Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: corporate publishing

I’ve noted several times how much I dislike the phrase “self-publishing,” even going so far as to note there’s no such thing. I’ve spoken often enough (arguably too often?) against corporations and conglomerations and the oft-neglected complexity that has come to color storytelling and writing. I’ve noted that people who call the late-twentieth century business model of publishing and distribution “traditional” are badly misusing the word. I realize, however, I’ve never really talked about what independence means to me, or how I’ve come to it, or why. I thought I would.

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The other day, Inside the Outside author Martin Lastrapes asked me about Kindle Select (or Kindle Direct Publishing Select, or KDP Select, depending on the day and who’s typing, it seems). I’m now several weeks committed to being a Kindle-exclusive author, and I thought I’d share some of my experiences.

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After careful consideration, I’ve removed my collection from Smashwords and enrolled all my books in Amazon’s new KDP Select program. I did it for both professional and moral reasons that disagree with most everything else people say about Amazon, so I thought I’d tell you about why, but first I wanted to mention that one benefit of doing so means that, for a very limited time (until December 27th, in fact, so just five days including today), all my short stories, essays, and collections will be available free.

Totally free. No catch. No caveat. You don’t have to be a Prime member.

You can find them all right here.

Now. Why am I going Amazon exclusive (if only for 90 days at a shot), when most people in the publishing industry are decrying the evil of the Seattle corporation–even though that’s kind of ironic, given that pretty much everyone who’s called them an evil corporation is either a corporation or deeply associated with one (or many)?

Because I don’t see them as evil. I’m a reader, first–I write because some of the books I want to read haven’t been written yet–and Amazon has done more for me as a reader than anyone else ever. It’s also done more for me as a writer than anyone save my editrix.

But let’s talk about Amazon. And evil. And corporations.

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So what might a writer learn from Locke? You’ve written a “good enough” novel–whatever you’ve decided that means. Maybe you just finished it for NaNoWriMo (and in which case, congratulations!).

Maybe you’re an experienced indie author still frustrated when you see other authors selling crazy amounts of books while sales of yours trickle in.

Maybe you’re an author who got a corporate deal–advance and all!–but your publisher never really got around to marketing you. Maybe you signed with Simon & Schuster, and they’re too busy with uploading and then deleting Snooki YouTube videos.

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In discussing Locke and How I Sold (as well as Hocking and Eisler et al.), I think one huge caveat that must be enumerated, and can’t be mentioned often enough, is that: there is no magic bullet. What’s worked for one writer might not–and probably will not–work for others.

I’m sure someone could make the argument that people don’t discuss that bit because it’s understood, but I don’t buy that.

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Last week, I caught a post by Angela Perry, in which she mentions she’s considering “self-publishing” but ultimately moves on to discuss writers and tone. I honestly think that tone is at the heart of why people think a “debate” exists, and why there are two sides to it. Some of the rhetoric recently used has been hyperbolic and not-so-helpful, but I’ll be honest: I can, in ways, see why it’s been used. Why some loud, brash independent authors have resorted to using somewhat shocking language.

Publishing never used to be so divided, but then, it was never really so conglomerated, either.

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Print versus digital. “Self-publishing” versus “traditional publishing.” “Plotters” versus “pantsers.”

Everything in publishing seems so binary lately and has a “debate,” and it’s starting to drive me crazy.

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My first was: shiny!

My second was: wow. I was so right.

I’m really pleased I nailed the pricing ($79 and $199, specifically). I had the feeling we’d see sub-$100 by year’s end, and I’d hoped it’d be sub-$80, because this paves the way for the continuing digital revolution. I think we’re going to look back and notice that the thing that finally made e-reading totally mainstream was the $70 Kindle. At that price, it’s nearly impossible to pass on it (and consider that by next summer, we’re probably looking at a sub-$50 Kindle).

Between a $79 Kindle and Apple’s iPad, this could well be the conquering moment for digital publishing. The death blow.

Can the big six maintain business-as-usual anymore? Heck, what is business as usual?

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After debuting at $2.99 and having a 99-cent pre-/post-9/11 sale, The Prodigal Hour is now on sale for $4.99 at Amazon.

Now that Kindle’s Direct Publishing platform has allowed so many authors to bypass both literary agents and corporations’ acquisitions editors in favor of connecting directly with readers, many conventions long simply rotely accepted are being questioned.

One is pricing.

In a corporate-type situation, it’s not difficult to determine pricing. Probably due to a confluence of complicated factors too boring to really contemplate, we all know about how much a trade paperback costs: usually between $12.99 and $14.99, right? I think that’s about the upper limit. Hardcovers are, what, $27-ish? Maybe $30?

(Which prompts a question: who pays full price for a hardcover? Don’t all hardcovers [and most trade paperbacks, nowadays] come with some discount or other? Back when I was a proud carrier of a Barnes & Noble card Members Receive An Extra 10% Off books already discounted by 30% or more.)

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Consider so-called “self-publishing” for the past several years and you’ll find that every year, someone writes that its “stigma” is disappearing. Perfunctory research dug up this 2002 Wired article, and articles every year following up until now, including this one at the Washington Post. What’s odd is that extensive searches for stigmas associated with either indie filmmaking or indie music-making yield no such results—in fact, the closest I came when Googling for any stigma associated with indie filmmaking were results lamenting the difficulty of an NC-17 film-rating. I thought, at first, I might be using invalid search terms, so I tried “independent”—rather than “indie”—filmmaking; ironically, I found only this Yahoo! question-and-answer post regarding the distinction between the stigma associated with self-publishing and the lack of any associated with independent filmmaking.

What’s interesting about that question is the response thereto: the poster proposes that the distinction is that, when considering writing, often the author is the only person associated with the work (say, a novel, or memoir, or book of poetry). The general thought seems to be that filmmaking can only be collaborative—with a producer and writer and director and actors—while a self-published novel’s creation is isolative—just one writer, in one room, with one keyboard and one screen.

If that is the case, however, wouldn’t it be true that, except in very rare circumstances, neither filmmaking nor music are ever truly “independent”? How often does one encounter a movie written, produced, and directed by one actor in one room? And that doesn’t even mention lighting, sound, and crafts.

Really, sounds like those self-shot YouTube videos one sees, in which users turn on their webcams and talk/rant at it for a few minutes.

(Regardless of your feelings concerning authors who have published their own books—through whatever means—it’s simply not equivalent to ranting at a webcam.)

What it comes down to is simple: for some reason, people respect independence when associated with music recording or filmmaking but not writing, even though writing is the only endeavor of the three that is ever actually accomplished independently.

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