Monthly Archives: April 2012

“I’d rather give it away than be exploited”

Or, Why One Year Later I’m Still Not Interested in a Traditional Publishing Contract

I had the conversation with my husband over drinks a few nights ago about why I feel like self-publishing was the right move for me, and why I have no interest in a traditional publishing contract right now. A bit less than a year ago, I decided to put up a couple novellas as an experiment, to see if I could and to start taking actual steps to make my dream happen–to move it from a dream to a goal I was actively pursuing.

The upshot of the conversation was that I’m happy with my choice, despite having made only about $30 so far, because I would rather give my work away than let someone exploit me.

My issue with traditional publishing is that I think the money-sharing is extremely unequal, with the publisher taking the lion’s share of the profits. It reminds me of Shark Tank, where entrepreneurs have to choose between financing their dream for the price of losing the controlling share of their company, or not securing the money they need to make their dream a reality.  That is the deal traditional publishers offer most authors: they’ll pay an advance that is not anywhere approaching the glamourous live-off-one-advance-a-year level most people thing writers get, and that’s the part of the sales you get 50% royalties for. Everything after the advance–AKA, everything after the point where the publisher has made back their money–they offer something more like 17% (because it is 25% of net, AKA cost after distributor takes their cut).  While I understand the idea that if the publisher put up the money to put the book together and distribute it to the public, they deserve to make a nice profit, the fact that they would pay LESS on the pure-profit part of the book than on the paying-back-its-expenses part just raises my hackles. That feels predatory, and I do not take attempts to victimize me particularly well.

With ebooks the justification of physical costs is ripped away to expose the predation for what it is. I’ve run the math on what an ebook actually costs a publisher (well, assuming they can function with any modicum of efficiency as a business, which may be assuming way too much, but that it is scarcely my problem if they have a bureaucratic overload of employees and rules). The break-even point is fairly low, and once the advance has earned out (since earning back the advance is generally the only part of sales where an author can get 50% royalty) the publisher doesn’t even have the costs of creating and shipping the physical artifact to obfuscate their greed. Nope, they just sit there literally doing nothing else and getting 75% of the profits?


Not just no, but hell, no.

I really would rather give my work away than let someone else get paid the bulk of the money for my work. It’s what I’m doing right now, practically, with my first two ebooks being priced at 99 cents.  I’m okay with it as long as no one else is making the money if I’m not.

I would not be okay with 35 cents for an ebook that was earning a publisher $1.70–almost five times as much for them as for me.

See, for me the issue is really less about money than it is about respect. I don’t feel respected by anyone who buys from me at a pittance and then makes a 500% profit on the venture. I work for a middleman in the real world, and our upcharge is no more than 30% and sometimes less. If a publisher were only going to upcharge 30% AND their expenses had to come out of that…AKA what Amazon KDP offers, and what Smashwords offers…I would be willing to do business with them. I am not saying I would need my publisher to not make any profit on my work; that’s as unrealistic a business arrangement for them as their current terms are for me.

The problem is that I believe in free markets and the idea that capitalism works because it’s not the exploitation of one person for the benefit of another, but rather mutually profitable arrangements that benefit both parties. Right now, with trad-publishing ebook terms being for-life-of-copyright and at less than 50% of cover, publishers do not offer a mutually profitable arrangement; they offer the illusion of one and laugh all the way to the bank. Publishers are literally doing what the anti-free-market types THINK all businesses are in the business of doing!

The businesswoman in me rebels at that. I would rather get all of no profits than a pittance of real profits, especially because right now I am not depending on making money, any money, from my work. I already have a job. I write on the side, because I love to write and feel like I have something to say with my words that other people might enjoy enough to pay for. I’m not going to stop writing just because I’m not making money. The money is a side benefit. But that doesn’t mean I will let anyone else make money in my stead, just because the money isn’t why I’m doing it. No. Either I make money, or no one does, the end.

