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Amanda Hocking, self-publisher
March 1, 2011 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Amanda Hocking is 26 years old. She has 9 self-published books to her name, and sells 100,000+ copies of those ebooks per month. She has never been traditionally published. ... And it’s no stretch to say – at $3 per book/70% per sale for the Kindle store... there is no traditional publisher in the world right now that can offer Amanda Hocking terms that are better than what she’s currently getting, right now on the Kindle store, all on her own. (related)
posted by Joe Beese (244 comments total) 113 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well I know what I'll be doing this weekend.

Vampire Novel it is then.
posted by seanyboy at 7:11 AM on March 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Great case for long tail self-publishing, thanks.

I don't own a iPhone or Androd, so how does self-publishing work on these platforms?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:12 AM on March 1, 2011


Good for her. But I think she got a bit lucky with the demographics for her publishing method. I wonder if a genre other than paranormal romance could work in the same situation.
posted by demiurge at 7:13 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


$210k/month?!?

Oh, not 100,000+ copies per month. 185,000 total in 9 months. Still, very, very good.
posted by DU at 7:13 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. I had no idea. Thanks for posting and good for her.
posted by josher71 at 7:14 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


sells 100,000+ copies of those ebooks per month.
Well, yeah, it does appear that it's more accurate to say "had at least one month with sales of 100,000+", but impressive in any case.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:17 AM on March 1, 2011


Good for her. I doubt there are more than a handful of authors making money like this, but I'm happy for those few who do make it work. The more people who can earn a living from writing in this world, the better.
posted by Forktine at 7:17 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


But I think she got a bit lucky with the demographics for her publishing method

I don't think this is a question of luck, it's not like she had a choice of genres, picked one at random and this one happened to be the right one.
posted by jontyjago at 7:18 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have always been a little curious as to why filmmakers and musicians who release projects that they have funded themselves are indie and acquire enormous street cred, while writers who release works they have funded themselves are suckers who have been swindled by a vanity press.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:18 AM on March 1, 2011 [47 favorites]


She mentions in an interview being active on social networks and sending out review copies to bloggers. I'd be interested in more details about how she got the word out about her novels in a way that led to actual sales.
posted by jsturgill at 7:19 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The thing is, this isn't the long tail. Compared to the traditional publishing world, selling 100,000 copies per month is amazing. According to this article on how a bestseller "happens", there are more than 200,000 books published each year in the US, and less than 5% ever sell more than 5,000 copies (emphasis mine).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:19 AM on March 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


"Self-published" is still code for "needs an editor." As suggested, she really got lucky. Perhaps these are well-written genre pieces, but in the majority of cases a self-published novel will be /terrible/.

I don't want to be a snob, but I suspect her readership isn't all that discriminating. Of course, this is true for many genres. There is a lot of cruft out there, self-published and not.

It remains to be seen if this author can last beyond the current fad in sexless blood-play among her young adult readers.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:20 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Publishers were not happy with this situation, with many feeling that Amazon's approach meant the ballooning number of e-book consumers might get used to paying less for books than they were worth.
I don't like to Fix Things For people, but it's hard not to put a mental strikthrough over "they were worth" and replace it with "the publishers feel entitled to".
posted by Wolfdog at 7:20 AM on March 1, 2011 [24 favorites]


AH: As of Tuesday, January 04, 2011 at 9 PM, I've sold over 185,000 books since April 15, 2010.

But see also USA Today from Feb 9, which says:

"By May she was selling hundreds; by June, thousands. She sold 164,000 books in 2010. Most were low-priced (99 cents to $2.99) digital downloads. More astounding: This January she sold more than 450,000 copies of her nine titles. More than 99% were e-books."

Sounds like she went exponential in the new year.
posted by mumkin at 7:20 AM on March 1, 2011


If it turns out she sold 1.3 million copies in February, I'm going to be a bit suspicious.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:23 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was feeling a bit snarky when I click the link to read the interview with her, but then I was surprised to see how smart and self-aware she was. She knows what her strengths and weakness are and what the benefits and limitations of ebooks currently are.

Her books may not be my cup of tea, but I wish her all the best.
posted by beowulf573 at 7:25 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


1. Long tail has nothing to do with volume, it's all about selling in a niche that otherwise wouldn't.

2. Needs an editor? Terrible? Wow. Hundreds of thousands of readers beg to differ.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:27 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


ricochet biscuit: interesting point. I suspect part of the reason is that there's a higher barrier to entry if you want to make a movie or record an album, whereas everyone has the physical tools to write just sitting around. Especially for movies, which you pretty much can't do alone, so you'll have to convince at least a couple of people that you have a good idea.
posted by echo target at 7:27 AM on March 1, 2011


ricochet biscuit: From what I've read, most people don't have a problem with legitimate self-publishing outfits like Amazon and Lulu. Vanity presses, on the other hand, tend to make their money by charging authors up front for "marketing" services that don't really do anything. The fewer actual copies of a book get sold, the more profitable they are.
posted by teraflop at 7:28 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Self-published" is still code for "needs an editor."

