Posted on

Are New York Publishers Still Relevant?

This crossed my desk today and I thought all you writers would find it interesting:

Reprinted from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com

For years New York publishers (also called legacy publishing or corporate publishing) were at the top of the publishing food chain. They decided which books were released and when. They created books that started pop culture trends and, in a word, they ruled the world. But as we’ve evolved through the publishing mecca and other, viable options presented themselves, the issue of how to publish and whether the big New York publishers still control the industry is very debatable. Even bigger are the issues surrounding what, if any, value these publishers bring to the author.

Great industry equalizers have been eBooks, eReaders and, of course, the often-hated and always mysterious Amazon.

During Digital Book World in New York, this topic was pretty heavily discussed. In fact, Dana Beth Weinberg presented on this very issue, why publishers should be worried about losing their author base. The Indie Math, as she calls it, would show that authors who have self-published could potentially earn more money than if they had published traditionally: http://www.amarketingexpert.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2014-01-15-10.55.41.jpg

The real problem with this is that while publishers are aware of the options that authors have, they still do not feel that their existence is in jeopardy. Or, most of them don’t. I have spoken with a lot of publishing colleagues who are in-house at publishers who completely get that the axis of power has shifted. The author now holds all the cards. Let’s celebrate that for a moment because I remember when I was first in this industry and self-publishing (now renamed the ever-trendy indie publishing) was the little stepchild never invited to the table. If you self-published you were considered somewhat akin to a bottom-dweller. Sorry if that’s harsh, but it’s the truth. New York looked down at self-publishing, and I know this firsthand because I’ve always self-published and, frankly, I’ve been proud to jump on this trend.

When I started my business some thirteen years ago, someone in publishing asked me why I’d even bother to spend time on the self-published book or promote the author of such a tome. My answer was always the same: don’t judge what you don’t know and even if you know it, don’t judge. You never know where the great ideas will come from or the things, like print-on-demand or the initially poo-pooed Kindle e-Reader, that will change the world.

So, back to my original question: are the New York publishers still relevant? The answer is: “it depends” and often, just flat-out “no.” I think it’s time that we offered publishers a glimpse of the future, a future that is not all too far off and where they have to prove their relevance to authors. Everything that was once exclusive to a publisher has become much more accessible to authors. If you’re trying to decide if you should wait for a publisher, perhaps it’s time to reconsider that question altogether.

Let’s have a look at where publishers have succeeded in the past and how that’s changed:

Book Production: At some point during Digital Book World one of the speakers showed a survey that indicated that authors generally felt that publishers could do a better job of creating a marketable book than they could. They worried about things like editing, cover design and general market segmentation. Many authors still feel publishers can do a better job, but guess what? They can’t. We work with a number of high quality self-published titles and, for most of them, I’d dare you to find something about them that screams self-published. These days, there is a font of information out there for authors who are willing to educate themselves enough. The competitive advantage is in the hands of the author who can go the distance with this and, if you do it on your own, you could end up making a lot more money.

Distribution & Bookstore Access: There was a time when only publishers could get you into a bookstore or airport store. That’s simply not true anymore. You can get distribution, and you can get yourself into a bookstore, gift shop, or airport store.

The Ring of Fire: This is perhaps one area that scores an advantage for the publisher, and it’s something I call the ring of fire. This is the process by which a book is filtered through the publisher’s system and a process that really helps educate authors and gets them ready for the hardcore process that is publishing.

During this process you’ll have an editor requesting changes, you’ll be tinkering and rewriting until they feel it’s perfect enough for publication. It’s hard and often humbling and it helps an author realize how tough it is out there, I mean really tough. With 3,500 books published every day in this country, be good or be gone, and remember: hope is not a marketing plan.

Media and Marketing: Most often authors feel like this is where publishers succeed, and for the authors who actually get some marketing for their book, this is probably true. I know a lot of very talented publicity people who work in-house and believe me when I say that they know their stuff. The problem is this: there isn’t always an aggressive marketing and publicity budget assigned to each book. In almost 90% of the cases, authors have to do their own marketing.

