Podcast Recommendations

It’s been about a year since I shared my favorite podcasts. Some of them have ended, others have been created, so I’m sharing my favorite podcasts that involve writing with you here.

Author Strong – fantastic 30 minute episodes interviewing and talking about writing.

Sell More Books Show – Five tips, and five top news stories in publishing. Quick, and to the point podcast.

Self Publishing Podcast – One of the original podcasts. Three guys discussing their journey through indie authorship. Not always safe for work.

Rocking Self Publishing Podcast – Interviews from authors, marketers, and others.

Authorpreneur – interviews with authors, marketers, and others who talk about the business side of writing.

Creative Penn – Interviews from authors from every walk of life.

Self Publishing Roundtable – usually interviews with authors who are selling a lot of books.

Grammar Girl – A girl bent on making the world a more grammatically correct place.

Literary Roadhouse – Every week they read and discuss a short story.

To Be Read – Weekly discussion of the books they are reading, and what they loved or hated about certain books.

Why not both?

book vs kindleWe see it a lot these days, “Ebooks are killing print books!”

They pull up stats, and show us how ebooks are starting to outsell physical books. Physical book readers fight back and say how awful ebooks are. Then we get more stats from publishers saying print books are outsold ebooks. Back and forth like an endless yo-yo.

Why can’t we have both?

Ebooks are convenient. I love the fact that I can take my kindle filled with a thousand books anywhere I go. I can read on the bus, at the park, poolside, or just during my lunch at work. The text and e-ink are easier on my eyes then the computer screen or smart phone, and I have a paperwhite so I can read in bed with a low level of light if I really want to. If text is too small I can adjust that. If text is too big I can adjust that too.

But I have to admit that my digital collection of books isn’t as awe inspiring as my physical one. I don’t rush to see my own book on kindle, I want the paperback in my hands so I can show it off. I like the smell of old books, and the look of their covers on my shelf. I love having a non-fiction paper book that I can write notes in the margins, highlight, and fold pages. Bookmarks in kindle aren’t quite the same.

The music industry is a fantastic counter example of where the publishing industry is going. They had iTunes, then other music shops open to regulate prices. We had Amazon. They had access to iTunes, soundcloud, and other services where indies could go straight to the public, we had Amazon, then Smashwords, and others. They struggle with the same “go free or don’t go free” quandary that faces writers.

Just as writers can see a correlation with their indie writers, readers can see a correlation to their music lovers. CD’s, and even LP’s, have not faded away to obscurity because of MP3’s. On the contrary, they have become collectible, sometimes specialized to give them greater value to the listeners. While lovers of great music continually search out the new, and fill their technology with MP3’s they are also sharing, buying, and trading CD’s and LP’s.

Why wouldn’t books do the same? Print books aren’t going to disappear into the ether. There will always be those who shun technology, who can’t afford it, or simply enjoy the feel of a good book.But like music book publishers are going to have to be a little more creative in how they market, or stick to the big boys who sell the most books. As print on demand becomes easier, and even more cost effective, fewer bulk books will be available.

One of the biggest markets hit by the change in the music industry may have been music stores. Many of them failed while others changed their model, becoming more specialized and catering to specific crowds. Book stores are doing the same thing. While Boarders disappeared Barns and Nobel adjusted their business model and is surviving.

It’s nice that music lovers no longer care if it’s digital or physical. They’ve gotten past the logistic of how their music gets in the hands of the fans and just gone on to make great music. Hopefully that will soon be the case for authors and readers as well. Then we can get back to the business of writing good books, and getting them in the hands of those who love to read.

Wide Release

wpid-wp-1427063101748.jpegThis is the first time that I’ve actually put a book up on ALL the platforms.

Paperback on createspace, kindle, Koboitunes, B&N, then Draft2Digital also had Inktera and Scribd.

