The New Publishers Weekly $149 Self-Publishing Ghetto

Publishers Weekly, a big trade magazines covering traditional publishing has made an announcement about a new quarterly supplement called “PW Select“. It’s dedicated to listing self-published titles and “reviewing those we believe are most deserving of a critical assessment.”

On the surface it sounds interesting. Until you look under the surface.

You see, out of “all self-published books submitted during that period” at least 25 will be reviewed. The $149 does not mean a submitted novel will be reviewed. You are paying ad space of a few lines and then the chance (read: lottery) at a review.

Oh, and the resource directory to be included in “PW Select”? Judging from the ads all over the PW website, count on it being chock-full of vanity publishers who are also on the look-out for naive gullible self-publishers to take money from.

As a part of this deal you get a 6 months digital subscription, which is a $90 value. This means it costs $59 to get one listing into a quarterly supplement that isn’t a part of the regular magazine. The little side-ghetto. Oh, I feel privileged to have this offer available.

Yes, the sarcasm is out nice and heavy about this.

Does this seem harsh? Yep, and for a reason:

MIGHT be reviewed?

Oh look at the pretty carrot. No, let’s call this what it is: a lottery. A big lottery where you pay your money and hope to get lucky. For $149 that is a really bad chance.

If they had been straight-forward about this, that this is for ad placement only, it would be one thing. But a lot of newbies are going to see the carrot of a possible review and submit to something with dubious benefit.

Attracting Readers?

PW has an audience, but what is that audience? It’s people already in the industry such as publishers, agents and libraries. For someone who chose and wants to be Indie, the publishers and agents portion is worthless other than picking up a few side readers, if they have time to read for recreation. Right now it’s difficult to sell Indie books to libraries without jumping through a lot of hoops, so no real advantage to that market, either.

How does this help the author? Just to be listed in a text ad? The mass of readers are not going to read PW to find books. That’s what browse and search is for in the online bookstores, as well as review blogs (which you do not pay in order to have the ‘chance’ of a review) and places like LibraryThing and Goodreads. For the purpose of attracting readers, the listing has very little to no value.

Make money!

Where is the money at for most Indie publishers writing fiction? E-books. What are the instructions from PW?

“We will not accept manuscripts or e-books (this time). Only final bound galleys or finished books will be accepted. Books cannot be returned; once finished the copies are donated to Housing Works Thrift Shop, a worthy local charity.”

Okay, we are asked to buy an ad, but we are to send in a dead tree book? Oh wait, this is tied up with the carrot of a possible review.

Listing Ghetto

If the Indie/self-publishing movement is suddenly so important after being ripped apart by PW in the past, why is it in a separate “supplement”? Why isn’t it a part of industry news? Because PW sees money that it wants but wants to keep the “traditional” industry happy by keeping the wretches away from the ‘legitimate’ publishing industry. Otherwise, this real ‘publishing news’ would be a part of the main magazine.

Financial Woes

Honestly, this move doesn’t surprise me coming from PW. While some of their articles and information are interesting, they’ve also been having financial problems. This is a way for them to bring in a new cash flow.

Oh, and traditionally released books? As far as I can tell they are not charged for listings or the possibility of reviews. Isn’t that nice that they are treating Indies so differently.

In Conclusion

This offer is about making money off the Indie authors, not by selling more subscriptions or making money off of readers. While there are valid expenses associated with going Indie, this sort of thing is not one of them. Stay away!

Blog Carnival: Why I Am Indie

This post is part of a blog carnival. To find the other posts in this carnival, go here.

The topic of the blog carnival is “Why I am Indie”.

Well, I don’t have a book out there yet, but in early 2011 I will, and I’ve already chosen to go indie. I’ve discussed the basis for the decision in the first few posts of “The E-Book Experiment”. There are so many things I could talk about for this carnival, but one that keeps coming up time and again really miffs me:

“Keep your day job.”

Uttered by one agent and editor after another (and sometimes parroted by other writers).

I grit my teeth whenever I hear or read the above. In other career paths the idea is to work at it full time to support yourself. A person is to research the career, fully engage in education to learn it, practice and perhaps apprentice to learn job skills, and then earn a living at following that career path.

