blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Thank you for buying Breath of Stone!  I hope you’re enjoying it.  If you’re so inclined to leave a review at the point of purchase, Goodreads, or both, I’d much appreciate it.

The next in the series is solidly underway.  There’s some plotting left to do, and a couple nifty ideas popped up to bump up my excitement level, too.  One cool aspect is the inclusion of a character created by a Patreon backer who looks to become a key viewpoint character.  I do feel as if I have a lovely running start at this one.

I’m also poking at a shorter work that is both loosely related and completely different.  We’ll see how it comes along.

For anything other than the basics of writing fiction, writing for clients, and Auntie-ing for my nephews, the month of July is all but gone.  Sure, I can catch the occasional meal with a friend, but I’m not seeing much time beyond that.  Lots of family events–moving, wedding, kid events, and so forth–shall eat the days before I know it.


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Breath of Stone, the second novel of Desert Rising, is available now!

Bone returns to silt and sand,
Blood to salt and water,
Breath to wind and stone,
Soul to sun and storm.
The desert consumes us all.

Read more... )

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Over the last couple days, I've mentioned here and there I'm in the process of evaluating career options, and a subset of that evaluation is choosing the fiction projects that'll come up once Breath of Stone is launched in the coming month(ish).

The overall career stuff is... complicated. A matter of deciding priorities, time expenditures, current needs, future plans, and professional satisfaction. Some things are working wonderfully, but I'm not certain I want to keep working them. Other things are more risky and will require time investment, but I'm drawn to them nonetheless. We shall see. :-)

Anyway! It was suggested I share my Next Project Dilemma to see what y'all might want to see next. So! *drumroll* Here are the fiction projects on the horizon!

Books Three and Four of Desert Rising: These are the SheyKhala novels, picking up after Breath of Stone. These are long books—at least 125K words each. They take awhile. That said, Book Three is completely plotted and partially written. Book Four is partially plotted.

Tomorrow's Bones: Continuing the story of Sword and Chant. Chant was written as a stand-alone, but was always the opening to something more. This is a story that nags me often, but has a much smaller audience (at least at this time).

The Slaughterer: Something completely different! A stand-alone about a bounty-hunter pulled into his family's decision to run a kind of Underground Railroad for magic workers.

Suffragette Story: This one dropped into my brain, almost fully formed, during last year's Sirens Conference. It's alternate/secret history of the fight to gain women the right to vote, complete with magic and martial arts.

The new series I still struggle to describe: If I had to describe it, I'd say it's paranormal rural, but sometimes urban, contemporary fantasy. There are ghosts and small towns and historical sites and some city settings and sentient elements being manipulated as weapons. Each book is shorter than my usual tome, and I'd likely complete three of them before even publishing the first.

So... There are considerations that must be taken into account. Current faithful readers, market sizes, audience potential, variable time to be invested on each project...

But I'd love to hear what you think! The reader's perspective, the writer's perspective, your perspective.

Help me out here, my darlings! Talk about preferences as a reader, scheduling experience as a writer, knowledge, gut feelings, EVERYTHING.

Crossposted at Blair MacGregor Books.  Comment here or there.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Darlings, I am so excited about this one, and would love to have your support in seeing these great writers connect with a wider audience!

“Ten fine bloggers and blog-sites spent a year considering almost three hundred self-published fantasy books to bring you their ten favorites. It’s hard to imagine you won’t find some gems among them.” — Mark Lawrence

This is a unique bundle to curate as its books were chosen not by me, but by reviewers who took part in the first Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off organized by Mark Lawrence. Each reviewer received over twenty-five books and a mission: Choose one. This bundle contains the books those reviewers put at the very top of their list.

The SPFBO Bundle includes some of the coolest indie fantasy around. Crista McHugh’s A Soul for Troublegives you a witch named Trouble, possessed by the god of chaos. William Saraband’s Shattered Sands follows a slave girl suddenly empowered by forces older than the desert itself. You’ll delve into the more-than-murder mystery of Matthew Colville’s Priest, and follow another priest trying to save the world after the gods disappear in Barbara Webb’s City of Burning Shadows. And The Weight of A Crown from Tavish Kaeden serves up the deep epic of a recently-united realm on the verge of fracturing.

There is the sharp warrior who knows the value of leaving heroism behind in Under A Colder Sun by Greg James, and the ruined hero who chances into a way to surmount the past in David Benem’s What Remains of Heroes. Plague Jack delves deep into a brutal world of conspiracies, consequences, and backlash against a conqueror in Sins of a Sovereignty. Ben Galley smacks a young man into a frontier Wyoming filled with blood magick and secrets in Blood Rush. And Michael McClung’s The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids—the novel scoring highest in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off—races along with a sassy, smart thief who must find an artifact everyone thinks she already has before she’s killed for it.

StoryBundle lets you choose your own price, so you decide how much you’d like to support the writers. For $5—or more, if you’d like—you’ll receive the basic bundle of five novels in DRM-free ebook format. For the bonus price of at least $15, you’ll receive all ten novels. If you choose, a portion of your payment will go toward supporting different charities such as Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now. Over the years, StoryBundle and its participating writers have donated thousands to support awesome charities doing great work.

