Now, to give you the status update that's so long overdue: the manuscript is just about there now, and I've committed to turning it in this Friday, May 17. Once that's done, the editor will go to work and get back to me with whatever changes he and the copyeditors may deem necessary. I imagine that will involve a few rounds of exchange but the process should go quite smoothly. The book will be edited by the inimitable Joe Coccaro who I can attest has the creds every writer dreams of in an editor.
But wait, that's not all! (Is this beginning to sound like an infomercial?) John Köehler has just posted a "Vote the Cover" announcement for the book on their website. Now you, faithful readers, get some potential say in which cover will be used for the final book. This is exciting for me because not only is it a sneak peek of the plot of the book well ahead of the slated Winter 2014 Catalog release (something I've been keeping a pretty closely-guarded secret up until now) but this captures the direct opinions of readers. That's highly valuable information for my publisher. So go now and vote for your favorite! And thank you for your support.
This all seemed quite strange to me in consideration of the recent rumors, and yes they are wholly unsubstantiated for the most part, B&N might dump their Nook devices altogether and instead focus on delivering content to other platforms. But what other platforms might those be? Certainly not Amazon (which is really just the *.mobi file system), since they're a direct online competitor. And others like Diesel, Apple and such means they'd have to go straight up against Smashwords.com, which I'd gladly welcome!
While it's unclear what all of this really means, I jumped right on this announcement of Nook Press and signed up to see what it was all about. First, the sign-up process was super easy since I was already a PubIt! author. It was just a matter of "synching" my two accounts together. But even if you don't directly publish through this platform the sign-up is still easy.
Once I signed in, I was presented with the following interface:
I've been setting up my new novel, The Rogue Gentleman, for paperback publication over the past few weeks, and it's been a great experience. A friend helped me out with the interior layout, and I was tempted to hire somebody to
design a new cover. I had already purchased a cover for the ebook but wasn't sure how to make it fit with the paper version. A little futzing around after work one night solved the problem, and I was able to do all of the cover art myself by dropping it into Amazon's pre-made template.
I ordered a proof once the initial layout was done, and it looks amazing. The glossy wraparound front stock not only brings out the colors in the cover, but also the lettering of the back copy. Inside, the content is in nice black ink on white paper, and not cheap paper, either. It's in the trade paperback format rather than mass market, and it's a quality presentation indeed. The product is well worth $12.99 (which I think is market standard currently), should you decide to take the plunge, but I'll be pricing mine around $7.99 (lucky #7 and all that).
Of course, reading the proof, I found not only errors but other things in the text that I wanted to adjust. Now the corrected file is back at Amazon awaiting their review; once done, I'll order another proof for yet another check. I think I'll have it on sale by summer.
Some who follow the writing business closely might have recently noticed a posting by science fiction author John Scalzi relating to the new Hydra imprint of Random House. Being I don’t write much science fiction anymore, I wasn’t even aware of this new imprint until a friend of mine pointed out a follow-up post by John relative to this new imprint and their deplorable contract terms.
Now I know that lots of authors think publishers should give out massive advances to every writer who darkens their doorsteps (or at least “decent” advances, a term I still deem subjectively quantitative). If you’re a newer writer and you decide to go for a traditional publishing contract—irrespective of whether the contract is good or bad or vanilla plain—you should be nice! Avoid acting like a cocksure jerk.
And in this post I’m not suggesting that’s what John Scalzi’s doing. I’m acquainted with John. He’s a decent fellow and I wouldn’t deign to criticize him publicly or in private. My point is in the context of the many posts regarding and response of groups like SFWA to the Random House contract terms. The plain fact of the matter is the sooner you understand as a writer that publishers are businesses interested in one thing, profit, the better you can prepare yourself for things like this.
There are those who go somewhere in between, like me, who accept a publishing contract with a very low advance but are involved and engaged in the entire process by the publisher, from cover art to editing to back-cover copy to marketing strategies. All for the intent of a successful campaign to get my name out there and build my readership. After all, that’s all I really want as a writer—I want others to read my work and enjoy it! To feel like they got something worth the money they paid.
Let’s not pretend we (writers) aren’t interested in making a profit from our hard work. And there’s nothing wrong with that; there’s nothing evil or criminal about that as long as we don’t trample others to “make a quick buck.” I’ve seen many bad contracts come across my desk, much worse than even this one (at least as it’s been described, I haven’t looked at the Hydra contract personally). When I saw them, I simply made a polite “no, thank you” to the publisher and that’s it. That’s not to say some of those contracts were little more than flimflam attempts to skim the cream from the crop and put the majority of the expense on me. And I did make my feelings known about Random House’s attempt in support of my fellow wordsmiths. But simultaneously I was conflicted because I have to ask myself: “Where does this end?” SFWA won’t consider this a “qualifying market.” That means writers who get published through this venue still cannot obtain membership to SFWA. (Not that I’m still utterly confounded by what groups like this bring to the table anyway—seems like they take plenty of money from writers and give very little in return, but that’s another discussion.) Simultaneously, publishers still haven’t realized their business model, in general, doesn’t work anymore in the current markets and so writers have no other option but to self-publishing through services like CreateSpace, Amazon KDP, Kobo Writing Life, Smashwords, and PubIt! (to name just a few). That won’t necessarily gain them recognition, either, and it probably won’t earn them much in the way of profit.
None of this really surprises me. I mean, come on people! Do we really think that most publishers are altruistic? Repeat after me: “It’s… a… business. It’s… a… business.” Remember the similar outrage some months (and years back) when MWA wanted to dump Harlequin for starting the quickly defunct Harlequin Horizons program? Or how about when different writers groups took Thomas Nelson to task for WestBow Press? And yet every time something new like this arises, we act surprised and climb on our high horses and become “not nice.” Indeed, if I ever got the sense a publisher was attempting to cheat me at any point in the process, I’d immediately return any advance they paid me in full and terminate the contract under the terms of force majeure.
Bottom line: if you’re going to self-publish then focus on the writing, self-publish the best quality product you can, and keep your eye on your goals. If you’re going to go with a traditional (or not so much) contract, as I did recently, then be diligent but be nice. It’s sort of like in the movie Road House, where Patrick Swayze playing the role of a club cooler tells his bouncers to “be nice.” That’s not to suggest you should let publishers walk all over you. You can say no, but be nice. You can go your own way and self-publish, but be nice. And when someone attempts to scorn you for your choices, stand firm. There’s never a time to “not be nice” unless you just find a publisher that won’t take no for an answer (and they pretty much don’t exist). It’s nothing personal, folks. Keep your eye on the ball and use common sense in contracts.
Good writing to you!