Friday, July 22, 2011

Down the Moors and Through the Mist

Like many authors, I'm no good at the social networking part of writing. I'd rather be writing. Can't make any money, and few books appear on shelves, without the writing. Now that I have a way to get my books into print (virtual and otherwise), it's time to get busy.

I read a post by Joe Konrath this afternoon about how people like John Locke, Amanda Hocking, Barry Eisler, and Joe Konrath, got to the point where they began making real money. They wrote books.

It is a radical concept, the whole writing a book thing, but it is a necessary concept. One can only check sales figures and review postings so many times before it becomes boring and pointless. Little changes in an hour or two, although I did find another review on Among Women from a woman who is a native of New Orleans, and a brand new fan looking for more of my work. Now that I can handle. The readers no one can please, unless it is a child's book for children under the age of three or four, are just too few and far between (you hope) to bother with, and it's never a good idea to engage a reader who obviously has not read your book in the back-and-forth of argument. It's pointless.

I did, however, engage in a discussion with a reviewer because she gave my other novel, a not romance three stars on one site and two stars on another site. It was an oversight, and I never mentioned or questioned her reasoning. She's entitled to her opinion. Can't make everyone happy and not every reader will like what any author likes. There will be fans and not fans and the only thing to do is hope the fans outnumber the not fans.

It takes a great deal of time and effort to write a novel and more than a couple hours a week of promotion is all I can stand before characters begin appearing in my dreams (day and night) and tugging at the strands of creativity to get my attention and get me back to the keyboard to write. That is where the battle is won or lost -- on the page.

I have been working sporadically on the Victorian Gothic novel and I'm beginning to hit my stride. At this rate I'll have it done in about a month -- or a hundred.

It is not easy picking up the threads of a novel begun so long ago and fitting into the narrator's voice, in this case Delilah Makepeace. Luckily, I spend enough time reading British novels and books about Victorian England that it is all coming back to me. I might make that month after all for the first draft, and then will begin the work of editing, revising, proofing, and tightening or expanding where needed. Spending so much time marketing and networking, I forgot how much fun it is to get into the mood and voice of the characters and record the deeds, foibles, and evil. Since Whitechapel Hearts is written in first person, there are fun and thrills to be had, and my imagination is filling in some pretty fascinating blanks. I should consider writing more thrillers, even if of the Gothic version. I sure loved them while growing up, and I still enjoy them now and again.

In the meantime, there is work. I've books to read and review, laundry to catch up, cold showers to take to keep cool, and the odd hour or five to spend with Delilah in Faustin Hall where she will stumble onto a secret that will change her life -- but then it might be too late. You just never know when the writing takes over and the characters speak.

Then I might return to New Orleans for a sequel to Among Women or move on to future Earth where vampires prey on and take care of the remnants of humanity in a world of darkness and cold. There are always the brownies that need to be stalked and a father drinking to forget that once he walked on the wild side to stalk the wild brownie before he was kicked out of the country and left with his craving, and his daughter, to keep him company. So many stories, so many worlds and situations, and no time for socializing.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Man Behind the Curtain

The Big 6 publishers' ire and animosity toward Amazon for venturing into publishing waters is not unexpected. It is, however, laughable when considered in light of other forays in the publishing world.

Where was their anger when the Big 6 began offering their books to Wal-mart, grocery stories, and big box outlets? Were they not cutting out the sales that bookstores should have received and creating a monopoly whereby drug stores, grocers, and big box outlets were selling books as well as other goods? Borders no doubt failed to appreciate the irony of the move. After all, people spend far more time in those stores than in bookstores, like Borders, browsing the shelves for necessities, so picking up a book at the same time is little more than good time management. Get the product to the consumer in the best way possible. I guess buying a book at a bookstore is passe, and no one mentioned the monopoly word.

Then there were boutique and micro publishers -- aside from the university and college presses, which were no threat to be begin with -- that entered the publishing fray and the Big 6 yawned. How could a boutique publisher come within shouting distance of being a threat? They didn't do what the Big 6 did, and a new crop of possibilities opened up for authors. Smaller advances and nowhere near the Big 6 budget for advertising and marketing, but legitimate publication -- on a much smaller scale. What's to worry?

