Well, haven't posted in a while. Excited to be working on the sequel to Deadworld. Edits were finally finished and shipped off to editor. Crossing my fingers that if anything, there will only be minor tweeks left. They asked for info to begin working on a cover. No clue what the timeline is on that of course, but it's great to see things moving forward, even if we're still eleven months away from publication. Getting there, at publishing speed. Oh, have begun working on author website and new author blog which I will be switching to once it's ready and I'll be saying goodbye to my little LJ. Likely in October, but we'll see. Take care.

When It Rains It Pours

Been waiting for my first revision letter for some time now. Been waiting to get called back to work at my former job for way longer. Perhaps not so surprising, got call from work on Thursday and revision letter on friday. Stack this on top of being in school 40 plus hours a week for student teaching until the end of March, and you get a whole heap of not enough time to do much of anything. Fortunately, revisions not due until May, so I'm let off the hook a bit. Still, the next few weeks are going to be insane and sleep deprived.

Here Comes the Time Crunch

My final term of school begins Monday. It's my in-class student teaching element of my elementary education certification: 12 weeks of 9-4 working with students in the classroom plus additional assignments to go along with. Part-time job on top of that to keep stretching unemployment out as long as possible. Any time now I'll be getting revision letter from editor. Hmmm. Somewhere in here I've got to fit in writing time. These next couple of months are going to be a wee bit on the busy side. I feel tired just writing about it.

Premium Ebooks

Announcement came from MacMillan Publishing that they are going to be delaying ebook release on some titles but are going to be creating premium ebooks with added content to be released with hardcovers. There's been talk the past few months about this sort of possibility, from "I just want the damn text" to "it depends on what this added content is." While I think this is a great idea, publishers need something to up the value of ebooks released at the same time as hardcovers, I have to wonder if the ereader market will support this. Many of the current devices don't have a lot of support for content beyond text, so I'm left wondering just what they have in mind. It could be interesting.

I have no real problem with ebooks coming out after hardcovers. I also don't have an ereader and don't read books off my computer, so the issue has no personal effect on me. Even as an author, this doesn't effect me, as my title is going to come out as mass market, so ebook versions will arrive simultaneously. Regardless, I don't find the delayed release an issue. Ebooks don't have the margin that hardcovers do, so currently, publishers aren't making the profit off of them in comparison. Some say that a sale is a sale, so why would publishers want to reduce their numbers. My thought is that, while ereading folk will complain about waiting, I find it hard to believe they will forego the title by having to wait. Sure they'll buy something else in the meantime, but when it comes out, if they want to read it, they'll buy it. A high percentage of ereaders buy a lot of books. They want them cheap and they want them now. The digital revolution in reading is taking advantage of consumer's sense of entitlement to immediate gratification.

Will they buy a premium edition ebook for a price point more comparable to hardcover prices? Going to depend on what the content is and if their ereader will support it. The technology is quickly developing. It won't be long before we have standard ereading devices that support the variety of things one might get, from audio to video. This is going to appeal to a younger audience generally, but publishers need to be setting things up for the future. It's not difficult at all to imagine a schedule where hardcovers and premium edition ebooks come out first, followed a few months later by standard ebooks and then finally paperbacks. Premium content will be available as after market add-ons, if say for instance you want to download an interview with the author for the ebook you just read.

I look forward to what publishers may come up with for premium content. We will certainly have author interviews, audio versions, and other standard fair, but I can also see other things like: alternate endings, extended versions kind of like director cuts in movies, games based upon the stories, and backstory that was only hinted at in the book or side stories involving interesting minor characters. The possibilities are extensive. The ereader folk can deal. Most of the public has been dealing with waiting for paperbacks for a long time now, so just because digital makes it possible to get hardcovers on the cheap, that doesn't mean we should, at least for some titles. It makes business sense for the publishers, and I'm ok with that.