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Bundle is available for only three weeks, so now is the time to pick up this unique collection of reviewer-beloved fantasy novels, and discover new independent writers who want to take you on thrilling adventures through worlds you’ve never seen with characters you want to know (even if a few of them are rather terrifying).

So here’s how you get your hands on this marvelous collection:

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you feel generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format worldwide:

  • Shattered Sands by W. G. Saraband

  • The Weight of a Crown by Tavish Kaeden

  • Priest by Matthew Colville

  • What Remains of Heroes by David Benem

  • A Soul for Trouble by Crista McHugh

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus five more:

  • Sins of a Sovereignty by Plague Jack

  • The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung

  • Under a Colder Sun by Greg James

  • Bloodrush by Ben Galley

  • City of Burning Shadows by Barbara J. Webb

The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.

  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.

  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.

  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.

  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. For more information, visit our website at, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Alas, there shall be no TEDx audition for me. I was cut at the "fill out this form with your idea" stage.

Honestly, I did think I'd at least get an audition. The topic and the credentials I offered--the creative control and opportunities offered by self-publishing--seemed to fit perfectly with their theme of "Make + Believe," and I've over two decades of public speaking and teaching experience. But I must have failed to make it compelling enough at the "query" stage, or perhaps mistook the oddities of the online form as an indication they wanted brevity. (Any form that requires odd key strokes to create paragraphs...)

For whatever reason, I don't get speak.


But since my topic was on the empowerment of self-publishing, the cultural shift happening within the community of writers, and the way readers are embracing the creative diversity... Since I'd intended to speak on the impact of no longer needing to gain third-party permission for one's creative choices, and the new-found passion so many writers find in creative control...

In that spirit, I figure I'll write up the presentation and record it myself. It'll be my NOTx Talk, and be no longer than eight minutes. Why the heck not, yes? :)

More to come, as I put the pieces together...
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Or, "Why Your Contact Information Matters."

This week, I have a professional opportunity to put in front of a group of writers. Finding contact information turned out to be much harder than it should have been.

10% had a professional email address I could easily find. And by “easily,” I mean it was on their writing-related website page marked CONTACT or ABOUT.

10% had a professional email address I found after clicking through to a Blogger Profile link at the bottom of the website’s sidebar.

10% had a professional email address listed at the bottom of the profile information included on a third-party site I happened to find through Google.

30% offered a contact form in place of a professional email address. I’m sure that seems like the most professional choice, but when I reach out to writers for such opportunities, I want and need a record of the communication. Since I don’t get to have that record, the first contact will include little actual information, ensuring the entire process will take longer due to the additional layer of back-and-forth.

30% had no contact information available that I could find. It simply… wasn’t there. No “Contact” page. An “About” page that listed all sorts of social media places, and no other way to connect. My decision is then between making a public contact for a matter I or the writer might not want to be public, or passing the writer over completely.

10% offered no visible means of contact. Website links from third-party sites went nowhere. Twitter handles listed on websites were non-existent. The Contact/About page listed a place to make comments, but not to make direct contact.

So let’s say I have fifteen slots in an anthology and a list of twenty writers I could include. About 30% would have first dibs simply because they are easy to contact and can make the swiftest informed responses. Another 30% would be fairly easy to contact as well, and would likely secure their spots.

Now I have only three spots left in my anthology, and eight of the authors on my list don’t even know I’d like to include them. How much time do I invest in tracking them down? How much do I prioritize their participation over my time spent finding them? How much easier would it be to find other talented writers who do make their contact information available?

(To answer the last question: It’s very easy. Talent is not so rare as folks on high would have you believe. :)  )

And in case you’re still wondering if that contact information is really important…

I have confirmed participation of one writer, yet still have no professional contact information for others. And that one confirming writer is in the 10% who listed a professional email contact.

Luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation, my darlings. Seneca knew what he was talking about.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Crossposted at Blair MacGregor Books.

Or, “What I Learned Upcoming Writers At 4th Street Want To Know About Indie Publishing.”

Last weekend was for 4th Street Fantasy, and not even the thief who stole my driver’s license and debit card on Saturday could dull my overall enjoyment.  In addition to attending great panels and having fantastic writerly conversations, I took the opportunity to discover what writers—published and about-to-publish, new(er) and up-and-coming—want to know about indie publishing.

Y’see, SFWA’s new VP Maggie Hogarth recently talked me into working with the Self-Publishing Committee.  (It was the Hopeful Jaguar Eyes that did it.  That, and I didn’t want honey badgers sicced on me…:)  Having so many smart writers at 4th Street offered the perfect chance to gather some helpful information.

The writers I spoke with were not new to the craft or the business.  They were all well beyond the beginner stage in terms of craft.  Most had at least one SFWA qualifying sale and/or comparable experience in invitation-only workshops.  They’re the writers on the verge of breaking in, not the writers who are still figuring out the basics of writerly terminology.

Read more... )

Everyone—information providers and information seekers—gets to decide if they want to feed arguments, justify choices, or educate writers.  You can’t very well do all those things at once anymore.  The more successful and talented writers don’t much like sifting through bluster in the hope of finding facts.

Dichotomy is easy.  But conversation isn’t all that challenging, either.  The longer we permit “versus” to dominate, the greater the disservice we do to talented writers.

Besides, the more interesting discussions have already moved forward, and this is a good thing.

Remember to sign up for the not-to-often newsletter!


