Archive for June, 2011

Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes:

[W]hat I’ve seen this past month from established writers is an abundance of despair. I got a sad phone call from a friend, had a lot of sit-down conversations with writers who were ready to give up their dreams, and a nine-page single-spaced e-mail from a hell of a writer of dozens of published books, wondering whether or not to quit altogether.

What are these writers despairing about? Lots.

Books that would have sold five years ago don’t sell now. Series that are growing are getting bounced from their publishers for not growing enough. Agents, unable to sell product, are telling their mystery clients to write romance novels and their romance clients to write thrillers. Other agents are starting backlist e-pub companies and robbing their clients blind. Still other agents are blaming the writers for the fact that nothing is selling well and encouraging them to sign terrible book contracts.

Bookstores don’t carry paper books any longer. New York Times bestsellers can’t find their backlists in stores. American authors with bestselling novels overseas are being told that foreign countries never pay the promised royalties, only advances.

Traditionally published bestselling writers look at their royalty statements, see that their e-books sell only 30 or 100 or 200 copies in six months, and wonder how the hell upstart self-published writers whose books have ugly covers and whose interiors need copy editing manage to sell tens of thousands of e-books each month.

Editors who once had to tiptoe around their biggest authors are telling those writers to change what they write because their sales have decreased, and clearly, their writing has gotten worse over the years. Writers whose rabid fan base numbers 10 or 20 or 50K get told that their books no longer sell to that fan base even though the writer is constantly getting e-mails from that base and is signing brand new books for that base.

Publisher sales figures are impossible to get. An estimated laydown of 50,000 becomes an estimated 17,000 one month later. On the royalty statements issued six months after that, that laydown then becomes 5,000 books with another 5,000 in the reserve against returns. But, that same book, tracked by Bookscan (which only covers 50%-70% of the book market [and maybe less now]), shows sales, sales (not books shipped), of 30,000.

But even if Bookscan’s numbers are true, the book’s editor says, thirty thousand is pretty insignificant for that genre or for that particular series or for that particular writer. The writer will have to take a smaller advance and accept worse contract terms. Or the writer doesn’t get offered another contract period.

And of course, of course, it’s the writer’s fault. The writer misread the numbers, wrote down the wrong amount in the initial phone call with the editor on the laydown. Oh, it wasn’t a phone call, but an e-mail? My bad, the editor says. It was a typo. I didn’t mean 50,000. I meant 5,000.

So, the writer says, if you only printed 5,000 and I sold 5,000 and the book is still in print and still being ordered, then my book is doing well, right?

Wrong. We overpaid your advance, the editor says. We never ever should have paid that much money on a book that would only sell 5,000 copies.

What’s the solution?

First: Know that

It’s not you. You’re fine. Your writing is as good as ever. The business is changing and you’re caught in the crossfire. It’s not personal, even though it feels personal. You are caught in the middle of a nightmare. The rules are changing, and no one knows where any of this is headed. Talk to other writers. You’ll see. It’s happening to all of us.

Second: Read Kristine’s article.

Passive Guy has written another article about contracts, this one focusing on the question: Why would a good agent, one who knows how to read a contract, let their client sign a contract that contained one or more ‘gotya’ clauses in it?

PG writes:

Ultimately, for an agent, publishers are more necessary than any author.

When a publisher says an obnoxious clause like the Non-Compete Clause we discussed a few days ago must be in a contract and explains why the publisher needs the clause, how does the agent explain this clause to her client? Probably using much the same rationale as the publisher does. “I know you don’t like it, but the publisher needs this because . . . .”

After explaining the obnoxious clause 100 times to 25 authors, will the agent have a tendency to accept the clause as “the way things are done these days” or “the new standard?” Will describing the clause as something “every publisher is requiring in new contracts” be a better way to get a publishing deal and advance for the author and the agent than trashing the clause?

Since agents and attorneys who work for agents are not regulators, we don’t have Regulatory Capture here. How does Agent Capture sound? Joe Konrath talks about authors succumbing to The Stockholm Syndrome in their dealings with publishers. There may be something like that going on with agents as well.

Here is a link to PG’s blog post, it’s a good read.

It looks like JK Rowling has set up the site, Pottermore.com, to — among other things — publish her own ebooks and audo files of the Harry Potter books.

Having an ebook copy of the Harry Potter books will be wonderful! Unfortunately, it seems as though the site won’t be open to the general public before October but I’m sure we will be receiving more news about what Rowling has in store for us before then.

More links:

JK Rowling Will Self-Pub Harry Potter Ebooks
(Post by Joe Konrath at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.)

Scholastic Statement on J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore Announcement
(Scholastic’s Press Release.  Thanks to David Gaughran for the link.)

Physical bookshops frustrated with Pottermore
(Thanks to JM Cornwell for posting this link.)

J.K. Rowling, Indie Author – Roundup
(Passive Guy’s Links on this topic.)

