Monday, November 30, 2009

Literary Agents

I thought the post on the link at the bottom of this page was interesting. Good lit agents work with a writer if the ms is promising, but a bit rough around the edges. It takes a lot of time to review and make suggestions, and even more time if the writer is a stubborn goat. (No offense to goats intended.)

It's maddening to spend the time and tell a writer exactly what they need to fix to make their ms competitive, at least as competitive as possible, only to have them argue the point and not budge.

It is time lost that could be spent with an equally good product and a much more willing writer.

So the question has been raised, in the link below, should lit agents charge for this service; for content editing? They charge for messenger service and such, but not ever for reading. I don't think they should charge for reading, that is part of their job. However, it takes hours and hours to work with someone to flesh out a ms, usually belonging to a debut writer. Content editing is a different process than reading to offer a contract, or not.

I am still thinking this one over, but I'm leaning toward the idea of charging a fee for content editing. These people do know the industry and what is being bought at the moment, as well as the particular interests of specific acquisition editors at various publishing houses.

The reason I'm leaning in favor of the lit agents charging for this particular services is that they could be, as I said, working with an ms that needs less work. If they could know that the time spent fleshing out promising mss was not lost, then we might see a lower rejection rate. They might accept more mss, if they knew it wouldn't be a total loss to take a chance.

Isn't that what every writer wants -- someone to take a chance on them and their ms? Who knows, some of the passed up mss might be exactly what the acquisition editors want or more importantly, what readers would like (given the opportunity) to read - if lit agents could afford to invest the time in them.

Decide for yourself. Here's the link:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


There are a million and one ways to not write.

One way is to buy writing software or go to a name generator online and play for hours deciding on a name, plot, or some other writing related detail. You can get great ideas from these.

Another thing some fiction writers do is outline the entire story, write extensive bios on the principle characters, research, research, and research some more.

Besides all the legitimate reasons that get in the way of writing, especially for moms/mums, I doodle.

When the writer's mind is gone for the day, yet I want to feel a pen in my hand (I write on the computer), I doodle with pen and ink. I don't use anything fancy, just a regular gel pen and printer paper and lots of circles and short lines. A different view of this doodle was in my December 2008 newsletter

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm taking the rest of the week off!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Retro look

Several years ago, I read an ms for Nidhi Dhawan. Nidhi is an ENT surgeon in India. Recently Nidhi and I were talking (email) about her book and I ended up designing a cover for her.

First of all, so much for my memory, I knew there was a tree in the book that figured prominently throughout the lives of two little boys, one Hindu and the other Muslim. While I was waiting for Nidhi to tell me the type of tree it was, I took a quick look in her ms for a clue.

I mocked up a cover using a tree I had drawn some time ago - see tomorrow's post. As it turned out, I had the wrong tree in mind. Then I set out to draw a Banyan tree and redo the cover since she had liked the general idea of the cover. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a good thing I got confused about the trees, as Nidhi liked the use of the Banyan tree over the Neem tree.

Take a look at the picture of these book covers in the link below. Then look at the one I designed above.

Some things never go out of style such as simple straight forward cover art thinks. Sometimes a book will tell you what it wants. Perhaps on another day I will post the transitions of this cover.

Special thanks to Lecter Johnson for permission to use his font, xxii arabian onenightstand, in the cover art for Nidhi's book.

Friday, November 20, 2009

FREE Blog Party 09 Book

With Thanksgiving Day (in the USA) coming next week, I thought I'd offer a copy of the Blog Party 09 Book FREE as a 'thank you' for all the years of good times in this industry. The blog party was the perfect example of what I often refer to as the writers' community.

There are times this industry is difficult and times of serendipity. We share these times with each other. Take a moment and scroll through any page on the Blog Party (click the party icon on the sidebar) and see what I'm talking about.

So here's the deal. Anyone, absolutely any one is eligible to get the FREE Blog Party 09 book. This can be your first visit to my blog or we can know each other. All you have to do is send me an email, before the end of November, telling me why you want a copy of the book. FREE is free, including free shipping - world wide.

All you have to do is send me an email saying why you want the book. Easy-peasy. Put in the subject line something like, free blog party book.