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Crossposted to Blair MacGregor Books

Another day, another piece of writing on self-publishing that makes me want to *headdesk.*  So I’m going to put this post here and, in the future, simply point to it when yet another one of those articles pops up.

Truth: There is no “real cost” to self-publishing, just as there is no “real cost” to trade publishing.  Anyone who tells you there is intends to sell you something, validate their own choices, or is simply unaware a range of options exist.

What is the “real cost” of feeding a family of four for a week?  What is the “real cost” of a college education?  What is the “real cost” of owning a home, taking a vacation, adopting a pet, raising a child, buying a car, having someone do your taxes, finding the perfect gown for an event?

The answer to all those is, “It depends.”

And too often, someone comes along to assert “It depends” must be followed by “the quality of work you want.”

That someone is wrong.

Writers new to self-publishing often take a Google-tour of sites claiming to give them “real” information.  And some writers, thinking they’re being helpful while defending their choice to not self-publish, have written compelling pieces that place the cost of putting out a single novel somewhere between ten and sixty thousand dollars.

Those are not helpful articles.  New writers who stumble onto them and believe them are likely to either give up entirely or become an easy target for scammers.  Heck, after reading an author dropped thirty thousand dollars to self-publish “properly,” who wouldn’t believe an Author Solutions package of ten grand sounds like a fantastic deal?

(And if you’re not familiar with Author Solutions and the support it receives from major publishers and imprints, start here and here.)

In most cases, cost is assumed to be the same as quality when one of two factors come into play.  In the first instance, cost matters if money is considered to be a measure of personal worth (see “Protestant Ethic”).  In the second, cost is used as a proxy for quality when one isn’t accustomed to or comfortable with cost comparisons and negotiations.

I once paid nearly $2000 for a gown.  People at the reception in Washington D.C. complimented it.  I once paid $65 for a gown.  Never in my life had I received so many compliments, and this from a Beverly Hills crowd.

So if you’re a new writer, here’s the deal:  You do not need to pay what large trade publishers pay to get professional results because—and this doesn’t get mentioned often, for some odd reason—you are not paying to retain employees, warehouse product, or maintain expensive office space.  And frankly, you’re not paying for exclusivity.  You are paying a contractor to provide you a professional service.*  You are paying for that service one timePeriod.

How do you find professionals who deliver great results at the price point you’re looking to pay?  Use the same method that used to be touted to writers in search of a compatible agent: check the books you like.  Well-produced indie titles will list their publication team—cover artist, designer, copyeditor, etc.—in the front matter and/or the acknowledgements.  Best of all, ebooks usually contain a live link to the professional’s website.  In very little time, you can create a targeted list of professionals whose work you like alongside the approximate cost of their services.  Easy-peasy.

If you’re an established trade writer thinking you should say something about self-publishing, here’s the deal: Read up on successful self-publishing members within your own professional organization.  SFWA recently opened its membership to self-published writers who meet the same income standards as trade-published writers, and many long-standing SFWA members fully embraced self-publishing long before.  Just a small bit of reading and discussion will reveal that the professional experience and focus of those who primarily self-publish differs from those who might self-publish a small project or two on the side.  They can give you actual numbers, based on multiple projects.  And if you have a question about self-publishing, it’s easy to ask.

For some, custom artwork provided by a Certain Name is critical to seeing their final product as “professional.”  Those folks will pay a premium for it.  For others, it’s essential to pay Certain Name for a developmental edit to shape their story for reasons of craft and/or confidence.  Those folks, too, will pay a premium.  But premium is a choice, and should not be presented as a necessity.  Telling new writers—and established writers uncertain if they should step into self-publishing—that they must spend a pile of money to be professional and spend every moment on insurmountable tasks associated with publishing is a swift and efficient way to put a lid on the number of writers who’d otherwise be able to engage with enthusiastic readers.

In fact, it’s kinda mean.

It isn’t realistic.  It isn’t “harsh truth.”  It is a narrow band of experience, based on a different business model, that’s erroneously touted as universal.

I’d much rather see us reach out with accurate and up-to-date information on the range of costs associated with self-publishing.  That’s the way to realistically and immediately support diversity, to give fellow writers the knowledge needed to take advantage of options and avoid scammers, and to expand the readership for everyone.

So at the end of the day, the truth is pretty straightforward.

The real cost of self-publishing is what you pay, after researching your options, to get the results you want.


(Next week I’ll put together a post in response to the “You can’t become a better writer unless editors reject you repeatedly” post I can wriipoint to whenever that meme pops up.)

*I’ve heard the argument that paying below Big 5 rates for artistic and editorial services harms professionals accustomed to making their living at their trade.  While not unsympathetic to that viewpoint, I do find it a tad offensive when directed at the one professional in the publishing business who has forever been told they shouldn’t expect to make a living in the biz.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
I wrote last year about the GenCon Writer's Symposium -- the enjoyment of reconnecting with a couple folks, the exasperation over the comments and panels on self-publishing. It looks as if the latter problem will be solved by reducing any direct mention of self-publishing to two single-presenter hours.

One presentation is called, "Self or Traditional: Pros and Cons of Each." The other is, "Self-Publishing: Why It Works, Why It" (I'm assuming the cut-off word on the schedule is "Doesn't).