I agree, for the most part, but in the interview she talks about how she realized she needs a professional editor: "I am now looking for a professional editor - as in the kind I would get if my book were to go through a publishing house. . . . But I cannot edit properly myself. It's just not possible."
posted by D.C. at 7:28 AM on March 1, 2011


Will Amazon continue to let authors like this make money hand over fist, or will they get greedy and/or be pressured by traditional publishers to change their business model?
posted by padraigin at 7:29 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of M.C. Hammer and Ani DiFranco. (Go with me for just a minute.) They both were successful and making money prior to record deals. The record deal terms they were offered- the points system- required them to sell ten times as many records to make as much money as they were making selling tapes on tour/out of a car trunk. This gave M.C. Hammer the leverage to negotiate an insanely lucrative record deal (solid gold faucet, anyone?) and, of course, Ani DiFranco went her own way but I highly doubt she's hurting for money.

This is why it is amazing to me that record companies still exist. And it will baffle me, if, in 15 years, publishers still exist for fiction. Most authors need editors, not publishers, and you can have the first without the second.

The internet tends to cut out the middle man. I feel kind of bad for the people who work in book binding or CD pressing factories, but such is the new economy.
posted by Leta at 7:29 AM on March 1, 2011 [14 favorites]


Will Amazon continue to let authors like this make money hand over fist, or will they get greedy and/or be pressured by traditional publishers to change their business model?

See the last link.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:30 AM on March 1, 2011


I've been wanting to go down this road for a long time. The barrier to entry is still a bit too high. The ePub format is a subset of xhtml and css, but each reader displays info differently, etc.

I've bought a couple of books on ePub, but so far none are just a "Here's how it's done." I read this article posted from daringfireball yesterday and was impressed.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:31 AM on March 1, 2011


Meanwhile my self-published post-modern epic following the trials of a vampire coven known as the "Eigenfangs," which may or may not have solved the Reimann hypothesis, are caught in what may be a bridge between our reality and Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, and it is hinted, able to traverse other literary worlds as well, are infiltrated by a fake vampire hired by union busting Pinkerton, known not to be above employing the use of "faux fangs," who slowly begins to realize that far from being a fake fang, is a vampire himself, a future vampire who has lost all ability to suck blood and subsists solely on non-trivial zeros along a numberline as "sensuous as any woman's neck," well my epic has sold only two copies.
posted by geoff. at 7:31 AM on March 1, 2011 [36 favorites]


I don't own a iPhone or Androd, so how does self-publishing work on these platforms?

Amazon has Kindle applications for both Android and iOS, which means you can buy content and read content you've purchased on both of those platforms, in addition to PC, Mac, and the Kindle reader itself. It's a pretty nice system they've gotten going, and I'm not sure anything else really comes close.

The problem with trying to start a Kindle competitor is mostly that Apple wants a truly extortionate share (30%, IIRC) of in-app purchases made on iOS devices, and currently the iPad is the only device in wide enough circulation to make sense as a target for an Amazon competitor. I'm not seeing it happening. Android is better from a software standpoint, since it doesn't have anyone asking for a third of gross just to get in the door, but the devices aren't great for reading (they're either phones with small displays or cheap tablets with poor battery life and displays). That might change in the near future, though.

I'm rather curious how Apple's in-app purchasing rules will affect the Kindle for iOS app, which I can't imagine they'd want to take away from the platform. Unlike most other developers who have no realistic alternative but to bend over and smile when Apple says so, Amazon would probably prefer not to lose iOS but could also probably survive without it if the terms were really bad.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:31 AM on March 1, 2011


Just out of curiosity, how much would editing cost for a fiction book like the ones Hocking writes?
posted by ChrisHartley at 7:32 AM on March 1, 2011


I have a feeling my manuscripts would even be turned down for self-publishing.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:35 AM on March 1, 2011 [15 favorites]


See the last link.

That answered a few questions I didn't even know I had, but I still wonder how long Amazon will let authors take a 70% cut of total sales before they lay the smackdown and change the system.
posted by padraigin at 7:38 AM on March 1, 2011


I have a feeling my manuscripts would even be turned down for self-publishing.

