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?

Beware of False Profits, or, Ramblings of an Old Dragon Broad

Today I feel the urge to discuss, or at least toss out my views on, the Imminent Death Of Print Publishing.

Yeah, again.

*stifles yawn*

I remember, a thousand years ago when computers first crept onto the scene. The VIC20, with 20K of memory. Really. 20K. No one knew how to use that much memory!



Move on upwards and forwards, through the Commodore 64 and the PC and the Mac and now I’m sitting here working on an “old” laptop that has more memory in it than the mainframes I used in highschool to program Basic onto punchcards. Yes, I’m *that* old.

And back then we had the prophets going forth, the ones announcing that paper was dead and that we’d be saving the Amazonian rain forests because we were weeks, maybe months away from having Star Trek-type of pads that would do everything for us and we’d never use paper again.

*looks around house*

Nope. Paper still here. Lots of it. Plenty of books, too.

In fact I’m not really sure that a single tree has been saved in the long run because everyone likes to have their records on paper, somewhere, somehow. The receipt from the bookstore. The check for that stereo system. That textbook that isn’t out in ebook form and that you’ve marked up with highlighters to the point that an unmarked page is a rarity.

Which is not to say that the ebook isn’t springing into the forefront of the literary world. Indeed, sales increase every time you turn around and people are picking up ebook readers or downloading programs onto their iPhones or laptops or whatever to read from.

But is it the End of Print Publishing, as some self-proclaimed prophets would have you believe?

I don’t know. I don’t think so. And unlike these people who would have you believe that we’re one short hop, skip and jump away from demolishing the NYC publishing industry, I can’t make a prediction.

And neither can they.

Now, I can make a guess, based on the fact that I *did* work for Penguin Books Canada back in the day and now am on the other side of the fence, having books published in ebook form AND in print form. But whatever I say it’ll still be a guess. I think that ebooks will continue to grow and take up a good hunk of the market but print will never go out of style.


Because people like the touch of books. I know, that’s the usual mantra given. But let me point out other factors.

Many, MANY books will never go into ebook format for a variety of reasons, from the authors not wanting to give permission to the publishers to the cost of putting them up for sale as an ebook to there just not being that much demand. If I’m looking for an obscure nonfiction author I’ll have better luck finding a print copy than hoping it comes up on Amazon eventually as an ebook. And, again, a lot of authors aren’t racing to put their backlist up because of the threat of piracy along with concerns about royalties, etc.

So print books will still be around. But publishers?


Despite what some of the prophets want you to believe, not everyone in publishing is a drooling idiot who can’t understand what an ebook is or how to program their VCR or whatever passes for a dumb person these days. These men and women are trained professionals who spend years learning their art – be it editing, creating cover art for the books or sales. They didn’t just drop off the turnip truck and fall into their positions. And they like to make money. Lots of money. Which goes back to being professionals who want to sell their product.

They know what ebooks are. They’re not ignoring the trend or sticking their collective heads in the sand or whatever rumors are put out there, they’re having meetings and discussing options and doing what they do – figuring out how to sell lots of books. Both ebook and print. And just because they’re not calling up Joe Author and telling them what their plans are doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Remember, these people are in the business of making money.

Rumor: “All the brick and mortar stores are closing!”
My thought: No, they’re not. The economy sucks for them, but it’s a DEPRESSION, folks. Books are still a luxury for many and I’d be surprised if library use hasn’t gone up as people cut back. And it’s an illogical jump to go from “they’re not buying print books!” to “they’re buying ebooks instead!” Think it over.

Rumor: “Screw the trad publishers! Go indie and get rich!”
My thought: I’d rather be writing. I don’t want to negotiate distribution with different warehouses, design cover art, write blurbs, edit and handsell my book. I’d rather be writing and leave it to those professionals who know how and what they’re doing. I think it’s worth “paying” my publisher with a cut of my royalties for excellent cover art, a sales force that will sell more books through their connections than I can EVER do by begging on the Amazon boards or spamming people on Facebook and get reviews from people who I’m not begging to trade reviews with.
And for all the money these prophets are making – how much of that goes right back into their sales effort? And how successful do you think the majority of them are, selling a full-length novel at $0.99? In the middle of thousands of other “indie” authors who are putting up their unedited tomes on Amazon and hoping to strike it rich?
It’s like the California Gold Rush – many will try, few will succeed. And many will follow the rantings of some who just don’t like the idea of having to answer to anyone for their writing – an editor, a cover artist who may know what appeals to the public, a salesperson who may have more connections than you do.

