Wow, what a hoot it was to find this! I shoulda just hired this guy.
Film director Tony Scott has died after jumping off a bridge in San Pedro, CA. Rest in peace, and thanks for all the help–you’ll be missed. Prayers to his family.
Heh… McDaniels, Gartrell, and a few million dudes named Zed are gaining some (small) notice internationally. After all, it’s not often that I would expect a German reviewer to proclaim the works are “Exciting, exciting, exciting.” (“Spannend, spannend, spannend.”)
Nice to see! Now all I need to do is sell the foreign rights. 😉
I wrote a few days ago how novelist Sue Grafton, she of the Letter Mysteries, dropped a few depth charges on us self-pubbers who should apparently remain confined to the deep, cold depths of obscurity. Her comments not only annoyed me, but actually left me in a condition that could certainly be coined as “approaching anger.” I felt her words were needlessly snobby and, more importantly, were perhaps crafted to intentionally insult. It’s as if she actually wanted to take one in the snot locker and be left with a mouthful of bloody Chiclets…
…or maybe, she’s just not as precise in selecting her words as she might have us believe. A shame her publicist wasn’t on hand to help her out, no? Authors say the strangest things when they think no one is listening.
Apparently, Forbes Magazine feels this may be the case. I present to you herewith the article, Publishing Is Broken, We’re Drowning In Indie Books – And That’s A Good Thing.
Some select quotes, cherry-picked by You-Know-Who:
Indie Success and The Publishing Lottery
Another reality that goes against the establishment view of Indie authors is that some of them have, in fact, gone on to sign very significant contracts with major publishing houses. A few examples:
- Amanda Hockingwrote 17 teen supernatural suspense novels in her spare time and then self-published them, becoming the first Indie sensation before she signed a $2mm deal with St. Martins Press.
- John Lockesold over two million copies of his Indie books before signing a limited deal with Simon & Schuster to get physical distribution for some of his novels.
- E.L. James wrote the precursor to Fifty Shades of Grey online as fan fiction and self-published it on her own website before Vintage acquired it. She was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people for 2012.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and these examples don’t necessarily prove that publishing is broken. But the conceit that Indie authors are merely a bunch of lazy hacks unwilling to face rejection ignores the fact that even the biggest proponents of the old publishing system admit that there are many talented published authors nobody has ever heard of. Have you read The Lion’s Eye?
And this line of thinking also ignores mid-list authors. These men and women have talent and persistence but write for small market segments. The economics of traditional publishing makes it very hard for either publisher or author to profit from a pool of only 10,000 to 30,000 readers, no matter how devoted. Amazon, on the other hand, allows Indie authors to keep up to 70% of their e-book royalties, compared to the 15-20% royalties that conventional book publishers offer authors on printed books – and mainstream publishing royalties are much worse for ebooks. Publishing independently can allow mid-list authors to make a reasonable living on writing.
There is something very odd about this war of words between successful authors on different sides of a tectonic shift in the publishing world: it doesn’t exist in many similar industries facing the same sort of technological upheaval. You don’t hear Christina Aguilera or Adam Levine knocking indie bands. Instead they joined a show called “The Voice” which aims to capitalize on the credibility of indie artists by finding journeyman artists and giving them a shot at major label contracts. Indie filmmakers are revered, not reviled, partly because they eschew the studio system and its constraints on artistic expression. And the art world seems keenly attuned to the idea that the next Georgia O’Keeffe might be producing revolutionary work somewhere out of their sight until she turns 30.
Bold by me.
This is what’s perhaps the most puzzling part of this entire I’m-Gonna-Bust-Up-Your-Rice-Bowl paradigm exhibited by trade-published writers: their incessant need to come out swinging, when by all accounts they’ve “made it.” I guess it’s kind of like the medical profession, where young doctors are put on shifts that last for days by their superiors, despite the potential that critical misdiagnoses are more apt to occur when the attending physician is suffering from utter exhaustion–the old guard had to go through it, so the same must hold true for the new one. As such, it seems writers aren’t really professional writers until they’ve been rejected a million times and managed to somehow, some way, sail into a perfect storm of opportunity where their work is picked up by an agent or a publisher (or any other select circumstance which results in trade publication).
Well yeah, in 2009, that’s pretty much how it worked.
Grafton, Thor, the incredibly out-of-touch Author’s Guild–all of them orbit around the celestial body called trade publishing (aka “traditional publishing,” a designation which drives people in the trade business crazy), and it certainly appears they haven’t quite figured out that their industry is going through some seriously tumultuous change. It’s a shame they’re more interested in circling the wagons and manning the battlements to prevent upstart self-publishers from elbowing them away from the trough; it does seem like an opportunity to practice some inclusiveness, and thereby make an attempt to shape the coming changes, as opposed to being overwhelmed by them.
Did horse breeders try to shoot up Henry Ford when he began manufacturing automobiles? Did any of the major aviation manufacturers get all nervous and jittery when Igor Sikorsky started experimenting with helicopters? Damn, did Kodak go on the warpath when digital media came into being, even though they had to know the technology would lead to their death knell?
I’ve written millions of words in my quest to become a writer. Most of them were bad, some were merely adequate, a precious few bordered on being good. But the distant success of my works had little to do with my ability to tell a story–while my detractors are legion, it does seem I’ve proven at least that much–it had everything to do with them landing in front of the right person, at the right time, on the right day, on the right side of the slush pile.
Folks, those are incredibly steep odds to overcome.
The self-publish “movement,” such as it is, seems to only be growing, gathering more momentum as each day comes to a close. Trade publishers, while perhaps not on the ropes, are feeling it in the bottom line. And when they start to bleed, they of course spread the wealth, which means folks like Grafton, Thor, Turow, et al, might not find themselves in the positions of advantage they’ve grown accustomed to. The publishing industry is changing, and while no one has a firm bead on what the end game might be, I don’t think anyone reading this post has to be related to The Amazing Kreskin to figure that change is gonna hurt.
And comments like the ones being cast off by trade-published writers like those already named aren’t likely to increase my sympathy for them when they wake up one day and find their new contracts are suddenly less rewarding than they had been in the past. And for sure, they’re not about to make me fold up my self-publishing tent and go home.
An example: in 2009, I didn’t make jack writing. Not a single penny.
At the end of 2012, I’ll likely realize around $80,000…in profit. (And my accountant hates it when I tell people how much I make, so for those of you who might have been curious why I haven’t been posting my sales data this year, there is your explanation.)
So yeah, waiting a year or so for an agent to read my query letter and then request a partial or a full submission, and then take a year or more to accept or reject? Sorry, it’s just not worth my time any longer. Because I can earn now, and be judged by the readers, the people both self-pubbers and trade pubber rely upon. The readers are the ones forcing this change, not Amazon, not self-publishers, not the fact that some company in Taiwan makes chips that go into iPads, or that a couple of guys named Jacobsen and Comiskey invented E-Ink.
My middle name isn’t Copernicus, so if I can understand this, I’m amazed that a bunch of self-reverential smarty-pants in the publishing industry can’t figure it out for themselves.
But hey, greater minds than mine have articulated all the above with far fewer words: check out the musings of David Gaughran or, for something a little more pointed, Hugh Howey’s epic rejoinder, complete with super-cool graphic that I wish I’d thought of. (I remember well when HH was trounced by the loving souls over at AbsoluteWrite, and I rejoice that his fame and fortune doubtless has many a trade published poster there writhing in AbsoluteJealousy, if nothing else.)
At the end of the day, all this asshattery is going to hurt a lot of folks, and it might be beneficial to all if perhaps some of the Big Name Authors might be a tad more selective with their words. Because while it’s amusing to watch them make asses of themselves, it’s also going to make their eventual comeuppance even more of a train wreck. (And I don’t know about you, but watching trains wreck sounds kind of fun.)
The upshot of all this is, there will be winners, and there will be losers. And I don’t think I’m on the losing team.
Regrettably, my previous analysis stands.
Perusing the ever-erstwhile blog The Passive Voice, I came upon this particular post, which in turn led me to the original article, located here at LouisvilleKY.com. It’s an interview with Sue Grafton, she of the Letter Mystery Novel Fame, and I want to alert interested readers that Ms. Graftom was interviewed by none other than the irrepressible Red Tash, who also had the misfortune to interview me last year.
Of course, Grafton’s interview was much more polarizing than mine, likely due to surely well-intended but needlessly incendiary bon mots like this:
Do you have any words of wisdom for young writers?
Quit worrying about publication and master your craft. If you have a good story to tell and if you write it well, the Universe will come to your aid. Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.
(Bold by me.)
Ms. Grafton then apparently went on to ignore the lifeline extended in the following question while simultaneously shutting down her internal censors so she might continue with:
In light of our Louisville neighbor John Locke’s blockbuster indie sales, and the growing percentage of each best-seller list being filled out by “indie” writers, do you still feel that advice is solid? I know it was the standard advice a few years ago, but is it still good advice?
If so, what hard work are indie success stories too lazy to complete?
Is it possible that indie publishing is more effective than querying agents & publishers, for the new writer? More and more agents and publishers seem to be treating indie books as the new slush pile.
Good questions. Obviously, I’m not talking about the rare few writers who manage to break out. [Knight Sez: Yeah, because EVERY trade-published writer breaks out… right?] The indie success stories aren’t the rule. They’re the exception. The self-published books I’ve read are often amateurish. I’ve got one sitting on my desk right now and I’ve received hundreds of them over the years. Sorry about that, but it’s the truth. The hard work is taking the rejection, learning the lessons, and mastering the craft over a period of time. I see way too many writers who complete one novel and start looking for the fame and fortune they’re sure they’re entitled to. To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. Learning to construct a narrative and create character, learning to balance pace, description, exposition, and dialogue takes a long time. This is not an quick do-it-yourself home project. Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall. Don’t get me started. Oops..you already did.
(Again… bold by yours truly.)
Sometimes, I just can’t contain my annoyance at folks who can’t read the writing on the wall… especially when they’re supposedly writers. One presumes reading would be an important implement in their writerly toolkit (or perhaps “trollkit,” in this instance), but apparently I’m farther out of touch with the whole “us versus them” matchup than I’d thought.
As one of the unwashed hoi-polloi, I hang my head in sorrow… until I remember the income projections from my writing this year, then I perk up and I haz a happy.
And oh yeah, my reviews are better than Grafton’s. I guess I can smirk about that one, as well.
Just a quick drive-by to let you folks know things are progressing. Here’s a roughed out animatic of the next sequence in the trailer for your hopeful enjoyment…
And here’s a shot of the city street the Black Hawk is flying over, without zombies, civilians, and stalled traffic…
Oh, and one last thing–I was interviewed by the super-cool folks over at Bricks of the Dead… check it out right here! And take a look at the opening photo, it’s of Major McDaniels going to guns on the zombies in the stairwell–Lego-style!
Hope everyone is doing well today.