Tag Archives: advice

Writer’s Ramble: Ethan Nahte’

This week’s Writer’s Ramble welcomes Ethan Nahte’ to my corner of the interwebs. Today’s discussion will be on the hazards and pitfalls of working with small and micro publishers. For the TLDR version:

  1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Money flows TO the author (maybe in pennies, but still).
  2. Network. Talk to other authors. If a company has a bad reputation, word gets around.
  3. Pick up a book by that press. Is it quality work or does it read like a ten year old edited it?
  4. How many authors does the press publish? Are most of the books by the owner?
  5. Check with reputable, professional organizations (Writer Beware, Preditors and Editors) to see if there are warnings or if there’s any positive indicators, like awards, and not the kind your kindergarten teacher prints for every kid in the class.

Now, I turn the digital mic over to Ethan:

Bio

13090125_10153786049657730_343396034_n     13100989_10153786051037730_528558217_n

Ethan Nahté is an author, journalist, screenwriter, photographer and musician. He has also worked in TV/Film and Radio. He has nearly two-dozen stories and poems published in various anthologies and e-zines. His work spans speculative fiction, historical fiction, comedy, tall tale and young adult. He recently finished his first novel and will be releasing his first collection, Of Monsters & Madmen, which contains eight previously published short stories along with two new stories, complete with art by guest illustrators and introductions for each tale. At least two more short stories are due for publication spring/summer 2016.

When Indie & Small Press Suck

There are times when modern technology makes matters worse instead of better. The low cost of what was once very expensive equipment, programs and such has made it possible for about anyone to have a radio show, make a movie, publish their own book, record their own album and produce thousands of photographs because the cost of film and processing is no longer a factor for most people.

A lot of us in the entertainment field have felt the downside of modernization at one time or another. I work, or have worked, in all the fields mentioned above. Believe me when I say just because you can buy the Eddie Van Halen model guitar doesn’t necessarily mean you can play like Eddie Van Halen. Just because someone doesn’t have to spend a fortune on cameras and editing equipment doesn’t make someone the next Cecil B. DeMille. And with the opportunity to self-publish at the tips of every writer’s fingers, yes, including those whose writing is so terrible that even Stevie Wonder would pick up the book and just say, “Hell, no!”, the indie/small/micro press has possibly hurt the already dwindling numbers of readers.

I’m not going to write about those who choose to self-publish without spending the time or money to hire a proofreader, copy editor, etc. Instead, I want to discuss the pros and cons of the indie/small/micro press houses. Before you stop reading or decide to tie me up with typewriter ribbon and paint my eyes shut with whiteout, let me say that I am talking about a particular portion of these small publishers that are a bane to the industry—both the authors and the readers. I’m going to divide this into three categories.

Category 1- The professionals

I have had some great relationships with some micro and small press houses. I can depend on honest critiques and professional editing from Yard Dog Press (YDP), ProSe Press, 4 Star Stories and Charon Coin Press (CCP), for instance. I know I will receive royalty statements on a timely basis from YDP, CCP and Seventh Star Press. All of them will get me the promised author’s copy of the book I appear in. I’m certain there are other small publishers that fit within this category but these are a handful of the publishers that have published at least one, if not more, of my short stories. As long as they treat me honestly and with respect I will certainly be willing to write for them again. I also realize that they are on tight budgets and that none of them have quit their day jobs so they can sit in the pool at their million dollar mansions. They treat the publishing business as a business, even if their main office is out of their home and they treat the authors properly. This level of quality will generally carry over to the readers who are willing to take a chance on a book from a small press.

Category 2- MOR (Middle of the road publishers that have good intentions, but poor follow through..and you know what they say about good intentions.)

Some publishers I enjoyed working with and might consider doing something once again for them, but it depends on my mood and if they have made any changes. These are publishers who do no marketing, provide no royalty or sales information, and the story selections and editing of their anthologies makes me question if my writing sucks.

Why?

No one wants their work included with stories so badly written it seems as if they are attempting to crawl out of a basement after being mauled by some insidious creature crouching nearby in the darkness. Now, sometimes it is a case of taste or stylistic differences. Maybe the other authors think my story reeks. Regardless, it’s not a book that I will promote heavily at a convention, if at all.

The lack of promotion is one thing that incessantly drives me nuts. When I am in an anthology with one to two-dozen authors, the royalties are squat. I don’t mean this to be a slap in the face to the publishers. It’s just simple math—if a $10 book, which cost $6 to produce, has finally made its money back for the publisher, the profit is then split between one to two-dozen people, the publisher and possibly the artist. Let’s just say 25 people are splitting $4. That comes to 16 cents each. If 100 of those books sell (after making back its production costs) then each author will receive $16, but unless it’s just a really hot book, that amount may be $1.60 for one quarter and 80 cents the next.

Now, if you are the sole author or maybe a co-author of a full novel, yeah, your cut is much higher if you are working with a good publisher and have signed a fair contract. Although, promotion is still very much on the authors in many cases. Some houses do make efforts to attend conventions and expand their readership base, but others do very little of that. People just don’t seemingly read as much, and those that do don’t risk spending $10-$20 on a small press as often as they spend it on a big name author with a big house.

A reputable publisher should deliver on whatever terms were agreed on in the contract, whether that’s a flat fee for a single short story or royalties, or a combination thereof. The MOR publishers vary on the consistency with which they achieve this. You should receive a statement every six months, or at least annually, showing purchased books, especially when you bought copies to sell.

When an author buys copies of the book they are in they are generally paying 30-40% below the retail cost. Even so, that’s a small margin that doesn’t begin to cover buying space at a convention, travel, food, accommodations, website fees (plus time to design and maintain), taxes and swipe fees for cards. Thanks to retailers such as Amazon that make certain they have the lowest price and cut the retail price back down to near cost, it is near impossible to compete and make a profit. Even worse, odds are the book was printed through their Create Space program, so they made money by publishing it themselves then underselling the publisher and me. Not trying to pick on Amazon, but they are the big white whale of self-publishing and retail at the moment.

Category 3- Avoid

In this category go those publishers who put no effort into promoting their authors or books. They don’t go to conventions, notify book sellers, blogs, or anything. They stick a link on a social media site and expect money to just appear. They don’t pay in a timely manner, if ever. No statements ever show up and if you get the promised copy of the book, your eyes bleed from the horrendous editing.

These are the small press companies that are driving reading into the ground.

It is very easy for a company to make a fancy website with lots of hype to lure writers in, filled with promises they don’t uphold. The newer the press, the harder they are to vet, and while I might miss a great opportunity with a new publisher that is going to hit big, after being burned so many times, I advise steering clear of new publishers until they have established a good reputation.

Things to look for include a poorly put together website. Granted, everyone makes mistakes and after hours of coding it is easy to overlook a typo. Anything more than a single typo tells me that if they don’t care enough to proof their own site (or have the ability) then they aren’t going to put out a good book, assuming they ever actually get the book out at all.

If the submission details on a site are extremely vague, unprofessional, or disorganized in the details, I tend to bypass the publisher. If they can’t put together a simple list of requirements for submissions, is follows that they might be disorganized and unprofessional about everything else.

Publishing is a creative business, but it is a business and should be conducted as such.

Authors, do yourself a favor and strive to work with reputable publishers. If you aren’t aiming for a big house, there are still some great indie/small/micro press publishers. Check sites such as Preditors and Editors or Writer Beware. Ask fellow authors about their experience with XYZ Publisher. Check reputable industry outlets and awards for recognition of an editor or publisher. The winner of The Joe Cool First Annual Great Publishing Awards, you know what I mean, is a no.

Readers, do yourself a favor and search for the same thing. If it’s a publisher you aren’t familiar with, at least flip through a book or two, if possible, and look for mistakes or to see if the writing really grabs you. Check the grammar, pacing and sentence structure. Don’t just read the hype on the back cover or the five stars on a review site. If a book averages a high number of stars and has had several reviews/ratings, then it is probably worth a shot. If it has an average of four stars and one person gave it a five and one gave it a three, then it’s a maybe or a no. I can go and give all the books I am in a five star rating and if it’s a new book I can be the first one to rate it and make it look like it averages five stars. Then I can brag on it (if I had no self worth or conscience). Be intelligent in your selections. If you find something promising, give that small publisher or indie author a chance. Who knows, you may end up with a signed first print of the first book of the next Terry Pratchett that you can proudly display on your shelf, and that beats having a shelf full of garbage that you hope you can trade at the used book store to replace your copy of a book you love.

If you’ve liked anything presented here today, show Ethan some love and wander over to one or both of his sites or visit him on Facebook!

http://www.livenloud.net

http://www.NahteWords.com

 

Advertisements

Dollar Store Vocabulary

The English language encompasses over a million words. Growing up we are taught that to improve our vocabulary we should read more. As an adult I still run into words now and then that are unfamiliar.  Either by the power of Google or context clues I  discover the meaning and attempt to eek out space in the “words” section of my brain’s hard drive. If I manage to shuttle said word from short-term into long-term memory without a physical memory dump, I have achieved an increased lexicon.

As a scientist I get to use long chemical or biological terms, but these belong to a specialized vocabulary. They do not elicit the same sense of satisfaction as finding that perfect word with all the proper nuances to convey precisely what you wish to say. Once in a great while I see a science editorial or review that doesn’t read like a boring list of redundant science-speak, but unfortunately, that’s rather what is expected. After all there’s only so many ways one can clearly state that you grew cell line A on flask type B without sounding ridiculous.

In fiction, the writer has the freedom to use the entire palette to create his or her masterpiece, or at least one would think. Over the past few years the advice I have heard over and over again is to use simple vocabulary. For the most part, my 64 crayon box gets the job done, but every once in a while there’s a color from the 96 set or maybe even the 152 ultimate collection that adds the hue I’m looking for.

I imagine with the dawn of the digital era and a thesaurus at writers’ fingertips, a few too many of them gave Shift+F7 chronic fatigue. There is a difference between regurgitating a thesaurus and picking the crayon of just the right color. Once upon a time writers assumed their audience possessed intelligence. Now, the subtext of the “simple words” advice is two-fold:

1) We think you looked this up b/c we don’t know what it means and don’t feel like googling it.

2) We aren’t sure the audience will know what _____ word means.

What happened to reading being a means to educate, even when that reading was for entertainment? What happened to reading expanding the mind? As a kid, when I read the classics, I could rarely go more than a page without having to use context clues or a dictionary to decipher a word’s meaning. We have endless information at our fingertips, and yet anything out of the ordinary gets flagged as “a five-dollar word”. As far as I’m aware, all e-readers have built in dictionaries. Are we destined for inane words like twerk and googling (Yes, I know I used it.) to fill our dictionaries and communal vocabularies to the detriment of other words? Adding new words need not kill off old words. I can use the word “google” without suddenly forgetting what “discombobulate”.

My stories are written to entertain. Some may have deeper meanings for readers to find if they wish, but at the end of the day I simply want to share these stories, and I think I owe it to you, my readers, not to settle for using a dollar store vocabulary when I can share words of a higher quality.

Readers, editor, and writers, share your opinions in the comments!

*This post is indicative of my writing style and vocabulary, so you be the judge. If you’re of a mind, click over and pick up a copy of my short story “What Autumn Leaves” or one of my novels available on Amazon.

What Autumn Leaves

Weekly Writers’ Ramble: October 10, 2014

I’m kicking off this round of Weekly Writers’ Ramble with a discussion of crafting characters. Stay tuned for next week when J.F. Lewis drops in to tell us about his new book “Grudgeberer” and how he came up with the hero.

In fiction there are generally two broad classifications of stories. One is action driven stories and the other is character driven stories. While there can be overlap, usually a story falls into one camp or another. A good example of the former that comes to mind would be Ray Bradbury’s short story, “There Will Come Soft Rains”. The story is more about the atmosphere and events than any specific character. It’s one I read in middle school and since it was still the Cold War era, it left an impression that has lasted to this day.

Character driven fiction involves the growth or change of characters and how events shape that change. When it comes to my own fiction, I write primarily character driven fiction. Stuff happens, but it is the characters which make the story.

Remember, there is no one right way to create a character. There are oodles of how-to books and whatever method that works for you is fine. Some people craft their characters as rough outlines of people they know. Others follow a D&D sort of approach. Some might sketch their character, or interview them.

My approach is a bit more nebulous than that and harks back to my fondness for make-believe as a child. As I think about a story idea, more often than not a character simply starts coalescing in my mind. Tala, from Fated Bonds, marched into my head, suited up in her police uniform and with a no-nonsense attitude. She’s “Law and Order” meets urban fantasy. Her past, present, and future got worked out as I went, the same as when I played space aliens with my siblings and I was the alien queen that had to  lead my army to victory.

So for me, finding my characters involves opening that door in my mind  and stepping back to my childhood. I suppose I can credit “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” for my fondness of make-believe and for teaching me that  it was not something that was just for little kids. While the stories I write are generally adult in nature, it’s that same “let’s pretend” state of mind. As such, some characters are harder to write. The farther outside of my experience, the darker, crueler, or more twisted, it takes more effort for me to put on their persona as I write them. I’ve found that the more I write and read, the easier this becomes.

Feel free to comment on how you craft your characters, or what it is about your favorite literary or genre characters that makes them so real to you.

If you’re interested in meeting my characters, wander over to Amazon and slip between the digital (or hard copy) pages of my books.

Daughter of Destiny Cover AMAZONcover

Weekly Writers’ Ramble: Teel James Glenn

Today I bring you award winning author, Mr. Teel James Glenn, sharing his take on cons.
New Headshot5.20.12

Pros and Cons of cons

-Teel James Glenn

 

Conventions are fun, no one can deny that, but for people who want to make it in the writing world they are also work.

When you think about it, science fiction conventions were started by a group of fans in the 1930s who formed groups like the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society or the Futurians who were fans of Hugo Gernsback’s science fiction and science magazine. He connected fans who wrote in to the letter columns.

Many of those fans went on to become the great writers of the era-Julie Schwartz, Ray Bradbury and others. They always acknowledged their roots in the ‘fan’ world, even before the term was really coined.

I’ve been going to conventions since the 1970s, first as a fan myself, and watched them evolve from small gatherings of a hundred or two of fans of comics or Sci Fi to the mega conventions of today where a hundred and fifty thousand people jam into a convention center.

Why keep going to conventions as a professional writer?Well, to quote the famous safe bank robber Jimmy Valentine when he was asked why he robbed banks, “‘Cause that’s where the money is!”

Mind you, it is not so crass as to be walking around with a sandwich board proclaiming your latest book-(though that is not necessarily a bad thing)-But from the moment you walk into a con till the moment you leave you have to consider that you are ‘on stage’- performing as your writer persona. You are there to be seen!

This can be a hard thing for many writers, who are, after all mostly solitary creatures, yet, the target audience for your work- be it romance writing, mystery stories, fantasy, science fiction, that convention crowd is there because they love the exact type of writing you do.

So what do you do if not wear that sandwich board? You write to the con and try to get on panels so people can see and hear you. You go to the panels of writes/editors you like and ask questions and in an un-creepy-I’m-a -colleague- way chat with them after the panels.

If you can afford it, of course, it is a good thing to get a table at the con- it is a great way to chat people up and push your books. If you don’t have a ‘support staff’ of friends who can relieve you at the table it can be a trap-i.e.- you are stuck behind that table when you want to get to panels to meet other pros or see events you want to see.

Of course, any one of these ways to ‘present’ yourself at a con could make that contact with an editor, agent or even fellow writer that lets you in on a new anthology or market looking for stories. All of them give you a pretty good shot at advancing your career.

The thing to remember is that, while it is a place to have fun for fans it can be a springboard for you as a professional writer so be on your best behavior- people remember if you are a jerk and (I’ve heard) that editors are people.

One side bar to all this is that lots of deals and meetings happen in the hotel bar. If you drink (and I don’t so I don’t have this problem), do so under you limit. Keep your head about you so you can make those deals and retain the details of the business conversations you do hear!

If you’d like to find out more about Mr. Teel Glenn, you can meander over to his blog or website. If you have questions, feel free to post in the comments section!

TheKingsAffair4

 

 

Weekly Writers’ Ramble: Kimberly Richardson

I know. I know. I’m late. From Ph.D. candidacy exams, wonky internet connections, Miss Drama’s birthday party, and family in from out of town, I simply did not get to my blogging duties. I apologize. I shall strive NOT to channel my inner white rabbit with the other posts.

So here, without any further ado, is our guest, Ms. Kimberly Richardson, author of “Tales from a Goth Librarian” and “The Decembrists”.

The Pros and Cons of Cons

– Kimberly B. Richardson

When I first heard about cons oh so many years ago, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Was this some secret society kind of thing in which a goat and black robes would be part of the festivities? I was amazed (and relieved!) to find that cons were not like that; they were, in fact, a weekend in which freaks, geeks, gamers, nerds, cosplayers, Goths, Steampunkers, and other awesome people come together and revel in all things ultra-cool and ultra-not normal. At last, I thought as I walked into the Dealer’s Room at MidSouth Con in Memphis, Tennessee years ago – I have found my people. Now that I am a guest at conventions, I still get that thrill whenever I pull into the hotel parking lot, wondering just what to expect and realizing that it is never what I expect, which is a good thing.

So, may I present to you my Pros and Cons of Cons!

Pros:

The biggest and most obvious pro is that . . . it’s a freakin’ CON! Where else can you go to watch costumed people walk by in all their freakish glory, or, while wearing a World of Warcraft shirt, have someone run up to you and scream “Glory to the HORDE!” And yes, that second thing really does happen to me. A lot. So much so that my publisher actually has bets in the length of time we WoWers find each other. Basically put, a con is a great way to make new friends who share your interests, hang out with old ones and catch up with their dealings, meet celebrities of whatever “thing” you’re into, watch talented artists create fantastical masterpieces before your very eyes and even enjoy some down time with a deck of Magic the Gathering cards, beer or other liquid refreshment and friends until the crack of dawn. A con is a place to be yourself, whatever that may be, and find relief in the fact that there are others out there just like you.