Always, always, I autograph books I send.

Email address: NadineLaman [at]

Ready, set, GO!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Supporting Characters

Everyone knows that in a novel there is at least a main character (MC) and their antagonist - the person who makes the MC's struggle real - and secondary characters, their friends or sidekicks.

One set of characters some novice writers forget to add judiciously are the background characters - the extras in a movie. These are the people on the street, in the restaurants, or neighbors. These people help flesh out the MC.

Since I can use my books without anyone's permission, I'll use them for examples. In Kathryn's Beach there is a convent. The most prominent nuns are Sister Elizabeth and her sidekick Sister Theresa. However, other nuns walk in and out of scenes, perhaps say a line or two, and leave. It wouldn't be very believable that Saint Mark's was a real convent with only two nuns. To tell the truth, I had to keep a list to remember which nun was the school principal. They weren't that important to me or to the story to remember their names. But they played an important role in making the convent and the two main nuns seem more real.

The same goes for the mention of the traffic on the freeways in Los Angeles. I don't make a big deal of it, but it would be lacking to not mention the traffic problem that caused the detour Kathryn and Sister Theresa took that lead to Sister Theresa's big question to Kathryn in High Tide. Wouldn't it seem odd to drive all over LA and never mention traffic?

Also at the airport in High Tide, even though Kathryn couldn't go to the gate now like she did, she could when the ms was written (pre-September 11, 2001). It makes sense for the traveler to bump Kathryn with their carry-on bag and the people she encounters on the escalator. LAX is a very busy airport. There had to be people in it for anyone to believe Kathryn was at LAX. Whereas, Kansas City International (KCI) closes down early and no one is around when you get off the plane - very spooky!

Storm Surge switches settings requiring a whole new group of background characters had to be cast, like the gardner. Some of them had been introduced in High Tide, so the trilogy carried over from one book to the next. Otherwise it would be like Kathryn had been plucked out of the two previous books and plunked down into a different story all together.

Keep in mind camera angles and you won't forget the background characters. There is always a wide angle or pan to show the other people in the location, then it narrows onto the principle characters per that scene. Pay attention to that when you watch TV and translate it to your writing - don't forget to cast a few extras in your novel.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Location, location, location...

Nope! I'm not looking to buy or sell property. However, location plays a major role in the setting for mss. (Actually, it applies to more than novel writing, any form of fiction needs a setting or set for scripts.)

Even though location plays a backstage role in most novels, it can have a huge impact on the believable factor for the reader. You can take the average main character (MC) and move them from one location to another unrelated location, and their behavior will adapt - or should.

While the characters, particularly the MC and the antagonist, play the largest role in getting the reader to dispense with reality and buy into your story's reality, a well done setting can help the process along.

I'm visiting in Pine, AZ, in the Tonto National Forest. This isn't the typical mountain living, like in Flagstaff or one of the Colorado mountain cities. This is where cabins are sparely placed in the forest. Many of the roads are dirt and rugged.

One thing I've learned in the short while I've been here is to scan the horizon for smoke every time I go outside. Forest fires are frequent in the Arizona forests (and in Southern California).

As we were driving up the 500 feet elevation from the town where shopping is done here, we noticed a yellow-brown haze hovering over the next ridge ahead of us. It was the kind of thing found over many US major cities, but we both scanned for the source of the smoke. Once we found the chimney of smoke was narrow and from the east of where we were headed, we resumed our conversation and proceeded up the mountain.

The point is, there are behaviors that locals do particular to their environment. Don't go overboard, but if you can add something to convince the reader who has lived in a similar location that this is true, you are one step closer to moving them to dispense with disbelief.

The converse is true. Hubby's great aunt remarked once how a fairly famous writer had the moon rise over the Mid-western plains at 2:00 AM. She threw the book in the fireplace. The moon does not rise that late in the central plains states. Actually, it should be beginning its descent by then.

While I don't want novice writers to sweat blood over every detail, do pay attention to particulars that the locals would know are pure fiction, if you're asking them to move into the world you've created in your novel and believe it is real.

