Monday, June 16, 2014

Unrequested Critique: Black Redneck vs Space Zombies

This unrequested critique is for Black Redneck vs Space Zombies by Steven Roy.

I'll skip the hooey. With a title like that, this book could be written by a random number generator. Just the title makes me want to read it. Take my fucking money I don't want to wait.

Here's some advice.

Scene 1: We meet Black Redneck. He shoots zombies. Go.

Don't even pretend quality or character development or setting the scene. No. I want goddamn back rednecks shooting space zombies and I can't get to that part fast enough.

Oh, and I read the text as if it were a Dragnet episode. That was fun.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Writing Is Not Arduous

From The Guardian:

Firstly, writing is an arduous craft which takes years of patient drafting and redrafting in an endless pursuit of perfection. I worry that it is too easy for new writers with potential to quickly self-publish before they are ready, or lose faith and hang up their pen and their potential with it.

I have a few issues with this statement.

Firstly, as long as there has been mass publishing, there have been hack writers churning out text for profit. Dime store novels never existed to pursue perfection, they existed to sell stories and make the publishers money. To presume that all writing is literary, or should be literary, is myopic at best. Publishers are about profit, writers are about storytelling, readers are about entertainment, critics are about criticizing, and the pure art theorists are about perfection. Guess which group represents the small sales market?

Secondly, every writer has a deadline. Even famous, multi-zillion dollar writers have deadlines. The pursuit of perfection cannot be endless. At some point, every writer needs to call a spade and spade and move on. Perfection is an illusion made up by the Literati in their own myth for their own reasons, whatever they might be.

Thirdly, writing is not necessarily arduous because all writing isn't necessarily arduous. Writing a comedy story ranks as one of my favorite things to do. When one of those wants to get written, by God, I can't type fast enough.

Fourthly, writers don't self publish before they are ready, they self-publish before you think that they are ready. There is no such thing as "ready" in the market, there is only the degree to which the work is sellable. To a major publisher, a one thousand sales novel is not publishable, but in the indie market, that's good money. Once an indie writer adds up many small sellers, none of which are worth publishing by the Big 5, they can realize a nice income. Even truly awful writing, with no redeeming value, can sell if it serves an under served area of the market. "Ready" is the language of gate keepers. "Ready" means that you need somebody else's permission. I don't know a writer that like the idea of somebody's else's permission.

Fifthly, as for hanging up their pens, writers lose faith with the existing system, which relegates the vast majority of writers to no deals. Even mid list writers, who have shown that they certainly are ready, get dropped for poor sales. These writers didn't suddenly become not publishable, they simply were not profitable enough. Many more writers, of able skills, can't get in the doors, not because they aren't good enough, but because there are a finite number of books published in any single year, and publishers are interested in those books with the greatest potential return on investment.

There's really only one criteria in writing: do you or don't you entertain your intended audience? If the answer is yes, then nothing else matters.

Amazon "Censorship"

The erotica authors are being targeted by Amazon. By erotica, I mean the uncomfortable erotica.

Let's address a few issues.

Amazon has ever-changing standards. Why?

  • Because they have erotica authors who are using ever changing tactics to get their books out of the adult dungeons and seen by as many people as possible. 
  • Because they have customers reacting to these books, and not reacting in a good way. 
  • Because KDP makes them a shitload of money, and ensuring that the public perceives that store in a good light is in their economic self-interest.

Let's go beyond that. Do you remember all the talk about "rape culture" that's happening and why? Well, as far as Amazon can tell, there it is. With the female community, the biggest buyer of books, growing concerned if not militant about rape culture, do you think that Amazon can stand by and let sorts of works crop up in their romance searches? Do you think that they are going to sacrifice millions of dollars in profit to protect dark erotica's thousands of dollars in profit?

Amazon is a business. It has the right to decide what to stock in its store. It has a need to protect its reputation. In the ever-changing marketplace, it will address the problems that arise. That's it. That's as complicated as it can get.

As an author, I have no right to be published through the KDP. I am fortunate that Amazon has created rules that allow me to do so. One day, this will certainly change because the business environment will change. I personally don't expect the golden age of KDP to last another decade. Nothing is infinite. For now, we have the market that we have. Tomorrow, we have another market.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Trope Team

I pushed out the Trope Team. It's live.

When Anne is kidnapped from Civil War Virginia by aliens and dropped in 1984, she joins a group of down and out mercenaries intent on saving the world through the injudicious use of copious firepower. With the Trope Team, there is no cliche too dated or obscure to stop them.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Bit About Amazon

Mike Shatzkin writes: 6. Amazon pays amateur authors, often unedited, who upload files not yet ebook-ready to them and don’t know anything about marketing or metadata, as much as 70 percent of retail if they meet certain exclusivity and price stipulations. (Obviously, there are great gems among those, but they are still mostly unproven, unknown, and unsuccessful.) They are apparently fighting hard to avoid giving Hachette — which invests substantially to be consistently superior to a fledgling author on all these counts — the same cut.

Let me rewrite this into something that makes actual sense.

Amazon pays authors 70 percent of retail if they price their work in a certain marketable range, and 35% if they don't. Even at 35%, Amazon remunerates its authors better than any of the Big 5 publishers. With this arrangement, Amazon had minted money as self-published authors have successfully exploited previously unrecognized or unprofitable literary markets, These authors now dominate ebook sales at Amazon, now account for 1/3 of all sales. Not only that, they churn out work quickly, riding every niche wave that shows up, rewarding Amazon with even more profits.

With this arrangement, many authors have been able to earn enough to make their living off of writing, turning professional. These writers have crept to the top of the Amazon charts because they successfully used a growing ecology of literary professionals (editors, artists, reviewers, etc.) to produce professional qualities books. The top earners take so much in royalties that getting "properly published" loses them significant amounts of money.

In contrast, with remuneration dropping for new authors writing for the Big 5, fewer signed writers can make their living only from writing, thus turning these "properly published" authors into amateurs. The overhead of publishers overhead keeps them from exploiting niche markets. Their slow time to publish keeps them from riding fads or fashions. Their low pay now discourages freelancers from publishing with them as a niche will provide a better return on investment than an advance.

As to how Amazon is remunerating Hatchet, that's a business deal. If you read nothing else, notice that big black line up there. That's where Amazon's money is coming from. That's the part that shaken up the literary world.