Money: The all-important driver behind book publishing is the bigger question: “Will they make any money?” The challenge with this question is that no one knows, at least not with any certainty. Publishers (understandably) have become more risk averse, publishing titles by authors who have huge followings or who are celebrities. This becomes somewhat of a challenge for the rest of us, especially if you’re considered a newbie, no-brand, non-following author – which is, candidly, most of us. Is the money really better on the other side? What about author advances and such?

Well, as the link shows above, the advances may not bear out, given the higher sales percentage you can get self-publishing your book. And advances have also shrunk in recent years, which is, again, understandable. The caveat to this is that you can embrace the indie revolution, and forgo traditional but you have to think big time. Especially if you’re a newbie. By “big time” I don’t mean hoping for a movie deal, but rather holding your book up to a set of very high quality standards. That’s the long answer. The short is answer is: yes, you can make as much money or more by self-publishing, but you have to do it right.

Cache: The cache of being published by a big house once was a big deal and I think that for many this still holds true. The media was sensitive to self-published books and often didn’t feature them, not because they didn’t want to or had a bias against them, but because they were, in a word: garbage. But now that the bar is being raised and authors are beginning to understand the expectation of the industry, this is changing. That cache isn’t really having the publisher’s name on the book, it’s about having a book that looks like it came from a Simon & Schuster or Random House. Get the picture?

In looking at all of the above, authors have to wonder why on earth they’d even go with a big house. Yes, why indeed? Now publishers, realizing that there is money to be made in self-publishing, are offering self-publishing as an extension of their brand and this creates even more confusion. Penguin bought Author Solutions but if you publish with Author Solutions it does not, in any way, make you a Penguin author. Problem is, many authors think that’s the case. In fact, last week I got a book sent to me by an author who said he was published by Penguin. He wasn’t. It was Author Solutions. When I attempted to explain this to him he became upset and thought I was selling him some misaligned bag of goods.

I get that buying Author Solutions was probably a great business decision for Penguin. But as we see more and more of this, the issue of publisher brands is going to get even murkier and hard to define. As they find ways to remain relevant, despite the fact that the earth is shifting beneath them (and often in the author’s favor), it’s becoming more and more difficult to survive.

Maybe instead of trying to find ways to expand their brand into self-publishing, these publishing houses should be looking at ways to keep their traditional arms more attractive to the author. One has to wonder if, at some point, savvy authors will weigh a potential contract against going it on their own for more profit and more creative license, and I think that this is a big point that publishers are missing.

The problem in the industry, and I would say that this is the biggest problem, is that so many still don’t get it. Donald Maass wrote a piece for Writer Unboxed recently that illuminates this point with stunning clarity: the industry does not get it. They see this as a class issue (at some point in his piece Maass refers to the self-published group as “Freight class”) (http://writerunboxed.com/2014/02/05/the-new-class-system/). It was infuriating and frightening at the same time. Frightening because despite this self-publishing revolution, no one wants publishers to go away.

We do, however, want them and the legacy publishing industry to get it. The revolution has arrived, it’s knocking on their door and no matter how long they decide to bury their heads in the sand or write blogs about the class distinction and other outdated notions, it is taking over and changing the way we see the industry.

People keep comparing publishing to the music industry, but I think that’s wrong.

Sure, there are similarities in that they both faced changes they weren’t willing to deal with, but the issue of publishing goes much deeper than that. Technically, we’re talking about an industry that, if it doesn’t change, could face extinction. You can produce a book for a lot less than you can produce an album and with far fewer people. Elements of the music industry will never go away, but big players in publishing might and that’s a shame.

When faced with a changing business model, you can either learn how to be a part of the publishing revolution – or step aside and let the revolution take over.

Reprinted from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com 

 

 

Posted on

Guest Blogger: Michaelbrent Collings (Part Two)

My guest blogger, Michaelbrent Collings, finishes his little rant about writing rules. Specifically, The ONLY Three Rules You MUST NOT BREAK. Here’s Part Two. Part One appeared on Sunday, February 23rd.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

3) Make Me Better Or Leave Me Alone

A few of you might have noticed that these rules are NOT written from the point of view of the writer. No, they’re written from the point of view of the READER. From the perspective of our AUDIENCE.

