Jul 152015
 

Mailchimp signupYay!  I got the visual editor for my website working again (mostly).

Just in time for Wednesday, too.  And I’ve got a lot going on with my writing since the last blog post. First and foremost, you will notice a new signup field on my site. If you’re reading this on the actual site, you will see it over there on the right. The header presently reads “Sign up for new release notifications”. If you’re getting this in a feedburner email, the signup form looks like the picture accompanying this post. At the moment, it’s not much to look at. Maybe I’ll be able to pretty it up later on, but for now, I thought it was more important to get it up and active.

Now that last sentence will likely get a “huh?” out of a lot of you. In other words, why the push to get the mailing list going?

Like I said, I have a lot going on with my writing now. And ironically, a lot of this is due to an inspirational roadblock I hit on Year 12. Without going into a lot of detail, I hit a brick wall with the plot on Y12… lost the flavor. There was a day of panic, hair pulling, and chest beating before I decided my time would be better spent moving on to another project. Not wanting to actually start a whole different book, I instead began a project that I’ve had percolating for quite some time. It will be the story of how the antagonist from Half Past Midnight managed to roll into Rejas at the head of a small army. The story should be another novella, similar in length to The Road to Rejas – possibly a bit shorter. I’ve tentatively titled it Crazy Larry.

Additionally, I have another project that I’ve been slowly working on. It’s going to be a short story collection, and it came about because there are a few particular stories that some of you have asked me to publish, but I’ve not felt right about. Not that I don’t think they’re good, it’s just that I don’t feel right charging a reader 99¢ for a short story that will only keep them occupied for a few minutes. Yet 99¢ is the least amount that epublishers will allow you to charge. And let’s face it, after paying for editors, cover work, and formatting, I at least need to recoup my expenses on the work, right?

But if I put them all into a collection together, along with some that very few people have ever seen before, then I have a single edit, one cover, and can sell it in good conscience, knowing that I’ve given the reader their money’s worth.

And since the story collection is a bit shorter than most of my work, I’ve decided to throw in the beginning of something else a lot of you have been asking for. I’m adding the first chapter for the Streets of Payne sequel (working title Payne and Suffering).

So if you want to receive announcements about these, or any other writing I do as it nears release, please sign up for the mailing list. I’m not going to spam you, or bother you with the day to day miscellany. I figure, if you really want to torture yourself with that stuff, you can just read my blog, right?

And that’s it for now. Back to writing.

Stay safe, folks.  :bye:

Jun 242015
 

WW1A lot of us writer-type folks seem to be freaking out over Amazon’s changes in its payment policies on the relatively new Kindle Unlimited program. The panic attacks are instigated by misleading article headlines that (whether intentionally or out of ignorance) scream to the rafters that Amazon is once again trying to ruin self-publishing. These headlines scream that the ‘Zon is now only going to pay authors by the page read. According to several of the articles I’ve seen, the author will only be paid for the portion of the books that you (the reader) actually read. I’ve seen all sorts of analogies – from the cook only getting paid for the part of the meal you ate, to the musician only getting paid for the part of the CD you listen to. But that’s NOT what’s going on here folks.

All of us who publish through Amazon received the same email, and it says very plainly,

We’re always looking at ways to make our programs even better, and we’ve received lots of great feedback on how to improve the way we pay KDP authors for books in Kindle Unlimited. One particular piece of feedback we’ve heard consistently from authors is that paying the same for all books regardless of length may not provide a strong enough alignment between the interests of authors and readers. We agree. With this in mind, we’re pleased to announce that beginning on July 1, the KDP Select Global Fund will be paid out based on the number of pages KU and KOLL customers read.

(NOTE – the underscore and bold in the above quote were added by yours truly.)

When Amazon began Kindle Unlimited, they had a payment plan in which a KU customer could download a book, and as long as they read 20% of the book, the author got paid an equal part of the KU/KOLL (Kindle Owners Lending Library) pool. For those who aren’t familiar, KU and KOLL are programs that allow certain Amazon members to temporarily download e-books, similar to borrowing from a library, so they can read the books without purchasing them at full price. Amazon gets a membership fee as their compensation, and they put a portion of that into a pool to be split among the authors whose books are loaned out to entice more authors to enter programs that make their work available to those customers.