Do I think that ebooks are the future? Sure – to a degree. But I’d still want to have my books come out in print, from a recognized publisher with good cover art, decent distribution and a good reputation in the field. But that’s me, an old broad who just wants to write and not spend hours doing stuff that I know I’m not good at and won’t get good at because I don’t have years of training to do it.

The death of print? Don’t believe it. Don’t believe the self-proclaimed prophets leading scads of anxious, desperate authors to their doom by encouraging them to ignore publishers and toss their work up on Amazon. If you go that route do your homework and decide on your own.

But, hey… what do I know?


Which makes me as qualified as the next person to rant, eh?


The Waiting is the hardest part…

Well, less than two weeks left to go before “Wild Cards and Iron Horses” releases.

And yes, I’m dying of anticipation here. I think I can say, without fail, that this is the best book I’ve written so far. With the help of my FANTASTIC editor, Sasha Knight, that is…


Now it’s just the waiting that’s going to kill me.It’s already up for pre-order on Amazon and will probably go up on B&N a few days after it releases – B&N seems to be a little late when it comes to the new releases. But, hey… they’ve both already got the paperback version of “Blaze of Glory” up for pre-order, so I can’t complain.

Some little bits and pieces while I try to stay sane.

Just bought some faboo new tea combinations from Teavana – highly recommend them to anyone looking for a new tea experience. Don’t balk at the prices, you do get the bang for your buck. And the teas come in resealable bags with detachable labels for you to repackage! If anyone has any other tea shoppes to recommend, please do so!

Still loving my Nook – don’t regret buying at the higher price a whit, since I keep getting free books. And now picked up a subscription to the New York Times Book Review for $3.99 a month, so I can’t say anything bad there. The pricing scheme is still a pain, although I cn say with all honesty that I’ve only bought one or two books at “full ebook” price of $9.99. My heart’s with the cheaper books that are much more fun to buy and read from the smaller publishers. Like mine!


Following one self-pub indie author’s blog for a bit – can’t say that I see good things in the future. When your blog postings consist of putting down NY publishers because they’re all publishing “trash” and trumpeting your own work because, well, you don’t need “verification of your talent” from other sources… I think you see the problem there. If you want to self-pub, do so – but don’t put down those of us who try and maybe succeed in selling to any publisher, even the NYC group. If you’re pulling yourself up by putting others down, well – doesn’t bode well for the future. Karma is always a bitch.

BTW, I *do* plan a giveaway from WIaIH… and more than just an ebook. Let’s just say an actual copy of a book may be involved. Not mine, but of someone who inspires me to steampunk greatness.


And… off to work on the “sequel” to WCaIH! Back to Prosperity Ridge! Hiya!

Change isn’t always good…

A few dribbles and drabbles in the heat…

They’re changing Wonder Woman’s costume. Again. And her origin story.

Not happy.

I’ve noticed this trend happening in comic books a lot, and the Wookie agrees – a new writer, usually a Big Name, gets onto a title and decides that he just HAS to put his Mark on It for All Time. So we work up the costume, kill off a few beloved characters and/or change the origin story because, well, we have to.

I like Wonder Woman’s Origin story. I like Steve Trevor.I *love* Nathan Fillion doing the VOICE of Steve Trevor. And, yes, you can bring the origin story up to present day without sacrificing a whole lot of integrity, as this animated movie shows. So why, for the love of Zeus, are you dumping Diana in the middle of an “urban environment” sans Steve?


I mean, who wasn’t a hopeless romantic on the whole Diana/Steve thing? I never liked the Clark/Diana shippers much… or the Bruce/Diana. Sorry.



I’ve decided to pull my works off of Smashwords, and by proxy B&N and other venues whenever they get around to updating their files. The sales were awful, to say the least, and considering I don’t get paid out by Smashwords until I reach $10… I won’t be getting any money for years, if that. It was a one-year experiment with short stories that I’d already sold and had the reprint rights for, so nothing lost there. However, I should warn potential self-pub addicts racing to Smashwords not to expect much. After a year none of my works ever appeared on Kindle despite my continued questions – I’m not sure if it’s Amazon being the big green monster or the Smashwords staff not doing the work, but considering that Amazon is a prime ebook market, well… It may be easier to get stories out to different markets using Smashwords, but the only thing that I sold were my free stories. Not that it’s a bad thing and I’m hoping some of those sales translated into sales for my actual novels, but can’t say much good about the year-long experience. That’s just my story, YMMV.