On the other hand, in SciFi or fantasy, it is sometimes useful to take a known item from our world, like the moon rising, and have it behave differently. That gives the novel an other world quality. So, maybe you want the moon to rise at noon. Then you can have the characters react to that, such as saying it will be clear for the battle or the journey at hand. I think it is handy to take an element from the setting that is familiar and guide the reader to translate that item into the unreal world.

Make sure what you add to your story is there for a reason, not just filling space. Write well, enjoy the process, and take your readers with you.

TIP: Get travel videos from the library and watch the locals in the background of the host.

PITCH: I rarely pitch, but Kathryn's Beach is an excellent example of setting contributing to the character of the MC. The link to purchase is in the left sidebar of this blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Industry News!

Sheesh, what's happening to me, I'm writing industry news two days in a row? Well this interests me because of the German idea that books' prices can't be undercut. That messes up the whole idea of the price war that I mentioned a few posts back, which isn't a bad thing for writers who actually would like to have a bit of change in their pocket for their efforts.

There are pros and cons about price fixing. One one hand, there is the 'what the market will bear' and on the other hand, there is the idea of the need to make money to stay in business.

I'm not taking sides in this, but it is interesting as Amazon's Kindle goes world wide. The other e-readers are sure to follow.

Read about it here:

Monday, November 16, 2009

News Flash!

I'm not THE SOURCE of industry news, but I thought I would pass on that there is more news about the Google Books Settlement.

The lawsuit is a class action suit. Like everyone else who was a potential member of the class, I was notified of the lawsuit and given the option to opt in or out of the class.

There were writer's groups who filed Amicus Briefs, and somehow, ended up speaking for more than their members and negotiating a settlement for all of us.

The thing is, while I'm not totally opposed to scanning books, it seemed to me that the libraries did not have the rights to the books to consent to scanning to be used outside their library system, especially to generate money for the scanning entity, without regard to payment to the rights holders.

Then the thing went off on orphan works. You'll just have to read the stuff to figure it out. I opted out of the class which means I can bring my own suit rather than rely on the agreement reached in this suit.

Since the deadline to opt in or out came long before the agreement to a settlement, it was in my mind, agreeing to an unknown. I'm not saying the settlement is good or bad, I just didn't want to agree to something undefined. That is a lot like signing a blank contract.

So the lesson here is that as a writer, it is important to be aware of the industry news. That is what being part of something means - you know what is going on.

Read the Google blog here:

And there is this:

And there is this. I'm surprised about the extract comment since originally my understanding was full books - way back when (a couple of years ago):

As I recall, long ago, when my first books went on Google Books, the revenue went to my publisher and there was (according to him) no plans to split it with me -- not Google's fault.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What is Cactus Rain?

Cactus Rain is a boutique publishing company. It is registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission. That makes Cactus Rain a small press.

Cactus Rain publishes international fiction for the American market. The stories are inspiring as well as entertaining. The writing is strong, the characters are often ordinary people on a quest that leads to a heroic act.

Cactus Rain is not a DIY company. It is a new concept, taking the best from the existing models.

There is a vetting process. The specific submission details will be on the website when we finish building it. A query letter and synopsis will be required. There will be no electronic submissions, at least for now. If a full or partial manuscript is requested, that can be submitted electronically in MS Word or WordPerfect.

There is no set-up fee. There is no advance. There are no royalties. What? No royalties? Royalties means the profits are split with someone.

It is a very simple concept. Once an ms has been accepted, it is formatted, given an ISBN, and a cover at no cost to the author. The author pays for items like the US Copyright fee - and keeps the copyright. With the ability to print any size run, there is the ability to control cost and inventory to meet the demand for the book rather than large stacks of boxes of books sitting in storage.

When books are needed, the author pays the cost to print the book, plus a little something for me to recoup my expenses, then keeps the profit when the book sells, minus expenses like PayPal fees.

The books will be listed in the Cactus Rain catalogue and on the Cactus Rain website and [probably] The author can sell books from their website or out of their car. As the catalogue builds, other means of distribution [bookstores] will be pursued.

It is all a process - creating a business, developing a website, all of it. More information will be forthcoming. Submissions will be accepted in early 2010.