Yes, in the year that even SFWA -- derided as so out-of-touch -- at last opened its membership to income-earning self-published writers, the Writer's Symposium believes the most pressing questions writers have about self-publishing is whether it's good or bad.

There are no "Business of Self-Publishing" panels. Nothing on what tasks are involved in producing print and ebooks. Nothing on connecting with editing, art, and design professionals. Nothing at all on avoiding the numerous businesses out there intending to fleece writers. Yes, there are a couple general panels that could be of use to self-publishers. However, last year's seemingly cross-applicable panels -- such as the panel on seeking professional reviews -- included direct "don't bother if you're self-published" references, so... yeah. Not hopeful about that.

My experience last year wasn't unique. Deborah Jay talks here about the Loncon panel on indie-publishing that didn't include a single person currently self-publishing.

I'll still be going to GenCon for at least one full day. There are folks I want to meet -- Cat Rambo! Lauren Roy! In person! -- and people I want to see again. A few of the craft panels look interesting. And my son might give the cosplay competition a try again this year. But as someone who knows so many writers seeking information on self-publishing, I'm disappointed at the lost opportunity to include them.

So... Here's the thing. If you're planning to attend GenCon and want to talk about self-publishing rather than debate its worth, let me know. I'm no huge smashing figure of great renown, but I can share resources, talk about scams and pitfalls, and discuss the business side of things.

I don't care if it's one person or a group of people. We'll have a roundtable discussion and exchange of information and experience, and it will be a good thing.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Sudden Moxie Press Logo

Do reviews matter?

The answer depends on who you ask, how you define “reviews,” and what you mean by “matter.”

Ask a trade-published writer, and you’ll likely learn a review is first and foremost something written by a pro or semi-pro reviewer that will appear in an industry-supported or industry-centric publication.  That sort of review is expected to (fingers crossed!) boost enough interest and offer enough praise to filter down to the general readership in time to impact sales in the first week (or month, on the outside) after publication.

Ask a self-published writer, and you’ll likely learn a review is first and foremost something written by a reader, directed at other readers, that will appear on the online retailer’s sales page for the book or (second best) on a site like Goodreads.  That sort of review is expected to (fingers crossed!) boost enough interest and offer enough legitimacy to immediately impact the reader’s purchasing decision in the first week, the first month, the first year, and far beyond.

But no matter who you ask, the truthful answers all share one critical element:

Fingers crossed!

Like most other authors, I cross my fingers a great deal (when not using them to, y’know, write).  That’s why I put Sand of Bone in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off hopper.

We know visibility impacts sales.  But visibility doesn’t create sales.  That takes a connection between what the reader is looking for and how the reviewer expresses herself.  Seemingly neutral words can make all the difference.  Describing a novel as having “humor mixed with the action” gives the reader a different impression than “action-packed, madcap adventure.”  I’d investigate the first one and ignore the second one, even though both phrases could accurately describe the same novel.  I’m convinced the seemingly random impact of reviews on sales is due less to a positive or negative review and more to the language it uses.

For example, after its inclusion in StoryBundle, Sand of Bone began to be described by reviewers as military fantasy as well as dark fantasy.  I haven’t noticed a big difference in sales, but I’ve noticed a sharp rise in reader engagement—the critical foundation to any writing career because an engaged readership is more likely to purchase your next book.  The words a reviewer used connected me to a different segment of fantasy readers, and those connections were the best thing to come out of my StoryBundle participation.  (The money certainly wasn’t bad, either! :) )

In Bloggers: Wind or Windsock?, author Mark Lawrence speaks to the question of how much blogger reviews might impact sales.  (Truly, it’s difficult for the trade-published to know.  They lack direct and immediate access to the majority of sales data.  Me, I can immediately see the impact or lack thereof because my sales data is mine to access at any moment.  But I digress.)  He puts some numbers behind his observations, but still comes up with the answer of, “Maybe it helps!  Fingers crossed!

Might the numbers Lawrence uses in his blogpost be more indicative of reader engagement than reviewer connections?  Maybe.  For those who are prevented by a blogger’s or industry publication’s policy from accessing many review venues, the answer is, “Fingers crossed!”

And that’s why I wanted Sand of Bone to be part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.  Not because I think there’s a straight line between trade-publishing and reviewers and immediate sales and fame, but because I know visibility does the workaday job of increasing the likelihood a reader who likes what I write will find me.

But there is a second reason, and it’s a tiny tad more altruistic: I want the artificial barriers between trade-published books and self-published books to be smudged by the Blog-Off.

I will never forget the puzzlement of a genre professional first hearing the name “Hugh Howey.”  Howey had at the time sold more copies of a single book than most genre writers will sell in their lifetime, but those who prided themselves in knowing everything about the industry had no idea who he was.  Me, I would have been troubled to discover I’d not known about the work and writers who were impacting—and changing—the industry I worked within.  Alas, what I saw immediately following the revelation was a doubling-down on the separation that left many readers understanding they had to access different sources to find complete news.

As I discussed in Women, Reviews, and Self-Publishing, the lamenting of diversity in industry-centric forums that pointedly exclude all self-published works frustrate me to no end.  A large number of writers who have been shut out of the industry due to the documented biases in the industry are now self-publishing.  Writers who didn’t even want to deal with those controversies opted to go directly to self-publishing.  Writers who were tired of dealing with abuse within the industry decided to self-publish.

