The Kickstarter for Janine K. Spendlove’s War of the Seasons, Book Three: The Hunter is live!
Not only can you get physical and eBook copies of all three books, but we’ve got some amazing authors lined up as stretch goals to write stories in the War of the Seasons universe. By backing this project, you can bring to life War of the Seasons stories by Aaron Allston, Michael A. Stackpole, Bryan Young, Cleolinda Jones, Albin Johnson, and Maggie Allen.
We also have some great add-ons, the proceeds of which will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Craven Arts Council. So, come check it out, and spread the word!
Kickstarter – Lessons Learned
Running a Kickstarter campaign for your book is a nerve wracking experience.
This past weekend was Baltimore Comic Con, a now annual Con that draws an ever increasing crowd and more talented and famous artists every year. And this year was no let down. Better yet, two artists Silence in the Library Publishing (SitL) has had the pleasure of working with had booths at the Con and a few SitL authors were able to support the artists and our stories.
First was Matt Slay (http://spaciousinterior.deviantart.com/). As many of you know, Matt is the artist behind all the tremendous watercolors that are gracing the pages of the soon to be released Time Traveled Tales anthologies.
His breath-taking array of work was on display and it made for an ideal draw for a limited, special run of TTT Trade Paperbacks that he had on hand. http://www.silenceinthelibrarypublishing.com/store/
Over part of the day Saturday, Janine Spendlove and Brian E. Shaw were able to join him for a wonderful signing session and we can happily proclaim that thanks to Janine’s effortless charm, Brian’s entertaining humor, and the gravitas of Matt’s larger works, we generated enough interest to sell out that run in less than 24 hours.
Following that, Janine was able to spend time signing with another of SitL’s visual geniuses, Mark Dos Santos (http://www.markdossantos.com), best known for his brilliant “Gotham Evening Post” series, and soon to come “Daily Bugle” series. Mark has also joined forces with SitL and illustrated A Hero by Any Other Name, a fantastic anthology of superhero and sidekick stories.
His style perfectly captured each character and brought them to life. This anthology is currently out and you can purchase your copy here: http://www.silenceinthelibrarypublishing.com/store/
All in all, it was a successful weekend for our stories and an even better weekend for our artists and our commitment to solidifying the relationship between our writers and artists as SitL continues its work to bring a special partnership and level of craft back to the reading experience.
So, as the customers at Baltimore Comic Con appeared to do, we hope you each get to enjoy our stories and the wonderful art that accompanies them. It truly is a special and presently unique combination that SitL is thrilled to bring to all of our readers.
During the Time Traveled Tales Kickstarter, one of our contributors pointed out that it would be a good thing if we did something special for those contributors who had been with us from the very start. We agreed whole-heartedly, and came up with a two part reward for our first 100 backers.
The first part of that reward was an additional story that we sent out to the first 100 in eBook format a few weeks ago.
Now, we’re making good on the second part of our promise.
At Dragon Con 2013, we were able to get authors Aaron Allston, Michael Stackpole, Timothy Zahn, Maggie Allen, Janine K. Spendlove, and Bryan Young together to record an audio “Thank You” to our first 100. We had one of the authors read each of those contributors’ names aloud and thank them for their contribution. The purpose of this post is to make that file available, and it can be found below.
In closing, we at Silence in the Library would like to thank not only our first 100 contributors, but all of the backers of our Time Traveled Tales Kickstarter project. You guys brought this book to life, and we hope you’ll stay with us for the many other wonderful adventures we have planned for the next couple of years.
Thank you, and enjoy the clip.
Ron Garner, CEO, Silence in the Library LLC
Download it: (right click + save as)
Kickstarter for Bryan Young’s A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination Goes Live!
On Tuesday, 27 August 2013, Silence in the Library Publishing launched a Kickstarter for Bryan Young’s ground-breaking illustrated book A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination.
A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination is a beautifully illustrated book born of a child’s desire to learn and a father’s belief that gaining knowledge should be fun and uplifting. It is designed to educate, entertain, and enlighten children from ages 1 to 100.
A couple of years ago, while visiting Washington D.C. for a writer’s workshop, author Bryan Young visited Ford’s Theatre, the site of John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. When he returned home, he showed his children the many pictures he had taken from his trip. To his delight and surprise, his daughter Scout was incredibly interested in the subject of Lincoln’s assassination, and Presidential assassinations in general.