This is intentional.

Because the reader is the person on whom I am going to inflict my work. The person who will enjoy my triumphs, but who will have to suffer through my mistakes. And I’m not talking about typos here. I’m not worried about whether I used a semi-colon correctly or if I misspelled “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis.” (I didn’t misspell this. I rock at that word.)

No, I mean that every work that goes out into the world should go out with the intention of improving the world. Of making the world we live in, this lone and dreary place, a little bit better. A little bit closer to Paradise. A little bit closer to God. Even if you don’t believe in God as a reality, think about it for a moment as an abstract – an all-powerful, all-knowing being who wants nothing but the best for us.

You are the god of your story. You craft and create a world, organizing all the ones and zeroes of your computer program into something amazing. Out of the quantum nothing of computerized chaos emerges character, setting, plot.

And what then? What is the purpose, the point?

Some of you may be turning up your noses at this point, saying, “This is none of his business. I write what I write, and I don’t worry about whether it improves the world. It’s art, dammit!”

I think “artists”–meaning people who do creative stuff and expect others to look at it–have a responsibility to leave their audience better than they were before looking at the creation. This doesn’t mean “shiny, happy, feel-good” necessarily, but BETTER. Sometimes this means challenging them to look at the world in a different way, sometimes it means giving them hope in the darkness, sometimes it means just allowing them some time to escape and enjoy something for a few hours of pure fun.

If you are going to create art and send it into the world, it isn’t for you anymore, it’s for everyone. And if it’s for everyone else, it should make everyone better.  It should improve the universe that it has become a part of. It should represent you, and in so doing, should be your agent for positive change.

CONCLUSION

There really aren’t many rules that you CAN’T break as a writer. But there are a few. Three, to be exact. Break any of them and you’re still writing. But are you a WRITER? Nah.

IMAGINARY CREATIVE WRITING CLASS

Teacher: In writing we never use run-on sentences.

Student Writer: Unless you’re Shakespeare. He did it, like, all the time.

Teacher: Yes, well. Of course. I guess you can use them. Just don’t use sentence fragments.

Student Writer: Everyone speaks in sentence fragments. And poets pretty much only use them.

Teacher: Of course. But one rule is that we never start sentences with a conjunction. And the reason for that is –

Writer: Uhhh … you just did that.

Teacher: Get out of my class before I kill you.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Michaelbrent Collings is a #1 bestselling novelist and produced screenwriter. His most recent novel, Crime Seen, is a paranormal thriller.

 He hopes someday to develop superpowers, and maybe get a cool robot arm. Michaelbrent has a wife and several kids, all of whom are much better looking than he is (though he admits that’s a low bar to set), and much MUCH cooler than he is (also a low bar).

Michaelbrent has more writing advice at his website, MichaelbrentCollings.com

He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter

Follow him for awesome news, updates, and advance notice of sales. You will also be kept safe when the Glorious Revolution begins!

Posted on

Guest Blogger: Michaelbrent Collings (Part One)

My guest blogger, Michaelbrent Collings, has been kind enough to share some advice about writing rules. Specifically, The ONLY Three Rules You MUST NOT BREAK. Here’s Part One. Part Two will appear on Wednesday.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Writers are fond of finding exceptions. It’s part of who we are, I guess. I mean, if we were people who liked following rules we’d already be in a more “normal” profession. We’d be doctors. Or lawyers. Or terrorists. Anything but these free-wheeling weirdos for whom “Pants Optional” is a huge job perk.

And here they are: the three rules. Only three, no more, no less. And every other skill I know, every other technique I use, hangs on the framework provided by one or more of these rules.

  1.  Bore Me And Die
  2. Confuse Me And Lose Me
  3. Make Me Better Or Leave Me Alone

 1) Bore Me And Die

This is first because it MUST be the first consideration of any storyteller. It may not be the most “important” from a cosmic “will I be remembered when I die” sense, but it is first from a “will I even sell a book to anyone in the first place” sense.

