When bad publishers attack… again…

It’s not a big secret that every now and then a publisher pops up that seems to be good at the outset and then flounders like a fish out of water, gasping for air before flopping to a ‘orrible death. We’ve seen a lot of these on the Absolute Write forum, mostly because of the plethora of one-person outfits that start up with the best of intentions (to publish their own works) and end up in water way over their head.

The most recent implosion seems to be Ridan Publishing and Robin Sullivan. In a nutshell she created Ridan to publish her husband’s work (which later got picked up by Orbit and is doing quite well) and later took on other authors. She came to the attention of the AW crew mostly because of her claims that seems to be, well… outlandish. That she could pay high royalties and maintain a high sell rate despite never updating her website or doing much promotion other than cranking out ebooks with fabulous covers (courtesy of her husband) and give the author a contract that had an opt-out clause that could be invoked within 30 days – hardly standard for the industry.

Unfortunately these dreams came to a smashing halt with the discovery last week that she wasn’t paying royalties to A.C. Crispin for her Starbridge series, out of print and which Ms Crispin wanted to see back in print to provide funds for her medical costs. Now if you don’t know who Ms Crispin is… well, let’s just say she’s a Big Name in the author world and you really don’t want to mess with her.

Ms Crispin hadn’t seen royalties for a year on these books and no communicaton with Ridan/Robin Sullivan. She invoked her clause to opt out of the relationship but the registered letter sat at the post office.

Nada.

Nothing.

Then Jim C. Hines got into the picture. Again, if you don’t know who he is – let’s just say that he’s quite Da Man. It seems that his threat to “drop the internet” on Robin’s head prompted a phone call from Sullivan to Ms Crispin and the news came out that they were negotiating an amicable split.

Then this, just today.  On the Kindleboards where RS and Ridan basically made their reputation for supporting self-published authors and where she plucked a few for her personal stable. To say it’s insulting and disgusting is to understate the obvious. She not only throws down the amount of money she owes Ms Crispin, violating the trust between author and publisher, she blows off the entire situation and twists it around to make herself look like the good guy for doing what she’s doing to “help out”.

Gobsmacked, I iz.

This illustrates, unfortunately, a trend we’re seeing more and more of online – small one-person outfits who just can’t handle the work of running a company single-handedly and get in way over their head. There’s been numerous examples over the years tracked in AW of these people dragging down not only the authors they pull into their whirlpool but also editors, artists and others who get trapped when the sole person gets sick or has a personal crisis or something else. Whatever the reason the authors are left high and dry because there’s no one else to do the work or send out the checks or get the books released.

If nothing else the Ridan story should be a warning sign for all authors looking for a publisher – if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. And a small outfit, especially with only one person on the payroll can easily lock up your rights for a long, long time.

As regards this situation – I can safely say I wouldn’t recommend Ridan to my worst enemy right now.

As with all things – imo, jmmv.

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Why cover artists are Gods and Goddesses…

I love cover art. I’ll admit it’s one of the first things that brings me up to a book and makes me grab it off the shelf. Only then do I look at the synopsis and the back blurb, flip through the pages and read a bit.

I’m *that* type of reader.

Which is why I love and worship those talented people who do cover art. I’ve seen some mighty BAD covers and I’ve seen some mighty FABOO covers over the years, going all the way back to when I worked as an editorial secretary for Penguin Books Canada.

Back then the art department consisted of two artists and a manager who worked wonders with their sketchpads (remember, this was in the 80’s and BEFORE computer programs took off) and came up with beautiful images for the books. But it was a long, complicated process of meetings and discussions and reworking images until it all came together to produce some wonderful covers.

One of my favorite stories is when we were working on Peter C. Newman’s history of the Hudson’s Bay Company. He wanted a certain image used on the cover of one volume and there was a problem – the canoe in the image just didn’t look right with the voyageurs looking to one side.

The cure? Flipping the image. The only way you’d know it wasn’t the original picture was the reversal of the HBC logo at the front of the canoe. It made the book even better.

Or Pierre Berton’s “Vimy”, an oral history of the epic WWI battle. After a lot of planning they settled on a purple cover with a poppy on the front. So little that said so much. Perfect.

With the introduction of such programs as Poser and Paintshop it’s become easier to produce covers and small presses have taken advantage of this to create some fine, fine images.

And… some awful, awful, ‘orrible book covers that shouldn’t have seen the light of day.

Exhibit one: Catherine Cookson’s backlist.

Take a minute. Get that blood out of your eyes. Please, take a minute.

Cover art is everything. Cover art will grab the reader before your words can and I thank God every day for the talented people I’ve had working on my behalf to create great cover art for my books.

Sure, my stories have to live up to the cover art. But without a good image I won’t even get a chance for the reader to pick it up and read a few words.