So as I said, when KU came out, as long as the person downloading the book read 20% of it, the author received credit for an equal share of the pool. It didn’t take long for many authors to figure the basic math on that one. Why write a 200 page book that required a reader to read 40 pages before you got paid, when you could write a ten page “book” that required the reader to only read two pages for you to get the same payment? For many authors, the emphasis on writing quickly shifted from writing and publishing novels, to writing and publishing short stories and serialized fiction. I don’t really begrudge those who when that route. It was a basic business decision, and I think everyone involved knew that it was a way of exploiting a loophole in the system. And I think most realized that it was a loophole that was bound to be closed once Amazon figured out how to do it without screwing everyone over. It was pretty much inevitable.

So all the teeth gnashing, and chest beating about how Amazon is screwing the little guy is, once again, nothing more than a bunch of sensationalist BS. Let’s remember that it was just last year that Hachette was screaming to the rafters about how Amazon was using its “monopolistic” position to squeeze the traditional authors out of their pay? Never mind the fact that Amazon paid indies almost three times more per sale than Hachette, or any of the Big 5 paid their authors. Never mind the fact that Amazon’s “monopoly” (which it absolutely isn’t), exists only by virtue of the fact that there is no other place where a customer can go to shop for a book, look for it using all sorts of search parameters and/or keywords, and find it with a few simple clicks of a mouse. Never mind that Amazon’s customers are the ones who determine which books are the best sellers, not the literary critics at a newspaper who get paid to write the reviews.

Monopoly? How is it a monopoly if I can go to Barnes & Noble, or Google, Kobo, Smashwords, or any other online book distributor to buy most books?

“But Amazon requires indies to sell their books exclusively on Amazon!” No, they don’t. They simply make it more attractive and more profitable for those who do. I have experimented with selling exclusive on Kindle Select, and with selling on all the other online distributors. I have done this on several occasions, watching my sales over months to see where it makes more sense for me to place my books. And I have come to the conclusion that for me, it simply makes more financial sense to sell exclusively on Amazon through Kindle Select. The additional money I make via the KOLL “borrows” more than offsets the few paltry sales I get through the other online distributors.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t have any naïve idea that Amazon is in business to promote indie publishers. They’re in business to make money, as most of us are. But I do admire the way they go about it. They recognize that the ones they have to please are not the authors. And it’s not the big traditional publishing houses. From what I see, nearly everything they have done up to this point is in an attempt to please the customer. Isn’t that a novel concept? A business whose primary concern is for the customer!

So look at it from the customer’s perspective. I (the customer me, not the author me) log onto Amazon, and they have a list of items I’ve searched for, items I’ve purchased, items I’ve put in my wish lists, and just about any other kind of item I’ve looked at on their site. They compare that to items purchased or looked at by other people with similar purchase histories, and they put the items in front of me that, based on comparative shopping, they think I might be interested in.

Looking for a fifty inch flat-screen television with smell-o-vision? Sorry, we don’t have that. But people who have searched for similar items have ended up purchasing this similar item for the low price of…. You get the point. Amazon makes it easy to shop on their site. They want to continue to make it easy to shop on their site. Because that’s what keeps us coming back for more.

I’m not going to change that, and the Big 5 aren’t going to change that.

And I find that refreshing.

And before anyone thinks I’m in favor of this because it doesn’t really affect me, since I don’t write much short fiction, let me point out that I will likely begin losing money on this, too. Not because of the KU issue, but because my books are in Kindle Select. This means that I currently get money for people who “borrow” my books via KOLL. And if you recall, KOLL will now also be thrown into the “pay per page” category. And let’s face it, a lot of people who borrow a book via KOLL probably never read it, or don’t read it all the way through. So yeah, I’ll likely see some money lost. That’s why they call it a business. If I see drastic losses, then it will obviously be time for me to re-evaluate whether or not I keep with the Select program. Right now, I make more through Amazon borrows than I did with Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, et al. If this changes things, then maybe I’ll have to go back to publishing in all the other sites again.

I hope not. That’s a lot of work.

All right. Time to get off my soap box. Time to get back to work on the WIP. Stay safe, everyone.   :bye:

Apr 052015
 

So much for my vow to post a minimum of once a month. Shortly after I posted that vow, my father’s health took a turn for the worse. He passed away on February 25th. All I’ll say is that this is not the place to dwell on it.  I’m just glad I got the chance to get up here and spend at least a few months with him before he left us.

