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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes…

October 21, 2011 14 comments

I hate it when I find myself writing about posts on someone else’s blog, but I’ve got to hand it to Adam Pepper who’s got a guest post up at Konrath’s A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing:

I’ve seen many friends land deals and I’ve been nothing but happy for their successes, but I won’t concede they were better writers than me. Their work simply resonated with one person in a position of power who was able to make it happen. The question that I asked myself wasn’t how can I be the next Konrath or Locke, but simply what was best for my career? Put the preconceived notions aside and truly be objective. I’ve watched this industry and see what goes on. There’s no vast conspiracy to see Adam Pepper fail; there’s merely apathy. The only person I can truly count on to build my career is me.

That should be a “Shazam!” moment for a lot of folks. Like Pepper, I was always in a high-energy right orbit around the publishing biz, trying to get in through the usual methods–writing like a mofo, sending out queries, hoping against hope that an agent or a publisher or even some really, really, almost-hot chick would get interested. And I actually landed wheels-down twice with City of the Damned, only to have the hierarchy at the publishers shake out and the offers retracted (though I did get to keep what little advance cash I’d received). But those were still near misses–or what the late George Carlin would call a near-hit–and since no book was released, since it didn’t skyrocket to the top of the NYT bestseller’s list, and since Neve Campbell (who was the It Girl when this book was written) never booty-called me, I hadn’t found any measure of success.

Things have changed. I may not have realized any of the above goals yet, but now I have the opportunity to do so. Realistically, honestly, I never had a chance in hell going through the traditional publishing field. The odds were just stacked too high.

And as more and more data comes out, we begin to discover that the traditional publishers and their cronies, literary agents, aren’t really much interested in what writers do. They’re only interested in separating as much profit from the writer as possible. Which kind of flies in the face of the oft-touted axiom on places like Absolute Write: “Money always flows to the writer.”

Yeah, right after the publisher and agent.

In a normal traditional deal, I might get a $20,000 advance (minus 15% for the agent, and another couple of hundred bucks for an IP lawyer to do a contract review). If sales earn that out, then I would get a remarkable 6-8% royalty against the cover price of every unit sold, presuming there were no returns, remainders, or great conjunctions or something like that. Oh…and minus 15%. And the agent gets my money first. Who knows what he or she is doing with my money?

Or yours?

For me, this is no longer an issue. I’ve had agents before, and I never much liked them, never really understood their utility beyond being a possible connection between me and an editor who might buy my works. And now that I’m Master of my Own Domain, I don’t have to worry about agents, or what they might think, or what they might do or not do. They no longer cross my professional event horizon. Neither does mainstream publishing, though I do intend to resource one remaining component of that ailing industy: Lightning Source, for paper versions of my books.

I still hear or read about “professional” authors who counsel up-and-comers to go the agent route first before self-publishing. These are guys and gals who have been around for some time, and they still place books on shelves in bookstores, and wonder why their $9.99 Kindle ebooks are being pirated through every Warez and torrent site out there. I can understand that sometimes, it’s tough for an old dog to learn new tricks. I get that, because until 2011, I was one of the old dogs too–just without much to show for it.

Now I know these authors who cling to the old ways are essentially ignorant. They’re not paying attention to the changes going through the industry, they don’t and won’t recognize they’ve superglued themselves to the hull of any number of literary Titanics, and they’re either too set in their ways or too fearful about taking steps to reinvent themselves. To paraphrase one supposed sage, “Changes in the publishing industry are a danger to all writers.”

Obviously, this guy’s full of shit.

The change is here, and it’s now, and it’s going to continue to twist and mutate over the next few years. Right now, there is no downside–unless you’re surgically sealed inside the belly of a traditional publisher–so striking out and taking advantage of these changes is nothing short of sensible action. Even if you’re an old hand–do you have a big name? A big fan base? Release a new novel, price it at $2.99, $3.99, $4.99, whatever–and see what happens. What’s the worst thing that could occur? (Your publisher takes you to court? Were you stupid enough to sign a non-compete contract? Then your problems aren’t with self-publishing, your problems stem more from the fact that either your IP lawyer is a moron. Or maybe you are. Just sayin’.)

