C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

War Stories from Trad Publishing

When I moved to Toronto to enter the heady field of publishing, I had romanticized the profession. Profession, see? I didn’t know yet that it is mostly an industry. I dreamed that, surrounded by the glittering literati, it would be all wonderful words, sharp wit, and too many cocktails at book launches. Here are a few things I learned in short order:

1. If you’re looking for opportunities to trade bon mots, people in publishing don’t have a monopoly on that skill. They might have cornered the market on a false sense of superiority and condescension, but funny? Nope! Most of us were poor. Trying to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world does tend to dampen one’s spirits.

2. If you’re new to the industry, anyone who’s been at it for two years longer will step back to see if you’re wearing shoes. At my first cocktail party, someone held forth on the strife of the former Yugoslavia and denigrated my opinion. She may have thought me a young hick, but I was the only one in the room who had actually traveled there and witnessed the damage bullets can do.

Snobs tend to gravitate to the profession. Stephen King left a publisher who profited well off his books because, despite his early success, they couldn’t seem to remember his name when they passed in the hallway. “Only a genre author, you know.”

3. After working in traditional publishing for five years, I can assure you that they don’t have a disproportionate number of smarter people than any other industry. I was chronically underwhelmed by many of my colleagues. There were a few gems, of course, but plenty of folks whose job was to make judgments had lousy judgment. One publisher I worked for ran himself out of business because he only wanted to put out “important” books. He may have briefly impressed his friends on the Rosedale circuit, but his list did not sell enough to sustain. I remember telling my sales manager, “Another sodbuster? Fine, but would it kill him to put out a cookbook people will actually buy this Christmas?”

4. People on the editorial side, mostly women, are infamously underpaid. They do not share the wealth. The moolah all funnels up. (And don’t get me started on the unpaid intern scam.)

5. Some editors and not a few salespeople denigrate authors’ efforts. Publishing companies buy manuscripts to sell books, but their respect for those who produce those manuscripts varies widely.

Hey! Want to break free of the blank page and work inside trad publishing? If you were impressed by the dismissive speech Meryl Streep gives Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, this might be the job for you! If, on the other hand, you have self-respect and intolerance for workplace abuse, at least work at a firm big enough for an HR department.
(I put a bad boss in a hammerlock once. That fucker still owes me $5,000.)

6. Perhaps driven by desperation, some authors are pills, too. For instance, Bookstore X refused to sell books by a particular author who had a bad reputation. Bookstore X stood just down the street from the publishing house, so naturally, when the author got taken to a liquid lunch, they stopped in. The author discovered Bookstore X did not carry any of his books. “But I’m a literary icon!” the author wheedled.

Embarrassed, the publisher blamed the sales rep (i.e. me) and sent a memo to my boss. “What’s going on?” she wailed. It wasn’t a conspiracy. What was going on was the bookstore owner didn’t like the author personally. Nobody liked either of them, in fact. In hurting himself, the author tried to hurt me. (That writer is dead now. I claim to have had nothing to do with it.)

7. Speaking of bookstore owners, I liked most of them, but they had romantic ideas getting into their business, too. They thought they’d be reading books constantly, maybe even hobnobbing with famous authors. Instead, they were often saddled with businesses pushed out and pushed down by big box retail and online stores. Calculating GST payments all day and worrying about impending doom does make one surly.

One guy made a big deal out of the fact a sales rep didn’t want to get up at 4 in the morning and travel up from Toronto to pay a visit at 5:30 a.m. to a little bookstore in the back of the beyond. (Wasn’t me, but I felt bad for the sales rep from another house.) Another bookstore owner got very pissy that I dared to use the word comedy instead of humor. That person is now out of business, but I assume she’s yelling at some retail worker somewhere on Instagram.

I was tasked with presenting an extensive list for 16 publishers to a board of librarians. There were more than a
dozen people around the table as I went into my spiel. One guy thought the enthusiasm I had for my list made me stupid. I made a joke and he rolled his eyes. “Ba-dum-bump!”

I was young and full of blue piss, so I stopped my show and pushed back. “You don’t want me to be funny and energetic in my sales pitch? Fine. I. Can. Deliver. The. Entire. List. In. Robotic.
Fashion. If. You. Want. You wanna stop busting my balls now?” Everyone laughed but the guy I called out, but how can badly behaving customers learn if we don’t teach them?