Passive Guy goes over the non-compete clause in a contract an author sent into him. Here is part of his analysis:

PG thinks a reasonable interpretation of authorize publication would prevent the author from signing a publishing contract and receiving an advance for an entirely unrelated book until six months after publication of the first.

So, even if you’re writing up a storm, either make that advance last or go back to being a barista until you’re free to sell another book.

Passive Guy makes contracts interesting, I would encourage anyone interested to read his blog post.

Two of Ruth Ann Nordin’s books have been stolen and are, as of this writing, currently on sale at Amazon.

Here is a link to Ruth Ann Nordin’s website and her blog where she is keeping readers up to date on her attempts at getting the fraudulent copies removed. She also wrote an article for the Self-Published Author’s Lounge that gives the details of the thefts.

It is my understanding that the thief uploaded a copy of Mr. Nordin’s books onto Amazon using Ruth Ann Nordin’s name and is now receiving royalties on the sale of those books. 

My sympathy goes out to Ms. Nordin and I hope that this situation is resolved quickly. I will keep this blog post updated as more information becomes available.

Thanks to Passive Guy for blogging about this.

Edit (June 22, 2011)
Ms. Nordin has left an update on this situation at the Self-Published Author’s Lounge.

It is well worth the read but, as I understand it, Ms. Nordin says that, as of today Amazon has taken down the copies of her stolen books.

This is excellent news and I am glad that Amazon acted so quickly on Ms. Nordin’s behalf.

I have been enjoying reading about contracts lately. I know, I know, that claim may seem less than plausible, but I think that book contracts may be infinitely more fun to read about than to read.  At least, if you’re not a lawyer.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Passive Guy (from The Passive Voice) — a retired lawyer — have been blogging about book contracts and, generally, helping to raise the awareness of new writers on the subject.

In that spirit, here are some links to posts about contracts that made my jaw drop.  I had no idea what rights certain agents were trying to retain for themselves.  On that note, if you are a writer who has signed a book contract lately, Passive Guy is collecting them, trying to get an idea for what’s going on in the industry these days.  I’m eagerly awaiting that series of blog posts (or, hopefully, ebook!).

From the blog of Kristine Kathryn Rusch:
The Business Rusch: Writing Like It’s 1999
The Business Rusch: Advocates, Addendums, and Sneaks, oh my!

Kristine Rusch has many more excellent articles on the business of writing, but her website is well laid out so if you go there they should be easy to find.

From the Passive Voice Blog
How to Read a Book Contract – Agency Clause
How to Read a Book Contract – Agency Coupled with an Interest If you are a writer with an agent and, like me before I read this blog post, you have no idea what agency coupled with a interest means, this is a must-read post.

Here is what Kristine Rusch had to say about these two posts:

If you have an agent, please read these two posts even if you think you understand the agency clause. It is my experience that most writers do not understand what they’re signing in their book contracts, and some agents have been misleading writers as to what these clauses mean.

Also of great interest to me were:
How to Read a Book Contract – Somebody’s Gonna Die
You Just Signed with a Big Agent? Oh, I’m So Sorry.

See also:
Self-Publishing Basics: The Copyright Page

After writing my last post, How to record an audiobook at home, I came across a link to Steven Lewis’s Taleist blog, a blog I’m now subscribing to, and read his terrific post 5 ways to stuff up your author podcast.

In his article Steven Lewis recommends a program called Hindenburg. I went over to nsaka.com to take a look at what Hindenburg can do. It looks impressive but costs $66.50. For what the program does I’m sure that’s cheap but right now I don’t have $66.50 to spare. Then I noticed they have a version out for the iPhone called the Hindenburg Field Recorder.

Now, I don’t have an iPhone but I do have an iPad (which I think is completely awesome and that I am in love with) so I went to have a look. The app seemed great but cost $29.99. That’s more in the ballpark of what I can afford but I didn’t want to pay $30 for a program that I hadn’t taken for a trial run. Enter the Hindenburg Field Recorder Lite. It has all the functionality of the Hindenburg Field Recorder but is free. Yay! Free is good.

I downloaded the app and started playing with it. My first impression is that it was very easy to use and extremely fun. I’m not sure what the quality of the sound would be like but I think it would be exciting to take my iPad out into the city and do interviews, sort of podcasting on the go.

I’m not sure if I ever will do a podcast, but it has been fun learning more about them, and I’ve discovered a great blog in the process!

Oh, before I close this post, I would like to share a link to Steven Lewis’s podcast of his interview with Karen McQuestion. Karen was (at least this is my understanding) the first indie author most folks heard about who made a good living off self-publishing her books. It is a great interview and Karen gives many tips to new writers concerning marketing and promotion. Also, it is interesting to compare the quality of Steve Lewis’s audio (I’m assuming he has set up a home studio) and Karen McQuestion’s (I’m assuming she hasn’t).

Cheers!