Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mini Ice Age?

It all depends on who you talk to, or read. Some people claim that the current cold snap is 'proof' that there is no such thing as 'Global Warming.' Others insist that 'Cimate Change' has come and we, as a species, are endangering ourselves.

All I know is that its cold outside today, and it was dry, dry, dry this summer. Saying "it is" is a foolish as saying "it ain't" at this point. For one thing, we had a couple of volcanic eruptions in the past two years. For another, there was a heck of a fire in Russia this summer. You can't tell me that all that smoke and dust is NOT going to mess up the atmosphere. If there is already something going on - which there is - then it's going to make the weather worse - which it has.

Some darn fool - I erased the link after I read the post - thinks that we are going to have the coldest winter in 100 years. He sites sun-spots, El Nino~ the volcanos and climate change as coming together in the worst possible way. Yippy, skippy!

I've also noticed that gasoline is creeping back to $3 a gallon, while hay is scarce.

Fortunately, we replaced the windows in the house, put up fences and put on the back porch while the weather was good. All three are paying off. The porches have cut the sun, the windows block the wind and the fences won't blow down in this rotten weather.

We are as snug as we are going to be for the next week or two. I've got three dogs and an electric blanket to keep me from freezing tonight. I also know from the Ice Storm just how cold  and miserable it can be to try to heat this place with a fireplace. I have a propane heater just for such an occasion. Between the fireplace and the heater we should be okay. There is wood, hay and grain for the critters.

I know that I'm not prepared for the worst, but we'll be fine for a few days.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Curious Things About Chickens

I think I've posted a few of my more spectacular chicken failures this year. The worst was the purchase of two batches of EXPENSIVE day-old Dominique chicks, only to loose them to predators.

I also lost my best hen, a Dominique named "Smudge" who was the first and only hen to successfully raise 2 batches of babies. The first batch was 3 chicks, (Sony the current rooster is the only survivor) the second was 4 and the last was 19, which was 4 of her own and 15 purchased. However, she and all the babies but 2 were killed by my own dog. Minnie and Mickie survived. Mickie is now my back-up rooster and Minnie is a very large hen.

The second big loss was "Seven" and 1 of her own, 15 purchased chicks and 4 duck-hatched babies. She was killed by either a fox or a hawk. Only 3 of the duck-hatched babies remain. They are small, but hardy, and appear to be under the protection of Minnie.


The odd thing is this - the first flock was 7 hens. The longest lived was the mother of the current rooster and all the second generation hens. The second flock was 12 Barred Rocks - an offshoot of the Dominique. I've spent all last year trying to raise a second generation of those, but only Seven and a duck managed to hatch any. Not one of 4 incubator loads had survived. 

Weird chicken fact #1, the drive to set on a nest of eggs and the ability to raise chicks has been bred out of the modern chicken. There are occasional broody hens, like Smudge, but she was too old to lay more than an egg or two. Seven was also an exception. But she's also gone to her reward.

I attempted to teach a chicken to 'go broody' during last winter when I put a half dozen chicks with a pullet. Three of those turned out to be roosters, so I gave them away, two died. One hen survived, but I've lost track of her. (Leg bands only work when you record where each hen came from.

This year, I'm going to start hatching eggs earlier. This January I'll take up a batch of eggs. Should I get a hatching, I'll put them in the tack room where there is heat. Then I'll put the youngest pullets in with these babies to get them started. The young pullets will love the food and the heat lamp. If I'm lucky they will let the little ones snuggled under their feathers.

I'm taking an odd stance between 'Nature' and 'Nurture' with a big bite of 'Natural Selection' thrown in for a good measure. If there is a way to train a hen to 'mother' it would be for her to be raised by a hen, then to have her assist in raising a brood of babies. The instinct would be reinforced.

Since the only young chickens surviving to this point are the ones hatched here, and they are all a cross between a Dominique and a Barred Rock, I'm going to suppose that hybred vigor is playing a part. I'm very sad that the Dominique (the oldest American breed) is not a hardy enough chicken to survive here. Maybe that's why it's nearly extinct - they no longer have what it takes to survive a 'free range' life.

Sony the rooster is purebred. But he's the last. There are no more Dominique hens. Only Smudge survived four years. Sampson, the original purebred rooster, died two years ago. Mickey is a hybred, but he doesn't get any hens for himself. He sneaks a breeding here and there, but Sony beats him up every chance he gets. So Mickey lives outside of chicken world, and sleeps by himself in the rafters.

It will take all winter and spring for me to test my theory. But I'm going to bet that a combination of selection and nurture is going to be the only way I increase my flock of laying hens. 'Imported' chicks don't survive long enough to lay.

I will have to rely on the faithful flock to reproduce itself. Which is going to kill my egg sales.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grand Old Mare

This month, as hectic as it has been, has had three bright spots.

A friend and her daughter were walking around the pasture. The old mare ambled up, sniffed us and stayed for pats. She was in such a calm mood that I sent daughter for a halter and lead rope. We boosted her onto the old mare's back - then we walked around the pasture talking.

While we walked the old gelding fell into step. The young mare got a bit huffy, I chased her off until she lost the attitude. Eventually, she fell into step with us. The parade went up and down the pasture before we ended up in the round pen. The old gelding came in, I chased the young mare out.

We gave daughter a second lead rope, she 'rode' the old mare around and had a great time.

It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. They've been back, we put daughter in a saddle this time. The old mare was simply wonderful.

This is the same horse who, at three, was a notorious bucker. She came to me because nobody wanted her. She's still tricky and has made me eat my share of dirt - but she loves kids, and always has. It always amuses me to see her be a perfect horse.

Today we tossed a young boy (maybe 8 years old) on her back and did pretty much the same thing. Amazing to see her play nanny, no saddle, only a halter and lead ropes. She puts her head down and steps carefully, walking gently so he can stay on. He wanted to make her run, I told him he'd have to take lessons first.

When it was over, he led her into the barn, she literally kept an eye on him. I remember the spirited young mare who threw everyone who rode her and give her a big hug.

The mare is 5 foot at the shoulder, weighs 1100 lbs, the kid weighs maybe 40 lbs and barely reaches her chest. The look of wonder on his face was priceless. I know how he feels, to have an animal so large and strong obey you makes you feel strong and powerful. 

He is fearless, so when he let the horses out, he walked along with them. My herd is well-mannered, his grandmother and my sister were worried about the horses hurting him. I knew they wouldn't. 


The young mare hasn't been ridden in a long time - but she's seen her mother with the kids. She's jealous of the attention. She let herself be caught the other day (they couldn't tell her from her mother) so she could get brushed and petted. They say horses learn from example. I think I'll use this to my advantage.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Interesting Times

In case you are wondering why this blog hasn't been updated in a while - life has gotten 'interesting' so a lot of the things I was planning to post this month have been put on hold.

As soon as life is properly 'boring' again, I will return.

Hopefully with a launch date for "Swallow the Moon" (but don't hold your breath.)

I AM editing "Swallow the Moon" during these interesting times.

If you want to help out while I put 'real life' first, here is a link to the first chapter of "Swallow the Moon" posted on Goodreads.com. You can read the chapter and comment or 'like' it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

E-Book Pricing - Part III

Sometimes you have to strike out and blaze trails. The rest of the time it is much better to get advice from someone more knowledgeable. 

I'm pleased to share this link and these quotes concerning e-book pricing from Dean Wesley Smith's blog:

"Short stories. 99 cents. Author gets about 35 cents per sale."

"Short novels and short collections (Anything from 15,000 words to 45,000 words)$2.99.
Author gets around 65% or about $1.95 per sale."


"Novels or long collections (45,000 words and up) $4.99-$5.99


Author gets around 65% or about $3.25-$4.50 per sale."

His prices are only a little different than the ones below.

$0.99 Short Shorts: Under 3K
$1.99 Shorts: 3-7K
$2.99 Stories: 7-15K
$3.99 Novelettes: 15-35K
$4.99 Novellas: 35-50K
$5.99 Novels 50-70K
$6.99 Super Novels: 70-140K
$7.99 Super XL Novels: 140-250K
$8.99 Super XXL Novels: 250K +



For more on this topic:

E-Book Pricing - Part IV

Friday, October 29, 2010

E-Book Pricing - Part II

Amazon knew what they were doing when they made the 70% royalty capped on both ends. They have effectively thumped writers on the head telling them – ‘get with the program.’

