surprised me. All along I’ve been told short stories are back in style because of declining attention spans and people reading from their phones, on smaller screens unlikely to be suitable for a 500 page turner. Therefore, the argument goes, quit writing those 300 page stories and instead sell 15-40 page short stories at 99 cents a pop.

But longer stories also sell better, according to Mark Coker at Smashwords:

Longer books sell better than shorter books.  This finding is consistent with each of the prior year’s surveys, though as I mention in the presentation, this year’s finding comes with a lot more caveats.  In a nutshell, I suspect the rise of multi-author box sets, often at deep discount prices, is probably throwing off the data this year, and as I discuss in the presentation, some of the dynamics will cause it to understate impact of longer books and some will cause it to overstate it.

I think this is what’s happening: Casual readers who would rather watch TV or play video games prefer shorter works, because they can finish a book or short story in an hour or less and feel like they read something to completion. But passionate readers prefer a story they can connect to, and more often than not shorter works don’t do that in fiction. Now that doesn’t mean shorter is worse: Animal Farm, The Notebook, The Alchemist, The Old Man and the Sea, MacBeth, are all examples of shorter works which told stories most readers still remember today. Animal Farm and The Alchemist are considered among the best fiction works ever written. That said, some of the best-selling works are longer and it does mean I believe a well-written story is more important than a short one, even if some are emphasizing shorter over quality.

As readers, do you prefer shorter or longer works?

 

 

 

Do Indie Authors Need Gatekeepers?

As someone who has published indie before (disclosure- that was once on Wattpad, but technically it counts), I follow the news in the indie author world. And while many are embracing the “don’t query, just publish” mentality, I find it deliciously ironic that some indie authors are now, in fact, wondering if credible gatekeepers might be a good thing.

Tahlia Newland, Australian author, submitted an op-ed to Self Publishing Advice where she addresses that question:

The problem is that not every book written is worthy of publication and, in general, the author is the least qualified person to make the decision as to its worthiness. Even for an experienced author, the temptation to publish just because you can is strong. How many self-published authors stop and consider whether their book is actually worth publishing or, better still, ask someone objective and well read that question?

The fact is that for all the books written, only a small percentage are worthy of publication. During the days when traditional publishing was the only practical way to get published, publishers used to pick up around 5% of what was submitted to them. One publisher I did a workshop with said that around another 10% were well-written, but they weren’t something the publishers felt would sell.

But the advent of easy self-publishing hasn’t made 85% of the books written any better, it’s just made it possible for readers to read them. So what we can get, at best, is a lot of mediocre books because authors are not that discerning in deciding if their book is worth the effort. They just want to see it published.

The problem of quality in self-published books will only be solved when authors ask a publishing industry professional if their book is worth publishing, and if they get an honest answer and are prepared to not publish. Sounds a bit like a gatekeeper, doesn’t it?

Well, there was a reason for them, and the reason still exists: to protect readers from books that aren’t that great, and to protect authors from the career-killing repercussions of ill-advised publication.

Whoa Nelly! Hold the horses. Is an indie author suggest we need, dare I say it, gatekeepers? And she doesn’t mean readers; she means before it gets to readers, so many won’t be jaded by the perception of indie books being crud.

Often authors who want to publish debate between self-publishing and trying to seek an agent. From my own interactions with indies, most hate the idea of querying and waiting years to get a novel published, with no guarantee a book will ever see the light of day. At least when published, your script has a chance, a 0.0000001% chance, but nonetheless, of hitting mega-stardom and propelling you next to the mega-bestsellers, both indie and traditional.

But as someone who has read chapters or stories from other indies, I can honestly say there are some people I really would love to just say, “you should do something else with your time. You’d be more productive.” They are just not good writers. But the pressure to “write! write!” and “publish! publish!” persuades some that either they are the next big thing, or else at least they can say they did something few achieve: actually publishing a novel, from start to finish. And to be fair, there are some traditionally-published books that are terrible and should not have been published in the first place.

For all authors, making the decision whether or not to kill a manuscript can be tough, especially if one devotes dozens or hundreds of hours to a particular story. But sometimes, shelving that manuscript is for the best. The question is, will those who write treat their work like a product and have it tested before publication? Or do they just toss it up to the internet and hope for the best?

