One Happy Hybrid

You know what a hybrid is, right? In publishing, it’s someone who both self-publishes (as I did with Martuk … the Holy and Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche as well as The Martuk Series) and is published traditionally.

Well, as of today, I am now officially a hybrid.

From Crystal Lake Publishing:

After five months of reading 144 pitches and various sample chapter submissions (with the help of various sub readers – especially Ben Eads), Crystal Lake Publishing is proud to announce six projects chosen by us (and one surprise addition). We actually accepted seven, but we’re still negotiating with the author his novel. That announcement will be made at a later date.

In alphabetical order:

Theresa Derwin – GOD’S VENGEANCE novella
Mark Allan Gunnells – short story collection presently named FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER
Alessandro Manzetti – EDEN UNDERGROUND poetry collection
Patrick Rutigliano – WIND CHILL novella
Mark Sheldon – SARAH KILLIAN: SERIAL KILLER (FOR HIRE!) novella
Jonathan Winn – EIDOLON AVENUE, a collection of shorts stories and novellas

A sincere congrats to all these authors. The competition was extremely tough, and you truly deserve to be here. I hope everyone takes the time to congratulate these folks, as well as take the time to get to know the ones you’re not familiar with.
I’m also extremely happy to announce that we’ll be publishing the print edition of Taylor Grant’s DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL later this year. The eBook edition has been picked up by another excellent publisher, so more on that at a later date.

Here is a rough draft of our publishing schedule till end of this year (subject to change, of course):

May: THE OUTSIDERS
June: Kevin Lucia’s THROUGH A MIRROR, DARKLY
July: Alessandro Manzetti’s EDEN UNDERGROUND
August: TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL.2
September: CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE
October: HORROR 201: THE SILVER SCREAM
November: Taylor Grant’s DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
December: Patrick Rutigliano’s WIND CHILL

Thank you to everyone who took part in our very first open submission window, and all the best with your books. I’m sure we’ll have another open submission in the next year or so.

All the best,
Joe Mynhardt
Crystal Lake Publishing

So, there you have it! Huge congratulations to everyone.

I couldn’t be more excited to be working with the award-winning CLP and the fantastic Joe Mynhardt, a man who’s deeply respected and has an eye for talent. To have someone like him believe in what I was doing enough to say Yes is very exciting.

And that’s how you become One Happy Hybrid, my friends.

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Gaughran on Amazon v. Hachette

Still confused about the continuing kerfuffle ‘tween Amazon and Hachette? Even after I put in my own two cents? REALLY?

Okay, then this briefest of excerpts from an interview by author JJ Marsh with the always interesting David Gaughran might help:

Hachette can’t come right out and say they want higher book prices (which is the result if they prevail in negotiations and take back control of pricing and/or Amazon’s ability to to discount) so instead we get a narrative of a rapacious corporation versus a plucky guardian of our literary heritage. Authors should adopt a little more skepticism towards what is a concerted PR campaign from a series of vested interest.

 

It really is worth it to click on over to read the rest of his intelligent, well-informed take on what’s really happening and what’s truly at stake for writers like you and me.

 

Facebook Bestsellers and the Death of Writing

Writing is dying a very slow, painful death at the hands of self-publishing.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.

Self-publishing alone isn’t killing Great Writing, though it has set the bar increasingly low.  Facebook Bestsellers are what’s killing Great Writing.

Let me explain:

A Facebook Bestseller is a book that ends up on the Amazon Top 20 list, or something, due entirely to the Clicks of thousands of FB “Friends”.  Usually they’re derivative, repetitive, absolutely painful, damn near unbearable, poorly written pieces of crap.  If you can make it through the Free Sample without screaming out loud or falling into fits of laughter, I applaud  your strong constitution.  I can’t.  I’ve tried.

And you can spot a Facebook Bestseller pretty easily.  Take a look at a handful of those couple hundred five star reviews.  Do they read something like “OMG, this was SOOOO good!”, “Loved this SOOOO much”, or “YES! Another winner”?  If so, then it was probably written by someone who A) hasn’t read the book, but B) wants to show their support for their FB “Friend”.

Now, go ahead and take a look at those few, very brave One Star reviews.  You know, the ones written by “Friends” who are probably “Friends” no more?  That’s where you’ll find the real story.

Yet, still, there it sits at the top of the Amazon Bestseller List.

Because of the best of intentions of “Friends”, we now find ourselves faced with the stomach-churning reality of truly Great Writing by Writers with long, celebrated careers they’ve earned through hard work and talent, writers who actually know what they’re doing, sandwiched between Wannabes whose painful, amateurish prose wouldn’t make it out of an 8th Grade Creative Writing course.

This is the danger with Facebook and all those click-happy “Friends”.  Those who write Facebook Bestsellers, wrapped in the breathless, unquestioning support of FB, believe they’re really good.  They ignore the One Star reviews because, you know, they’re not nice, and continue on, having no clue how bad they really are and how deeply damaging their celebrated mediocrity is.

Readers who may be Writers someday are growing up believing Bad is somehow Good.  These Readers, surrounded by nothing but bad, will soon have no memory of what Truly Great Writing is, having to search before the Time of these Facebook Bestsellers for Good Writing.

You see, a Writer is more than someone who puts words on a page.  A Writer  listens to the words, hearing and honoring their rhythm.  A Writer knows that if there’s one word too many, or one word not enough, the structure will fall.  And that structure is everything.  That’s what cushions the Reader in this fictional world.  A Writer can recognize the balance in a sentence and know when it’s off, feeling, in his or her bones, that it’s not right and what to do to fix it.

A Writer would never be satisfied with what ends up in these Facebook Bestsellers.  He’d immediately see how amateurish and clumsy it is.  He’d FEEL it was wrong as he’s writing it.  He would not rest until it was edited and put right.  It would haunt him.  In fact, it wouldn’t even make it past his fingers TO the keyboard.

I believe a Writer, a True Writer, could never bring themselves to leave their worst masquerading as their best on the page and click Publish.

Yet these Wannabes do it all the time, without apology, without regret, and often to great applause.

I’ve often railed against Traditional Publishing and how, because of their penchant for guarding the Gates a bit too vigorously, a revolution like self-publishing was needed.  But at least, for the most part, we were spared moronic drivel ending up on the bookshelf, let alone the Bestseller List.

But now even that’s changing with Traditional Publishing abandoning all pretense of being an arbiter of taste and strong writing, and following the money to sign Facebook Bestsellers to contracts.  And, once again, the delusion that they’re “good writers” is perpetuated, their oafish efforts being celebrated and rewarded.

But a Publisher following the money is not supporting the writer.  A Publisher biting their tongue, smiling, and eagerly hoping to cash in on the last breath of the author’s FB Bestseller status — these “Friends” tend to tire within a year or two and move on to newer, equally abysmal voices, so it’s best to move quick if you’re a Publisher –doesn’t give a shit about the writer.  They’re read the words, they’ve winced and groaned and shook their heads.  They know this writer doesn’t have the chops to reach beyond their Facebook circle.  And they know, once the writer’s new books hit a wider audience, that’s when the chickens come to roost.  That’s when the One Stars outweigh the Five Stars and those “Friends” start second guessing that all important Click.

A Publisher signing a FB Bestseller is hoping to eke out a book or two before the jig is up, the lie is unmasked, the numbers drop, and people move on.

So, what can we do about this?  STOP FOLLOWING THE HERD!  If you’re one of those “Friends” who buys a book as a show of support to the Author, even when you know it’s not good work, STOP!  If you’re not sure about the quality, read the Sample.  If it feels off, read the lowest rated reviews to see if the issues you’re finding are issues they mention.  And, if they are, DON’T BUY THE BOOK!

It’s as simple as that.