After looking extensively for a book suitable for a child her age on the subject that would be both educational and engaging, Bryan came to the realization that no such book existed.
This book is the result of that quest. Beautifully illustrated by artist Erin Kubinek, this book brings the subject of Presidential assassination to life in a way that is sure to enlighten and entertain children and adults of all ages.
Check out the Kickstarter for this book at:
If You Want to Write, You Have to Be Read
If you want to be a writer you need to fulfill a bunch of requirements. Love to read? Check. Have a strong grasp of grammar and spelling? Check. Critical thinker? Check. Self-motivated, like working alone, and willing to put in long hours? Check, check, check. The biggest requirement for being a professional author? Allowing others to read your work.
Yes, you read that right. You might be thinking, “Well, yeah. Of course I want my work to be read. That’s sort of the point.” I don’t mean having legions of fans that buy your books and wait for you to update your blog. I’m talking about the alpha and beta readers that give you honest critique of your work.
When you’re starting out, letting people read your work is scary. It’s easy to hear “I don’t like you” when someone says “I don’t like this story.” It’s hard to take criticism of something that took a year or more to write. It’s tempting to have your mom read your book and let her tell you it’s the best novel she’s ever read. Unless your mom is a professional author herself and you can take honest critique from her, don’t.
An ideal alpha reader needs to be a fellow writer. It’s helpful if they’ve been at it longer than you have. It’s also great if they’re writing the same genre as you, but it’s not a necessity. You’re looking for someone who can poke holes in your plot, tell you where the pacing is off, and let you know when dialogue sounds forced. You should trust them to honest without being mean. And you have to be able to accept their critiques and suggestions.
Beta readers—folks who read your work after the hard edges have been rewritten away—don’t necessarily need to be writers. They won’t give you details critique on craft, but they will tell you if they liked it. They’ll tell you where they got bored. They’ll let you know if you got some details wrong or if events don’t make sense. Their input is invaluable.
Let’s face it. You don’t just want to be a writer. You want to be a good writer. That can only happen if you allow others to read your work and then listen to their feedback.
About the Author
According to family legend, Kelly Swails learned to read by perusing Archie comics at the age of three. (She loved Jughead the most.) As a child she would read anything with words—magazines, books, comics, cereal boxes. She wrote her first bona-fide short story in sixth grade, about a feminist and a misogynist watching the destruction of Earth from their spaceship. After that foray into SF, she tried her hand at mystery, horror, and teen romance. Her medical mind pulled her into clinical laboratory science, but she continues to write short stories and YA novels. She has been published in numerous anthologies. Visit her website at www.kellyswails.com.
Kelly has a story coming out in the Coins of Chaos anthology from Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, due to be released in October 2013. She also has an essay coming out in Chicks Dig Gaming in November 2013.
When I first started writing, I was told many times that I should start with short stories rather than trying to jump right into a novel. I didn’t want to do that. The story arcs that I had in mind would not fit into a short story. I had tons of ideas that I wanted to writer about, but every single one would require at least one novel to do it justice. Heck – in some cases it would have required an entire series! Besides, I enjoyed reading the epic tales and wanted to create something on that scale.
After all, I had been writing for years, taken writing classes, and read quite a bit. I knew about story arcs and could create characters that would be cared about. So, I was going to jump into it and create a novel. I was ready, right?
No. I was not.
But writing short stories is only a way to get your name out there. You can bypass that step by creating an amazing novel. If you write a wonderful book and get it into the hands of publishers, you’ll be set. If you aren’t trying to build your name, you can skip the short story step.
All of that was wrong.
After I published my second novel, I started writing short stories and getting them published. Each short story that got published opened up more opportunities to get more stories out there. Over the years I got my writing in front of more and more people. And while I was building an audience, that was not the most valuable part of writing the short stories. What was the most valuable part? It made me a much better writer.
Don’t get me wrong, building an audience is a very important part of becoming an author – which is more than just being a writer. Maxwell A. Drake wrote a wonderful post about that in this blog a couple of weeks ago. I highly encourage you to go read it if you haven’t. But, building your audience is not going to carry your career as an author unless you have the writing skills to back it up. And writing short stories will make you a much better writer.
Why do short stories make you a better writer than jumping directly to a novel? Both of them require you to write compelling stories and find a way to entertain your readers and make them want to move on to the next line, the next page. Both of them require you to create and pull the reader through a full story arc. So what makes the short story superior in this respect? Quite simply, they’re short.
