TESS FOWLER: I Let The Artist Have Her Say

As many visitors to my blog are aware, last year I had the misfortune of hiring artist Tess Fowler for art duties on my second Doc Wilde book. I paid her a thousand dollars and received nothing but a handful of rough character sketches, and I don’t even have the originals of those.

I detailed the disintegration of the deal and both my and Tess’s behavior in extreme detail, using our actual correspondence,  in this post.  It tells everything you need to know about our entire working relationship, and about Tess’s choices at the end.

As someone commented on the one followup post I wrote, there are two sides to every story. I agreed and stated, “Tess is completely welcome to share her side here.” Of course, she never took me up on the offer.

She did, however, post a lengthy diatribe on Facebook. I didn’t see it on her page because Tess has me blocked (and I have better things to do than monitor her behavior), but several of her friends sent me the information pretty much immediately. A couple even provided actual screenshots of the post and its resultant discussion.

I’m going to share those screenshots with you. This is the closest thing to Tess’s side of the story that she has provided, and I feel no compunction about showing it to you because it was posted publicly. I’ll offer commentary as we read it together.

1

First, everything I have ever posted on this matter is demonstrably true. There’s a reason I used our actual emails and was so thorough in my account; I wanted folks to have all the information they needed to come to their own conclusions about what happened. There are no emails I refuse to show publicly, and you may notice that she says there are but never shows them to anyone.

And yeah, based on my experiences, I’d definitely recommend nobody else hire her. I’m not running a smear campaign, but I damn sure can’t give her a good reference.

2

Bullshit. I stand by the post I linked to at the start of this one as a rebuttal of what she says here. I in no way abused Tess, and since my feeble attempts to contact her to ask that she resume work (attempts she completely ignored), I have made no other attempts to contact her. It’s easy for her to claim that I am “stalking” her, but I challenge her to prove that very libelous charge.

Further, since shutting me out as described in the original post, she has neither tried to discuss matters with me nor in any way offered in any way to continue the work. She blew me off entirely, kept my money, and I’ve had no contact with her of any sort since she did, not even these mythical emails she references yet again without producing them, except that the day I first saw these screenshots I emailed her, offering to get back to work whenever she was ready. She never replied.

I, however, was very public about the fact that I was willing to get back to work with her. She is a talented artist, I liked her take on my characters, and I was already out a thousand dollars so it was fully in my interest to try to get my money’s worth, even after the trauma I’d already suffered.

For the record, that offer no longer holds. I’ve accepted the loss of my money and the lessons learned and there’s no way in hell I’d work with her again.

3

Again, the emails she could produce, but doesn’t. Ever. Whereas I shared damn near every meaningful correspondence we ever had.

And again, bullshit that she ever offered to continue work after communications broke down.

And note here that I am “a madman.” What she means is that I suffer from depression, and she’s trying to use that against me. In a very libelous way.

4

I’d really like to see those emails. If called on it by someone, at most she could produce (and possibly misrepresent) emails I already quoted in my original post, because there has been nothing since. Again, I tried to sweet-talk her back to work after the communications breakdown, and then I’d have jumped on the chance to get back to work on the book because I had, after all, already paid her.

Now, the discussions began:

5

Again, portraying me as crazy because I’m depressed, and the continued insinuation that I’m stalking her via email and phone.

6

You know what? I do know exactly what I can get away with, because I’ve talked to a lawyer too. For something to be considered libel, it has certain criteria it needs to meet, chief among them the stated information has to be untrue. I’m not worried about her lawyers because I have no reason to be worried about her lawyers. And I’m pretty sure that the three different lawyers she spoke to all pretty much told her that.

7

I think that may be my favorite bit.

8

Ironically, the message I received from Tess blocking me and not responding to my emails or calls was very much “Sit down and shut up.”

9

Tess knew I suffered from depression the entirety of our working relationship. I’m very open about it, and about my battles with it. It’s even all over this blog.

And yes, Gary Chaloner, the original Doc Wilde artist, left the series (he didn’t think he could keep up with the workload), but he remains very much a part of the Wilde family, as well as a friend. Our working relationship was always professional, I was thrilled with the book we turned out together (Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom), and I have nothing but respect for him. We had delays and the book took longer to do than we’d planned, but Gary was never anything less than a trooper and I’d recommend him in a heartbeat to anyone who wants a talented, reliable artist. I invite anyone who thinks Gary left because of interpersonal dynamics to contact him directly and ask.

There was more discussion under Tess’s post, but the topics drifted away from me, so  there’s little point in sharing it. For the record, her post was made way back at the end of January, and there’s been no contact or any activity of any sort between Tess and me since. I intended to post this message ever since, but she’s no longer any sort of priority; the only reason I’m going ahead and posting now is because I want transparency for Doc Wilde supporters, so they know what happened and why the second book is delayed. This was also a way to let Tess tell her side of things.

I honestly wish things had gone differently, that Tess had actually been open to continuing the book. She’s a gifted draftswoman and I think the book we produced would have been beautiful.

Now, I wipe my hands of her.

In Praise of Authors and Readers and No Gatekeepers: Some Counterpoints to a Piece in Publishers Weekly

Readers and Writers

Chris Pavone, an editor turned novelist whose entire career has played itself out in the traditional publishing world, has a few things to say about indie publishing in a piece over at Publishers Weekly. Spoiler: he’s agin it.