8. Not everyone has romanticized ideas about what they do. My first two publishing jobs were at Harlequin. An exec struck up a conversation with me in the company cafeteria. “Why did you come here?” he asked. I told him my background was in journalism, but I loved books so I got into publishing.


“We’re not really publishers, though,” he said. “We’re book packagers.”

Meeting him, I vowed to escape before my innocence and light of aspiration in my eyes went dead.
You do want to keep some of your beginner’s mind as you move through your career. Otherwise, the days are long and sad.

9. A wannabe novelist and poet who worked as a copy editor told me, “Many people who want to write gravitate to this industry.” Then he cackled on at length about an author whose typo mixed up desert and dessert.
Maybe he wouldn’t have been so mean to actual writers if he didn’t still have a novel of his own trapped in his head. Frustrated writers make the most truculent editors.

You used to see this kind of behavior on social media, and the worst offenders were snotty agents. I don’t know if there are still high-profile agents making sport of the authors and unsolicited manuscripts in their slush piles. There are fewer agents now, perhaps for good reason.

10. This may be the worst one: Plenty of authors betting big on their first book have a romanticized idea of what New York or Toronto can do for them. They think if they get a traditional pub contract, they’re set for life. They won’t have to do a thing but write. Most authors don’t make much, and there are quite a few independent authors who do better financially. Either way, most of the marketing is on you. Some marketing requirements will feel onerous and still come to naught.

Unless you’re a controversial political figure or a hot celebrity, your advance will be lower than it was thirty years ago (and it wasn’t great then.) You may never earn out your advance and get royalties. Promotional opportunities that independent authors routinely use are denied you by traditional publishers. You don’t have the flexibility. If your first book fails to clear the bar, a trad publisher is unlikely to bet on you twice. Organize your own company, editorial team, and marketing, and you’ll get as many kicks on goal as you want.


Trying to negotiate a trad contract? Your publisher will inform you all contracts are boilerplate. Ignore them and have an IP lawyer negotiate for you before you sign your rights away. Nobody’s looking out for you but you. The acquiring editor is not your enemy, but this is the business part, not the art part.

About trad pub transparency: Your advance will come slowly, in stages, and you’ll have to rely on accounting reports from the publisher that obfuscate reality. At best, you’ll find out how your book is doing a couple of times a year, too late to respond in a timely manner.


FULL DISCLOSURE:

I’ve been independent since 2010, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t try your luck, talent, and skill in the traditional publishing arena. I am saying you should go in with your eyes open. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

Last year, a NY publisher approached me about submissions. I admit, I was excited. I sent an outline for a thriller. I haven’t heard anything from them since. I would still consider going hybrid, for sure. Any chance to expand my readership is an alluring thing. On the other hand, knowing what I know about all the variables, I’m not into chasing after anyone, either. (Cue Cheap Trick singing, “I Want You to Want Me!”)


BONUS MYTHS:

Some writers believe they are bound to get treated better by a boutique publishing house. At small operations, whoever answers the phone is more likely to know your name. However, a business on the brink is not more likely to treat you better. They don’t have the budget for that. They are more likely to go out of business.

Big versus little isn’t the issue. It’s about the people. It’s nice to work with nice, competent people who love what they do and share a sense of urgency about your work and concerns. But there’s another fly in the ointment. Editorial staffs have been downsized for years in favor of cheaper outsourcing. That editor at Big Publishing House who loved you and your work last year may not be there this year. She’s selling alpacas in Arizona now, and she’s much happier.



~ My next novel launches this September. In the meantime, please do check out links to my killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

20 on Book Publishing, 1 on Making Money and 1 for a laugh

We’ve all listened to the Rocking Self-publishing Podcast, The Sell More Books Show and Self-publishing Podcast. However, there are more than those three. Here are some more publishing podcasts to look into:

1. The Digital Publishing Podcast (it’s on hiatus but listen to the archives)

2. Dead Robots Society

3. The Kindle Chronicles (Check out the latest Seth Godin interview!)

4. Self-publishing Answers

5. Writers Rebellion

6. Ebook Publishing Podcast

7. Books, Business and Beyond

8. Write 2B Read

9. Buddy’s Writing Show

10. Self-Publishing Questions

11. The Creative Penn Podcast (Listening now to The Story Grid with Joanna Penn’s guest, Shawn Coyne.)

12. Arm Cast Dead Sexy Horror Podcast

13. The Publishing Profits Podcast

14. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast

15. And every Thursday at 10 PM EST, listen to the Self-publishing Roundtable. 

16. The Writing Biz

17. The Author Biz (Check out the latest interview with Kristine Katherine Rusch!)

Overwhelming isn’t it?

