Category Archives: publishing

I swear, ’tis no lie

Wrestling for words is always a tough one. I was looking for suitable swearwords for a YA novel a little while back, knowing full well that at 13 there weren’t many I hadn’t heard. Some I didn’t fully understand yet, and for true expressiveness I had to pass through boot camp and end up yelling at the little darlings myself. Then I ended up working as a fisheries scientist on trawlers, and just when I thought I’d heard it all, in fish factories where delicately bred ladies would discuss the merits of the water of green pineapples for the complexion… or something of that sort, while wielding really sharp knives with terrifying speed.

Yet while YA novels push boundaries of sex into areas where no man has been (well, no ordinary hetero man – like 95% of the male audience) they’re good on what when I was young was considered blasphemy, but they still haven’t got f…ing punctuation of f… ing sentences f…ing right yet. It is a punctuation. At least when you’re teenage boy among your peers, trying desperately to prove you’re not a teenage boy, it seems it is.

So: reality is not what one seeks because in reality the gay kid is not everyone’s best friend, and the group is not always gifted with a suitable white male doofus and jerk as the villain. We have applied to central planning for a larger supply, and they have promised they’re working on the school system to oblige, but in the meanwhile we have been instructed to just make-believe.

It’s a good thing we’re writing fiction, in other words, with no need to suspend the credibility. I believe it has been called training the youth to accept political debate from the PTB without throwing up or bursting out laughing. It is our duty to educate them. And if they are not educated enough, to betray them to commissars so they can be re-educated (I believe they send them to salt mines in Vermont). Like royalties, it’s all about delivering small change you can believe in to the starving authors/masses (or both).

Seriously, reality diverges considerably from either the normal text in books (let alone for YA audiences) and what editors will accept in traditional publishing, and what readers will accept in the broader world. I freely admit the idea of my dear little offspring and future grandkids reading the sort of scatological spew I managed as a real 14 year old idiot has no appeal at all. And, dear hearts, as I grew up in the ’70’s when people were still seriously trying this in print, that sort of spew irritated me then. I could do better, and they always got it wrong, and it was condescension. It did appeal 20 year old adolescents with low IQ’s, but while there are a lot of them, some in their 50’s by now, and still adolescent, they don’t read a lot.

I have noticed that children have separate vocabularies – the brighter one – i.e. probably the ones who read – quite a number, depending on who they are chameleoning with. There’s the gung-ho boys vocab, the talking girls (younger) vocab, the talking to girls (older) vocab, the talking to authority vocab, and the talking to the stupid (aka adults including parents. It takes growing up to realize that these lumbering behemoths are more than just ATMs and taxi services. Stupid is often relative – some of mine are a great example. And some think I am.)… and that’s without the dialects spoken to the different types within these groups. The dialect spoken to the girl next door whose heart or blouse the young Lothario have no interest in getting into is quite different to the fine sentiments and poetic soul that comes out with Desiree Hardache. You didn’t swear much in her presence – or in the presence of those you respected or were afraid of, or wished to impress. That was for lummoxes, who… don’t buy a lot of books.

Which brings me back to my thesis – it’s not the reality of language that sells the book – it’s convincing the audience that they are group who would hear that from you. i.e. You’re talking UP not down your audience.

Oddly, they’ll accept your respect, not your assumption of equality.
Or at least, that’s my take. What’s yours?

And here, for your edification is a little poem on the delights of spoken English.

cross-posted at Mad Genius Club



Filed under philosophy, publishing, Uncategorized, Writing


Amazon have got over their snit about someone (presumably an illegal fileshare) offering some of Eric and my shorts and novellas. So they’re back up on Kindle. Shortly we will I hope, start with Smashwords and become available on other platforms. B&N, Apple etc.

This story has, oddly been about our best selling, ahead of the the first RATS BATS & VATS prequel novella

And a long way ahead of the novella in the RBV universe, intended as a start to a new novel (which I still want to do)

And streets ahead of the short set Misty Lackey’s bards universe

It’s interesting that, without a major novel on offer yet (there is the YA WITHOUT A TRACE)

That Kindle and Smashwords are now providing 5% of my income. This is more of a comment about how utterly dismal my income from all the 17 novels is, than how wonderful indy is, I am afraid. But still, it’s very welcome. Hopefully I’ll be adding to it.