Most Indie writers have heard the call and upped their prices. Backlash comes from people who don’t want to pay for novels. (Well, neither do publishers for that matter, royalty percentages are chump change.)

If we look at the cliché ‘the cream rises to the top’ then we have a better idea of the pricing structure as a “system” of the market.

For instance, Fan Fiction is free. The best FF authors can hope for is eyeballs. Not many people are willing to pay even a penny to read the stuff. There is a lot of free crap out there – thank God most of it won’t see paper, ever.

In fact, Smashwords is so full of freebies that’s it’s hard to make any money there. As a distributor, they give great access – sales are iffy at best.

The Kindle Store was the home of the $.99 Newbie Indie because Amazon wisely won’t let Indies give their work away. Those rock bottom prices won’t go on forever. The $.99 novel needs to go the way of the $.99 gallon of gasoline.

At $.35 a copy, it will take months to pay for the ISBN I bought from Smashwords. It is not going to pay my car payment, or buy hay for my horses.

The latest game-changing group to hit the e-book market are the mid-listers, salvaging their careers by publishing their backlist. These books were published – they are not going to be priced for $.99.
They have no reason not to charge ‘pro’ prices.

If the “average book sells 18 copies” never earning out it’s advance, only staying on the shelves a few weeks, going Indie makes a lot of cents. (pun intended)

Like it or not – writing is a craft, but publishing is a business. Responsible publishing means responsible pricing. In order to stay in business writers HAVE write a book that proves they are pros, and charge accordingly.

If The Great Publishing Company can sell an e-book for $12.99 the same book is a bargain at $6.99. No agent to take ‘charge’ of the money, then ‘forget’ to send the royalties to the writer. (Yes, it happens.)

The ‘carrot’ approach to raising prices should have worked like a charm. Instead it has run smack into the writer’s paradox – inferiority from years of abuse from agents and the snobbery from rest of the publishing establishment.

A starving artist should shut the hell up and starve. The literary status quo must be maintained.

And those two guys behind the curtain – you know – Joe Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith – they are lying!

Everything they say about the changes in publishing is a damn lie.

Right – and I’ve got this big bridge that I’ll sell you cheap….

For more on this topic:

E-Book Pricing - Part I

E-Book Pricing - Part III
E-Book Pricing - Part IV

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blood Price by Tanya Huff

Blood Price (Victoria Nelson, #1)Blood Price by Tanya Huff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As the opening book in a series from 1991 - I enjoyed reading "Blood Price." Like many other reviewers I found out about the books from the TV series.

Huff does a good job of pulling the reader into the story. I liked her 'regular' characters enough to keep reading the rest of the series. While Norman came off as uninteresting, she makes up for it with her later villains. 

Looking only at the first book, after having devoured the series, it is difficult to keep from writing spoilers. Henry is my favorite vampire character - bumping the Vampire Kitty-Cat Patch off his throne. Vickie holds up well, now and in the rest of the series.

Finding the entire series was difficult. I had to buy the books used. I was disappointed that Huff has not released the series as e-books. I would liked to have bought them for my Nook, instead of paper copies that I don't have room to keep.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dry, Dry, Dry

There has been no significant rain since August.

The lawn died months ago. Only a strip fed by condensation from the roof lives.

The pastures are beyond dead grass dry.

They are barren.

The chickens hunt grasshoppers, like Jurassic Park raptors, they move with amazing speed over the barren ground. Few bugs survive the predation of the flock.

The weeds have withered, the horses move restlessly over the pastures, seeking out the few blades surviving in the low places. They drink deeply in the mornings, sucking the 100 gallon trough dry.

Blue skies are relentless. Even the deeply cloudy days cheerlessly refusing to part with any moisture.

Even now, as the sky is blurring over with high clouds, mocking the color of the sky, the ground has little hope. The wind does not bring the sharp scent of rain. The clouds merely curtain away the sun for a day.

The grass is dead, the trees suffer in silence. Birds, fox and coyote prowl, endlessly searching for water.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

J.R. Ward at 'The Bookstore'

J.R. Ward came into our local bookstore for a signing, yesterday evening to support the release of "Crave" the second book in her "Fallen Angels" series. Her hot selling series "The Black Dagger Brotherhood"  are vampire paranormals.


I've heard a few rumors about Ward's relationship to her fans. I wanted to see who would turn up for the signing. Working weekends has always kept me from the fun stuff. I went yesterday to satisfy my curiousity, getting a signed copy was secondary.

I expected a crowd of tween-age Goths, instead there was a cross section of ages and styles of dress. People came from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Alabama. The little store was packed, I would guess 200 people - there may have been another hundred. Waiting in line was fun for me, hubby had his fill of estrogen and retreated to the car.


Ward appeared promptly at 6pm. J.R. is a dynamic woman who knows how to work a crowd. She's twig thin, ghost pale and very tall, she wore a black dress, pearls, 3 or 4 inch heels and dark sunglasses. Now I've seen her I understand why her heroes are giants at 6' 5" to 6' 7". It's all about those extra inches.

I've read "Covet" and enjoyed it. However, her fans were immersed in the "The Black Dagger Brotherhood." The questions were all about the Brothers. Ward knows exactly what her fans want, and is expert at keeping them entertained. The signing was part theater, part Q & A, and a great time.

What I learned from this - not being on the 'inside' with all the characters - is that marketing can mix with showmanship. As with Stephen King, J.R. Ward projects an image - she is, herself, a character.

The warm, gleeful relationship Ward has with her fans is just too cool.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

E-Book Pricing - Part I

What price to charge for an e-book? This is the great debate amongst Indie writers.

Hanging out on a few independent writer sites, I've noticed this issue cropping up. It is the one foremost in my own mind. Joe Konrath made a good case on Kindle boards (sorry can't find the link) and has another blog post about pricing here. Zoe Winters has touched on the subject here and here. Joe and Zoe are only two people, but both are very visible.

Kindle and Smashwords are the two venues I'm the most familiar with, but there are more. Publishing through Smashwords opens up 4 other markets – Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony and Kobo. (PubIt! just went live. As a reader, I'm excited. More books for my Nook!)

The Kindle store doesn't allow Indie writers to give their work away. In fact, Amazon may have raised the royalty rate to 70% to bring the price of e-books UP to $2.99 as well as down to $9.99. While Smashwords hasn't set a minimum price – they have "coupon codes" so a writer can price their book at a competitive level, yet still give away discounted or free copies as needed.

I want to point out is that many Indie authors are selling their books for $.99 or giving them away. Selling a book cheap (or free) was the way that Winters and Konrath got noticed. As the numbers of Indie authors have skyrocketed, cheap reads are very common. Perhaps too common, there is a lot of downward pressure on book prices.

There is a precedent for freebies on the 'trade' side, too. Ellora's Cave and Harlequin give e-books away. Barnes & Noble gives away a book a week to Nook owners.

I'm kicking myself for losing the link for this – but I picked up the price list below from somewhere. (I'm so sorry, whoever you are!) I found this place from a link of Zoe's, I've posted it here to give us a benchmark.


$0.99 Short Shorts: Under 3K
$1.99 Shorts: 3-7K
$2.99 Stories: 7-15K
$3.99 Novelettes: 15-35K
$4.99 Novellas: 35-50K
$5.99 Novels 50-70K
$6.99 Super Novels: 70-140K
$7.99 Super XL Novels: 140-250K
$8.99 Super XXL Novels: 250K +



*Edited 9/18/2011 - The source is Selena Kitt - from her romantica/erotica publishing company. So the prices are valid for the Romance genre.*


Pricing by length makes sense to me. This list is from an e-publisher. Some would say a 'professionally' published e-book rates more money than a lowly self-published book. Following this price schedule would be a huge step up – "Let's Do Lunch" would sell for $6.99 just by word count.

A second point is that e-book length, as well as pricing, appears to go in two different directions. The women's fiction/romance/erotica market is going shorter, while the fantasy side is getting longer. Hmmm…Does this reflect the free time available for each gender? I know that I don't read modern fantasy anymore, because the darn books are too long. I digress – back on track.

Is this a textbook case of 'the cream rises to the top?'

Joe and Zoe – who gained their popularity with $.99 books, are vocal about raising prices in a time when more people are saying 'Indie books are worthless crap.' Since they are the 'cream' of the Indie world, they may be on the right track for themselves, but not for everyone.