Author Interview: Ann the Supreme Overlord

Ann Livi Andrews is the “Supreme Overlord” of the Support for Indie Authors Goodreads group, which she started in January 2015. The group has grown to over 3,000 indie authors bound by a desire to help each other. Here’s my interview with Ann about her debut novel, Hollow Towns.

S: You wrote in multiple viewpoints for this story, as opposed to just one person. Did that make the writing style more difficult, or was it a fun challenge?

A: Honestly they felt like two completely different stories as I was writing them. Yes, they do tie together, but Charlie’s personality is so different than Hannah/Lucy’s that it gave the first half of the book a vastly different feel than the second half – at least it did while I was writing it. My greatest struggle was in finding a way to put them together that wasn’t too confusing for readers. I knew they weren’t two separate books, but alternating between the two viewpoints would have given too much away too quickly.

S: To me, The Seven made the story more creepy. Your writing made them feel almost like…deities. Tell the blog reader (without too many spoilers) how these seven beings impact the story.

A: I suppose they’re a bit like a shadow government that many people have conspiracy theories surrounding. Only they’re not concerned with individuals. I’d go so far as to say that they don’t recognize anything in the singular form, which I hinted at with their reaction to Charlie and Madison at the very end of the book. Every action they take is merely a small step towards a greater purpose. As for the sense that they’re deities, I’m pretty sure they believe they are.

S: Near the end of your book, two characters talk about a possible war and whether they should participate or not. Without too many giveaways, where do you see the next book headed? Or, are you done with this story?

A: I wanted to be done with this story, but things don’t always work out the way we want them to. However, I’m excited to begin on the sequel because we’ll get to learn about this new way of life through Madison’s eyes as she experiences it for herself. In addition, we’ll learn more about The Seven and their plans for Charlie. And as Charlie and his team take on new missions, we’ll get to learn more about the environment they were raised in. As for the impending fight, they’ll have to decide whether or not they have a chance to make any changes at all by fighting.

S: Where do you get your inspiration for your writing?

A: Sometimes it’s a dream. Sometimes it’s a sentence that keeps repeating over and over again in my head until I write it down. Regardless, it never feels like something I’m making it up. It’s more like switching through frequencies until you get a clear signal on a story that’s already floating around somewhere. With Hollow Towns, I had an image of a girl waking up amid rubble with no idea of who she was, lightning flashing all around her. The story built from there due to my curiosity to find out what had happened to her.

S: Since you published this novel, what has the initial reaction been like?

A: Most readers have enjoyed it. I thought the change in perspective might frustrate a few people, but so far it’s been well received.

S: Which of the character’s perspectives was the toughest for you to write, and why?

A: Hannah/Lucy for sure. I couldn’t connect with her. I really don’t like her at all. I’m not sure if it’s her naivety or her stubbornness to keep pushing on, but she really irritated me. I had completed my first draft but after rereading it, I basically scrapped the entire first half of the book (Hannah/Lucy’s story) and started from scratch. I can honestly say that she drove me to drink.

S: What’s next for you?

A: I’m hoping to launch a paperback of my first four stories in my Rehab for Superheroes series titled “Meet Your Heroes.” This will feature an extended version of Crimson Mistress (this is the first story I ever published and I’ve known for a while that it needed to be rehashed a bit), Jack, Em, and Dakota. I also have a sequel to Hamlet that I’ve been working on for a few months now. If I could get those two out by the end of the year I’ll be happy. Then I’ll be wrapping up the full length novel of Rehab for Superheroes. My list only seems to get longer even though I’ve crossed quite a few items off of it.

visit Ann’s personal website HERE

Buy the book HERE

A good reason to tune out “successful people”

willywonka - No, copying my candy factory idea will NOT  make you the next "Shark Tank" success story.

For those of you who write, or for those of you who are readers who want to know what an authors thinks about before writing, you need to understand that most authors are merely “wannabes” who aspire to become bestsellers. What I mean is, they want to be the next JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Stephen King, or even the next Hugh Howey, Joe Konrath, or Amanda Hocking, all multi-millionaire authors.