When you create a short story, the amount of time that it takes to bring the tale from its initial conception to final submission-ready draft is significantly shorter than the time it takes to create just the first draft of a novel. Depending on where your strengths are and how much planning you do before writing, you might even be able to complete a well-thought out short story in less time than it takes to create the background for your novel. There is much less scope to be concerned with, and this can work to your advantage.
It becomes a numbers game.
Let’s look at an example. For my next novel that I have planned, I spent over a month thinking about the entire world and taking notes about history, how magic works, why the world is the way it is, and so on. I have pages about the world to make it believable, and to make sure that I follow the rules I’ve created. And all of this time invested is before I even began thinking about the main character, and what he or she might have to go through. How many short stories could I have planned and written in that time? Let’s estimate conservatively and say two.
So on one hand I could have two short stories, or the beginning of a world where a novel will take place.
Let’s add on another month for planning the outline of the story. And let’s say I am extremely productive and write a chapter a day for a 30 chapter book. For the record – that is an insane pace to set, at least for me. But, for the sake of estimates we now have three months to take a novel from raw beginning to completion of the first draft. Then comes the cleanup, the editing, and the sending out to beta readers to get and incorporate feedback. Again, let’s set up an insanely productive timeline and say I manage to get all of that done in a month (which is not going to happen, but humor me). We are now at four months of a “nearly kill yourself” pace for me (and my beta readers) to get a novel into a state where I might consider sending it out.
How many short stories could I have completed in that time? Eight.
Now here’s the key. Why is this important? Why does churning more stories become a critical part in your evolution as a writer? Because there are things that you will learn telling an entire story from start to finish that you will never learn from writing pieces. Writing something from beginning to end is critical, and will teach you so much. It is one of the spots where many writers get stuck. You need to have the full cycle to see how the story moves and evolves over time.
And with short stories, you will see that more often.
Every story that I have written – short, novella-length, or novel – I learned something about storytelling. I learned a different way to craft a tale. I learned where you want to add suspense, how much action is too much, or how you needed to wrap things up to give the reader a feeling of satisfaction. I learned where a story arc needs to be steep and how it needs to get to where it needs to go.
Not only that, but with each of these stories, I also got feedback. I heard from readers, and not just my beta readers. I heard about things they liked, things that worked, and things that in some cases made them tune out of the story and move on to the next one in the anthology. Each of these lessons required an entire tale to learn them.
Each of these lessons that I learned is a small step towards becoming a better writer. Each completed story is not a notch on the belt – it is a collection of lessons I learned and an opportunity to refine my writing technique. With short stories, these lessons come faster, and my writing improves at a much greater rate than if I was writing novels exclusively.
Another advantage of short stories is that it has given me an opportunity to experiment with different writing techniques. For example, I just had a short story published that was my first submission where I told it in the first person. I didn’t know if it was going to work, but it fit with the way that I wanted the story to unfold. So I tried it, refined it, and now it is published. Could you imagine trying that with a full novel and investing that much time before knowing if it would even work? How demoralizing would it be if the fundamental flaw of a novel was something that required rewriting the entire thing? Unfortunately a simple Search and Replace for “I” with “he” or “she” won’t quite cut it.
Now I love writing short stories. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy telling the epic tale and very much have several of those stories to tell. But, I like creating the smaller pieces because I know that they help make sure that my epic tale will be that much better.
Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying here to think that I am implying short stories are easier. They are most definitely not. Then again, they are not harder than writing novels either. It is comparing two similar but very different skill sets. It is like comparing someone who does stage combat with someone who does tournament martial arts. The skills are very similar and many of the lessons translate from one to the other, but they cannot be directly compared. All I am saying is that short stories are shorter. And because they are shorter, I firmly believe that they serve as a wonderful writing tool to make you a better writer.
So the next time that you have a friend tell you that maybe you should start with short stories first, don’t have a knee jerk reaction to just ignore them because you have this great epic tale to tell. You may have a great epic tale, but if you take the time to refine your skills first, it will make that tale even more magnificent and enjoyable to read. Writing is just like any other skill – the more you practice, the better you become.