Is it useful? I’m not sure yet. I’ve never had a book on most of these sites. I still haven’t figured out how to post a book to google books. At the very least maybe someone will notice it and pick it up now and then. I’ve had books up on Smashwords and Kobo before, but really the only place I’ve sold many books is Amazon so…I figure it isn’t a bad thing to have them all out there.

Draft2Digital was surprisingly easy to set up and use. I know people have said it was, and after trying to get through the meat grinder over at Smashwords I just didn’t believe them. It was incredibly easy though and everything just went through without a hitch.

So…the book is out, the book is beautiful, and I can’t wait to get my own copy (of the final version) in the mail to stick on my shelf. It even has a map of the world so people can follow along in the journey!

This experience has been all about learning. With the short stories I already have out it was a lot simpler. They are often just one story, no need for chapters, maps, or major formatting. The trick with short stories is about telling a cohesive and compelling story in few words. With long format, like this novel, it’s about immersing the reader in the world, and sticking with that immersion for quite a while. Formatting consistency helps with that. Going from one chapter to the next and seeing the same images and typography. Making sure you don’t accidentally have a type change on the next page.

There is just so much to do. So many little things that can go wrong. And one little thing isn’t too bad, but thousands of them is TERRIBLE and will cause you to fail. So you have to carefully go through everything over and over again until you fix all those little things. Like the name that was spelled wrong even after three edits and my own proof reading. Or the time I formatted it with the wrong page size. Or trying to get the map to lay in the book JUST RIGHT. All those little things and more.

This means that I have to finish the next two books. I’m just glad they are already mostly done, lol, because this process takes a while.

What I’ve Learned

In an interesting post today on G+ John Ward ask us “What have you learned, and where did you learn it?” He wanted sources. The idea is that others might learn from that source as well. It’s a fantastic idea, but I’ve got a LOT of sources, so I am going to list them here on my blog instead of in a reply on G+.

Self Publishing

So the big one, self publishing. I didn’t know self publishing was really an achievable goal until I ran into The Self Publishing Podcast. They introduced me to several other podcasts like The Creative Penn, Rocking Self Publishing, and The Sell More Books Show. All of them are fantastic resources on the publishing mindset, marketing, and strategies to get known.

Publishing the Traditional way

Before self publishing there was traditional publishing. I actually went through quite a bit of that back in 2000 trying to get that prestige. (I’ve had several articles and a short story published in magazines, mostly Queensland Fantastic that use to be in Australia.)

To figure out how to do all of this I relied mainly on one book. How to get Happily Published. It was the most informative step by step book, letting me know exactly what to expect, what steps I needed to take, some helpful suggestions on getting the words right, and how to format the manuscript correctly. Great resource, if you are going trade publish I highly recommend it. The Writers Guidelines is also useful to find various publishers/addresses/etc, but a lot of that is also available online.

World Building

I love world building. From sketching maps, to creating new races and creatures. I love building up a society from the ground, and making the world flow together. BUT! In order to do all of that you need to have some basis in reality to build upon. You need to know how land and weather work. How different ecology’s boarder each other, and creatures might develop in those places. You have to figure out how governments, religions, and societies work together.

The only classes I felt really helped me in college were the classes regarding history, and anthropology. But I’m not going to recomend you go to a college when you can learn the same thing via documentaries and books.

One of my favorite books about the simplest thing is Salt: A World History. It’s amazing how much of our history of exploration, war, expansion, and industry revolved around this simple mineral. On the same vein, How Beer Saved the World (video) shows how man may have gone from hunter/gatherer to agriculture because of this wonderful thing called beer. Again showing how the small things effect the grander scale.

I also enjoyed books on competitive religion, astrology, mythology, astronomy, physiology, economy, ecology…. Just everything. Non fiction books and documentaries are wonderful treasure troves when fleshing out how own world and I found that every time I read/watched something new I had a little tid-bit to add to my worlds. This isn’t something you get all at once, it is from a lifetime of gathering little bits of information. Watching, observing, and internalizing, and eventually it just congeals on  your own story. It isn’t as though I plan for certain aspects to come out, they just often are there and only later do I realize that it was inspired by a specific thing I read long ago.