Knowing this, there is a huge market of people trying to peddle “information” or “services” to help make those writer’s “dreams come true.” While some services and information are legitemate and honest, this tends to fall into one of 4 camps:

  1. The entity offering the “information” or “service” sees a lucrative financial opportunity to make money off unsuspecting and desperate writers, so they make promises they can’t keep and stick you with a high bill. Vanity presses work like this, such as this one.
  2. The “bestselling” author sees an opportunity to make money and sell seminars based on “here’s how successful I am. Just do what I do, and you can be successful like me too!” They then give you “advice” which sometimes is practical, and sometimes is not. Here’s one example. The end goal is not primarily to help newbies achieve success: it’s to establish the bestseller as a credible authority because s/he achieved success and financial fortune, and to make money either from ad revenue on hits to their web page, or on seminars or books dedicated to “helping” you. Whether or not their advice helps you is none of their concern.
  3. The wanna-be author, who lacks an understanding of branding and market principles, follows the herd, not understanding just how many other people are doing the exact same thing. Which companies tend to be most successful long-term: the innovators, or the “sheep”? Our wanna-be, however, does not know this. So s/he copies advice from
    “self-help” books written by successful people who of course want to help them personally, and then claim it does work because their sales went from 50 a month to 100. They then write it in blog comments or on their own website.
  4. The entity which studies information and claims there is a specific formula to doing something. For example, the perma-free strategy. I have come around on it to some extend, conceding that it does work for some people and to some extent. But not for everyone; if it did, everyone would be rich. So giving away lots of freebies isn’t going to work just because you did it. You really do need a solid strategy in order to lure people to other offerings, using your free book as a “loss leader” of sorts.

You can substitute books and authors for any other topic, such as “how to grow a successful small business” or “how to reduce stress from your life”, etc. I just use books as an example. Again, some people do offer quality advice, but not always, and even then, you need to pay attention.

What the “successful” people fail to tell you, however, is how many factors, both in your control and out of it, play into achieving success. Yes, there is an element of luck and timing and various other factors, including socio-economic background, college education, access to capital, work ethic, ambition, being a producer first, not a consumer first, etc. Yes, there are some universal truths. But like religion, I really believe it is impossible to say there is one “true” way to live life to achieve the goals you want to achieve. Each of us is an independent human being with success as being defined by us, in the way which works best for us. A person who makes $30 million a year as an actor has different success than a kid living in a single-parent home in a federally-classified “war zone” who graduates college and earns $90,000 a year as a lawyer. Both are successful, in different ways. Very unlikely the actor and the lawyer could switch places and have the exact same success.

With that comes a post from the Huffington Post, which I believe is being unfairly maligned, but hits home some uncomfortable truths (bold emphasis mine):

“No matter what experts tell you, no matter what trends, conventional wisdom, social media chatter or your friends in the Facebook writers group insist upon, do NOT write four books a year. I mean it. Don’t.

Unless they’re four gorgeously written, painstakingly molded, amazingly rendered and undeniably memorable books. If you can pull off four of those a year, more power to you. But most can’t. I’d go so far as to say no one can, the qualifier being good books.

Beyond the fact that the marketplace is glutted with an overwhelming number of books already (many of dubious quality), writing good books simply takes time, lots of it. There’s no getting around that time. It involves learned skills, unhurried imagination, fastidious drafting, diligent editing, even the time to step away, then step back, to go over it all again. And, unless you’re a hack (and we know there are plenty of those out there), isn’t the whole point of this exercise to write good books?

So, her (blogger Penny C. Sansevierifirst piece of advice to self-publishing authors wasn’t to put more focus on fine-tuning one’s craft, it wasn’t about taking time to mull and ponder what stories, what narratives, most inspire you to put “pen to paper”; it wasn’t even a suggestion to be relentless about working with professional content/copy editors and cover designers to create the best possible version of your work. No, it was the insanely insane advice to pump out at least four books a year.

And people wonder why there are stigmas attached to self-publishing.

First of all, in looking at her point of reference, I suppose it depends on what you define as a “successful author.” I have a distinct feeling this may be where the disparities lie. Perhaps my own definition is a different one.

When I self-published my first book, After The Sucker Punch, in April of 2014, I had, by then, put years into it, doing all those many things I itemized above. Because I not only wanted to publish a novel, I wanted that novel to be a work of art, a book of depth and merit, one that would not only tell a compelling story but would meet standards of publishing that authors of the highest regard are held to. I wanted it to be a book that would favorably compare with anything put out by a traditional publisher. My choice to self-publish was a result of not having engaged a publisher by the time my book was done and I was ready to market it. It was not based on the notion of joining the “second tier club” where one is unbound from the stricter, more demanding standards of traditional publishing.