But this is my writing blog, so I’ll try to keep to it on subject. As the title says, Chucklers has been submitted to a small press. I won’t post any specific details yet, because I don’t know whether or not it will be accepted. There is a blind acquisition process where the manuscript will be stripped of any identifying information and will go before a group of editors who won’t know who wrote it, judging it based on the merits of the writing. I like that idea, but it also scares me. It’s the old fear that at some point, someone is going to read my stuff and figure out that I’m nothing but a hack. I think many, if not most writers go through the same feelings of self-doubt. I would imagine that any sort of craftsman or artist does. Or am I just that insecure? :-/

At any rate, this is the first time I’ve submitted to a small press. Until now, everything I’ve done has been indie. So I called to talk to them about the process in hopes of learning what to expect, and just as importantly, what to NOT expect. I already knew the basics. Assuming the manuscript is accepted, the publisher takes care of the editing, cover art and cover design, formatting for e-book and print, and the headaches of the actual publishing. That means I wouldn’t spend the money on outside services that I normally spend on my books. However, it also means that I surrender a significant amount of control over the process, as well as fifty percent of whatever money the book brings in. I also have to get over my nearly obsessive daily tracking of my sales numbers. What it really boils down to is that if they accept my work, they are agreeing to be an equal partner in the business venture that Chucklers represents. In short, they become an investor in the book. It will take some getting used to, but my insecurity is my own. This is simply the way small presses work.

When I sit back and really think about all the ins and outs, the only real concern I have is with the schedule. When I put the money up on my own, I pay for outside services (editing, cover art/design, formatting) and as soon as it’s done to my satisfaction, I publish. Assuming I don’t take too long with my edits, the time from manuscript submission to the editors to publishing the finished product is usually three or four months. Going through the publisher, it’s going to be closer to a year… possibly longer.

Now, that doesn’t mean I sit on my thumbs and wait for a year. It simply means that I have to put Chucklers out of my head for however long it takes to get word on whether or not the manuscript is accepted. It means I need to shift to other projects and get them moving. I need to do things like set up a Mailchimp mailing list, get some backlisted editing done, and get other works written and ready for publication. I received a phone call a few weeks ago reminding me that I had unfinished edits on the short story Ghost Story. I need to pull that out and brush it off. Get it finished and ready for final publication. And it’s time to get going seriously on the sequel to Half Past Midnight. For those who may not know, the name of the sequel is Year 12, and it’s officially going to be my top priority writing project.

There are also a few other writing projects I have in mind, but until I see how things go with Chucklers, I won’t know when I’ll be able to start them. All I can say is that I HOPE to get them done this year. But if I can get on schedule here, I stand poised to get two more novels written (and hopefully published), publish Ghost Story before Halloween, possibly publish another short story, and possibly write & publish another novella in the HPM universe.

So wish me luck. This year promises to be a completely new learning experience on many levels.

Jan 032015
 

Well first of all, Happy New Year!    :party:

Yes, it’s that time when we all go crazy and make promises to ourselves that we seldom keep.  Or maybe that’s just me.  I have a tendency to make resolutions that at the time seem perfectly attainable… get in shape, or prep enough food and supplies for a year (for those of you who might not know that about me, I’m very into what a lot of people call “prepping”, though I simply call it being more self-sufficient), or write however many thousands of words, or publish this or that.

But the old adage tells us where that road of good intentions leads, doesn’t it?  ;)   No matter how reasonable or well-intentioned my resolutions seem at the time, I always seem to overlook Murphy’s influence on my life.  And to be perfectly honest, I tend to get easily distracted and discouraged… often to the point that I fall so far behind in my goals that I get discouraged and simply quit trying.

The new homesteadSo this year I’m going to try to take a more practical approach to things.  If you read my last few entries on the blog, you know I’ve had some major life changes in the last several months.  I left my job of more than fifteen years, left my home of more than fifty years, and moved from Texas to Oklahoma to help my parents out.  Since my last posting, we’ve gotten a new home in Claremore, Oklahoma.  It’s a small town a bit northeast of Tulsa, and so far, it’s been great.  The picture above is taken from the back corner of our fence, and I’m really looking forward to what all we can potentially do with this property.

