Influences of the Past

I was talking to a fellow author today, and we started discussing authors we know and love. There are a number of them I love at the moment. Neil Gaiman, Kim Harrison, Elizabeth Hayden, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman… all fantastic authors with wonderful books that drew me in, and kept me reading. Kept me looking for the next book.

When I was younger my tried and true authors were Piers Anthony and Anne McCaffrey, with a little bit of Mercedes Lackey thrown in. If you caught me with a book (which you often did) eight out of ten times it would be one of these authors.

I was a voracious reader. I have read about 80% of Piers Anthony’s, and Anne McCafferey’s books (both of who are/were prolific authors. Piers Anthony is still writing to this day, and is currently writing a book through his twitter feed.)

Thinking back, I realize that my consumption of these books had a great influence on my writing. Piers Anthony especially.

I once found myself in a discussion about his books on Reddit. Now, Reddit is an odd place, and  you can find some incredibly thought provoking commentary in there. You can also find a bunch of trolls just looking to get a rise out of people. That day I just happened to meet someone who honestly didn’t like Anthony, and when she saw my comment about what a good writer he was it pushed her buttons.

Apparently some people think of Anthony as “an old pervert”. Okay, I’ll give you one, but not the other.

Yes, Anthony writes about younger girls falling in love, flirting, sex, and centaurs and mermaids with their breasts showing. He even wrote an interesting book called “Pornucopia” which is exactly what it sounds like. Does that make him a pervert? I don’t think so. Writing erotica doesn’t make you a pervert any more then enjoying sex because, you know, it feels… GOOD!

Sex is a part of the human condition. So are the subjects of body image, love, relationships, gender equality, and age of consent. Issues that he addresses in many of his books.

I kept reading his novels because they spoke about the human condition without being preachy. He often addressed race, religion, beliefs, fear, politics, and social and political issues of all kinds, throughout many of his books. But he did it in a way that even a young adult could understand. And he did it without shoving his own personal beliefs on you (even if they were sometimes pretty obvious.)

In “Race Against Time” Piers Anthony deals with the complex idea of “conformity” and how that could cause the stagnation of society and innovation. Written in 1973, it still rings true during a time when political correctness is almost crammed down our throats. We are taught from childhood to sit down, follow directions, and learn and grow just like everyone else, and if you stand out your risk punishment for being a “disturbance in class”.

I wonder if “Race Against Time” would be publishable, through traditional means, in this decade, especially if Anthony were an unknown. Some have openly called it racist because he uses race as a device to accentuate “conformists” to “individualism”, but it was never meant to be about race.

When I say that Piers Anthony influenced my writing today, I mean that if you take the time to read between the lines of my stories you will find a deeper meaning. It isn’t just about a pretty leaf, or a scarecrow, or death. There is something behind it, some deeper meaning, even if that deeper meaning is “pay attention, ask questions, think for yourself.” Especially with my “Eversword Saga“.

I only hope that I can do half as well as Anthony, and others, did.

Publishing, Gender and Genre

Gender. It’s rarely as cut and dry as male and female in this century, but it still influences a lot of things, and people.

Right now the writers forums, blogs, and news sights are blowing up with articles and commentary about gender roles in SF and fantasy. Articles about women who hide their sex so they can break into the elite ranks of SF, and those that question if they are starved for great women authors, or just sexist. A Tor UK team member even weighed in on the matter, complete with graphs.

4SB4smI will be putting up “Small Bites 4” tomorrow which is Science Fiction. It is the first time I will be sharing my science fiction writing. I’m kind of nervous. I’ve done stories with horror, blood, torture, rape, abuse, and sex. I will never be as nervous about them as I am about something that delves into the science fiction (except maybe erotica).

Why? I chose to use my personal name on my books. “Crissy Moss” isn’t a pen name. It’s me. I kept it because I’m one of a very few people online with that particular name. And it is incredibly feminine. I can’t hide behind “Chris” and still be visible. I chose this.

It’s odd that the two genres that worry me are on complete opposite sides of the spectrum. I am afraid to publish in erotica because I don’t want people to judge me because I am a woman that likes sex. And I am nervous about publishing in SF because I know people will judge me for not being steeped in science enough.

Caring what other people think about us… man or woman, this simple foible is enough to keep people lost, alone, and unable to attain their dreams. This very simple fact is why I won’t sit back and let my stories sit on a hard drive collecting virtual dust. Accolades, comments, and compliments are nice, but being true to yourself is far more important. It’s worth risking one star reviews, flops, and hate mail.

