My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Another Cranky Rant: No I Won't Give You a Free Book (Claire Youmans)

Some people, I have to give free books.  There aren’t many of them.  Either they’ve done me huge services in exchange for a book or books or I’m closely related to them. I also have to have a set in my office to show off. 

This year I have SIX books. All shiny new, with consistent styles and new covers and better jacket copy. All of which cost me a pretty penny, let me tell you.

I just ordered the sets that I HAVE TO give away and have on hand to be sent to Japan from wherever they’ll be printed.  I still have more to order for shipment to the US. In the process, I found out some highly disturbing information.

All those “fees” and “costs” that I’m now being charged meant I had to raise prices, as I’ve said.  But somewhere along the line, my profit margin went way, way down, too.  On a hard-copy book, at full retail price, MY share is less than $0.75.  Yes, that is not a typo. I get less than seventy-five cents. I have to sell like Anne Rice or Stephen King before I even cover my costs. 

If I use my special author price, I simply don’t get the seventy three or fewer cents. I also have to pay for shipping.  I should do this for you? I bet you won’t even write a review. If you bother to read it. 

So that “free book” is costing me just about what it would cost you, if you’d just order it yourself. You can get it for less — YOU can read it for FREE — if you go into your public library and ask them to order it. Yes, the books are available from the Secret Library Distributor Catalogs, of course. 

Loan you my copies? Besides the fact that I’d never get them back, do I look like a library to you? Just go to the library and ask them to order them for you.  I need MY copies right here.

I’m a writer and I’m not going to stop doing that. I am very fortunate that I am in a position of being able to do so. But given the way the industry is moving, I may give some serious though as to whether I want to publish over the next few years. I may want to wait until the industry shakes out and stops trying to shake me down. 

My books are damned good.  They are well worth reading.  But, to quote the song about a chair, “If I can’t sell it, I’m gonna sit right here on it. I ain’t gonna give it away."

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Lesser Writer (Mailbox)

I feel like I'm the "lesser writer" oft spoken of.

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer questions about once a week.  I will use your first name ONLY, unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. Let me assuage you that there is no magic to writing.]   

Serena asks:

Hello Chris. I know you likely get thousands of messages a day, but I hope that you see this. Your page means a lot to me.

I'm struggling at the moment with feeling like I'm the "lesser writer" that reviewers refer to in their patented "In the hands of a lesser writer" line.

Advice? Thoughts? I'm willing to have this post made public if you're willing to publish it!

My reply:

Thousands?  Maybe more like ten to twenty on a busy day. But when they're all asking me for free editing or why I do transcriptions, it can feel like thousands, so let's go with that. (I'm hoping to use "Do you know who I am?" on the host staff at The Olive Garden later if the wait is over fifteen minutes, and this is exactly the inflating pep talk I need.) Anyway, my outrageous fame and thousands of messages about free feedback are exactly why I'm so excited to get interesting questions that I'm not only willing to publish, but that actually keep the lights on around here.

"In the hands of a lesser writer...."

Let me start by saying that the way the world (and even writers themselves) talks about writing and writers does an incredible disservice to writing and writers.

If you're a musician, everybody knows you have to practice for years before you can go join the symphony or make enough money on tour to have dental insurance. And we're not talking years of one hour a week either.

If you're on a theater stage professionally, there is probably a 90% chance that you have an MFA in theater arts, which represents at least seven years of hardcore training....and that's if you didn't start in junior high. Outside of sheer inter-industry nepotism, the amount of time actors spend before getting in front of a CAMERA is comparable (if they do not straight up have a theater background).

If you're a visual artist (painting or sculpture), it will probably be years of doodling, sketching, playing and creating projects before you get a piece of work in a gallery or an installation in a festival, and years more before you have your own show.

Architecture...?  A five-year degree and ongoing education with probably a decade of experience before getting to design a building that's bigger than a Mellow Mushroom or more interesting than someone's conversion of a garage to an inlaw unit.

But for some reason with writing, we don't talk much about the work. The long, shitty, unpaid hours that every artist goes through get sort of glossed over with the writer, and we talk about writing like it is an innate ability that one either has or doesn't.  Are you a "lesser" writer? Or a "greater" writer?

And never the twain shall meet.

But the twain do meet. The twain get together for lunch once a week, and sometimes the twain get a hotel room at the Radisson afterwards and spend the afternoon. Because we were all lesser writers once. And the liminal space between is vast and messy.

Maybe it's because you don't SEE writers doing their shit for years in the form of all those tossed manuscript drafts and rejection letters. Maybe it's because the writing MFA is not as vital to critical or commercial success as theater MFA or as non-negotiable as a degree in architecture. Maybe it's a certain sprezzatura that writers employ, obfuscating the tremendous effort behind what they make look easy.

If you're feeling like "the lesser writer," the best advice I can possibly give you is to keep writing until you're not a lesser writer anymore. Keep reading, keep writing, and remember that all writers who got an "in-the-hands-of-a-lesser-writer" review were themselves once LESSER WRITERS.

They just didn't give up.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Blogust! (Some meta news)

No official post today (I'm taking Wednesdays off) but I have a few tiny bits of update news.

  • Did I mention I'm taking Wednesdays off? Yeah. New thing. The staff kicked me out of the office. 
  • Five days was too much with the kid wrangling. (Had it wired there for a bit when I could write when the baby was down, but with a five year old joining the mix, it's a no go.) This is a temporary "feast" schedule that is helping me save up a nest egg to get through the recession that is coming (oh yes, my friends) when I will surely lose ALL THE PATRONS, as well as to keep me writing as long as possible in five more months when the niblet goes to pre-school and my hours get cut. Thursdays will still be mailbox. Fridays still something crunchy. Monday and Tuesday might be fluffy. 
  • I'll update the schedule this weekend.
  • Blog wants me to hit 50,000 page views by the end of the month. ("Blogust") I think Blog is being a little....ambitious, but they insist I try. 
  • Because of this, I am running a lot of "Best of" articles that have an appeal at the end of them. Because of THAT, I will not be running an official appeals post this month. But I'm always still looking for Patrons. (I'm down $6 this month right now.) Even the $1 and $3 patrons help me by establishing a monthly budget I can count on and a foundation where no one person can knock out 10% of my income by cancelling their pledge. 
  • Don't forget to nominate modern fantasy novels that you want to see in the upcoming poll. No nominations (or seconds) and it doesn't get on the poll.
  • Okay, I'm really leaving now. Day off. I mentioned the day off, right?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Best Modern Fantasy (Last Chance to Nominate)

What is the best fantasy book (or series) written between 1976 and 2000? 

For any of you who have ever said "How can this poll not have SOANDSO?!?", now is your chance. Get it on the poll and get it some seconds.

We've got to get this poll going so we have time to do horror for Halloween.

We have a decent poll unfolding with some really good books, but it could use more titles.

So please pop over to the original page (very important), read the rules if you haven't yet, and drop a nomination or an undersung hero. 

I'll be putting this poll together next week.

Remember, go to the original page or it won't count. Not a comment here. Not a comment on the Facebook post. Not Tumblr. THE ORIGINAL PAGE.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Waaa and Whew!

Where’ve I been for the last few months? Reissuing The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, along with bringing out The Dragon Sisters, book 6 in the series. That’s where.

Why did I do that?

It’s not just that I ran out of cover options with the old art. It’s not just that, at six books, I needed a universal style sheet, glossary and character list all located in one place. Those would be normal in the production of a book series. Nope. It’s that the publishing industry has changed a lot since 2014, when the first book in this series appeared.

Every writer now has to rethink the entire mechanism of publishing.

What happened, you say?

First, the Big 5 Traditional Publishers started raising prices to usurious profiteering levels. $25 for an e-book? COME ON. But the “experts” say I’m supposed to give mine away? (Not happening.  Either one.)

Second, the “fleece the author” industry grows geometrically every month, with all sorts of products and services you simply MUST have. (No, you don’t.)

Third, Amazon has become a strong player in the “fleece the author” industry by making their ads a crap-shoot. Bid for what you pay for clicks? For ad placement?  Huh? They are also ramping up to charging — this will happen very soon — authors to list their books on the Amazon platform. They already have instituted a “delivery charge” so authors get lower royalties. What’s next?

Fourth, Amazon refuses to discount or set up a return system so that physical outlets simply won’t buy from them. Amazon is now solely a direct to consumer marketplace. This has led Baker and Taylor, the other real catalog from which bookstores, schools and libraries buy, to stop listing anything published on the Amazon platform — this JUST happened. This leaves Ingram Book Company as the only game in town. Ingram already charges listing fees — although this year there are promo codes to get out of them.  I wanted to move SIX books over there before I got charged $49 plus a pop to do that. Ingram also sets your prices. Not terribly high, but higher than I wish, in some cases, I had to set them.

Fifth, Barnes and Noble just got bought out. This, too, JUST happened. Whether this means it’ll go under or somehow be salvaged remains to be seen, but this means outlets for physical books are going to change even more.

Sixth, rounding it off at an even half-dozen, Facebook, a major marketing platform, stopped showing posts to more than a few of your signed up followers unless you pay for ads. And they also do this lottery ad pricing thing.  So it’s not just pay to play, it’s pay more to get on the field, MORE to get a ball, STILL MORE to maybe get picked for a team, and MORE YET to maybe play.

I’ve gone back to school in marketing and advertising. 

This has led me to commission new covers and jacket copy designed for a new kind of consumer. Needing to list the books on IngramSpark, now the only game in town if you want world-wide paperback distribution for stores, schools, libraries and people — something my books require. Using an aggregator to make sure I get world-wide marketing on ALL the platforms, not just Amazon. Using Amazon in the US only, because they’re the biggest retailer in the US, so I have to.

I suspect Amazon is going to start penalizing its readers as it has done its suppliers. I don’t have much evidence of this, but I hear little bits of information from people who sell non-literary products.  I want the versatility to be OFF of Amazon entirely. I suspect this may be in the future. 

Want to see what I have done?  I hope so, because it’s cost me thousands and taken about 4 months of 12 hour days — not counting the actual writing and editing of The Dragon Sisters.  Check out www.tokigirlandsparrowboy.com.  Look at the listings on whatever retailers you frequent. We’re still in process of getting up on all e-book and on-line physical retailers as of this writing, but that should be done in a couple of weeks, with universal links up on the website.

And then give some thought as to whether you REALLY want to be a writer. 

Also check out Claire's blog and FB page and available books here (book one in the series is always free!!!):



Facebook:  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Toki-Girl-Sparrow-Boy-Claire-Youmans/dp/0990323404/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

If you would like to write a thinly veiled promo for your own work guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.