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moving on

I’ve been battling a bit with anger issues with the whole publishing lark. It’s largely about money, I admit. Payments are slow (or VERY late) and small (the e-pub crowd are timeous, the percentages good… it’s just not a whole lot of money. Yet. But it could overtake the traditional publishers). I’m not exactly greedy, it was just finding that two days work a week here as a farm laborer earned me more than my full-time 7 days a week 14 hours a day writing did. And it is paid on time and I don’t have to beg for it. I’m not expected to do unpaid dogsbody work on publicity which is 92% to someone else’s benefit either.

I don’t want to be a farm laborer, particularly. (I don’t hate it either). But after 12 years of being published, and vast amounts of work, a bunch of books and a tribe of shorts and having sold over a third of a million copies (ie, more than 1.3 million reads – at 4 reads per book)… I kind of expect to at least equal that level. It got me so angry that I was battling to write. I REALLY do not expect to cross-subsidize the rest of the chain from publisher to retail, by working as a farm laborer and squeezing my writing in around that so that they can be paid far better than I am, and, um not ‘when someone gets around to it’. So: we had friends and relations to stay, and I just didn’t write.

Anyway. I’m over it. I missed the writing. I’m going to finish the books I have on contract, and that is that. I really do enjoy writing, and will go on writing. But unless I get decent offers with percentages that reflect the value I add and the value they add, I will write no more books on contract. I’ll offer the final product for a minimal time only to the paper publishers. If they offer something worthwhile, I’ll consider it. Otherwise I will e-publish them and yes, probably work as farm labor. But at least I will only be cross-subsidizing e-retail who take 30%, not the rest who take 90%.

Anyway, on that cheerful note, I have written 2K today and need to write more. Tomorrow CRAWLSPACE will start the first of its free days, and so, if you haven’t read it, now is your chance to grab a free copy

If you click on the link (picture) it will take you there.


Filed under economics, philosophy, publishing, Writing

How (not) to deal with rejection (but how tempting)

“Dear Editor,

Thank you for thinking of us with your rejection. Unfortunately it does not meet our current writing needs. We wish you the best of luck in placing it elsewhere.


An Author”

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Collaboration, economics and a general grump

So I just got what to my enormous relief is the last of edits for the three way Heirs books (I write the first drafts and they go to the co-authors, before coming back to get a final edit). It’s a relief that its the last, but I really don’t even want to look at the unpleasant vast amount of work I know will be involved.  I have one more book to do in this universe, but it’s with Eric, who is a good structural editor,  and knows a great deal about writing.  He also is meticulous about his homework – you won’t have to fix myriad continuity errors and he gets the history right.  He’s also really good about consulting.  Obviously I want to do books on my own,  firstly because they’re mine, and secondly for financial reasons. Eric and I split the advance 50:50, but Mercedes took 50% and we got 25% each — which doesn’t actually reflect the work (by word count I’ve done 75-98% of the books, and for the all bar the first had barely any prior outline above a 1/4 page – which I wrote) or by adding another 50% onto the sales.  It’s not worth it, and to get 2% of the cover price of a paperback I won’t do it again.  Well… not unless someone came up with a truly vast advance. I suppose for  1/4 of a million dollars – which would replace (it’s a lot more expensive here) the home and farm we had to sell to emigrate and to move ourselves and the dogs and cats.  That would leave me in a position to say that I will only self-publish e-books thereafter, and if people want to read my books, well and good. Right now, it’s take a full-time day job (there is a possibility) and cut back on the writing hugely, or continue to try and build the e-books and make a little from traditional publishing. Traditional publishing and distribution and bookselling have certainly made enough from me, for which, partly because of collaboration, and partly because of  authors getting a very small share of gross, I haven’t seen much.  For example, Shadow of the Lion has paid royalties, but my advance was $7500.  In the end I have about doubled that… Not bad for a book that grossed  more than 2/3 of a million – for the rest of the chain. I worked out the other day that by now ‘my’ books have grossed over 3 million dollars. For the last ten years of average 14 hour days (to take out the advances and books that are still forthcoming)… I’ve earned 124K.  I know.  That’s  their gross earnings. They still have costs, you say… Yes, that’s what is usually  ignored in these assessments:  it’s their gross, against my gross.  And when you look at their costs a small part of that is paper and print. The rest is premises, staff and equipment… which are my expenses too.  I know. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else. I chose to become an author, and I enjoy doing what I do.   I still love it, but this can’t continue.  I need to start earning a living, or start doing something else and writing as an occasional hobby.

Which is why I am pushing hard to sell some e-books.  To make a web presence. Because I want to write, and I want to be able to.