About the Author
Dylan Birtolo has always been a storyteller, for as long as he can remember. No matter how much other things have changed, that aspect has not. He still tells stories, in whatever format he can. He currently resides in the great Pacific Northwest where he spends his time as a writer, a gamer, and a professional sword-swinger. He has published a couple of fantasy novels and several short stories in multiple anthologies. He has also written pieces for game companies set in their worlds and co-authored a gaming manual. He trains with the Seattle Knights, an acting troop that focuses on stage combat, and has performed in live shows, videos, and movies. In addition he teaches the academy for upcoming acting combatants. Endeavoring to be a true jack of all trades, he has worked as a software engineer, a veterinary technician in an emergency hospital, a martial arts instructor, a rock climbing guide, and a lab tech. He has had the honor of jousting, and yes, the armor is real – it weighs over 120 pounds. You can read more about him and his works at www.dylanbirtolo.com or follow his Twitter at DylanBirtolo. His most recent project is a kickstarter to write and release a trilogy of modern fantasy novels about shape shifters. You can read about it at tinyurl.com/BirtoloKS
Shoulders and Attitude: The Story of Why Silence in the Library is Different
“Writing is a Solitary Endeavor.” – Lots of Anonymous People
This is a blog post about why Silence in the Library Publishing and the people associated with it are just a bit different. Take that as you will. But in order to explain it well, I first have to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart. Me.
I’d like to write a blog post that draws upon my wealth of wisdom as a brilliant and wealthy writer of numerous bestsellers. But I’m not that guy. I’ve met that guy. He’s cool. So is she. But I am just a lucky guy who is blessed with good friends. Friends that have taught me the best early lesson an aspiring writer needs to know; It’s all about the people.
It is true that writing is a solitary endeavor when you are alone with ideas in the middle of the night or your laptop amidst a sea of strangers at Starbucks. But that is writing. And while I love being a writer (almost as much as I enjoy being a reader) I also have long dreamt of being an author. And that is where I am happy to say that people have been my greatest resource, inspiration, and mentors. In other words, what little success I have enjoyed in publishing my stories thus far is entirely the result of my creativity, initiative and labor meeting up with wonderful people at the correct point in time and space.
Heck, there’s probably even an algorithm for that, but the closest I ever got to science was a degree in Political Science. And for the uninitiated, that means I can make numbers mean anything I want them to, I just can’t explain where they came from.
Now, allow me to explain.
About a year ago, I was coming home from a writing workshop with a big-name author and too many cans of Monster still working in my system. And it was then that my wife informed me that she had just seen a friend of ours and he was looking for stories for an anthology he was putting together.
Thus, full of ideas and the confidence that comes with spending lots of money so someone else can tell you how to write, I wrote, re-wrote, and (thanks to my wife) edited a 4000 word story that I submitted three days later. It was accepted with minimal editing. But more important, the gentleman editor and publisher took the time to tell me what he liked and how I could make my story better as he has done countless times in his own career when he has given writers their first check and their first story in print.
But he also gave me a new playing field. No longer was I an unpublished writer. Every penny he paid me was one cent of invaluable affirmation. And if you believe in Karma, you’ll like this little gem. This publisher that regularly took chances on aspiring writers just announced that he signed his first major deal with Tor. And I couldn’t be happier for him.
Now, for those keeping score at home, I already received a hand from my wife and my first publisher.
And somehow, all of this brings us to today. Almost exactly a year after my first story was accepted and published (work and an adoption intervened for a while) Silence in the Library (SitL) launched the Time Traveled Tales Anthology project on Kickstarter. I loved it. I wanted to support it. Hell, it had Jean-freaking-Rabe editing it and stories from Star Wars rock-stars that make getting on the NYT best-seller list look as easy as getting on a Chinese menu for General Tsao.
So I emailed Ron about a story I had in mind and asked him to keep me in mind if they did another similar project. But he didn’t hesitate; he just asked if I’d like to take part as a stretch goal.
Um…hell yes I did.
As the days went by I worked on my story. My wife worked on making my story better. And people kept backing this ‘little’ project we all had going. I was stoked. And then I sent my story to Ron.
A few days later, Ron emailed me back. He said he loved my story. He liked the characters and the premise. And he said he’d like me to let Aaron Allston take a look at it to help me tighten it up.
Now, for anyone left with any doubt, that meant my story probably was good, it probably was fun, but it was capable of going to a higher level and I had missed that on my first try.
Fortunately, on my wall at work I have a poster that says “Try. Fail. Repeat.” And that helped me view the situation in the proper light.
I may have fallen short. But I was being given the opportunity to work one-on-one with one of the best writers in speculative fiction, all in an effort to make my story better. And if I was smart, I would pay attention to whatever suggestions Aaron had and make every story I write better for it. To make them and myself more professional and to offer a better product to readers that spare their own precious time and money on my stories. Hopefully, I’d pull it off and make his investment worthwhile.