Just remember to write first. Podcasts are for treadmills, washing dishes, driving and down time.

I have two more recommendations. Though it’s not specific to self-publishing, I’d say we all have to listen to Pat Flynn’s podcast, Smart Passive Income.

Then, a palate cleanser. How about a little comedy? Last week’s target was Sarah Palin. This week, zee vorld!

Yes, I changed the format to the All That Chazz Podcast. Check out the latest episode here and have a laugh.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is your friendly lunatic suspense novelist. Find my weird at AllThatChazz.com.

UPDATE:

The first book about my funny assassin trying to get out of the mob is now finally FREE! Click the cover to grab it now!

Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FAQs: How to write books agents will hate (but readers might love)

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

Yesterday I told you how a well-meaning friend with experience in traditional publishing gave me advice I thought was askew. As we struggle to gain traction in the marketplace, we get a lot of well-meaning advice we can’t take. (You’ve probably read that sort of advice here from me.) My friend’s other foray at saving me from myself was to tell me to court agents. “With World War Z, zombies are big this summer! Find horror agents and get traditionally published!” he said.

It’s not that it’s necessarily bad advice. However, it’s bad advice for me. Here’s a list of the things I do in my books that repel agents like fried bat armpits at the wedding feast:

1. Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus is written in second person, present tense. Unconventional scares agents away. They’re trying to make money after all. I don’t blame them, but I’m in the Art and Brain Tickle business first. I have this crazy notion that being me will lead to making money. Eventually.

2. The assassin/anti-hero in the Hit Man Series is neurotic and afraid of women. (Name another hardboiled gunner who has that problem. Take your time. I’ll wait.)

3. My hit man suffered childhood sexual abuse. He’s also hilarious. Those elements rarely sit side by side comfortably.

4. Hardboiled isn’t selling hard right now. Or is it humor? Or is it action adventure? Easily classifiable is really important to a lot of people who aren’t me.

5. The titles may offend some Christians, especially since it’s crime fiction with a lot of swearing.

6. The titles are confusing until you understand that the assassin, Jesus Diaz, is Cuban and it’s pronounced “HAY-SOOSE”. In fairness, agents and publishers should be repelled by these titles. It wasn’t the best strategy because any title that requires explanation sucks. After two books, I’m committed and in love. I also have a plan around this problem after the next novel in the series is published early next year.

7. In my zombie series, This Plague of Days, the zombies aren’t “true” and “traditional”. It begins with a flu pandemic. You get to see how society gets to dystopian before the action kicks into ever higher gear. The slow burn requires more buy-in from sophisticated readers. Underestimating readers’ intelligence is an easier bet.

Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99.

Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99.

8. This Plague of Days has an autistic hero who rarely speaks and whose special interest is dictionaries and Latin phrases. Sounds like sales suicide when I put it like that, huh? That sort of gamble can pay off in a book. It’s death in the tough sell of a query letter.

9. The table of contents is a long, dark poem embedded with clues to the bigger story. Reread that and tell me I’m not silly. I know it.

10. Who will serialize a book unless I do it with my imprint? (Amazon Serials didn’t bite but readers are buying in.) Besides hooking up with Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com for his awesome covers, serialization has been my best sales strategy yet. This Plague of Days is a sprawling story tracking action over two continents with a big cast of characters. (At times you may wonder, is Chazz British or American? Split the difference. I’m Canadian.) It was too long to publish as just one book and the serialization model fit best.

When you look at that list, which idea comes across stronger? A or B?

A. All agents are evil, lazy and lack imagination.

B. I am determined to fail.

It pains me to say that all agents are not evil. I’ll save further discussion of agents for my next post.

For more on the why of this post, the writer’s character and how this relates to Joyland by Stephen King

click here for my latest post on ThisPlagueOfDays.com:

Writing Against the Grain: B Movies, A Treatments and the Deceptive Familiar

 

Filed under: agents, book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Do you have time to get published? And can we dump the “self” from publishing?

P Harry Potter

Image via Wikipedia

Wow. I just noticed that an author profiled on this blog, the great JE Knowles*, was rejected 100 times before her book Arusha, was accepted by Spinster Press. I’ll say it again: Wow. That’s common. Many authors who later went on to great success were rejected many times before someone in traditional publishing saw their manuscript’s sales potential. One day, JK Rowling will announce who rejected Harry Potter before Bloomsbury picked up the deal of a lifetime. (Then the tears, excuses and recriminations can really begin. That promises to be quite delicious, but I digress.)

The reasons for such rejection are many (and many of those reasons have little or nothing to do with any particular author.) I’ve delved into that reasoning elsewhere, so let’s talk about time. It takes you a long time to write a book and get your editor and/or beta-readers lined up. You comb and comb the manuscript and until at last you don’t find any typos. (As soon as you send off the manuscript, inevitably you will find a new round of typos and errors but just do what you can because that’s all any of us can do.)

You do your research and you send it off to editors or agents. You format your submission to the individual requirements of each agency or publishing house. Most just want queries up front and some want an outline, too. Others will ask for partials but the length of a partial can vary. If it’s non-fiction, you’ll need a business plan for all the marketing you intend to do to sell the book and evidence of your vast platform. You send it all off to five agents or houses and you wait. In the meantime, you work on expanding your platform and thinking happy thoughts and get all caught up in that positive thinking bullshit of The Secret.

Many agents and houses don’t actually do rejection slips anymore. No answer is an answer. The trouble with that is, you don’t know when they’re done with you. Next, after some undetermined time, you feel like your stress headaches will squeeze your forehead so hard your brains pop out through your nose. So you decide it’s time to decide upon the next five agents and you begin your research again.

And so on. And you begin to question your mission on earth and the need for your existence. And you get more of those brains and blood in the Kleenex headaches. And then you get a nibble. An agent wants a partial from a query you’d assumed had been forgotten. This tentative bit of interest can go south so many ways so quickly, I’m not even going to belabor those ugly facets here. Let’s just say, it’s a long road to getting an agent, and that’s no guarantee you’ll be published.

Once you get over the initial ecstasy of someone validating your wretched writerly existence (and that little orgasm is disappointingly brief) you start to get itchy that your book isn’t up for sale and won’t be for a long time.  “Patience,” you’re told. You’ll be told that a lot. Eventually you may begin to wonder if it’s just you being impatient. Then that will pass and you’ll start to wonder if there really is a flaw in the argument of  “This is how it’s done and this is how we’ve always done it.” The point is, after you’re accepted by a traditional publishing house, it still an 18-month wait until you hold a book in your hand. In most cases, unless you’re Sarah Palin (and thank God you aren’t!) that time-frame is a minimum.

So, how old are you? Do you have years to wait before you’re in print? There are alternatives. Smaller presses and POD publishers might have a shorter time frame to get your work in print. Using Smashwords, you could have your book out very quickly.  E-books are fast. Often, too fast.

If you’re not prepared to wait for the traditional publishing model, the deeper question is: Are you prepared to start your own business and become an independent publisher? I see a lot of self-publishers, but I see far fewer independent publishers who are prepared to dive in and get really serious.  The difference between a self-publisher and an independent, I think, is one of seriousness and commitment. You can get anything out there quick and awful. Any half-considered manuscript full of errors and dropped threads can be pushed on an unsuspecting populace quickly. (Of course, it won’t sell well, the word of mouth will consist of warnings and readers you suckered the first time won’t come back for your next book.)

I’d like to see more independent publishers who are ready to hire an editor (said the editor) and swim in the deep end of the pool. The stink on self-publishing is that the quality is atrocious. Eventually, I’d love it if the independent publishers who committed to quality outnumbered the self-publishers. In many people’s minds, “self” will always signify “vanity.” Those objections aren’t all wrong.

As creators, we must demand more of ourselves for emerging models to fly. We’re at the end of the beginning. Now let’s knuckle down.

