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

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