Monday, August 30, 2010


Random House and Wylie Reach Agreement

From Publisher's Weekly: "The news that Random House had "won" its showdown with The Wylie Agency, over the inclusion of titles by its authors in Wylie's backlist digital publishing business Odyssey Editions, spread through publishing circles quickly on Tuesday, after Random House and Wylie released a joint statement. The statement said that Random House will now be the exclusive e-book publisher of its 13 titles originally part of Odyssey Editions and that, as a result of the agreement, Random House will lift its ban on doing business with the agency."

I had a feeling that Wylie's action was to get the proverbial ball rolling on a decion about this topic. And now it looks like nothing was really resolved. I'm anxiously awaiting financial information about this agreement. In the meantime, Daily Finance has some intersting insight on this.


This morning I stumbled across a blog post by Mark Coker of Smashwords featuring a podcast of author David Robinson talking about ebook publishing. He has a lot of very interesting observations, like this one:'s not so much rejection that bruises the soul of a writer, it's the chronic condition of being ignored.

Check it out here: Author David Robinson Essay on Virtues of Indie Ebook Publishing

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The e-pub Industry-Part 1

If I had to describe how I see the publishing industry right now, I would call it a “seesaw.”

We can see very plainly the fear that people have of change also applies in business. The actions of publishing houses and agents since the e-book are clearly reactions to what they see as a threat to paper publishing. Practically every week I hear about another independent bookstore closing, one less venue to sell paper books. Many people are reacting to things like this simultaneously in different ways--some good, some scary.

In December, Random House decided they would take action by insisting it had the e-pub rights to the books it published. Many agents jumped on this and fought for their clients to maintain their e-pub rights.

In 2001 a federal court ruled that authors did not grant e-book rights to the publisher according to their original contracts. This seems to be holding up to this day. If you want your e-pub rights, and don’t explicitly grant them, you can have them. But this could get harder and harder. On the other side of that argument, I’ve heard that there are authors who don’t want their e-rights because they wouldn’t know what to do with them.

The Wylie Agency has recently started a new publishing line, Odyssey Editions, to e-publish its clients’ backlists--taking the publisher out of e-publishing and maximizing their clients’ profits. The publishers are trying to claim their e-pub rights to these backlist titles. We’ll have to wait and see what happens…

All this activity speaks loudly of big money in e-books. Those directly affected by it, the publishers of paper books, are trying to protect their future interests of staying in business. But we really have to ask if our electronic rights are any of their business. If we can help it, shouldn’t we writers hold onto our very profitable e-rights, as it seems to be in our best interest for making a living?

Traditional publishing houses are not paying the same royalties that an author could get from e-publishing independently. J. A. Konrath and the Authors Guild both break down the numbers.

As an unpublished writer working hard toward a career as a full time writer, the current publishing situation is daunting. I have an unpublished fantasy novel (still in revision) that I’m not quite sure what I will do with. It is impossible for me to make the best career move according to what I see going on, as I don’t know when I will publish it. And my decision will depend on the state of the industry when I do sell it (selling it could mean to a publisher or by myself). I have three different scenarios in my mind.

If I sold it in the next month or so, I would hold onto my e-pub rights and put in the time to launch it in electronic format myself, while, theoretically reaping the benefits of an advance and having copies on shelves in bookstores. I would get the most profit from my work. But, who knows for how much longer that will be possible. The scales could tip tomorrow for all we know.

If I market my book around but don’t sell it for another two years, none of this might actually matter. I could sell it and enter into a currently nonexistent standardized paper and e-book agreement where I won’t get a choice in the matter. However, this might not be the best scenario. What if paper books go completely “out of fashion” and no one buys the hard copies and the publisher still gets to keep most of the profit from the e-book sales? This type of agreement would lead to a growing independent book sales industry.

I could e-pub my book, no advance, and do the hard work of self promotion and make full proceeds off sales. But, working full time, would I have enough time and resources to do that much self promotion? I once heard about a new author, I cannot remember his name, who got an advance in the six-figure range. He immediately quit his day job and planned a massive self-promotion campaign. His explanation was that if he ever wanted to earn back his advance and see royalties he needed to sell a ton of books. I’m thinking I don’t have that kind of time or money. So this is not for me right now.

I’ll have to keep a close eye on the industry to make sure I get the best agreements I can for my work. I can see actively publishing authors having vastly different contracts from title to title depending on the current conditions. Maybe this is prime time for multiple book deals? Either way, the change won’t be over until the legal departments of publishers and agencies, and maybe even federal courts establish new standards. But who knows how long their deliberation will take and how it will affect e-publishing rights, traditional publishing houses, the role of the agent and most importantly the author. In the meantime, books are being sold every day under different circumstances.

Monday, August 23, 2010


eBook Advertisements

Here's an interesting read. This is one thing I haven't ever imagined I'd see in a book. So I never even thought of it regarding e-books. Advertisers think of everything.