There are two really big differences in my life here.  First, the people are just so freaking friendly.  Now, I had some great friends in Houston, don’t mistake my meaning here.  But until you get to know someone in a larger metropolitan area, people tend to treat you more suspiciously.  And if you watch the news there, you can easily understand why.  But here? You seldom see anyone frowning.  Waiters and cashiers greet you with a smile and seem genuinely happy to talk to you.  I’ve only been in this house a few weeks, and I already know more of my neighbors than I did in the house I left in Houston – and I lived there for fourteen years.  Is that their fault, my fault, or simply the learned caution of someone who has lived their entire life in a major metropolitan area?  I don’t know.  But I know that it’s much different here.  And I know I feel more welcome here, anywhere I go.

The other big difference is the weather.  In Houston, I seldom ever had to break out anything heavier than a light jacket during the winter, and that was usually only for a few days.  Here in Claremore we’ve already had a couple of light snows this year, and the temperature hasn’t climbed much above forty degrees for several days.  As I’m writing this, it is almost 2:30 in the afternoon, and the temperature is precisely forty degrees Fahrenheit.  And this is warmer than it’s been in several days.  It’s supposed to drop to nineteen degrees tonight!   :shock:

Yeah, this is going to require some serious adjustment.  I’ll have to learn to “winterize” the house, the cars… even myself.  I had to scramble to find gloves last week.  It had been so long since I’d needed them that I wasn’t even sure where they were.

But I’m learning. Adjusting.  And the time I’m getting to spend with my wife and parents is great.  I’ve gotten closer to them all than I’ve been in quite some time, and that (as the commercial says) is priceless.   :-))

So back to the whole resolution theme that I started with.  I’ve learned my own version of the adage about the best laid plans and entering the battlefield.  Last year most definitely didn’t work out the way I had planned it.  But it all seemed to fall together at the end, so I can’t complain.  This year though, after taking stock of my life – of where I am chronologically, geologically, and financially – and trying to take into account some of the effects that Murphy can have on my plans, I’ve decided to set some relatively modest goals.

Writing goals:

Chucklers – This is the one that Edward Lorn and I began over a year ago.  It’s had a rocky road, and I’ve learned that collaboration with another author is both easy, and difficult. Chucklers grew from its inception as an online chat discussion, to an amazingly complex story composed of several interwoven storylines that look like they will likely span at least two, and probably three books.  But Ed recently contacted me and told me that he has a huge project in the works, and that he was going to have to leave Chucklers behind.  He has graciously given me his blessing in continuing with it on my own.

So resolution #1 is to complete and publish the first Chucklers novel.

Year 12 – I recently began working on the sequel to HPM again.  There isn’t a lot of it done, but there are a decent first few chapters.  I want to complete and publish this one in 2015.

Crazy Larry – There is a novella that’s been banging around in my head for a while.  I’ve had several people ask me how Larry was able to raise an army to attack the town of Rejas in HPM.  Now, since HPM is told from the first person perspective of Leeland Dawcett, then anything that Leeland didn’t know, simply couldn’t go into the novel.  But believe it or not, I do have an explanation.  So I thought I might put Larry’s story behind its own cover.  I want to do this in 2015.

Other: There is also an anthology coming up that I’ve been given permission to submit to, and the world in which it takes place sounds absolutely fascinating.  So I want to try for that anthology in the next few months, and see if I can get in.  And since this one is someone else’s property, that’s about all I can say about it for now.

And that’s it for my writing goals; two novels (one of which is already mostly written), a novella, and a short story.  Like I said, modest goals.

As for my more personal goals:

Blog more – This blog has suffered quite a bit over the last couple of years.  For a long time, I posted every week.  Then it dropped to once a month.  In 2014 I started out well enough, three or four posts in the first couple of months, but like I said, Murphy…  The last few blog entries were six months apart, and that’s just unforgivable.  So this blog will get at least one entry per month, come hell or high water.

House – For the new house, I plan to get a good garden going this spring, and get some fruit trees in the back yard.  Every long-term food source is part of that self-sufficiency thing I mentioned earlier, right?  And the more food I can produce at home is that much less we have to buy in the store.