 In a market of unlimited book options, how does an audience make choices? At the moment, most of that burden is carried by the book business. The publicity and marketing campaigns and cover designs and flap copy—the things that publishers do—are not just methods of selling books; they’re also readers’ main tools for discovering books. The same is true of the curating and merchandising in stores, and book coverage in the media. Without reviews, staff recommendations, and endcap displays, unlimited choices aren’t narrowed down—they’re overwhelming.

You know what? There are already hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of books in what Chuck Wendig calls the “shit volcano” of self publishing. And yet, my job as a reader has gotten no more difficult. I have no trouble at all finding the books I wish to read, and the task of sorting through the crap to find the gold is precisely the same as it has always been. There are a lot of self-published books I don’t want to read, but there are also a hell of a lot of traditionally published books I don’t want to read.

And “unlimited book options” is a bad thing? More choices for the reader, more books in the world, is a bad thing? Many more good writers able to get their books published, and to make money from them, is a bad thing? I don’t think so.

 Second, if all books become cheap or free to readers, then writers are unlikely to earn much (if anything). Who will want to write if writing doesn’t pay?

 Ooooh, scary. But you know what? Writing pays about 10% when traditionally published books sell for their standard prices. But it pays 70% when independently published books sell. That’s seven times the royalty. So a $10 book from one of the huge publishing corporations will pay a writer a buck per sale; an indie book only has to sell for $2 to beat that (a much more attractive price to a buyer), paying the writer $1.40. If the indie book sells for $3, it nets the writer more than a 10% royalty on a traditionally published book selling for $20. At $5, the writer is getting a royalty of $3.50, three and a half times what he’d get for a ten dollar book from the traditional gatekeepers.

Who will want to write if writing pays better?

Third, without the gatekeepers, those who do write will create books that are worse—and not just authors whose dormant genius must be drawn out by patient editors, but all authors. Every book that doesn’t first have to get past a gatekeeper or two, or 10, before being put in front of the public will be worse.

What balderdash. Every book? Really? Even those by writers who’ve already been published by the big corporations and know their way around a gerund and a character arc? Even those by writers who hire professional editors to help them polish their material exactly the same way editors at traditional houses do? Even those by writers willing to do the work because it’s work they care deeply about, and work that may finally earn them a reasonable living?

I get what he’s saying, though. He’s saying, “I work in traditional publishing. Traditional publishing pays my bills [though probably not all of them]. Therefore, traditional publishing must prevail, lest I have to fend for myself and become more responsible for the quality of my own books, which is really scary when you’re as entrenched and calcified and hidebound as I am.”

Hiring Artist Tess Fowler: Good Idea or Bad?

Tess Fowler, Artist

Hmm. Interesting.

For those who have been following the unfortunate tale of my wasting a thousand bucks on artist Tess Fowler and getting absolutely nothing but grief in return, there is some new information. This may be of particular interest to anyone who may consider hiring Tess for similar work.

I have been very open about my experience with Tess, how Ms. Fowler and I had a falling out and I lost a lot of cash. But I’d assumed that I was at least partially at fault, that even with her reactions to my criticisms and her hostility and refusal to negotiate and get back to work (or refund any of the money), that if I had somehow found the right words, perhaps we would have reconciled, and perhaps Tess Fowler would have then finished the job like a professional.

However, since posting my fully documented account of that experience, I have heard from not one, not two, but several others who have all started their messages with essentially the same statement:

It’s not you, it’s her.

Apparently, Tess Fowler is starting to be known for this sort of thing. While she promotes herself as a professional artist who is too cool for school to work for big companies (and as a “Warrior” who publicly called comic book writer Brian Wood a misogynist and a dick for hitting on her one time), she is apparently leaving a chain of broken promises and unearned payments in her wake. It’s not my place to make public the specifics of what I’ve been told by the folks who’ve contacted me (though I wish they’d go public as I have, for the benefit of all the folks who may yet suffer as we have), but apparently Tess has a tendency to make big promises then react very, very badly at the first sign of disagreement or tough critique. She disavows even the tiniest bit of responsibility and turns very nasty very quickly, accusing her former collaborators of being horrible people of some sort (in my case, I was mentally unbalanced and potentially dangerous), and refusing to deal with them at all thereafter.

(Tess also publicly accused me of “stalking” her when I posted my full account of our disastrous collaboration. Apparently, if you hire someone, pay them a lot of money, then send them a few messages and try to call them to see if they’re going to do the job they hired on to do, that’s stalking.)

As I said, I have heard this from several independent sources over the past few weeks, and I’ve even been privy to the exact communications that passed between some of these folks and Tess. I am naturally interested in hearing from any others; I’ll keep your secrets, though I do encourage you to post a public, objective account of what happened. And my blog is available as a forum for all of you: feel free to comment below any of my posts on the matter, and if you need a place to post your full account, you can do it here with my blessing.

For the record: I am only passing on what I have been told here, and in some cases what I have seen in shared documentation. But that documentation was very convincing, and having been through what I went through hiring Tess Fowler as an artist, I’m convinced that it’s true.

I Love Bookstores. But Do They Love Me?

