You may have noticed that I’ve been away for awhile. I have a pretty good reason for this, but it’s kind of personal, so I won’t be explaining in detail except to say that life has been tough recently. Unfortunately this has affected my writing as a whole, not just my blogging. I’m coming back to it, but for now I’d like to talk about when things get tough.
There are a good many things that can interfere with our ability to write: losing a job, facing the death of a loved one, starting a new relationship, ending a relationship, having a baby, or a new school year (or first year of school) for our children, just to name a few. I’m sure you can come up with other life events that can present a challenge. With all of these possible events coming at us it can be very difficult to focus on writing. It also means we need to try that much harder to press on. For me this means that I need to rethink my approach to life in general. For example, I like meeting friends for coffee, and it’s therapeutic for me, but I really need to occasionally say “thank you, but I need to make time for writing”. That doesn’t mean I can’t go out, it just means I need to consider how much time I’m spending doing so.
If you’re reading this and you know me personally please take it to heart. Know that I’m not turning you down personally, and maybe another time will work better. Therefore I will be moving to an appointment-based schedule. I will actually be scheduling time to write, blog, and socialise. Thank you, dear reader, for understanding.
I’ve been through several titles for my upcoming book now, and nothing seems to quite have the right feel. Now, an unpublished book doesn’t need to have those details figured out, so why does it matter? Is it really important for me to have a title I like right now? I’m not selling yet, so it’s kind of an unnecessary obsession for me.
This is a problem that I’m sure other writers have; we want everything to be perfect before we’re even ready to submit. First drafts are no big deal add far as details go, add it doesn’t matter until the draft is actually done. So why seat the small stuff?
It’s an easy trap to get caught up in, wondering whether we should self-publish or traditionally publish, and looking into all the details for both options. This obsession had stolen valuable writing time from me, as I’ve looked into all of these fine details without first having a book to actually sell.
I’m beating myself up a bit over this, as I see myself lagging way behind in my goals. I almost wonder if this is the kind of thing that holds up certain popular series for several years. (I’m thinking of one in particular as I write this, but I’m not saying who, as he might kill off my favorite character in retaliation.)
This is the idea of the working title: Don’t worry about what you’re going to call it until you’re ready to stay marketing the particular book. At this time, as I write, I only need a title from which I can work. For that matter, I could simply call it “Work in Progress”.
If love to hear what you have to say, dear reader.
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Well, here I am again, trying to write. I say trying because as I sit in front of my computer my inner editor is trying to make me crazy. (In case you were wondering, he’s succeeding.) He says to me “that looks terrible,” and “better go fix that line in chapter 3 to make this work. He even criticizes my word count. So here I am asking one simple question; how rough can my rough draft be? I know that I’ll have to write more drafts, and there will be much editing. On the other hand, I know from where I am right now that there are certain things that have to change. So why not fix those things now?
It’s tough to silence the inner editor. He never seems to let up. Every time I stay to write, the he is with all sorts of nasty things to say. I know I shouldn’t listen to him, but he doesn’t care.
I wonder, could my rough draft be little more than “this happened, then that happened”? It’s not like anyone’s going to read it anyway. Thus is the nature of the though draft. I can sort out details later, and improve that pesky word count.
It seems that the short story is back in style, at least for writers. Every time I look at my Twitter feed I am bombarded with posts about the various short stories that people have written, and I’m just as guilty. Why not? Short stories are fun to write, quick to read, and can accumulate quickly. All said, it seems like a great idea. Of course, this is the writer in me speaking. However, there are some distinct advantages to writing a short story or five.
1) Short stories can tie into larger works.
I’ve been enjoying The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. These stories are not only fun to read, but they also work to build up the characters first introduced in A Study in Scarlet. They were also written in a time when there was big money in short fiction. These days it isn’t as common to see such stories, though they do seem to be making a comeback thanks to the eBook. For examples, look up John Jackson Miller’s Lost Tribe of the Sith series of short stories, or Lindsay Buroker’s Shaped Over Innocence, which ties into her Emperor’s Edge series.
Another consideration: Even if your short story is never published, you can use it to gain some insight into the world that you’ve created.
2) Short stories are a cure for writers block.