"Growing e-book sales and the opportunity for targeted advertising mean space in e-books is ripe for corporate messages. Add rapidly falling e-reader prices and the planned Google e-book store and the pressure is on for publishers and retailers to increase revenue from digital books."

If that is the future of e-books I can't imagine reading too many of them. After all, I'm the kind of person who stopped watching TV because I was sick of the commercials.

Amazon's e-book Sales...and some Considerations

"Amazon has told Pocket-lint that it expects Kindle e-book sales to eclipse paperback sales by the end of 2011, and to eclipse combined hardback and paperback sales shortly after that in the US."

But here is an article with a more conservative point of view about what Amazon is saying.

All in all the e-book is winning the price war over the paper book, maybe just not quite as fast as Amazon would like to think.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

NewsFlash: Google Counts World's Books

Google Books has counted all books existent in the world as of Thursday August 5th. And the number is 129,864,880.

Read more about what they counted and why? Think about it... how many different editions of Hamlet did you have to read in high school? They were each counted separately.

NewsFlash: Future of the Book

An article was posted yesterday on NPR called Books Have Many Futures, which talks about the current state of ebooks as well as where print books could be heading. Very interesting read.

The MIT futurist Nicholas Negroponte told the Techonomy Conference in early August that the physical, paper-based book is dying rapidly and will soon be replaced as the dominant form. "It’s happening," Negroponte said. "It's not happening in 10 years. It's happening in five years."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

NewsFlash: A Journalist/Author's take on self pub

Self-publishing is hot trend in book world reports evidence that self published authors are starting to shake the stigma.

World Building, Part 1: Top-Down Construction

Any author working in a science fiction or fantasy world has to confront the topic of world building at some point. I'm sure many authors don't even think about the process and just dive into it. But there are authors, like Tolkien, who will spend years crafting elaborate, breathing worlds with expansive histories and peoples. Some of these visionaries go on to create incredibly fine details. You could actually study the Elvish language from Middle Earth, for instance. Or the Klingon language from Star Trek.

But where do you even start developing a world that rich?

Building worlds is a daunting task for anyone to undertake. I am a writer and I have a passion for creating video games. Creating worlds is a subject I've spent more than two decades exploring. The process started for mostly financial reasons. I played Dungeons and Dragons a lot and couldn't afford to purchase the manuals for every TSR world that interested me. So I created my own world.

I will begin this discussion with a look at a Top-Down design.

I started my fantasy world, Palamar, with a friend when I was about ten years old. I drew a map for the solar system to explain how the planets and moons were set up. Then I created the world map, drawing each continent in turn, marking cities and forests as I got to them. What I was doing was creating an entire fantasy universe from a million-mile view down to the people living in it. Once I had a good idea of the layout of the land and the people who lived in it, then I was able to create my characters and the stories and adventures they would live through.

This method has some benefits. You never have to wonder what's over the next horizon. You've already created the map and defined the boundaries of the civilizations that live there. Once you have boundaries and cultures, it's pretty easy to see where tensions between them could erupt. Place a big open field between two civilizations and you've just created a place for a battlefield (ancient, future, or modern, take your pick). The history often ends up being obvious once you've created the landscape.

There are drawbacks to this method. Every time I have an interesting idea for something I want to add to my world, I have to make changes to the world map to accommodate those ideas. Before I started using computers on a daily basis, that meant re-drawing the world map by hand. This method is also finite - it's really not practical for designing more than a single world. But for a fantasy realm, this method works nicely.

But this is only one method for creating a world...
I will discuss a Bottom-Up method in part 2.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

NewsFlash: Dorchester drops mmpb for e-book/POD

Huge news last week in publishing! Dorchester Drops Mass Market Publishing for E-Book/POD Model. I'm going to have to hit the net and do some reading up on this. But my friend wrote up and interesting post about it and related thoughts at the Phylactery of Nightmares and Dreams.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What time is our torture session?

Let's have a little fun from the not too distant past. This is a flash fiction story that I worked on for a little competition I had with a writer friend. Maybe she will post her original entry some time. What I found interesting about flash fiction wasn't that the stories where short, but that it let us write, edit, and critique several stories in a short time. It was a great workshopping tool. Want to focus on dialog? Make a flash story that consisted of mostly talk. Want to work on fight scenes? Make a flash that consisted mostly of action. I think one mistake I made was focusing on scenes. I started writing scenes instead of a story consisting of a beginning, middle and end.

So please, enjoy my very first ever flash fiction story.


I know what evil lurks in the minds of ... no no. That just sounds like the start of a corny old radio show. How then shall I start this, "Once upon a time?" Somehow I don’t think so. That would, after all, suggest an ending like, "They lived happily ever after." Don’t make me sick.

I want to tell you a story about real evil. Evil so tangible that you could reach out and touch it, like a mist that envelopes you and seeps into your mind.

Let me then, tell a story about a close friend. The queen of her realm. Her subjects pander to her every whim. But imagine if you will, those subjects decide to rise up and wield a mighty mechanical weapon, built for the sole purpose of rending chunks from your person.

