Tuesday, July 26, 2011

As the Book World Churns

We all said goodbye to Borders Book Stores this week and the book world is up in arms. Was it the bad economy? Was it the expansion of electronic readers and e-books? Or was it good old-fashioned bad business. The way people are swarming the stores looking for books at discounted prices, I think it was bad business, but that is my opinion.
Across the industry people are saying the e-book climate and self publishing is a gold mine. The gold rush is on my friends. I find it interesting. Back in 2007, when my hopes of expanding my career from sweet historicals into contemporary romantic suspense were shot by the super tight market, many of my colleagues were so against e-books that they would rather place a book they had written but not sold as a free read on their website than go with an e-publisher. E-publishers were bad. E-authors were hacks and woe to those who even thought about e-pubbing themselves. (Yes, Amazon had visited RWA nationals Pan retreat to talk about this new service they were providing where you could put up your own stuff once you were already on Amazon. They said it was a great way to feed fans more work and promote your current books.) Well, if it was a marketing ploy and you had a contract with one of the big six than it was okay to put up a story or two to promote them. But they still didn't count.
At the time I thought, instead of devaluing my work, I would publish with an e-publisher. So I queried The Wild Rose Press, who were very professional. I admit that the two years it took to get through editorial and production seemed silly at the time, but the resulting book was good. So I sent them a second. This was my way of keeping my fans reading while working on other books I hoped to sell to the big six. But let me tell you- that didn't fly among the "real" writers. Sigh. These were my "little" books. And truth be told even though I hit the WRP bestseller list five weeks in a row neither book made me much money. You see, I discovered that my readers prefer "real books."
Then came the e-book evangelists who swore that it was a gold mine and you could make millions by self-publishing. Others in the book world squawked that this was ridiculous...a sham.. a farce...not being a "real" writer. Then Amazon jumped their royalty rates to 70 % of books at least $2.99 in price. Suddenly unknowns were bringing in millions-buying houses with the cash they made from their self-pubbed books. Suddenly self-publishing backlists and stories that don't fit in the big six marketing were all the rage. Now many people who dismissed me and my "little" e-books are telling me it is legitimate for literary agencies to become publishers of their writer's works- the works that didn't sell to the big six. Really?
How interesting that everyone is doing a 360 turn around. So many people are talking about making monthly checks that pay mortgages that everyone is drawn to "trying it for themselves." Well, my friends, for me at least there is no gold mine in e-books. These are good books with solid excruciating edits, nice covers and really good reviews. I made a total of $150 on two books. Is it because I went with an e-publisher and am getting 30 percent royalty and not 70 percent after doing my own self edits, cover and publishing? Um, I don't think so. Is it because I don't do enough marketing? I'm here to tell you I spend three hours a day on marketing. The reality of my world is that my readers prefer real books. My sales on my e-books are coming from POD - not from electronic sales. The interesting news is that I'm not the only author finding this to be the case.
It's a brave new world. People who were nasty and fierce to tear down e-publishing are suddenly evangelists and talking about how they are making cash hand over fists. And yet~ the so called Kindle millionaires are making deals with the big six publishers for non-e-books. Even Amazon is trying to break into the "real" publishing world by offering advances and "real books."
In short- no one knows what the truth is... or what readers really want-even readers. I have never told anyone they aren't "real" (meaning legitimate authors.) Why? Because, my friends the book world pecking order has been destroyed. Even New York Times Bestseller doesn't mean what it meant twenty years ago in terms of prestige or income.
It's a brave new world. With new comes the potential for conflict of interest, scams, and spammers. All I can tell you is what I told you in 2007, do your research, know what you want out of your work and consider any mistakes as lesson learned. Trust yourself. Trust your readers and most of all take the time to write a good story. In the end, it is the stories that will make your career. As for me, I'm curious to see what happens next. In the meantime, I would love to know what you think about literary agencies becoming publishers, Amazon being an advance-paying publisher and the positive and negative effects the new world of publishing has had on how and what you read.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July Book review by Ted