Think of the rejection letter.

You regret to inform myself that my manuscript does not meet your publishing needs at this time.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:38 AM on March 1, 2011 [32 favorites]


ChrisHartley, it would depend on the level of edit you wanted: proofread-only, general organizational comments, or close line-editing that would involve significant revisions.

I've thought for a while about moving into editing for self-published writers - even books that claim to have been edited show signs of relying on Word spellcheck and grammar suggestions, and it throws me off when I'm reading an otherwise decent book.
posted by catlet at 7:40 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most authors need editors, not publishers, and you can have the first without the second.

QFT. Why would-be writers resist editing is beyond me.
posted by chavenet at 7:41 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Self-published" is still code for "needs an editor."

I was just thinking about this very thing this morning in the shower (where I spend my first waking moments wondering why god oh why am I in this soul-sucking job and can't I just go out and work on a farm or write a book or something??). From my untrained eye, it seems you as author pay the publisher mainly for editing, distribution, and advertising. Since the last two are taken care of with self-publishing, is there a way to hire a freelance editor for a flat rate or something?
posted by backseatpilot at 7:42 AM on March 1, 2011


ricochet biscuit: From what I've read, most people don't have a problem with legitimate self-publishing outfits like Amazon and Lulu. Vanity presses, on the other hand, tend to make their money by charging authors up front for "marketing" services that don't really do anything. The fewer actual copies of a book get sold, the more profitable they are.

Oh, I agree there are scammers in the form of vanity press outfits. There just seems to a widespread (if not universal) prima facie belief that if I am a songwriter and guitarist and I pay to press a thousand copies of a CD I recorded on my basement computer, I am an artist who does not kowtow to corporate interference, but if I am a writer and I pay to print a thousand copies of a book I wrote on my basement computer, I am an idiot who cannot get anyone to read his manuscript. I wonder how much these perceptions will shift with the ever-more widespread availability of desktop publishing.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:43 AM on March 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


There's a place called The Editorial Department that does this... with editors that specialize in certain genres. Founded by Renni Brown, who wrote Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. (A great resource.) I believe they do a 10-page manuscript review for ~$35. Not sure of the full-novel prices.
posted by Work to Live at 7:45 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Android is better from a software standpoint, since it doesn't have anyone asking for a third of gross just to get in the door, but the devices aren't great for reading (they're either phones with small displays or cheap tablets with poor battery life and displays). That might change in the near future, though.

It's already changed. The Nook Color, for example, is an Android tablet that's pretty easily rooted. And the reading experience on other Android tablets is actually pretty good. I have about six Kindles (it's a long story) but do almost all my reading on a Galaxy Tab that I use solely as a Kindle - with wireless turned off, the battery life is pretty good, and the display is just fine.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:45 AM on March 1, 2011


I think that perception that self-published books are illegitimate comes from people writing about self-published books being illegitimate, and those people being frustrated novelists themselves who are upset that someone's vampire novel is so successful while their Great American Novel is languishing in a slush pile somewhere in the "legitimate" literary world.
posted by padraigin at 7:46 AM on March 1, 2011


filthylightthief, I feel like that's a misleading statistic.

Selling 100,000 copies a month IS amazing, and definitely not the long tail. But when you're talking about 200,000 books published each year, that includes self-published or vanity-press books, white papers for specialized audiences, local histories, textbooks -- and the 95% that sell fewer than 5000 copies includes those, and probably a couple of abject failures put out from major presses, but not many.
posted by Jeanne at 7:50 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Self-published" is still code for "needs an editor."

Speaking as an editor, "needs an editor" is starting to be code for "how dare you do this without us oh christ am I going to be out work soon?
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:51 AM on March 1, 2011 [39 favorites]


Self-published is pretty close to the norm in the world of webcomics print collections; not universal, but really really common. I think that's really cool, actually. Yeah, you lose some professionalism, and a lot of them (my own stuff included) would benefit from editing. But all of these people working outside of a system makes for a bewildering, cool diversity and a lot of risks taken.
posted by COBRA! at 7:55 AM on March 1, 2011


*gets to work on zombie ninja love story*

I'm only half joking there. The lower scale economics are great. She doesn't have to support a publishing house, with all its expenses, hell, she didn't even have to support herself, she had a job already.

She just needed a certain number of people cough up some dollars.

Or to put it other way: How many internet have access to Amazon or iTunes. It's in the hundred of millions, right? If so, then the question becomes: Can you convince, say 100,000 people to give you $1 each year? 'Cause $100k a year ain't bad. A lot of people, even in the US, would be happy making half of that.