Think about it next time you grab a book in e-form or paperback. And send a silent thank-you to the cover artists who make magic happen for us authors with each and every creation.

 

 

Welcome to 2011 Blatherings!

It’s been a while since I posted here and for that I should apologize – but, frankly, I’m one of those people that don’t really feel that posting nothing every day is a Good Thing. While there’s been things going on here and there I didn’t think it was worth wasting the bandwidth for bits and pieces that could be better combined into a decent fat post.

That’s me, saving the bandwidth.

XD

Anyway, bits and pieces as follows…

2010 = buh-bye. Good bye gall bladder, herniated back disc and root canal on the 23rd of December. Thanks for “Blaze of Glory” and “Wild Cards and Iron Horses”! Had an excellent year writing and looking forward to a good 2011 although I can’t promise two books a year, thank you very much!

Interesting links:

Toad’s Corner reviews “Blaze of Glory” 
 
Disclaimer: Nerine edited “What God and Cats Know” for Lyrical Press, so she might be a bit biased. But I still love having her review! If you’re looking for a good review site with plenty of odd books from small presses, check her out.

The Romance Studio review of “Blaze of Glory”

Pretty self-explanatory – but it led to… THIS! Updates to follow but thrilled to be noticed!

Mrs. Giggles, one of the best-known blogger reviewers, chose “Wild Cards and Iron Horses” as one of her best for 2010!

and AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review also liked “Blaze of Glory”… although I think the reviewer thought the book was YA.

And, finally, the current issue of Romantic Times Book Reviews gives three out of five stars to “Blaze of Glory” – no online link up yet but if you see the Feb. issue on your local magazine rack, sneak a peak at page 85. I’m happy!

“Blaze of Glory” is also set for a paperback release of February – as in, less than a month from now. If you’ve been waiting to grab an actual paperback copy. drop on over to your local B&N and snag a copy – or order it off a website!

Amazon and B&N are taking pre-orders right now… right at your fingertips. How I love online shopping! It’s also up onBorders, but frankly you’ll save more on both the ebook version and the print on other sites. Sorry, Borders!

Let’s see…. my views of self-pubbing haven’t changed much, other than to remind me that there are always people ready to take advantage of others to make money. Self pub if you want, but be careful – there are a lot of self-proclaimed prophets and experts ready to take your money and not give you anything back. And the prophets saying that print is dead are definitely shooting smoke out their collective butts since I don’t see it happening within my lifetime. But that’s just me.

This year? Well, right now I’m working on the sequel to “Blaze of Glory” and a short story to sub to a Samhain anthology – but we’ll see where the tide takes us. A year ago I had no idea what was going on and I don’t like to make those sorts of predictions.

XD

Anyway, that’s the blatherings from this old dragon – best of the new year to you all and hope to chat soon!

Who do you trust?

With the big push by self-publishers to try and claim their piece of the ever-shrinking readership pie there’s been a lot of talk about dumping the “gatekeepers” – meaning the editors and the critics who review books, leaving the decision on what’s “good” to the popular masses and the readers who will leave reviews of what they purchase and read. So you can/should go to Amazon, etc. and read the reader reviews and find those hidden gems that are just waiting to be exposed to the light.

My own problem with this is… well, that’s not what I do. And I’m not sure if I should.

Don’t get me wrong, I read reader reviews. I check them out for video games, for books, for board games (Memoir ’44 FTW for all you board gamers!) but I don’t make my decision based solely on the reviews. Why? Because I find most of them to be automatically suspect.

Follow my wonky dragon reasoning. I don’t surf around Amazon looking for new books-I usually see an ad in the RT or hear something on a website or something along those lines. I just don’t have the time (or the urge) to wander around B&N (since I have a Nook) to see what’s hot in the virtual world. Especially when most of the books I like are overpriced in ebook form. But I wander…

When I do find a book that looks interesting I go to the reviews. Now, this is where the “gatekeepers” theory breaks down for me. The odds are good that if it’s a self-published masterpiece that I’ll see no less than fifteen five-star reviews proclaiming it to be totally awesome!

Uh… no.

My BS detector starts to ring like a MoFo when I see no one disputing a book’s enjoyment value. Everyone dislikes something, somewhere about a book. Some people love The Road, I found it to be boring. I *heart* Ivanhoe, you might find it a boring old tome that shouldn’t even be in ebook form. But no large group of people should agree that a book is worth five stars. ALL five stars.

I expect to see a few four-stars. Or even a few threes, or twos or ones from those readers who bought it and didn’t find it to their liking. And that doesn’t mean the book is Bad, it just means that it didn’t work for that reader. But I’m seeing more and more vanity and self-pub authors racing to denounce anything below a five-star rating, challenging those reviews and just being darned ornery about how no one can contest Their Great Work. I think everyone’s heard about Anne Rice taking on one of her Amazon reviewers and getting into a nasty snit. In fact, I’m more likely to buy a book if I see a variety of ratings because I know that at least *some* of them must be from strangers who bought the book and not all from family and friends who dump five stars on the book because they feel they have to.