I killed my sales by upping the price of "Let's Do Lunch" to $2.99. There are a number of caveats to that statement. The book is available in more markets than just Kindle, thanks to Smashwords, it even has an ISBN number. Having the sales drop from 4 a week to 0 was a big 'oh shit.'

The reason that I'm 'coming out' on this issue is that I promised myself in the beginning that "Lunch" was an experiment. I could document the 'ups and downs' so other wannabe writers could check this blog for 'real time' results.

Back to pricing – Is $.99 the only answer?

Unknown, self-published authors may feel they don't have a choice. Is the market saying 'if it costs more than a buck, forget it.' to unknowns like myself?

Should we drop the Kindle price back to $.99 because we're desperate to see some sales? Or, raise the price to the charts 'market levels' to combat the pressure for cheap/free reads? Either way changes to Smashwords take weeks to trickle down, while the Kindle contract stipulates they will have the lowest price.

Splitting the price to the different markets could be a good way to test my pricing theory. I could drop my Kindle price to $.99 and leave the rest the same. This could also be an ugly can of worms that I don't want to freaking open! I can see an price war – of my own doing – that will take months to clear up.

*Edited 9/18/2011 - Dropping the price to $.99 didn't work for me. What it did was change the 'Also Bought' list to $.99 and free e-books. This in turn cause more problems as I tried to raise the price to $2.99.* 



*What did work for me was releasing a second e-book. This was 'Impressive Bravado' a 7k short story. The release of this e-book as a freebie in March on Smashwords.com produced sales through the summer of 2011. (You can get a free copy from Smashwords through 12/31/11 with this code: HT72M)*
Marketing is a pain in the tush – get on with it!

The ugly truth is that marketing is now the 'make or break' for a writer. It doesn't matter if you are published by a 'trade' publisher, or if you self-published. New writers don't get any marketing help.

Short of hiring someone to market the book, how should a writer work out some kind of marketing strategy? There are plenty of review sites, more 'author interview' sites. Neither of these made any difference in my sales. (Not even Authors on Show, though they gave me a week of phenomenal hits.)

Creating a marketing co-op could be an answer, if I decided I didn't want to write and wanted only to market other writer's books. In my case, joining a co-op would be a better idea. Yet when I look at the one co-op I'm familiar with, it doesn't look so good.

Lebrary.com is the co-op I'm talking about – I see where they are trolling for authors – but not advertising their content. Book prices vary by length and the purchased package. Yet I don't see them taking advantage of their content by marketing the site to readers. They have no brand. This mistake may kill the site.



*Edited - 9/18/2011 - Looks like the site is dead. There are no blog posts and the newest content appears to be from 2010.*

Content is valuable – to simply charge authors for disk space is a waste of resources. Kindle is a brand. Barnes and Noble is a brand. Authors on Show has the right idea. (Go Team AoS!) Lebrary.com could learn a lot from AoS.

Even though my efforts at marketing (besides the $.99 price) have been futile, other writers are looking to me for advice, and/or help marketing their books.

Talk about the blind leading the blind.



*Edited 9/18/2011 - this is my most popular post, with the most hits, on this entire site. The chart has proven more useful to more people than I ever expected.*

For more on this topic:

E-Book Pricing Part II 
E-Book Pricing Part III
E-Book Pricing Part VI


Related links:
Authors on Show - Showcases Authors in UK
Impressive Bravado - Short Horse Story by K. A. Jordan
(You can get a free copy from Smashwords through 12/31/11 with this code: HT72M)
Let's Do Lunch - Women's Fiction by K. A. Jordan

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Squick Time - Giant Spiders

This is just ghastly! I was mowing my lawn today and ran into a spider web. That made me hyper-sensitive to places where they hang out.

This is where it gets gross and squicky - I found a giant spider in the front. This is one of those yellow garden spiders. Only the body looked like it was the size of a very small pullet egg.

I nearly got sick looking at it. I'm terrified of these things.

There are so many here that I've started siccing the chickens on them, or spraying them if they get too close to the porch. (Anywhere I can see them is too damn close!)

I can't wait until the frost hits and these awful things are gone!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Marketing 'Let's Do Lunch'

This has been a very slow month as far as sales go. Since I added Smashwords to the mix, I've been trying to push some business that way, so I can track the number of hits.

I know that there have been 20 samples downloaded from Smashwords. So far there have not been any sales. I gave away 1 book, hoping to get a review later on down the road. I've also created a coupon to give a 50% discount for the book. This code has been posted to Authors on Show's 'Thank You' page.

I committed to giving away downloads of "Lunch" to the troops. Being so close to Fort Knox, and knowing so many young people in service, I feel strongly about showing support for them. Even if it is only giving them a copy of an e-book.

I can't help but thinking of the children of my friends - grown men and women now - who are 'over there.' (Better change the subject now before I start ranting.)

I posted a link to Joe Konrath's sales figures - and reminded myself just how important it is to have a body of work, not just a single book. Joe and the Indie writers whose names he posted, have worked very, very hard to write, edit and market their books.

My WIP has suffered from the summer long chaos. I can't concentrate long enough to finish the book. So I'm posting to this blog and messing around with a possible website. I have made some progress in other areas - bought the cover and posted Chapter One to Goodreads.

"Let's Do Lunch" now has an ISBN number - purchased from Smashwords. That will allow me to sell it on iBook, Sony and Barnes & Noble. I'm hearing from other writers that B&N is quickly becoming the second best selling market after Amazon. Must be all the Nooks they sold. So far I haven't found my own book on their site, but that takes WEEKS.

'Trivia Updated'

A number of annoying little inconsistencies have been plaguing me. Names that don't match - websites that need to be changed. I was able to get a big batch of that fixed today. I felt like I was drowning in minutia this afternoon, but now I'm happy because it is done.

I spent some time on the Kindle Boards today. The site has some confusing rules concerning what and when you can post. Yet it looks like I'm going to need to hang around and learn the ins and outs of the place. :-P

'Pet News'

The boys have had that wonderful surgery that keeps them from running off - looking for girl dogs. Hopefully this will also stop them from fighting. I've had to break up some snarl-fests that sounded murderous. Bites have been exchanged, but no blood has been drawn. This should keep them from an all out war. The last thing I need is a couple of Jack Russel terriorists going at it over the food dish.

The interesting thing is that everyone at the Clinic came out to tell me how wonderfully behaved my boys are. That may well be - a dog named 'Trouble' comes with a set of expectations. My old Jack had his teeth cleaned - no extractions this time. My boys were on a yogert diet for the first day. Even my hubby was envious.

Mommy Duck hatched out a red chick. I now have a Dominque crossed with a Rhode Island Red. She's a cutie, I put her in the iron tub for a few days with friends to teach her how to eat and drink.

That all the farm news.

Konrath Ebooks Sales Top 100k

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Konrath Ebooks Sales Top 100k

Yes, Joe has posted his numbers, and as usual they are mind-boggling.

Also worthy of a look-see is the list of new authors and pro-authors who are also riding the crest of the wave.

There is a lot to learn here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Authors on Show - Features Yours Truly

I am fortunate enough to have be featured on the Authors on Show website. Lorraine has featured me on their "Thank You" page. This page is reserved for the site supporters, I'm proud to have been selected.

I am a cheerleader for Authors on Show because I believe in what they are doing. In the age of "Do It Yourself" marketing for new authors a showcase like this is critical. It can mean the difference between a author and their book making it or falling into obscurity.

 Thank you, Lorraine and AoS Team. I wish you all the best and will continue to send authors your way.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Hawk on the Chicken Coop

I wish I had a picture of it. There was a big red-tailed hawk sitting on the wire roof of chicken world today. All my baby birds are in there. I've lost over $200 worth of purchased pullets and a hundred baby ducks this year.

So while Hungry Hawk was looking at the dinner out of reach. Hubby and I had a conference. The vote was two against one - the hawk had to go.

Hubby popped him with a bb gun. Non-lethal from that distance, but painful. The hawk dropped to the ground with a squawk. Then hopped back up to take one more look at my babies before he winged off.

Too bad he doesn't eat fox.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coming Soon

One of the best arguments for pursuing publication through traditional sources is the assistance the author would get with marketing their book.

Yet, the rumors abound that a first book actually gets very little support.

I have a contact who did manage to get published via a well-known imprint. I'm looking forward to asking some questions and getting the feedback that we all desire.

