Tag Archives: publishing

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:


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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.


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!





Half past time flies

I registered the kids for school this week. They start on Monday. I’m not entirely sure where the summer went, but I think I should get a refund. Summers are supposed to be slow, and fun, and lazy. Okay, I didn’t once get up before 6 a.m., but I wouldn’t call that lazy, so much as normal. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment that school will start even earlier this year. 

I mentored a student this summer, possibly made a fluorescent nucleoside (I have to purify it to know for sure), cursed at cells as they once again decided to throw a tantrum and quit working, and started writing a paper. I’ve also reached level 32 on Star Trek Online. I’ve gotten adept enough to only walk my avatar into walls on occasion rather than every other move. I suppose that counts as fun, but it isn’t a beach vacation.

So as I prepare for battling hordes of desperate parents as they seek out new binders and new backpacks, boldly going to big box store after big box store to secure supplies, I also have exciting things of my own to prepare for.

I’m not sure if qualifying exams count as exciting, but I’ll be prepping like mad over the next couple of months. What is exciting is that I’ve got editors assigned to me for both books which are in the works.

On August 17th I’ll be participating in a local multi-author book signing and meet and greet event held the past couple of years at a local independent book store. My publisher will also be in attendance, both as an author in her own right and as a publisher. We’ll be revealing my cover and announcing the release date of my book, Fated Bonds, and taking pre-orders.

I’ll have a few freebies: copies of the issue of Midnight Screaming, a local magazine no longer in publication, in which my short story, “Hunted” appeared. While not in the same time period as the novel, it is part of the same universe.

Seeing as I started writing Fated Bonds roughly six years ago, this process seems to have taken forever, but this summer has flown by. I’m considering asking for a winter discount, since summer opted to have fun without me.

In the meantime, I’ll rely on weekend hikes and completed chapters for my dose of fun.

If you’re interested in checking out some local talent, feel free to check out the event details on my Facebook page.

Et tu July?

We’re half way through July. It is poised over summer break with a knife as August demands it deliver the final blow…..

Too literary an analogy for summer?

I’ll be blunt.

They are advertising back-to-school sales and the kids go back in three short weeks.

On one side, they’ll be at school instead of devouring my pantry. On the downside I’ll have to wake up at a disgusting hour as the “combined” school system decided to conform to county school times, which bumps everyone back half an hour. For this alone I loathe the school district merger.

In either case, summer is flying by and I’ve yet to make it to the pool even once, although I did ride 14 miles through the Shelby Farms trails with Mr. Smarty-Pants. It is no wonder he excels on the soccer team. In an age where daily exercise means walking to the fridge, when he’s not parked in front of the game system, he’s running, biking, or moving in some manner. He kept pace with me the entire way, and I’ve had to work my way up to that kind of fitness.

As fall plots the death of summer, I look forward to it with mixed emotion. Fall means time for my PhD candidacy exams. (Excuse while I go panic……………………………………………………………………………………. ………………………………………………………………..Okay. I’m back.)

Fall will also bring several writing goals to fruition:

  • August– promotional event with Imagicopter– It’s a multi-author book signing celebrating regional talent.  I’ll talk a bit about my upcoming books and have copies of Conjurings.

    In addition my editor will reveal the cover and release date of my book, Fated Bonds, an urban fantasy romance.
  • September- Kerlak/Dark Oak Press is tentatively scheduled to release A Tall Ship, A Star, and Plunder”, a pirate themed anthology in which my story “Pirates of Happenstance” shall appear.
  • October- Tentative month for the release of Fated Bonds.

So, good or bad, regime change is on the way. I feel like I should stand on a balcony and announce, “Friends, interwebs, countrymen, lend me your ear!”


Judging a book by its cover

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Yeah, people don’t follow that, especially on the internet. The course on udemy.com by Tom Corson-Knowles makes some very good points. When people scroll through the loads of books available, it’s the cover that grabs a potential buyer’s attention. Shopping online differs greatly from the browsing experience of a brick and mortar book store. There’s no helpful staff to suggest a book. Sure, Amazon’s algorithms do their best, but they aren’t comprehensive or always right.

If you publish traditionally, while most of this you won’t have to worry about, keep the design aspects in mind when giving the go ahead on the cover art drawn up by the in-house artist.

Here are some interesting and helpful tidbits:

  • Hire someone to make a professional looking cover.

