Thursday, April 28, 2011

April showers...

The month is almost over, summer is growing near, and it seems that with each passing day I have less time to accomplish an ever-growing list of chores. I had a sudden project come up that's taken a lot out of me through the last couple of weeks. It has taken my energy, my money, and worst of all, my writing time. I don't know why this is, but for some reason it seems that the more dedicated I become to my profession, the more challenges seem to appear out of nowhere. Sometimes I look fondly back at the days when I used to spend my evenings and vacations writing, as if I had all the time in the world then...

The good news is that I have found some time to write, and I've been doing it as much as I can. I'm about halfway through my next book and several chapters into a couple more. Not only that, but for some reason I've been feeling inspired lately and taking down a lot of notes. I now have notes to write at least a dozen books that may never see the light of day just because I don't have the time to write them. I'm not complaining, though. Even though I can only write part time, I'm still pursuing the dream I've had all my life, and that's a good thing.

A Tale of Many Reviews is doing a series of guest-posts this week in regards to Indie writing. The posts have been excellent so far and are well worth a look. Also, in his blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, Joe Konrath put up his latest numbers, which are extremely impressive. Over 276,000 sales in four I wonder how many legacy-published authors can tout numbers like that? The amazing thing, as Joe regularly points out himself, is that there are many Indies doing better than him. Even more impressive is the number of Indies selling less than Joe, but still doing quite well. After all, the first objective of a writer shouldn't be to get rich, it should be to write. If you're making enough money to replace a full-time salary, then you're already living the dream!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Indie Spotlight...

is featuring "Karma Crossed" on their website today (April 20, 2011). They have the old cover image because I did the interview and submission back in January and I've made a few minor tweaks since then. It was pretty cool to be able to do this and I must thank the Indie Spotlight for the awesome job they're doing. If it wasn't for the Indie Spotlight and other bloggers/reviewers like them, most of us writers who are riding this new age of e-publishing would remain in obscurity. Some might say that it's just as well, but I've seen some real talent in the Indie business and I wish all those writers and bloggers nothing but the best.

I do have a list of other reviews and interviews coming up, but I don't usually know when they'll go live until just a day or two before. I'm expecting a couple of major Indie reviews by the end of the year (I mean MAJOR make-or-break a career type of reviews), so I will update as soon as I know more. In the meanwhile, I'm writing and revising and sending out questionnaires and querying reviewers... anything I can to let people know my books are out there. It's worth saying that if you've read a book by an Indie author and enjoyed it, please please do a review and let your friends know about it. Small publishers don't have the unlimited resources to compete with the big guys. What we do hopefully have, is the word of mouth that comes from happy readers. That's something money can't buy.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

There and back again (and again and again)

As a lifelong Tolkien fan, I've got to mention the upcoming movie of The Hobbit, or There and back again. At the tender age of 9, this book served as my introduction to Middle Earth. I discovered it just before summer vacation and, when my mother sent me to spend the summer with my father, I went straight to the local library and checked it out so I could read it again. I read it several times that summer, but I didn't realize there was more until the following school year. That was when I discovered The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien was my constant companion through middle school and for the first couple years of high school. I always had one of his books with me, most frequently The Fellowship of the Ring because that was my favorite. Later on, I lost touch with those books. My life fell apart in ways that I won't bore you with, and then real world responsibilities piled up so high that I barely had time to breathe, much less read or write.

I heard that Peter Jackson was making The Lord of the Rings back in 1999 (?) I think, and I was skeptical. I'd seen movie adaptations of Tolkien's work before. It wasn't until the first teasers came out that I started to get excited. I remember seeing the location shots and some of the concept art. Then I saw interviews with PJ and finally, the first official trailer. I went a little crazy. I started spending hours online, landing most often at TheOneRing.Net, which seems to be about the best LOTR related site out there. I bought collectibles (yes I still have the cheesy Burger King crystal mugs with light-up bottoms and yes, I also have Glamdring, Gandalf's sword.)

Eventually the epic commercialization of the films got to me, and I quit buying that crap just because of the principle. But I was still enthralled with Peter Jackson's work, and despite the minor changes he made to the story, I still applaud his reverence for Tolkien's work. This was the first time any Hollywood film treated the genre with even a modicum of dignity. And it worked. To the tune of about $300 Billion. With a "B". Not bad for an investment of less than $300 million.