Well, another month and it is time to let you in on what I have read. Honestly, it's almost too hot to read. Reading is something to do on a cold winter night when the wind is howling and the snow is piling up on the sidewalks and driveway. That is when you take a basket of apples, a pillow or two, and a stack of books and get as near the roaring fire in the fireplace as is possible and comfortable and READ !
I thought we had moved far enough north that there would be many nights doing just that, but this week has seen temperatures in the 90s with heat indices over 100+. So much for fireplace and cushions, and apples in the local store are $1.98 a pound! Such are dreams!
This month we are going back farther than the cowboys of last month---If you saw and enjoyed the movie Jeremiah Johnson, this month's book is for you.
"Give Your Heart to the Hawks" by Win Blevins copyrighted in 1973 and renewed in 2005 with a new introduction. He notes in the book that he is pleased that the book has remained in publication for more than 30 years and he credits the mountain men who are portrayed in the book for its longevity. Frequently readers congratulate him on this great and interesting work of fiction, but he corrects them by saying that every story is true and about real people as truthfully told as is possible. For more than 30 years after Lewis and Clark, the mountain men explored the great American West and opened the way for the wagon trains and pioneers who created the villages, towns, and cities that we know and live in today.
The mountain men are all here: John Colter in 1808 escaped the Blackfeet Indians, naked, food- and weapon-less, who walked and ran 250 miles to Fort Lisa. Hugh Glass, left for dead by his trapper companions after a mauling by a grizzly bear, crawled 300 miles from his shallow grave to Fort Kiowa. Kit Carson, scout for John C. Fremont, ran away from home at 17 and was a legend by his 20's. Jedediah Smith who lead groups of trappers across the deserts into California and was killed by Comanches in 1831. This is just a sampling...............Well written, capable of holding your interest, this is a good history of the times, region, and the peoples of the western United States. If history books were written this way and this well, maybe we would find more people interested in learning about the history of the United States.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

A word from our sponsor

My latest sweet historical romance, THE COUNTERFEIT BRIDE, is out at libraries and available on line. If your library doesn't have it, please request that they purchase it.

I got my first PW book review: They called it "a breezy romance with a strong and capable heroine..."

Last night I found this review from ALL ABOUT ROMANCE: "Often very funny and always charming, the story of tough-as-nails Lillian and her handsome psuedo-husband was and enjoyable quick read." (Pat's complaint was the book wasn't long enough. That always makes me smile. Avalon Books has a set limit of pages and I pushed that limit with this book. In fact this book was originally twice as long but could not find a home, so I edited it down to Avalon's guidelines.)

There are authors who would say I should have kept the length and put it up as an e-book. But I have two e-books and they are not selling. They sell best as POD (Print on Demand paperback.) For me it makes more sense to give my readers books they can hold in their hands. At least for now. If you want to see more ebooks from me, then I need to see a rise in sales on the two book from The Wild Rose Press. Otherwise, I'm going to stick with print books.

I hope you enjoy this fine read~ I had a lot of fun writing it. Cheers~

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Writing through despair

I read the following blog today: The Business Rusch: You are not alone. I can't tell if this is an encouraging blog or a discouraging blog, but what I do know is that writers- published or not- indie or midlist or NYT Bestsellers- one and all hit the pit of despair at least once. For some, it is multiple times. Let's face it we are creatives and that leads us to wild imaginings of both fame and fortune, and the opposite, being forced to live in a cardboard box and scrounge in dumpsters for our next meal. When the words are dragged from you in blood, sweat, and tears and poured over and edited and reedited and hours spent on perfection-then all you see is rejection or worse- you get published-great reviews and still "no one" buys the book-except for maybe 50 of your friends who may not even read it. It feels like you have tried and failed. It feels personal-very personal.
I have to agree with one thing she says in her blog- you are not alone. What is most important- really truly important is to ask yourself what do you want to do? If what you want to do is write- then write. Write for fun. Write as freelance if you can. Write nonfiction. Write.
But I don't want to settle, you think. My writing is good. Some people think it's great. If I settle, will I be selling out? Will I be giving up? Will I do a disservice to the stories I have poured my heart and soul into?
We have all heard the stories of those writers who win the lottery and make it big in new ways. We begrudge them. We harangue them. We try to imitate them. We make it personal. It feels personal. It should be personal.
It's not.
Publishing is a crazy business. A crazy business that is changing as fast as technology. It's hard to keep up. Hard to tell what is up from down. It's like the grocery store check out lines. The line next to you is always shorter. But if you switch lines your old line goes faster. If you wait and get firmly wedged into the crowd a new line opens and people who just arrived get checked out first. Crazy. Also- not personal.
So read the blog above- let me know what you think. More importantly, write. Write for fun. Write out of love. Write because that is what you want. It is in the writing that we are created-not how fast you get out of the checkout line or how much money you save.