Weight – Also, let me hit on an oldie, but a goodie… I plan to lose twenty pounds by May.  And more importantly, I will keep it off all year-long.

I think they are all relatively simple goals (except maybe the weight thing, but I only have myself to blame there), and I’m going to work on keeping these resolutions this year.  So wish me luck.  And please comment here.  I recently updated my anti-spam plugin for the blog here, and I’d like to know if it works properly.  I’ve had it update in the past and begin blocking EVERYONE who tried to comment.  The only way I know it’s not doing that again is for someone to leave me a comment.  If you try and you can’t, please send me an email at jlbDOTauthorATgmailDOTcom.

 

So that’s it for now.  Have a great 2015, and stay safe!   :bye:

Sep 222013
 

Status updates – I’ve been working on a few “smaller” projects recently.  The first of these, I just can’t talk about yet.  I thought I would be announcing this one today, but there has been a road bump, and the official announcement will have to wait.  As for the second smaller project… well, I can’t really go into much detail on this one, either.  However, you’ll notice a new widget to the side for a short story.  I’ve been invited to write for an upcoming anthology (yay!).  Better yet, all of the authors have agreed to donate the proceeds to charity.  Yes, I know anthologies don’t sell well, but once I was contacted about the theme of the anthology, I got an idea that absolutely demanded to be written.  So it will.  The story is currently going by a working title of “IMPs“, and the first thousand words jumped out of me last night.  It has to be finished by December, so there’s plenty of time for completion and polish.

Chucklers is proceeding slowly, but steadily.  The process on it has changed a bit, and it will likely take longer than Ed and I anticipated, but it will still happen.  In the meantime, Y12 has been clamoring for release, and I’m beginning to contemplate the idea of working on multiple projects at the same time.  I’ve tried to avoid working this way in the past, but the voices are getting louder.  LOL.

Controversy –  Some of you may know about this, but I imagine many of you will not.  It’s something that really only affects authors and reviewers, so it may not interest many of you.  However, there has been a recent article making the rounds that was supposedly written by someone who used to work for a company that sold reviews to authors in order to help their books climb the rankings and increase sales.  I’ve explained my take ad nauseam about the relationship between rankings, title visibility, and sales (see “In answer to Mike’s question…” from February of 2012, and “Answering Mike again” from March of that same year), so I won’t bore you with it here again.  The article in question (and I have intentionally not linked to it here – I won’t give it any more exposure than it has already gotten) accuses several well-known authors of buying reviews to elevate sales.  This comes in the midst of the Goodreads controversy in which reviewers have accused authors of stalking them in retaliation for bad reviews, and authors have in turn accused reviewers of banding together to trash their books for no good reason, lowering their rankings (and so their sales) in a form of cyber-bullying.

There has been rampant speculation regarding the veracity of the claims on either side of that argument.  After all, there have been authors in the last years who have admitted publicly that they did, indeed, purchase blocks of reviews.  Others have admitted to trashing other authors with sock-puppet reviews in an effort to damage their competition.  For some, their admissions came with an apology.  For others, they simply looked at the practice as nothing more than a cold-hearted business tactic that they used to make themselves more successful in the industry.

There has been speculation that the recent “outing” article was written as an extension of some of the Goodreads cyber-bullying.  I don’t know, I don’t claim to know, and I don’t really care.  It is what it is.  I will say this – I have seen examples of both sides of the Goodreads controversy.  Neither side is completely innocent.  There are some authors who behave badly upon receipt of a negative review.  There are also reviewers who have attacked authors for doing nothing more than daring to ask a them a question about what it is they didn’t like about their book.

And I’ve seen what some of these bullies can do when they band together.  I read a post from a budding author said she had actually decided not to publish her first book, because her reputation was trashed before the book ever came out – all because she dared ask a reviewer how he could give her book a one-star review before the book had ever been released.  His response was to gather a band of other reviewers who decided to “put her in her place” by posting several more one-star reviews – again, all on a book that had yet to be released.

I myself, recently received a one-star review for my recent release that was an obvious hatchet job.  Streets of Payne is a recent release, has received only three reviews on Goodreads (all five-stars), and seven reviews on Amazon (five were five-stars, one was a four-star, and one was the one-star).  The one star review simply said:

Don’t buy. There is a reason why Amazon “give” it for free. Boring……Amazon don’t offer good books. The r fooling us.