How much help does a new author really get with their first book?

Stay tuned, I hope to present some very useful information in the near future.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Cyber-Land of Confusion

As I continue to market 'Let's Do Lunch,' I am struck by the strangeness in the world of forums.

It is a hostile environment.

I suppose you can't blame each forum for creating rules based upon their experiences. Faceless spamming is annoying – slapping a book plug into random threads is enough to irritate anyone. I had enough bad experiences with flaming trolls and creepy sock-puppets on Autho' to empathize to a certain extent.

However, I'm convinced there has to be a better way.

I've already decided that LinkedIn has far too many people shilling services to all and sundry. However, I get many hits from the site. They are definitely a source of hits, if not a source of sales. I have decided to keep a presence in the discussion groups, but send people to the blog so I don't have to repeat myself.

British literary salon Litopia has arcane membership rules. Membership is based on the number of posts (either 50 or 250 I've see both mentioned) after that you have to submit a sample of your writing to some unknown entity (and pass a grammar test?) in order to become a full member. I don't have time to read and comment even 50 times. I doubt their market for women's fiction is large enough to justify my time and effort to obtain full membership.

Kindle boards has me thoroughly confused – I'm not going to remark further. Suffice to say that there are WAY too many people selling books. They have rules for everything. Blogspot tells me that I'm not getting many hits from that site.

Good old Face Book is a winner – their networked blogs function appears to be the source of most of my blog hits. Since joining networked blogs my hits per day have doubled. It may well be worth the investment of time and money to take out an ad through them.

I did enjoy the brief time I spent on the Authors on Show site. It has a good mix of US and UK readers and writers. Lorraine has been kind enough to link to Jordan's Croft – I really need to get over there and learn their site.

Oddly enough – I have not found a forum for Smashwords. I think I've missed it. I do enjoy their coupon function – I made one up the other day. (See the Books by K.A. Jordan page.) However, until I go over their marketing guide a couple more times I don't think I'll get the jist of it. It took me two weeks to understand Amazon DTP so I'm not going to sweat it. FWIW 'Lunch' was accepted by the premium catalog. I could go to iBook if I got an ISBN number.

The total waste of time this week was the Amazon Romance forum. I was taking part in two discussions – very lively and interesting. The first was deleted by Amazon, the second was taken over by a pro-erotica contingent.

The good news – 'Let's Do Lunch' continues to sell steadily. Since the price has increased to $2.99 I have made as much money in one week as I did the entire first month.

The bad news – 'Swallow the Moon' has fallen afoul of my chaotic life. The book hovers at just under 59.5k words. While I sit down to complete this pass every night – it seems there is always some crisis distracting me. If it's not the fox after my chickens in broad daylight, it's Trouble racing down the road.

Farm life has drawbacks.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

'Let's Do Lunch' Discarded Scene

A dozen men and one woman sat in a circle, some in wheelchairs, some on crutches, several were amputees, all were soldiers in various stages of treatment. Some faced forward, making eye contact with each other. A few looked down; others looked away, refusing to make any kind of eye contact.

There was also a tall, thin man in his sixties sitting quietly. He had the dark skin of a man who worked outside. Across from him was the 'hard case' of the crew. Bearded and shaggy-haired Sergeant 'Tag' McTaggart wore old jeans and an Army t-shirt, what he lacked in grooming, he made up for in attitude.

McTaggart understood those reluctant to participate. He understood the despairing ones, too. Out on his own for six months he'd been back twice, once in a coma, once in a straight jacket. The condition for his release included that he come to this group without fail.

"What a crock of shit," the speaker was in a wheelchair. "I'm supposed to LIKE the fact that my career is dead and that the Army that I served life and limb thinks I'm a helpless cripple?"

"Acceptance doesn't mean that you like it." The councilor, a woman in her sixties was a civilian. "You just get on with your life."

"Bullshit," McTaggart said. "I'm going stir crazy. The days drag and the nights are… horrible."

"Then get a job." One of the other men in the circle, named Smith, said. "Stop sitting on your ass. Find something to do."

Smith was dressed in new jeans and a polo shirt. He had been "out in the world" for a year, and they all knew that he was playing stay-at-home Dad for his three pre-school kids. His jeans hid the fact that he was missing a leg.

"Right," McTaggart sneered. "I've spent the last ten years learning how to kill people. That would look great on a resume" He looked around at the group. "Anybody know a Mafia boss who wants a one-legged hit man?"

A couple of the guys snickered.

"You can come over and help me with the kids, anytime." Smith grinned. "You can chase the youngest. She hasn't learned to walk yet, but she can scoot."

"A female that can't outrun him," Rodriguez snickered.

"Smart ass, you find a job," McTaggart flipped him the bird.

The councilor held up her hand, stopping the others from commenting.

"It doesn't have to be a job as a hit man, or the president of some company. Just find something to do."

"How did you survive when you first got out?" McTaggart asked the tall thin man across the circle. "You had a long time in service. There was none of this bullshit back in your day, eh?"

The guys respected the Vietnam Veteran. He'd told his story – Green Beret, POW, married to the same woman since the 1970's, with two daughters. He had no treatment for his PTSD until a year ago. He'd nearly killed two men with his bare hands because of it.

"I did 30 years in the Army, so it was tough," retired Colonel Jim Bennett looked McTaggart straight in the eye. "It got worse after 9-11. I lost my son-in-law at the Pentagon then my retirement money when the market crashed. My pension isn't enough to cover the wife's maintenance." They laughed.

"So I got off my ass. You know, 'suck it up and drive on.'" Bennett showed his teeth in a smile. "Now I work with my daughter. I have a market garden, two acres that I work every day. I'm up before dawn and I work outside, sometimes until dark."

"Sounds like hard work," one of the men said.

"I can take my time," Bennett shrugged. "I tried an office job. I hated it."

"Maybe you can put McTaggart to work." Rodriguez was in a mood for trouble. "I don't think Smith should trust him with his daughter."

They all sat back, inhaling sharply at the insult.

McTaggart stared Rodriguez down, until the other man dropped his eyes, muttering under his breath.
"Hey, I was just messing around."

"How about it, McTaggart?" Bennett broke the silence. "I could use some help."

"Doing what?" McTaggart was curious. "What can I do?"

"Help me plant, help me harvest," Bennett grinned. "It's not rocket science, just gardening."

"What's the matter, afraid to get your hands dirty?"

"I used to work in my Uncle Ray's garden," a double amputee in a wheelchair who hadn't spoken in weeks looked at McTaggart. "I liked it."

Everyone in the group looked from him to McTaggart.

McTaggart took a deep breath then nodded.

"Okay. I'll think about it."

Rodriguez had to get the last word, but he said it under his breath so only McTaggart heard him.

"Lay a hand on one of Bennett's daughters and you'll take a long dirt nap."

McTaggart snorted - messing with women was the last thing on his mind.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Content Sites – the Future of Indie?


The more I read forums in places like LinkedIn, Kindle Boards, Amazon, Create Space and, of course, the Bitches - the more I understand the need for 'content sites' and themed writer co-ops. These sites keep the Indie writer from 'reinventing the wheel' of marketing.
The two I keep coming back to are "Authors On Show" and "Year Zero."

At Year Zero – things are hopping once again. Dan Halloway did a guest blog on Authonomy.blogspot.com entitled: eight cuts gallery – this is not a publishing house. I recommend Year Zero and eight cuts gallery of 'bleeding edge' literature for anyone willing to take a walk on the wild side. Here is a 'hat's off' salute!
Authors on Show – they are so supportive! I've recommended them on LinkedIn forums – simply because they are working the content end – not shilling a darn thing. I think this site is one of the best things to come out of Authonomy – for the mainstream writer.
I started writing this a week or so before I submitted to Authors on Show. They have replied and eventually I'll have a few inches of column space. That's not the point – the point is the site has done so much for so many authors that they deserve another shout out from me, first.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

E-Reader Irritation


There are excellent reasons that I like my Nook. The access to cheap books is number one. Being able to carry my library and having fast access to the B&N catalog at home are two more.
My beef with all this quick access is having no way to tell what I'm getting. There is no search function for "Not Erotica" or even "PG 13" content.
In short, there is no way to filter out what I don't want to read. Most e-publishers are very good about giving their books a rating system.
What is wrong with B&N?
Lazy buggers.
At least put it in the tagging system…
Hey, that's an idea.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A New Look for Jordan's Croft

As much as I love the templates for "The cutest blog on the block" I'm going to give them up.