Now, stay with me. We are now up to 4 people that helped make this one little short story happen. The first two we already mentioned, but now Ron gave me an opportunity to succeed and connected me of his own initiative with Aaron, who invested in me and my story out of respect for Ron and Aaron’s own generosity.
So I took it. I waded through the red-ink that made my story look like a literary abattoir. And then I revised it again just to be sure. And finally, my story was finished and I was able to relax and enjoy the ride. For about a minute.
You see, our little Kickstarter not only hit my stretch goal, it hit more than we had ever imagined having. And clearly this is not a group that lacks for imagination.
In the end, we hit over 370% of our goal thanks to the wonderful belief and support of over 700 people: great people; people of immense taste and character; people that deserved something more.
So we offered up a second volume. And that suddenly meant I’d gone from ‘maybe one story’ to writing two stories for a guaranteed audience of 700 people. I was blown away. I was awed. I was ecstatic.
I had to stop counting. I was going to go from a writer with one story to a writer with three in two separate anthologies. And it all happened because of the belief of 742 fans (mostly of the other authors), the generosity of storied writers (pardon the pun), and the enveloping warmth provided by their well-earned reputations.
That was then. This is now; A whopping few weeks later. But now I can envision two stories of exceeding quality in my mind’s eye where they sit in my new library next to the first anthology I was a part of.
I want more.
I want to bring people joy and excitement the way Jean, Jennifer, Aaron, Bryan, and Mike all have.
I want to fill novels with my best ideas and stories and make the art of creation my life’s passion. But I also want to embody the spirit of Silence in the Library no matter where I write, and the reason for that is Matt Slay.
I don’t mean to imply that Matt was more critical to my epiphany than anyone or anything else I mentioned above. But he and his incredible art embody what is different about SitL. They bring back some of the magic we all experienced as kids by combining stunning imagery with great storytelling. They bring artists together to make a better product for all the senses. And they all share in the success.
I will not belabor the point, but these things don’t come without leadership, vision and a moral compass. Each is something the world could use more of, and each is something I and the 700+ backers of the Kickstarter project owe to Ron Garner and the team that is bringing the SitL vision to life on the pages and off.
So, may we wish them and their experiment immense success, oodles of joy, and finally the vision to hold onto the little things that are making them and every story they give us a true piece of art.
Brian E. Shaw
I get asked all the time, “What are your thoughts on how the publishing industry is changing?” That’s even the question I was asked to answer with this guest blog post. I know what they mean, but I don’t think many who ask me this understand the question they are asking.
Has the publishing industry changed over the past 20 years? Definitely. But, so what? What business hasn’t drastically changed over the past 20 years? We have moved from the information age to the supercharged, blindingly fast, internet-fueled information age. If you are a businessman in any industry in the world today, technology has changed how you do business. The publishing industry is no different.
What does that mean for authors specifically? Not much… and, well… a lot.
For me, it’s all about following the dollar and understanding why things happen the way they do.
Let me take a moment and qualify what I see as the “business of publishing.” Most of the struggling, up-and-coming authors I meet are clueless about what really drives the publishing industry. They focus on their art, their story, their creativity and nothing else. They say things like, “I wrote an amazing story about amazing things and I will be an amazing success making amazing amounts of money once people read my amazing book.” I think this attitude is the reason why most of the new authors I have met over my career have gone the way of the dodo bird – because they missed understanding the one fundamental fact that is the business of publishing. And that is, this ”business” has nothing to do with talent, creativity or good storytelling.
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking how horrible I am to say that. You are thinking that if the book isn’t good, it will never sell. HA! Without naming names, I can think of at least a dozen books published in the past few years that have sold millions of copies, all of which most people will admit that these books are not “well written.” But, you miss my point. I am not talking about the quality of the book when I say, “This business has nothing to do with talent, creativity or good storytelling.” I am talking about the “Business” of “Publishing.” And this is what I think most new authors never try to understand. For the business of publishing is about making money, selling a product, and turning a profit. Just like every other business in this world. Period. So, ask yourself how a “producer of the products that this industry sells” (i.e., author) can ignore how this industry works thinking it’s only about the craft of storytelling and not end up a failure in this industry.