So here’s my question for the week – where do YOU go for book reviews and who do YOU trust to give you the best opinion on what to buy? Amazon? Goodreads? Shelfari? Romantic Times Magazine? The NYT Book Review? Friends? Anyone at all?

Another day…

While I’m waiting for another round of edits on “Wild Cards and Iron Horses”, let me rant a bit about television writing. Spoilers below, so run away!

Fringe: Oh, NO, you did NOT go there. Really? If FauxOlivia doesn’t get found out within the first two eps, I’m done with you. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy writing! And after da Kiss…

Bones: No. No. No. Cam does not want to have an empty lab for a year, thank you very much. She should fire all your butts and retire. I’m looking at YOU, Jack and Angela. And don’t even get me started on why Booth and Bones don’t even HUG before she’s off to Poo-Poo Island and he’s off to Afghanistan.

Castle: The Ex? Really? Who we haven’t seen ALL season and who shows up conveniently just as Kate’s about to reveal her innermost thoughts?

 *facepalm*

Now, the writer in me understands that this is a logical thing. Castle hasn’t been working 10-12 hour days with Beckett and rushing home to write. I can totally see him isolating himself to finish “Naked Heat”. Really, I can. And it’s a good way out for the writers to push the REAL book in the fall.

But we better not be setting up a love triangle. Let Castle find out in the first two days WHY she’s the frakking ex-wife.

Grr. To all of the above.

Meanwhile, Publishers Weekly put out an article on J.A. Konrath’s signing with Amazon for his new book. And, right on time, the angry rebuttal on Konrath’s blog.

My thoughts: Suck it up, dude. You can’t set yourself up as the Guru of Self-Publishing and not expect to get some body shots. And please, don’t send your loyal followers over to PW to rant about how it’s a Big Conspiracy to Keep the Self-Pubs down. I wonder if he hunts down anyone who gives him a bad review on Amazon and does the same thing. If they’ve got their stats wrong, write a rebuttal article and send it in. Emotional diatribes don’t look good and remind me of Anne Rice’s rants on Amazon.

Dragon out.

Where I ranteth…

It’s a lovely day outside, I’m working on BoG 2, and all’s right with the world.

Until, of course, my Twitter/Facebook feed picks up the latest posting from an avowed self-publishing advocate.

“Screw the publishers! Put your work up on Amazon and make money! I have! You can! Why give those nasty New York people a dime when you can sell directly to the readers! Do it! It’s the future! Only idiots go with traditional publishers!”

Grr.

Double-plus Grr.

First, let me explain that I’m not against self-publishing for certain projects. Poetry, for example, is hard to get into print. Certain non-fiction topics are best served by self-publishing, especially when it’s about a specific area. Your audience isn’t going to be the country at large; it’s likely most if not all of your sales will be from the locals wanting a piece of history for their bookshelves. Grandma’s cookbook is another good self-pub project if you want copies for everyone in your family, a wonderful family heritage to be passed on.

However, that’s about where I draw the line. For a variety of reasons.

Let’s start with the authors being victimized by vanity/POD/”self-pub” houses leaping on their dreams like a hyena on a wounded wilderbeest.

Self-publishing is*not* putting it up on Amazon. Self-publishing is BUYING your own ISBN, paying a cover artist to design your artwork and paying for a hard run with a local printer. Self-publishing is getting a professional editor to go through your work (and no, best friends and old English teachers don’t count) and making it better than it was. And yes, that means that you may have to cut that 120,000 opus down a bit. Self-publishing means you hump those books out of the back of your trunk from store to store, trying to find one that’ll let you stock on consignment, or registering with the big houses as a small press so that you can use Ingrams to distribute your work.

That’s a lot of money. And time. But at least you’re being honest about it.

Self-publishing is *not* giving your book to AuthorHouse/Smashwords/Xlibris/Createspace and letting them do all the work. Amazon takes a huge hunk of money every time an ebook sells – that’s how they make money! Just the same, btw, as real publishing houses. And better yet, they get YOU to do all the advertising for the book in question! Wow! Isn’t that great? All they do is toss up your electronic words on the net and scrape a goodly amount off the top into their coffers. And this is supposed to be BETTER than “traditional” publishing? Really?

“But wait!” You say, “I want full editorial control over my baby! I want to choose the cover art! I want…”

Spoiled brat.

Seriously.

There are few people in the world, in the entire span of the earth’s existence, that have burped words onto a page and not had them edited in some shape or form. English teachers have shuddered and screamed through generations of essays where the grammar and content have been mangled beyond belief.

