Interesting Trends

The July report from AuthorEarnings.Com points out a couple of interesting trends in the market place. If you are unfamiliar, AuthorEarnings.Com is a project that reports on the Amazon eBook sales numbers of authors who have agreed to share thier sales data.

The first l interesting trend in the report concerns the earnings of independents and Big 5 published authors. The Big 5 authors lead the pact in sales across Amazon’s bestsellers list. However, when you look at gross sales independent authors show growth above the Big 5. In fact the report shows that, “Self-published authors are now earning nearly 40% of all eBook royalties on the Kindle store.” To paraphrase, the days of self publishing being a last resort are over.

The other tend that really surprised me but at the same time matches what I have seen in other digital market places, concerns DRM. Nearly all works from Big 5 authors come with some form of Digital Rights Management. You buy the book and you can only read it on your devices. Conversely books lacking DRM can be loaned to friends for reading on thier devices. The report shows that, “Indie titles without DRM sell twice as many copies each, on average, as those with DRM.” Can it be? The lack of DRM has become an in demand feature? I will be looking closely at succeeding reports to see if this continues or changes on way or the other. I suspect this gap in sales will only widen as readers buy more digital works and more importantly look to share those titles with friends who own thier own devices, as they have done with printed books.

All in all an interesting report. I urge any writers or readers interested in the publishing business visit htyp://authorearnings.com , sign up for an email of new reports or add to the numbers by taking thier author survey.

Summer of Progress

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The summer of 2014 will go down as the summer of progress. I’m writing this post in a coffee shop in Bisbee Arizona where I’m taking a break from penning the last quarter of my latest novel Midnight Detail. It looks like I’m on track to finish the rough draft by Christmas. Meanwhile I am working through the second draft of my Steampunk novel,  The Fourth Prometheus, and the first draft of the sequel to Undead Heart. I know I have some fans waiting for that one. I  haven’t stopped working on my short story collection, The Hole in Your Mind. All the stories are written it’s just a matter of polishing them up and putting the book together. My goal is to have the collection out by the end of the year. All in all a pretty productive summer and the books have continued to sell as well.

Writing In the Age of Political Correctness

locked box imageFor better or worse we seem to be in an age where we are hypersensitive to language that is hurtful, derogatory or just outright mean. This all comes under the banner of political correctness and while rooted in a good idea can also be taken to such extremes that questions of censorship arise. While we have the right to free speech we do not have the right to freedom of speech.

Anyone who knows me, knows I can have a bit of a potty mouth. I curse a lot. However, I rarely swear in my writing. I find it difficult to provide enough context within a story to justify the use of foul language. Now I know in name of realism we have to use language that reflects our subjects. A gritty crime story will have more F-bombs than a cozy cottage romance novel. Still, I think care needs to be taken by the writer to temper the use for no other purpose than to avoid diluting power of the words when they are needed. When the moment in the story comes for the character to really show their anger or amazement at a situation your best tool would be colorful language. Unfortunately that tool becomes weaker the more you use so it. Don’t get in a spot where by the time you really need your character to blow his or her top and drop some F-bombs you’ll want them to have impact.

That brings me to the words that have become so stigmatized that even their utterance sends ripples across the internet. You know the ones I am talking about. Racial slurs and derogatory comments that are the bane of anyone with a public image. One slip of the tongue and anything short of a tearful apology sets their career back several years. I bet they miss the days of Sean Penn when you would just clock the person in the face. These words cannot be taken lightly, they are ugly and hateful, but should they never be uttered? Are we as writers to blame if one of our characters likes to use racial slurs? We know people like that exist. Are we doing good or ill by perpetuating that behavior in our works? Basically my question is how far do we take realism? Or do we just need to be smart and follow the adage, do no harm?

Authors’ Petition

Change.org has an interesting article concerning the ongoing battle between Amazon and Hachette. Publishers for too long have been allowed to circumvent the free market process. I for one applaud Amazon. I would also be the first one to turn away from them should they begin to exhibit the same monopolistic powers that they are fighting. Click on the link as it is a worthy read and explains a side of the story that may be missing if all you have heard is that Amazon is fighting over eBook prices. http://www.change.org/petitions/authors-to-thank-our-readers-2?utm_campaign=new_signature&utm_medium=email&utm_source=signature_receipt#share

Twin Faces of Publishing

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We live in an age where technology has brought many exiting possibilities. Thanks to technology I am writing this in bed on my smartphone while the movie Clue streams on the TV. Got to love that internet. This same technology has opened the door to publishing for many writers and in the process has created two paths to publication. This has me thinking on the differences between Traditional publishing and Independent publishing. To say nothing about Self publishing. Which I would argue is different from Independent publishing because the Independent writer is not paying for copies of books printed but that may be a post for some other time.

First I think a definition of professional is in order. Many times we equate anything professional as being of higher quality or superior. That isn’t always the case. All the term, “professional,” implies or should imply is that person is paid for what they do. The assumption here is that if it is good enough to be paid for it must be pretty good. There are many examples where that doesn’t anyways ring true.

When it comes to publishing, the term, “professional,” applies to both traditional and independent publishing. In both cases books are for sale and writers get paid. Quality really doesn’t factor in with one exception. A traditionally published book will have been vetted and gone through many edits and focus groups to ensure the book succeeds on the market. The independent or self published author can achieve the same result depending how much money they have to put into the project.