I’m not sure what else anyone else would be interested in. If you have any specific thing you’re looking for a refrence for let me know, I might have come across it at one point.

Also, I do have a page of references available here with some other little things I didn’t mention.

I’m a book snob!

A few months back I got an email from Amazon reminding me that the book I pre-ordered is now coming out. I was kind of surprised. I don’t generally pre-order anything. But I looked up the book and discovered it was the XKCD hard copy of “What If?“, and thought I probably ordered it for my son (since he’s very sciency) so I kept the order.

I love the book and I’m glad I bought it. Every so often I pick it up and just read a few of the questions for those bite sized chunks of science in a slightly funny tone.

Then there was “Choose Your Own Auto Biography” by Neil Patrick Harris, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet” by Felicia Day, and “ASAP Science; Answers to the Worlds Weirdest Questions” by the guys over at ASAP Science. “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. All of which are books I would love to read. All of which are books I don’t necessarily want to buy. At least not now at their price.

Most of these individuals made their name famous by doing things on their own. Felicia Day made a web series that is highly acclaimed on her own. ASAP Science is a well known youtube channel that they did on their own. Amanda Palmer has a fantastic music career that she became famous for ON HER OWN. And each of them went to a traditional publisher (or they were probably approached by the publisher) to do their book. Each time I heard this I was slightly disappointed. These well known figures who lead the “do it yourself” community … I guess I wouldn’t say they sold out, but they didn’t stick with the indie vibe that got them where they are today.

And I can’t say I fault the various authors for going with traditional publications. They get an advance, they don’t have to deal with editors, illustrators, formatters, etc, they don’t have to pay for everything up front. They just have to write it and hand it over and maybe go on some book tours. I get it, and I might even do it if I got a good enough advance (and liked the contract enough).

Besides the fact of losing their indie feel, there is the price of the books. $18 for print, $13 for ebook, and that’s with amazon’s discounts. “What If?” is a little older so there are used copies, but still… really? $13 for an ebook?

I think I’ve been spoiled having $2.99 to $5.99 ebooks. I look at those prices and think “If I buy that book that means I can’t buy the three other books on my wish list.” So they are sitting on my wishlist till the day they either go on sale, or I convince myself it’s alright to spend that much on a book. (Or maybe someone buys it for me for Christmas.)

Here’s the thing… I don’t even spend $15 on my video games very often. With Humble Bundles and Steam sales there really just isn’t a reason to pay more then $5 for most games. The few that I do get that are over $5 I wait till they’ve been out a while so I can see some game play, and hear some honest reviews about what the game is really like. I want to KNOW I will like the game before I ever spend the money on it. And the few AAA titles that were close to $60 when I bought them I had some hands on game time with before I ever purchased them. (Thank Star Wars Old Republic for that one. Bought it, hated it, and wasted $60 better spent elsewhere. Not doing that again.)

In an age where people increasingly have less and less money to spend on entertainment it makes no sense to keep pricing things at a premium all the time. (Especially things that are sometimes broken in the case of video games.) But as long as there are people willing to buy them at that price I guess it’s going to keep happening. I guess if I had more disposable income I would to.

NaNoWriMo

I wrote about my strategy to pay attention to my bodies desires and write for a bit, get up and move around, then write some more. It was a fantastic plan, and I’ve been doing it regularly. The trouble is that things get in the way sometimes. I still have to write, of course, but those things make following my bodies natural rhythms difficult.

SLEEP

I haven’t been getting much. Plain and simple, I just am not right now. Part of this is that my boyfriend moved in, and our work schedules do not synced up very well. I tend to like writing at night after the house has settle down, usually from 10pm to 1am. He wakes up at 5:30am. This throws my sleep scheduled off a lot since I have difficulty going back to sleep afterward.

It’s okay for a while, but I’ve been finding myself taking naps after work lately just to make it through the night. The nice part is that his schedule will change soon and hopefully I’ll be getting more sleep.