At it’s core, the indie surge is one thing: Change you can believe in…if you’re smart enough to see it.

Sales: September 2011

October 19, 2011 4 comments

And the downward spiral continues! But I’m still making more money than I’d thought I would when I started this adventure in March. While I now keep several boxes of tissues close at hand in case I should spontaneously weep, I’m still a pretty lucky guy. I know traditionally-published folks who have seen almost the same amount of sales over an entire year, whereas I’m getting the bacon every month. Just in time too, I understand the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are going to be dropping by Casa Knight in early November to get me to judge their latest routines…and I’m all out of beer. Time to restock!

Hope everyone is doing well.

Amazon Sales Report for September 2011

Categories: Writing Tags: , , , ,

New York Times: Amazon Signs Writers, Cuts Publishers Out

October 17, 2011 18 comments

Oh boy, like it’s something a zillion people didn’t already know.

But when the Gray Lady herself starts covering it, then you know it’s got to be the real deal…finally.

Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal

But there’s still tons of denial out there. Just recently, I watched from a near distance as a veteran horror author cautioned a fledgling writer to find an agent, and not self-publish. He didn’t mention the years of waiting that would be involved; the months waiting for an agent to read and agree to represent, the months of trying to sell the manuscript to an editor, the time it would take for the editor to sell the product internally–it has to have the blessing of the marketing department, you know–the edits, the rewrites, the acceptance, the printing, the distribution, and finally, if all goes well, the earn out. We’re talking years.

And at no time did the veteran mention to the newcomer that the agent will be helping him/herself to 15% of all earnings–forever. And that 15% of a 6-8% royalty is a lot of work for doing nothing.

I know several published authors–some big names, too–who are trying self-publishing. They’ll release old or maybe even new short stories, and then bitch that they’re not raking in the money across the transom. Readers want novels, not short stories, but these big guns give up their novels to the publishing industry (and 15% of all proceeds to agents) instead. I don’t get it, myself. There are most certainly instances where individuals have gone to win the publishing gold doing it their way–hell, see the NYT article–but I guess once you’re set in your ways, there’s no going back.

Fine by me, I guess. I’m digging the whole self-pub cycle, even though it’s a hell of a lot of work. But the best guy I’ve ever worked for is myself, so I’m unusually motivated to keep my boss happy.

These Aren’t Romero’s Zombies.

October 13, 2011 1 comment

Writing.

A Special Reconnaissance ODA has just rolled up on a single stench. One of the troops starts playing around with it, because it’s slow and stupid and kind of pathetic.

Then more stenches rise up out of the ground. They buried themselves in the Texas desert, and the Green Berets didn’t figure it out in time. Dozens of them. The Special Forces troops are surrounded.

The stenches aren’t so dumb anymore.

They know how to hunt.

Music zombies attack by:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg02T7H5rFs&feature=BFa&list=PLF913E8D5BBAF8A30&lf=mh_lolz

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qum03eXQCYQ&feature=BFa&list=PLF913E8D5BBAF8A30&lf=mh_lolz

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbUGtKOML7E&feature=BFa&list=PLF913E8D5BBAF8A30&lf=mh_lolz

Scotty, I Need Warp Speed NOW!

October 13, 2011 21 comments

Ah, those mid-novel blues…where the plot thickens, the zombie hordes stand 400 deep, the characters are locked in mortal combat with their reanimated foes, and the mortars and Little Birds are running out of ammo.

And the writer is running out of steam.

Yes, yes, it’s my turn to bitch about how tough it is to write a book, especially one that has a ton and a half of detail to cover and pages upon pages of glaring exposition to bury and smooth out so they don’t read like engine installation instructions. This is one of the problems with being wedded to a 3,000+ words a day schedule—you have to fly an autopilot for long periods of time, just focusing on the story and getting the words out so you can conduct search and destroy missions to clean up the text later. But after a time, chipping away at an end product that will likely stand tall at around 130,000 words is just damned tiring. I’ll be lucky to have any fingers left by the time I’m done, which will definitely have a negative impact on realizing my lifelong dream of being a hand model.

