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How To Eat Fried Words

So, one thing I have learned in life is that I am destined to eat my words. I have made claims since I was young that I wouldn’t do any of the following:

Live in the South

Get married

Become a salesman

Go to church

Have a cell phone

Have email

Eat any animal product ever again

And a few more…

I have systematically been forced to eat each and every one of those words above.

I currently live in Asheville, NC and love it. It’s a lot like where I grew up (Eugene, OR), but with southern hospitality. And, by the way, there’s no more racism or bigotry in the South than any other region of the US. Trust me.

I got married, and am still happily married with two wonderful kids. Glad I ate those words.

When my son was born I had to make a choice: get a real job and make money or keep slinging hummus as a natural foods chef. Money (and responsibility) won easily.

I currently attend a pretty groovy non-denominational church here in Asheville. Any place that regularly plays the Grateful Dead and Rusted Root as part of the service is fine by me.

I, of course, have a cell phone and five email accounts. What can I say? I was living in a basement in the mid-‘90s when I said that stuff. Who knew?

While I am still vegetarian, I am no longer vegan. There really just isn’t a vegan version of great pizza. Sorry cows.

So, what does this have to do with writing? A lot.

Since I started writing seriously I have made many statements and drawn several lines in the sand. Of course, as I have gained experience as a writer and learned more about the business and realities of writing, I have had to eat those words, also. Or probably will eat them in the near future as I face some hard decisions.

That’s great, Jake, you say, but why should we care?

Well, dear reader, if you are an aspiring writer you better care. In this day and age of blogs and websites and Facebook and Twitter, your words are permanent. If you change your mind, you will be challenged. You will be challenged with your own words.

So, Jake, what you are saying is we should waffle and be wishy washy wusses?

Not at all. What I’m saying is choose your words wisely. Be sure you have all the facts, and experience, before you make blanket statements that could hurt your credibility down the road when you realize you were a rookie ass when you made those statements.

Can you give us an example?

Of course! I once said I’d podcast every single bit of my fiction for free forever. That was a stupid thing to say. Why? Because I am now shopping a YA novel to major publishers (well, my agent is doing the shopping, I’m doing the waiting) and it won’t be just up to me whether or not I can release that YA novel as a free podcast. Publishers have different opinions of free. Pretty much 100% of those opinions are against free of any kind. I want the novel to be successful, so if they say I can’t podcast it then I’m not going to fight. You have to pick your battles.

Another example?

Hmmmm, let’s see. Oh, yes. I once said I didn’t think ebooks were a big deal and I wouldn’t release my writing as ebooks. They were just a waste of time. Yep, ate those words. Ate them big time. I now have several ebooks available for sale with many more on the way. It’s amazing how the world changes in just a few months.

What’s changed that makes you write this mea culpa?

The world has changed. It has changed big time.

Last May I was on the self-publishing panel at our local con, FANATICON. I was hoping to get published and didn’t really have a ton of experience to speak of, but shared my knowledge of podcasting my novel and the success that I had with building a fan base. I didn’t mention ebooks once and neither did any of the other panelists. Nor did a single attendee ask about ebook publishing. This year I am on the panel and will be moderating the discussion. I’m guessing there will be a good chunk of time devoted to ebooks.

That’s it?

No. My time has changed. I have a lot less of it. Well, actually, I have a lot more going on now and it is taking up all of my time.

When I first started writing, and podcasting, I only had one project to deal with. As of this moment, I have no less than twelve different projects in the works. And that doesn’t include guest posts, my time on Twitter and Facebook, my time helping other writers, interviews, podcast/writing discussions, etc.

I no longer have the time luxury of spouting off like I know everything. I just don’t have time to know everything!

So, what specific words do you see yourself eating soon?

Well, if I told you that then that would defeat the purpose of this post. I’m not gonna say anything until it happens. Otherwise I’ll spend my time backpedaling instead of writing and publishing. I don’t like to back pedal. Riding a bike makes my bum hurt.

And that’s it, folks. Nothing hugely insightful, just some words on eating words. Maybe this post will help some of you take a step back the next time you’re about to make a major proclamation. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes of talking like I knew what I was talking about when I couldn’t possibly have known what I was talking about since I didn’t have the experience of talking about it for real yet.

That makes sense, right?