But writing isn’t included in that? Because it’s a form of art we are supposed to do it only for the love of it, and never to also support ourselves so we can do more of it? Any cut in pay or taking of rights, or extra grudge work to be done? Well, look at the writer. They don’t need the money. It’s only supposed to be for the love of it. Don’t expect anything else.

Shall we turn this around and tell the agents and editors to ‘keep their day job’, as well? That this writing biz can’t support them, either?

They would laugh in our faces.

Yet, the content producers are supposed to give up that dream of that career and only do it as a hobby that takes up all our free time. The continuing education, practice and trade groups we are apart of are nothing. Because writing isn’t a ‘real’ career.

That’s a REAL insult to the creators of the content.

That said, I won’t stop writing. I couldn’t stop if I tried. It’s too much apart of me. I love it, enjoy it, work at it, and push to become a better writer with each project.

That hard work, dedication, perseverance and continuing education deserves respect. One form of respect is the ability to support the family with the results of a writer’s chosen career: published author.

My dream is to make writing my day job. If New York’s traditional ‘deal’ doesn’t allow me to do that (Big disgusting points: That I will get dropped at the drop of a pin over decisions I had no say over while having to promo with no raise in royalty rates, oh and the pitiful royalty rates that are standard) then something is wrong with it.

The new royalty rates, keeping of rights, and accessible distribution channels out there as an indie publisher makes the choice easy. Time to cast off the lines dragging down the writers and swim towards the surface.

This writer refuses to drown and become shark bait.

Finding and Expanding a New Idea

Okay, back to the business. I need product to sell. From previous posts (and a lot of thinking) I know it needs the following qualities:

* New project
* Project must be ready for release somewhere between January to March 2011
* Novella length (17,500 to 40,000 words)

We talked before about an Idea File. Knowing the above qualities, I opened up the Idea File to see if anything might provide inspiration.

The Idea File did its job well.

An idea has been lurking around for years. I’m from Alaska, and I love it and miss it dearly. The scenery and people are truly inspirational.

I also love science fiction. Not necessarily what is published out there now, but the potential of what it could be. The kinds of books I want to write. Inspirational, adventurous, entertaining, with wonderful characters and a sense of wonder.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to somehow bring those two things together? Yes, a great idea, but not a simple thing to create. “Alaska Science Fiction” has been lurking in the Idea File for years, but nothing happened.

This is typical of some ideas. They need time to stew and grow. For the Muse to bat them around in the hidden recesses of your mind for a while. Then all of a sudden the idea will pop up and declare that it’s ready to go to the ball (and then demand glass slippers).

Some people find this difficult to deal with. They want the idea to come at the moment the first seeds appear. My advice is to take a deep breath, accept it, and then keep it in front of you. Look at it from time to time and play the ‘what if’ game. See if anything sticks.

This is what happened to this idea in April.

I had:

Alaska
Science Fiction

To me, science fiction often includes aliens. From that came a mental vision of a spaceship hidden under the snow. I didn’t know why it was there, or what they were doing, but I knew it was there.

Hmm.

The big breakthrough came two weeks later at a Chinese buffet during which Mother Hen (a mystery writer) and I drank copious amounts of fantastic Chinese tea. I described the basic idea and that I thought it might be ready to be developed. She recalled reading a story published in the 1950’s called “The Strangest Tale Ever Told”. I recalled reading it when I was really young at the local public library. (LINK)

And the story started to flow.

Over tea, up popped the idea of some of the Native Alaskan tales coming to life in an explainable manner. Of aliens, spaceships and inter-galactic conflicts. Of new arrivals to a small Alaskan town in the middle of winter, finding Alaska not at all what they expected. And definitely not boring.

A problem very quickly arose. There was too much inspiration, too many ideas to stuff into one book, especially a novella. As a long-time writer, I nkow this can be the kiss of death for books (as well as a sign of a newbie writer). This was a dilemna. How could I sort through all this to pick only a few things to touch on in the novella?

The answer became obvious. This planning wasn’t just for one novella. It was for a series of novellas.

Oh, and the name?

Turns out Mother Hen had an answer to that. You see, we’ve started collaboration on a Family Adventure Science Fiction Mystery series (try to sell that genre. Hah!). We brought in a lot of characters and ideas from a mystery series she’d started planning decades before. The setting she’d developed no longer applied, as our story is set on the imaginary human colony world of Kalowna (SP?), and not Alaska, as she’d originally planned.