Unless you are skilled at graphic art, do not use that picture you took of your dog or your kid’s stick art and paste your title above it. The course instructor suggested fiverr.com. I had no idea this site existed and it looks like a great resource. You can preview an artists’ work, read reviews, and it’s far cheaper than the several hundred dollars one might pay otherwise to graphic artist.

  • It’s all about the title.

Pretend you are selling your book to a world full of Great-Aunt Berthas whose eyesight is rather iffy. The first look at your book most people will see is a tiny little thumbnail. If your cover looks like an impressionist painting when reduced to a thumbnail, redesign the cover.

  • Aim for a neat, professional, uncluttered cover.

This goes back to hiring someone who knows what they are doing, but even the best sometimes come up with duds. What looks okay in print doesn’t always show up well on a screen. Keep in mind also that some readers (like me) have a basic e-reader device without color. The breathtaking work of art should be between the pages; not on the cover.







I openly admit that I hate titling my writing. I can write a hundred thousand words, but titles are downright evil. They might say not to judge a book by its cover, but there’s no similar absolution for titles. A bad title can kill a novel, or so they say.

Yesterday I watched the “Picking a Best Selling Novel Title” portion of my online course.  Here are some tidbits of wisdom I learned:

  • Carry a notebook EVERYWHERE so if you happen upon a good title you can write it down.

Clearly the title faeries have noted my lack of notebook and deigned not to visit.

  •  Brainstorm ideas for a while and ask your friends for ideas if you can’t think of anything.

I should  be more  obsessive and obviously I should harass my friends more.

  • Look at the top best-selling books on Amazon. There’s a science to titles. Don’t use the same titles, but try to see what makes a good one.

Uhm, aren’t you supposed to be telling me how to do that? It appears that if there’s a science, you don’t know it, so that makes two of us.

  • Check out Lulu Title Scorer. Note that most of the best-selling books rank high on this app.

Okay, I’ll play:

I went to Amazon and searched the “best books of the month”. I skipped Steven King and Niel Gaiman as their sales likely derive from name power as from their titles. I hadn’t heard of the third, so I put it in.

Only 10.2%? I wonder if the app designer has a day job as a meteorologist.

Only 10.2%? I wonder if the app designer has a day job as a meteorologist.

Then I put in the working titles of two of my novels:

Nice. So slightly better odds than flipping a coin!

69.0% Nice. So slightly better odds than flipping a coin!

Eh, I don't really like that title anyway.

26.3% Eh, I don’t really like that title anyway.

I guess the take home message is that the minds of the masses are beyond mere apps, or me, and quite possibly the dude teaching the course.

What’s My Niche?

My dear Soup King got me an online course for publishing on the Kindle. A lot of the marketing applies to micro and small press as well. I started with the “Market Research” for fiction.

Here’s what I got from this section:

Good Advice

1) Write the best story you can.

2) Don’t pick the current “hot” trend, but rather write something that sparks your interest and about which you feel passionate.

3) Writing is a long-term commitment.

4) You can succeed in any genre. Of course, success is subjective.

5) There’s really no new ideas, but rather find your way to tell it.

Why I’m not a millionaire…(aka..I disagree)

1) Pick a genre. My genres picked me, and I tend to combine genres.

2) Don’t jump from genre to genre. Oops. I’ve written romance, urban fantasy, science fiction, YA sci-fi, dark fantasy, and horror. My publisher says the book I’d think of as speculative fiction is pulp fiction. It seems I’m doing it wrong.

3) Examine your niche genre. Read reviews and see what people like and what they don’t. Include elements that people like. You’re supposed to think about what readers want, BEFORE YOU WRITE? I put what I like. I’m a reader. Does that count? On that whole “niche”, uhm…. yeah, I’ll get back to you when I figure that one out.

Stay tuned for more stuff I’m doing wrong.

UPDATE! Happy (Early) Birthday to me!

Next Sunday I get to bake myself a (gluten free and dairy free)cake, or as a friend referred to it, a non-cake cake! I make the most awesome non-cake cakes, by the way. I also get to make Miss Drama one, as her birthday falls the day before mine. I may just do a two-for-one, as I don’t really need a whole cake. Hmm. Does that mean I get to pretend I’m turning 8 years old?

In addition, just in time for my birthday, the electronic edition of Conjurings *is now available, and my story “What Autumn Leaves” is one of the features! For those wishing to purchase the print edition, that will be available in two weeks.