Sigh. I’ll probably end up eating these words, too. Oh, well…

Cheers, yall!

Hey, Writers, Guess What? No More Excuses!

So, as most of you know, I’ve been pretty vocal on the whole self-pub/indie publishing wave that is occurring right now. See! There goes another twelve thousand digital books!

I have also made sure I’m not picking sides while the war between the “traditional” publishers and “indie” publishers wages on. It’s not my war and I have zero stake in it. Think of me as Switzerland, but without the Nazi gold.

That’s not to say I won’t take a stand where I think I need to. Now, I’m just as clueless as everyone else when it comes to where publishing is heading. What I’m not clueless about is where writing is heading if folks keep tossing their should-be-rejected-by-God-and-all-that-is-holy digital novels into the marketplace.  That’s a no-brainer.

Which brings me to my point: the no-brainers. The novels written and published without a thought. I’m not going to site specific examples, because I find that tacky. I don’t need to call people out to make my point. I have class. Well, I have the illusion of class, at least.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that if you’re going to publish your novel yourself then, as a writer, you have a duty to make sure it is professionally edited, has a professional looking cover and that you handle yourself in a professional manner. Writers, just like teachers, journalists, lawyers, doctors, architects, etc are professionals. If you want to be a writer, then you must want to be a professional also. No separation between the two exists.

Let me put it this way: would you continue to see a doctor that walks into his office with a lit Pall Mall dangling from her lips? Would you use a lawyer that has nothing but file folders stacked on his desk and not a computer in sight? Would you continue to read a journalist’s work that sites Perez Hilton as a reliable source? No, you wouldn’t. So why, as a writer, would you expect readers to tolerate your typos, your bad photoshopped cover and your author bio that was obviously written by your mother?

There’s no excuse for any of those things!

“But, Jake, I can’t afford to have all those things done professionally!”

That’s not an excuse, that’s a delay. Understand? Wait until you can afford those things. Or figure out how to beg, borrow or steal (don’t steal because that’s wrong) the services you need. There are ways to get what you need done at the price you can afford. You are not ready to be a professional if you aren’t ready to hire professional services.

“But, Jake, I see lot’s of writers publishing novels that have bad covers, tons of typos and their website looks like they developed it on 1997!”

Really? Monkey see, monkey do is your argument? There are some lemmings heading for the cliff over there. Get in line and leave me alone.

“But, Jake, if I don’t get my work out there now while ebook publishing is still new then I’ll be lost in the glut that’s about to happen?”

You do realize there have been MILLIONS of print books released before you were even born, right? Are you whining about getting lost in the glut of all of those? Please, ebooks are a format, that’s all. You were never going to be a single star in the sky before, don’t think you will now.

“But, Jake, I learn better by doing. I’ll fix the mistakes later.”

Uh-huh, right… That’s a good argument actually. After all, Doctors call their businesses “practices” because they must keep learning their entire careers. Of course, they have to go to eight years of college, years of residency, deal with state boards and licenses, keep up their CEUs for re-certification/licensure and literally have their patients lives in their hands. Once again, they are professionals. Teachers have to go through all of this too, as well as lawyers. Sure, you learn as you progress in your career, but you certainly don’t just hang out a shingle stating: “I am a Writer because I say so!” You put the time in to hone your craft to a point where someone says, “Hey, I liked that. You should publish this.” Trust me, your own word is not good enough.

“But, Jake, I’ll lose thousands of dollars if I don’t publish NOW!”

No, you won’t. That’s just stupid. There’s no gold rush, people. The vein isn’t going to disappear. There have been writers since the dawn of written language and there will be writers until society destroys itself in a massive microwaved Peep apocalypse! You aren’t going to miss the ebook train, so calm the hell down!

“But, Jake, some ebook authors have sold hundreds of thousands of books and they did it all themselves!”

Yep, you are right. That’s called The Lottery. Let me spell that L-O-T-T-E-R-Y. Not the Shirley Jackson short story masterpiece, although I’ll gladly stone your excuse-laden ass. No, this is where you have a 1 in 1 quadrillion chance of hitting those kind of numbers out of the gate. Could it happen? Sure, because it has and possibilities are infinite. Will it happen? Well, you tell me. Has your piece of crap, typo-ridden, crayon-drawn covered novel sold a hundred thousand copies yet? Didn’t think so. And neither have the majority of perfectly professional novels released, whether print or digital. Success in publishing is dictated by one thing: luck. Right story, right place, right time. Get used to it.