If you are an “artist of the craft,” then you are grimacing and perhaps puking or at the very least ranting about how disgusting I am and how I should never be allowed to publish another book. If so, you are still missing my point. I am not saying you should not try to put out a quality product. Of course your book needs to be well written, creative, and masterfully constructed. That is what the fans want. What I am saying is that the business side of this industry doesn’t care about that. (And even that statement is not entirely accurate. They do care, in a way. But, you would be surprised at how fast a publisher will pass on an amazing manuscript that has the ability to change the world if they think that book will be incredibly hard to market. They will opt instead to publish a mediocre (or even not so mediocre) book that has an amazing hook that they know the general public will latch on to, tell their friends about, and sell a bajillion copies.) I repeat: this is a business.
Is this the correct attitude? Perhaps not. But it is necessary.
Why? Because publishing a book costs money. You do realize it costs money to publish a book, right? And I don’t mean the $35 fee to upload your Word document to Amazon and self-publish. I am talking about traditional publishing, where they spend $3,000 to $5,000 on editorial services, $1,000 to $3,000 on cover art, $1,500 to $5,000 on graphic and web design, $2,500 on typesetting and eBook creation, $25,000 to $40,000 on advanced reader copies and pre-promotion, $40,000 to $100,000 on first print run, $50,000 to $2,000,000 on marketing, and a ton more costs that are just too many to list here.
Why do you think they spend that kind of money? Not for the good of the “art,” that’s for sure. Like every business, they invest their money in a product to “turn a profit.” If they spend $500,000 on a project, they expect to make ALL that money back, plus a surplus of money called “profit.” They need this “profit” to pay for things like salaries, the light bill, the telephone bill, oh yeah, and the next project they want to publish. If you think it is anything else, you are living in a more fantastical fantasy world than I write about in my fiction.
To that end, this industry has not changed by a hair. And if you are a writer who only focuses on the craft and nothing else, ignoring what publishing is really about, you are in for a world of hurt once this industry slaps you in the face and sends you crying to your mama.
An author needs to understand that what they are doing is creating a product to be “sold.” Yes, the quality of the product can and will affect its chances for success. But so will a dozen other criteria that have nothing to do with the story itself and are outside the control of the author’s writing/story telling ability. I think it’s important for a writer to wrap their head around this fact, and to deal with it from the very beginning.
So what has changed?
Many point to the eBook market. But, I don’t see that as real change. Sure, it is a different medium we can now use to get books into readers hands. But, at the end of the day, the fact remains that for this to be a business there must be a model in place to ensure compensation is received by all parties.
What do I mean by that? Remember a few years ago when Google did the stupidest thing that has ever been done in the history of doing stupid things? They said that since books are just information, and information is free, they were going to scan in all books and put them up for free for everyone. Now, in theory, that may sound great. However, this clashes with the fact that people in this industry must make a living or they can’t work in this industry. Call me callous, but I write for money.
And you want me and others like me to write for money. Why? Let’s look at “Fan Fic” for a moment. I have read Fan Fic. There is nothing wrong with it. There is rarely anything right with it. But, it is what it is. It is someone who is very interested in a produced series who wants to expand upon the story. They do not care if they write their Fan Fic story well. And, I don’t care either. I am not paying them for this story, they have put it on the internet for free. They are just happy to write it, and let me read it. I am reading it because I want to see where someone else would take a story I like. However, if I purchased a book that was as poorly written as most Fan Fic I have read, I would be pissed as most Fan Fic is not a professional level product.
I can write, and write well, because I have the time. I have the time because my writing earns me a living. You can purchase my books and know that they will be worth the money because I am a professional, who spends all my effort to ensure that I put out a professional product.
If there is ever a time when the business model collapses, and I no longer get paid for my writing, I will be forced to get a different job so that I can continue to feed my children. If I work a different job, I will no longer have the time to produce a professional product.
Had Google succeeded in making all books free forever, professional writers would have disappeared and in, say, ten years, Fan Fic would be all that was left.
A business model must always be in place. For someone to devote their life to doing a craft, they must be able to make a living. That will never change.
So, we are back to our original question, what has changed in the publishing industry?
In my opinion, there is really is only one major shift in this industry that anyone trying to make a living as an author needs to understand and focus on.
Never before has an author had more control of selling their own product to readers. And this is what the publishers fear when they talk about the “changes in the publishing industry.” Why? Simple. Think back to all those costs a publisher pays to publish a book. Many people think those are the reasons we authors need publishers. But they could not be more wrong – and publishers know this. The fact is, all that is just money. I have money. You might have money. We authors could spend all that money ourselves and do exactly what the big publishers are doing. We could hire the best cover artist, the best editors, the best publicists, the best printers, etc. All we need is the money and we are in like Flynn.