I don’t pretend to know why women aren’t as prominent in the SF/F publishing ranks. I think it is a self perpetuating cycle. Fewer women try to publish in SF, so there are fewer SF books written by women. There are fewer SF books published by women, so fewer women see role models in the SF realm and don’t take the plunge.

I do know that it isn’t just about women. Male authors trying to break into erotica often have to use pseudonyms as well, and they usually have to be female, or non-gender names.

And it’s about readers, too. Readers sometimes wont get past the name on the book.

Gender is more fluid then we think it is. Anatomy doesn’t make us who we are. People can change sexes, or act in non-masculine and non-feminine ways, regardless of the equipment birth gave them. There are even those among us who have no affinity to either sex.

True equality… That’s going to take some time.

Some articles about the subject:

Is the book industry sexist or just starved for great women authors?

Women Who Pretended to Be Men to Publish Scifi Books

SEXISM IN GENRE PUBLISHING: A PUBLISHER’S PERSPECTIVE

The best women authors of science fiction and fantasy

The Greatest Female Sci-Fi/Fantasy Authors of All Time

Around the Web

It’s long past due for an “Around the Web” list.

Here are some of the things going on around the web.

Judge says: Apple Conspired to Fix eBook Prices

Harper Lee, author of “To Kill A Mockingbird”, scammed out of her author rights, trying to get them back.

An Op-Ed piece on “state of publishing“. A very interesting read actually, and why the mega-publisher “Penguin Random House” isn’t good for readers or authors.

A great article about research showing that copyright kills books!

What Makes People Put Down a Book

TedEd talks, “If Super Powers were Real” including super speed, flight, and immortality among others.

22 Productive Tricks

7 things D&D Taught me about Storytelling

Is ANGST the secret ingredient in new adult fiction?

 

 

Updates all around!

The latest episode of Self Publishing Round Table: Episode 2 is now up and ready for your viewing pleasure. And I HAVE A CAMERA! So you can see me laughing, blushing, and getting flustered in recorded time. Awesome!

WATCH IT HERE!!!

My co-hosts–  Carl Sinclair |  Wade Finnegan  |  Bill Dowis  |  John Ward

Also, I have eight books up now, and a few hopefully coming soon.

comingsoon

That about sums up the updates for now. I’ll to a more in depth post later.

Self Publishing – $1500?

I’ve been following Joanna Penn since she appeared on “The Self Publishing Podcast“. She’s a very interesting, thoughtful, and educated woman. She’s got her stuff together, and her books are pretty good too.

She often links to interesting articles about writing and publishing on her twitter and facebook. That is where I get a lot of my “This week in publishing” links.

Today she linked to “How Self Published Books are Made Start to Finish“.

The first thing I notice is a list of “things you should have” and one entry:

  • Money to invest in said book. I wouldn’t start this without $1,500 in the bank marked ‘I can lose this’

Who can afford to just mark $1,500 dollars as “I can lose this”?

Okay, I understand her reasoning. There are editors, book cover designers, marketing, print books, advertising… Ya, there are a LOT of things that go into writing, publishing, and selling your books. Even if you go with a simple cover design that you put together you probably need to buy a licenses for the art work, unless you have some art skills.

But… $1500?

I’ve got 8 books out now. I’ve spent a total of $400. All of that went to editing one book, “Osiren’s Tears“. Granted, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the the editing. It seemed rushed, and I know someone who could have done a better job for a little more money, but he wasn’t available then.

Editing is worth the investment. Some day, I hope, I will make enough to have everything I have already put up re-edited, and then re-published as a new, better edition. But I’m on a budget, and my budget does not include $1500 to blow.

The nice thing about going indie in ANY industry (movies, music, writing, theater, art…) is that you can invest what you have. You can outsource, barter, scrimp, save, and adjust.

Here is what you really must have for self-publishing:

  • An idea
  • Time
  • Patience
  • Persistence
  • A plan
  • A finished manuscript
  • The ability to take criticism
  • An edit
  • A cover
  • More patience
  • The willingness to ask questions.

Only two of those things might cost you some actual hard earned money, and there are ways to get around that too. Got a friend who is an artist? Suggest a trade. You’ll do something for them (babysit, cook, clean, wash their car) if they design a cover for you. Got a group of friends that like to read? Will they be your beta readers and give you some good feedback on cleaning up your prose? Writers workshops are free, and often help a lot.

Another wonderful part about indie industry is that there are a lot of people doing the same thing, and willing to help out in many ways. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask for help, look for tutorials on youtube, read a how to book, and ASK QUESTIONS!

Now, granted, just throwing your book up on amazon will not bring a lot of sales to you. That’s where marketing, and word of mouth comes in. But if your book is good, interesting, and well written, and you put yourself out there where people will see you, then you have a good chance of getting some readers.