Why did I create a publishing company when I have one of my own for my books? Simple. I am tired of writers who are not with a traditional publisher barely making any money for the hours invested in writing a novel. Being a person of action, I created a company that does for others what my company, Nadine Laman Books, does for me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Characters You Love

Am I the only one tired of me writing about writing? Yawn.

Tell me about a fictional character you love, one that you sympathized with and found it easy to make the leap to believe they are/were real. What was it about them that makes them stand out in your mind, even now?

Indicate in the comment section below the title and author, the character's name, and a brief bit about what you like about them. It's your turn to do the writing and give us all a break from me.

If you don't want to entertain me and rather read more about how to write, read this (sent by Susan Gabriel).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Recently I was watching a crime show on television. The story was pretty good, but as I looked at the clock and they only had 15 minutes left (including commercials), I began to wonder if the crime was going to be solved.

It was a complicated crime and the characters were interesting. There were several unrelated suspects and the stars kept following leads well into the show.

Then it came. The forensics expert came up with information that came out of no where to solve the case. There had been no hints. It was as if this information was from another script entirely. In writing that is called dropping alligators (answers) over the transom.

I can't say that I'm thrilled with the endings of Kathryn's Beach or High Tide. Storm Surge ends much better. Good thing that it does because it also carries the weight of ending the trilogy.

The end of the story is just as important as the beginning. There is tons of material about writing killer first lines. Not only does the first line have to hook the lit agent or publisher, it has to hook the reader.

Then it goes from there, the next few chapters have to set that hook firmly. The middle has to keep 'em reading, and the end has to deliver satisfaction.

I think the tricky part is to do the end. Write the first draft through, beginning to end, without going back to edit. Honestly, that see-saw back and forth of trying to edit as you write really shows, you aren't fooling anyone. It is like putting on the second coat of paint on one part of the wall when you don't have the first coat done on the whole room. It shows when the paint drys - oh yes, it does.

At the first time through with rewrites and edits, look at the end bit. Was all the solution heaped in a pile? If so, take each section and divide it up. The telling part should be sensibly placed throughout the ms. Best to scatter it through in dialogue or bits of scenes. Then when the solution/resolution of the subplots come, it isn't a huge surprise like a bucket of cold water in the face.

Most of the time we want the reader to be surprised in the right way, the way that they are delighted and satisfied that everything came together logically. We don't want them surprised like I was in that show I mentioned in the beginning of this post. All the subplots don't have to wait until the last chapter to be resolved. Some can be completed sooner and used for the main plot to stand upon for its resolution.

It is hard to see the trees for the forest in our own writing. Get someone you trust to be honest and helpful to dispassionately discuss the story with and be honest with yourself if you need to hire a content editor. Don't be territorial over each precious word. The point of writing is to give the reader a good story.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Most people use the term "self-publishing" rather loosely. What they mean is usually a company that is paid a fee -- the lowest one I know of the fee chargers is $499 USD -- and they put the book into print using some form of Print On Demand technology (POD). That set-up fee does not include anything more than putting the ms into an auto formatting software and creating a cover for the book, plus placement on their website. World distribution is most often simply uploading the book onto one or more third party online vendors.

If you look around there are several free companies. They recoup the free part in the price of the book to the author. Of course, it is the usual situation of what you put in is what you get out. It doesn't fix things for you. You book is printed exactly like what you put into the software.

Whether a set-up fee is paid or not, the success of the book is totally up to the author to drive sales. There are a million and one (roughly) companies that sell authors (glassy-eyed authors) packages for marketing and goodness knows what else. Their pitch says all the things everyone wants to hear and can empty the writer's pocket quickly -- but I've written about this several times, and I'm not the only one who has.

What self-publishing means in the strict interpretation of the term is that the author causes their book to be published. They either do the work themselves or hire it done. What work would that be? Goodness, where to begin. Basically, self means self. It includes everything from editing to binding choices, paper weight, formatting, cover art design...and EVERYthing in between, including paying fees to be listed online. This is total financial responsibility for the books, so the best shot is to learn everything needed and spend the money to get it right the first time. The author better believe in their book because the investment won't be recoup'd overnight.

