Tag Archives: author choices

Why Slow is Good for E-Publishing

As the length of time between releases deepens I always begin to get twitchy. As I face the fact that K’Barthan 3 will not be out for Christmas, indeed, is unlikely to be out by Christmas NEXT year, I am close to a major freak.

Reading this and the reblogged post it contained made me feel better. Hats off to Mr Vernon for sharing some heartening stats and some sage advice. I may put the brakes on and start writing other stuff alongside my big stuff. Because I’m not really a one trick pony, which is one of the things that is making it so hard.

Why Slow is Good for E-Publishing.

And on the back of that, this one, too…. Bottom-Dwelling E-book Authors RISE UP!!!.  Oh how I aspire to sales like Frank’s.

So at last I’ve got the message. And the message is: chill. Quite easy that, today, here. It’s brass monkey’s.*

Sorry everyone, but One Man: No Plan is not going to happen in a hurry. But that’s because I want it to be good. And I’m sure both of you (and the dog) would rather wait and read something that’s the best thing I can write, rather than the quickest.

Yeh, I’ve just binned an entire plotline: 50,000 words, which is what I mean about it taking a while. Phnark.

Onwards and upwards.

 

* Yeh, I know, it looks odd but that apostrophe is right because the full phrase is cold enough to freeze a brass monkey’s balls off.

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Filed under About My Writing, Author Updates, e-publishing, General Wittering, Good Advice

Women writing sci-fi? Disgraceful!

OK, a controversial one today. I’m going to talk about Mad Americans.

Sorry my American friends but when your compatriots turn barking they really go for it, you guys do mad better than any nation on earth. Not even we British can touch you. And that’s saying something.

Have you heard the latest? Science Fiction Writers of America, an organisation which, by all accounts, makes… well… even Republicans look open-minded has been in the news this week. Some of its members have expressed a view that women shouldn’t write sci-fi. This is, apparently, because they think that too many of the Sci-fi novels written by women have – gasp – romance in them! Mwah ha hahargh. I do ‘get’ that, I loathe and detest sparkly vampires but they’re just a trend, a fad and they’ll go away. They’re not caused by women! However, members of the SFWA are putting forward women sce-fi writers as the reason for this. Are you hearing a teeny bit of Sheldon Cooper on this one? Are you?

So, that’s the basic gist. Because of a passing trend for intergalactic bonk busters and the odd instance of characters falling in love in recent sci-fi, the SFWA has decided this:

Women authors = too much coitus. Phnark.

Well, they didn’t decide the ‘phnark’ bit I said that.

Well of course! That’s it, it’s our fault because we all know that Sci-fi, like D.I.Y. is serious hard-core man work that should not be attempted by women. Snortle!

Well, I got most of my info from Cora Buhlert’s excellent blog here. One of the articles she links to is a cracker here. I can recommend checking this site, it features sci-fi stories from around the world, properly around the world. It’s interesting, definitely worth a look.

To be honest, would anyone outside the United States see SFWA as the flagship organisation of the sci-fi genre? In Britain, perhaps, although I wouldn’t but then, I think that the ‘special relationship’ was made up by Winston Churchill to salvage some semblance of dignity after Yalta. History is always skewed by the perspective of those who write it; he wrote it, after everyone else was dead. But other English speakers/readers? I don’t know. The SFWA speaks for Americans, which is great but that’s not the English-speaking planet. From outside the US we foreigners can get the impression that, to an awful lot of Americans, their country IS the world which is fine so long as they don’t treat us as if, by being beyond their receptive parameters, we have no right to exist.

However, the thing that strikes me most forcefully about all of this is that if the SFWA wasn’t an American organisation, there probably wouldn’t even be a debate raging at all. How can a country be so forward and yet so backward at the same time? How do the nutter Americans get so het up and more to the point make so much noise? Zero tolerance or what? Some parts of the States must be stifling to live in. Check this! Mwah ha ha hargh, it’s absolutely hilarious but the sad thing is, it’s real. Do they not see the comedy in what they’re saying? Who stole their sense of humour, their sense of fair play? Then again, I’m British when we go to ‘protest’ on racial or religious grounds this happens http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/27/york-mosque-protest-tea-biscuits

See? Muslims aren’t bad people even if some bad people happen to be Musilms.

Sorry, tangent there. What I’m saying is that more and more people are learning to speak English every day. Right now the US represents just under half the English speakers on this planet – but that’s in countries where English is the national language, totted up by me looking at the population figures. It doesn’t count the people in other nations, where English is not the national language, but lots of people speak and read it. So the US is the noisiest market and it’s the biggest single market but it probably represents a lot less than half the population reading in English.

This also raises a broader question: What choice for a non American sci-fi author? You can address the US market, but it’s pretty conservative so you need to tailor your books specifically and then they may not fit so well elsewhere. You may well need to spell your book in American, write about American people and use American settings. If you’re writing sci-fi your protagonists, if they originate from Earth, will have to be very American in their outlook and culture, no-one will ever be allowed to wear a jumper or a jersey, the word will always have to be ‘sweater’. No-one will be allowed to use the interesting swear words because the Americans only know two; all in all, a bit dull.

Alternatively, you can write in your own voice, accept that the scary Americans won’t listen – but do you want them to anyway – welcome those who do, and speak to the other English-speakers of the world; Africa, Australasia and Eurasia. Places where there are millions of people who are willing and far more readily able to enjoy a story written from a differing cultural viewpoint. People who see English as a global language so understand that a faucet and a tap are the same thing. Also, BONUS, these are emerging economies where people have money to spend on books, unlike the US whose economy looks, from the outside, as if it’s almost as far down the lavatory (or the John) as ours.

I loved the quote from the South African writer along the lines of why would I join the Science Fiction Writers of America, it has nothing to do with me? Do you think the worm might finally be turning? It really is time organisations like the SFWA and more broadly, certain sectors of the US began to try and understand other cultures  – and more importantly were educated to do so – the way we understand theirs.

Could it be that, if the SFWA becomes more of an anachronism, and remains US-centric, it will come to realise that it is only the representative organisation of bigoted, male American sci-fi writers? It could be a world player but not without a change of attitude. Otherwise, it will be marginalised as the rest of us get bored of doing everything a certain way ‘so the Americans can understand it’ and another more outward-looking, inclusive organisation will step up and become the world ‘voice’ of the genre.

Homework: Read that ‘vox popoli’ post again and try and list the differences in attitude between that and the comedy skit shown below.

Answer: There are no differences.

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Note to self: Must buy fairy dust.

A slightly dodgy post tonight because my life is officially like pushing a rock up hill. I’m not sure what’s going on but the chaos gremlins won’t leave me alone… and I seem to be waiting… for everything. (sings, ‘the waiting is the hardest part… one more day sees one more yard’)

For example, I decided to put a thing on my bike and McMini’s bike that means the two are attached like a tag along.

In the whole container there was only one screw that was bespoke, that I couldn’t have replaced if I’d lost it. So after I’d put the rest of the contraption onto both bikes, which screw did I discover was missing? That’s right. And to be honest, while I know how to do some fairly comprehensively mechanical stuff to an engine, I couldn’t for the life of me work it out. I gave up. McMini has decided he likes the seat anyway, so we’ll stick with it.

My car. No fascia. No dash, no petrol gauge. The 50 mile journey to the garage down a road bristling with speed cameras… interesting. The solution, discovered by the garage, disconnect the battery. Doh! Why didn’t I think of that? Then again, if I had, I’d have only broken the alarm.

Other areas of life… Flat.

I think it’s book sales that’s getting to me. They look terrible, going backwards, but the demographic is different so I’m clinging to the hope that when I finally come to do the figures, it’ll be the same numbers over a wider selection of platforms. If it is, that’s good, but I have to face the possibility that my books may just be bombing.

Writing the books? Well at the moment, I feel like I’m chasing a mirage, the more I write the further away the end seems to be. I would like to finish the K’Barthan trilogy before I die but I’m really beginning to wonder if it’s going to happen. Rolls eyes. Yes it’s taking that fucking long.

Actually, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a trilogy, I’m about a third into the last book and it’s already as long as the middle one but I think it best to finish it and see if there’s a neat point to halve it.

There are times, when I just have to accept that however ‘real’ writing feels to me I’m not really a ‘real’ author because the only thing I have the capacity to do full time is bring up my boy. Sometimes that’s quite hard, other times I wonder why it might possibly matter. At the moment it’s hard.

Different people have different commitments and also different capabilities – I really can’t write books unless I’m on my own in a quiet room. That does hamper me somewhat. I know other people who can sit to one side at a kid’s party and bash out a couple of chapters. I am in awe, and obviously, seething with professional envy. In any job you’re going to encounter this. There are going to be people who are more productive than you there are going to be people who succeed faster and you have to suck it up.