First they feed her tasty treats, oh yes, very tasty indeed. Her senses dull and she finds herself in a wonderful euphoric state where her mind drifts atop fluffy clouds and she flitters around with little bunnies.

Then a buzzing sound, distant at first.

The bunnies. No longer carelessly frolicking are all looking at her. The once innocent pink-rimmed eyes turned cloudy and red. Fangs bared.

The first bite she doesn’t feel, a clean slice through her fur. Then the chewing begins. Again and again teeth bite into her and rip clump after clump of fur out.

An eternity. Then the buzzing stops, her bonds released, and one of her subjects say, “Okay kitty, you can go now. All your mats out!” She gets scratched behind her ear and offered another kitty treat.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What a Workshop is all About

Now that we’ve launched the site and have our legs under us we will be running full steam ahead working on the content of the e-book we will be publishing next summer. This means a lot of writing for us…writing and more importantly workshopping--because we know there’s room for improvement in our story-telling craft.

I’ve been workshopping stories, poetry and non-fiction in and outside of school for almost ten years. All I have to say about my experiences with them is that they are great, in so many ways--even the bad ones. Now let me explain why…

On the simplest level, a workshop occurs when a group of people get together to read your work and give you feedback on it or you read another writer’s work and give them feedback--sometimes both at the same time. A serious writer’s workshop is not a social hour, a word-play date, or bitch session. It is time to work on craft, on words--something that you love.

There are different kinds of workshops: professionally run retreat workshops such as Viable Paradise, Taos, Clarion and Odyssey, one-shot Con workshops, online workshops, class workshops offered through schools, and many others. Each have their own strengths. But I’m going to focus on the regularly meeting group style as that is what we scribists will be doing.

Let’s say you’ve written a story and you just want to send it out. You want it to get into some editor’s hands so they will instantly send you an email asking to buy the story’s first publication rights. You think it’s that good.

Then why, a few days later, did you get a form rejection?

Because you are blind to what your work really looks like word for word--yes even if you put it aside for a week, or a month to forget about it. No matter what, you won’t be able to find all your grammar and spelling mistakes, or all your confusing sentences that you with all your idiosyncrasies will not notice as abnormal expression of English, or whatever language you write in.

You might have a great story, but the first time it comes out, it might not take the same shape that you see in your head. A good workshop can point out your foibles to you much quicker than you can find them.

So, confident you wrote the best story you could, and unable to find anything else in there to fix (you’re not letting your workshop fellows do work for you that you know you need to do first), you bring your awesome story to a workshop.

Now you are in the box, the silent state of the writer being workshopped, ready to write down everything you can because you are open to their constructive criticism.

Each group member quickly runs through their points about your story, maybe elaborating on one or two so as not to take all the time for themselves. You hear lauds on the parts of the story that showcase your strengths, but then… Wait…What are they talking about? That’s not what I wrote. They didn’t read it right. But you keep silent. You might find this difficult but it is important for the writer of the work in question to not pollute the critiquing atmosphere. They read it as they saw it. As a wise professor of mine once said, “You are in the box in workshop because you can’t sit behind every reader and say, ‘No, this is what that means.’” And so you listen carefully and write down what they said; ideally it was constructive criticism about the various parts of a story: plot, characters, style, pace etc. They are critiquing your work, not you. They probably know very little about you and can only know about the story. So don’t take anything personally.

Everyone’s said their bit, and now it’s your turn to talk. First, say thank you, because someone took the time out of their busy week to read your story. Then ask for any clarification on comments you didn’t understand. If no one commented on something you were wondering about, ask what they think--someone will be happy to tell you.

The reason for all this? They want the same help from you. They are in the same position you are, they want to improve their work to professional standards and beyond--this will take more than workshopping, but it’s a great place to start.

The best part about receiving criticism is that you get to make the final call on which pieces of advice you take. Of course, even if you disagree with a comment, you must give it due consideration. In the end, you are the only one with the vision of the story in your head and you can decide what’s best for it.

Perhaps the most important part of going to a workshop, at least in my opinion, is the motivation that comes from it. Language comes to life in workshop sessions. People are discussing words and phrases and paragraphs and their right to be on the page. Then someone brings home feedback and thinks about edits and plot snags and character depth. Beyond that though, they have someone else’s story in hand to critique for next time. The cycle never stops, it keeps you going and it keeps you improving your own work.

Now we aren’t always so lucky to find a great workshop where the other writers are generous or constructive in criticism. There are always those workshops where you won’t mesh well with the other participants. That’s fine, you’ll always have readers who will react that way, and it can be good to hear things you don’t like. But if the group really isn’t working for you (no one is trying to publish, anyone can show up whenever etc…), get packing and find a new one, or put a new one together yourself.

Reading other people’s work will help you realize what your own strengths and weaknesses are. Listening to other people critique the same work you critiqued will help you sharpen your own reading skills. As Donne said in the early days of the Renaissance, “No man is an island.” Writers need readers and writers need other writers--so get workshopping!