“But, Jake, what about-?”

Oh, shut up! No more excuses! There are no excuses to do something wrong!

Will you make mistakes? Yes, everyone does. I have books on my shelf  put out by small presses that are like pieces of art and I have books put out by billion dollar companies that have more typos than my eight year old’s book report! Shit happens, folks. But, just because shit happens doesn’t mean you should step in it if you can avoid it! That’s just crazy talk. Why purposely step in a steaming pile of shit? Who does that?

So to sum up: No excuses will be tolerated. You don’t have to be perfect, no one is, but you do have to be professional. Do it right the first time. Don’t fling your poo out there like the other monkey-sees.

Cheers!

Why Draw Lines? The Us vs. Them BS!

Okay, so I’m gonna probably stir the hornet’s nest a bit here, but there’s something I need to get off my chest.

Here it is: I’m really sick and tired of this “Us vs. Them” attitude in the indie publishing community. I’m also sick of it in the traditional publishing community. It’s a load of crap. Big, stinking, make you choke and gasp, pile of crap!

Why do people insist on drawing lines in the sand?

Now, I know my situation is different than most writers (or not). I have been published by a small press then negotiated my rights back (the publisher was more than gracious to allow this) and have since independently published my novel, DEAD MECH, on my own as an ebook (print to come soon). I have also published my collection of short stories, Bethany And The Zombie Jesus, plus several of the short stories on their own as ebooks. I’ll be publishing a collection of my Friday Night Drabble Party releases, my Scenes From The Apocalypse drabbles and a Halloween collection of drabbles soon. This puts me in the “indie publisher” category and I embrace that.

But, there’s more! I have also written a YA zombie novel (about conjoined twins: one dead, one alive) and have found a wonderful agent that is currently in the process of shopping this to the big publishers out there. This puts me in the category of “traditional publishing”. And I’m fine with that.

I have seen tons of forums filled with nothing but hatred for traditional publishing. The folks posting talk about how big publishing will screw you over and they are dinosaurs that are past their time. They talk about how indie publishers need to stand together and if you dare say anything counter you will be vilified on the spot. I think this is childish and highly unprofessional. It’s totally cool to want solidarity among indie publishers, I’m all for it, but to go after those that still want a traditional publishing contract is silly.

Why is it silly? Because traditional publishers don’t screw you over, you screw yourself. They do not have a gun to your head when you sign that contract. Your family is not being threatened with bodily harm if you don’t take their royalty rates. In fact, traditional publishing could give two craps about you. They have tons of authors they are working with that need their attention (yes, we can debate the definition of “attention”) and dealing with your whining really isn’t a priority.

This persecution myth needs to stop. Really, folks, just knock it off. If you don’t like the contract (and this applies to contracts for ANYTHING) then don’t sign it! Simple as that. Don’t. Sign. The. Contract. It’s okay to do. Many writers walk away from contracts. It’s your right, exercise it!

Oh, but wait, you’re telling me you do want to be published by a big New York publishing firm? But you want them to bend to your will and offer you a contract on your terms? Why should they do that? They have a business to run, and as outmoded and bloated as it may be, it’s their business and not yours! Get over yourself!

On the flip side, all the traditional publishing proponents need to stop vilifying indie publishing as the scourge that will destroy the industry! Stop saying that indie published novels are inferior in quality. Stop saying they don’t go through all the checks and balances that make for a great novel. Stop saying that ALL indie published authors are just throwing out their old rejected crap. Sure, there is a LOT of indie published crap out there. But, there is a TON of traditionally published crap too! That’s just a fact. And I have yet to see a disproportionate amount of crap coming from the indie published authors. It’s pretty much the same ratio as with traditional publishing.

And stop saying that selling novels at $.99 is bringing the industry down! McDonalds sells cheeseburgers for less than $.99 but that hasn’t stopped anyone from going to a restaurant and paying $7.95 for a burger! It also hasn’t stopped McDonalds from being a multi-billion dollar a year company. There is decades upon decades of retail statistics that show this argument is not based in anything even resembling fact. Knock. It. Off.

Okay, so why am I even posting this? Why go to the trouble of pointing any of this out and risk the backlash from either side?