Then the trick is to start the whole process over again. The more you publish, the more noticeable you will be. This is true even for really bad writing. There are some terrible books out there with awful covers, and horrible grammar. But they keep producing, and there are people who read their stuff. Go figure.

Point being… you can produce a book for the low cost of ZERO dollars. Doesn’t mean it will be good, or sell, but you can do it. 

And if it is good, or just pretty good, and you get some sales, then maybe you can start saving up for that $1500, and a proper release of a bigger project later.

Fan Fiction, and Amazon

A few days ago Amazon announced their intentions to start a new line. Fan fiction… for pay.

This is unusual because fan fiction is usually skirting copyright by avoiding pay.

Basically, if you write fan fiction for “Vampire Diaries” or “Pretty Little Liars”, and it isn’t porn, then you have a chance of earning some money from the sale of that fan fiction. However, in exchange Amazon, and the original IP owners (in this case the studio producing that franchise) get to use your stories in whatever way shape or form they want to, and they don’t have to cut you in on the deal.

This is good, in the way that it allows some people who like writing fan fiction to write it, and sell it. To earn money they would not have been able to earn otherwise.

This is bad because if you do write the fan fiction, then the producers decide your fic is good and they want to make that into an episode… well they already have it. You aren’t getting paid anymore for it, no matter what you say or do. You don’t even get the regular writers fees for people who work on these shows.

If you write it anyway, maybe it is okay for you. But in all honesty I like Hugh Howey’s idea of fan-fic better. He encourages it, and lets you sell. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t even care what kind of fan-fic it is because it’s your work. He even advertises it on his website!

Fan fiction is an interesting beast all it’s own. I wrote it when I was younger. E.L. James wrote it then changed it up and made millions off “50 Shades of Grey”. Fan fiction isn’t going anywhere.

But I don’t agree with giving Amazon, or “Pretty Little Liars” the ability to use your work unchecked. If they want to hire you as a writer… great. If they want to use your work, license it. But don’t just claim it for a few bucks while they make millions.

John Skulzi had something to say about Amazon’s new world, and Neil Gaiman agreed with him. Here is Neil Gaiman’s opinion on fan fiction itself.

If you want to write it, and publish it, just know what you’re getting into.

 

NOTE: “Twilight Tales” will only be available for a few more hours, but if you did pick it up, and read it, please consider giving it a review. Reviews mean so much to new authors. Also, there are three more books available ranging .99 to 2.99.

Around the Web

A lot has been happening this month. Penguin is pushing Authors Solution. Amazon is discouraging free book sites. And interviews all over the place! Here is a look at what’s been going on around the web.

Amazon HEAVILY discouraging websites that focus on free books. (The guys over at SPP are probably going to be talking about this on the next episode, so keep an eye out for that. 

Tips on recovering from Writers Burnout

Penguins Solution for Writers: One Racket to Rule Them All  (I liked that title too much to paraphrase.)

60 Years of interviews with authors from The Paris Review

We had the review scam a few weeks ago, now authors are paying for their spot on the best seller list.

Breaking Dawn, Part 2 wins 7 Razzie Awards

Barns and Noble may cut back on Nooks and some more about that from NY Times.

The internet is kickstarting a teen poetry revolution.

Shut the *** up and Create, an article by one of my favorite new authors. (Language)

How to be a Success

I was having a conversation on Twitter last month about making writing your day job, and I sent this to the guys over at SPP:

I thought I’d expand upon this “simple” idea, because out of all the writing books, blogs, articles, websites, podcasts, and videos, everything distills down into these four points.

1. Write Well.

“Well” seems to be such a simple word. But it includes a lot of things. Grammar, spelling, characters, plot, and everything else involved with a story. It also involves knowing the difference between a workable story, and something that you should just let go.

You can always get help with the mechanics of a story. Workshops abound. Editors are for hire. You can even hire a ghost writer to write up the idea/plot/storyline you came up with and stick your name on it (not generally recommended.)

If you have a compelling story, with characters your readers care about, then you are headed in the right direction.

2. Write a lot.

Be PROLIFIC! I can not stress this enough. I don’t care if you are writing in your journal every day, but the fact remains the more you write, the more you will write. However, you shouldn’t JUST write things in your diary. Practice writing short stories, articles, blog posts, and anything else. Write as though you are writing to someone, expecting someone to read it.

Writing also helps you improve your ability to write. Grammar and spelling, as well as just coherence. This goes for reading as well. If you don’t read, or hate reading, then how can you write well?