Frankly not every ms is destined for the big NY publishers. This is a business industry and just because the writer's spouse, mom/mum, or Aunt Edna loves the ms doesn't mean it will be published and a best seller.

The good thing about so many ways to get published from the largest imprints to the smallest of presses is that a savvy author can best target the publication route that fits the ms' potential audience. While I do like the folk art quality of some self-initiated books, I also like a book that is commercially driven, if the writing is sound in both cases.

I found the following in the comments on Galley Cat's blog. I added the bold to the text.

"...The reason self-publishing won't kill traditional publishing is that most authors can't edit their own stuff and/or aren't willing to hire someone competent to do it for them. A lot of readers are willing to put up with bad grammar and awful spelling on social networks, but how many are going to want to read whole books that way? Anyway, it's not just a question of grammar and punctuation: editors help with plot development and characterization too..." Paula_B

Excerpt came from the comments here:

BTW, Galley Cat has always been a good blog to follow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

RSS Feed

Way back in the dark ages when some people (not me) had those huge satellite dishes in their front yard, a west coast or east coast feed could be had and thus a greater choice of when to view certain shows.

So knowing what a feed is isn't rocket science. I've spent a couple of months (not full time) looking into doing an RSS feed of my blog onto my filedby page.

I read about it, I ask my friends about it, and I Googled the daylights out of it. I usually read the Wiki entries on topics of my searches. My web designer, Joyce from sent me two links of instructions.

Finally I followed the instructions and put the magic combination of letters following www into the filedby slot and waited. Nothing happened, which is usually what happens when I do stuff on the internet, so it wasn't that much of a disappointment.

Silly me, this isn't StarTrek and things take a while to do their thing. The next time I went to filedby for something else, I saw that my blog had migrated to that page. I'm not sure how I did it, but it seems a month's of posts are on my filedby page. I think that is pretty cool. Go look!

I half expected to see the orange RSS logo automatically appear on my blog -- and it still might. In the mean time, I fiddled around and put something on the left sidebar that seems to be RSS.

Goodness, NO! I haven't clicked on it to see what it does, I just put it there and think that was as much as I dare mess with the thing for one day.

That Disclaimer thingy about compensations and endorsements:
The Google search was free, RSS Feed was free, my page at was free, the advice from my friends was free, and the hours of entertainment this effort has provided said friends who laughed their butts off was free, though I might start charging for the front row seats to my agony.


Saturday, November 7, 2009


I noticed a few things I forgot in recent posts. Just goes to show what happens when I'm writing without notes.

In the posts about manuscript formatting, the cover sheet info should include the genre and word count.

In the synopsis heading or in the first line of the synopsis, add the genre and word count. I like it in the heading best.

And finally, we live in an international world. If you plan to query in the US and live elsewhere, keep in mind that our letter size paper (8.5 x 11.5 inches) is standard. When I print items that are A4, depending on the format, it prints wacky. I have no idea why a literary agent would print something sent electronically, but if they do...have your ms set to the right paper size.

I've added this info to the posts.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How to get Published

I've put a lot in this blog for writers. This is the $64 question: How to get published.

1) Write well. (refer to all the ways I said to do that in this blog's posts, and get info from others too.).
2) Research your target (learn about the industry, so you know what you're doing).
3) Write a great query letter (Jen Garsee is going to do a guest post on this topic).
4) Write a great synopsis.
5) Don't rush the process, wait until you have your best work ready to go.

Most querying is done online these days, keep in mind that if you are querying in a country other than your own, if you send an attachment change the paper size to match the common use in that country. They might want to print your synopsis and pass it around the office because they love the concept of your ms.

Well, that's it in a nut shell.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

MS Synopsis

The point of the synopsis is to tell the whole story of an ms in a way that interests the reader (a literary agent or publisher you want to wow) in one page. A good synopsis can lead to a request to read a partial or full of your ms. A synopsis is a combination of book report (remember those?) and a book review, but a bit different.

The format is universal with a few personal variances per agency or publisher. The sensible approach is to go with the basic format, then make the changes necessary to comply with the specific preferences of your target.