(And yes, she accuses me of corrupting her to the dark side of science fiction. Hehe)

Aname was sitting there unused. A perfect name. Not only for the town but for the series.

Welcome “Salmon Run” into the world!

The above experience showcases three tools that can be of great use to a writer.

1. Be patient with ideas. Some of them need the time to grow into something usable.

2. Talking out an idea with another writer can be a great way to expand an idea.

3. Be flexible. Don’t be defensive with the idea, but allow the conversation to bounce back and forth. Even when brainstorming alone, give yourself the option of going down unexpected paths. True, many will lead to deadends that are useless to the project, but some may reveal nuggets of gold that will make the project worth doing.

Pick out the ideas that give you a story really worth telling, that excite you to the tips of your toes. Have fun! I know I will be.

_______________________________
“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!

I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

If you find this information useful or interesting, please encourage others to come on by and visit.

The Idea File

There are some ideas that come out fully formed, like Athena from Zeus’ head. These ideas are ready to be turned into writing projects immediately. Others need to stew for years. Most are somewhere in-between.

Ideas are great, but only useful if they are readily available when you need them. That means time and effort to gather them. In the previous article we talked about where to find ideas. Now we talk about how to store them.

The memory can be a faulty sieve, leaking the contents when you aren’t looking. I have a bad memory, and it’s getting worse thanks to health problems. Because of this, I don’t take memory for granted. As this series continues, you will see how this has affected every aspect of my writing life.

It also affects ideas. I cannot trust myself to remember them when the time comes.

Welcome “The Idea File”.

This isn’t a new concept. Authors have been using variations of it for ages. It’s sometimes called something else; it’s sometimes formal and sometimes very informal.

Basically it’s a place to gather the ideas, inspirations, and tidbits into one place, waiting for the day it may be retrieved and used in a project.

Don’t have an Idea File? Then it’s time to start one!

It can be a literal file in a filing cabinet where you drop snippets, pictures, or notes to yourself. It can be a special notebook that you make notes in or tape things into. It can be a file on the computer that you open up and type in ideas. It can be a shoebox under the bed. Whatever works for you.

Any time I see something with story potential, whether it is plot, characters, location, technology or scene ideas, I open up a computer file and type it in quick. It takes only a minute or two, but it’s safe and sound. No chance of forgetting it or losing it. It’s tucked away, awaiting the right project.

At first the file looks pathetic. Only a few lines that are barely worth the effort to look at. At first you will likely remember everything in it, so why have it at all?

Don’t let that discourage you!

The wonderful thing about an Idea File is that over the months and years the ideas will accumulate. When you are adding new ones, an old one might suddenly spark a full idea that is usable. Or it might inspire a completely unrelated idea. Something might inspire you on a current stuck project.

And, of course, when you are finished with a writing project and need to jump into something new, this is a place to go. To find the seeds of a new project.

Read through the accumulated ideas. See if any spark scenes, plot lines or interesting characters. Try combining more than one idea.

The latter is what I’ve had the most success with. A lot of ideas just aren’t big enough on their own. But, combined with another in a different area of the Idea File? Yeow, the possibilities! A simple idea has just found depth and complexity that it didn’t have on its own.

Start your own Idea File. Add to it regularly. Perhaps you, as well, will find hidden treasures to inspire future stories.
_______________________________
“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!

I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

If you find this information useful or interesting, please encourage others to come on by and visit.

Writing Challenge Success!

July Novel Writing Month” is over as of midnight last Saturday night. While the result is the lowest word count of any July or November writing month so far, it was far from a failure.

I went into it with 3 outlines. Saturday night, well before the deadline, I finished the first draft of the third novella. Here are the stats of each of the three:

26560 – Night of the Aurora
26374 – Alien Winter
25553 – The Singing Lakes

Talk about close to each other in word count. I’m not sure I could have done that on purpose if I had tried!

Congrats to everyone else who participated, no matter how many words you wrote. 1 word more is a victory. 🙂

More information on the books will come out as “The E-Book Experiment” posts continue. Which, will be later this week!