Being a Better Writer: Cover Art

Hello readers! Welcome back to a Monday edition of Being a Better Writer! I know, it’s almost sad that I have to celebrate the posting of a Monday-centric series on a Monday, but my other job lately has been nuts. As in, I could write an entire post about how it’s an example of the dumpster fire that corporate America has created/become. I sort of want to, for my sanity as well, because … well, that’s a tale for another time. Or day.

Thankfully, things with this job are going pretty awesome. How so? Well, you might have missed it if these posts are the only ones you ever check out, but Shadow of an Empire (the snazzy cover you saw in the featured image) is available for pre-order! That’s right! It comes out June 1st, and joins my slowly-but-ever-expanding roster of adventures. If you’ve been reading Being a Better Writer but haven’t checked out any of my books yet, this is the point where I tell you that you definitely should. You’ll get to see all of the topics, elements, etc, that I talk about in these BaBW posts on display in some awesome fiction.

Also, if you haven’t, this week’s News Post is pretty packed-full of cool news and updates. Price drops, Reddit AMAs … check it out!

Okay, news and stuff out of the way! Let’s talk about a really tricky, often dividing topic among authors and writers: Book covers.

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Op-Ed: The Fall(out) of Barnes & Noble

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a while now, but basically been bouncing back and forth on exactly how since while I have some insight on the subject … I really don’t have a lot compared to some others. Put plain and simply I don’t deal with Barnes & Noble. At least, not as an author. Very rarely, as a customer, but that frequency has dropped from a couple of book-buying visits a year to a visit every couple of years, and even then it’s rare that I walk out with something.

Which doesn’t paint a rosy picture of their business in the first place, if my and my friends experiences are anything to go by (or B&N’s own reports). But as an author, I don’t deal with B&N at all. Most notably because I’m indie, and B&N has never really had much to offer authors in that regard.

Oh sure, you could sell on their Nook service for a small royalty. But the Nook has always been such a niche market that it never really seemed worth it. Now that B&N has cut the Nook, that seems like a smart proposition (especially considering I heard nothing but mixed messages from it when it was around).

Right, I feel like I’m either getting ahead of myself or slightly off-topic. Only slightly, as B&N’s treatment of the Nook does seem to illustrate how we get to today. But let’s wrap that back in. Effectively, what I’m saying is that while I’m curious and intrigued about what the fallout of, well, we’ll talk about that in a moment, but let’s just call it “it” for now, is going to be … I’m on a side of the publishing industry that doesn’t rub up against B&N too much, so a lot of what I think could happen is mostly speculation—light speculation—about the shockwaves rolling through a side I don’t really know. I know there’s going to be a lot of fallout, just as one knows when a nation topples that the status quo has just been upset … but in the spirit of that analogy I’m on the other side of the continent, or maybe even across an ocean. All I know is that when someplace like Rome falls, everyone feels it.

That clear as mud? Okay? Well, then let’s talk about “it.” The big deal. I’ve talked about it before on here, but only in passing. To put it simply, however …

Barnes & Noble is going under.

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The LTUE 2018 Report

It’s time for another LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything) report! And this time, not in place of Monday’s Being a Better Writer post!

Why, you may ask? Okay, and you may be asking “What’s LTUE?” as well. So, in reverse order then.

LTUE is one of the best “secret” cons for writers out there, if not the best. It always has a massive, smashing guest list full of friendly authors, editors, and publishers, hundreds of awesome panels those same people participate in … and then just plenty of fun stuff too. Want to learn how to write romance, or common submission pitfalls? Want to catch the latest scuttlebutt and undercurrents from the industry, or hear embarrassing mistakes from now-famous authors?

Okay, you might not get all of that in one year, simply because you’d probably have to hit multiple panels at the same time, but all of that can be found at LTUE. It’s a convention for writers, about writers, by authors passing on their knowledge. If you like BaBW, LTUE is a con you should go to. February of every year in Provo Utah.

Now, the second question: Why is this report going up early? Oh, and shorter? Well, quite simply because I wasn’t paneling this year and was too broke to go to all three days (much sadness on that point). LTUE is a con, after all. Expect to pay (though students get in for $5 a day).

Anyway, with my knee dragging my finances down, I only was able to afford going to a single day. Naturally, I picked the day I most wanted to go to, which included a relaxed sit-down with Larry Correia (because the guy is fun to talk with), and went then.

So, what’d I pick up from this year’s LTUE? It was a mixed bag. Not at all because the con wasn’t as good this year or something, but because, personally, where I’m at.

Look, I’ll get two things out of the way right away. The first is that LTUE is fun. Like, ridiculously fun. Even if you’re there flying solo, it’s a good time. Everyone is there to talk about writing in some facet or another, from just starting out, to being stuck in a death spiral, to trying to submit their first manuscript. That’s awesome.

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The Indie Hypocrisy: Reactions

Wow, guys. Just wow. I’ve been floored by the reaction to The Indie Hypocrisy. And with good reason.

Let me put it this way. My top post of all time for number of hits was 2016’s You Just Keep Pushing Me Away, a commentary piece on the lack of research in Literary writing that, over a few days, racked up 7,000 hits. Since a lot of other posts only range around 500 to two or three thousand, that 7,000 in a few days has definitely been the peak so far. That post had hits from all over.

But even with that, how many comments did it accrue? Just 20, including my own responses.

Meanwhile, The Indie Hypcrisy had nothing close to that. It’s still sitting at just over 200 views. Not bad, but nothing like YJKPMA. At the same time, however … Those of you who read TIH definitely had a lot more to say than those who read YJKPMA. At this exact moment, TIH is standing tall, I believe, with one of the largest comment chains in recent memory. To whit, between this site and my fanfic profile (where a short intro to the post also goes up), TIH racked up a grand total of 62 comments.

Best part is, these weren’t just the “Huh, sounds good” kind of comments. These were thoughtful comments, either pitching in with suggestions as to why such a disparity could be, questioning or pointing out the differences of indie books and other indie genres, or even discussing points raised by other commentators.

Ultimately there were far too many posts for me to reply to them all individually. At least, not if I wanted to keep up with my day to day job. But at the same time, there are probably a decent number of readers who never ventured into the comments, and there were so many comments made, with some really good points or at least perspectives, that I did want to come back to it as soon as I could.

Which, of course leads us to today’s post, which has seen me spending the last hour sifting through all of these posts, tallying their topics and approaches, and bringing them together here. Because while I do still have to get back to editing on Shadow of an Empire, I think a lot of the points raised by readers are important and worth talking about.

So, here’s how it’s going to go. I’ve gone through and categorized a lot of the comments on TIH, grouping them by topic, and I’m even going to go ahead and quote them, especially when they elucidate a point well in their own words. However, I’m also going to do this backwards. I’m going to start with some of the more “one-off” suggestions and comments, and then we’ll work our way down to the most common suggestions raised and discussed by the group. That’s right, the most supported and discussed concepts are going to be at the bottom.

Now, if you haven’t yet at this point, I do highly recommend that you read The Indie Hypocrisy before starting, since all of these comments are in relation to this singular post. But that accomplished, and my thoughts on the matter read, let’s see what others had to say!

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Op-Ed: The Indie Hypocrisy

Yup, an opinion piece. Kind of an odd one, too. But why not? After all, I finished the first draft of Jungle yesterday. I’m in a good mood. It’s been a while since the last one. And this topic has been on my mind for a good week or so; seems as good a time as any to bring it up.

Last week I had an interesting encounter. I was on a forum devoted to discussing video games (bear with me, this gets back to books fairly quickly) when something unexpected happened. In a thread discussing indie games and how great they were (games that are built and published without the oversight of a game publisher, just as indie books are written and published without the oversight of a book publisher), a group of posters started going off against indie books.

It was the usual argument. How could any book be good if it hadn’t been “approved” by some publisher. Publishers “only approved” good stories so anyone who wasn’t publishing through them was clearly not good enough to bother looking at. Publishers had all the editors, so an indie book would be rife with errors. You know, the usual junk that gets spouted off.

But what really made this whole chain jarring was the fact that this was in a thread devoted to discussing how great indie games were, games that did the exact same thing indie authors did—eschew a publisher in favor of their own efforts to bring a game to the world. So what it had boiled down to was “Indie games are great, indie books are horrible” and the same reasons for one being great were being espoused as reasons for the other being terrible.

This got me thinking about indie books and indie markets in general. It’s not hard to find someone slamming indie books on the internet. In fact, it’s just about the standard reaction. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, at least from what I’ve seen, indie books are the only place that this happens. Everywhere else, indie is embraced by the majority.

And that doesn’t add up.

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What Does It Really Cost?

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a wonderful little post questing after an interesting question: What does it really cost to make a game? Now, I know that may not seem fascinating to most of you, but I link it because it shares a lot if similarities with the ebook market and some of the problems the ebook industry is currently facing.

Seriously, go give it a look, and then think about the book publishing industry and buyer’s habits. We’re facing a similar problem, and one without an answer at the current time.

No One Really Knows How Much Games Cost @ Rock, Paper, Shotgun

Op-Ed: The Indie Scam

There are a lot of blogs, posts, and news articles out there decrying the pricing of the big publisher’s books. They make regular appearances on smaller author’s sites, reddit’s r/books, and very frequently in the circles of indie authors. “Publishers are making their books too expensive!” they cry. Look at the price of these books!

And to be fair, they have a perfectly valid point. One I was reading last week pointed out the ridiculously high cost of a new fantasy title ebook: $14.99. Too high, the post claimed, and I agreed.

Then came the bit I didn’t agree with. That everyone should flock (and was flocking) to ebooks and indie because the prices were so much better.

The problem is, this isn’t always true.

Let me tell you a story. About a year ago, I was attending a con and talking with a bunch of authors about ebook sales and indie publication. One man in the “group” we’d sort of formed in the hallway was a known trailblazer in the ebook world, one of the first authors to jump ship from his publisher and go straight indie, a decision that had been great for him. Naturally, he being the one with the most experience in success, everyone was letting a lot of questions and comments gravitate his way.

At some point, ebook pricing came up, and I mentioned I was trying to figure out a price for the draft I was about to finish. He shrugged and said it was simple, and asked me how long it was. 300,000-odd words, I said. Eyes wide, he shook his head, and then told me the best way to sell a book of such length:

Cut it up into 8 or 10 sections and sell them for $2-3 a pop.

This, readers, is what I’ve started to see as “The Indie Scam.”

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