Wednesday, 29 January 2014

If there's a button, why not push it?

My resolution for 2014 is to push more buttons, and I shall be actively seeking out new buttons to push. I'll also be giving up pushing old buttons that no longer work, which is a failing of mine. I find it hard to abandon something that has served me well in the past.

Jeff Bezos said, "If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you're going to double your inventiveness." He's also quoted as saying he doesn't think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait. It's healthy to have an idea today that contradicts the idea you had yesterday. The smartest people constantly revise their understanding and reconsider problems they thought they’d already solved. They're open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.

You have to accept that most buttons you push won't make anything happen. Acknowledge that you're going to feel foolish and discouraged after several duds in a row - but still keep looking for another button to push.

So far, I've paid for a Bookbub ad (successful). I've got out my half-finished screenplay of Replica, finished it, and emailed it to a professional screen writer who was rash enough to volunteer to look at it. I've decided to leave KDP Select (again) and really try to make it work on the other platforms this time. And I'm trying to think up an idea for a series...

Monday, 20 January 2014

Do authors need editors?

My last blog post was picked up by The Passive Voice, and has so far garnered 285 comments. There's a lot of interesting stuff there, if you have an hour or two to read it. My eye was caught by a comment from author Kathlena Contreras:

My experience with people acting as "editors" is that they've tried to change how I tell my story. And ruined it in the process. My point is that we, as artists of the written word, should stop asking authority figures to validate our work and have some faith in the vision we're trying to communicate.

It's often stated on indie forums that no book will be the best it can be without the help of a professional editor. I think this is nonsense. While I'm sure a good editor can contribute to a book, a bad one can ruin it. I've never blogged about the critique that Remix won on Authonomy from an anonymous Harper Collins editor back in 2010. Not sure why - maybe I didn't want to appear unprofessional. This is part of it:

Here’s how you might take your story into the real world. In this darker alternative, instead of dossing down on the roof terrace of a penthouse flat [sic] in London, for example, Ric would be living in a ramshackle shed at the edge of some property in France possibly inherited recently from the protagonist’s mother/aunt etc. She could come to stay for a few weeks, figure out what she’s going to do. 

He was telling me to change the setting from London, which I know, to France, which I don't. Yup, that makes sense.

But she hears noises, she’s disturbed, thinks there’s someone threatening in the night… doesn’t know what to do… tension builds… next day, she has a poke around, finds evidence of someone living rough, at first she thinks he’s dangerous but then they meet (right there, we’ve gone from a few pages to several chapters with new beginnings, red herrings, tension, uncertainty, plot twists). 

Several chapters where all that happens is a timid woman meets her neighbour. Great.

I think its [sic] unwise to cast a world-famous, very handsome rocker who’s only recently disappeared [in fact three years before] but hasn’t disguised himself at all and has just climbed some tall building [actually three storeys] in Hoxton as a ‘mystery stranger’. Better for him to be more like a cult figure who hasn’t been seen for years – bearded, a bit bedraggled perhaps… but suspiciously well-kempt as if he has money. Then let the relationship build up for a while before the revelations

Revelations of what, exactly? If Ric's living openly he can't be a murder suspect, so there is no plot.

I remember having to read this critique two or three times before I believed it. I wasn't foolish enough to take any of its advice. But I pity the poor authors that particular HC editor works with.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Why authors and trad pub don't reveal authors' earnings

Three days ago, a traditionally-published author blogged under the title: HONE$TY PO$T: An Average Traditionally Published Author's Pay. It's a full and frank disclosure of what she has earned over the past three years from her book deals with Harper Collins. You can read a cached copy of it here (EDIT: now expired, so I'm glad I copied it- cached because within four hours, the post was taken down.

Why was it removed? It's unusual for authors to tell anyone what their advance is, because advances these days are pretty unimpressive. You'll probably hear about it if it's what's referred to as a six figure sum. But mostly, so modest is the average advance, the author prefers to focus on her achievement of having a book deal with a major publisher; people have heard of Penguin or Simon & Schuster, and will be respectful.

And publishers don't want to disclose that they pay authors such beggarly amounts. It would certainly raise eyebrows - and maybe more authors would consider going indie. After all, where would publishers be without writers? Nowhere. Yet from the way they behave, you'd think writers are a minor and non-essential part of the business, who use up a lot of agents' and editors' time that could be more profitably spent elsewhere. Those agents and editors earn a living wage, while writers are advised not to give up the day job. Writers are right down the bottom of the publishing heap. Let me quote from that post:

"My books are paperback originals - no hardbacks - and I make 6% of the paperback sales, 25% of the ebook sales.  Publishers take a big chunk because they have a lot of employees to pay, and print costs are not cheap.  Of my percentages earned I share 15% with my agent and put away approximately 15% for taxes.  That means for every $10 paperback of mine that is sold I get $.60, and $.09 of that goes to my agent."

This writer is not complaining. In her own words, she is happy and grateful.

Roll on the revolution.

P.S. The author tweeted she had to take the post down for 'contract disclosure reasons'.

P.P.S. If you are curious to read the copy I took of the post and comments, email me:

Monday, 6 January 2014

Why isn't an older mitten a mat?

From Donna Wilson
I came across this charming rhyme posted as a comment on a Facebook thread, and can't resist copying it to my blog.

The Kitten sat on the Mitten

And the young of a cat is always a kitten,
but the young of a rat is never a ritten
and conversely a kitten when older's a cat
so why isn't an older mitten a mat?

Michele Brenton, aka Banana the Poet, has published books of her witty and accessible poetry, which you can find (and buy for a modest price) here.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Woohoo! A new year!

My new year got off to a pleasant start with Wolf by the Ears finishing the month at #4 on the YouWriteOn charts, entitling it to a professional critique from Random Penguin or Orion. 

I used to be very active on YWO - I always say it's the place I learned to write - but I only put Wolf up to get more opinions on the all-important first chapters of the novel. The top ten is a bonus.

2013 had its ups and downs. It's getting more difficult to sell ebooks, though many indie authors are still doing extremely well. Persistence is, I think, the most important factor leading to success - certainly more important than talent. Publishing is still changing, and who knows what opportunities are just around the corner? We need to keep writing, stay nimble and fast and ready to take risks. In my opinion, trad pub is here to stay. After years of stoutly maintaining that ebooks were no cheaper to produce and handle than print books (a thumping lie) publishing houses are currently making a fortune from digital. But a big chunk of the market now belongs to self-publishers, and trad pub won't be regaining that lost territory.

Here's wishing all my readers a fantastic 2014.