Filed under books, economics, publishing, Writing

“And it’s only the giving that makes us…

What we are.”

yes more Tull. But this morning I was thinking about the good guys in my industry. And the occasional generous acts from some who I would have struggled to call ‘good guys’.  A lesson that people are seldom all one thing.

There is no getting away from the fact that like musicians, like actors, like artists… life at the bottom and middle of the writing pile is not exactly easy. The way the natural distribution of bottom-to-top has been screwed by the industry for their benefit has made it much worse (99% of the income goes to 1% of the writers. It will always be a skewed curve, but 80%  going to 30% is more realistic). Unlike the fellow protesting the death of books in the Guardian, who wanted a ‘living wage’ for authors (presumably from the Government, rather than parts of the industry claiming 90-94% of the cover price of that book. ) I accept that this is at least in part a self-inflicted injury. If I can get it, I want to earn a living off my writing. If possible without screwing that other half of myself, the reader.  Yes, obviously, if I can, I would like a bigger share of that book’s cover price.  I do resent working very hard at the process and getting less of a reward than others who add very little.  But the truth is I love what I do.  I’m not particularly greedy or venal, and being suddenly a billionaire would last me about as long as it took to apply the money to things I thought needed it – which is one reason authors, and musos, and artists are so damned easy to rip off – their reward is not entirely in cash, anyway.

What is amazing though is just how many good guys there are, in and around writing, often battling themselves, and yet helping out other writers. Yes, you’ve got the occasional jerks, who funnily enough are often the very ones saying how they’re discriminated against…  But without Eric Flint, I wouldn’t have made it past one book. Without Garth Nix, Marianne de Pierres, and Rowena Cory Daniels I would not have been able to emigrate (they were prepared to go through the paperwork to write recommendations as to why I would be a good candidate for a visa as a writer).   Dan and Sarah Hoyt have been almost relentless in their support of my long-range career.  The Save the Dragons project brought the good guys out of the woodwork.  Walt and Francis made it work – I couldn’t have.  A whole list of authors promoted it.  I’ve had had a number of fans, Keith, Cedar, Tania… all doing work on the social marketing side that I am clueless about.  I know they’re doing far more for me than I ever could for them.

It’s an oddly idealistic crowd us humans are, for supposedly nasty critters. I just hope I can pay a little back and a lot forward.

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some numbers

Running some figures…

A friend told me what editors and copy editors – being contracted to work freelance by publishers her in Oz are earning. He feels they’re exploited. I won’t get onto what authors are then.

So I put this together from various sources – some hearsay, some experience, not to be used as actual, but indicative (and please, if you want to volunteer figures, go ahead) :

for structural edit 3K


Original artwork 2K

Advance – new author – anything from 1.5K – 4K

Proofs 1K

Distribution – obviously based on number of copies and method, but call it 25-50 cents a copy at most.  With bulk shipping with other books to megastore chains, it drops more.

Layout and cover copy – mostly cover copy comes from the writer these days, and layout can be done for e-books very professionally for $300. So call it $500.

Marketing varies vastly, but for newbs and midlisters  it seldom runs beyond cover flats,  probably not more than 500,  produced as an off-shoot of the main print, probably around 20 cents each, + postage and labour. Be generous and call it 1K

Actual printing: The industry having for years dodged answers finally when challenged about e-books and the saving not being passed on say that printing is about 10% (presumably of cover) .

So to run some figures through this.

Say 4K for the advance, 3K for the edit, 1.5K for copy edit, 1K for proofs, 2K for cover art, 0.5 for layout – author provides cover copy (ie publisher contracted everything out) Distribution 1K. Marketing 0.5 (sending cover flats, taking orders – probably less).  Total – 13.5K + cost of printing (at 10% of cover price – what the industry faced with gouging comments e-books claims it is. So assuming 70 cents per book, with +20% for bulk shipping to Australia, and a print run of a whole 7K -$4900 US or 5K Oz – $4200 Australia or a total of 18.4K US and $18420 Aus. Book sold at 45% cover price $.3.15 US, and Aus$9.90.

In the US it has to sell 5842 copies befor any money goes to the NY office and the CEO’s lexus, let alone any other staff (although most of the publishing work, bar accounting is contracted out).

Sell through of 55% was considered reasonable once.

A sell through of the required 83%  is unlikely – although RBV acheived a 90, and several other books 80’s.

In Australia it has to sell 1860 copies to achieve the same.

A sell through of this scale – 37% is not quite such an ask – although the population is much smaller.

Of course the answer has been to cut expenditure on these items, often to the negative impact on quality. But that’s the accounting.


Filed under economics, publishing, Writing