Then Amazon entered the arena and the crowd was silenced, their silence followed by oohs and aahs of wonder and possibility, and the Big 6 called, "MONOPOLY!" and demanded something be done. Where was the monopoly when they parceled their books out to retailers already selling so many other articles, including food, furnishings, electronics, televisions, games, software, cameras, and everything else under the sun. Why isn't Amazon, an outlet for all those products, and books, suddenly a threat?

Because Amazon can command as much money as the Big 6. It is in the end all about money. In this instance, it's the Big 6's money.

Consider what a publisher does. A publisher is like a bookie with lots of money and the one place where bets can be made. Since the publisher has the wherewithal to showcase and fete the jockey, outfit the horse in the finest silks, and bankroll the whole project, who do the touts bet on? The horse that will earn them a modest return on their food and rent money. Only suckers bet on horses with big odd, praying for a fluke or a miracle to pay off, and sometimes it does. It's all about the show -- and money runs the show. Win or lose, the biggest wad of cash goes to the house. The house has the best odds.

A publisher chooses an author, or the author's work, fetes the author, puts their money and talent to work showcasing the author, and telling everyone that this is the real deal. People listen. Books are sold. Author makes some money, but the real money goes to the house. Win or lose, the money is with the publisher -- the house. But what does a publisher actually do, beyond the showcasing, tarting up, and talking up the author and his words? Not much.

A publisher usually publishes nothing. A publisher is a clearing house for copy editors, proofreaders, artists, salesmen, marketing and PR representatives, and editors. Very few publishers own the printing press. They usually rent or subcontract the work to an actual printer, and no one is the wiser, until now.

Amazon, with its deep pockets and its own printing press, approaches authors and says, "Look. We have the resources and we'll pay you good money to let us print and market your work. We list the product at basement prices, but we will give you a big percentage of sales. How about working with us?"

Amazon has the distribution -- publishers have used them for years to sell books -- and is hooked into the biggest mall in the world -- the Internet. Bigger percentage, even on lower prices, sounds like a good idea. When the numbers are crunched and the contracts offered, what can an author do but sign? Amazon has just outdone the Big 6 and that is why they are calling foul.

It comes down to semantics. If you know how the business works and can break it down to its basic components, then manage the components in a more effective and lucrative way, you can take over the market.

Borders is a lost cause. Whatever the reason for its demise, the Big 6 definitely helped push them over the edge by distributing books through retailers, chain stores, big box stores, and grocers, bypassing bookstores completely. Talk about monopolies. Get your groceries, your prescriptions, and a book to read while shopping, and the gas and time saved is worth it. It's just not worth it to bookstores. It's called consolidation and not monopoly -- at least in current business parlance. After all, bookstores don't have the deep pockets of Amazon and can't afford to bite the hand that feeds them -- less and less each year.

Even with the move to digital publishing, the Big 6 still haven't figured out what's what. By pricing digital books out of the market at near the cost of hard cover, they are bleeding red ink all over their bottom line. The bookies have tanked it and don't know how to make up the loss because someone changed the odds and another house has almost all of them. Authors are fleeing the Big 6 like a a nerd trying to get a date at a sorority house mixer.

Some authors will stay. Someone always stays with what they know, but authors who know more about how the business works will step away and choose a bookie with better odds and a higher payout. It's loose slot machine time and the marks are lining up to cash in.

We live in a volatile and changing world where the marketplace is undergoing major changes. Those businesses that move with the times will prosper as they morph into a different business model and the rest will go the way of Borders. As more elements disperse through the marketplace, more changes will cause further destruction and construction and the world as it used to be will become a point along the historical time line.

Amazon isn't really monopolozing but maximizing business and giving the people who make books possible -- the authors -- a fair shake. Amazon doesn't need to put on a show and live the high life because they found that it is better to sell a thousand widgets at $1 than to sell one widget for $1000. It's the same number on the bottom line, but the column that totals widgets sold tells the real story.

I have a bit of advice for the Big 6. Had you paid attention to producing more books and sharing the profits more generously, you could still be the biggest bookie in town. Greed goeth before the fall. You've taken down Borders. Who will be next? Monopoly? I don't think so. It's just called business.

The man behind the curtain is pulling the levers and you've been watching a special effects show of pyrotechnics, mirrors, and lights. Keep an eye on the man. That is where all the action happens.