And yet, YOU think that YOUR manuscript is perfect? Really? Without anyone editing it?

And no, I don’t count your mother. Or a good friend. Or even that “professional editor” you paid $2000 to for a rousing romp. Here’s a hint: YOU paid HIM/HER. Do you really think you’re getting the same quality of editing that a publisher would provide, for free? Really?

“But I want my mother to do the cover art! She’s fantastic!”

I’m sure she is. But maybe, just maybe, a publisher may be able to, I dunno, produce a better work of art to grace your cover. Because, you know, they have people there with actual experience and training in producing covers that sell AND have an idea of what to put ON the cover that’ll appeal to the public. Maybe your mother, sweet woman that she is, may not be the best artist to sell your book. Or your best friend who just picked up the entire series of “How to Draw Manga”.

“The editors will mangle my voice! They’ll destroy my vision!”

*facepalm*

Look, despite what some indie supporters want you to believe, editors are YOUR FRIEND. They get paid to produce GOOD work for the publisher. They do NOT get paid for taking a good story and tearing it to bits because they’re having a bad day. And maybe, jut maybe, they may be able to make your story BETTER by finding the little inconsistencies and mistakes that you raced over, despite going through twenty drafts of your epic tome. They’re not going to suggest anything that would pull AWAY from your story, unless it’s a huge honking plot point that would bump the reader out of the story faster than a speed bump on a NASCAR track. Editors are not evil.

“But what can a publisher do for me that I can’t do for myself?”

Oh, I don’t know… maybe get it up on the major websites like Amazon et al without you busting a gut doing so, contacting various sites for hours trying to get it set up. And paying for it.

Arranging for it to go to print. Getting it into the bookstores. Advertising it. You know, all the stuff that you’d love to do for yourself because you don’t want to actually WRITE now, do you?

“But it’s the way of the future! It’s the death of print books! It’s the death of traditional publishing!”

Really? Says who? The handful of writers making money off of their ebooks. And notice, BTW, that most of them don’t give figures. And those that do, don’t say how much went to Amazon.

The current rate for epublishing is about 40% royalties on net, depending on who you run with. For print, 10-12%. And all you have to do is write the book, go through the process with the editor and let the company do the work.

“But that sucks! I’d make more at Amazon! I’d…”

Oh. Right. You don’t make money until you SELL it. And with all the white noise of everyone racing to put their unedited fanfiction-based works up on Amazon, who’s going to find YOUR great story? 80, 90% of nothing is still…nothing.

Folks, part of writing is rejection. And it sucks. Horribly, painfully and without fail. There’s nothing glorious about getting a rejection on a book you slaved over and put hard work, sweat and tears into.

But don’t tell me that with all the epub houses opening up that you can’t find SOMEONE to publish your book. If it’s good, it’ll find a home.

And if it’s not, well… maybe it’s time to put it in the drawer and start something new.

But, please – for the love of God – don’t fall prey to these snake-oil salesmen hawking Amazon and Createspace as the greatest way to make money and sidestep the process. Publishers aren’t going to go away, despite these advocates screaming that the world is about to change.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I may have not gotten into writing to get rich, but I sure as heck didn’t start writing to get poor. And if you go and self-pub, unless you do it the way I mentioned above, you’re going to get poor.

And, really, wouldn’t you rather be writing?

Rant off.

And, as usual, things work together sometimes for the better.

Just got the final galleys for "What God and Cats Know" – which means, after a full two days of NOT looking at anything for more than a few minutes, I can throw myself wholeheartedly into this final, FINAL reading of what I think is a darned good book!

Only SIX weeks to go until it releases from Lyrical Press!

and here’s another tasty tidbit you’ll ONLY find here!

***

The alleys were dark, dank and smelt like fresh urine. I ran down one, paused at an intersection then turned on my heel to charge down the other, feeling the hot breath of a Hunter.
Skidding around yet another corner, I lost my balance and slammed into the wall, hard. All I could do was flatten myself against it and hope my first strike would disable him, maybe even kill him.
The Hunter was on me before I could catch my breath, straddling me with little effort. I stared up into the feline face, trying to recognise it even while I strained to force myself to Change.
The mouth opened, the canines dripping with hot saliva. Arching his back, he screamed at the sky above us then dove down, aiming for my exposed neck.
I had nothing. Not even a whisper of extra strength, my weak human body nothing more than a shadow of what it could be. Lunging forward, I smashed my forehead into the feline face.
The tactic worked. Releasing my arms, he brought up both hands to cradle the injured nose, roaring his disapproval and pain.
Then I woke up.
He was still there.

***

Can you wait six weeks?

CAN YOU???

(well… you’re going to have to!)

😀