“Second tier club”? Yes. As insulting as that sounds, particularly in relation to self-publishing, there is no question that there are two tiers operating in the culture of the book industry. Take a moment to think about it: based on what advice is given to self-published writers, some of which I shared above; based on the”free/bargain” pricing paradigms of most book sellers hawking those writers; based on the corner (quality)-cutting measures required to pump out endless product to meet the purportedly endless demand of those sites and their bargain-hunting readers, “second tier club” is no misnomer.”

The author of that post was attacked by well-known authors like Larry Correia, who admitted he “averaged 2 a year until I quit my day job.” Now that he earns a solid living writing full-time, he can write more books and do so more efficiently. Good for Larry, but few authors earn a full-time living writing. so someone like me, with a full-time job (and seasonal/free-lance too!) who has no name recognition is not going to be able to churn out solid books every quarter to keep up with Larry, who is writing full-time because he was both lucky and good to make a lot of money. Of course, I may very well be so successful that I can do it, but even then my success wouldn’t necessarily translate to success for you because you did what I did. “First to market” principle is in place here.

Lorraine’s (HuffPo article author) attackers don’t get that she’s not saying you shouldn’t do it under any circumstances. She means you should do what works for you, not what others are telling you to do just because it worked for them or someone they know. Just because a few authors in this world got mega-rich, or even 6-figure rich, doing something doesn’t mean you will too, even if you do what they did, even if you’re a talented writer. Luck and timing are as important to the free marketplace as they are to casinos. My only advice is, consider advice from different sources and make your own decisions for your life. And quit propping up the “self-help” industry, because more and more I am convinced that most of those people are less interested in truly helping YOU than in helping themselves to some more money by dangling that success stick in your face and telling you how you can join the elite club for just $19.95.

The truth she’s exposing is that there is no “magic bullet” to success. Maybe an author who sells 10,000 copies can call it a day. Others could sell 100,000 and feel like a failure. But the people and businesses who earn money with seminars and books telling you how to do it don’t want you thinking independently, or else you won’t need them anymore. So they try to get you hooked so you can

If you don’t believe me, try writing a poorly-written erotic novel that sells over 100 million copies. Yea, thought so.

Do you agree or disagree? And it doesn’t just have to be books- how do you feel about people who offer advice or services, free or paid? Do you find most of them to be sincerely helpful, or are they tooting their own horn?

My Interview With The Wynn Brothers

First, I want to give a big thank-you to Francis Powell, author of Flight of Destiny, for interviewing me for his blog. Check it out, and say hi to Francis! In the meantime, stay tuned for an author interview from him.

I spoke to Todd and Tim Wynn, co-authors of Trespassers, to talk about their sci-fi humor novel. Just picture the premise of aliens landing on earth and searching for that special something…only it’s not quite the something you think it is. Let’s visit the Wynn brothers world:

S: Let’s start with your book. What made you decide to write this book, as opposed to any other concept you and your brother might have had?

WB: Like most writers, we’re always juggling multiple stories and trying to decide which to focus on. In this case, it was as if the novel decided on its own. “Trespassers” didn’t have an outline or any characters in place. It just started with page one and took off from there. It started off so fun to write that we just stuck with it.

S: In Trespassers, you indicate that the real reason aliens might visit us is for vaccination purposes. I LOL’d on this. Give us the in-depth on how you came up with that as the real reason they come here.

WB: Well, the real reason they come here is for vacation, due to Earth’s natural beauty, which is a product of it abundant water supply. The reason they abduct Earthlings is to make vaccines to protect themselves from Earth’s microorganisms, similar to anyone who visits a foreign country. This idea came from simply asking ourselves why visitors from another planet would want to abduct a local. We knew we didn’t want it to be anything that we’d seen before, so the answer was a product of looking for something new and satisfying the needs of the alien vacationer.

S: Is the novel meant to be a stand-alone or part of a larger series?

WB: “Trespassers” is definitely a stand alone, but it’s a world that we could revisit. There are certainly ideas floating around for continuing the story and following these characters. We’ve also gotten many requests from readers for a sequel or even a prequel, so an expansion of this story is not out of the question.

S: What was your favorite/least favorite character to write about?

WB: Our least favorite characters didn’t make the cut for that very reason, and they’re not in the book.

As for our favorite, Bruner was always fun to write, because we were giving him so much to handle—too much for anybody. His success came through his ability to handle failure, and we gave him plenty to handle. But it also showed that he’s driven by his faith to this purpose that he doesn’t even understand, but he can feel it’s there, for better or worse.

S: Did you show this to anyone before publishing it? What was the response to your novel?

WB: We definitely believe in early readers. We don’t rely on them to edit our manuscript, but after we spend so much time with the characters and the story, it’s good to hear the perspective of someone who’s reading it fresh for the very first time.

For “Trespassers,” the response from the early readers was overwhelmingly positive, and we got some very helpful input that made the novel even better in the final edit.

S: If you could have added one thing to your novel that you didn’t in the final version, what would it be?

WB: We’ve learned not to look back on a finished work and not to second guess it. We’re happy with the final version, and we’re looking forward.

S: What’s next for you two?

WB: We’re currently working on a novel set in the Midwest during the mid-1800s. It’s filled with murder, tornadoes, and three strangers who come together to form a search party to track a wanted man into uncharted lands. And anyone familiar with our work will know to expect plenty of twists and turns that change the way we see each of these strangers.

Buy Trespassers here

My op-ed in the newspaper: Do you agree or disagree?

I had an op-ed published in The News Journal yesterday. The NJ is a Gannett company newspaper, the same company which owns USA Today. The topic was downloading and supporting indies. Please read and comment on it. Now, as I am on good terms with the editor, I did promise to get his page some traffic, so I will post only the first half of the roughly 700 word article here. Read it, and let me know what you think.

Please consider the indie before downloading

The letter Taylor Swift wrote to Apple asking the company to pay artists whose music is streamed during customer’s free trial period shed a light on a continuing battle between digital creators and consumers that don’t want to pay for digital work.

Many musicians applauded Swift. Large companies like Apple, Google and Spotify routinely make money off others’ talent and do as much as possible to compensate as little as possible. You can go online and read horror stories from musicians who had hundreds of thousands of streams for their songs on those services, but whose royalties barely cover one night at Dover Downs. This is especially a problem for so-called “indies,” or people who create music with a small record label or none at all, and rely on their music sales to earn a living.

Part of the challenge, in addition to persuading people to pay for artists they like, is piracy. Someone decides they like a movie, song, e-book, or game and upload it without permission to file sharing sites where artists get nothing for their work. Even worse, these sites make it easier for someone who doesn’t respect intellectual property rights to just take an artist’s work and start selling it illegally without compensation. This is a problem for all creative industries, but unlike multinational corporations, indies are unable to fight piracy at all.

Unfortunately, those who are not creators tend to assume that if one isn’t making money from their work, then their product must not be worth buying. The problem with that belief is, in the age of diffused media, being discovered by enough people to earn a living becomes more difficult without money, endorsements or name recognition. This has resulted in many unknown creators giving away a lot of work for free, in the hopes of being discovered. As the public became overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content, and as if the ease of finding stuff for free was just too easy, the incentive to pay any creator disappeared.

Read the rest of the article here 

Author Interview: Iffix Santaph

Back to the author interviews! Today we have Iffix Santaph, indie author, on his new middle-grade novel, Impulse, which is book 1 of 6 in the Forgotten Princess series. Here’s my interview with Iffix.

S: Give us the inside scoop on Jendra’s relationship with Toby and Leon, her “just friends” friend.

I: Jendra is the doctor’s adopted daughter, and Leon is destined to be the next town doctor, so they see a lot of each other. Jendra has been searching the underground city for her father since he disappeared ten years earlier, and since Jendra is nearly expert at parkour and “not the sort to fall and bruise her ego”, Leon has been there to rescue her on many occasions. Beside this, the two “just friends” are more than close. There are some interesting secrets regarding Toby, though Jendra and he haven’t met before the ride on the ferry where Leon took Jendra to escape the “angry city dwellers” whose glares may or may not be all in her head. Toby is Leon’s cousin and a criminally-minded youth who dreams of being a pirate someday. In truth, though, Toby just knows that his father’s river ferry is getting old and will eventually be decommissioned. Toby might have been the perfect best friend for Jendra had he been six years older, but they cultivate a relationship closer to siblings, and Toby loves to drive Jendra nuts.

S: What was the inspiration for Tranoudor?

I: Actually, this stems to the top secret origin of the story itself. The story is loosely based on a fairy tale which featured characters who spent an abundance of time in caves, and as I endeavored to incorporate some of these details, I thought it would be fun to build an entire underground city which is slowly falling apart.

There were events in Tranoudor that I based on my own life. For example, I there were more than a few trips in my early life when I had the opportunity to explore caves, particularly in Minnesota and in the black hills. My love of waterfalls is based on the number of family trips we took to Niagara falls, though the waterfall in Tranoudor has slightly smaller. I once was traveling through northern Missouri where the bridge had been out and I needed to cross aboard a ferry. There was also a rickety old bridge in central Honduras that felt about to cave in, which proved to be the inspiration for another scene.

S: When I saw the Je’Raxs, I kept thinking Jurassic Park, especially with the timing of the movie. Will we see dinosaurs?

I: The Je’rax was more like a super-sized scorpion. Before I began to write the story, I approached a number of artists on the popular web-based community DeviantArt. I told them I would love to use their artwork as an inspiration for a roleplaying game; I was taking a break from my then 18 years as a sci-fi writer and attempting to learn to write tabletop games. And the response was incredible. I gathered a large collection of concepts. From these things, I learned who the arch-villain really was, I learned what my gwalfling characters looked like, I learned about the galaxy as a whole, enough to immerse myself in a really incredible world which I am very happy to share. There are a few dinosaur-like creatures in my bestiary. Impulse opens on Gavyn, the shadowman, who is essentially a sentient dinosaur.

S: Did you show this to anyone before publishing it? What was the response to your novel?

I: I actually had a number of beta readers who considered the project and were eager to read more. I showed it to a wide variety of potential agents, on the other hand, who sent the usual response. “This is a great story… for someone else.” So I decided that the someone else would be me. After all, if I had a group of betas who said “I’d buy this.” So I took a risk. I knew I had to start somewhere. If you ever take a real look at the publishing industry, it’s one gigantic circle that will make your head spin. You can’t be published without drawing and audience, and you can’t draw an audience without getting published. So now, when I pitch to agents, I can tell them “I have published Impulse, a middle grade novel, and this is my next project.” That means something. It’s an opening I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t jump into the publishing arena. Of course, I am always looking for a sincere agent. But one of the best things about being an Indie is knowing who I am and not having it taken away because the publisher wants a different story with flirtatious vampires I’m not willing to tell.

S: Which character was your favorite to write about, and why? Least favorite?

I: I loved so many characters when I was writing Impulse. Of course, Toby speaks to who I was at his age. I wasn’t criminal minded, but I was devious and to this day, I’m most content goofing off. It’s easier to write in his mindset. I am also really enjoying the evil queen. Part of enjoying the unlikeable characters is understanding what they’re so determined to accomplish. I know why she is who she is, and when the story reaches that point, I will be happy to fill in those details.

S: What’s next for you?

I: Impulse marked the first in a series of six books in the Forgotten Princess series. Deception is the second book, released in July of this year. I am nearing completion in the writing stages of Conspiracy, the third book, then I will be editing, sending to betas, editing, more betas, etc, etc, until October-ish, when the book will be released and I continue with Retrospect, Stratagem, and Nemesis to complete the base series. Also, as was evidenced last week when Teddy Bear Junction was released (a markedly different story for me), I hope to release an occasional children’s story or short story here or there as the opportunity arises. If those stories relate to Forgotten Princess, I will likely be releasing them on my website: iffixysantaph.com

Check out Iffix’s book at Amazon.

Why Authors aren’t ‘sexy’ and how to fix this

is this younerd

Have you ever noticed how much people around the world idolize singers, dancers, models, athletes, and even reality TV “stars”, but not authors? Today’s post is about the decline in reading for pleasure, or frankly at all, around the world.

There are many reasons for this, such as, the sad state of literacy, the boringness of reading still words when moving images and games are so much more interesting, the lack of respect for education in many parts of the world, the poor (or perceived poor) quality of books being put out around the world, and the work overload, especially here in America. For these reasons, even an indie musician can still gain respect, or a Broadway actor, but an indie author gets very little, and books simply don’t reach as many people as we’d like.

But there’s one reason I believe, whereas music and movies have grown in appeal, books have not: Authors just aren’t sexy.

I mean it. Think of the most stunning, dashing writer you know. Most likely, it’s someone writing a nonfiction book about their life, or it’s a celebrity writing a children’s book (this seems to be common). In those cases, the author may be Channing Tatum or Scarlett Johansson hot. However, most fiction authors, particularly those who may earn fame or respect from writing, are not walking the red carpet in $10,000+ suits and dresses.

Please note: I am not saying authors are ugly. What I mean is, we do not live the “glamorous” life so often depicted on reality TV, live in the hills of Malibu with the other Hollywood stars, etc. Whereas other entertainers make their living performing in front of other people, book writers make a living working alone, indoors, probably not in stylish clothes.

Authors also tend not to be very extroverted: Compare the lifestyle of the biggest-name authors to rock stars or actors. THOSE people go to A-list parties, fly around on private jets, and have paparazzi following them around (Most of them secretly like this, even if they pretend not too) telling the celebrity-obsessed public what the celebrity is wearing, who s/he’s hanging out with, and what restaurant they eat at, etc. In contrast, most authors are like the type who’d rather wear sweaters and go on NPR to discuss Immanuel Kant’s philosophies or the secret meaning of Catcher in the Rye. I can’t think of one big-time author who behaves the way the public expects a rock star to behave.

Here’s the problem: As the concept of celebrity obsession travels from America and goes around the world, people are connecting to anyone they see on TV, the Internet, or magazine covers. These are going to be populated by hyper extroverts. Reality TV shows and cable shows depicting the next superstar singer/dancer/model/actor/personality drive the global demand for celebrity.

Even indie musicians have it made. For example, Delaware is home to one of the biggest indie music festivals in America, Firefly. Based in my former hometown of Dover, roughly 70,000 people are expected to go this year. In comparison, Woodstock had about half a million people. While top indies may not fly in private jets or drink $10,000 wine, you still get the “cool” prestige in being a band that can afford to go on tour around the country, and you can still have the groupie/roadie tag attached to your band. At least you can still sell some merch.

In contrast, there isn’t a single author reality TV show (at least not in America) to get people up. Imagine American Idol or The Voice but with people performing short stories pieces, judged by authors with quirky or interesting personalities. Before you say “It can’t be done. People don’t want to hear someone talk about stories”, just know there is basically no limit to what folks will watch, provided you make it interesting and entertaining.

Picture aspiring authors showcasing their best stuff to demonstrate their storytelling skills. Who says talking and performance don’t matter?

Perhaps find some A-list authors and let them to a Hard Knocks style show where they show the process of what inspires them to write, and how they come up with their ideas. With a little showmanship from the author(s), this could be done to get people interested.

Musicians perform their art in front of other people. Actors make films which are show to people. Models walk catwalks in front of other people. In all cases, the person is shown, moving, acting alive. In comparison, all most people see of authors are the completed books, and maybe a photo on the dust jacket or back cover. Nothing moves, nothing looks alive in the moment. All is frozen in time.

I sincerely believe that if we could find a way to make reading and writing “cool”, and use A-list authors to show this to younger people, we could build some interest in reading. This does NOT mean dumbing down the product or turning into “pop”, the way many songs and movies have become. We can still tell great stories, inspire, explore, and share messages. We just need to figure out a way to make what we do appealing so people get connected to the reading and writing process and gain interest in books.

if you’re concerned that writers will soon become associated with fur coats, VIP lounges at clubs, and a sleazy lifestyle, let me be clear: we can panic only if Stephen King and James Patterson are caught snorting coke of the backs of dancers at Le Crazy Horse. THEN we can worry about the negative celebrity effects of exposing the greater public to the world of writing.

Your thoughts: What do you think should be done to build people’s interest in reading and writing? Would my idea listen above work? Why or why not?

photo credit:  http://flic.kr/p/afQpJy (note: This link does not work anymore)