That’s a simple one: because the state of publishing, whether indie or traditional, is in complete chaos and being ruled by fear on both sides! No one knows how everything is going to work out. No. One. What we need to do is pull together and get to a compromise where everyone can benefit. Will that be easy to do? No. But it needs to be done.

Does traditional publishing need to pay higher royalties? Yes. Do they need to get their head in the game when it comes to ebooks as a 100% viable, and soon to be dominant, publishing format? Absolutely.

Do indie publishers need to come down off their cross and realize that they hold their fate in their own hands? Yes. Do they need to stop bitching about being victims in a system that they aren’t even participating in? Absolutely.

But this doesn’t even touch what’s really important and getting missed in this stupid argument!

What’s being missed is this: readers don’t give two craps about any of this. They just want to be entertained. They don’t know indie publishing from shinola! They just know when they’ve read a great book and when they’ve read something that was scraped off the bottom of a writer’s shoe. The argument between traditional and indie publishing means nothing to the reader! Let me say that again: The argument between traditional and indie publishing means nothing to the reader!

Are you listening writers? Are you listening publishers? The reader doesn’t care! They. Don’t. Care. At. All.

It’s time for EVERYONE to get over themselves. It’s not about you Mr. Author Person. It’s not about you Mr. Editor Guy. It’s not about you Mrs. Publishing Giant. It’s not about you Miss Agent Extraordinaire. It’s not about any of you. Or about me!

It’s about the Reader. And it always has been!

So let’s erase the sand lines and get back to what we are all supposed to be doing: giving the Reader quality product in the format they want at a price they can afford. That’s just simple business, folks. Simple business…

You, The Reader!- Your view on ebooks.

So a while back I posted a questionnaire asking readers about their thoughts on ebooks. If you didn’t see the questionnaire then here it is!
1. Have you delved into ebooks? If so, what is your ereader of choice and why?
2. When choosing an ebook, what is the #1 deciding factor for purchase? The #2 factor? And #3?
3. Does DRM (Digital Rights Management) matter to you? Would you choose not to purchase an ebook if it has DRM?
4. Do you look at the “others purchased these books also” selection at the bottom of an ebook page? Does this usually lead to a purchase of a suggested selection?
5. What is the maximum price you would pay for an ebook? Does the stature of the author (King, Koontz, Meyers, Rowlings, etc.) influence what you would pay?
6. If a free ebook is offered by an author and you like it, would you then pay for their other work(s)?
7. How do you usually hear about new books? What starts your search?
8. Free-for-all essay part! Use this portion to sound off and say whatever you want. Any questions you wished were asked? Prefer a different font when answering questionnaires? Go for it, this is your place to vent/crow/cry/laugh/yell!

I was lucky enough to receive nearly forty responses from readers! Thanks everyone!
I shall now, in a very scientific way, breakdown the results question by question. Remember, this is science and there is no room for error or interpretation! What I reveal here is how EVERYONE thinks.
Just kidding. Please use these results and questions as a jumping off point and comment away!

1. Have you delved into ebooks? If so, what is your ereader of choice and why?
Everyone answered that, yes, they have delved into ebooks. The ereader of choice: Kindle or Kindle app on another platform. Those that have an actual Kindle LOVE them. I had several respondents make sure to point this out. Second favorite device for reading ebooks? The iPad using a Kindle app or Stanza. Some Nook readers, but only a couple. Only had one say Sony. I personally use my iPhone with the Kindle app.

2. When choosing an ebook, what is the #1 deciding factor for purchase? The #2 factor? And #3?
#1 reason folks buy an ebook is because of the author. They already know their work, so they are happy to keep purchasing that author’s work. #2 reason is whether it’s been recommended by a friend or if the synopsis/reviews/blurbs catch their attention. I put these two together because they were neck and neck and because they really are about the same thing: word of mouth. #3 was almost 100% about price, but subject matter came close. The next biggest reason? Cover! This wasn’t huge, but it was mentioned quite a bit. As was availability on platform (Kindle store, Nook store, iBookstore, etc.). Oh, and a good sampling. Authors: make sure your stuff is free of typos! This really ticks off those that use samples as a basis for purchasing your book!

3. Does DRM (Digital Rights Management) matter to you? Would you choose not to purchase an ebook if it has DRM?
Now, this was very interesting. I had three categories of responses: Doesn’t matter, really. What’s DRM? And, SWEET GOD IF IT HAS DRM THEN I WILL NUKE THIS WORLD!
The majority leaned towards it doesn’t matter a whole lot. I found that interesting. Then it was a near tie between those that had no idea what DRM is (Digital Rights Management means it can’t be shared across platforms, like Kindle to Nook), and those that said they wouldn’t even think about purchasing an ebook with DRM. My take? I make sure I don’t put DRM on any of my ebook releases. Why lose a sale? Am I worried about piracy? No, I give my stuff away for free through my podcast. Plus, pirates are cool!

4. Do you look at the “others purchased these books also” selection at the bottom of an ebook page? Does this usually lead to a purchase of a suggested selection?
This was interesting. Why? Because almost every single person responded that they look at the “others purchased these books also” selection, but that they rarely BUY a book because of this listing. Some do, but most don’t. Hmmmm…

5. What is the maximum price you would pay for an ebook? Does the stature of the author (King, Koontz, Meyers, Rowlings, etc.) influence what you would pay?
So, the range people would pay was from $4.99-$25 for ebooks. No one said $.99. No one. The real surprising part was how many people said they don’t care about price if it’s a book they really want.
As for author status? To sum up with my favorite response: “Status schmatus! I’d rather give an up-and-coming author money than King or any of those guys! I don’t need to fund their new summer house!”. Many respondents pay for what they can’t get. You can get plenty of King used for $2 or in the bargain rack at B&N for 70% off. Gotta love supply and demand!

6. If a free ebook is offered by an author and you like it, would you then pay for their other work(s)?
The answer to this was a resounding YES! IF they like what they read.
Authors: if you’re gonna give it away for free, make it good! Don’t put your crap out there. It’ll do more harm than good.

7. How do you usually hear about new books? What starts your search?
As I expected, people listed many, many different sources for finding new books to read. Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, advertisements, friend recommendations, blogs, radio, podcasts, etc. You name it, it has some influence.

8. Free-for-all essay part!
Here are a couple excerpts from respondents. These summed up a lot of what others said.

“We are steaming towards an all virtual world where book shelves are only for show, as we have seen the demise of the CD rack and are seeing the move from DVD to digital download alternatives.
Personally I prefer the ability to carry all of my books with me in one handy device, whether they’re fiction, reference or… er… is there only two kinds of book?”

“Do whatever you can to make sure your ebooks are never priced anywhere near the print book. The big publishers charging $9.99 or whatever are absolutely insane.”

“I’ve read/heard some fantastic stuff and I enjoy the personal accessibility smaller authors give their fans. I feel better as a consumer supporting people who are thankful for it. Not to say that big published authors aren’t grateful, but you certainly don’t get personal thank yous from them, either.”

“I love electronics, that said; the e-book, cloud book, whatever… maybe the future, however, it can not compare to the texture or scent of holding an actual hard copy print of a book… that my friend is intoxicating.”

“I hate Snooki. Why she has a book out, I’ll never understand.”

Quick round-up:
Reading all of these was pretty cool. It was great to hear directly from readers (and some authors that made sure they answered as readers). The #1 thing that caught me by surprise was how many people are willing to pay top dollar for an ebook IF it’s what they want right now. I have to admit I’m one of those people.
When reading all of this it strikes me that the answers are really close to how I feel about buying and reading books in general, whether print or ebooks. What does this mean? Reading is reading is reading. And readers are readers are readers. Doesn’t matter if it’s a tattered paperback or a brand new shiny iPad, it’s about the story and how that story makes you feel.

What all this info tells me is that, as an author, I just need to keep writing and keep improving!

I’m glad I did this and glad everyone responded.

Thank you!

The Shadow Publications Interview!

Yes, you read that right, Paul E. Cooley of Shadow Publications, author of the Fiends Collection, has interviewed me.

Now, if you have never heard a podcast where Mr. Cooley and me are on together then you should be warned. Yes, you should be. What’s the warning? JEEZ! You want me to do everything for you? Golly!

In all seriousness, you should be warned.

Okay, I’ll stop. WARNED! Now I’ll stop.

Great interview, great time and great guy. Check out Mr. Cooley’s info at shadowpublications.com

The show can be found here HERE!

Enjoy!

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