So anything that connects industry-centric sources, reviewers, and publications with the growing self-publishing community is a win in my book.  After all, readers are purchasing, enjoying, and discussing self-published works from writers many industry sources haven’t even heard of, and the number of readers discovering self-published works is growing.  Certainly self-published writers will benefit from connecting with an audience that looks almost solely to industry-centric reviewers to provide information on worthwhile reads.  But the reviewer will also benefit from expanding her reading experience, sharing her discoveries, and connecting with readers who are largely ignored by many of the industry’s supporting resources.

SFWA recently enacted its policy to expand membership qualifications to include self-publishing income.  As a SFWA member who watched the internal and public debate on the matter, I knew there were far more self-publishing writers who’d meet the income guidelines than most trade-published members believed, but also suspected the desire of self-published writers to join the organization was vastly exaggerated by those same members.  It turns out both of us were right and wrong.  Yes, the flood of self-published applicants surprised existing members with their sales numbers.  Yes, the flood of self-published applicants who wanted to be in SFWA surprised me.

But one of the things I most remember is Locus Magazine’s reporting that SFWA  “favored loosening membership standards by more than six to one.”

First, there is a load of bias in the phrase, “loosening membership standards.”  There is no byline for the item, so I don’t know who wrote it, but do indeed know the genre readership has moved beyond that person’s knowledge and understanding.  Just as I’d rather get my tech advice from folks who can tell me about cutting edge computing rather than the TRS-80, I’d rather get my industry news from folks who understand publishing opportunities that have been around for quite a few years now.

Second, take note of the phrase, “six to one.”  I’m no math person, but I’m fairly certain that translates to around 85% of SFWA’s voting membership who approved of admitted self-published writers under earning standards equal to trade-published writers.  Isn’t 85% a fairly significant majority?  Isn’t a significant majority a fair reflection of prevailing opinion?

So if readers are purchasing enough self-published genre books to make writing them lucrative for many authors, and genre writers want self-publishers acknowledged as professionals alongside trade-published writers, it makes sense that reviewers would want to be part of the transition, if not on its leading edge.

Believe me—I get that reviewing is time consuming.  After all, I’m a single mother who homeschools her teenage son, runs two businesses (one of which includes teaching karate four to six days a week), and sill wants to write stories.

So what might help bridge the transition?  What might help connect up-and-coming writers outside the industry to reviewers within it?

Things like the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.

Do I want Sand of Bone to fare well?  Of course.  Fuck yeah, I do.  I want everyone to say it’s the best novel EVAH.TWO502-SandOfBone-cover-2400

But in all honesty, I want the participating reviewers to enjoy many of the novels.  I want them to be surprised by the stories and the production quality.  I want them to be intrigued. I want them to be excited. I want them to be so pleased they’ll from now on look at good books versus bad books rather than self-published books versus trade-published books.  I want their decisions to be difficult because of an abundance of good reads.

I would rather this open the door to increasing connections than be a token experience.

Yeah, I can be hopelessly unrealistic in my aspirations.

But, my darlings, this hope is totally reasonable.


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blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

From The Guardian comes this observant article on the success women are finding in self-publishing.

Reactions can be summed up thusly:

"Let me argue the methodology!  Let me discredit a single line in the article!" -- Folks who are certain there wouldn't be any gender disparity if women would just shut up about it already.

"It's just because of romance!" -- Folks who either failed to read the entire article, don't want the wrong type of folks playing in their sandbox, or both.

"Yeah, but those women are just lucky."  Folks who'd rather ignore and/or degrade the achievement of successful women than accept that their success happened outside the traditional scope.

"I don't need to read this because it's all bullshit anyway."  Folks who saw "women" and/or "self-publishing" in the article's title, and assumed the topic wasn't worth their time.

"Yep." -- Women who are self-publishing.


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

I have a convention schedule this year!  Sure, it’s short and mostly local, but it exists.  It is a thing, and it pleases me today.

4th Street Fantasy, Minneapolis, MN  June 26-28

This is a different kind of con—one with a single track of programming and a membership cap of 175 attendees—intending to create a shared con experience and fluid conversation.  Folks have been telling me to go for years.  Once programming conversations get rolling, I’ll bring up making myself available for self-publishing discussions at the writing seminar.  Is that presumptuous of me? Perhaps. But any discussion of the writing business today ought to include a writer who chooses self-publishing as the primary career path rather than the consolation trail.  Besides, if there’s another indie writer they’d prefer to include, great!  The goal is inclusion of the experience and information, not the person.  (And I’d be more than happy to write up all the reasons this is true.)

InConJunction, Indianapolis, IN  July 3-5

This con is local to me, but I haven’t been in years because its scheduling conflicted with my son’s annual county dog show.  Since he isn’t showing this year, and is perfectly capable of getting himself to the site to volunteer (and we aren’t driving to JFK airport to get him on a flight to Italy, as we did last year), I get to go to the con!  My name appeared on the “Also Appearing” list, so I guess it’s official.  I have no idea what programming will look like, but I will be making my recommendations.