Your book, here? HAHAHAHAHA

We hear a lot about how authors, and everyone else, should favor local, indie bookstores over Amazon and big chains. I love bookstores, especially cool little ones, and I even link to IndieBound on my site above Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and other larger vendors.

Well, I recently tested the waters at the two most prominent indies in my town to see if they’d sell my book, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom. (I should have done this months ago, but what with the crushing depression and electroshock therapy I just didn’t get around to it.)

The first I won’t name because I’m not looking to be personally contentious with them as they are very nice folks who run a great shop. It happens to be the very store where I debuted the novel in 2009, when I was with Putnam. I had a very successful signing with them, came in to sign books when they needed me to, and had what seemed to be a friendly relationship with the main folks there. I love this store. I showed it off to Nydia when she was visiting in the summer. I recommend it to folks all the time. I even used to link to their website from the Doc Wilde site, until I left Putnam and my book was temporarily out of print.

I walked in their door, an author who already ran the gantlet of traditional publishing, landing a multi-book contract with one of the largest publishers in the world, now carrying an improved, new, beautifully illustrated edition of my first book. A book with three pages of raves in the front from sources like Daniel Pinkwater, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, and the screenwriter of Thor and X-Men First Class. A book, incidentally, with a 4.5 star rating from readers on Amazon. While I was waiting to speak to someone, I even helped a customer, selling her Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men (which is awesome and hilarious). Continue reading

The Legend of Bloggy Creek, or How I Return With Much Fanfare

The Beast of Bloggy Creek

In my last post, I wrote about last year’s ups and (more often) downs. As I struggled through the morass that was 2013, one of the things that fell to the wayside was this blog. Now I’m gonna fix that.

One of the big lessons of last year was that I need to write. I need to write a lot. I need to continue to build the Doc Wilde series to the high standards artist Gary Chaloner and I established, but I also need to work on some projects that don’t rely as much on other people to finish. Art takes time.

And I’ll be here, blogging my little heart out. I’ll write about whatever I feel like writing about, books, movies, humans, politics, nature, music, games, sex, religions, my favorite trees, whatever. And you’re invited to engage me, to talk back, to agree or not, to discuss, in the comments sections of the posts.

My “Song of the Week” will be returning. It didn’t always manage to be weekly, and I’m not sure many people paid it any attention, but I enjoyed doing it and think I share a nice, eclectic mix of tunes, often with some personal commentary. The videos I share also wind up on my YouTube playlist “Dancing Under An Outlaw Moon,” at least until YouTube fucks the list over by removing things without telling me. (I’ll make a point of at least mentioning the names of the song and the performer so you can seek it out even if YouTube attacks, and if someone lets me know when they see that one of the videos has gone missing, I’ll try to find a replacement.)

I’m also going to participate in a fun little exercise called “ABC Wednesdays.”  Every week, I (and a horde of other bloggers) will post a blog piece, working through the alphabet from start to finish. Each blogger writes a post based on a word they choose beginning with that week’s letter. This week, I’m jumping on board as the cycle starts over again at A. I haven’t decided what my A word is going to be yet, but it’ll probably be cool, and most likely it’ll start with the letter A.

I hope you’ll stop by. You can also subscribe to the blog so you get the posts fresh from the oven.

See you soon. And more often.

Counting The Clock That Tells The Time

Clockwise

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night…

As far as I’m concerned, that’s William Shakespeare describing my 2013. For me, the year was a dark shawl of despair, laced with tiny threads of joy.

On the bright side of the equation, Gary Chaloner and I finally managed to release our deluxe, expanded, fully-illustrated edition of my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of DoomIf you’re new to our tale, I was originally contracted for three Doc Wilde books by Penguin/Putnam, with plans for the series to continue after those. They published Frogs in hardback in 2009, but I was disappointed  in various ways with the book and the publication process which produced it. During that time, I was watching the developments in self publishing with great interest, and I decided to regain the rights to my books and go indie. With the much appreciated help of a company of Kickstarter heroes, Gary and I started a process that was tougher and took more time than anticipated, but finally paid off with a gorgeous new book (written for all ages, available in both trade paperback and ebook; the hardback edition is still out there, mostly in used copies, but remember it’s nowhere near as nice a book as the new version).

Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom

Finally holding the deluxe Frogs of Doom was a relief and a delight. But dark times were coming for Doc Wilde, much more harrowing than any fight with world-threatening amphibians could ever be.

First, Gary Chaloner made the tough decision to resign as artist for the series. Working on Frogs had proved a hardship for him schedule-wise and he recognized that things were only going to get worse as he tried to balance his workload of other projects. To his incredible credit, and my even greater appreciation as both a fellow professional and a friend, he had finished the first book as he’d promised and, you might say, sort of spoiled me. As I hired a new artist for the second book, I expected a similar level of professionalism, and I paid what is for me some big bucks in advance to get it. Alas, I did not.

Hiring artist Tess Fowler was an enormous mistake. (The full craptastic tale can be read at this blog post).

Waiting for art that was just delayed and delayed and delayed only contributed to the weight of the depression I suffer, which was already rolling in like a tsunami on a night without stars, and the ultimate conflict with Tess Fowler when she produced nothing for the money she’d taken as a professional artist deepened my despair. I made repeated attempts to allow Tess to get back to work and live up to her promises, and she ignored every one of them. Continue reading

TESS FOWLER: Why She Is No Longer The Artist For Doc Wilde

I’d hoped this post would be very different.