You may have read my short story, The Immortal. If you haven’t, look for it at your favourite eBook retailer or download it at Smashwords. That particular project was a distraction from a larger work that I’m currently working on. I was suffering from a bad case of writers block, and decided to try writing something else to get the creative juices flowing. It worked. Add it turns out, my writers block was nothing more than intimidation related to writing a novel. A smaller project can help alleviate that intimidation.
3) Short stories make for some nice, light reading before bed.
Do I need to build on this? If you read before bed, short stories are great because one can finish the whole story before turning out the bedside lamp. Of course, this isn’t for everyone. Some of you may prefer to read a chapter or two from a medical thriller or fantasy adventure. On the other hand, if a short story is for you, you may have a collection of them on your night table already.
4) There’s no better way to test an author.
Authors and readers alike need to give this some thought. Books, even eBooks, can be expensive. You may not want to spend between $10-$20 on an author that you don’t know. Then there’s the investment in time. A cheap or free short story can solve this issue. I can think of a few books I would not have read of I had read some sort stories from those authors. For the sake of professionalism I won’t mention names, but I have a never-read-again list of authors, add I suspect most do. (In fairness, everyone has their own preferences, and the authors I dislike may be some of your favourites.)
Short stories may not be the master works that everybody wants, but they do serve an important role.
Happy New Year! Okay, I’ll admit I’m a little late, but the wish still stands. Why shouldn’t we be happy in the new year? It’s a time of fresh starts and new beginnings, a time to make a positive change for the future. Time to lose weight, eat healthier, and quit smoking/drinking/picking on your coworkers etc. Time for the new you.
Every New Year people around the globe make resolutions regarding things they want to change. That’s all well and good, but I hope you didn’t go and buy a three-year gym membership thinking it would motivate you, because it won’t. And that e-cigarette? You’ll lose it in a month and go back to the real thing. And don’t get me started on choosing New Years Eve to quit drinking! The biggest binge-drinking day of the year, and you think it’s going to inspire you to quit? I don’t think so.
So now what? Seems hopeless, right? Bad habits die so hard, and good habits are so hard to develop. Is there any hope? Sure. Don’t make resolutions. Instead, try making goals that you can achieve. Personally, I’m aiming for a finished book. If I mead up by not writing anything for a week I can get back at it and call that week my personal indulgence. Of course, that only works if I get back to writing, which is the entire point in the first place.
The fact is that anyone can make resolutions, and anyone can promptly break those resolutions. Anyone can make smaller goals, too, but it’s harder to screw those up. So, by all means, eat healthier and exorcise, cut back on smoking (or quit if you can), and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. These are great plans, and anyone can do them. Me? I’m gonna get back to writing.
I know that we aren’t on the best of terms. Perhaps my decision not to buy a Kindle has something to do with that. Don’t get me wrong; I love eBooks. I can collect as many eBooks as I like, and I’ll never have to try to find room for them. I just looked at the Kindle, as well as other options, and made a decision based on what would work for me.
I noticed that you use a proprietary eBook format based on mobi. I’m sure that works for you. I decided to go with the more openly available .epub. After all, I can get that from my local library, and just about any eBook store. To be honest, by refusing to use epub, you’ve made yourself unattractive to me. But does that mean that we can’t get along?
I’d like to sell eBooks on Amazon, but you don’t make it easy for me. You see, I’m Canadian. You haven’t been very nice to Canada. While you do have a Canadian store, many of your products aren’t available on it. And eBooks? Forget it! We have to buy off of the American site. OK, Fine. It doesn’t make that big a deal, I guess. On the other hand, selling books through you sucks.
I took a good look at Createspace and Amazon KDP. I was Impressed at how simple everything was, except for one little thing; you don’t deal with Canadian banks. Your Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) is available all over the world, except for your neighbors to the north. (By the way, Canada and the U.S.A. have a very strong trade agreement.) You expect me to wait till I’ve earned $100.00 US in three different currencies, wait for checks in each of those currencies, and then pay for the inconvenience. I don’t think so. I’d love to deal with you, but I refuse to work under those conditions.
