|August 7th, 2012||#1|
Join Date: Nov 2003
Blog Entries: 34
How Amazon Saved My Life
Jun 15, 2012
by Jessica Park
I am an author.
I still canít get used to that title, but I suppose after having written seven booksĖfive of them traditionally publishedĖthatís what youíd call me. The funny thing is that I feel more like a real author now that I self-publish than when I had the (supposed) support of a publisher behind me.
How did I end up on my own? It began when I couldnít get my first YA book, Relatively Famous, published, despite getting stellar feedback from editors and nearly selling the film rights to a teen pop star. I was at a loss for what to do. I couldnít keep writing books without selling them. What if the next thing I wrote flopped? I took a risk, in many ways, and wrote Flat-Out Love. It was the first book that completely came from my heart, and it was a book that ignored all the industry rules. I knew in the back of my head that I could self-publish it, but at the time it seemed like that would have been an admission of defeat.
I spent months thinking that I needed a big publisher in order to be a writer, to legitimately carry that ďauthorĒ title. To validate me, and to validate Flat-Out Love. I needed a publisher to print my books and stick a silly publishing house emblem on the side of a hard copy. They were the only way to give my books mass distribution, and having them back me would mean that readers would know my book was good.
I also, apparently, thought that I needed to be taken advantage of, paid inexcusably poorly, and chained to idiotic pricing and covers that I had no control over.
I was, it seems, deluded.
It turns out that I was entirely wrong. I was missing what I really wanted. One of the major reasons that I write is to connect with readers, not publishers. The truth is that I couldnít care less whether New York editors and publishers like me. I donít want to write for them. I want to write for you. The other undeniable truth is that readers could care less that my books arenít put out by a big publisher. They read for the content, not the publishing house emblem.
I have a lovely, smart, powerhouse agent, who tried to sell my next book, Flat-Out Love, to every major publishing house. She adored the story and thought it would sell. Fourteen editors turned it down, although each one said how strong the book was. But, editors seemingly didnít give a crap about whether or not they liked the book. What they did pay attention to were their totally misguided ideas about what would and wouldnít sell. I heard two things over and over again about my book. The first was that my story starred an eighteen-year-old college freshman, and that age was ďcategoricallyĒ too old for YA books and too young for adult books. It seems that one is not allowed to write about characters between the ages of eighteen andÖwhat? Twenty-five? BecauseÖ becauseÖ Well, Iím not sure. The second thing I heard was that because my simultaneously-too-young-and-too-old heroine was not involved with anything slightly paranormal, the book wouldnít sell.
Did I cry over some of these rejections? Absolutely. Did I feel inadequate, untalented, hurt? Yes. Did I doubt my ability to craft a story that readers could fall in love with? You bet.
And then one day I got yet another rejection letter and instead of blaming myself and my clear lack of creativity, I got angry. Really, really furious. It clicked for me that I was not the idiot here. Publishing houses were. The silly reasons that they gave me for why my book was useless made me see very clearly how completely out of touch these houses were with readers. I knew, I just knew, that Iíd written a book with humor, heart, and meaning. Iíd written something that had potential to connect with an audience. As much as I despise having to run around announcing how brilliant I supposedly am and whatnot, I also deeply believed in Flat-Out Love. I knew that editors were wrong.
And I finally understood that I wanted nothing to do with these people.
I snatched the book back from my agent and self-published it. With great relief, I should note. I could finally admit to myself that the only thing I had really wanted was to be told, ďYouíre good enough.Ē You know who gives me that? My readers. My generous, loving, wild readers.
Publishers pay terribly and infrequently. They are shockingly dumb when it comes to pricing, and if I see one more friendís NY-pubbed ebook priced at $12.99, Iím going to scream. They do minimal marketing and leave the vast majority of work up to the author. Unless, of course, you are already a big name author. Then they fly you around the country for signings and treat you like the precious moneymaking gem that you are. The rest of us get next to nothing in terms of promotion. If your book takes off, they get the credit. If it tanks, you get the blame.
No, thank you. Iím all set with that.
You know who I do like, though? Amazon. Well, all online ebook sites that let me self-publish, but Amazon is the true powerhouse right now. Say what you want about this company, but itís because of them that I can continue writing. Itís unclear to me how a big publisher thinks that I could live on their typical payouts, and why they think I should drop to my knees in gratitude for their deigning to even publish my book in the first place when Iíll do all the work myself. Iím not going to be grateful for that nonsense, but I am going to be grateful as hell to Amazon.