I’d hoped to tell all of you that Tess Fowler had returned to work on Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull. That she and I had revisited the conflict between us and, like thoughtful, reasonable adults, had reconciled and gotten back to work.

Toward that end, I emailed and called her several times, with humility, ready to eat more than my fair share of crow in order to make peace, in order to allow her to make good on her promises. I did this not only because I’d paid her a great deal of money which was as good as flushed if she didn’t complete the job, but even more because I love her work and still think she might have produced a beautiful book. And that’s still my goal.

She simply ignored me.

Now, I already wrote a post about all this, a post full of anger and bile, and I’m sure some of you saw it. But I took it down soon after because that wasn’t how I wanted to be. I didn’t want to present myself that way.  I didn’t want to talk about Tess that way. She’s a fellow creator, and as far as I can tell a good person, and I don’t want to tear her down or hurt her.

But, because I wrote that post, I sort of feel the need to re-address the matter in a calmer, more objective way. I also feel a certain accountability to all the Kickstarter supporters who put their money toward the dream of these books, a lump of which I just lost. I’m deeply sorry this happened; it has set progress way back, but you will still get the books you were promised.

Below is a full account of Tess’s time on this job, and the unpleasantness that followed. It’s long, but I think it’s only fair to show our work relationship in detail to fully and accurately represent what happened. It is, at least, a good case study in how choosing the wrong person to work on a project can go very badly. For those unwilling to read the whole thing, here’s the short version:

I hired Tess Fowler in mid-May to do the cover, 20 pieces of interior art, and layout for a Doc Wilde book to be released by Christmas. She took a $1,000 advance from me.

I patiently worked around her scheduling needs, including an enforced break due to carpal tunnel syndrome. I repeatedly tried to get her to read the text and engage personally with the material, to find the things in it that excited her and contribute creatively rather than just drawing what I told her to. She refused. She did say, several times, she enjoyed working with me and liked that I gave her detailed notes on her work.

Tess did not devote much of her time to the project, working on it just a day or two per week, even after losing the weeks to her carpal tunnel injury. Most of her time went to other personal projects.

By late October, less than two months before the book’s release had been planned, Tess had produced just a handful of rough character sketches. She had also done a layout sketch for the cover that I liked a great deal, and had been trying to paint it, but it was turning out so badly that in a fit of frustration she literally ripped it to shreds without ever showing it to me.

She then accused me of being hard to please and denied the very terms she’d agreed to months earlier. She also insisted she was only supposed to do five illustrations, rather than twenty, and that she had never agreed to do layout “since that’s not even in my list of skills.” But the terms of the agreement are in the email I sent her, as very clear bullet points, and her agreement to those terms is just as clear (and enthusiastic) in her immediate reply.

While we were debating this, and our relationship was collapsing, she started trying to use my depression (which I’m very open about and have written of quite a bit on this blog) as a weapon against me, trying to portray me as irrational in order to make it appear our problems were all my fault.

Now, Tess Fowler has cut off all contact, despite my repeated efforts at reconciliation and to give her another chance, and refused to refund the advance, even though it is now past Christmas, the book is not out, and I have received not a single thing she’d agreed to provide for that money.

Now, the full story… Continue reading

News of the Wilde (An Update On The Doc Wilde Series)

Doc Wilde

There are several things for me to talk about today, including some very big news that affects the future of the Doc Wilde books…

First, we’re still in the process of fulfilling Kickstarter promises for Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom. Everyone has their ebooks who should have gotten them, and folks are starting to receive their printed copies. For those due autographs, we’re making bookplates that will print in Tasmania so that artist Gary Chaloner can sign them, then he’s sending them to me so that I can sign them and ship them out to the people who need them. The same goes for the posters of the book’s cover art and the handful of character sketches high level supporters are getting. This will take a bit more time, but rest assured we are on task.

The response to the book has been very gratifying. I’ve heard directly from quite a few people who love it, and there has been a great review posted at Goodreads and one at Amazon since the launch, and hopefully more to come. As a freelance writer and independent publisher, I don’t think I can overstate how important such word-of-mouth is: without it, the books will fail and I won’t be able to keep doing them. Or eat. So if you like the books please consider helping them gain visibility through such reviews.

As noted previously, the Kindle and EPUB versions of the book are on sale for $4.99 (reg. $6.99) at Amazon and Barnes & Noble through July 1st. The book is also available in trade paperback and is gradually making its way into distribution channels; it will ultimately be available for order by bookstores, it just takes a while.

Through Monday, the “Frogs of Doom Typo Challenge” is running. The full details are at that link, but the gist of it is that everyone who submits a valid typo or misspelling in the book before the deadline has a chance to win autographed copies of both the hardback first edition of Frogs originally published by Putnam and the new expanded and fully illustrated Outlaw Moon edition. So far, I’ve had a few entries that pointed out what the submitters thought were misspellings but weren’t (thinking that “gloam” was supposed to be “gloom” for instance), but there is only one entry from someone who has actually found an error. So not only is there at least one error to be found, if you find it and enter there’s a very good chance you might win.

And now, the big news…

Gary Chaloner has stepped down as artist for the Wildes.

In true pulp fashion, I’m going to leave that cliffhanger with you for the moment. More news soon, but rest assured that work continues on the books and the news isn’t as catastrophic as it might seem (though it did take me a bit of time to get my feet back under me after I found out).

Announcing: The Frogs of Doom Typo Challenge!!! [UPDATED! AGAIN!]

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM
When I left a multi-book contract at Putnam and decided to publish my Doc Wilde adventure series independently, it was for various reasons including getting the lion’s share of the profits from my work and full creative control. Part of the latter was a desire to produce books that were at least as professionally wrought as those coming out of a publishing house, and of which I could be proud.

We see a lot of insult hurled at the indie publishing community. The fact that it has become so easy to publish has undeniably opened the gates to a lot of lazy, shoddy, unedited books. Some people refuse to see the other side of the equation, that a great many very talented writers who have either not been fortunate enough to break in with a traditional publisher yet, or who have opted to leave the old system as I have, now have the chance to share their work and possibly even make a living from it.

I’m not the first to set out to do things right, by any stretch. But I wanted to be one of the writers who prove that indie publishing can result in wonderful books, a group that gets larger all the time.

One of the most common complaints I see about self-publishing is that the books are terribly edited, full of typos and bad spelling. As a writer who slaves over his prose with a goal of not needing to be edited, I was determined that no one be able to sling that particular brickbat my way. Which brings me to:

The Frogs of Doom Typo Challenge

From Monday, June 17, 2013 through Monday, June 24, 2013, everyone who emails  me (at docwildekickstarter@gmail.com) identifying a typo or misspelling in  Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom will be entered into a random drawing to win an autographed first edition hardback of the book, an autographed copy of the new deluxe second edition, and my thanks for pointing out something I can correct to make my book even better.

This applies only to the new edition from Outlaw Moon Books, and doesn’t include the excerpt from the next book in the back (that book is still being developed, so the text of the excerpt is essentially still in first draft form).

Any submissions which arrive prior to noon on Monday will be deleted. Likewise, any typos pointed out beforehand (in comments here or elsewhere) will disqualify you; I want people to have a fair shot at getting their entry in when the time is right.

If anyone wins the challenge, I will update this post with the news as well as writing a new post to announce it.

Good luck, intrepid readers!

UPDATE: It was pointed out to me that I really wasn’t allowing much time for the contest, so I’m adding a week and a few hours to the starting time. It will now begin Monday, June 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm EDT. I had also originally said the first person to identify a typo would win; now everyone who enters between 6/17/2013 and 6/24/2013 will have a chance to win.

On Unrealistic Expectations In Self-Publishing

Books, Books, Books

On his blog, author Tobias Buckell has posted an interesting counterpoint to some of the HUZZAH! of self-publishing out there:

I love this quote from the recent marketing guide that Smashwords published:

“we cannot promise you your book will sell well, even if you follow all the tips in this guide. In fact, most books, both traditionally published and self-published, don’t sell well. Whether your book is intended to inspire, inform or entertain, millions of other books and media forms are competing against you for your prospective reader’s ever-shrinking pie of attention.”

(From Smashwords — Smashwords Book Marketing Guide – A book by Mark Coker – page 7.)

This just does not get emphasized nearly enough. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about a great deal since I published The Apocalypse Ocean. One, because so many rah rah eBook advocates have been indicating to me that if I’d only just publish digitally first I’d keep 70% of the profits and *obviously* make more than I would with ‘traditional publishing.’

Since 2001, I’d been involved in selling eBooks…I lay down my bonafides, because usually the first thing I get is a lot of ‘booksplainin,’ by which I mean people lecturing me about what to do as if it’s self evident, obvious, and usually based entirely on their own anecdotal experience.

In fact, the self assured expertise of anecdotes drives me nuts…

I recommend reading the piece. Buckell makes some solid points, and his larger point — that big success in self publishing is rare, and we tend to hear only about the outliers who win big — is true. Of course, that’s also the case with traditional publishing. Even for those who score a publishing deal with a big New York corporation, most make relatively little when compared to “real” jobs that grown ups have. And the average result for them is skewed just as much by the big successes in traditional publishing.

His figures, provided by Smashwords, are interesting, but are themselves only anecdotal evidence because the numbers all come only from Smashwords, not from the far more successful ebook venues like Amazon, B&N, iTunes, and Kobo (all of whom are stingy with such data). And every self-published author I’ve talked to, or who I’ve seen write on the matter, has said that the number of books they sell on Smashwords, as compared to the other venues, is so small as to be nearly insignificant. Some of them say it’s barely worth publishing to Smashwords (I’ve only just begun this journey, so I have no opinion on that; I want my books up everywhere they can be).

Also, when looking at publishing figures like this, and comparing results between traditional and indie publishing, the comparison is meaningless unless the figures you run for traditional include all the authors who are attempting to publish traditionally and failing to do so. There are many traditionally focused authors who are making ZERO dollars, but they will never be counted. Their counterparts in self-publishing, however, *are* getting published, because they’re doing it themselves, so they get counted, and the vast majority of people who don’t actually make anything off their self-published book, for quality or whatever reasons, skew these figures just as much as the highly successful folk at the other end of the charts.  The extreme low-performers in traditional publishing don’t get counted in statistics like this, whereas the extreme low-performers in self-publishing do.