GenCon, Indianapolis, IN  July 30 – Aug 2

I’ve put my name in the hopper to help with any SFWA business while there.  When not doing that, I’ll likely be hanging around the Writer’s Symposium, hoping their self-publishing track is less dismissive, and spending time with my cosplaying son.  I’m even toying with the idea of pulling a cosplay myself.  I have a soft spot for Fiona.  For me, this con isn’t much a professional-writer activity, but is a fun few days instead.

MileHiCon, Denver, CO  October 23-25

Since I’ve decided I’m moving that direction, it only makes sense I’d jump into a convention, right?  More details on this one as time gets closer.

I already know some folks who will be at these events, but would love to meet up with others.  Let me know if you’ll be around!


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Someday I'll get to posting about the weird (for my) process of writing Breath of Stone.  In the meantime, here are some links I simply can't keep to myself:

I Am an Indie Midlister (and That's Okay) From [ profile] haikujaguar comes a great post on her experience as an indie author, her sales numbers, and the perceptions of success in today's direct-to-reader  publishing world.

Via The Passive Voice, link to and discussion of The Bookseller's First Independent Author Preview.  As I mentioned in the comments there, it's still important for industry-to-industry discussions of indie-published works to be compared positively to trade-published works.  Many in the industry have little experience, exposure, or knowledge of what is happening outside their boundaries.  They don't know or understand how readers are connecting with independent writers.  They aren't at the forefront of the change.  They still need to be told where to look.

(Aside: Also, as a middle-aged woman, I have extensive experience with such comments.  After all, I grew up hearing, "That's really good, for a girl!" and being told that should be taken as a great compliment.  The trade-publishing folks who using "Well done, for self-publishing!" also think they are being progressive and complimentary.  It'll pass.)

Speaking of gender perceptions, Women You Should Know delivers a fabulous interview with the woman who, as a child, was featured in the 1981 LEGO ad with such a positive message about creativity in childhood that had nothing to do with gender.  Rachel Giordano speaks well to the issue of today's gendered toys, and how easy it is for those toy-imposed messages to affect choices of life and career.

Lastly, and back to the writing front, I offer you the blog post What Agents, Editors, and Art Directors Look For Online.  Alack and alas, I discover upon reading it that I would be a terrible prospect for an agent or editor.  I've written things that might be divisive!  I've discussed the publication process!  I've told people when my books are on sale!  I share some things from my personal life!  If you really want to delve into it, there is one anonymous response that goes into great detail about what the person wants to find and avoid in someone's social media presence.  And, to add a dash of humor, there is a survey respondent who doesn't really want to be reminded that writers might research their online presence as well because they "don't like the feeling."

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Via a Twitter link, I came upon Infodump, Mary Sue, and Other Words That Authors Are Sick of Hearing. I'm a little bit in love with it, truly. Don't even attempt the comments unless you want to watch a rehash of the years-long debate of what Mary Sue actually means, and what every single commenter means when they use it. Trust me: if you weren't sick of hearing Mary Sue before reading the comments, you will be after. It's rather interesting, though, that of all the terms in the article, it's the Mary Sue that got most folks all a-chatter.

A brief Twitter conversation came up between some writers, including the comment that new writers are told not to use the omniscient viewpoint because editors don't want to see it. I do wonder how many lovely books have been lost over the years because of that.

If you haven't already, head over to Maggie's journal for The Uncomfortable Trail-Blazer. (There you'll also find a link to the interview she did with Publishers Weekly, which is, y'know, pretty darn cool.) Pay close attention to the section on the publishing reality of 100 good books for only 45 publishing slots: "At the end of the day, there were 1000 books worth publishing, and 45 got through the door. And there was nothing the remaining 955 authors could have done to better their chances. "Write a better book" is false advice, because many better books still failed. "Write a more marketable book" is better advice, but it requires you to understand the market, be willing to write to it, and get it to someone before the trends change... and the book still might fail"

That cannot be said enough, and writers deserve to know it, understand it, and plan their careers accordingly.

Lastly, Publishers Weekly presented The Rise of the Seven-Figure Advance. Ostensibly, the article is about a seeming increase in mega-advances being given out, particularly to writers who have no BookScan records. But it's really quite a peek into how the industry is evolving, and it's the first time I've seen mention of certain predictions come to pass. As reasons for high advances, anonymous insiders say the "pool of talent is shrinking" because there are now fewer submissions, and publishers are having to prove themselves because of the success being found in self-publishing.

Really, truly, go read the whole thing because that little article just quietly confirmed publishers and agents are now caught up with the backlog of slush enough to realize the number of manuscripts that aren't there anymore.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
For the third time in less than a year, I've seen someone who attended Viable Paradise mention feeling uncomfortable discussing self-publishing with most Viable Paradise folks.  One writer was hesitant to even mention the fact her work is up for an award because it's self-published. Another mentioned being careful not to discuss self-publishing plans at all at the workshop based on a couple of overheard comments.

My own VP experience came when self-publishing was still new enough that it wasn't much of a conversation topic. The comments directed toward self-publishing were fewer than a handful, and easily brushed off as an "early days" sort of thing. The landscape has changed much in the last three years.

So I'm curious about this. I'm not in need of campaign to make it different, but I certainly would want to add a disclaimer to my annual Viable Paradise posts if self-publishers would leave the workshop feeling like they couldn't be honest with their classmates and instructors.

If Viable Paradise wants to maintain a more exclusive focus on trade publishing, there is nothing wrong with that. I simply would want to make a note of it when recommending it to others so those choosing to solely self-publish don't end up having to choose between feeling awkward or keeping quiet.

