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.

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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.

Crazy Restaurateurs And The Writing Life

Batshit Crazy

You’ve probably heard about, or seen, the batshit crazy Arizona couple who went on Gordon Ramsay’s show Kitchen Nightmares and were so relentlessly, hopelessly, stupidly terrible, both as restaurateurs and as human beings, that Ramsay, for the first time, wound up simply throwing in the towel and walking away. This was followed by an epic psychotic meltdown by the couple on Facebook.

000

I’ve never seen this show, as I usually ignore reality shows of any sort, but curiosity got the better of me today and I watched the segment on YouTube. And folks, this is some juicy viewing, I tell ya. Being around people like this in real life would be horrendous; I wouldn’t be surprised if you got ulcers inside of fifteen minutes. I can’t believe Ramsay put up with them as long as he did. But watching them on this show, knowing that they are completely ruining their own business once and for all and reaping what they sow, is schadenfreude of the most delicious sort.

So what does this have to do with the writing life? Two things.

First, if you want to be a writer (or artist of any sort, really), you need to be able to take criticism. It can be tough to put aside your ego and listen to someone saying nit-picky or even awful things about the wonderful work you struggled so hard to birth into the world out of your very essence…but if you can’t do that, you can’t grow, and likely you’ll start shitty and stay shitty. Even if you disagree with the person offering criticism, you should honor their opinion and take it with grace. And unless their points are completely, patently stupid, you owe it to yourself to actually consider them before disregarding them. Nobody is perfect, and armoring yourself in ego or defensiveness will stunt your growth as an artist and a human being, just as we see in the video above.

Second, this video is a perfect example of just one of the many reasons why it’s a bad idea for authors to agree to read unpublished material by folks they don’t know. I’ve written about this before, rather colorfully and more comprehensively, and these folks are just some bloody kitchen knives short of the worst case scenario for this sort of thing. People you don’t know may be good writers or bad writers (odds tilt dramatically toward the latter), but they may also be neurotic, obsessive, crazy, or even violent. You just don’t know. And, as I wrote in the blog post linked above, when a lot of folks ask for you to critique them, what they’re really doing is asking for your praise. They don’t want actual critique. And they may react badly if you give it to them.

That was exactly what happened with Gordon Ramsay and these assholes. They had already damaged their reputation and business, and they invited him not to let him help them fix their restaurant  but to come in and use his show to give them praise so that they could be vindicated by an authority on TV. Then, blindly evil fucks that they are, they reacted horribly to his critique and dug themselves even deeper.

Good for them. Nobody deserves such a fate more than they do, except perhaps current GOP leadership.

For more on this, please do read “Why I Will NOT Read Your Stuff“. I’m pretty pleased with that post, but I’m open to criticism on it.

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

The Mother Fucking Space Marines

SPACE MARINES

So corporate bully boys Games Workshop are now insisting they own a trademark on the term “space marine,” which first appeared back in 1932 in the story “Captain Brink of the Space Marines” by Bob Olsen. They had a book by writer M.C.A Hogarth kicked off of Amazon for her use of this common, stock, standard, downright cliché science fiction trope.

From her blog:

Today I got an email from Amazon telling me they have stopped selling Spots the Space Marine because Games Workshop has accused me of infringement on their trademark of the word ‘space marine’.

If you go to the Trademarks Database and look up the word “space marine” you’ll find the Games Workshop owns a trademark on the term “space marine,” but it only covers the follow goods and services: IC 028. US 022. G & S: board games, parlor games, war games, hobby games, toy models and miniatures of buildings, scenery, figures, automobiles, vehicles, planes, trains and card games and paint, sold therewith.

Fiction isn’t included in that list, which means Games Workshop has no grounds on which to accuse me of trademark infringement.

I didn’t get my use of that term from Games Workshop. I got it from Robert Heinlein. Apparently the first use of the term was in 1932. E.E. Smith used it, among others. Also there are other novels on Amazon being sold that have “space marine” in the title. I don’t know why Games Workshop decided to complain about Spots in particular, but my guess is because the Kickstarter made it a little higher-profile than the average indie offering.

This is as bad as Marvel and DC Comics conspiring to share a trademark on the term “superhero,” barring all others from using it. It’s pointless and ridiculous and downright unfriendly to the creative community at large.

As for Games Workshop? Fuck those guys.

(Note: Like that cool pulpy cover I posted up there? You can make your own with the Pulp-O-Mizer at Bradley Schenck’s Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual website, which is a very cool place to visit…)

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.