Jordan's Croft is going "Pro" with a new look. I used softer colors that are easier to read. You can expect to see more changes as time goes on. This is the beginning of the 'tweaking' process that will hopefully make this site even more of an success.

Speaking of success - the book continues to sell a copy here and a copy there. It appears to sell best going into the weekends - people want a good weekend read.

My goals are simple ones - ten books the first month then five additional books every month after that. I would like to have the second book up by the end of the year. My goal is producing 2 or 3 books a year.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Let's Do Lunch" - Marketing Kickoff

I'm proud to announce the marketing kick off of "Let's Do Lunch" my contemporary romance novel set in Elizabethtown, Ketucky.

After a bit of tweaking and some false starts - the Amazon.com K.A. Jordan Author page, is up and functioning. The "Let's Do Lunch" purchase page for Amazon.com is up, with sample pages available.

In addition I have an interview with Kindle-Author blog posted. Be the first to comment.

The e-book has sold a few copies, possibly due to my dropping the price to $.99 and getting active on Kindle boards and Amazon's Romance board.

We had a nice thread going - a discussion concerning the amount of Romance in a novel. If you are interested you can find it here on Kindle Boards.

Finally, I found some really funny clips.  Who is Zoe Winters? The "Indie Stigma" issue is completely out of hand. But she has handled it with humor and taste - just excuse the WTF comment. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bloomberg - Simply Stupid?

Oh, I an so insulted by this bit of trashy journalism on Bloomberg Weakly Business Week. Entitled "Romance Fiction: Getting Dirty in Dutch Country" it was written by some stupid muscle-bound twit with a fatal case of cranial rectal inversion.

The only facts in the article were these:

"In 2009 romance novel sales continued to defy industry trends, increasing to $1.4 billion, up $100 million, or 7.7 percent, from the previous year, according to Simba Information's annual Business of Consumer Book Publishing report. Romance now accounts for 14 percent of all works of fiction sold. Some 75 million people read at least one romance novel in 2009, and it's the top-performing category on the best-seller lists compiled by The New York Times, USA Today, and industry trade Publishers Weekly."


The rest sneered openly about the genre that is making all this money. I won't repeat the mud slung by this fool, but I will quote "Smart Bitches"  who called 'em like they saw 'em. "Every other sentence is a steaming pile of misleading patronizing ill-informed supercilious twatbaggery."

I found this simply insulting P.o.S. by following a link from the outraged Bitches' site. My link is above if you want to leave a nasty note of your own.


In closing I will quote my favorite comment: "It's not everyone that can insult such a wide range of Americans in one article."

If the Bloomberg editors had any brains, they would fire the damn fool.

OMG - 'Let's Do Lunch' is Available in the UK!

I'm so thrilled!


I don't know how it happened, but the monthly report shows that I have a place for UK sales. 

I'm so happy! Not just for myself, but that means that it is going to be so much easier for everyone to sell books. Everyone in the 'Left Autho for Greener Pastures' group has the same playing field.


What a great time to go Indie!
 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Let's Do Lunch" Available on Kindle

Set off the fireworks!

As of midnight last night "Let's Do Lunch" is available on Amazon.com Kindle.

Now the work begins.

I have written a great deal about the changes to the paper publishing industry. There is one factor common to launching a book in the paper book industry and the e-book industry.

A new author has to promote the book, themselves.

The trick is to do it with a bit of class. I'm going to give it my best shot. Internet advertising is cumulative, not transitive. (I'm going to keep repeating that.)

Luck is always a factor. I hope my Irish holds up.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wylie Throws Down the Gauntlet!

I saw this on the Financial Times website. Mr Andrew Wylie, agent for some 700 of the literary genre's top names, told Kenneth Li and John Gapper of the Financial Times -

"If we do not reach an accord, Odyssey will grow. It will not publish 20 books, it will publish 2,000 and have outside investors and make itself available to other agents." 
"I am only trying to make a point in order to underscore the importance of getting the right terms with a view to uniting the two [print and digital] revenue streams," Mr Wylie said.
This is after 9 months of discussions with Big Six publisher Random House. It appears that Mr. Wylie has given up on combining digital and print rights for his stable of 20th century authors and author's estates. Instead he formed Odyssey Editions to e-publish his writers and get them an ever-increasing share of the 21th century action. You can find the story here.

I couldn't find the link to the best seller's list - but the word is that the twenty books released by Odyessy Editions are some of the best selling books on Amazon.cm - after only a few days.

Mr. Wylie (e-Coyote) threatens to publish 2000 books total unless the Big Six agree to 'combine revenue streams' publishing these e-book editions 'with an acceptable royalty rate.'

Meanwhile, they've priced the books at the magical $9.99 price that will give Odyssey the 70% royalty. Which yields a whopping $6.99 per book with a possible gross (at a 1000 books a week) of $27,972 per title. Times 20 titles is a whopping $559,440 PER MONTH.

Does Random House know that they are bleeding money? Most of those writers would settle for a fraction of that monthly gross. A 50/50 split wouldn't be so bad, not for Random House or Odyssey Editions.

Of course, I have to ask the obvious question. What's the writer's share of Odyssey's $28k per month? Can't be too bad - nobody has squawked, yet. But you know what the kicker is, don't you?

Every one of those 2k writers could publish via Kindle themselves. They own the e-rights to those books, not Wylie (e-Coyote), not Random House. It sucks to be a Luddite in a digital world.

Wylie (e-Coyote) my hat is off to you.

If any of those 2k literary writers wants help e-publishing a book - let me know. I'd like a piece of the action myself.

Preparing 'Let's Do Lunch' for Kindle Publication

I haven't gotten into details, but I have decided to take the plunge - I'm going to sell "Let's Do Lunch" via Kindle. In fact, I've finished the final draft and am working on formatting. The original goal was to have it posted by August 1st. I'm not sure that will happen tomorrow. I may get it finished, it may take a few more days.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Cynthia has been kind enough to copy edit for me. Joanna has offered to write a review. Madison Woods will do an eleven question interview. There are a couple other bloggers who might give me a plug. There are Kindle boards that promote Indie writers.

The neat thing about internet marketing is that it is cumulative. The more I write about marketing in general, the better known my brand will become and the stronger my overall platform. I don't have to plug "Lunch" everywhere I go - just leave a link in my signature and a page on this blog.

My blog has a daily hit count - every time I post something on Indie publishing my traffic goes up.
This leaves a bigger trail of breadcrumbs in the long run. Kindle books don't go 'out of print' there is no 'deadline' I have to meet, no 'print run' to sell, and nothing in storage except backup files.

The challenge will be record keeping. I may need a schedule of places to hit during the week. Blog post on Monday. Update Facebook page on Wednesday. Stop in to blogs X, Y & Z to see what's happening and comment. If I run a facebook ad, what does that do for sales? If I post to Smashwords - what will that do for me? 

As an opportunity to educate myself - this is cheap at twice the price. I've taken a few marketing/business classes in college, so I've got an idea of how marketing works. I will be able to see on a week by week basis what works and what doesn't because there are weekly reports. Sales up this week? What did I do?

I do want to have a paper copy to give away to friends and family. (Christmas!) But I don't want to sell copies at the flea market. (A vending machine that I can fill with other people's books would be SO cool.)

I've been thinking about this for YEARS, and I've got enough ideas to keep me busy. Of course, if things work for me or not, I'll blog about it - which will push blog traffic up...

So you see, I'm not expecting miracles - just hard work and lots of it.

Stay tuned!

Monday, July 26, 2010

E-merging Markets a Boon for 20th Century Writers

With all the controversy about e-book readers and the Kindle (including accusations that the e-book has killed numerous bookstores) most authors look at e-books as a 'gravy' sales item. The numbers are hard to come by – but the estimates say there are 3 million Kindles and several million smart phones with applets that allow people to read e-books on their cell phone.

E-books are currently just a niche market for genre books and independent authors who are brave enough to self-publish. If you have the sales volume of a J. K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers – e-book sales would be chump change.

However, there is a genre left out – deliberately, perhaps? – of the e-book market – modern literature. The heavy hitting writers of the 20th century: Updike, Rushdie, Bellow, Ellison, Mailer and Nabokov; writers didn't have e-rights mentioned in their contracts.

These guys aren't genre writers who kick out a book every few months. They live on royalties for book sales. If they are lucky, it's 25% of the discounted price, minus all the charges taken from the book's gross. Bookstores, returns, warehouses, publishers and agents all get their cut before any money goes to the writer. They must take out taxes, insurance and pay monthly bills but only get paid once or twice a year.

I bet some of them are badly pressed for cash.

Enter Wylie (E. Coyote) Agency, home for 700 of the world's best selling literary writers and e-publishing company Odyssey Editions. Wylie (E. Coyote) started Odyssey to get his stable of the 20th century's finest a piece of the 21st century action.

Guess who is screaming bloody murder?

Random House expects them to starve like good little artists, instead of cashing in on a niche market that just might pay some bills. When Amazon.com gave e-books a 70% royalty (for those between $2.99 and $9.99) paid monthly, they handed writers the opportunity to finally make a living at writing.

Of course there is still the question of payment. Will the 20th centuries finest get a monthly pay check – or will Wylie (E. Coyote) keep them to twice a year? Logically all the money will go to Odyssey Editions on a monthly basis, while the writer's are left with a cut, minus their agent's cut, of the profits.

The coyote's share is going to be a lot bigger than the writer's share.

Too bad they didn't post their e-books on their own.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kitty Bought an E-book Reader

Since June my family has suffered a series of illnesses, I've been spending a lot of time in waiting rooms and ERs. Usually this drives me crazy, I'm not a patient person. So I decided to buy myself a gift that would ensure I don't pace and drive people crazy.

I bought an E-reader so I will not be caught without something to read. I don't like buying things that I can't touch before hand. That left the Kindle out because you have to buy it to try it. Then too you can only buy books from the Kindle store. Too limiting with all the e-publishers out there. Plus the Kindle is still pretty expensive.

Mom has a Sony, and I like it alot but it doesn't have WiFi. It needs to be hooked up to the pc to download books. That said, I used it for the first week of hospital visits and really like it.

Which leaves Nook and the iPad. iPad is too expensive and it's a first generation device. I don't do first generation anything, not software, not cars, not electronics. I'm not an early adopter. Knock the bugs out of it for a while.

There is a Barnes & Noble in E-town, so I went down to take a look at the Nook. I bought the WiFi version because I have WiFi in my house and it saved me $50. Now for some reason the salespeople didn't think I could connect my Nook to my WEP secured WiFi.

The only problem I had was finding where I hid my WEP key.

What I like is the WiFi and the fact that it will surf to different book sites. The touch screen is handy. (Easier to use than my stupid touch phone.)  I like having different fonts and font sizes. The operating system is Android - that means the possibility of apps in the future. (Kindle App anyone?)

The book selection isn't bad at http://www.bn.com/, prices are a bit high and there aren't a whole lot of back listed books. But unless we are talking Project Gutenberg there aren't going to be a whole lot of back listed books anywhere.

I can pick up Joe Konrath's book from his website. I haven't tried Smashwords or http://www.fictionwise.com/ yet. The magazines and newspapers are all big city, nothing local is available.

Then I tried to go to the Project Gutenberg to fill it up. No luck with that. The books should have downloaded, but I couldn't find them. Same thing with documents. I'd like to try to read one of my novels to see what fonts work the best.

I didn't buy a memory stick for it. I did buy a silicon case and the warranty. Trouble has developed a taste for electronics - notably the cordless phone and my idi10t cell phone which were stashed under the bed.

One of these days I'll rant about my id10t phone. I'm sure that it will be amusing. Meanwhile I've got a series to finish - Karen Moning rocks!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Another Look at Changes in Publishing


I was reading a couple of author blogs this week, ones that really "spoke" to the questions running around my brain on the topic of the changing publishing industry. Thanks to Joe Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, Mary W. Walters, Holly Lisle and the agent blogs - I am starting to see the publishing industry as not one system but two.

Publishing 1.0 is hard hit by the economy, subject to sweeping changes in personnel, but very much bound by tradition business practices. The Big Six are media conglomerates; a "Twilight" type of book is what they live for, and live on. Spin off merchandise, music sound tracks, items that saturate the market. The feeding frenzy has to be proportionate to the size of the conglomerate. It needs to have the whole hog, not just a bite of it.

Because of this, Publishing 1.0 has dropped the midlist book (with the notable exception of Harlequin.) Therefore, the agents that procure the manuscripts that feed the beast have dropped it as well. The push is for more of the same – more "Twilight," more "Vampire Slayer," more "Killer Thriller" books fed into the maw of the media.

You know, I'm going to put Harlequin in the category of Publishing 1.2. They are more advanced than Publishing 1.0 in so many ways. Harlequin publishes books in paper format – but they have a very large following of reader and writers that are online and active. They e-publish many books – on their website and on http://www.fictionwise.com/.

Publishing 2.0, anchored by Amazon.com, surrounded by multiple iterations. Small publishing companies – often genre specific – notably romance, romantica (sexy stories for women) and erotica.

The quick-minded in Publishing 2.0 have gleefully swept up the midlist. Some of them are making serious money. Ellora's Cave, Black Lyon Publishing, Wild Rose Press and Liquid Silver are all major players in e-romance.

Then there is Amazon, the Kindle e-reader and Amazon Encore Publishing, which looks like Publishing 2.3 to me. Amazon has gone from a bookstore to something bigger and more amazing, into e-books, a venue for self-publishing and now a book publisher.

Each version of publishing has its own rules.

Publishing 1.0 has 'gatekeepers' to keep out the unworthy: Agents troll the sea of manuscripts – looking for the next 'big one' to deliver to one of the Big Six. Lately, the word on the blogosphere is that agents aren't making money like they used to. (Who is?) Either the days of the big advance are over or there are too many agents in the small pond.

Publishing 1.2 has strict guidelines on story structure – but supports their writers and the community of prospective writers. No agents are required for entrance, but some writer's have them. The downside here is that once they buy a book, they own it. Still there are hundreds of writers who work for Harlequin and they write lots of books.

Publishing 2.0 has a bit of an image problem with the Pub 1.0 crowd. They don't pay advances, or too small an advance for agents to shop them, but they have writers and readers galore. There is a lot of money in e-publishing, Ellora's Cave took in 5 million in one year.

I suspect the Pub 2.0 crowd cries about their 'image' all the way to the bank.

Amazon, Pub 2.3, is the Big Player – they have plenty of cash to experiment and lots of bright young men to come up with new ideas for expansion. While they didn't invent the e-reader, they've taken the idea and run with it. Along with Sony and Apple, they are pushing the e-book/e-reader market as far as they can. With several million smart phones that read Kindle – the market is lucrative to say the least.

The Kindle market has thrown open the doors of e-publishing to everyone. An avalanche of writers has come to test themselves. E-publishing has gone from a small pond with six big fish to one of the Great Lakes. The water is deep, and very cold.

The Pub 1.0 predicts that the 'slush pile' (an ocean of manuscripts 99% of it being poorly written) will take Amazon and Kindle down – and e-book sales with it. They insist that only their vigilance has kept this unruly tide from swamping the market with sewage.

If the 'average' Pub 1.0 book only sells 16 copies – while the average self-published book sells 150 copies – what does that tell you? Pub 1.0 is full of bullshit.

E-books are selling at a phenomenal rate on Android App phones and e-readers. Indie authors are surfacing as major players, while midlist writers are scrambling to post their backlists. The Project Gutenberg is posting out of copy write books free. Google has scanned every book they can get their grasping paws on. Market share is soaring by percentage points every quarter.

One (wo)man's bullshit is another (wo)man's compost.

We live in interesting times – get used to it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Agent Debate – Part III

New fodder for the agent debate is the pay structure.

A number of agent blogs are kicking around ways for agents to make more money in this dicey economy. Billing for hours and hiking the standard percentage to 20% are ideas kicked around on a number of blogs.

It seems that with fewer books published through traditional means, and lower advances for the books published, agents are also scrambling for ways to pay bills.

Now, my mind comes up with a snappy come back: "don't reject so many books," right off. After all, in my business (IT) the cry for more money is met by: "work harder, stupid." The next thought that crosses my mind is a quote from Peter Cox of Litopia "I went to a conference and there were more agents than writers." That's going to be a problem, too many hungry agents and not enough writers to go around.

Not enough writers? Eh?

Hold it! I don't know about that – the agent blogs lament the sea of manuscripts that wash through their email.

Maybe, it's like the saying "too many lawyers, but not enough good ones."

No matter what my mind conjures up – this Writer's Digest article on the future role of agents caught my attention as a nice sane attitude in a chaotic time. Here's the opening:

"Given the magnitude of change underway in publishing, some have questioned the future role and necessity of the literary agent. Will agents continue to be the middlemen between publishers and authors? Do authors still need agents if they can get discovered or published on their own? Will publishers rely on agents when they can uncover talent through websites like HarperCollins' authonomy.com?"

Rely on Authonomy? (Ascending soapbox, begin mini-rant.) Well there was a shot that went over the bow – so to speak. Okay, four books gleaned from the slush-pile in two years is a 'huge success' to Harper Collins, yeah, yeah, I quoted them myself. Early on there was real talent on the Editor's Desk, unfairly dismissed, (for the record, I'm talking about 'Heart of Rock') which should have been snapped up. (End of mini-rant.)

On the other hand, Dean Wesley Smith posted another viewpoint on his blog. Dean reports hearing more and more "career killed by agents" stories; which prompted his latest post. The comments to his posts are often as enlightening as the article, so do read this one all the way.

The comment below by Laura Resnick illustrates a new trend – more publishing companies are now openly accepting UNagented submissions. (The implied thought is publishers are not finding the fresh voices they want and need, because agents are marketing 'same old, same old' because "it sold last year.") Italics below are mine.

  1. I browsed around Pyr Books website, I was intrigued by what I read – which, SciFi wise, hasn't happened in a bookstore in many years.

    So what's my point? I'd like to say that there are too many agents and not enough writers to go around; but I'd be blowing smoke out my – rump. Instead, I shall say that the current business paradigm – the 'Agency model' isn't working for many people in the business. Writers, agents, even publishers appear to be chaffing at the constriction of the old – and warily eyeing the new, like a kitty eyes its first moving bug.

    (What is that? Does it bite? Could I swat it? Is it tasty?)

    Meanwhile, the likes of Dean Wesley "100-books-&-counting" Smith is dusting off his backlist and posting them on Kindle and Smashwords – priced to sell – so his "Magic Bakery" will kick into a MUCH higher gear. (Do the math with the 70% royalty, 50 books selling 10 copies a day at $2.99.) Joe Konrath will rack up over $100k from Kindle, on books he couldn't sell to NY publishers. (Bad economy? What bad economy? These guys are as happy as a duckling in a puddle!)

    One man models that "writers don't need agents," the other models "writers don't need publishers." Both are right, because this appears to be the start of a new age.

    Do you have a niche picked out yet?

    I do.

Monday, July 5, 2010

High Summer

The grass has faded from brilliant green to sun-washed. The horse's shine is muted as well in the glare of the mid-day sun.

It is the time of summer when the lack of rain is felt keenly, even as the air is humid. There are no half-measures in Kentucky weather. This far south of the land of my birth there is no breeze off the lake to temper the heat. The river provides humidity enough to make it feel hotter. The breeze has a hot edge to it that nips the skin.

The rains of early summer are gone. The haying season is in full swing, bales dry in golden rolls or are transported like giant fraying pumpkins in wagons and trailers.

Yet it is beautiful. The trees thrive in this heat - they spread their graceful limbs and their leaves shudder in the hot breath of the wind. Shade is dear, the flies busy and even the rooster is silent in the heat.

I watch the chickens scratch and sunbathe, quarrel and pace the fence, wanting out even in the heat. But I'm going to protect my flowers from their digging. If they would stay in the pasture I'd let them run, but they like my flower garden. They dig at the feet of my day-lilies - the only blooming flower - hidden in the arching leaves.

The steady hum of the AC tells me that it's too soon for evening stables - the chores would be miserable, even the open barn stifling.

But I have errands to run, I must brave the heat.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day - Hold the Fireworks, Please!

Being in the country, everybody and their...brother has to set off fireworks. Once again I had to stall up my horses so they didn't run themselves to exhaustion.

My horses handled the booming of tank fire from Fort Knox for years with barely a swat of the tail. But the whistle/pop of fireworks drives them crazy. For many years I was not able to offer them the safety of a stall, away from the lights and the noise. They seem to have developed a phobia.

Since we moved here, I've had to lock them down because the damn things were right over their heads. Otherwise they spend the night milling and racing from one side of the pasture to the other in a vain quest for relief.

Once I open the barn door and yell for the old mare, she makes a running dive for her stall. All I have to do is get out of her way, and close the gate. The young mare will stand just outside the barn - snorting and staring at the lights. She doesn't like the fireworks, she twitches and spooks as they go off. I can rattle the feed bucket and after a few false starts she'll go in her stall.

However, the old gelding will stand in the door, looking inside like he's never seen this barn, ever. Mind you, he's the one kicking the door down, insisting he get inside well before noon each day. He's also the one who charged into the barn, stomping my foot and breaking my toe, a couple years back. Maybe the old mare beating him to the barn hurts his dignity so he must stand outside until I put a rope on him. It's not like I have to (or could) drag his 1400 lb carcass into the barn. Any old piece of string will do - preferrably with a bucket of grain shoved under his nose.

It must be the principle of the matter.

Even a sway-backed, knock-kneed old hack has his pride.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In this Corner.....

I opened up the account on Amazon.com, just to take a look. I read the terms and conditions.

I opened up April L. Hamilton's Indie Author's Guide and started reading.

It's all there.

I'm going to do it. I'm going to take that plunge and put "Let's Do Lunch" on Amazon's Kindle store.

Holy Crap!

I must be out of my mind.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oh, Crap. Now What?

Marked up, high lighted, scribbled on, now a discarded pile of paper. It is the final draft of "Let's Do Lunch" It is sitting on the coffee table and it's staring at me.
What am I going to do with it?
I could send it back out - to agents or publishers in the paper market or to publishers in the e-book market. I could re-post it to Authonomy an spend the next six months chasing the Editor's Desk. (NOT!)
There is a co-op or two where I could post it - experiment with this new arena of e-publishing, blog the results like I blogged ABNA and Authonomy.
Or there is Amazon - Kindle and Create Space.
This is like standing a the foot of the diving board.
Do I or don't I jump?
How should I jump, high, flat, cannon ball, belly flop, swan dive?
How cold is the water going to be?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Look at Publishing 2010, Sites of Interest


As I travel over the interwebs, looking for the right niche to publish my first novel, I've hit a few interesting sites along the way.

Forward Motion is the best site for beginning or fantasy writers! The support a newbie receives here is unparalleled in my (limited) experience. You have the option of open forums, closed forums, joining a critique circle or taking classes. The site is famous for the "Two-year Novel" course, where the writer learns to build worlds and craft out a novel in two years. New classes begin in January.

Created by Holly Lisle, owned by Lazette Gifford, this site is a great resource. FM was where I discovered the "Writing Breakout Novel" books by Donald Maas, and where "Let's Do Lunch" was beaten into shape.

Authonomy, a primarily British site, is Harper Collins' combination of slush pile and "Survivor." This site promised a lot when it went live, in the way of five books reviewed each month and publishing contracts. While the monthly reviews of the 'Editor's Desk' top five books do occur, they usually aren't worth the six months of read/backing swaps required to get them.

When I joined, in 2009, it was a great place to get feedback from other writers. Now it has devolved into an addicting, frustrating 'time suck' of epic proportions. Your writing career has an equal chance of taking off and vanishing down a black hole.

Harper Collins allows the site to run wild, so the crazies have run off a lot of the serious writers. There are a dozen or so books published as a result of the site, though none of the books that have made the "Editor's Desk" to date have been published by Harper Collins.

Avoid the Forums at all costs…well, visit at your own risk…expect rampant egos, literary and class snobbery, flame wars, racism, sexism, petty deal making, read/backing swap whores, trolls and sock-puppets.

On the lighter side, drunk Brits are pretty darn funny…if you have a twisted sense of humor, and no life, hang out on a Friday or Saturday night. Beware of minors, not everyone is over 18.

Insider's Tip: The ranking system is skewed towards new books. If you upload 10k words and take the book public you will rise fast for the first few weeks. Once the book reaches the top 100 be prepared to live and breathe the site. The longer a book is on the site the harder it is to rise in the rankings. Editors, agents and other publishing insiders troll the top 100 books.

Litopia is another British site but with more of an international flavor.

The podcast, billed as "a Literary Salon," was in two parts, Litopia Daily and Litopia After Dark. Litopia Daily has (sadly) ceased to exist, but Litopia After Dark is still kicking. Litopia podcasts are a great(!!) resource into the confusing and frustrating world of publishing.

I think that Litopia's Writer's Colony is very good, and the forums are very interesting. Somebody running that site doesn't take any crap from the crazies or the trolls.

The downside is both membership and site are a complex series of levels. I haven't been on it enough to understand how you get to post your work for feedback or post a blog.

Authors on Show is a new writer's networking site. A lot of the Authonomy crowd has come here to show case their work and hang out. I'm not active on the site, but I'm backing them as a good solid writer's network.

However, I'm confused by complex interaction of the Authors on Show blog and the dot com site of the same name. The above link is to the dot com. I get the impression that Lorraine's blog evolved into the dot com site and that both are currently active. The dot com site went live only a week or so ago, so I'm sure the confusion will be cleared up in a short time.

New and Interesting Sites:

Writer's Latte is a nice looking beta writer's networking site that could use some support. I like the look and the feel, however there isn't much action as yet. I've got an account and drop in once a week.

Indie Lit Worldwide is an e-publishing co-op site for readers and writers. This is a site to watch as publishing co-ops look to be the wave of the future. As a market, Indie offers to format a POLISHED manuscript into various e-formats and offer the formats for sale.

Only up a month, this is e-publishing site supports various genre and offers a 50% share of sales to writers. This is a ground floor opportunity with only three books currently posted, but a dozen readers are signed up.

I have an account there, and am reading one of the books for review.

LIWW is currently offering to re-format a manuscript into various formats, including Kindle, for free, upon acceptance. Don't assume that a manuscript is automatically accepted. As always, read the contract carefully before you agree to post anything.

This is it for now. I'm going to get back to work on other projects.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Moody Blues at Horseshoe Casino

The guy sitting next to me looked around and chuckled.

"This is the most Vietnam Vets I've seen in one place in a long time."

Well, yeah - there were a lot of men in their sixties standing in what looked to me as 'at ease.' Some with no hair or buzz cuts and some who looked like they hadn't cut their hair since they came back from 'Nam.

It didn't matter, really. The music was absolutely fabulous.

I'm not a big fan of any one band, but I do love richly textured music.

It was a great time.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Confessions of a Chicken Farmer

As a child, I had this dream of owning a farm. At one point it was a horse farm. I would own and breed horses, selling the weanlings, or two year old colts for big bucks. Later, once I figured out just how expensive that hobby could be, I thought about getting a flock of chickens. A couple dozen happy hens, cackling and scratching, producing wonderful eggs and cute chicks.

Reality, unfortunately, is quite different, again.

That's the most interesting part of this post - unless you are interested in economics. Or world building if you want to push this into the context of writing. Or even politics if you are a 'real' farmer.

I just sat down with my receipts to figure out if I'm making any money on my eggs.

The answer is: No, I'm about a hundred bucks in the red.

Mind you, after making the chickens buy their own feed and grit this week I was about $1.50 to the good. That lasted until I found the receipt for the new chicks.

The total bill was $95, or $6.33 per chick.

Mind you, this is 50 dozen eggs. I get between 6 and 8 eggs per day, so we are looking at 75 to 100 days of egg production.

Out of the 19 chicks that Smudge was raising, there are only 14 left. Assuming the chicks that died were the Dominiques I paid for, (Murphy's Law says they were) I lost $31.65 to the rain storm last week. I'm going to need to buy cartons before long, which is another $50 for 100 cartons.

My farmer's market sales for the last two setup days was $9. I made more money selling ducklings at the flea market. However, I'm out of ducklings. The yearling duck hens are lousy mothers. Now what shall I do?

Well, I have an incubator of 36 chicken eggs. Ever heard of 'don't count your chickens before they've hatched?' Ever wondered what it means? Well, the last batch of 46 eggs hatched 6 chicks. Of those 6 and 4 duck-hatched chicks only 5 have survived to 8 weeks of age. (BTW - 1 of 3 chicks is female.)

It looks like I'm going to have to sell babies to make up for my loses. That means my incubator is going to be my money maker, not eggs or dried herbs.

It's a darn good thing I'm not in this for the money. However, it's really interesting to see how this is panning out. I may be able to use this experience later in my writing. Expect to see a novel about a woman struggling to survive in a lousy economy.

Wait, I wrote that novel already!

Okay, I'll have to write another one...hmmmm.

Summer on the Run

There are not enough hours in the day. Even now, the longest days of the year.

The big news is that the Vine Grove Farmer's Market has a new vendor. Eskeridge Farms has joined us. Bee keepers, produce growers and bakers - Vicki and Dale brought their big blue tent and market experience to our little market.

A bit of background, 15 years ago there were ZERO farmer's markets in Hardin county. There were guys in trucks on the side of the road, the Amish and flea markets. Somewhere around 10 years ago, E'town started a farmer's market. But they couldn't get a permanent place to set up until last year when someone built a huge pavilion.

They are a very strict market. But they are the biggest market in our area. The vendors range from beef, chicken and bread to vegetables of all types. I've seen it grown from a couple trucks in the old Walmart plaza to a permanent market.

I started selling at the Vine Grove Farmer's Market last year. I'd just bought my flock of baby chickens so I didn't sell eggs. I  had a couple pounds of peppermint and spearmint that I sold out of the back of my PT Cruiser.

This year, I've got eggs and herbs. I'm not making any money, but sales are steady. (I blew three months earnings on 100 lbs of feed, 1 bag of shell and 1 bag of grit. This is not a big bucks operation.)

I'm talking it up, spreading the word. I take credit for getting Vickie and Dale to join us. They are pleased with their sales, I'm thrilled to have someone to talk to.

In all honesty, I think I will learn a lot from them. They've been at this a couple of years. They know all the local farmer's markets. I think they may spread the word around a bit, maybe get another farm to join the market. (I'd love to see the beef people join us.)

With more families moving in for the Human Resources Center on Fort Knox we need to spread the word.

This could be very interesting.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dean Wesley Smith and the Agent Debate


Dean Wesley Smith is a long time writer with over 90 books to his credit. Smith writes in various genre, under various pen names. In "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing" he makes several points that wannabe writers should consider before they attempt to market a manuscript to anyone, publisher or agent.

Dean's first point: the writer employs the agent. 
The purpose of having an agent is to negotiate the terms of a contract between the writer and the publisher. (If the writer doesn't have a contract, then s/he doesn't need an agent.) Dean asserts that the 'terms of power' switched. Writers are no longer in control of the relationship – the agent is in charge. (Yes, I'm aware that the agent has become the 'gatekeeper' a term that implies the 'unwashed masses' need to be kept from the hallowed halls of publishing. Stay with me.)

Dean's second point: The duties of the agent should not include marketing. He asserts that most agents are editors who have lost their jobs. If said agent was an editor then that person's business relationships are limited to the one or two companies for whom they worked. This rings true, since most agents want to know to whom your work compares and in which genre it fits. (Writer beware, if you don't know the market for your book, you are in trouble.)


Here's an info bite I heard on the Litopia Podcasts – last year, at a British conference, there were more agents present than authors. 

This may look like good news on the surface. Are former editors automatically qualified agents? The modern agent spends their time reading a pile of queries – modern slush piles transferred to them. Agents look for trivial editorial issues to reject a query letter, as former editors they would have exacting standards. Most agents are interested in your qualifications to write the book. There is no certification or qualification to be an agent. Buy some stationary and put your name on it, put up a webpage, and if you want to be a superstar – blog about yourself.


Also, many agents want to know your marketing plan for the book – before they even look at a synopsis. This implies a limited view of the publishing market. Marketing experts in other industries tend to have a broad view of what's 'out there.' Publishing is a rather small industry compared to say – electronics. If the agent doesn't know the market, are they the right person to handle marketing? We don't take our cars to the dentist if they don't start. Agents are for negotiating (large) contracts. No contract? No agent required. If your book needs edited, hire an editor, not an agent.


My point is simple – You know the book inside and out, empower yourself, take control of your career, market your book. You'll save yourself a lot of time, a ton of frustration and maybe some money.