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.

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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

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!!!

Tim On The Radio: Talking With PULPED! About Doc Wilde, Indie Publishing, & Kickstarter…

Last week, I was interviewed by Pro Se publisher Tommy Hancock for the Pulped! podcast (which, as you might imagine, is all about pulp fiction). We discussed the relaunch of the Doc Wilde series, the Kickstarter I’m currently running to help with that (which ends April 28th), self publishing vs. traditional publishing, and other pulpy things. While my radio face is only slightly better than my internet face, I think the interview came out pretty well, and you can hear it at:

Tim Byrd Gets Pulped!

DOC WILDE AND THE DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS Added To Doc Wilde Kickstarter

The Doc Wilde Adventures Kickstarter project encompasses the first three Doc Wilde novels, all of which will 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.

After the first week, we hit our $3,000 goal. But that goal was the minimum amount needed for the project to actually succeed on Kickstarter, not a maximum needed to produce the books. The project is still live (through April 28th) and people can still come join the party and go Wilde.

To celebrate our success, I’ve added an option that all supporters who pledge at least $5 (that’s the lowest reward level, getting you one of the books as an ebook and a thank you in the acknowledgments) can take advantage of.

THE DARK AVENGER OPTION
You can now get the fourth Doc Wilde novel 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 signed by both Gary and me. (For international orders, an additional $10 will be needed to cover shipping on the paperback).

The book will be released in the first half of 2013.

And what is the fourth book?

Doc Wilde and The Daughter of Darkness

In which something terrible happens to Doc, and the kids go looking for an ally of their family’s from years past, a rather dark character with a tendency to laugh while he shoots people. He’s not home, but his just as shadowy and violent teen daughter is…

Here’s how the book begins: Continue reading