After the box office success of LOTR I never doubted they'd make The Hobbit. Frankly, I'm surprised it has taken so long. With that much money on the table, you'd think these Hollywood types would be all over it. Strangely, the studio had difficulties finding and keeping a producer among a myriad other problems. Finally, it seems that Peter Jackson is back at the helm and filming is started, this time with a budget of $500 million and a script for TWO movies. Hmm. Andy Serkis will be back as Gollum (as it should be) and Ian McKellen as Gandalf. Rumors are that many of the other LOTR actors will have cameo appearances as well, and there's no telling what PJ has in mind since he's stretching this story out into two films. Things are starting to move, and I'm getting that familiar old feeling. Somebody hide my credit cards. And Burger King, please.... no more mugs.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

At the risk of being redundant...

I didn't blog this weekend because I really wasn't sure where to start. Plus, I didn't want to keep flogging this self-publishing e-book revolution thing that's going on. You already know about it. We all know about it. But...

In his newsletter, Piers Anthony recently announced that he was jumping into the Kindle with both feet. A bunch of his e-books are now available on Amazon here. He's also caught up to the new millenium by starting a blog, which is awesome. I enjoyed reading his newsletter, but the format wasn't very computer-friendly and I always forgot to go check for an updated newsletter. I can't wait to see what he's got to say in this new medium. I did notice that all of his e-books seem to be priced at $7.99 (the same as paperback), and I'm curious as to why he chose this price point. It's possible that he still has some sort of contractual obligation in this regard. Or, perhaps he just thought it was a good place to test the waters. I personally think this is a little high, and I suspect that he'd reap bigger rewards somewhere in the $2.99-4.99 range. Then again, he's Piers Anthony. It's not like he's got to drum up interest and build a solid platform with a lower price. He's the man, and everyone who reads fantasy knows about Piers. At any rate, I wish him luck. I suspect that -whatever his price point- he'll earn more than he expected.

I also wanted to relate my own personal Piers Anthony story. A few years back, when I was more naive about the publishing world, I had the audacity to email the man. Looking back, I suppose I'd committed every other rookie-move atrocity so why not that one too? I was feeling very frustrated with my lack of progress in the business. I'd completed a few books, which I thought were good, and most of my feedback seemed to support that opinion. I submitted these to publishers who responded positively, but it never went anywhere. Soon, I learned that I had done it all wrong. I was supposed to submit to agents, and not publishers. The agents would help me to refine my work so that publishers would be interested.

The problem? Agents were less interested than the publishers. So tell me, in what world does that make sense? The publishers liked my books but agents wouldn't even glance at them. From then on, it was a downward spiral. I started following the agents' blogs, buying their books, learning all I could. Here's what I learned: Every agent has a specific manner in which they want a submission. It must be submitted to that agent's specifications or it's instant recycle bin material. You must research each individual agent and learn everything possible, especially since agents tend to change their preferences from time to time and the instructions they left on a website last year may not match what they want this year. Expect to spend several hours researching each individual agent before you even think of sending a query. Don't send more than a query unless they ask for it. The agent also expects you to read and comment on his/her blog. You should mention this in your submission, so the agent knows you're a fan. If you're not a fan, become one.

Wait at least three months before asking why you never got a response (because their spam filtered it into the junk bin). Resubmit and wait another six months before you get a request for a full. Don't submit your full anywhere else, even though it will be at least six more months and probably a year before the agent gets back to you. I am not exaggerating. One agent responded to my partial two years after I submitted it. I got a form rejection. And I won't even talk about how many years I lost, waiting for responses that might never come.

I could go on, but I think  you get my point. That's what the publishing world is like. That's why I emailed Piers and said something like, "Can you please help me? Would you take a look at a few chapters and give me a blurb to attach to my queries?"

Well, Piers was kind enough to look at my work and respond, via his assistant. His response was something like this (paraphrased): You write well enough, so that's not your problem. Unfortunately, the publishers have become a closed shop. I recommend you look into small publishers and e-publishers.

So I did. But I found e-publishers to be thoroughly overwhelmed. Their response times were about the same as the literary agents, and they simply didn't have room for work like mine. After all, how do you characterize a young adult fantasy coming-of-age story about a boy with a magic journal who has to watch his entire world destroyed in order to save it? Their response: Do you have anything with teenage vampire cheerleaders?

Okay, they didn't actually say that, I made it up. But there were times I felt that way. Of course, Piers was right, but even he didn't see the revolution coming in quite the manner it arrived.