This is why the allure of self-publishing attracts so many authors to their doom. Because, even if you have all the money needed to put out a product in the exact way the big boys do, you will still probably fail.
First of all, I know of no self-published author who actually spends that kind of money to produce a professional level product. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have seen some amazing self-published work. But, I have never seen a self-published work that did it all. And for each amazing self-published book I have come across, I have seen hundreds that are… well… less amazing.
Secondly, because having money to pay for stuff is not what the publishers control, and it is not what makes a book commercially successful. What publishers own is one thing, and one thing only.
Publishers control distribution.
Now, the distribution model has changed with the fact that Barnes & Noble is basically the last great super power. But they are not the end of the line. You still have some 2,500 mom & pop bookstores, 3,000 libraries, a gaggle of other medium and smaller bookstore chains like Books-a-Million and Powell’s Books. The fact is, these book stores and libraries just don’t want to buy books from self-published authors. Why? Because they know that most self-published books are not produced at a professional level. Most authors do not spend the type of money discussed above on their project.
Those resellers want to purchase from the big boys because they trust them.
And without distribution, the self-published author is forced to sell books one at a time, wherever they can find a willing victim (I mean, book reader.) Even if your self-published book is a masterpiece, being forced to sell books one by one is exhausting, time consuming, and rarely financially beneficial.
“What about digital books?” you ask. Sure, eBooks are an easier vehicle for self-published authors to ride. And digital sales are growing. I know several self-published authors who make a living just selling digital books. Still, self-published authors are at a disadvantage even in this market as Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc. all want to advertise the multi-million copy selling books produced by the big publishers on their front pages.
So, why are the big publishers so afraid? I have no stinking idea.
The fact is more people win the lottery than have a commercially successful self-published book. If you want to play the odds, don’t self-publish. Just stick to buying lottery tickets. It’s way less work.
But how does this help you? It doesn’t… directly. But, understanding the hows and whys will help you make better decisions.
So why is the fact that an author has more control over selling their own product to readers so amazing? When you get right down to things, there is only one currency an author has – readers (i.e. fans). The more fans you have, the more chances your next project will be a success. This translates into value for the publishers who own the distribution you need so that you can reach a wider audience. Getting in with a bigger publisher in turn generates more fans for you, meaning your next project has more chances to succeed. You continue to grow and the cycle continues.
That is why it is so important for authors to get outside of their comfort zone and meet people. Social media like Facebook and Twitter, fan conventions, blogs, vlogs, websites, writers’ conferences, library events, interviews, reviews, reader websites like goodreads, book festivals, book clubs, bookstore signings, there have never been more avenues of opportunity for authors to interact directly with readers and fans. And, each time you step out and mingle, you have the opportunity to gain a new reader or fan.
And all those readers become currency you can use within the publishing industry.
So, the opportunity to get out there meet new readers is an amazing new thing for us authors. But, why are there not more successful writers today than there was twenty years ago? Simple. Being able to sell your own product directly to readers is not going to make you a success as a writer. It helps, but it is not the key to success.
What is the key to success? The same as it has always been.
Twenty years ago the best thing you could do to become a successful author was to write your next project. In today’s “drastically changed” market, the best thing you can to do become a successful author is to write your next project.
Building a fan base, (i.e. a readership) is a slow and arduous process for the majority of us. Sure, you have those lucky few who explode – I have already said you have people who win the lottery. But for the rest of us it takes time. I love the statement, “It takes an average of thirteen years to become an overnight success.” Mostly because I am about halfway to becoming an overnight success, and I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome. But in reality it is a reminder to me that becoming a successful writer takes time, effort, work, perseverance, tenacity, sweat & tears, heartache, and an amazing amount of blind luck.
In closing, I think the reason why so many new authors come and go so fast is they have a false expectation of what this industry is. They enter this industry thinking everything is roses, and that all they have to do is write a book and they will become a gazillionaire. Then, when the reality sets in and they realize it is harder than they thought, they quit.
If your plan is to make a living as a writer, you need to concentrate on learning more than just “how to write good.” You also need to learn how and why this industry works the way it does. If you do, I think you will find that you will increase your chances for success.