This same reviewer posted the exact same review for nine other books.  The exact same, word for word, review – remedial grammar and all.  Then he posted a tenth review, a five-star for another book:

loved it very much. its a great book. very special make you see the world in a different way. enjoy.

I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about this reviewer.  I do note that six of the nine one-star reviews have since been removed from Amazon.

So why am I bringing this up?  What does an article that accuses a bunch of authors of buying reviews have to do with me grumbling about a bad review that I received.  After all, shit happens, right?  Move on.  Nothing to see here.  Right?  Right?

Well here’s the thing – when I read this article that purports to out a bunch of well-known authors for buying “at least 500 reviews”, there were a couple of names on the list that just absolutely pegged my bullshit meter.  Today, one of them spoke out.

Any of you who know me, know that there are a handful of authors that I reference repeatedly as gurus in the field of indie publishing.  You’ve seen me mention Nathan Lowell, Michael J. Sullivan, Imogen Rose, and others.  One you probably haven’t seen me list often is Hugh Howey.  Hugh is best known for his Wool, Silo, and Dust novels.  The reason you haven’t seen him mentioned much on my blog is that I only became acquainted with Hugh’s works in the last few months, and as you have no doubt noted, I haven’t been posting as much on this blog as I should.

But here’s the thing – I had the great fortune to meet Hugh at LoneStarCon a few weeks ago.  He won’t remember me, since he was constantly surrounded by other fans, but his take on the industry, on his successes, and his views toward his readers were almost exactly the same as mine.  He was a man who struck me as someone content to take the slow road, as long as it was the road of integrity.  He was an author who understands that the new model for the writing industry not only allows us as story tellers to connect directly with our audience, but it actually requires that we do so.  He understands that this is a business that allows some of us success, while others of us will continue to struggle, that it is a mixture of skill, persistence, and luck that determines who rides the wave, and who crashes beneath it.  And he absolutely understands that whatever your level of success, it can all change tomorrow.  In the end, all you can count on is the fact that you will eventually be left standing alone with your karmic debt.

I’ve listened to this man’s words on panels, and read interviews on him, and I follow him on FaceBook.  He is one of those few people in the industry that I truly look up to.  I’m a fan, yes.  But more than that, I respect the man.  Not just his writing, but his words and actions.

Today Hugh Howey responded to the accusation that he purchased reviews.  He responded with a well written, and thought out post on his blog.  One of the things that struck me in his blog post is his statement that he had tried for so long to remain silent as some people attacked him with trash reviews, or comments, or other open articles.  He has always viewed it as part of the price of fame.  And as he noted, he is lucky enough to have a large and loyal following that more than compensates for the small amount of negativity aimed at him.  Not many of us are so lucky.

But one of Hugh’s friends has also been accused of buying reviews, and he decided he’d been passive long enough.  Not because he was accused, but because a friend was.  Again, this is a man of integrity.

At the end of his blog post, Hugh makes a pledge.  He calls it his “Declaration of Integrity”.  Many of his readers have begun calling it the “Jolie Pledge”, named after a cherished pet that Hugh often refers to in his postings.  Hugh’s pledge says:

I, Hugh Howey, have never paid for a book review in my life. I swear this on my life and on the life of my beloved dog and faithful companion of ten years, Jolie. May she rest in peace. And may the accusers and accused alike find peace in their hearts as well.

I think this is a wonderful idea.  I like to think that I am also a man of integrity (or at least I try to be)  ;) .  I try to keep from commenting on or criticizing those whose views I don’t agree with, unless they enter into my “personal space”.  Yes, I keep the troll hammer handy, and will not tolerate trolls here on the blog.  But I encourage honest and open questions, comments, and debate.  And I will never belittle another person for their personal beliefs.

So I will also make my declaration here.  I will take the same stand that Hugh has taken.

I, Jeff Brackett, have never paid for, and will never pay for a book review. I give my solemn word on this.

And while Hugh wishes peace for the accusers and accused alike, I will simply say that I wish both the accusers and accused find the justice they deserve.

What can I say?  Hugh is a better person than I am.  ;)

That’s it for tonight.  Be safe, everyone.  :bye: