Monday, November 23, 2009

Self published titles readily available on Amazon

In all the uproar over Harlequin’s vanity publishing branch last week, one of the issues was distribution—which self-pubbed authors get no assistance with except a listing in some catalogue or another. This isn’t a great distribution model for a physical book. For and e-book, however, it’s a great model.

Especially if that catalogue is available through the worlds largest book distributors.

So I found it interesting that, through their premium catalogue, Smashwords, an e-self-publisher, has now formed distribution agreements with Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony. And Smashwords’ services are free! If you were going to self publish, why would you pay Harlequin, or any other vanity press, for a paper book with no chance of wide distribution when you can pay Smashwords nothing and be distributed through Amazon et al?

I know that e-books account for a small percentage of overall book sales but, seriously, how many copies of a self-published paper book do you really expect to sell? The reality is, unless it’s non-fiction in a subject where you have a HUGE platform, the correct answer to that question would be not many.

My understanding is that, even within the Amazon, B&N and Sony distribution channels, these catalogues will be clearly designated as “Smashwords” titles, and an educated reader will get that that means self-published. Which is important considering the following quote off Smashwords’ “how to publish” page:

“At Smashwords, we've always believed it's not our role to judge the quality of an author's work, and we expect this policy will remain in place with few exceptions. We think every author and publisher should have the right to publish and the most qualified arbiter of quality is your reader.”

Or, to paraphrase: “Yeah, you can get a 99 cent book off our site, and expect it to be worth exactly what you paid for it.”

I get what everyone’s issues are with traditional publishers getting in on the self-publishing money wagon but, truly, I think self-pubbed titles being readily available through all major e-book distributors is going to dilute the literary pool much more significantly—and longer term since, let's face it, e-books are the wave of the future.

So, if you’re going to self publish, and you actually want to make a little money, the choice seems clear. But remember another point that was made in the Harlequin uproar: Don’t self publish anything that you’re hoping to get through traditional channels ‘cause, for the most part, once it’s out there, no agent or editor will touch it.

Just my 2 cents. And you get what you pay for.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Writing is like giving birth.

So, you’re writing a book. Great! And your book has characters, probably. Cause…well, I’m not sure it’d be much of a book if it didn't. I’ll have to try that sometime—a book with no characters.

But I digress.

So you have characters. That’s good. Do your characters come to you fully formed? Do you know their names before you start, or do you write a while and try to get to know the person that shows up on your pages before you name them? Do you know their physical traits, their hobbies, their bad habits, insecurities, hopes and fears all up front? What about their personalities? Is it something you work out before you start writing? Maybe in an outline? Or is it something that evolves as you write?

That’s a lot of question marks, but I’m curious how the process works for y’all. I write so freeform that I usually have nothing when I start but a name. But it’s fun to see my characters be born and grow into a whole person on the page. And often, they turn out nothing like I might have expected. Sometimes they let me down. Sometimes they piss me off. Sometimes they make me cry. Often they make me laugh. And every once in a while they shock the hell out of me.

Sounds like my kids.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's just half a glass of water, stupid!

Agent Nathan has a timely post for me today. It’s all about waiting and how we—on the waiting end of things—have no control over the process. For some, this can be extremely nerve-racking. He talks about the “breaking point” were writers start to lose it—checking email every ten second, losing faith in their project.

I have to honestly say that I’ve not reached that point. The biggest part of that is I have a rockstar agent who keeps me in the loop—and thankfully, the loop has been encouraging so far. Another part of it is that I’m writing like a crazy person. Ideas in head. Can’t get onto paper fast enough. Don’t bother with full sentences—too slow.

But, really, I’ve thought a bit about my approach to things lately. People who know my work is on submission to editors ask how it’s going. I don’t have any definitive news, so I get the “no news is good news” comments or “the glass-is-half-full” people telling me I’ll hear soon and then my book is destined for the NYT bestseller list.

What I realized about myself through this whole process is that I’m not a glass-half-full person. But I’m not a glass-half-empty person either. I’m a “It’s half a glass of water, Stupid!” person. It is what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. No new is just no news. Not good or bad.

So where do you fall?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Characters on the loose! Get out of the way!

One of my characters really pissed me off today.

It’s my own damn fault, really. I know I could keep my characters in line (literally) if I wrote with an outline. And I’ll tell you one thing for sure. If I outlined this story, it certainly wouldn’t be going where it’s going, and my character definitely wouldn’t have done that.

But, I’ve learned that I just have to let it happen. Because, truly, where I thought the story was going was much more predictable and pretty darn boring.

So, what I’ve learned in all of this: I don’t necessarily have to like what my characters are doing to my book, but I’m darn well going to let them do it.

But I’m still pissed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stop the insanity!

So, I have a confession to make. I’m neurotic—sort of. I’m a perfectionist. I hate to make mistakes. Because of that, and the fact that the voices in my head never seem to shut up, I’m a compulsive reviser/editor of my manuscripts. I can pick at a manuscript forever and never be totally happy with it.

I’ve been working on book two of the series for which book one is currently on submission to editors. (Did that make any sense?) Anyway, I’ve made some minor changes to book one as issues came up in book two. Mostly setting up characters or situations for a smooth dovetail between the two books. Other than that, I’ve tried to pretend the first manuscript doesn’t exist so I’ll stay the heck out of it.

So, my question to you: When do you stick a fork in your manuscript? When do you stop editing and call it done? I’ve read agent blogs that say: “when it’s perfect” but in my world, perfect doesn’t exist. I can edit out all the typos, grammatical errors, etc, but that doesn’t stop my characters from coming up with some new, really witty line that I have to add, or some really cool new scene from popping into my head in the middle of the night. When do you stop?

Please make me stop!!!