Ebooks and Hardcovers

Today Hachette Books and Simon&Schuster annonced that they would be delaying release of ebooks on a number of their hardcovers by four months. This will undoubtedly annoy the vast number of folks who read ebooks and are getting used to the notion of downloading new releases on release day. In the article, it was stated that this is being done to protect the hardcover model. While the numbers aren't huge on ebooks yet, it is a rapidly growing market, and the publishers feel they need to do something while they still can. Is it a kneejerk reaction? Will it really make any difference? Time will tell of course. Many believe publishers are going to lose out taking action like this. They will lose sales. Others believe the ebook market is cannibalizing hardcover sales. The reality of this really depends on the demographics of the ebook reader market. Are they really buying the ebook instead of the hardcover? Or are most of them folks who wouldn't be buying the hardcover anyway? To this point, I've yet to see any info in this regard. There is also public perception to deal with. With the growing ebook market, publishers are concerned people are going to eventually believe that books are actually only worth 9.99. I believe this is a reasonably valid point.

For those of us who wait for paperback versions anyway and rarely, if ever by hardcover, I don't see this change as being a big deal. We already wait. For the 95% of the market that don't utilize ereaders, this issue is moot. These publishers want to try and establish a model that puts digital content between hardcovers and paperbacks. Nothing wrong with this per se, I don't think. Folks with ereaders who do buy hardcovers have had a decided advantage in price. Is this percentage of readers very big? Given the current 5% marketshare of ebooks, I'd say no. If, down the road, this marketshare became significant, like 50%, then publishers would be losing money. I understand their move here. It makes some sense. It doesn't affect me as a reader however, and publishers are likely counting on the fact that this move won't affect much of their readership. As an author, this might be another matter.

My sales, brand, recognition, etc. depend on readership. My success as a debut author is rather predicated on building a base of readers. While I'm not debuting in hardcover, I can see where the problem might arise. Delaying ebooks may hurt my chances of building these precious readers. Often, chances are made or lost on that initial sales run. Especially in today's market. Publishers are more likely to drop you if you don't initally do well. I can see where it's certainly possible to lose readers by not having ebooks available right away. For publishers, they likely aren't seeing much issue here. Likely, I think publishers are more worried about their big seller titles. Losing a percentage off of 5k sales isn't a huge deal. Losing it off of a million probably is. The question remains, how many ebook readers are going to buy a hardcover because it is cheaper in digital format? How many will do this regardless of release timing? Publishers are likely assuming the gains are going to outweigh the loss, and the long term benefits will suit the bottom line better.

I'm leaning very much toward publishers being correct here. The percentage of gain in people who will indeed buy the hardcover instead of waiting for the ebook is going to be more than those who don't buy it at all if they have to wait for the ebook four months later.

Agent's New Blog!

My super-cool agent, Nathan Bransford has redisgned his blog which is now even more full of win. Also, he's added discussion forums! Given the number of bloggers who regularly visit, I foresee this forum becoming a great place to find info, network with other writerly folk, and get questions of a writing and publishing nature answered. Given I'm also no listed on his writer's blogs section, I'm going to be forced to blog here more frequently and actually come up with more worthwhile things to say. Anyway, go check it out and join the discussion at:


PW Post!

My post in Publisher's Weekly announcing my sale is up today! Woot! Very exciting.

J.N. Duncan's DEADWORLD, about an FBI agent who joins forces with her psychic partner and a vampire private investigator to stop a vengeful killer who has power over the living and the dead, to Audrey LaFehr at Kensington, by Nathan Bransford at Curtis Brown

Agents-The Evil Gatekeepers of Publishing

I've heard far too often how agents are the Evil Gatekeepers of Publishing, elitist literary snobs who wouldn't know a good book if it leapt up and bit them on the ass. Generally, this comes from frustrated writers who have had no luck in the process of finding an agent or from people who see stuff hitting the shelves they consider to be dreck. I can certainly understand the frustration. I've submitted to a lot of agents and received the rejection letters. My basic message to all of those folks is this: learn to deal with it.

Publishing is a business, which of course, everyone knows. Publishers are in it to make money, otherwise they couldn't exist. They also want to publish good books. Nobody gets into publishing without a serious love for great books. It's also a very subjective business. There's no set rules about what works. Readers are fickle. Wonderful books often don't sell. Books you can't believe anyone would read become bestsellers. There are no hard, fast rules about finding books that will sell. It's something of an art and a guessing game. Also, there are far more books submitted than could ever be placed on bookstore shelves. It goes without saying that many good books get passed over because the market just has no room for them.