And if you have a thousand authors on the traditional path who make zilch, and a thousand authors on the indie path who publish their own book and make just a dollar, you know what? The indies are doing better. Something is better than nothing.

Writers and Books and the Chain of Happiness

HAPPY! HAPPY!

For those following the evolution of publishing and assorted matters, blogger JW Manus has an excellent post, What Does A Self-Publishing Service REALLY Do?, riffing off the previous post by author David Gaughran, “The Author Exploitation Business,” which I shared last week:

In Traditional Publishing, the Chain of Happiness works like this:

  • WRITER has to make the EDITOR happy
  • EDITOR has to make higher-up editors, the marketing department and the accountants happy
  • Higher-up editors have to make MARKETING happy
  • The marketing department has to make REVIEWERS and the NEW YORK TIMES book editor happy
  • The sales department has to make BOOK STORES happy
  • Everybody has to make the PUBLISHER happy
  • The PUBLISHER has to make the STOCKHOLDERS and BOARD OF DIRECTORS happy

Contrast that with the indie’s Chain of Happiness:

  • WRITER has to make the READERS happy

Notice what’s missing in the first chain of happiness? If you said “readers,” give yourself a gold star. If that list gives you some hints about why traditional publishing is in such disarray and why some self-publishers are succeeding beyond almost everybody’s expectations, give yourself another star.

And yes, I know there are many traditionally published books that make readers very happy. The point I’m making is about focus and priorities. With most publishers, and especially the Big Publishing Houses, reader happiness is a side effect, not a priority.

A compelling idea, and an accurate one.

The rest of her piece is likewise very compelling,and not just about self-publishing services. Read it here.

Caveat Author: The Author Exploitation Business

Greedy Penguin

I’ve mentioned Penguin’s self-publishing scam before. In this blog post, novelist David Gaughran takes the publisher to task in much more detail. I’d say this is essential and important reading for any writer working in, or wanting to break into, the business these days.

And it’s not just Penguin, either. Many of the beloved traditional publishers, those stalwart protectors of lit’rature, nurturers of authors, are engaging in these practices. Go. Read. Remember.

And spread the word.

The Author Exploitation Business

Tim Vs. Traditional Publishing

don quixote

Clarification time.

A friend and writer who I like and respect posted a status on Facebook this morning which referenced the indisputable fact that “there are a lot of dreadful books being produced” by self-publishers. I commented, “There are a lot of dreadful books being published by major publishers, and they sell them for a hell of a lot more money.”

He replied, starting by saying, “I actually expected this comment from you so much that I was going to write it for you right beneath my post.”

Which made me think. Am I that predictable? Am I that partisan, in the “battle” between traditional publishers (and traditionally published writers) and self published writers?

I’ve written quite a bit here and elsewhere about my experiences being traditionally published, and my decision to go indie. I’ve posted at length about the flaws in the traditional model and the strengths of the new one. I am absolutely pro-self publishing. But am I anti-traditional publishing?

No. I would say, rather, that I am pro-writer. And a writer’s first responsibility should be to himself and his work. He should choose the path, or paths, that best serve that responsibility, and whatever path he chooses, godspeed.

In the current ecosystem, I do think self publishing is a much more beneficial path for authors to take. Though it is a lot of hard work and there are no guarantees, if you build your audience (which all authors have to do), the potential gains  are much greater than those to be enjoyed via traditional venues. Unless you are one of those very rare writers who gets big advances and actual promotion and support from a traditional publisher, you aren’t even a respected cog in the great machine. Your opinions are of little value, you have little say in the presentation or promotion of your own books (not that they will be promoted), the pay is terrible, and they will drop you in a hummingbird’s heartbeat if you  miss sales goals by even a hair. And they won’t even miss you.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Publishers can (and should) change their SOP, finding ways to actually nurture the talent on whose backs these companies ride. As I’ve pointed out before, everybody who works on your book gets a good salary and full benefits except you. The writer is Cinderella, scraping the floor clean for her step-sisters in publishing to walk on. But, again, it doesn’t have to be this way.

That may sound anti-traditional, but it’s actually loving critique. I love the book business. My experience with Putnam wasn’t a nightmare, it just wasn’t very satisfying or lucrative. I want the book business, at all levels, to thrive. I just want publishers to start treating writers the way they ought to be treated. Writers are the dream makers, they should at least get a bigger cut of the dream.

The Imminent Return of Doc Wilde

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM

Whew. Finally.

Months later than originally announced, artist Gary Chaloner and I are almost ready to release the new improved edition of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom under the banner of Outlaw Moon Books. The book layout and design are done, most of the art is ready, and the remaining art is done and inked with just a bit of toning to finish it up. And it all looks beautiful. Gary has really knocked it out of the park, and I can’t wait to see what he does on the next book. (I’ve shared some of the art, in various stages of completion, in this album on Facebook, but there’s still a lot that no one has seen yet).

For those new to our saga, this novel is the first in an all-ages series of high adventure novels which I initially published with Penguin/Putnam. They contracted me for the first three, with more to follow, and published Frogs of Doom back in 2009. For various reasons I’ve covered at length on this blog, I then opted to negotiate my way out of my contracts, pulling Frogs from print and regaining full rights to all the books, in order to take advantage of the new self-publishing ecosystem to release the books in a nicer format, fully illustrated by Gary, with full creative control.

This new edition of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom is not only gorgeously illustrated by an incredible artist, it contains my “Author’s Cut,” preferred (and expanded) version of the text. It is in every way superior to the first edition, and I’m excited to be able to share the book in the form I originally intended.

I have been helped along the way by a sizable group of angels who supported my Kickstarter nearly a year ago, providing funds to aid us in producing books of a quality not just matching the job Putnam did with the Wildes, but radically improving on it. They have cheerfully and stalwartly remained positive through months of delay and setback, and I’m humbled and grateful and thrilled to finally be able to give them something back.

So, when is the book due? ETA: any time now. And this time, it’s for reals.

HURRAY!

Where, Oh Where, Is Doc Wilde?

Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom

Time for what will hopefully be the last update before we start getting Doc Wilde books into precious readers’ hands…

Artist extraordinaire Gary Chaloner is polishing up the last bits of art for the long-awaited rerelease of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, and it has been worth the wait. The cover above is nicely representative of his work, and if you glance to the image of the previous iteration in the sidebar on the right, you’ll notice he’s made it even better (though it still needs a bit of fine-tuning).

I’m doing a few final alterations to the text and end matter (the acknowledgements and author’s notes, that sort of thing), then that goes to Gary and he will polish the whole thing into a shiny, shiny book.

I hope to at least have ebooks into folks’ gadgets (and hopefully for sale) by Christmas. No guarantees, but I hope that. The proofing process for the paperback will likely take more time, as will Kickstarter special bits like posters. But we’re on the job, and as we finalize this book, we’re already getting a start on putting together a great edition of book 2, Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull.

This has been a major learning process for us, but that was to be expected. I’m disappointed we’ve had the delays and obstacles, but I’m more sanguine about it all now that we’re about to actually have the first book rereleased into the wild where it belongs. In the future, I’ll scale my expectations back somewhat when announcing release schedules, because “they” are right: it always takes longer and costs more.

But the final result is going to be something to be proud of.

I want to once again thank all of our friends who’ve supported us in this project. Your patience has been humbling. Your help has been crucial in allowing us to take the time to do things properly, in order to release the books to a high standard of quality. You’re all a part of the Wilde family and I hope you’ll join us on many more adventures for years to come.

The Wildes

Regarding Harper Voyager’s Submission Portal

Harper Voyager has put out a short-term call for unagented submissions:

Yes, it’s true! We are delighted to announce an exciting joint venture that will offer talented aspiring writers the chance to join our global science fiction and fantasy imprint.

The submission portal, http://www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com, will be open from the 1st to the 14th of October 2012. The manuscripts will then be read and those most suited to the global Harper Voyager list will be selected jointly by editors in the USA, UK and Australia.  Accepted submissions will benefit from the full publishing process: accepted manuscripts will be edited; and the finished titles will receive online marketing and sales support in World English markets.

Voyager will be seeking an array of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly novels written in the epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural genres.

See? The impact of ebooks and Amazon is having yet another positive effect on the publishing ecosystem for writers: a big publisher is actually open to unagented submissions (imagine that) if only for a limited time (two weeks, feh), with the successful submissions going on to be released digitally.

It’s an obvious attempt to adapt, which is to be respected (and hopefully emulated by other publishers), though I would look VERY closely at any contract they offer, particularly as regards the royalties paid (this is a royalty only deal, no advance), lifespan of the agreement (since it’s all-digital, it’d be all too easy for Harper to keep books “in print” forever and lock in a paltry royalty), and attendant rights (this is digital only, but do they restrict the authors from taking full advantage of print and other rights?). I’d also look for guarantees of some real level of promotion and marketing; if they’re just going to throw the books out there like they usually do, with little or no actual support, the author is gaining very little beyond short term gain (mainly editorially, and perhaps in cover design) for long term commitment that will no doubt pay most of its profits back to Harper.

I suspect new authors are better off doing it themselves, but for those who can only believe in their abilities if they’re officially allowed to join the club, it’s good that more opportunities are starting to appear. Thank Amazon: publishers know they have to stay viable, and that they have to start recruiting more raw talent (a lot of established writers will be leaving their houses over time to do things themselves) and taking full advantage of digital platforms. But if the authors are getting anything less than at least 50% of the profits, they’re not doing themselves much of a favor by going this route.

Fear of a Writing Planet: On John Green, Self-Publishing, and Amazon

A thoughtful post by novelist John Green is making the rounds today regarding self-publishing and Amazon:

I wanted to criticize Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, because I felt that in his introduction of the new kindles, Bezos repeatedly peddled the lie that a book is created by one person, and that therefore a book’s author should be the sole entity to profit from the sale of the book. (Aside, of course, from Amazon itself.)

Bezos and Amazon are consistent in their promotion of this lie, because it encourages the idea that the publishing landscape today is bloated and inefficient and that there is a better, cheaper way to do it—a way where all books can cost $1.99 with most of that $1.99 going to the author. Readers and writers both win then, right?