Along the same lines, one self-pub author (’cause I just can’t be a cool kid and say “indie”) recently commented on her blog about how much time she was spending promoting her works and how little time she had left for writing.

Allow me a snerk here.


Folks, don’t get into self-pubbing unless you really know the score. Sure, you may have all the control, yatta yatta yatta, but you have to be your own publicist as well. And yes, that may mean less time for you to write while you run all over the place Tweeting and FBing and whatever to sell your work. That’s part of the deal.

Me, I’d rather let my publisher do that and give them part of the royalties for doing so. The self-pub author may get higher royalties on one hand, but are you ready to run your butt off doing promotion? Most of which, btw, takes money. Not to mention community contacts and professional friendships that you’re unlikely to get being a lone author.

I’d rather just write.

Stay cool, everyone!

Games within Games…

Well, we survived Origins 2010 – despite the best efforts of the GAMA staff to be as inept as possible, the hardworking volunteers once again pulled their collective fat out of the fire and made the gaming convention a great time. Met up with a few friends, spent OBSCENE amounts of money on games (which I’m busy beating Marty at) and had a great time. Two visits to B.D.’s Mongolian Grill made it a faboo trip!

Spent most of this week recovering, since I’m not a young kid anymore who can party all night and still keep moving… ah, who am I kidding, that chick is long gone. Just give me some chai and a good place to sit down.


Did a Dragon drive-by on Michael Stackpole at Origins – met him in the hallway, flashed my clockwork dragon ID before letting his handler rush him off to elsewhere. Met Aaron Alliston, a wonderful man. I do wish the Origins folks had organized the writing seminars better and actually let people know there were writing events going on. Rumor has it that the organizer quit two weeks before the con, but that’s not excuse for letting authors languish in limbo along with their fans. Supposedly David Weber was there, but who knows?
All in all, a good time was had by 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?


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!”


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.


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!”


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.

We could be heroes…

One of my earliest memories is of running down the narrow hall in our apartment, my blanket tied around my neck and flying out behind me as I leapt into the air, prepared to take flight.

I broke two toes. And didn’t quite get the altitude I planned. At least, that’s what my mother tells me. I think that secretly I did fly and she just wanted to keep me under control.

But I wander…

I think that we’ve all secretly wanted to be superheroes at some point, be it Wonder Woman or Batman or Superman or Black Canary (who, I understand, dresses like a tramp according to Tim Gunn). Why, well… I suspect it all comes down to just wanting to help people who we can’t usually help because we *don’t* have the ability to fly or to lift cars or scream at and break their eardrums.

Oh, sure, there’s the temptation of being a bad guy – thus the attraction to the Joker and to Lex Luthor and who doesn’t want to date the bad guy, like Harley Quinn, right? But eventually we all turn around and head for the good guys, because that’s one of the ways we keep civilization going and all that. And, frankly, after a certain age you know the bad boys are going to STAY bad boys no matter what you do.

Trust me on this.

What inspired me to write “Blaze of Glory” was a bit of love for the entire superhero genre, mixed in with my incredulous watching of professional wrestling and how the fans swear up and down that it’s for REAL, darn it, and nothing is faked. My fertile ‘lil mind took the idea of staged fights and ran with it.

What if you acquired superpowers through an accident and found out that you no longer controlled your life?
What if you were forced to fight other supers in staged battles, the outcome already pre-arranged?
What if you didn’t have a choice – stop fighting and be killed?

and the classic What If…

What If some alien race, watching the transmissions sent out from our Mother Earth, thought this was all for real?

Jo Tanis is a bookstore clerk with nothing more super about her than her ability to make change. But one late-night mugging gives her the power to control the electromagnetic waves around her, turning her into a super. And just like that, she’s thrust into the arms of the Agency that controls the superheroes and villains. Trained and set up with a Guardian who could kill her at any moment, she fights in the Roman Circus on the public stage, battling other villains in arranged battles. It’s not a bad life, not really. Except for the entire lack of freedom of choice and the ever-present threat of termination if she dares step outside of the ring…

Then, one night, she’s watching yet another super fight on the television screen; one of the best doing what he does best – beating up on a bad guy. But it’s not on the schedule…

Well, that’s where things get interesting.

“Blaze of Glory” is now available from Samhain Publishing as well as at Amazon.com and other fine ebookstores everywhere. I hope you’ll consider picking up the ebook or make plans to grab the trade paperback when it comes out in early 2011.

Me, I’m getting my old blanket out of the closet and heading for the roof.

What could possibly go wrong?