Buying abysmal writing as a way of being “nice” doesn’t help anyone.  It doesn’t help the writer.  It doesn’t help the reader.  And it doesn’t help the industry produce and celebrate better, stronger work.

My hope is once we rid the publishing world of these Facebook Bestsellers, it’ll be easier to go back to once again celebrating the truly great writing of real Writers, not Wannabes who would be nothing without their Facebook Friends.

 

Nope. Non. Nein. No way.

You can never make a bad deal good.

Once you sign the contract, you’re stuck. Maybe you can jump through some legal hoops to change X, Y and Z if the terms are illegally egregious. But I doubt it and it’s damn expensive.

But more importantly, why SHOULD you? And why WOULD you enter a contractual relationship with someone who would even OFFER you a bad deal?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot these days. Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself saying No to a few different agents. Nice people, I’m sure, but if I find them hesitating when faced with (what I believe to be) simple questions about publishing and publishers and contracts, I know right away they’re not the one for me.

And if they even begin to suggest that I should accept a publishing contract that offers no advance, shifts the costs of publishing to the author (including “set-up costs” and “printing and binding”), takes away my Subsidiary Rights without Reversion, and then offers me 50% of “net profits” — aka due to clever accounting on the publisher’s side, I won’t see a dime for a year or so –, then they’re definitely not the agent for me … or ANYONE.

I consider myself somewhat smart. Have taken the time to learn about the business side of the various businesses I’m in. I find it interesting and incredibly useful coming to the table not as a neophyte, but as someone who can ask good, strong, wise, pertinent questions that lead negotiations to the next step or, more importantly, can recognize a clusterfcuk waiting to happen.

You know, like this. (courtesy of David Gaughran)

I’m also proud that I respect myself enough to say Thanks, but No Thanks, stand up, and walk away empty-handed. Nothing wrong with that. Like I said, you can never make a bad deal good. And my work is strong enough to wait for, at the very least, a good deal.

These days there are unfortunately a lot of agents preying on self-published authors, their interest more in the money currently being made than in the totality of one’s career.

When I sign with someone — and these shockingly were deal breakers with one of the agents I said Thanks, but No Thanks to –, I want to know at least three things:

1) there’s the potential for a long-lasting relationship
2) their interest in the health and longevity of my career outweighs their desire to make a deal, especially a bad one at my expense
and
3) they’re willing to stand up and leave the table with me if a deal is obviously bad

You see, I don’t want someone who’s going to ride the gravy train when the money’s coming in and then suggest I find another agent when the money stops.

Yeah, I know, I know. I’m asking for the moon here.

But a career isn’t just one success after another. There are successes and disappointments.

Any agent worth his or her salt is going to know that and be prepared for it. An agent who loses interest during the lows and is happy only when the money is coming in is an agent I don’t want. Because those lows are inevitable. No matter how many books you’re selling or how many Best Seller Lists you’re on, the sales stop. They just do. Period.

I’ve seen friends picked up by agents and publishers when times were good only to find themselves basically orphaned and thrown into the bargain bin when the sales stop. And, still, they’re locked into a contract. Possibly even a contract with a publisher. A bad, bad, bad contract.

That’s the kind of relationship I’m avoiding. To be trapped in a legal relationship with someone who’s lost interest in you, lost interest in your work, no longer believes in you or what you can accomplish, and has discounted what you can bring to the table because the numbers on your last book were disappointing is a completely avoidable headache.

It may take me awhile to find the right fit. But this is my business we’re talking about. My career. I cherish it and anything that becomes a part of it, is destined to strengthen its foundation and support its growth, is worth taking time with.

I’m a writer. Agents need me. Publishers need me. Without me and others like me, their industry doesn’t exist. You work with me, I’m definitely going to work with you. My success is OUR success. You work against me, I’m leaving the table. Life is too short and I have too much to do.

At the end of the day, though, it’s important my fellow writers remember that agents and publishers need us. Ironically, with the growing strength of self-publishing, I’m not sure we necessarily need them.

Perhaps it’s time they started realizing that.