And God bless Amazon and Smashwords and all the other ebook retailers who have leveled the playing field for self-publishing who have given me an option besides going voiceless or being exploited.



Filed under Digital Revolution, Publishing

Goals: Because Publicizing Them Makes You Accountable

I have decided to set a goal for myself of finishing my novel in the next month. 30 days. That is roughly one scene per day. Generally my scenes run 1000-2000 words, so this is doable. Tough, perhaps, but not unobtainable.

And I think it is exactly what I need to finish. I’m at 73K as of Sunday night (got a couple thousand words banged out while my dog was romping at the dark park, yay multi-tasking!), and I’ve been predicting 100K since about the 50K mark.  So 30K (give or take 1000 words per day for 3o days) should be right on the mark for that.

I have just hit a point where I realized…I’m tired of putting writing off. I want to get this story finished so I can get it FIXED, so I can have it to read and enjoy and send out into the world while I move on to the next story. (Have two shorter pieces in mind next, novelette to novella length, and I’m looking forward to writing a shorter piece again.)  I looked at my projected length, and the scenes to go list, and the average length of one of my scenes and thought…if I can get one scene per day completed, then I can finish this in a month.

So I am formally and officially setting a goal for myself to be done with this novel by May 21 using the 1/1/30 method. Mission: impossible? We shall see…


Filed under Housekeeping

Novel Progress Update

So here we are in late April, and I’m still working on the novel I wanted to finish during NaNoWriMo. I started it in September. I will point out that when I started in September I expected it to be about 75K, and now it will probably be 100K or even a bit more (in terms of first draft–the final should go down by a few thousand words, at least).  I have over 70K written, and as I said on my last update am down to a checklist of scenes, because basically every scene that happens from here on is an Event.

Going has been molasses in winter slow the past month due to a job change. My hours went from 8-4 (non-Daylight Savings Time) to 7-4 starting the Monday after DST took effect. This 2-hour difference in my work day start time has…wreaked havoc on my writing schedule, because the best–and sometimes only–time of day for me to write is before work. Getting up at 445 to have even a solid hour (after getting caffeine that would put me sitting down at 5, and I have to start thinking about getting ready for work 6-615) has been…a struggle. So most of my writing over the past month has been on weekends, and while I can finish a novel writing only on weekends…the going is a lot slower than I would like it to be, and the stop-n-go creative action keeps my muse from popping in to help much, so most of the writing I do get is tedious, plodding, thought-out words and not inspired words. Which is not a judgment about how they read back later but rather a writing speed issue.

So, I am a little frustrated with myself that I haven’t been able to adapt more quickly to my new routine, but I am excited to finish because I can see the end in sight. If I can get the rough draft done by the end of May I will be thrilled…the hope would be to get it done sooner, but that could only happen if I figure out a better routine. Or learn how to focus at night so I could write then–but my ADD/mental exhaustion after work has for my entire working life been prohibitive of nighttime creation. I guess I could try again and see if that’s changed….

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Filed under Housekeeping, Writing

“Lil Red Riding Hood”: Basically Every Romance Novel Ever

I don’t mean the fairy tale but the song by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, which has recently resurfaced in my listening due to the Volvo commercial. (Side note: cannot wait to hear the full Laura Gibson cover of the song, which is what plays in the commercial!)

If you don’t know the song or haven’t heard it recently enough to remember the words, here’s a video-mash of Betty Boop (for you to look at while you listen) set to the song.

The song is much more powerful than it should be. It’s kind of a goofy little song about a fairy tale, and yet it captures a very real and fascinating aspect of courtship–the idea of predator/prey that is subverted by the seductive allure of the supposed prey.

The narrator of the song is obviously a wolf stalking Little Red Riding Hood, lured by her big eyes and full lips. He masquerades as something safe and protective, biding his time…waiting for the opportune moment, as it were. But by the end of the song he’s talking about his heart and how he could love her, promising that even big bad wolves can be good (for the right woman). The wolf-call/”I mean, baaah” ending makes the last verse ambiguous–is his claim simply part of the seduction, or is it true? Is he moving from wolf in disguise to wolf who is lying about the nature of his interest, or has he been snared by her being “everything a big bad wolf could want”?  If the latter is the case…who is really hunting whom?

The reason I say this song is like, okay, not every, but a damn good lot of romance novels is because of the theme many of them have of a man who resists the idea of marriage being brought around to it by the one woman who is perfect for him. Many romance heroes start the novels out as dark, dangerous men–dangerous either through a violent/instable nature or through a cynicism that threatens to destroy the heroine. They experience an attraction they intend to use nefariously, acting very much the sexual predator of the heroine’s innocence or social position, only to realize too late that her lures are stronger than his resistance to love/marriage/commitment. 

And it’s basically the ultimate female fantasy, and what romance writers have been writing about at least since Austen–the idea that any man, no matter how much of a “big bad wolf” he is, can be tamed by the particular right woman for him. It is a fantasy that allows both the excitement of the hunt and the safety of the gentle heart in the wolf’s body (under the sheepskin). In my experience of men, I think the tri-layer is actually pretty accurate. Pretty much all the men I’ve known in my life–not just men I dated but friends, brother’s friends, family, co-workers–have had the surface facade of civility over a traditionally masculine bravado/carelessness, but at heart were good, caring, men. It’s the role society tells them they should play, and I personally think it’s more fascinating and more special to get to see into the heart of a man who doesn’t open up easily than to have one who puts everything on his sleeve.

Because, let’s be honest here…women love the chase, too. We just have to make the men think they’re the ones doing the chasing.

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Filed under Muse Music, Reflections on Romance

New Descriptions for Old Stories

I’ve been practicing “back cover” descriptions, as I’m trying to work up the description for my novel-in-progress to the absolute most enticing and interesting shape it can be. As an exercise and an experiment, I decided to rewrite the descriptions for my two Twelfth Night novellas. I gave them a subtitle on Amazon of “a Regency novella” to make it clear at a glance what form and subgenre they are, and instead of a two-sentence teaser I now have a 200-word description.

Judge for yourself if they sound more interesting now…jury is out on whether the public thinks so, too. 🙂

What You Will

Twelfth Night

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Filed under Publishing

April Fool’s Joke on Me

My muse is such a contrary bastard. “Ornery thing,” as my godmother used to say of her more temperamental child. He wanders in and out of my mind like a drunk to the bathroom, and the surest way to lure him to my side is to publicly denigrate him.

I did this with much flair last weekend, accusing him of being like Guffman, leaving the seat beside me at my writing desk empty, because he never comes to fill it. 

He was not amused. 

He showed up Sunday morning with 4500 words in tow. But the April Fool’s joke was on me, because those words had nothing to do with the project I am currently striving to complete. Clearly my muse wants to be present only for the fun part of writing, and leave the real work to me.

Or maybe it’s that, after 20 years of holding my hand, he thinks I don’t need him any more.

Is that true? Did he lift his hands off my bike when I wasn’t looking, so that I could ride alone even when he wasn’t able to come with me?  Is this growing up as an artist?

And can I just skip the fiercely independent stage and skip straight to this one?:

Because I think we’re both going to be happier with that arrangement.

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Filed under Ramblings

Looking for Human-Squid Intercourse? I Can Save You Time!

Sometimes the spam is funny on its own. But sometimes the funny is the entire context of the spam. This time is one of the latter.

My romance hero confession about probably whacking off to tentacle porn got this spam hit today:

http://www.gibberishwebsitelink. Thanks for that awesome posting. It saved MUCH time 🙂

I can’t decide if my favorite part is the emphasis on the much, or the smiley face proving that it/s/he did find a happy ending thanks to my post. I…guess even spambots like to jerk it to tentacle porn?


Filed under Ramblings