Well, no. Because the truth is, most good books are NOT created solely by one person: Editors and publishers play a tremendously important role not just in the distribution of books, but in the creation of them…Without copyeditors and proofreaders, my books would be riddled with factual and grammatical errors that would pull you out of the story and give you a less immersive reading experience. Publishers add value, and lots of it, and without them the overall quality and diversity of books will suffer.

Unfortunately, as fair-minded as Green obviously tries to be, at least toward self-publishing in general if not toward Amazon, he falls into the same trap a lot of defenders of traditional publishing fall into. He assumes that the current publishing infrastructure isn’t replicable within a self-publishing paradigm. This is flatly untrue. Continue reading

Are Self-Published Books Crap?

I really do wish this self-publishing ebook market would implode. It’s loaded to the gills with idiots, fools, and just by-Jove lousy writing. The purveyors of this monstrosity are, quite frankly, a bunch of jerks. I hope they all get ass-cancer and die horrible, painful deaths.

Thus spake writer James Robert Smith on his blog a while back. There are quite a few folks out there who share his view, and Smith often posts this sort of thoughtful musing about self published books and the presumably malignant souls who write them. Because what could be more malignant than putting out a book that inspires some good man to wish you get ass cancer and die an agonizing death?

To be fair, there is a great deal of utter crap being self-published, and unless you act as a rational consumer you can drown in it. But if you exercise roughly the same amount of care it takes in a bookstore to find something worth reading among the stacks of largely mediocre books, you can largely avoid buying shitty books.

Look at the cover; if it looks crappy, the author didn’t bother with doing better, and odds are the same holds for the writing. Read the reviews; yes, there are some slimy writers out there gaming the review system, but overall it’s still useful. Finally, before committing to buy, make sure you download the free reading sample offered by online vendors; if the writer can’t write, you’re gonna know that very quickly. Then, please, whatever your opinion of the book, review it on the site, even if you only write a few lines. A good review will help a writer who entertained you; a bad review will help warn others away.

It’s a time of great change in publishing, and self-publishing is the wild west. But it’s actually great for writers, and for readers, as I’ve written about on this blog (check the “Publishing” category in the sidebar), most notably here.

Here’s a thought experiment for you: Continue reading

A Visual Guide To Publishing*

*Traditional publishing, that is.

Author Nathan Bransford has posted a clever visual timeline of a writer’s experience in writing and publishing a book. It’s funny and accurate, though he left off the parts at the end where you don’t get any promotion for your book and it probably falls out of print before your next one is ready for release. Or the part where they don’t pick up your next one because they blew their budget for this quarter on Snooki’s new magnum opus.

Also, it’s amazing how many of these steps disappear if you publish as an indie, and how much more quickly your book is available even if you do the necessary things you ought to do, like making sure it’s properly edited…

The Publishing Process in GIF Form

DOC WILDE AND THE CHARIOTS OF THE FROGS Added To Doc Wilde Kickstarter

“The Astonishing Adventures of Doc Wilde” Kickstarter project is kicking butt, at 146% of its initial goal with a week still to go. It encompasses the first three Doc Wilde novels, all to be published by year’s end. It allows people to get involved with the series, and with me (the author),  early and to contribute donations to help make the books (which will be fully illustrated by maestro artist Gary Chaloner) as awesome as possible. In return, they can get copies of the books, posters, signed sketches by the artist, all sorts of goodies. The reward levels range from the paltry $5 to the epic $400, and you actually get something at every level.

Previously, I’d announced the first three Doc Wilde novels would be released this year, to be followed by two more next year. Then I added the Dark Avenger Option that allows supporters to add the fourth book, Doc Wilde and The Daughter of Darkness to their rewards package at a special rate.

Now, several supporters have asked me what I have planned for the fifth book, and if there’s any way to add it as well, to round out the pentalogy as it were.

So, with eight days left and me still hoping to get as close to my ideal goal of 200% as possible…why not?

In the fifth book, Doc Wilde and The Chariots of the Frogs, the Frogs of Doom return to our world on a much more epic scale, ready to turn back the tide of warm-blooded evolution once and for all with armies of batrachian monstrosities, dark amphibious magics, and the eldritch power of their dark god. Also really wanting to eat the Wildes, who got in their way last time.

And, yes, supporters can add the book to their rewards if they like by adding this new option:

(NEW) THE MONSTRO FROG OPTION

You can now get the fifth Doc Wilde novel, Doc Wilde and The Chariots of the Frogs, as part of your Kickstarter package, at a special rate. Add $5 to your pledge and you get the ebook; add $13 and you get the ebook and the trade paperback; add $20 and you get both plus a bookplate for the paperback signed by both Gary and me. (For international orders, an additional $10 will be needed to cover shipping on the paperback).

As special thanks for their high level of support, supporters at SERIAL DAREDEVIL level and higher who add the trade paperback for $20 will have it upgraded to a numbered limited edition to match those already in their rewards package.

(As with the Dark Avenger Option, if you choose to do this, just add the appropriate amount to your pledge without changing your chosen reward level; I’ll be sending out a survey after the Kickstarter ends that will allow you to specify which options you’ve pledged for.)

Click the image below for all the information about the Kickstarter:

Looking for Adventure? GO WILDE!!!