Start with setting your word processing software like this:
*One inch margins all around (top, bottom, sides). One inch is 2.54 cm.
*Single space lines.
*Font is usually Times New Roman or Courier, 10-12pt. I like Tahoma 11pt.
*Center the title, which is Synopsis: title. (If you manage to get the job done in less than a page, then put synopsis and the title on two lines - followed by a blank line.)
*Word count. This is generated by the software, but you'll have to type it in where it goes. There is a mathematical formula for estimating word count. I generally use 300 words per page and do a ballpark of how many chapters end short of a half page. I bet there is an A4 formula out there somewhere, but I've never needed to use it.

What to write:
*Regardless of the POV of the ms, a synopsis is always written in third person.
*Focus on the main character (MC), not all the minor characters. Indicate the MC's name, but honestly, unless they are referred to by their first and middle name by everyone in the ms, then no one cares what their middle name is. For example, I have two friends named Mary Ann. One goes by Mary Ann and the other by Mary. On the second one, no one would care about the middle name if she was the MC.
*Tell the setting, genre, time (contemporary, historical or future -- by indicating the date)
*Tell the whole story. Write the beginning, middle, end of the story. (YES! Tell the end of the story.)
*Tell only the major twists.
*Use active language, rather than passive.
*Don't get poetic, cute, or clever.
*Do not talk to the reader, ie, using second person, YOU. "You will love this book" NO. "You will be scared spitless." NO!
*Don't pitch. None of this: Everyone will love this book. That's a bad pitch anyway, but pitches don't belong in a synopsis.

If I help someone with their synopsis, I want them to tell me nothing about the story before I read the synopsis. The synopsis has to stand on its own. It has to tell the story honestly, but engagingly. Cut out the non-essential rambling. Some people accept a two page synopsis, but if you can do it in one page, then you have done it correctly. The standard is one page. The grammar and punctuation should be perfect.

Give the synopsis to a few reader friends. Listen closely to the questions they ask after reading it. It is likely the agent or publisher will have those questions too. Don't dismiss the questions. Fix the gaps. There is only one shot per target at getting this right.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday Rant

Not that I don't always have an opinion, but this is worse than usual. Maybe it is because I wrestled the devil all night or maybe one cup of coffee in the morning is now too much for me.

Junk mail. Yep. It is such a waste of time. Sometimes I send myself junk mail -- only I didn't send it -- and no matter what the subject line says, it is for off-the-grid prescription drugs. I can't even report it as spam or I'll block email from myself. That would screw up sending the newsletter notice to 'me' and blind copying it to everyone else. Technology, sheesh! I'm not on any medications, so it is lame to target me.

Tiny URLs. Yep. So what's wrong with such a brilliant idea as tiny URLs? Some of those URLs I add to my blogs are real monsters. Well, mind your manners. The only place tiny URLs are appropriate is (IMO) in tweets. And only then because of the character limit to the messages. I rarely click through a tiny URL in an email, even when it comes from a trusted sender (see above about trusted senders not always originating the email). I want to read the address before I click on it. Sure the full URL could look innocent and reroute to a porn site. But it rarely does. I want a clue to where I'm going before I click on the link. Save the trust games for corporate retreats.

Authors get rich promos. This is most of my spam email. Authors, especially indie authors, are a cash cow. Everyone has a service to promote YOUR book to thousands of readers. None of them give actual sales numbers of a real book, none of them give the name of unknown authors who have used their service and made back the membership fee. One of those spam adverts came today. It only costs $200 a year to showcase my books on their website to thousands of readers. Most of the time, they don't have thousands of readers. Finding readers is like herding cats. They come when they are good and ready. Readers are such an mix of people, how does one target them? No one knows. There are other sites that range in price much higher than that one -- and they think writers can't do math? I've watched these websites come and go. Yeah, and would I like to buy the Brooklyn Bridge too?

There are (book) PR firms around that say all these sensational things about what they can do. They say exactly what the novices want to hear. The only problem is after years of watching their websites, I've not seen them actually do anything more than make a living off of the fees from authors. In this business what isn't on their website is just as important as the advertising copy on it. If you don't see a list of client books that you can trace to other locations (besides on line retailers) then it is unlikely they have actually made an author any money. Exposure, maybe, but money??? I think we would have heard about that phenomena, just like we heard about The Shack selling hundreds of thousands of books. That success can be found in unrelated, independent sources.

