Saturday, March 29, 2014

I've Moved!

Please join me at my new website:

Hope to see you there!!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Self-Publishing: Debating the numbers.

A while ago I did a post on book sales from both traditionally published authors and self-published authors (or as I like to say Indie authors). Most of my figures a few years old, because the publishing industry isn't very forthcoming about its sales figures. 

Well, my friends, it seems like I’m not the only person who’s been wondering how Indie authors fair compared to their traditional counter parts.  Dana Beth Weinberg did a series of articles entitled The Self-Publishing Debate.  In the three parts she talks about all the usual issues: Why self-pub/traditional pub? How many titles do self-pub/Traditional/Hybrid authors publish? What kind of income do they make?

Her analysis is based on the 2013 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey; that surveyed 5,000 authors. Not nearly a complete look, but a nice sample.

Here are some of the highlights from her report:

About 19% of self-published authors in the sample also reported no annual income from their writing, compared to 6% of traditionally published authors and only 3% of hybrid authors.

(At the top earning, $200,000) less than one percent (0.6%) of self-published authors, 4.5% of traditionally published authors, and 6.7% of hybrid authors who reported on their income.

Self-published authors in the sample earned a median income in the range of $1 to $4,999, while traditionally published authors had a median writing income of $5,000 to $9,999, and hybrid authors earned a median income of $15,000 to $19,999.

Digital Book World’s analysis created a bit of a stir in the Indie publishing world. Especially when a colleague promoted her post on Forbes with the following title: How Much Money Do Self-Published Authors Make? And to answer that question he stated: In short, not much.

Indie authors from all over the web came out to cry foul.  What were their issues?  

Who they sampled for starters. Many active indie authors (who claim to be high earners) said they weren't asked take part in the survey despite being affiliated with Writer’s Digest. When you do informal surveys like this it’s hard to get a repressive data set. Is it likely they missed the mid-level and higher earners because they were busy working on their careers? Yes.

One comment mention that there was no distinction between new authors (with only a few books under their belt) and authors who've been publishing for years.  Time is an important factor in building an audience. So there’s a higher likelihood that the traditionally published/hybrid authors in the survey have an advantage over the indie authors because self-publishing is still in its infancy.

The other issue that I think is more than fair was broached by Hugh Howey. He complains that the survey is reading the data wrong. He argues:

But that compares ALL self-published authors and only a small fraction of people who go the traditional route. I've been hammering this point home for years, but it still gets left out of these comparisons. When you look at earnings and sales figures for traditionally published books, you have to take into account the huge percentage of books that never make it out of the slush pile. Why? Because those are authors and books attempting to go that route.

He makes a good point. Look at it this way.

If I've written a book and am trying to publish through the big five publishers, I spend my time submitting my work, tweaking it, and resubmitting it.  Sometimes for years. If my own writing contacts are indicative of this route then it’s likely these authors have several unpublished books waiting in the wings for a publisher to give them a golden ticket. None of these writers are counted on as traditionally published authors that have no income from their writing. Because the survey is looking at PUBLISHED writers.

BUT on the other spectrum. I write that same book, prepare it for self-publication, and despite my blood offerings to the gods of Indie authors, I don’t sell a single copy.  I’m counted in the survey as making no income on the book because I've published.

One of the main problems and greatest advantages to self-publishing is there are no gatekeepers.  No one stops you from publishing a book of poetry about your cat mittens. No one tells you that caveman erotica won’t sell. You can publish what you want (within the distributor’s guidelines).  

So Howey has a point. If we are counting the multitude of authors who self-publish (even when they shouldn't) why aren't we counting the publishing slush pile? 

Personally I like the landscape Howey paints for the self-publishing industry:

Even if you just guessed at the number of [traditionally] submitted manuscripts that make it to publication being at 1% (which I think is awfully generous), you would immediately see a completely different landscape. Take the top 1% of self-published books and compare their earnings with traditionally published books. That would be something to behold.

While I think he’s being a little too generous there, but he could be right. Amazon recently reported that 25% of their digital best sellers (top 100 kindle books) for last year were indie titles. That is something to behold!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

#IWSG When Life Interrupts Your Writing

Purpose of IWSG : to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds
To join IWSG visit Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh here

November is dead.  Long live December.

I can’t even begin to express how happy I am that November is over.  My day job and family drama have been a huge time suck this November. I expect some work crisis to crop up every now and then, but to couple that with my husband having a major falling out with his parents...It's just been a nightmare. (If you don't know I work for my in-laws. Yep, that makes for an awkward work day) And then my parents are having issues with my younger sister....

 So my grand plan to have my book edited and ready for beta readers by December 1st has failed miserably. I'm eager to finish and move on to my next project, but I can't eke out the time. When I do open my laptop I stare blankly at the screen, unmotivated. L

I have managed to get out ‘part one’, the first 14 chapters, edited and ready to read.  I'm looking forward to the feedback.  I've had readers throughout my process, and the feedback has been good from the people who participated in what I like to call “Gina’s Read-Along Book”.   My writing friends who've read chapters as I produced them, raw and filled with grammar errors, are the main reason I've made it to the other end of this process.  But this is the first time I’ll have someone read my work, start to finish.

It’s a little unnerving. This is the first full length novel I've written. Short stories and pieces for anthologies are so much easier to get feedback on.  I want people to be honest, but I also realize that asking someone to be a beta reader is a big commitments. I've come up with some guidelines.  A few things I’m looking for from my reads:
  1. Consistency.- I’m interested in VOICE consistency. I want to know that the voice stays strong throughout the novel.
  2. Where Would You Stop Reading? - I’m hoping no one comes to this, BUT if there IS a spot where you went: “Nope, I’m done!” Let me know where, and why.
  3. Parts you skipped: If there’s any part in the novel where you just skipped or skimmed b/c you felt the information was boring or repetitive please mark that.
  4. Plot holes. If you notice a plot issue let me know. I made some major changes at the end of the novel and had to edit the changes in the entire book. If things don’t sound right or people’s names (or jobs) change suddenly...

I’m hoping that people are honest. I don’t need my ego boosted. I've been writing long enough to have a thick skin. What I need is helpful feedback (even if it’s not what I want to hear). But like any author, I hope my readers like my book.  Now I just need to finish the last half and wait to hear what everyone has to say.  

I'll be posting the first chapter of the book on my blog. If you're interested in beta reading, shoot me an email. I'm always looking for a few good readers.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Urban Fantasy Isn't Just Leather Halters and Stilettos

We've been talking Genre at my writing group. We've had great discussions about Science Fiction, New Weird, Steam Punk...and this week we delve into Urban Fantasy.
Urban Fantasy seems to be the red headed step child of the SFF world. Which I find irritating.
Before you dismiss Urban Fantasy as JUST a fad (or worse, bad sex filled novels wrapped in werewolves and vampires) take a look at some of the books that fall under this category.
Urban Fantasy-A Sub-Genre of Fantasy.  Most often classified as a fantasy narrative in an Urban setting.  The best definition I’ve been able to find is:

John Clute and John Grant’s Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997): “texts where fantasy and the mundane world interact, intersect, and interweave throughout a tale which is significantly about a real city”.
Most would argue the term Urban Fantasy applies to only contemporary fantasy novels.  Magic and fantastical creatures in our time, our world, but I’ve also seen the term UF applied to novels set in the past where an urban setting is a key factor.  Most notably the Steam Punk subgenre with books like the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger.

The other trend seen in today’s modern UF is the heavy noir mystery feel with a protagonist that's a PI, Detective, or other ‘law enforcement’.

History of Modern Urban Fantasy:
Charles de Lint is often credited as a pioneer of what we now call urban fantasy. His books draw heavily on mythology (Celtic sometimes Native American) but are set firmly in a modern city. The stories are told through modern eyes and modern perceptions.  His most popular books are the Newford stories, set in the collaborative Bordertown world.