About Author Maxwell Alexander Drake:
Maxwell Alexander Drake is an award-winning Science Fiction/Fantasy author, Graphic Novelist and Playwright. He is also a tie-in writer and game story consultant for Sony Online Entertainment. He is best known for his fantasy series, The Genesis of Oblivion Saga. Drake teaches creative writing at writers’ conferences, book festivals and fan conventions around the country. Find out more about him at his website, www.maxwellalexanderdrake.com, more about the Genesis of Oblivion Saga at www.genesisofoblivion.com, and more about his latest graphic novel at www.downfallthecomic.com.
This is the very first blog post on the Silence in the Library website, and I think this is the proper time and place to give you guys an idea of who we are and why we do what we do.
Silence in the Library Publishing was founded by a group of authors who looked at the way the publishing industry works today, and realized that not only did it need to change, but now we have the tools available to make it change.
From the time of the Gutenberg press until relatively recently in publishing history (around the beginning of the 20th Century), publishing was a fairly egalitarian and open field. In many cases, authors did their own printing and publishing. Some of the greatest, and most beautiful, books in human history were created during this time. Books that changed the nature of human government and society because nothing like them had ever been published before.
Somewhere along the way, we lost the spirit of innovation and artistry that was the hallmark of early publishing. The lines of distribution for printed works became consolidated in a few hands, and books that did not fit neatly into a list of pre-defined categories became “unpublishable”. The very type of innovative works that helped change our world in the past could no longer find their way to bookshelves.
Another result of this consolidation was that the creative drivers of the publishing process, the authors, had less and less input into the final form of what they created and less and less of a share in the rewards of their labor.
Our goals at Silence in the Library Publishing are many.
We want to return artistry to publishing. First and foremost, of course, books must appeal to the mind. But wouldn’t it be great to once again put out books that appeal to the sense of sight through beautiful illustrations and covers? Or books with engraved covers that just make you want to run your hands across them the way you do with older books? Look at the shelves of your standard “big-box” bookstore today. More than likely you’ll find (particularly in the young adult fiction section) that books of a particular genre have covers that look eerily similar. Publishing companies do a lot of research into what the “market” wants to see, and that research ultimately lead to a bunch of books with not a lot of distinction in appearance. We feel that there is, that there must be, a market for books that are unique in appearance and content, displaying an artistry sculpted specifically to the story cradled between the front and back covers.
We are determined to get stories out to the reading public that are wonderful works of imagination that might not make it in today’s mass market publishing because they cannot be neatly categorized. Should I have to be able to define a book as romance, or mystery, or science fiction, or young adult fiction in order to enjoy it, or is there room for loving a story for what it is? There are authors out there today lovingly turning out amazing novels and short fiction that are little known just because they do not fit neatly into a box. We want to find those authors and bring their works to you.
Perhaps our most important goal, though, is to make authors partners in the creative process from the moment they begin writing until their book is published, and to, consequently, ensure that they have a greater share in the rewards of their efforts. In the traditional publishing model, the average author’s share from the sales of one of their books can generally be measured in cents, rather than dollars. We feel that this needs to change, not just for moral reasons, but because a more equal sharing of the rewards of the publishing industry will, we believe, lead to a healthier and more diverse literary atmosphere in the long run.
These are, of course, lofty goals. What we are proposing is nothing short of changing the entire structure of the publishing industry. Do we think that we’re going to do it by ourselves? Of course not. We do believe, though, that we are part of a rising wave of like-minded individuals who finally have access to the means of making our dreams a reality.
Along the way, we plan on having a lot of fun, and producing a lot of great fiction. We hope that you will join us in this journey. We’ve had a pretty good launch with our first two projects as a company. A Hero By Any Other Name is an anthology full of stories about B-list and over-the-hill superheroes, sidekicks, and hapless villains by authors like Aaron Allston, Maxwell Alexander Drake, Jean Rabe, Michael A. Stackpole, Janine K. Spendlove, Bryan Young, R.T. Kaelin, and Maggie Allen. Time Traveled Tales is an anthology of stories about time travel, different worlds, supernatural phenomenon, and amazing beings. We funded this anthology through a successful Kickstarter funding initiative that reached 379% of the initial funding goal. We have plans in place for several other Kickstarter initiatives over the next 18 months.
So, again, please join us and keep track of our updates on our News page.
Our plan is to put up a blog post each week. While I will be blogging occasionally, we will mostly be inviting various authors to guest blog and share their experiences in this changing publishing industry.
Thank you all for your time, and please check back next week for our first guest blog post.
Ron Garner, CEO, Silence in the Library Publishing