Worse? Both of us have been working massive amounts of overtime at our respective jobs. This has left me less down time to just relax and have time to myself, especially since the one day a week I have off is devoted to dentist appointments, shopping, and other necessities of living. I’m tired. I’m writing anyway.

Family Obligations

A while ago I wrote about my daughter coming home and having to go pick her up from the bus. This was a huge sap on my writing schedule and I have been struggling to catch up ever since. I’ve written 2000 words on a lot of those days since then, but with the lack of sleep, and a few other things going on I just haven’t caught up. I’m currently 4k behind and it’s looking like I’m going to stay hovering at 3-4k behind till the very last day.

BUT!

dataagainNaNoWriMo, for me, is a learning experience each year. This year I’ve learned that writing 1500 words a day isn’t difficult, and I’m hoping to stay at that level even after NaNoWriMo is over. What really is amazing to me is that over the last twenty two days I’ve had four days of less then 1000 words. FOUR DAYS! That’s kind of amazing for me. And on those days I still wrote almost 500 words most days. That is extremely different for me and incredible in and of itself.

Before this month my average for writing was 3-500 words. That’s it. Some days less, some days more, but never enough to make me feel like writing could be a full time career. A writer needs to do one thing above all others: write. If you aren’t writing then how can you make a living writing? Does a swimmer swim? Does a musician play an instrument? If they aren’t doing that thing then how do they make the money?

So the fact that my writing has increased steadily, and that I now feel comfortable, almost elated to have so many words a day, is fantastic. I know that when I switch over to doing edits that word count is going to drop, but hopefully I can work on a project in the evenings and edit in the mornings. I’m not quite sure about that one yet, but I’ll have a perfect opportunity to find out after NaNoWriMo, and book three of my trilogy is complete.

Around the Web (and FREE)

footprintsminiToday marks the first day of “Footprints” being FREE. The story of a man who travels to his families cabin after his fathers death to deal with his loose. But there’s something out there in the woods. Find out what happens. It’s a quick read, and it’s free for this weekend.

And as a reminder you can get news updates every couple of weeks, and a free gift if you sign up for my newsletter here.

Now for the links for things going on around the web:

Give customers what they want. (A long, but really interesting article from Hugh Howey.)

Gumroad iPhone app that lets authors sell direct. (Droid is in the works!)

What happens to a traditionally published author when his publisher goes belly up?

How accurate are SF space battles? (video)

10 famous authors that failed before hitting it big.

 R.L. Stine wrote 420 books… I need to write more.

The small details in writing.

 

I’d like to teach the world to sing….

I had this conversation with someone today on reddit, and I’d just like to share it. After writing it I felt so proud to be part of the indie community. And if you are an artist, writer, story teller, or just someone chasing your dreams… you should feel proud of the community of creators we are building too.

It isn’t a contest. We aren’t at each others throats vying for the top. We are friends, and coworkers, helping one another because we are also helping ourselves.

************ the conversation ***********

In response to my assertion that “the arts are skyrocketing” and a person should follow their dream, another redditor replied:

I agree that we have a lot more avenues to express our creativity.  And, it is easy to reach a lot of people. I also believe that supporting local economies is good. But I wonder about ‘skyrocketing’. Is this a growing viable industry, is that what you mean by ‘skyrocketing’? Do most people make good money or even a living?  Or are most folks ‘starving artists’ that would be considered as hobbyists to the business world?

My reply:

I am mainly familiar with the self publishing book world since that is where I am working.

Ten to fifteen years ago, before Amazon opened up publishing to individual authors, the best a writer could do was sign with a publishing house. Most houses would pay 10-15% royalties on a book. They would miss payments, miss count, hide numbers, and basically the publishers made bank while the author made crap. A large portion of authors, way back then, had to have a second job because what they were making through the publishing company couldn’t really pay the bills. They were limited to one book a year. Often signed to contracts with “no compete” clauses so they couldn’t sell anywhere else. And a big part was that there were only so many publishers with so many open book slots each year, and more authors to fill those slots then slots available.