Please understand I'm not looking for a list of VP folks who self-publish as "proof" of self-publishing support. I'm interested in what happens at, and is discussed at, the actual workshop. Honestly, I've read enough off-hand comments on various platforms to believe folks who self-publish would think twice before applying and attending. (And I'd guess those making the comments would wonder what all the fuss is about...)

If you don't feel comfortable answering here, feel free to send me a direct message.

Again, I'm not looking to start an argument. Just honest assessments so I can steer folks in the right direction.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

I really didn’t want to blog about Amazon’s Kindle Scout—I’m not interested in the good/bad debate—but I do think the conversation about the program is highlighting perfectly the business divide between self-publishers and (most) hybrids, and those who are focused solely (or overwhelmingly) on landing or keeping a contract with a “traditional” publishing contract.

In short, as Jim Hines says, Kindle Scout crowdsources the slush pile.  Writers submit their work and are encouraged to publicize their participation.  Readers nominate their favorite books.  The books with the most nominations are “more likely,” in Amazon’s words, to be reviewed by Amazon.  Amazon will then select the books it wants to publish.

I emphasize that last point because some have wrongly claimed Amazon will publish books with the most votes.  Nope.  Votes garner attention, not contracts.

My intent isn’t to rah-rah for or against Kindle Scout, but to look at why different writers with different perspectives have different reactions and opinions.  Personally, I want to see what shakes out in the next three months before I make a decision.

One issue that has caused a minor stir is that writers who enter Kindle Scout agree, at the moment of entry, to the contract terms.  To my knowledge, that’s similar to many contests.  I don’t believe the contracts for Glimmer Train’s competitions are negotiable, for example, but I’m willing to be corrected.  I’d also be interested in knowing if past contracts offered under contests like Warner Aspect’s First Novel Contest were negotiable.

I personally don’t much like things I can’t negotiate–my knee-jerk hang-up.  I’d love to see, say, SFWA and RWA look at the terms and make professional recommendations to Amazon.  For example, I’ve seen some opinions on the Scout indemnity clause that make me wonder enough to want the opinion of a pair of legal eyes, as well as a comparison to trade-publishing’s indemnity clauses.

On the other hand, the contract terms are right out in the open.  There aren’t surprises.  You either like them or you don’t, and if Amazon doesn’t select your work within 30 days, you’re still free to publish it on your own.

In contrast, Amtrak’s recent contest rules stated all submitted materials became immediately the property of Amtrak—including the work of those who didn’t win.  Many writers—self-published and trade-published—spoke out against that rule.  And many writers decided the mere chance of winning a train ride was worth losing exclusive rights to their submitted work.  As far as I could tell, those sides didn’t fall along self/trade lines.

So what about the Kindle Scout issues that do?

Scout participants selected for publication are not given any additional editing, copyediting, layout, or cover art support and services.  They do, however, have an opportunity to make changes before submitting the final copy for Amazon’s publication.  This has mightily disturbed writers most accustomed to trade publishing perspectives, but a relatively few self-publishing writers.

Trade-published writers put a high value on the editorial and artistic guidance given and decisions made by their publishers.  They like having a prescreened team take on those aspects.  They want the publisher to hire the developmental editor, copyeditor, proofreader, and cover artist, and decide how the book will be packaged and presented to readers.  They do not want, for varied reasons, to be responsible for paying those professionals out-of-pocket.

Self-published writers put a high value on making their own editorial and artistic choices.  They want to choose their own editors and decide how much influence the editor will have over the final work.  They want to hire their own cover designer, choose the images they believe best portray their story, and decide how the work is presented to the reader.  They see those expenses as a one-time investment.

The above issue segues neatly into the 50% of net royalty rate Amazon offers to Scout winners.

For informational purposes: Amazon defines net as “the gross amounts we actually receive from the sale of copies of that format or edition, less customer returns, digital transmission costs and bad debt, and excluding taxes. ”  Since most digital transmission costs are measured in pennies per sale, this amounts to a little less than 50% of the price the reader pays for the ebook.  For trade publishers, the 25% of net is calculated on what the bookseller pays for the ebook, and is generally considered to come out somewhere around 12.5% of what the reader pays.  (Audio and third-party rates are also in the contract, but I’m examining perspectives, not contracts, so I’m not going to expend words discussing them).

Trade-published writers focus on the lack of editorial and artistic support as the reason 50% is a poor royalty rate.  My guess—and that’s all it is—is that trade-published writers see the publisher’s artistic investment in their novel as what adds the greatest value and contributes most to sales.  The publisher’s artistic investment is thus worth 25% to 37.5% (depending on how one wishes to calculate it) for the lifetime of the project.

Some, but certainly not all, self-published writers calculate differently.  My guess—and again, that’s all it is—is that self-published writers see the publisher’s marketing push as the most expensive and value-adding contribution to sales.  They assume the publisher’s contribution to marketing and visibility is worth the 20% of royalties they’d lose over the lifetime of the project by going with Kindle Scout.  They see it as an investment in much the same way publishers will pay co-op fees for marketing and visibility.  Trading the potential visibility for a lower royalty rate is worth it to them.