Even more maddening is flinging out a cute subplot that goes nowhere, even after having invested thousands of words on it. And continuing forward with it makes things even tougher. Yeah, I did this, and a couple of days ago I had to take 20,000 words or so out behind the barn and shoot them through their heads. (Actually, I just hit them with a 2,000 pound JDAM—much more efficient, and even I don’t have 20,000 rounds lying around Casa Knight.)

So, because of that, it seems that The Rising Horde will debut even later than I’d planned. If I’m lucky, I’ll have it finished and ready for deployment before Christmas.

Wish me luck.

Today’s image from the book: the MRAP, which is what Our Heroes will be using to cut through the horde. Heavy, tough, armored vehicles that take a licking and keep ticking, originally designed to survive an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Iraq. Not the most maneuverable vehicle out there, but more hardened than a Stryker, and less likely to break down in a spreading puddle of transmission fluid than an M2/M3 Bradley.

Bon apetit.

RG-33L MRAP: Good for driving over stenches

A Little Ha-Ha

October 7, 2011 2 comments

Peace, Baby

Nothing directly related to zombies, writing, horror, or anything else usually found on these pages…but this picture caused me to giggle. It must be the centrist in me.

And the cynic.

Categories: Writing

The Rising Horde: Just Some Odds and Ends

October 4, 2011 3 comments

I’m continuing to bang out the first draft of The Gathering Dead sequel, currently called The Rising Horde…though lately, I’ve been thinking of changing it to The Gathering Horde. What do you guys think? I’m averaging a good 3,000 words a day, which is a pretty healthy rate, I think. I have a hard-stop of October 20, as I need to deliver the draft to an editor for an initial pass, which is going to be an aggressive goal.

But hey. Life’s tough.

But while I should be writing about hundreds of zombies emerging from the surf around Padre Island, I’m going to loaf a bit and share some general errata with regards to the novel itself. Just so you guys can see what’s going on in my head, so to speak.

First off, music is key, and despite having a vast library of CDs and MP3s, I guess I needed something new and different to see me through. To the rescue: YouTube, and the scores to three video games, of all things–Lost Planet and Lost Planet 2 by newly-discovered Jamie Christopherson, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 by Hans Zimmer (who I don’t usually care for) and his hardworking contributor, Lorne Balfe. Some of the music doesn’t quite fit thematically, but hey, it’s free and it’s working for me. Some cool cuts:

Takedown – CoD:MW2

Rangers Lead The Way – CoD:MW2, which is fitting since I have a BN from 75th Ranger on-station

Task ForceLost Planet 2

InfiltrationLost Planet 2

Wayne’s Theme/Title Lost Planet

Sortie/Mission BriefingLost Planet

Some good stuff here, really gets me going.

Other stuff–let’s see some pics!

McDaniels and Gartrell are part of Joint Task Force SPARTA (JTF-SPARTA) which is centered around defending a specific objective in Texas. The facility in question is already fairly remote–if you call being 10 or 20 miles south of Odessa as remote, and most people would probably agree with that. Here’s the location, marked with an X, courtesy of my fantastically mad Photoshop skillz…

JTF Sparta Location

 
Basically, it’s out in the middle of nowhere, which is a great change from the claustrophobic vertical environment of New York City. Nice and flat with limited obstructions and the ability to be converted into a full-on free fire range…which the task force will need.
 
But how to defend the facility, you might ask? I did too, and that’s where I asked a zillion and one questions and got some fantastic answers. Seems that since the usual things, such as suppressive fire from machineguns and indirect fire from arty isn’t much of a threat to thousands of zombies, the best thing to do is to deny them access. So that means lots of trenches, lots of fire, lots of smoke, and once they get through that–what, you didn’t think it was going to be that easy, right?–you need a really high berm and lots and lots of CONEX containers.
 

CONEX container

And add to that several rows of HESCO barriers, which are filled with earth and can serve as secondary barriers…

The finished product: a HESCO wall

There’s much more than just this stuff, of course…but that should give you an idea of what the task force has in mind, with regards to static defenses. I’ll come back in a bit and drop in some pictures of vehicles, weapons, and maybe a thumbnail of the forces arrayed against the encroaching dead…