People come to fiction for many reasons, but the thread that runs through all is this: they want entertainment. They want to experience new things, to go to places and see new things and be new people they have never been.

How many of you have ever looked for a new and exciting book?

How many of you have ever gone on a quest for a boring book about things you do on a daily basis–something titled, perhaps, My Day Waking Up, Then Making Breakfast, Then Going to the Bathroom, Then Working at a Job I Feel So-So About, Then Eating Some More, Maybe Another Bathroom Break (or Two Depending on if my Fiber Bagel Kicks in), Then Home, Then…

Yeah, you get the point. You probably phased out around the third “then” in the title. That was intentional.

You gotta excite your audience. Not just once, but over and over. Every page, and more than that (since pages for a lot of people are largely a function of how big or small they set their text function on their Nooks or Kindles), every sentence.

Bore me and I’ll put the book down.

Bore me and I’ll look for entertainment elsewhere.

Bore me and you’ve lost my interest as a reader.

Bore me … and die.

2) Confuse Me and Lose Me

This one is a natural extension of the first. You have a riveting story. There’s action, suspense, intrigue, a quirky secondary character with a funny name who collects artisanal bongs and believes the government is secretly stealing his skin. It’s all there.

And the first page starts out:

Dell couldn’t believe it. He was sure it was him that had followed him. Because she was on it when it happened, and she wasn’t there with her. The thing she believed most of all – that God had transported from space and was now there with her – was troubling, but not enough to keep Dell from defending herself from the robot ninja dinosaurs.

Okay, so if you’re like me, you instantly zeroed in on the fact that God came down from space – a highly bizarro and (possibly) fascinating concept. Also, there were robot ninja dinosaurs. Which, as everyone knows, make everything Instantly Awesome.

But I had NO FROIKIN’ CLUE where these character/set pieces/flaming hot piles of radicalness belonged in the story. I THINK Dell is the main character. But I’m not sure if Dell is following or being followed. I don’t know what “it” she was on, or what “it” happened. Heck, I don’t even really know if Dell is a boy or a girl.

Confusion.

Now, a sad reality of life is that books are becoming viewed more and more as consumables, less and less as treasures. A few hundred years ago if you could read and you bought a book and it was difficult, you muscled through it. Because that was something educated people did and because you wanted to be able to impress yon maeiden faire with your impressive myte and knowledge trew. But also because it was likely the only book you could afford, or even the only one you were going to see for a while. It was a treasure.

Now, books are less and less treasures and more and more consumables. That is great for authors because people like to read and are plowing through tons of books. It means, though, a lot of people are going to take any confusion as an excuse (if only subconscious) to put the book down. They’ll watch a show, or feed the kids, or even get another book. Because it’s easy to do all those things, and why try to figure out Dell’s relationship to the robot ninja dinosaurs if there’s probably a TV show on that will explain the legend of RNDs for her, no thinking required?

Books don’t have to be dumbed down. They can be challenging. But I firmly believe that they should say something clearly. If you want to build in layers so that the reader discovers more under the surface on a second (and third and fourth and fifth) read-through, then by all means, do that!

But the first read-through should be understandable. Not just on a macro-level, but a micro-level. Chapters should contribute clearly to the work as a whole. Paragraphs should contain coherent thoughts. Sentences should be phrased so there is no question as to what pronoun refers to what antecedent. Words should be chosen with absolute care.

A few “writers” get all testy about this. “But… but… that’s so much work.”

Yeah. Being a writer is a LOT of work. I used to be a big-city lawyer. Now I’m a laid-back writer. Guess which “me” works longer hours. If you’re afraid of spending time getting it right, go do something easier. Brain surgery, or quantum physics.

You’re a writer. Suck it up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Michaelbrent Collings is a #1 bestselling novelist and produced screenwriter. His most recent novel, Crime Seen, is a paranormal thriller.

 He hopes someday to develop superpowers, and maybe get a cool robot arm. Michaelbrent has a wife and several kids, all of whom are much better looking than he is (though he admits that’s a low bar to set), and much MUCH cooler than he is (also a low bar).

Michaelbrent has more writing advice at his website, MichaelbrentCollings.com

He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter

Follow him for awesome news, updates, and advance notice of sales. You will also be kept safe when the Glorious Revolution begins!

Posted on

New Release: THE READER OF ACHERON by Walter Rhein

13 10 23 READER OF ACHERON Front Cover 640Walter Rhein’s latest release, The Reader of Acheron, is a heroic fantasy in a post-apocalyptic setting where slavery is commonplace and reading is outlawed.  It’s a dark fantasy novel with mature, ambitious themes.

Walter has also recently released a reprint of a fantasy series that has been getting some great reviews.  This reprint is available through Stencil Press and the series is “The Chronicles of the Tainted Gods.”  The first two books are already available here and here with the third scheduled to see release before the end of November. To view all Walter’s books on Amazon, click here.

If you’re interested in discussing some fantasy projects, come over and hang out with Walter at the Heroic Fantasy Facebook group.

 

Posted on

GUEST BLOGGER: Christy Dorrity

Christy Dorrity is a champion Irish dancer and writer whose debut novel, Awakening, was just released. She was kind enough to share her response to the question most writers hear more times than they care to: “Where do you get your ideas?”

***

The answer is from everywhere. A spark of a new idea comes from something a three-year-old says while playing, from other books and movies, and sometimes from dreams.

For me, one of the most fertile grounds for creating fantastic worlds and far-off lands comes from what is already here. Have you ever seen an octopus that can change color and texture to blend into his surroundings? Did you know that there are people who truly believe that faery folk exist? Have you ever really thought about the fact that giant lizards used to rule the earth? Did you know that technology has produced a 3-D printer that prints ears, livers, and kidneys with living tissue?

The world around is so fascinating that I don’t have to go far for ideas.

World mythology is one of those sources of potential for world-building and plot ideas. When I began researching Celtic mythology for AWAKENING, I was amazed at the rich culture and limitless idea-hatching possibilities. Mythology is filled with Hags who pronounce curses, men who turn into beasts in battle, and star-crossed lovers who are destined for heartache. You can’t ask for better material.

AwakeningFrontCoverSmallTake Cliona, the banshee in my book. When I did research on the legends surrounding banshees, I found very little. She is in spirit form, and often attaches to a certain family, warning them with her wail that a death is about to occur. Travelers are warned not to pick up a lost comb; the banshee who often combs her hair by a stream may have left it behind. Some have seen the banshee washing bloody clothing in the river. By some versions she is beautiful, by others, she is frightening.

In creating Cliona, I took what was already there and built on it—giving her motivations and a relatable backstory, while keeping true to original mythology. The elements are all there—the comb, the wail, the wraithlike figure, but the extrapolations are what give my story life.

The make-believe stories that come from an author’s brain are really just an extension of the fascinating facets of the world around us. It’s like Captain Hook says, “Lie? Me? Never. The truth is far too much fun.”

***

To learn more about Christy, visit her on her website, her Facebook page, or at Twitter.

Awakening is now available on Amazon.

 

 

Posted on

Welcome to my updated website

I’ve finally surrendered and accepted the fact that I am two distinctly different people: the quirky, creative, oddball with the graphic imagination and the somewhat conservative businesswoman. This website is devoted to the real me, the one who wakes up at night envisioning dead bodies rolling down hillsides and plopping into creeks. If you want to learn more about the “normal” person, visit my Linda Faulkner website–assuming, of course, that a person who loves to write about insurance is normal.

THIS is the site where my meanderings about the world of writing fiction will appear, along with guest posts from other writers I know. So, if you’re a writer who’s interested in getting some publicity for yourself, send me an email at Linda@LindaMcHenry.com with your inquiry.

Tell me what you think about the new website. The folks at Slocum Design Studio will be thrilled to receive your feedback and any inquiries you might have about their services.