And yes, you’ll see my first book, independently published, up and out there, later this year.

 

*See the first link below for that interview and more information about JE Knowles.

Filed under: DIY, ebooks, Editing, Editors, publishing, self-publishing, Useful writing links, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

Writers: Self-publishing resources

Yesterday I wrote about a scenario that appealed to many people. After an encounter with her agent that doesn’t go well, a writer achieves the critical mass necessary for her to go indie.

Whether that route is for you depends on many variables. Self-publishing is definitely not for everyone. If you’re wondering if self-publishing is for you, here are a few books to get you started so you know what you’re getting into:

self-publishing_manual

the_complete_guide_to_self-publishing

 the_indie_author_guide

Filed under: authors, Books, self-publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: The self-publishing/Massage Therapist Correlation

Massage in Tarifa, Spain taken on May, 6 2007 ...

Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t had what my father would call a real job since 1991. The factors that make that so are all tied up in being a writer and editor.

Years after training as a journalist, working in newspapers and working in the publishing industry, I went back to school again to become a massage therapist, too. The reasons why were varied, but the most important factor was that I wanted to work for myself. I have an independent streak and I hated working for The Man. I still hate working for The Man. Writing, editing, therapeutic massage: it’s all independent work. There is no hierarchy. The Chazz does not do hierarchy.

But a lot of people do. Most people have a boss. The fact is, I don’t understand how they stand it. I pull at authority’s leash so hard I have sometimes hurt myself in tiny acts of rebellion.

Despite the rebel yell, the truth is I have many bosses. Everyone I encounter in my practices as an editor, writer and massage therapist is my boss. I have chosen many bosses instead of one. I have chosen one-to-one interaction instead of dealing with a group. I deal with people for an hour at a time or for short projects, always with an eye to where the next project will come from. There’s no security in this. My income goes up and down unpredictably.

On the other hand, with all that I do, there is the security of knowing they can’t all fire me at one time. If you have one boss who wants to lose you on a whim, they can do that. That’s the smug solace of the lone wolf. 

But lots of people accept authority as the way of the world. That’s becoming less true as massive unemployment forces some to seek out their own solutions and form their own businesses. Entrepreneurship used to seem like it was for the few who chose the harder way. Now, when so many can’t find work, starting up a sole proprietorship and going for it is forced upon them.

Here’s what I notice: People are just wired one way and not the other. Most massage therapists and writers I know have an independent streak. We have to grit our teeth a bit to do something that is in many ways outside money’s eco-system.

But there are a bunch of therapists who do, in fact, want to work for somebody. They want someone else to take care of the laundry, the advertising, the tax paperwork and anything else that doesn’t directly relate to physically doing the work. They love that they can come into the office, do their thing and leave without another thought to the running of the business. I wouldn’t call it freedom, but they do.

In the past, the publishing industry has been built on the hierarchical model. Someone else will publish your book. Someone else will take care of the editing and (some) of the promoting and it will all be part of one complete package. Thanks to technology, authors are discovering they have more options than history has provided.

For authors deciding when to make the leap to independent publishing, there is a lot to consider: market factors, price points and leveraging your platform to sell enough books to make the enterprise profitable.

Beyond the practical and esoteric (which must be figured out, too) you have to start with the personal: you. Which way are you bent? Do you want someone else to take care of things (and give them a deeper cut of the profits and losses)? Are you up for the nitty-gritty of doing the work of many on your own? Can you hire an editor, find a publicist, do the research and build your audience? It won’t be easy. You’ll have to talk with a lot of people and the greater your network the more chance you’ll get your feelings hurt. When the mesh of your network tightens to a closer knit, there will be friction.

Only you can decide if you have enough of the anti-authoritarian, do-it-my-way, I’m-a-control-freak, entrepreneurial-bent. Once you’ve figured that out, here’s a great article that explores the location of the tipping point between traditional publishing and going indie.

No matter which way you are wired, if you’re a writer you’ve got a muse.

Next stop on the Reality Train:

Introspection Station.

Self-publishing has developed to a point where it is neither good nor bad. Depending on your temperament, it could be a solid choice or a horrible one.

Filed under: authors, Books, DIY, ebooks, Editing, getting it done, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

Join my inner circle at AllThatChazz.com

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,352 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: