Being a Better Writer: Why Indie Isn’t Evil

Hello readers! I’m actually out of the office today, and this post was written in advance! So while you’re reading this, given the schedule I’m probably pressure-washing the underside of a 48-foot commercial fishing vessel.

Anyway, today’s post is another reader request. Understandably so, too, since the topic of Indie, or independent publishing, has been a hot one across the industry for the last few years. Last decade with some change, really. But the storm surrounding it has continued to swirl and continue to be hotly contested. Hence, why I often get questions about it, and even have talked about it before here on the site.

But this reader wanted it directly addressed as part of Being a Better Writer, not just in an opinion post or as a side piece on the site. So, today we’re going to talk all about independent publishing. More specifically, we’re going to talk about why it isn’t bad, which is what the reader specifically wanted to know.

So settle back, grab a snack, and hit the jump.

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OP-ED: Has Trad-Pub Just Become a Vanity Press?

So this question was posed and tossed around the other day in a writing chat after I came out with this week’s Being a Better Writer post (Working with Trad-Pub). Initially launched because someone had asked me if I was going to discuss Vanity Presses in conjunction with Trad-Pub, it later came back up because while the two are still different and separate, that barrier between the two has, from my perspective, shrunk quite a bit.

But before we get into this observation and musing, I do have one bit of news to share. The first draft of Starforge is now at 300,000 words, and about 66-70% of the way done. Step by step, day by day, the finale to the UNSEC Space Trilogy moves forward!

That’s all. Not saying anymore. So let’s talk about this odd question: Has Trad-Pub basically just become a form of Vanity Press? Well … yes? And also no. Vanity Press itself is on the way out, thankfully, due to the changing conditions of the publishing industry (independent authors helped, but print-on-demand is the real heavy hitter), but I’m getting ahead of myself. What is a Vanity Press, for those of you that don’t know?

Basically, back in the day, someone realized that of all those people submitting to the slush pile, there were a percentage of them with lots of money who didn’t have the inside connections that could have gotten them around the slush pile (this was in the days before agents or independent authors). So if they got their hands on a printing press, they could charge these people a large amount of money for their dream. They would provide no editing, no advertising, no marketing, nothing. And there wouldn’t be an advance. But they would deliver completed, printed copies of that “customer’s” book! And then that customer could tell people “Look, I’ve published a book!” which for many of them, was all they wanted to do.

And sure, they might promote the chance of fame and fortune, with a constant reminder that “Hey, that end is on you.” Might be just a little predatory, especially if they’re convincing people to take out loans to meet their printing costs, but that’s the cost of “business,” right?

Yeah, you can see where this is going, as well as why Vanity Press has such a negative stigma. People with a printing press taking folks money in exchange for printing copies of a book 100% as it was from the creator. Vanity Press didn’t provide editing, marketing, promotion, aid for the author (such as flying them to signings, or even setting those up) … none of it. Oh, and the person wanting the book published paid the publisher, not the other way around.

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Being a Better Writer: Pricing and Publishing Options for Ebooks

Hello readers! First, apologies for the lateness of this post, first of all. I got my day started a bit later than I expected to. Second, thank you new readers for all the new reviews I’ve picked up in recent weeks! They’ve been wonderful to see popping up, and with impressive regularity as well! As always, thank you for sharing your thoughts on my work, as there exists a whole spectrum of people out there who find new works to read based on reviews and ratings. The more there are, the easier it is for those people to make their decision.

Granted, my reviews being massively positive certainly doesn’t hurt. Colony is absolutely spreading as a must-read Sci-Fi in a lot of circles, from the sound of it!

So, a big thank you to everyone leaving reviews and telling their friends about Colony and my other works. Their popularity continues to grow!

All right, back-slapping part of this post ever. Let’s talk writing. Or in today’s case, publishing. Because today we’re talking about the final topic on Topic List #14, and it’s a contentious one.

Yes, you read that properly: Book Pricing can be contentious, and no, I just don’t mean with readers (thought that’s certainly true). It’s a dicey topic among authors as well. Just this last LTUE I ended up participating in a somewhat heated debate over book pricing and what would or “would not” work. It never moved past the stage of debate, but heated it was, with one author declaring to another that they had effectively destroyed their own career over their prices … even though the numbers didn’t support that.

What I’m getting at here is that no matter what I write, even trying to show the various
“styles” of publication pricing that are out there right now, someone is likely going to show up, read it, and think “Well that’s all wrong!” And perhaps even comment with their own opinions and thoughts on the matter about why one is right or wrong.

Why? Because publishing is basically a straight-up stormy sea right now, with everyone clinging to their own raft or boat to ride out the waves as the entire industry undergoes a lot of change. Sands, Simon and Schuster is up for sale, and could cease to exist, being the first of the big publishers to collapse (they’re up for sale as their parent company, Viacom, doesn’t see print as an area they wish to be involved in, and S&S has been delivering steady losses now for three decades).

So yes, there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there about book pricing and availability because the market right now has never been in such upheaval. So today, we’re going to talk about a couple of the different approaches there are to pricing your book and figuring out a cost.

Now, two words of caution before we begin: This is something you should could be considering even before your book is done. Why? Because some of these options will affect how your book is written. So you should at least have in the back of your mind a basic idea of “That’s what I’d like to go for” because deciding after the book is written, edited, etc, may make for a lot of changes. Changes to the level of “complete rewrite” in order to have a functioning product.

Second, this will not cover everything or every approach. Publishing right now is in such a flux that it’d be impossible for me to cover every approach, so don’t take what’s offered here as a the “only ways” to price and publish a book. For all I know there’s a young author out there who’s about to release a book in an entirely new way that’ll hit this list like a broadside wave out of the storm. But I can give you the methods of pricing and publication that I’m familiar with.

So, with that all in mind, let’s look at some various approaches to pricing and publishing your book.

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What’s the Next Big Shift in Publishing, and When Will it Hit?

Hey folks! Post-LTUE post here, based off of a couple of conversations I had at LTUE with other authors (be they at the green room, signings, panels, etc). It’s straightforward enough to jump right to the point, so I’ll ask it:

When will the next big shift in publishing hit?

Over the course of LTUE I ended up talking with several different authors on topics that all orbited around (or outright addressed) this idea: That publishing is seeing shifts. Ebooks and indie pubs, for example. And right now, tension is (according to a few authors) building for another. When it hits, what will it be?

This isn’t just from a publishing perspective, but also from an audience perspective. One author I spoke with pointed out that right now the real money for them was in selling short serials on Amazon, but admitted that they didn’t know if that would change soon or not. Would Kindle Unlimited suddenly be their big bank, or would it dry up entirely? There were a little hyperbole-ish about it, but at the same time I could see their point. Publishing right now is more tumultuous than it has ever been thanks to the rise of ebooks and indies, and no one really knows what’s going to happen next. Big publishers are fighting against the change, while authors are scrambling to embrace it, but ultimately where that will put things … well, no one knows, but there’s a lot of theory flying around.

For example, one conversation I was involved in basically boiled down to “Which of the big five trad pubs is going to fall first?” The question among the authors present wasn’t “Will one fall” but which one and when?

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Being a Better Writer: The Path to Publication

Welcome back readers! In lieu of news, let’s just dive right into things! Over the weekend I ran into quite a few people who had writing questions for me, but one that kept coming up from a wide range of people (after the usual “What have you written”) was “What’s the process of publication like?”

In a nutshell. The questions were pretty varied from “How do you get a book ready for publication?” to “What’s the best avenue for publishing right now?”

Later, as I was thinking ahead to this week’s topic for Being a Better Writer, it occurred to me that I’ve not really talked too much about the process of making that happen after we’ve written our draft. I’ve talked about it with my own work, but usually in the context of “Here’s the part of the process I’m at now.” And not with regards to other options for getting one’s book published. After all, I’m indie, but that’s hardly the only venue available out there to up-and-coming authors (though it is an extremely attractive one … if difficult).

So, you’ve reached the end of your draft. The story is done. Let’s talk getting that book ready for the public.

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Being a Better Writer: When Do You Publish?

We’re going to do a shorter one today, folks, so that I can get back to editing (post-edit: It was not that short). Or rather, I’m going to keep it short. So that I can get back to, well, my bit in the topic at hand. Because this is the process I’ve been going through for a few weeks now.

Okay, so let’s just say it outright: How do you know when to publish something? What’s the point where you sit back and say “this is ready?” How do you know when you’ve reached that point?

Well … I’ll be honest, this is one of those answers that’s probably a little different for everyone, where each author is going to have their own “stance” on what being ready to publish actually means, or what “being published actually entails.” For example, for some authors, being “ready to publish” may mean “This story is ready to send to my editors and start the process.” while for others, like myself, it can mean “This story is ready to sell to the public.”

In addition to that, the “when” has a bit of a broad meaning in addition to what can be meant by “publish,” based on the context of that publish. The first one, the “send to the editors” one, is going to have a whole different set of criteria from the second, because, well, after all, what you send to your editors is going to be far different from what you send to the buying public. So in that context “knowing” that a story is ready is going to be different.

So let’s break these down and talk about them separately. Starting with the earlier one: How do you know your story is ready for editors?

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Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #4

Welcome back, readers, to yet again another Monday Being a Better Writer post that has obviously been relegated to Tuesday. Someday I’ll make enough money from my writing to be able to give up my part-time job, but right now … if they want me on Mondays, they unfortunately have me.

So, this week we’re doing another Micro-Blast! New? Wondering what a “Micro-Blast” is an what it has to do with writing? Thoughts already jumped to something non-writing related already, like those tiny fruit snacks with juice in them?

Okay, maybe I’m just hungry. Anyway, a Micro-Blast is something that usually happens as I near the end of another topic list. This being a real, physical list that I keep on my desk and consult each week to select a topic for the upcoming post. The topics on this list are collected from a variety of sources, usually anything that makes me think “Hey, that would be a good BaBW topic,” but also from readers that write in with questions and requests.

Anyway, these topics can often vary in the amount of effort needed to address them. Sometimes it’s simply a topic where I’d be better suited saying my piece and pointing readers elsewhere, other times it’s just a quick answer that isn’t really deserving of a full break-down on it’s own, but at least merits a paragraph or two, and sometimes it’s just a topic I haven’t done much thought about, and therefore needs more research before I can weigh in one way or another. And then, of course, there are the topics that don’t have any of those issues, and I can write a full post on.

But at the end of a list, what results is often a small collection of leftover topics, a hdgepodge of tiny summaries that, for whatever reason, never got posts on their own.

Micro-Blast BaBW posts are the answer to these small collections of topics. A way to “finish off” each topic list by rapid-fire tackling each remaining issue with a small posting of its own.

So, this said, it’s time to finish off, once and for all, Topic List 8 so that next week, I can start anew with Topic List 9! Which also means you can expect a post later this week asking for suggestions for the list. I’ve got a bundle of my own from the recent LTUE conference, but as always, reader suggestions are a welcome way to add topics.

Anyway, enough rambling! Let’s clear this list!

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