Other defining authors in the genre:

Emma Bull (War for the Oaks), Neil Gaiman, Terri Windling (Editor of the collaborative anthology entitled Bordertown) Jim Butcher (Dresden Files), Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels series); Kim Harrison (Rachel Morgan serie), Simon R. Green (Nightside books), Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville), and Laurell Hamilton (Anita Blake books)

(This is just a sample of notable authors from this popular genre...please don't email hate mail b/c I left off your favorite author)

One thing these novels have in common is they are all about fantasy and Fairytale retellings in the real cities. (Think elves in rock bands and cities bordering magical realms.)
Vampire novels became popular in the 90s following Anne Rice’s Interview with a vampire.

This novel would see a whole new host of vampire noire and romance novels that were marketed under the UF heading.  PN Elrod’s vampire detective series, Laurell Hamilton's Anita Blake novels, Charlain Harris’s Sothern Vampire Mysteries,   and YA romance novels like Twilight and The Vampire Academy.

The popularity of Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake novels in 1990s also began a new trend towards first person narrative with a “strong” female protagonist  who kickass in heels and leather.  These novels usually featured a grittier urban backdrop and more often than not, a romantic subplot.
This is when we began to see an over-all shift in plots for Urban Fantasy. Series like Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake or Karen Marie Moning’s Darkfever stared to blur the lines b/w UF and romance…where the romantic subplots were to take center stage.  Tim Pratt even went so far to say that today’s Modern UF is filled with “books about tattooed women who wear black leather, fight crime, and fend off and/or sleep with supernatural monsters.” (He sites that as one of the reasons his publisher wanted him to publish his Marla Mason books under the name TA Pratt. His publisher has since dropped the series and he continues to self publish it.)

There's nothing wrong with including these book under the Urban fantasy umbrella, but this narrowing of the definition of UF leaves out a whole host of books that should fall into this genre.

It also makes the public believe UF is a fad or ‘New’ Genre, but in fact we’ve had these types of tales for years.

UF has wide, varied, and deep influences.  The real heart of UF is all about making old stories modern. Bringing the fantastical to our mundane lives.

The early gothic novels can easily fall under the umbrella of urban fantasy.  Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan (1890) could be classified as UF (A young girl has her mind opened to the world of gods and monsters, producing an offspring that terrorizes Victorian London) While classified as Horror at the time, The Great God Pan has all the trademarks of UF.  Urban setting, fantastical creatures, mystery, set in modern London.


Carrie Vaughn points out that Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think, a lycanthropy story, originally published in 1940, would fit well in today’s UF marketplace.  It has werewolves, a terrible destiny, and, of course, a dangerous romance.

Even if you keep to a very narrow definition of UF (city setting, modern story, mystery) many of the Victorian and pre-Victorian gothic tale could be classified as UF. 

But don’t stop there, further back Gilgamesh's fantastic adventures happened in the Sumerians' mundane world, not in some magical alternate universe.

So before you dismiss UF as just a passing trend, remember this genre has a long history and will likely be around for years to come.   

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Insecure Writer's Support Group: After the Party's Over.

Purpose of IWSG : to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds
To join IWSG visit Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh here

Last month was a really good month. I'm in a state of post writing afterglow. I've already jumped head long into editing this week, and even that's been going well.I love editing. I'm looking forward to the work, but it also means I'm facing a dilemma.

After sending my novel out to my beta readers, I'm going to have to start working on my next project. The post completion party is over, and it's back to the beginning. 

So today my confession is:

I'm worried I don't have another novel in me.
Lotus Petals was something new for me. I've only ever finished short stories, and one that might be classified as a novella.  So now that it's finished, I'm looking to the future.  I've left the ending open for additional books in Sycamore Springs (the setting of my current novel), but I also think I should explore some other options. I was so passionate about writing Lotus Petals. Now I'm worried I won't be able to find that same level of drive for my next novel. 

It's been on my mind for a while now. I've been studiously keeping a folder with ideas for other books and stories, but in the last six months I realize how different writing a full length novel is from writing short stories. And my biggest fear is I won't be able to do it again.

I started writing Lotus Petals because I had a story I needed to get out. I've enjoyed and hated almost every minute. During this process, I've branched out my social network, and have developed relationships with fabulous writers and agents. The one thing I've learned is these quirky, geeky, bookish people are my tribe!

So while I'm basking in the afterglow of a finished neurosis and insecurity are creeping in again.  Here's hoping inspiration will latch on, and I can repeat the process.