While we’re on the topic of bad conditions, let’s discuss KDP Select. You have a special offer for people who are willing to make their books exclusive to you for a minimum of ninety days. Availability on the Kindle lending library, five days of giveaways, and better royalties just for making a book exclusive to Amazon. Of course, you don’t tell people how bad exclusivity is for sales, do you?
I have all kinds of reasons no to deal with you, but I’d really like that to change. After all, I just want to sell my books. Maybe we can work something out?
I received an email not long ago informing me that several publishers may owe me money due to a settlement regarding the agency pricing model. I’d heard the term before, but – like many others – I didn’t really understand it. So I did some research.
There are many articles explaining the case from as many different angles as can be found, so I won’t get into details here except to say that the big publishers weren’t happy with Amazon’s pricing for their books, and Apple offered them an alternative. For some reason, everybody seems to think that this is all about Amazon and Apple. As someone who deals with neither, I have a different perspective.
Every time I pull out my ereader in public I’m asked “is that a Kindle?” To which I invariably answer “no”. I try explaining that there are other brands of ebook readers on the market, and other places to get them besides Amazon. They don’t get it. Then I’m asked if it’s an IPad. I just shake my head. It seems that we as a society have forgotten that we don’t actually have to buy at the big department stores. I don’t buy my groceries at Walmart, even though it’s only a few blocks away, and does sell groceries. Instead, I go to a grocery store. For books, I go to a book store. Or I download the ebook. Some of you are wondering what this has to do with Amazon and Apple. It’s really very simple; Amazon is basically an online Walmart, and Apple is actually a computer manufacturer, not a major book seller. But now I’m just splitting hairs. Or am I?
Consider this; if you shop at Walmart it’s because you know that they have low prices. They have buying power that other stores simply can’t match, But they also sell some products at a loss. That said, they don’t keep all of their prices low at all times. You have to go in to see what’s on sale that week. Now consider Amazon. They sell books real cheap. In fact, they are selling books – even print books – at a loss. They can afford to do this because they make money on the up-selling of other products. This is the difference between a bookstore and a department store. Bookstores can’t afford to make all of their books cheap, because that is the source of their income. Now, Walmart isn’t going to set the prices for Barnes and Nobel, but Amazon very well could. The difference? Amazon has other product to sell, Barnes and Nobel is primarily a book seller. That means that they are dependent on book sales to keep afloat.
You may be asking “what does that have to do with agency pricing?” Did you know that Barnes and Nobel has it’s own ereader? It’s called the Nook. “Oh yeah, I think I heard about that one somewhere,” you might say. Then there is my own ereader of choice – Kobo. Kobo doesn’t sell anything but ebooks and ereaders. And they sell the ereaders pretty cheap. That means that they have to make money off the sale of ebooks. If they have to follow suit with Amazon, then they will have to sell absolutely all of their product at a loss. You don’t have to be an economist to know that no business can afford to do that.
So what if nobody can compete with Amazon? Why can’t we all just buy a Kindle? This is what we call monopoly, and, unlike the game, it isn’t much fun. Right now Amazon has to buy ebooks at a set price from publishers, the same as anyone else. They may sell at a loss, and it’s their problem. If they were the only option, they could simply tell publishers “we won’t sell your book unless you sell it to us cheaper”. They could also choose to raise prices for the end user (That’s you, bye the way) to make up for all the money that they lost selling books cheap. Okay, they might not do that. But reducing what they’re willing to pay for books? you bet. And I do like not having to go to Amazon. And that’s the real point, isn’t it? Don’t we want choice?
If you’ve stuck with me this far, you likely think that I’m for high prices. Not at all. I think lower prices are great. I will buy more books if they are cheaper, and so will most readers. But it should be left to the publishers to realize that lower prices will sell more books. The market will determine this as indie authors take a larger share of the market simply on account of lower prices. That said, let’s try to give our potential readers an option by not making our books exclusive to Kindle. (KDP good, KDP Select bad.) Try Smashwords, or Lulu. Kobo, Barnes and Nobel, and Ibooks all have author platforms. BookBaby distributes to ebook stores that I haven’t listed, as well as the retailers have. (Smashwords and Lulu are not retailers, though they do sell books direct to the reader.)
If you think books should be cheaper, then price your books at what you think is a fair price. Don’t leave it to Amazon to lower prices for you, forcing other sellers out of the market.