3. Publish often.

Some of the best selling authors are there simply because they write a lot of books. The more books they write, the better visibility they have. The better chance someone has to see something they wrote that was great. 

Here is a list of some prolific authors, many of which are well known.
4. Engage readers.

Email lists. Blogs. Fan mail. Twitter. Facebook. Websites… really it doesn’t matter how you engage your readers, but the internet makes it incredible easy to do just that. If you don’t do so, or come off as a grumpy old guy/gal who doesn’t give a half a penny for their fans then it is less likely you will grow your reading ranks.

Look, we live in a connected world. I actively talk to some of my favorite writers now. I send them tweets, or comment on their Facebook status, and they answer me. It’s awesome. I love the fact that they know their fans are their bread and butter, and they love interacting with me, and all the other people who love their work.

Kim Harrison got feedback for, and changed the cover for one of her new books. Sean Platt and David Write added three chapters to the end of their series to clarify their writing. Piers Anthony has answered every single fan letter he could, and even included characters, puns, and small plot lines to really engage his readers.

Will all of this get you tons of fans? Ultimately only time can tell, but these four things will get you closer then any one of them by itself.

What’s in a Sale Price (An open letter to Johnny B Truant)

In today’s Self Publishing Podcast Johnny B Truant said:

“A book is F*ing $3. As an artist I have a little bit of a problem with the idea that people would balk at that.”

I’ve been having a similar discussion with people regarding games. Specifically the idea that game makers, like Sony, want to curtail second hand game sales, like Gamestop, as they feel that used games are lost revenue.

Here the crux of the matter…. Even if you managed to stop every free/sale/used transaction for every single item in the entire world, producers of content still won’t make more money, for one really simple fact: we can’t all afford new.

Yes, you’re an artist. Your product is worth money. I get it, I’m a writer too. I want to earn a living off my writing as well. However, you are looking at it from the perspective of “this is my stuff, you’re getting my stuff, and you should pay me what I think it’s worth.”

Game developers also have the added incite of “this is how much it cost us to make this game, and this is how many we think we can sell this month.” So they slap a tag for $60 on it, and release it. They are absolutely right that the game is worth, from their perspective, $60 dollars.

Now, lets look at it from my perspective.

I’m a single mom of three. I love books and games. I am teaching my three children to also love books and games. I make less then $2k a month, and my bills alone suck up most of that money.

$60 is one bill. Or a car full of groceries  Or two pairs of shoes. Or two tanks of gas to get to work. Or three nice dates with my wonderful boyfriend.

So I wait till games are on sale, (got to love Steam!) or I wait till the price comes down. Two, three years after a AAA title has come out and grossed the company millions of dollars it might be available for $20 from the company. Maybe. If I’m lucky. Or I can hit a used bin and possibly find it for a little less. It still won’t be that cheap, but maybe I can finally play it.

It’s the same with books, only most of the time I have to go to the library. Sometimes, if i really love a book, or an author, I will splurge and buy their book. Maybe give it to a friend, or sell it back to Half Priced Books, more then likely just keep it on my shelf. Keep in mind I read about 50+ books a year. I can’t afford to buy all of those even if they are only $3.

Yes, you as an artist deserve to be paid for your work. I, as an upcoming author, deserve to be paid for my work. But not everyone is in the same place that you are. Not all of us are able to go out and buy every book/game we want.

I currently own over 23 of David Write and Sean Platts books. I got a lot of them for free, and then I started buying them. I joined Seans list and got this nifty little email saying “Thanks for joining, I’d like to give you a free book.” I turned it down because I already had so many of their books. I also own several Johnny B Truant books, and I bought most of them, but I did get several for free.

I try to repay in my way by giving reviews, and sharing the podcast with other writers, and by buying a few now and then when I have some extra money. But I keep a look out for sale prices of my favorite authors.

Steam is actually an incredible example of what sale prices can do. Summer sales, and winter sales on Steam can lower game prices up to as much as 75% off games, sometimes more. And what happened? Well I bought 80+ games this year. I know I’m not the only one. Steam sales more games during these sales, and they make more for the people selling games through them then any other time of the year.

When you lower the price a lot more people see it, and buy it. You make up for lower prices through volume.

Now, Steam has an amazing platform, they have sales specifically a few times a year, and a few games on sale each day. They can afford to do this, and they do it well. While books are a bit different  you shouldn’t discount the power of “free” through KDP.

TL;DR Remember that your buyers are made up of different kinds of people. We can’t all afford things at the higher prices, so giving us intensives (sales and freebies) will get us interested, and may get you future sales, reviews, and rating to drive future business. It’s about making a brand, not just making a buck.