Another pro of cons is that it is a great source of creativity, ready to fuel your own ideas and put them into action. Have you always wanted to learn how to draw but had no idea how and where to begin? What about that awesome fantasy novel you’ve got stuck in your head that you’ve wanted to write out? Got an idea for a costume yet not really sure where to even begin? All of these and many more can be answered at a con, for it is at a con that you can meet and spend time with authors and publishers, artists, costumers, game designers and the like. All are there as celebrities, of course, yet they also offer advice for those who want to know more. I’ve had many a conversation with a young writer who wants to do what I do, yet they have no idea how to even take that first step. And, time and time again, I grin and begin my talk with them, hoping that perhaps something I will say will cause the spark to go off in their mind and give them the push that they need.

Now, it’s time to talk about the CONS of con:

One con is that sometimes, there are some people that do attend these cons for ulterior motives. Sometimes, through alcohol or other things, they can become a problem for the rest of those who are there to have a good time. If you happen to find a certain person interesting and cool in that they possibly share similar interests, just be careful and mindful because you just never know. On a side note, please be respectful of others who are at the con to enjoy themselves. Just sayin’.

Another con is the shortness of time. Sure, they do last a weekend and that seems like a long time, right? So much time to do EVERYTHING! Wrong! By the time you are in your con groove, the vendors are packing up, the signs are being taken down and the hotel is asking when you’re going to pay your bill. It would be lovely, sometimes, to have the con extend for at least one or two additional days, like Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia, yet sadly enough all good things must come to an end. However, one thing that I like to do before the post con depression kicks in is that I begin planning for the next con. Always works.

So, there you have my Pros and Cons of cons. I hope you have enjoyed my words and I hope your con experiences have been very, very good so far. And, if you happen to be attending a con that I’m at, please stop by and say hello!

Now, on to the next CON!

If you’d like to find out more about Kimberly Richardson, you can find her on her blogFacebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
decembristsxlg(1)
 

Weekly Writer’s Ramble- Enough about me

Beginning next week, I will have the good fortune of hosting an author on Fridays for a guest post I shall henceforth call our “Weekly Writers’ Ramble”. Each month will feature a new topic, so we’ll hear a number of different viewpoints on each topic. In addition, it isn’t just little ol’ me sharing my fledgling author knowledge.

This month’s topic is “The Pros and Cons of Cons” and the calendar is already full! July will be “I heard that!: Audiobooks”, and there’s still some slots available, so if you are interested, shoot me an email through my Google+ or FB page!

Spread the word and feel free to ask questions!

So, check back next week, same bat time, same bat….errr, website.

Holy Internet, Batman! Everyone under 30 just went, "Huh?"
Holy Internet, Batman! Everyone under 30 just went, “Huh?”

 

Taking Notes

Rearing kids results in a daily test of my poker face. With my elder two on the doorstep of the teen years, I’ve been getting all manner of questions related to sex, dating, and the vocabulary of said topics.

The other night I was asked by Miss Diva what “sixty-nine” meant. I was well into my twenties before I’d even heard of that.  It’s possible I was nearly 30.

I gave her an answer which provided just enough information for her to “get” what it meant without the details. She’s not quite eleven. I don’t think she needs that much information yet.

That same night Mr. Smarty-pants brought up the subject of porn. I have to admit, I think I failed the poker-face test on that one.

Yesterday, at the grocery store, Miss Diva asks what a b-job is and what the “b” stands for. My inner self cringed. Of course she picked the grocery store to ask this question. I try not to do the “we’ll talk about it later” thing, because they are reaching that age that if you brush them off, you might not get a second chance to have an honest discussion where they are truly listening.

I steeled myself and explained in my best quiet voice. She asked about relationship advice too, for the future.

Mr. Smarty-pants interrupted. “Why do you keep asking Mom about all this stuff you hear? You’re too young for all this.” {Says the child a whopping 22months older.}

Miss Diva retorted, “I want to make good choices when I’m older; not like Mom did when she was young.”

Ouch. True, but ouch. On the plus side, she believes I’m making good choices now. I think I am. My life isn’t falling down around my ears, so I take that as a good sign. Even better, I think she’s taking detailed mental notes. I only hope she remembers to reference them after the hormones kick in.

Meanwhile, Miss Drama skipped merrily ahead in search of candy or other junk food for which to beg. At least one is still very much a little kid. I’d say innocent, but this is Miss Drama, the child that pretends you can’t see the gum she “didn’t eat”, so we’ll go with uninformed.