How many writers have heard something to the effect, "This is wonderful, but I just don't believe I can sell it"? It's hard news to take as a writer, other than knowing someone out there likes your writing. Agents have to do this all of the time. Out of the great writing they find in their inbox, they have to figure out which of them is most suitable to the current market, i.e. what editors are acquiring and/or looking for. Most agents get dozens of queries a week, thousands a year, that they must cull through to find what not only what they would want to rep, but what publishers will be looking for. Obviously these two things don't always coincide. I hear far too often how agents and publishing in general are too afraid to take risks, to publish the good stuff people will not only want to read, but even need to read. They want to do this. It's one of the main reasons they have the jobs they do. It has to be tempered of course with the reality of paying the bills and giving people paychecks.

There's no question that the publishing industry is in a major state of flux right now, with the rise of digital publication. Self-publishing is flourishing like never before. Vanity/subsidy publishers are cropping up all over to take advantage of this state of change and the frustration of writers (this is a whole other post I have strong feelings about). Readers are buying fewer books. It's harder than ever to get noticed and break into publishing. To say however, that agents are basically ruining it for writers everywhere by being timid or too afraid to take on great books or just plain not knowing good writing is to ignore the truths about writing in today's market. They have to find great books that will sell, pure and simple. If they don't sell, they make no money. There are tons of great books out there which for many reasons, just won't sell. It's not fair perhaps, but it's the reality, and blaming agents for that accomplishes nothing. Not to mention that it's just flat out wrong.

As much as many writers believe some writing needs to be published regardless of its potential to find readership, for the sake of art or culture or whatever, publishers just can't afford to do it, though they do on a limited basis. Small risks are taken on books they love in the hopes it will catch on. Agents do this on occasion too. Sometimes a book is too good to ignore. It happens. When every agent is seeing 20k queries come across their desk every year however, you can see what your chances are.

Writers are free to turn to non-traditional methods. You can self-publish. You can make the mistake of dumping money on a vanity/subsidy publisher. You can get your book printed and sell a few copies, but the odds of finding any kind of success, i.e. readers, not so much millions of dollars, is about like winning the lottery. Your chances aren't much better. You're far better off continuing to hone your craft, write the best story you can, and get in line to speak with the gatekeeper. They're nice folk. Smart folk. They love books and want to love yours too. They also might not, which means you swallow your pride and write more and try again.

The Value of a Book

There has been a flood of commentary in recent months over digital books. They spell the doom of traditional publishing. They have annoying drm making them far too difficult to share with others. They aren't available across multiple devices. They're too expensive. Plenty of knowledgeable folk have weighed in both pro and con on the advantages, disadvantages, and worth of digital books. Honestly, I have little to add to most of that. I'm by no means an expert on digital publishing. I see the pros and the cons. It's beyond my means to afford so I haven't been tempted to delve into digital reading. I will say however, the public's (reader's) complaints about the relative worth of a digital book has me perplexed and a bit annoyed.

I've constantly heard the proclamation that because ebooks don't have the same costs as a paper book, they should not be priced the same. Somehow, folks are missing the fact that printing costs are actually a pretty small part of the equation. It doesn't equate to much of a discount. Besides, folks are getting the big convenience factor of storage and immediacy for their books. In my mind these more than offset one another. Beyond this is public perception. Folks expect like objects available through the internet to be cheaper than the real thing. This is/has/will be the biggest issue to overcome in my mind for publishing. As an author, this is a no-brainer for me. The story maintains its value regardless of format. I'd challenge anyone to logically explain that a book's content is inherently less valuable in the digital format. This brings me to my point of this post. The value of the story.

Regardless of the story's cover, be it paper or plastic, it is the same. Author's make what living they do off the sale of this content. Readers can decry the pricing all they want, but in the end, if they say digital content should be less money, they are in turn claiming the author doesn't deserve as much compensation for their work. Publishing works on close margins. They don't make a lot of money per book, and authors get a set percentage of the sale. Sell it for less and the author gets less. Do readers really want to say that authors deserve less than they already get? Again, public perception plays into this. Far too many in the public sphere believe selling a book equates to great money. Authors know of course that only the few achieve any genuine success with publication. Publishers need to work to change public perception. The story is valuable regardless of the format. Period.