Then Amazon came around. They give their authors direct access to publishing, pay them 70% royalties, and let you do everything yourself.

There are MORE writers now that actually get books out into the world then there ever were before. And they are selling! Things no publishing house would touch because they were cross genre or off brand are now selling millions of copies. Authors, for the first time ever, have a real chance to make a living doing what they love.

I know several dozen authors who make a full time living from writing. They quit their day jobs. And now they just create art. I know about hundreds of other cases and there are reports of thousands of authors who all write full time.

Amazon, smashwords, kobo, and all the other platforms have opened up a world to people who were once hampered by what the publishing industry dictated.

And others are succeeding because we, self published authors, are succeeding. We hire freelance editors, illustrators, voice actors, formatters, personal assistants, and more. Just because we love to write, and people love to read.

Now a lot of authors are starting to hire graphic novelists, animators, and film makers….

Yes. from where I sit, the art community is sky rocketing. We are sharing the wealth. We are encouraging indie development, and teaching each other how to succeed. There are free podcasts, tutorials, and ebooks out there for anyone who wants to put in the hard work to become a self published artist, writer, musician, filmmaker or whatever. And we as an indie community understand that the more our fellow creators succeed, the more we succeed.

It’s kind of a beautiful thing, and I am so happy to be part of it.

Around the Web

Some interesting things going on around the web this week.

authorearnings.com released a new report. Look for a “Indie News Bites” video tonight or tomorrow for my take on what this means. (Oh, and Hugh Howey already replied to some of the articles written refuting his newest report.)

Amazon changes royalties on ACX audio books. 

When It Comes To Women’s Writing, How Do Publications Stack Up? (hint, not well)

Book Bub most popular title trends in various genres.

Some of you might be interested in this man who did an AMA on Reddit, and because of his AMA he went to #300 in Amazon ranking. His cover is odd, to say the least, but people were interested and asked him questions, then bought the book.

Bitter writer suggests Rowling should hang up her typewriter… seriously? Because her books “suck up the oxygen from other writers”? How do you feel about Stephen King, Dean Kootz, or any other best selling author? Some of which died years ago, btw. /rant OH! And Anne Rice Responds

My Traditional Publisher Wish List

Today, on Reddit, someone said they were starting up a small publishing company, and wanted to hear from authors about what they would like to see in a publisher that would make them sign.

Here was my wish list:

As a self publisher I have to do everything myself or hire some one to edit, do cover designs, format, market, publicize, upload to all the stores, etc. Etc. Etc.

In exchange Amazon gives me 70% of every sale. They also give me data of every sale. Everyday. Online at the touch of a button. I get to set my own prices. And they offer me some plans for putting out free books, print books, audio, and translations (which I have to pay for, of course).

What I would want from a publisher, if I signed with one, would be all of that stuff (uploading, formating, editing, cover design, marketing, sales, etc) to be taken care of in exchange for giving up more of my royalties. I would also want higher royalties on ebooks then on print books. At least 50%. I know what I get for ebooks on amazon, and I know how much work goes into it after the initial set up (next to none), so I would expect for that to be taken into account. I also know publishers offset their overhead through ebook sales, so I would be willing to give up some, but not all, of my 70%.

I would also want transparency. An easy to read invoice showing how many books were sold, how many returned, prices, etc. Monthly online statements, and quarterly payments, monthly if possible. Direct deposit would also be helpful.

Also, I’d want a limited time contract. 5 years sounds about right unless renegotiated. That way if your not making money on it and you abandon it, then I still have a chance to use it for something.

I do not ever want to sign anything that says exclusive. Not for all my books, not for a genre, and not even for a series. They are my books, and I have to make the right choices for them book by book. But then again, if you’re doing a great job of selling and caring for my books, then of course I’ll come back to you.

And lastly, I want some clear sense of marketing. What are you doing for me that I can’t do, or hire out, for myself? What makes giving up my royalties worth while?