Then there’s the $1500 advance.  That’s low in the world of trade publishing, and below the current SFWA threshold.  Since most trade-published novels are said to never earn out the advance, the small amount is considered a deal breaker for those looking from the trade-publishing perspective.

But many who self-publish have often said they’d give up a larger advance in return for a higher royalty rate.  I’m sure many did the math as well, finding the advance would earn out after 1000 – 1200 sales at the lower pricepoint Amazon mentions, and assume/hope/anticipate the visibility of participation in Scout would result in at least that number.  Qualifying for SFWA is not a high consideration for some self-publishers.

The differing conclusions are indicative of different perspectives, different artistic considerations, and different business goals.  Are there problems with the Amazon contract?  Some clauses that aren’t author-friendly?  Yes.  Are there problems with Big-5 and small-press contracts?  Some clauses that aren’t author-friendly?  Yes.  That’s why it’s nice to have options.

It’ll be great when we can discuss those options without turning everything into a morality play and/or superiority contest.  Please keep that in mind should you choose to comment.  Debate for the purpose of understanding would be awesome.  Arguing to win and/or claim the high ground would not. :-)

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
My job as a writer is to tell good stories.

My job as a publisher is to do a good job producing those stories for readers.

I failed at that second job this week.

For reasons I still don't know, my ebook formatting went sideways. Parts of Sand of Bone looked like a proper book. Other parts were block paragraphs with weird spacing. I spent hours redoing and undoing and redoing again... then realized I was mistakenly working on a pre-proofreading copy.

Alas, the proper copy wouldn't show up as formatted correctly either. So I went the through the undo-redo-undo-do-again process. Finally got proper html, epub, and mobi files.

Uploading and previewing then came to a grinding halt due to computer issues. Every online preview informed me my browser wasn't compatible. What changed, I don't know. After much more random messing around and pacing and rending of clothing, I figured out how to see what I needed to see.

Then Smashwords wouldn't take my epub, so I reverted to the doc file. Its mobi preview looks good, but until it loads to other sites, I won't know for certain. And that could take more than a week. Grr.

The Amazon file is already updated, and looks good and professional. I'll be contacting KDP about the updated file and, if they think the formatting change is significant enough, they'll email updating information to all those who've already made a purchase.

I'm so embarrassed. Sigh.

My lesson in all this is to be MUCH more diligent in my file-checking. As I said, I have no idea why my standard template -- the same template I've used for every other piece I've published -- came out all twisted on the other end. But in the end, it doesn't matter why. It happened, and it's my job to do what I can to prevent it from happening again.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Woohoo! Serpent Heart is now available at these booksellers:




As soon as Kobo and Nook go live, I'll provide those links as well.

Publishing this one came with the extra thrill of discovery, since I spent years believing it lost forever in a computer crash. Not only did I enjoy getting to know the characters again, I can clearly see where the story will go in the next installment. Somehow I gained another series.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
I thought of writing a long post on the conversation about the visibility of women writers in SFF, but decided it all boils down to this: I am sick unto death of seeing articles and opinion pieces about the need to acknowledge women writers, from publications and groups that refuse to review and include and support women who self-publish.

The most common reason given for rejecting self-published works from reviews, sight unseen, is that there are just too many of them to review. By the same token, there are far too many traditionally published novels to review as well, so there is that. I get it. Making decisions takes time, and it can be difficult to choose which reviews will best please the readership. Thus it’s easier to set aside a single publication method as not-reviewable.

That reasoning suffers from two downsides. First, the policy cuts out the work of many women whose writing didn’t gain approval from a relatively small audience of editors, but instead found a great audience among readers. It cuts out women who decided they didn’t want to seek such traditional approval, and chose instead to control and direct their own work. It turns away from women who have found success outside the system that the diversity-in-the-genre articles are ostensibly trying to impact.

Self-publishing is empowerment; cutting its existence from the landscape of writers’ options, while pushing for greater visibility of women writers, is rather counterproductive if inclusion is the actual goal.

Second, the policy ensures the publication will be missing out on the broadening conversation readers are having with a number of self-published writers. It won’t affect those readers much, since they’re obviously getting their information from a variety of sources. But there are readers who are entrenched in traditional publications and reviews, and will not venture far from the familiar. Those readers will be missing out on the greater conversation as well.

Again, making decisions takes time and can be difficult.

I knew when I self-published the sort of attitudes I’d be facing from traditionally-oriented reviewers, publications, bloggers, and even other writers. To act surprised that I’ve found the environment to be pretty close to what I expected would be disingenuous. I’m simply pointing out a contradiction that troubles me.

The review policies on self-published works will eventually change, likely when it becomes apparent that readers are having conversations the publications aren’t. And when it does change, we’ll be starting the conversation on the visibility of women all over again.

Until then, though, I’ll just keep watching the policies that state a support for women writers, as long as they’re not self-published women, because those self-published women should stay in their own playground.

Well. I guess that became a blog post after all.

While you’re here, tell me who your favorite self-published women writers are!
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
... and if you're worried about doing it "right," check out When You Are Your Own Publisher over at Jaye's blog.

Don't let fear of making a mistake keep you from reaching for accomplishment. Mistakes are fixable. Far more fixable in self-publishing than in trade publishing. A certain level of anxiety is good--it pushes us to check and double-check, to put our best work forward--but too much anxiety leads to really bad decisions.


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