So, what works in marketing books? Mostly it is endorsements from trusted sources.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

All the HIP PEOPLE are going to HATE this post.

I just can't get into this social media gig. I've tried. It doesn't flip my cookie. I don't think it is fun, and fun isn't the reason I'd do it since I 'do' real fun rather than virtual fun.

I have talked with people who are in marketing for their real job. For me and my type of writing the time vs outcome factor just doesn't come out mathematically in my favor.

I know I look like the high school nerd without a twitter, facebook, or the-flavor-of-the-day logo on my website and blog. To me, those sites are like walking into a room (or the stock market pit) where everyone is shouting at once. I can't deal with that.

I know some people enjoy it, or think they do. I know it works for some people, or they think it does. By my analysis, it doesn't work for me by the numbers or by my personality. So, I'm just saying, assess it for yourself and make sure it isn't taking more than you get from it.

Just passing on a link on the topic:

Monday, November 2, 2009

the price war...

Believe it or not, I am not surprised with Walmart, Amazon, and Target's action to devalue best sellers - called 'lost leaders' and books are the perfect choice.

Amazon surely knows how the publishing industry works, but the other two are probably clueless, like most people on the outside of the industry. I understand that Amazon reacted to what Walmart did. That's business. It isn't my philosophy, but most people aren't like me. (Thank God?) I like to make my own business decisions, rather than let others define me.

This is a quick publishing industry overview, certainly I can't write how the industry works in one blog post - nor would I be fool enough to try.

There is a long and complicated process involved in acquiring books. But let's say that has been done. There is THE LIST. At the top of the list are the best selling author's new works. They usually pay handsomely for those books, but the books earn their keep. What else they do is cover the cost of the books that aren't great earners. Some of the mid-list and bottom list are fillers; stuff you have to have to make a well rounded list. Some are slow, but steady earners.

The list pays the salary of all the people it takes to make a book, royalties to the author, contracted services, like printing, shipping, and warehousing. Besides the people any business would have, there are book industry specific people: Acquisition editors, line editors, cover artists, marketing, advertising...blah, blah, blah, who are paid by the earnings of the best seller books.

Money spent on advertising, marketing, and PR is proportionate to the expected earnings of the book. Sometimes the publisher is pleasantly surprised. Sometimes they lose their shirt.

So when Walmart (are we not surprised this company did that?) sells expected best sellers at a loss, the worry is that 1) the public will devalue books and come to expect books to be that price at their local bookstores; 2) that publishers will be forced to reduce their list price (the price on the book cover) because of the changed perception of value by readers; 3) small bookstores will be hurt the hardest and many long standing family businesses will close (Watch the movie "You've Got Mail" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan).

The worry about the small family owned bookstores is the one that I think is the most likely to happen, if this pricing war continues. These stores (Walmart, Amazon, Target) can afford to sell the 10 or so best sellers at LESS than they paid for them because they hope in the process other purchases (marked up per usual) will be made at the same time. The small bookstore, or Indie bookstore, is banking on those best sellers to do what they do for the publishers -- cover the cost of less selling books.

If you read my newsletter then you know my trilogy is on When those three books sell I will make minus $3.13. Yes, I will lose $3.13. As you can see, I can't really afford to do that for long before I write more books that cost me less to print and ship. I do have a plan to fix that bleed and I could suck it in and compromise quality by putting the books on amazon another way than the way I am.

I don't think readers will believe that best selling books can be had or should be had for $9.00. Besides readers trade books with each other and read them for free. Same with borrowing them from a library - free. Same with garage or boot sales - nearly free. It isn't like the author is getting royalties on anything past the first sale.

So what is the bottom line? Well, it is likely not going to last. Sure some people will go for the deal, others won't. Most likely people in the industry like me won't shop those places for those books simply on principle. But I do shop those stores regularily.

There is still lots I omitted: coops, sell through numbers, and remainders for example. You can google those. If you want to know more about this, google something like: book pricing war. I had links, but you're capable of researching this, if it interests you. If you are a writer, this should interest you.