Bestselling trad-to-indie-author Barry Eisler, famous for turning down a six figure deal from St. Martins Press to go out on his own, took a lot of heat for having compared an authorís relationship with a big publisher to Stockholm syndrome. The truth is that itís not a bad comparison at all. Snarky, funny, and exaggerated, perhaps, but there is more than one grain of truth there, and I just know that authors across the country were nodding so violently that we had collective whiplash. When writing for a publisher, you learn to be overly thankful for every pathetic little grain of positivity that comes your way. A disgustingly awful cover? Smile broadly and say how gorgeous it is. Contracts arrive months after arranged? Whip out your pen and sign with no complaints. Youíre eating Ramen noodles while they are taking all of December and January off and while they essentially shutdown during the summer to vacation on the Cape? Slurp your soup and be happy.
Because of Amazon and other sites, Iím making enough money that I can continue writing. Iím averaging sales of 3,500 books a month, not including the month that Amazon featured Flat-Out Love in a list of books for $3.99 and under. That month I sold 45,000 Kindle copies, and sold over 10,000 the next month. Those numbers are insane to me. Absolutely insane. The fact that I continue to sell well a year after the bookís release is humbling. Yes, I wrote a book that has earned me excellent reviews, so I take credit for that, and I worked myself to death finding bloggers to review my book (God bless my loyal bloggers who took a chance on me!), but I have to credit Amazon with giving me such a strong platform with such overwhelming visibility. I can be a writer. I am a writer.
And itís not just me. Self-published authors, many of whom are writing about college-age characters, are finding viable careers. Abbi Glines, Tammara Webber, Jamie McGuire, Tina Reber, AK Alexander, Angie Stanton, Stephanie Campbell, Colleen Hoover, Liz Reinhardt, and plenty more. Iím seeing more and more traditionally published authors walking away from the headaches and turning to self-publishing. It can be tricky to leave because very often an author needs the advance money in order to survive, and then gets stuck contracted for books that quite likely wonít earn out that advance or wonít ever provide much in terms of royalty checks. When authors break the cycle, get the hell out, and flourish on their own, itís a wonderful thing.
Indie writers owe Amazon big time for what theyíve given us. Are they perfect? No. Do they make mistakes? Yep. And theyíll continue to make mistakes. But I promise you that traditional publishers never call up their authors and ask what they can do better. I nearly wet my author pants when I got a call from someone in the Kindle publishing department who wanted to know what publishing and promotional features Iíd like to see. He wanted to know all about my experience with them, what I liked, what I didnít like, and on and on. I was floored. Amazon messed up their sales reporting page not that long ago, and you know what they did? They sent a goddamn email out to their authors explaining what had happened! And then they fixed it! Do you think a big publisher would do that? No, they certainly would not.
But you know what these silly NY publishers are doing? Running around trying to buy now-successful self-published books. I know more than one author who is making $50-150,000 a month (yes, a month) who are getting the most stupidly low offers from big publishers to take over that authorís book. Why would my friends take a $250,000 advance (if even offered that much), take a puny royalty rate, see their sales hurt by higher pricing, and completely give that book up for life? They can and will earn more themselves and continue to reap the benefits of a 70% royalty while maintaining all the rights to their work. If publishers want to play the game, they have to pay according to what authors can make without them. Offer something that we canít do on our own. Help us, believe in us, support us, and play damn fair for once.
While Iím certainly not making $150,000 a month, Flat-Out Love has done very well for me, and Iím earning enough that I can keep writing. Iím in the middle of another book right now, and I realized that one of the many fabulous things about working for myself is that I have complete freedom to write whatever the hell I want. A publisher certainly could have bought Flat-Out Love and signed me for a two or three-book deal. One of the many whopping hitches with that would have been that Iíd then have to write another book or two that were in a very similar vein to Flat-Out Love. But I donít want to do that. I want to write the book that I am now. The book that has swearing and sex. The book that is darker and edgier. The book that is definitely not for younger readers. A publisher would never have let me do that.
The New York Times recently ran an article about authors who are now writing two books a year instead of one. Why? Because they need the money. Of course they need the money! Their publishers are gouging them out of money that is rightfully theirs. When I read about one highly successful author who is now writing for fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, I thought, ďWhat a lunatic. Thatís not a life.Ē Look, I donít think any author needs to release two or three books a year to earn a living. If thatís what you are comfortably able to do creatively speaking, go for it. Being on a publisherís deadline to deliver a book every four to six months can be pretty rough. Life gets in the way, and emotions and creativity ebb and flow. Yes, writing is work and requires dedication, but it also has the capacity to be amazingly fun. Publishers, if you ask me, take a dump on much of the good stuff. For now, Iím happy to do one really strong, solid novel once every twelve to eighteen months. If I tried to bang out a book every few months, they would be crummy books, and I would be broke.
Whatís funny is that despite loathing publishing houses these days, I actually hope that they pull their act together. They have distribution power. They have dedicated, talented people in the industry. They have the capability to do wonderful things. But for now they are so messed up, so outdated in the way they structure their contracts, and so often very out of touch with what readers want. Smart editors are often ruled by archaic designs. Do I have plans to seek out a publisher? Um, no. I canít imagine one would take me anyhow. And I wouldnít consider working with a publisher unless (until?) they make drastic changes to their business model.
Indie authors are writing for our readers, not for publishers and what they think will sell. And now we can afford to write! And I can assure you that freedom fuels creativity, risk-taking, and passion. We get to bring you our stories in the way we want to tell them, without the dilution and sculpting from publishing houses. And the fans? Oh, the fans are simply unbelievable. We are so directly connected to them, and the ease of communication and feedback is unparalleled. Iím learning what readers want, and I can incorporate that into my work without worrying that an editor will nix all the good stuff. Their support and enthusiasm breathes life into days when I feel particularly challenged.
And there are some spectacularly moving experiences. Iím in a circle of authors who have been dubbed The Cancer Warriors because our books have become saving graces for people going through cancer treatment. Readers are escaping hell on earth through our books. We sell smartly priced books with sharp content, books that never would have reached these readers without the ability to self-publish. We get to do our small part to help them fight. Getting to be part of something like this is at the top of my list for why I write. It makes me want to face New York publishers head on and scream, ďYou see that? Do you see what weíre doing without you?Ē Indie writing brought me into readersí lives in ways that I never could have imagined.
I wouldnít trade that for all of New York.
Jessica is the author of the novel FLAT-OUT LOVE, the YA novel, RELATIVELY FAMOUS, and the Gourmet Girl mystery series. She also has a few eshorts out: WHAT THE KID SAYS (1 & 2) and FACEBOOKING RICK SPRINGFIELD. She lives in Manchester, NH where she spends an obscene amount time thinking about rocker boys and their guitars, complex caffeinated beverages, and tropical vacations. On the rare occasions that she is able to focus on other things, she writes.
|February 10th, 2017||#2|
Join Date: Nov 2003
Blog Entries: 34
[the jewing of Sci-Fi. a mex-named author explains the bigotry against Trump supporters]
Mailvox: SJWs have no loyalty
Jon sent me this at my request. For more details concerning his blackballing by Baycon, he has a post up at his own site. His story is an illustration of the falsity of the illusion to which many "nice conservatives" are still subject, those who don't realize that SJWs will judge them by the identity of their politics, not the content of their character or the perfection of their etiquette. He's right: SJWs had, and have, no loyalty.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy writing and convention scene is one of the worst SJW converged subcultures. While Hollywood promotes extreme perversion and hedonism, they don’t push nearly as hard as SF/F literary groups when it comes to the intellectual aspects of identity politics. My name is Jon Del Arroz, I write Science Fiction, and this is my story.
I had grown up in this community as an avid reader and convention attendee. I used to be what you would call one of those “nice guy conservatives.” I would keep silent about my politics to the best of my ability, while smiling and allowing others to rant and rave to their hearts’ content. My first foray into irritation over this occurred when Baycon, a local convention in the San Francisco Bay Area, ran a talk on how to convince friends out of believing in Creationism. I wrote to the programming director of the convention, citing my concern over how anti-Christian that sounded, and how this didn’t seem relevant to Science Fiction at all. They dismissed my concerns and told me to attend anyway.
The next year, I’d gained prominence as the writer of a web comic which had garnered some praise and a lot of web traffic. This time, they invited me to the convention and placed me on a program. Because of my Hispanic last name, they made me speak about how difficult it is for minorities in Science Fiction. I’ve never met any resistance to my being Hispanic in the SF publishing field, and I found it more of a challenge to survive that hour and a half in the company of the whining panelists
Fast forward several years later, after I’d invested time and effort speaking on panels, entertaining convention attendees and being a good friend to everyone. Whispers about the evil Sad Puppies stealing Hugo awards circled the halls. Although I’d voted with the Sad Puppies, I stayed quiet. I’d spoken personally to several prominent members of the Sad and Rabid Puppies movements by this point and learned they were nice, professional people and not the monsters they had been made out to be by the SJWs.
All the while, the God-Emperor was ascending in politics. He took slings and arrows. Many conservatives in the Sci-Fi publishing field had been hit as well. I saw the guilt by association on a regular basis, and it angered me to see people attacked for the way they voted. I still didn’t speak out much, as I had my first novel due for release the week after the election. My brainwashing from years of conventions told me I couldn’t afford that association if I wanted to sell books.
Trump won. I made a few posts as to how I was happy with the outcome of the election, complete with donning my red hat. What happened next? I received a nasty letter from my editor’s assistant about how intolerant and inflexible I was, telling me that I was not likely to be invited to be published again. SJWs weren’t just attacking someone I knew on the periphery. They’d come for me. I decided the best course of action would be to take a stand and be positive, say how proud I was of our country, of Trump and his team. My friends from the SF/F world quickly evaporated. I’d been blocked on social media, ignored by people with whom I thought I’d developed deep relationships. I’d spent hours critiquing other writers’ novels and improving their craft, yet they would not even share a link to my work, let alone make a purchase, to support me. SJWs had, and have, no loyalty. [they do in fact have loyalty: to their ideology over their friends]
This began my transition from “nice guy conservative” to “I am proud to be who I am.” I corresponded with prominent authors privately about what had transpired. Many of the Sad and Rabid Puppies told me I was not alone. They hardly knew me, yet helped me promote my book. I learned a valuable lesson on the meaning of true friendship and loyalty. If someone doesn’t share any core values with you, they will leave you in the dust. It’s only a matter of time.
I still couldn't bring myself to fully speak out in these situations, fearing the loss of more long time friends. Vox emailed me with: “Learn to go public. One reason they get away with it is because everyone they do it to tries to keep it quiet. You shouldn't.” These words haunted me, but I still clung to the past, hoping desperately that I could retain at least some of the relationships I had from my years of hard work and supporting other writers.
Inauguration time. The angry posts calling me and mine Nazis had not died down. The angry responses continued as well. My own cousin, with whom I grew up and played Risk ‘til the wee hours of the morning, disowned me over my Trump support. He told me he was ashamed to call me family, and that I was never his friend. Matters became worse in the Science Fiction world. Prominent authors stepped up their game of name-calling. I wear their condemnations as badges of honor and will use them as blurbs on future books. I’d finally had enough when I found that my home convention, where I’d been a guest for years had blackballed me from speaking.
I’m done. It’s too much. There’s no logic. There’s no rationality. There’s no love. There’s no friendship. SJWs want to shut me down and destroy my career, and they want to find you and do the same to you, if they haven’t already. I’ve taken the leap of going public. I’m not scared to say who I am, who I like, who I voted for. They’re not going to shut me up because I have the platform of the internet. Vox was right. Every single time they shut you down, go public with it as I just did.
I’ve gotten a few hateful comments, but nothing worse than they’ve already called me. The people who were on the fringes of hating me, but warned me that I needed to play ball, were going to hate me anyway. I’m not losing anything. These people were not going to buy my products. They’re not going to support you either. But it’s not that bad. There is tremendous upside to going public, however.
I’ve had congratulations from friends. My blog has been reposted by dozens of prominent authors from Castalia House and others. Dragon Award Winner Nick Cole shared my story, and that by itself sold me more books in an hour than attending conventions for years ever did for me. There’s a lot of us. We’re not alone and we’re no longer afraid.
Here’s my advice:
Be who you are, and go public when you’re wronged by SJWs. Every time one of us comes out of the closet, it makes it easier for the next dozen. This is how we will change the culture.
Don’t be attached to being liked or respected by SJWs. They won’t change their minds no matter how nice you are.
Reach out and find support groups. There’s millions of alt-right, libertarian, conservative, and Christian people out there. We’re the majority. Remember that.
Never get tired of winning.
If you’re interested in my space opera, it's called Star Realms: Rescue Run.
Last edited by Alex Linder; February 10th, 2017 at 08:51 PM.