However, working within your limitations can be quite hard. I always knew my career was going to happen slowly but there are days when I wonder if it’s too slow. Is being an author like escaping the Earth’s gravitational field? Will it be impossible to escape the oceans of dross without rocket boosters? Will writing and producing books in slow motion render me a failure? Unless I achieve escape velocity will I be trapped here in the one sale a month club for eternity?  Only time will tell but very probably yes. Then there’s the really evil one. Am I deluded? Have I, actually, written two shit books? Is that why they are only read after prolonged begging… or at gun point?

OK, so we’ll put the maudlin, self-pity back in the box now and think about what can be learned. What are the lessons here? What have I learned that might be useful to anyone else? Hmm. Well it’s these things:

  1. Something that applies to pretty much any endeavour in life. Avoid looking at other people’s output except to learn positive things, like what works for them that might work for you, that kind of stuff. NEVER compare someone else’s output to yours. That way madness lies. Switch off the internet if you have to but don’t do it. Set your own targets. Make them realistic in the framework of your life and your abilities and then stick to them – if you can. Should you hit them feel glad and when other people produce six times as much stuff in half the time, chill. Yes you may not be achieving the standard norm but you’re achieving something and that’s better than nothing.
  2. Don’t worry about other people’s sales figures – yes I am a fool, I’ve been to kindleboards again and depressed myself reading the threads about how well everyone’s doing. There will always be people doing better than you and for many of us it will be most people. This is the way of the world, if you have less time, people who have more will write more books, faster and achieve success faster. Embarrassingly, people who are way smarter than you will use less time than you have more wisely and write their books faster.  Yes you will feel left behind. This is the harsh reality of life. Deal with it.
  3. Sometimes it will feel as if you are standing still and everyone is running past you and disappearing into the distance. Try not to think about it.
  4. Don’t start your writing career with a trilogy, or at least not unless you’re absolutely lulu. A series of stand alone books, yes, but a trilogy? No. Because a trilogy merely extends the first book angst for three books. That’s OK if you bash out a book every six months but if it takes you two years…? It’s been 16 years and counting. Mmm, I’m sure you get my point.
  5. Hard work begets success but unfortunately, so does luck and no amount of hard work will make up for that 1% of luck on top that puts you onto another level. This applies to anything. I’ve always had to make my own luck and to be honest, I’m piss poor at it! Phnark.
  6. Be patient; with your books and yourself. Yes Tom Petty was right, the waiting IS the hardest part. Aim to enjoy what you do and look upon anything else as gravy because however hard you work, the fairy dust may miss you.

So I reckon that’s some great advice, which I know and understand but seem to be pathologically unable to accept. Especially number 6. I think if I had the smallest modicum of patience, I wouldn’t be feeling quite so pessimistic. Or it could just be that it’s May and it’s sunny and although that’s absolutely lovely it does mean there’s a very high probability that it’s going to sodding tip it down for the rest of the year. If I’m not around so much it’ll be because I’m writing. I have to write because if I don’t finish my magnum opus this year, I fear I really will go crazy. After that it’s going to be short, commercially viable books. Oh yeh. No trilogies. Not ever, ever again.

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Hello Stranger

Yeh, I know, I’ve been conspicuously absent. There are two reasons; it’s half term which means my time is not my own and I have been setting up another blog/website for a group n of writers I’m part of. I say group, it’s more of an affiliation really but if you want to know more you can find out here.

Let me know what you think.

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When real life treads on your hands…

I’ve gone and depressed myself again by looking at one of those ‘uplifting’ posts on Kindleboards about people who’ve had an e-book out for half as long as I have and are making a gazillion times more money. Sod it, just making any money. Maybe you just have to be American to earn a living selling e-books. I dunno. Or maybe you just have to have time. Lots of time. And maybe it’s something that you just can’t do in tiny slices of time, slowly, over years, like I’d hoped.

You know I am basically a happy bunny, I am surrounded by sweet people, I’m happy, I’m cherished, I cherish  others… I’m blessed with a very happy family. I also live in a lovely house and drive a car that, as an incurable petrol head, I still can’t quite believe I own. There’s really nothing wrong with my life except that not everyone in that cherished, loved support group around me is as they should be. I’m not one to spill my guts over the internet but let’s just say this. There’s something they don’t tell you about heart disease. A lot of it gives you brain damage. Because a lot of heart disease causes a lack of blood to the head. Over time, this gives similar symptoms similar to those of exposure only they come on very, very slowly. Every day you get a little more fuzzy. Every day another little piece of you, the essence of you, is carried away. Slowly but surely, inevitably, you lose your mind. Add a succession of really hard winters, because heaven forfend that fucking sod might pull any punches and you’re in the poop. Big time.