At one point I was following the traditional path and making some progress talking to agents. Then the market changed and either agents became super choosy or what I was writing simply had no market. The decision to go with a traditional publisher or going on your own as an independent comes down to what you hope to gain. Traditional publishing is the surest route to wealth, in so much as one can hope for in the arts. Wealth isn’t guaranteed by any stretch but it is the path followed by many of our more famous authors and had a long tradition as the only means to earn a living as an author.

Those of us who are independents do so hoping for wealth but mostly we do it for ourselves. We are proud of our works and wish to share them with an audience. An audience that technology has opened for us. That is not to say should the right opportunity or project presents itself I would not go with a traditional publisher. I like the freedom of working at my own pace and only on works I would read myself. Not to mention the creative control of all the tangible like cover design, layout and marketing. Sure it is all extra work that takes time from writing but if you make it all part of the same process you will not feel so torn. I can’t tell you which path is right for you all I can offer is you have a lot of work ahead.

What Writers Do

The other day my mind was wondering and I started thinking on how I would answer the question, what does a writer do that allows him or her to create such interesting works. I had to think about this a bit. All people have imaginations. All people grew up playing with action figures or dolls, imagining what it is like to walk across the moon or the concert stage. Even as adults people imagine what it would be like to get a bonus at work or hit the power-ball. The guy in the club imagines what he would say to the attractive girl across the bar. The woman at the bar imagines what she would say to the handsome guy should he come over. All this imagining, all these creative lines of thought are not too dissimilar from what writers do.

That is not to make writing sound easy. It isn’t. A writer just invest time and energy exploring thier craft. What I mean by craft is the act of putting words to sentences, sentences to paragraphs and paragraphs to pages. The rules aren’t so much rights or wrongs but goods and betters. I don’t think there isn’t a writer alive who at one point wished it was as simple as right and wrong. What the writer must concern himself or herself with is the way one word flows to the next. It is more than just relaying the story to the reader. You have to get the story into the reader’s mind despite the words. Attention to the craft of writing is what makes this possible. A successful writer is so comfortable in thier craft the writing never gets in the way of the story. That is the goal and that is what writers do.

Writing In the Lines

coloring book imageYou heard about coloring in the lines. How about writing in the lines? Members of the West Valley Writers Group know about our two minute drills and monthly assignments. Both of these have prompts that ask the writer to continue a story or create something within a certain set of conditions. Anthologies often work this way. For example, you may come across a call for stories 2,500 words or less set in the Pacific North and featuring a beloved pet. Go. Do you get the sweats? Do you ask yourself how will I ever come up with a story like this? The challenge of writing for anthologies is conforming to the theme of the work.

Following the fickle machinations of our muse is one way to get our stories done and results in some interesting works but the moment you hand that muse some guidelines the wall goes up. Is there some magic bullet way to get past this? Sadly, no, in these instances each writer is tested in a unique way as the object is to take these elements and work them into a compelling story. The risk here is readers are not dumb. They can and will pick up an details that are forced or do not feel right for the story or characters.

Rather than thinking of these criteria as constraints on your muse think of them as elements in a garden. You placed them there for your muse to wander through, climb on or hide behind. I know, but just go with me on this. This kind of visualization early into the story creation can really help your writing move past whatever is blocking it. Before a story is written all the elements don’t exist. They are like some bizarre Schrodinger’s Cat experiment, there but not there. So don’t sweat the details, just let your muse wander about them in the garden and soon a story will emerge. I know I have used this technique many times to create works for different needs and even research assignments. Try it you may find your muse enjoys his or her new garden.

Surviving a Con

Conventions come in all sizes and themes.  Phoenix Comicon is about as big a convention that I have attended.  Even back in the day with my Star Trek conventions, I have not attended something as large as Phoenix has become. The first year we attended my wife and I managed to get a room the same day as  the start of the convention. That doesn’t happen any more.

The first step to surviving a Con, make your arrangements ahead of time. If you need a room, get one sooner rather than later. Figure out what you want to do while there and set your schedule. Now this comes close to becoming too regimented and the serendipity of coming across something unexpected is not to be underestimated. Balance is good to avoid missing the stuff you came for and at the same time not feeling like you are back in school.

Make sure you dress comfortably. If you are coming in costume you will be in it for several hours so make sure it is comfortable and that you can satisfy your bodily functions. Astronaut diapers will only get you so far. Even if you forgo the costume wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You will be on your feat ALOT. Which brings me to my final point. Get used to standing in line.  There may, there will be, lines to get into sessions, get autographs or photos, to get food and maybe even get the elevator to your room. Be comfortable being around people and remember your enjoyment is is no less important than the other person’s.

Getting Ready for Phoenix Comicon

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Yes,  it is that time of year again. The start of the summer, which in Arizona isn’t as big a deal as up in Connecticut, begins with the gathering of the nerds known as Phoenix Comicon. I will be in attendance this year and for the second time sitting on some Star Trek panels.  I decided to not get a table in the dealers’ room.  Too expensive for one and I still want to go to Comicon as an attendee. I have my costumes all ready and the room is booked,  so bring it on.
For this year I am on the following panels:
Star Trek 101 Saturday 10:30 -  11:30 North building 124a An introduction to the Star Trek universe.
I Hate Temporal Mechanics  Saturday night 7:30 -  8:30 North  building 122c An exploration of time travel across the various Trek shows.
Legendary Star Trek Captains Sunday 3:00 -  4:00 North building room 122ab Star Trek meets Survivor. Which of Starfleet’ finest make it off the deserted planet?
Hope to see you there.