So, one of my cherished people is in the doo doo and those years and years of bitty, incremental damage are beginning to show. And I can’t do a fucking thing.  And I’m miles away from them when I should be there. When the simplest thing becomes a marathon slog for them, I’m not there to help or reassure when all my life, I believed I would be. I’m not there to fix the computer when it freaks, or go through the paperwork or deal with the admin that escapes; things like tax returns or driving license applications. I’m trapped here at the end of the phone and all I can do is listen. And it feels shit. Because to watch the people I love suffer from a long way away and not help; people who have given me everything and made me who I am, people I look up to. That makes me feel like a special kind of bastard.

So the wheels have fallen off my writing a bit. I can’t stop, I’m addicted, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be hitting any deadlines, and I probably won’t be very professional about it either. In short, if K’Barthan 3 is ready by next Christmas I’ll be surprised. But in my defence, although I can’t name names and be straight about it here, there is a good reason. Real life has painfully, comprehensively, trodden on my hands.

I feel a bit like this. As Arnold the Prophet says in K’Barthan Three.
“Life is a gift, reach out and take it with both hands.”
And The Pan of Hamgee says.
“That’s all all very well for you to say but the gift I’m being offered looks suspiciously like a dog turd in a paper bag, to me.”
It isn’t all pants and it’s a lot worse for them than me but there’s a very, very sad bit and I have to accept that I can’t fix it. And that rankles. Big time.

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Filed under About My Writing, Humorous Fantasy Author

This week, I have mostly been doing interviews!

I’ve been very lazy these last couple of weeks. Partly because I’ve been running around like a headless chicken BUT I have done a couple of interviews which you can read elsewhere if the mood takes you.

The first one is at Mirabooks, fellow author Mira Kolar-Brown’s blog. So, you can find that one here.
The second is at Jonathan Hill: Writer, Reader, Book Lover which is the blog of fellow author Jonathan Hill and you can find that one, here.

Both were great fun to do with interesting questions so feel free to pop over if you have time.

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Publishing is dead: Long live… publishing?

What does a publisher do? Is there a point to having one? As a species are publishers dead?

I was just looking at this and even though I’m self published, I agree with pretty much all of it.

So… reading that kind of bears out what I’ve always thought. Ergo that a publisher is something akin to a venture capitalist. They see an idea and they invest. After a number of funding rounds etc, the ‘inventor’ of a product usually ends up with around 10% although I know people who have ended up with about 2%. When a company you started sells for several hundred millions and you get a ‘mere’ two it could be galling, if you looked at it the wrong way. But, in many cases, without the expertise of the Venture Capitalists – sorry I think they call themselves Business Angels these days – that hundreds of millions sale may not happen. Inventors invent something but as I understand it, where they make the money is sharing their know how with, and investing in, like minded individuals afterwards.

So what I’m saying, inarticulately as usual, is, writers have an idea, the publisher is the venture capitalist in that they pour thousands into the venture to get it to the stage where it will start making a return. The writer who has a publisher gets 10% rather than 70% but they will probably get to a break even point quicker than they might otherwise. Well… unless they live on benefits and spend all day every day marketing their work online and elsewhere. The other 60% absorbed by the publisher has probably been spent on design of the book and cover, some marketing, paid reviews in the right places and the kind of contacts and clout that no self published author will have. In short, if you’ve written, something, anything marketable, a publisher is the best bet (or acting the EXACT same way as a publisher – apart from saying no to yourself, obviously).

Unfortunately publishers are not like VCs or BAs, they’re much more cautious about who or what they invest in and there seems to be a lack of creative flair among the big ones. That means a lot of good stuff gets left on the cutting room floor… or the author may have some home life reason that precludes them from writing two books a year – which is what any self respecting publisher will expect (and need).

Those are the people who are going to have to do their own thing and those are the people whose books WILL get written, whatever the article says, and will get published. None of my stuff would ever see the light of day if I had to sell it to a publisher first. That’s partly because I’m bollocks at sales but a big bit is also because I have too much on in my real life to write a book in under 18 months. Even with an advance I couldn’t do that because the sticking points are people who need me, my time and my… well it sounds corny but… love.

So, if publishers could accept China Mieville’s view: “If we try to second guess readers, it’s a fool’s game. Our job is not to give readers what they want, but to make readers want what we give.” it would be great.

Unfortunately a lot of the big ones are trying to second guess what readers want and give it to them. The result is a huge restriction on choice and creativity.

Hang on though! Lots of small publishing houses have appeared in the last few years who are bang in line with Mr Mieville and have stepped into the breach. At this rate the publishing industry will re-invent itself… as it’s old 1960s forward looking, inquisitive, quality driven self.

Let’s hope so.

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