The mind boggles.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:58 AM on March 1, 2011


Anyone that missed the Atwood talk should go watch it. Incredibly down to earth perspective on the publishing issue, good analysis, and entertaining.

It should put this discussion in context nicely.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:59 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is so inspiring.
posted by orange swan at 8:03 AM on March 1, 2011


I think this is awesome and I enjoyed reading her interview. For some reason "A Whole New World" is ringing in my head right now.
posted by Danila at 8:05 AM on March 1, 2011


"Self-published" is still code for "needs an editor."

The goose bumps stood all over Jane’s shoulder and she stomped her foot, at least partially because of the cold. She’d claim it was only because of her frustration over the line and insist that chain smoking cigarettes kept her warm.
“This is truly infuriating,” Jane said, flicking her cigarette to the dampened sidewalk and smashing it with her stilettoed boot.


Indeed.
posted by HumanComplex at 8:06 AM on March 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm glad she's making bank. It is inspiring and awesome.

'Course, then I read the first chapter of her book and oh my God it's a plate of pan-seared dogshit. But that is just one MONSTER's opinion, and there's folks out there for whom vampire books are comfort food: the modern equivalent of bodice-rippers. And someone figured out that if you remove the cost of publishing from the equation, you can sell books for a buck apiece, and if you sell them for a buck apiece then you will sell a lot of them.

This is right and good, and it is the future. I'm excited to see what happens when books which are more my wheelhouse come out in this format.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:10 AM on March 1, 2011 [14 favorites]


I'm going through one of my "I should write a book" phases right now and stories like this are not helping.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:10 AM on March 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


According to this article on how a bestseller "happens", there are more than 200,000 books published each year in the US, and less than 5% ever sell more than 5,000 copies (emphasis mine).

I would say that no matter what medium she's published in, she's the exception not the rule. You could definitely argue that the self-online-publishing world was more appropriate for her than the traditional methods though.

I'd also cross reference this with cell phone novels.

This isn't a commentary on quality, but it is does speak the suitability of certain genres to certain publishing methods or mediums.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:11 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


2. Needs an editor? Terrible? Wow. Hundreds of thousands of readers beg to differ.

I love the pompous tone of those criticizing the idea that people may find unedited books appealing and even more enjoyable than edited ones. This happened in the other ebook thread we recently had where people argued that nobody would ever want to touch a filthy unedited book.

One of my favorite books was an unedited manuscript I found in a skinny little bookshop in Pittsburgh bound with faded cardboard. It didn't even have a proper title! *FAINT*

It's very interesting to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, readers might enjoy getting closer to an author's work if it means both paying less and getting access to a broader range of choices.
posted by odinsdream at 8:12 AM on March 1, 2011


Erotica's been doing this for a while, albeit still using a "publishing house" concept (see Ellora's Cave, Loose Id, Samhain, etc.)

I think the reason genre fiction does so well in e-pub is that a lot of people are embarrassed to read romance or paranormal or smut in public when the book jacket is just sitting out there facing all the other folks on the train, but when it's on your Kindle or Nook or phone? Nobody knows, and you can get your escapist break while the train jolts along between your job and your house.
posted by catlet at 8:14 AM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]



I love the pompous tone of those criticizing the idea that people may find unedited books appealing and even more enjoyable than edited ones.


I don't see why a pompous tone would be necessary to make that point. It's very much a hard truth that edited works are better. They don't need to be highbrow, but do take out the weak language, punctuation mistakes, and so on. Everyone prefers polished works.

But people that are criticizing her prose are sort of missing the point. But not entirely. Traditional publishers often do hammer out some of the weak writing. But not always. Not at all.
(Go watch the Atwood talk)
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:16 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Self-published" is still code for "needs an editor."

Is there something wrong with paying an editor for their time directly ? Why does one need a huge publishing conglomerate to put words on paper for sale ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:18 AM on March 1, 2011


In fairness, whatever you might think of the quality of her writing, you can hardly argue that Stephanie Meyer is much better.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 8:19 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of an Ani DiFranco interview I read back in the '90s where she pointed out that because she owned her own label she made more per CD sold than the Rolling Stones.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:19 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


QFT. Why would-be writers resist editing is beyond me.

I can't speak for other would-be writers, but as a past would-be writer who spent a lot of time hearing he could write well from assorted authorities, I'd say it's some degree of ego. Not the nasty, snarly "grar, I'm better than you!" ego, necessarily, but sometimes a more fragile manifestation that editors are in a position to harm without a lot of thought.

As an editor for online tech sites, I tend to recruit writers on the basis of what they know first, how well they can write next. If I can look at their sample and imagine merely editing it—not engaging it with lash and fire—I'm happy to work with them. I've had a few come through who are better than mediocre: They're adept writers, but they happened to pick another career. Some are recently out of some IT program where they had a good experience with a supportive professor who suggested that they were better at writing than they suspected.

I've learned to treat them the way I wish someone had treated me when I was first being told I was a good writer and had no way of knowing for myself: I understand that their poorly understood talent might seem like some sort of magical manifestation to them. Because they have no way of understanding why they're good writers for themselves (they didn't spend school reading good writers or learning about what makes writing good), they depend on outside authority. At the same time, they're afraid that as easily as one random outside authority conferred the mantle of "good writer," another could take it away.

So the words I use with them matter a lot because they need encouragement and they need to hear that they might have made a better choice with a particular sentence, but that their choices are usually pretty good. They need some support. Until they get it in their head that a few bad choices won't cause someone to rejudge them as a bad writer, "being able to write" is just this weird thing someone else told them they have. The best ones eventually stop being defensive and I get to enjoy watching their writing adapt as they compare what I published to what they submitted.

I don't think all editors think like that, less because they're callous or embittered and more because a professional editor has probably been down a more traditional path in the writing world and views writing differently (and less magically). I'm not sure I would be as forgiving if I hadn't made the decision to pick "technically knowledgeable" over "gifted." So it's natural for young writers to shy away from editors: An editor is someone with the authority to tell them it turns out they suck after all. Who wants to hear that?

Getting back to the subject, I'm really happy for this woman. I've seen a lot of $1.99 and $2.99 genre books come through the Kindle store, and the one thing they remind me of above all other things is that the barrier to saying "fuck it ... might as well go for it" is lower than ever. Hopefully it'll be a remedy for a lot of people who are completely paralyzed by the presence of the Web in their lives, because it's a non-stop reminder that someone, somewhere is being so fantastically awesome that even trying to be heard or hoping to be appreciated is pointless. A lot of people will still fail, I doubt many of them will ever make a living at it, but a number have a better chance than they ever had before to make a living doing something they love.
posted by mph at 8:20 AM on March 1, 2011 [24 favorites]


As somebody who reads a lot of the Journalfen comms (fandom_wank et al), a lot of the antipathy towards self-publishing in that circle comes from wankers who use vanity press published works as some kind of credential in arguments. "I'm a published author, so my opinion is clearly worth more than yours." More insidious are the huge number of ripoff vanity presses out there. If you're just getting books printed or pushed to e-retailers? Great. If it's a vanity press that claims it's going to do this or that service for you? Be very very careful.

As for editing, there's also a difference there between "I can't afford an editor so I'll publish what I can" vs "I'm too good for an editor! Editors dilute my precious artistic vision!" (see latter day batshit Anne Rice rants).

And any good writer working in online genre circles should have a stable of good betas around. Though I wonder how that would work if you're actually selling your stuff.
posted by kmz at 8:22 AM on March 1, 2011


FWIW, a guy I was friends with in high school had a novel published by Simon & Schuster in the 90s. Mainstream literary fiction. And by his own admission, the finished product needed about 20% of its bulk removed by an attentive editor. An attentive editor that S&S didn't bother providing for a marginal title. He gave me to understand that the days of Maxwell Perkins are long, long gone.

I don't know if he would have done any better in a Hocking-style setup. But it's hard for me to see how he would have done any worse.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:24 AM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


The goose bumps stood all over Jane’s shoulder and she stomped her foot, at least partially because of the cold. She’d claim it was only because of her frustration over the line and insist that chain smoking cigarettes kept her warm.
“This is truly infuriating,” Jane said, flicking her cigarette to the dampened sidewalk and smashing it with her stilettoed boot.


Good god, she sold hundreds of thousands of copies of this crap? Just kill me now.
posted by splice at 8:24 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I too was set to be difficult about this, and I'm sure I wouldn't be able to make it through three pages of her book, but then she says this:

"TP: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

AH: Write a lot, but read even more."

and I'm 100% in her corner.
posted by escabeche at 8:27 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's a link to her books on Amazon.
posted by Nelson at 8:29 AM on March 1, 2011


and I'm 100% in her corner.

Agreed. I could shit-talk her writing until the cows came home, at which point I would shit-talk her writing to the cows, which would be stupid because they don't give a fuck, they're cows, but anyway I could do it -- but that is incidental to what she's accomplished and I feel like I need to say that no matter what I think of the end product, hers is absolutely the right attitude to have about all this, and I am very happy for her.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:29 AM on March 1, 2011 [25 favorites]


eHaters gonna eHate.
posted by srboisvert at 8:31 AM on March 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm going through one of my "I should write a book" phases right now

This happens to me often. Then I think of Gene Wolfe and just sit there quietly for a while.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:33 AM on March 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


The talk in writing circles is that mainstream publishing houses don't provide much in the way of editing either (or promotion for that matter.)

So maybe editing will be the way self-published authors distinguish themselves from commercial work.
posted by msalt at 8:34 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's a link to her books on Amazon.

And I see that the average customer review is higher than that for the late entries in The Dark Tower or The Wheel of Time series.

Just sayin'.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:34 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the context of Atwood's talk, I think many authors are going to continue to want editors, layout people and probably also publicists. Ms. Hocking is a good enough self-editor and a pretty good self-publicist, but not every author is capable of or interested in that.

What may be possible, at least in the next few years, is a publisher that ditches their physical print and distribution systems. Most houses already contract this out right? what to stop a major publisher form going Amazon or Lulu only? What's to stop Amazon from offering contract "Author's Services" for editing and layout? I'm actually a bit surprised they don't do this already.
posted by bonehead at 8:36 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]




The talk in writing circles is that mainstream publishing houses don't provide much in the way of editing either (or promotion for that matter.)


I don't think it's necessarily that they provide and editor. (They most often don't.) It's that they reject writing that obviously hasn't seen an editor. Unless it has Stephen King's name on it, obviously. ;)
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:36 AM on March 1, 2011


Attentive editors still exist, though I may just have been extremely lucky to get mine (both of them). Some days the only thing that keeps me working on the sixth or seventh draft of my book is that other people have put this much work into making them better.
posted by Jeanne at 8:36 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


indie music vs. publishing

The difference is that very few people think they can write and produce songs or make movies, and the technical/practical difficulties in finishing one weed out most them, while ten times as many people think they can write novels, which are insanely difficult to do well and very easy to do poorly.
posted by msalt at 8:37 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


This starts to look really interesting for the survival of writing that doesn't have to target the masses. Maybe you don't like what this chick writes, but some people do. I like a lot of authors who are not bestsellers and I am aware how many of those people struggle to make ends meet. As I mentioned in another thread a few days ago, I'm okay with more limited content as long as it is a way for me to get more good stuff for my dollar.

So if an author I like has a $5 ebook where they take home 70% of the retail price, I pay slightly less than for a paperback and I have immediate gratification. They have the possibility to actually make what one would call a living wage in many areas of the country by selling, not millions of copies, not hundreds of thousands, but about 10-15k copies a year. At that level, the market suddenly has room for lots of writers writing lots of different things. I think that's very exciting.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:41 AM on March 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


Random thoughts on writing, editing and proofreading:

1. I wish that published works--e, or otherwise--were more carefully proofread. Nothing takes me out of the world the writer is constructing more quickly than sloppy composition, ill-placed punctuation, and the like.

2. An editor has the ability to make a marginal work better, to nurture emerging talent, and (in some cases) to make writers out of typists.

3. I've been spending a significant part of my waking hours looking for full time work. Maybe I should finish my novel instead. What's the niche for detective fiction looking like?

Not sure where I'm going with this. Can someone give me notes?
posted by spacely_sprocket at 8:42 AM on March 1, 2011


You write a couple of bestselling series - young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy.

In the grim darkness of post-Twilight publishing, there is only "young adult paranormal romance".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:46 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Self-published" is still code for "needs an editor."

So how much do editors charge per book?

Oh, they don't have that business model yet, huh?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:47 AM on March 1, 2011


In the grim darkness of post-Twilight publishing...

What did you expect?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:47 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


One thing I've noticed in fannish writing is that a whole subculture has risen around volunteer editors (called "beta readers"). I've wondered if there was some way to turn the amateur editors doing that into a resource for the struggling author in this sort of position.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:49 AM on March 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


In the grim darkness of post-Twilight publishing, there is only "young adult paranormal romance".

Exhibit A, my local library
posted by mikepop at 8:51 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder about the change in dynamic between author and editor when the author is the one paying for the editor. I mean, look at JK Rowling. Once she got big enough that should could pretty much tell her editors to sit and spin, her books started to get really sloppy in the pacing department.

If the author is signing the cheques, do they really have to listen to their employee if they don't want to? I mean, pshaw, correct my niggling grammar mistakes, but how dare you question the necessity of my extended chapter on vampires making chili for the local cookoff!? THIS IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE I ASSUME EVERYONE ELSE LIKES CHILI SCENES AS MUCH AS I DO!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:53 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


THIS IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE I ASSUME EVERYONE ELSE LIKES CHILI SCENES AS MUCH AS I DO!

Well in this particular case the editor is definitely in the wrong. Not nearly enough vampire novels include chili scenes. I'm pretty sure we all agree on at least that much.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:57 AM on March 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well -- if the author doesn't want an edited book, the author can have that for free!

That's the whole point of self-publishing: you don't have to get your ego dented. You don't have to be challenged on any point that might make you insecure or anxious. It's a tremendous act of trust to put yourself into the hands of an editor whether it's an independent editor or one who works for a publishing house, and it means admitting that you're going to have to change some things you cared about to make it a better book. But ultimately, why would you choose to hire an editor if you didn't want to get edited?
posted by Jeanne at 9:01 AM on March 1, 2011


But ultimately, why would you choose to hire an editor if you didn't want to get edited?

Why do people go to the doctor and then ignore what the doctor tells them?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:03 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Foci for Analysis: 1. Long tail has nothing to do with volume, it's all about selling in a niche that otherwise wouldn't.

Long Tail typically refers to a large number of unique items in selling in relatively small quantities, a strong point for online and digital retails, as compared to brick'n'mortar stores. But I see the term could also be applied to the size of an audience.

My wife, her sisters and their mother love pulp romance novels, an area where a certain number of authors apparently excel. Between three authors, my wife and her family seem to have have a thousand plus individual titles, often published in sets (usually trilogies, focusing on three family members, with thematic titles). I fear these books, because I could see myself getting pulled into the world of pulp novels and never returning, and I can imagine that these low-priced eBooks fall into a similar realm - comfort reading akin to fluff TV. Low-cost eBooks are the perfect venue for this sort of material.

And I don't really think there is the hurdle to get into film or music that there once was, putting current output in a similar realm as self-published novels. It takes perseverance to write a novel (NaNoWriMo wouldn't be as popular if people could actually write a whole novel without such structure), and it takes focus and time to write an EP or album of music, or film a short or a movie. But as a college radio DJ, I can attest to some ... less polished works ... that people stand behind. They are definitely akin to unedited manuscripts being passed off as final copies. It works for some, and if the band gets a following, why stress over the details? But if you're trying to grab an audience that hasn't heard of you, polish typically helps.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:06 AM on March 1, 2011


Her unedited prose doesn't seem much worse that Stephanie Meyers, so having an editor isn't a guarantee of quality fictional prose.
posted by muddgirl at 9:12 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder about the change in dynamic between author and editor when the author is the one paying for the editor. I mean, look at JK Rowling. Once she got big enough that should could pretty much tell her editors to sit and spin, her books started to get really sloppy in the pacing department.
This happens with a lot of successful series books and I'm not convinced that it can all be put down to writerly ego. Editing adds time. As a series becomes the kind of draw where sales are driven by anticipation, then the publishers start getting a lot pushier about deadlines. It doesn't matter much whether Joe Nobody's first book comes out now or six months from now, but if hype for Book Six of The Most Popular Series Ever is peaking, then the marketing department doesn't want to lose the audience focus to the next big thing just because the books could have been improved by another round of edits. It'll sell as-is - get it out the door!
posted by Karmakaze at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


Well, I guess it depends on the editor you want. If it's the sort that will flag a dust moat that spellcheck won't catch, then sure, you want an editor. If it's the sort that will tell you that your entire chili cooking chapter that you spent many sleepless nights on is unneeded, that your time was wasted, then yeah, you'll get mad.

Editors with actual publishing houses can get away with that because, I think, of the tacit "Look, I'm a pro, I know what I'm doing" vibe that comes along with their position. I'm not sure an independent journeyman editor could muster the same juice.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:19 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Some publishers get it too. In the early days of the Kindle, Ballantine, and its imprint Del Rey, gave away the early catelog of its relativley unknown author, Charlie Huston. Those books, a hard-boiled detective series and a vampire detective series, were at the top of the Kindle downloads, giving Huston all sorts of publicity. The cost to Ballantine was only whatever incrimental cost there was to giving away the ebooks, which I assume in minor, and lost sales of books that weren't doing very well anyway. The payoff came later, with the release, at full price, of The Mystic Art of Erasing All Signs of Death. While I can't find sales figures, it did well enough to recieve NYT and Washington Post reviews.
posted by rtimmel at 9:20 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


First I thought "wow, she must be really tapped into something to do so well. It'd be great if I could do that, but I bet…"

Then I read the except and thought "holy crap that is some horrible fucking writing! I bet I could write at least that well drunk, jeeze."

Now I'm thinking "hey, why not get drunk and write ebooks? win-win?!"
posted by paisley henosis at 9:21 AM on March 1, 2011 [14 favorites]


There's definitely a new professional substructure emerging in the indie music scene. It's easily arguable that the producer is the editor, but there are also studio engineers, graphic designers, sound designers, beat composers, hired-gun session dudes and dudettes and the all-important mastering engineers with their God-like ears and megabuck temples of audio perfection, all of whom charge by the one-off and none of whom garner the odor of Vanity Vanity All Is Vanity Saith The Preacher.
posted by tspae at 9:21 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


For a dollar apiece? I would read a collection of drunken ebooks.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:22 AM on March 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Really? Looks like I picked a bad day to stop sniffing glue.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:26 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


So I'm going to ask a stupid question.

If I write my novel about a steampunk alternate New York in which a plucky 15 yr old girl named Zoe flys above a gaslit 1983 Manhattan in a brass-trimmed silk and leather dirigible christened The Pudgy Budgie on the trail of the arcane book her librarian father hid away before he was imprisoned by the nefarious Baron Rohatyn for practicing "black magic", and in her quest teams up with lovable scoundrel Spex, Chief Wheeler and Hydraulist of the street gang the Brooklyn Furees, whose logo of a monkey gripping a wrench can be found above every "black magic sewer cathedral" as Rohatyn describes it, and who join forces with Zoe when they learn that their gang was in fact started by her father to preserve the knowledge he discovered, and that both she and they are on the same quest for the long lost book A Unified Theory of Electricity and Magnetism, which will promise to dethrone the Baron and lead New York to new era of light and knowledge, and if this book culminated in a great Aerial Battle of the Five Boroughs involving the Pudgy Budgie leading a charge of lighter-than-air vessels careening through the canyons of the city against the Barons gliders and rooftop archers, and if this book also involved flocks of superintelligent heron, ambulatory vacuums, and bespectacled librarians of esoterica arcana, are you saying I could sell this?
posted by Pastabagel at 9:26 AM on March 1, 2011 [59 favorites]


Pastabagel: are you saying I could sell this?

Me? I'm saying you could write it while out of your mind and then sell it.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:29 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


... are you saying I could sell this?

For what Hocking charges? Probably.

Hell, I'd give you a quarter just for coming up with the name The Pudgie Budgie.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:30 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Probably. Whether you can top my forthcoming Piston Hands Got No Mercy, which is the story of a ghost of a robotic boxer possessing an apprentice ninja in an effort to avenge his murder and stop the world from being destroyed by the Council of Demonic Regulation, in the sales charts, only time may tell.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:31 AM on March 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


And I see that the average customer review is higher than that for the late entries in The Dark Tower or The Wheel of Time series.

Just sayin'.


Yeah and I'm pretty sure that says more about her readers than it does about The Dark Tower.
posted by lydhre at 9:32 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


If the word "steampunk" is in the description then yes someone will buy it. Charge a buck or two apiece for it and go nuts.

Realistically there's probably a lot of overlap between people who own e-readers and people for whom providing small amounts of money to anything with the words "steampunk" and "magic" thereupon is more of a reflex action than anything else at this point.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:32 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


This stuff is Gold. Please people, carry on with the ideas. I shall, ermmm, save them for you in a, errm, box? A box that will never be opened?
posted by seanyboy at 9:33 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Her writing's not great, but I've read worse in traditionally published formats.

When I first got my Kindle, I downloaded a bunch of free books from the Kindle store, because hey, free! Some of them are worth reading. Some. . . are not. One I deleted, twenty pages in, after I went looking for the publisher information to find out "who EDITED this shit?!" and discovered that it was self-published. If the book had had a professional editor, I might have had some faith that it was gonna get better, but. . . nope.

but, yeah. "Put out by a publishing house" is no guarantee of good writing, even amongst best sellers. Dan Brown, anyone?
posted by KathrynT at 9:35 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am now rubbing my hands together, plotting my career as a freelance editor to self publishers.

I am actually good at this, and at one point did it professionally, albeit for peanuts and on a very small scale.
posted by Leta at 9:36 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also Pastabagel I know you are kidding but I would read the SHIT out of that novel as long as the grammar wasn't bad enough to make me wince.
posted by KathrynT at 9:36 AM on March 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Pastabagel: I can't tell if you're being ironic or not, but to be perfectly honest, yeah, I'd put that on my Kindle for four bucks.
posted by pts at 9:36 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


OK Peeps, I have some titles. If you could hilariously and ironically knock out a thousand or so words in this thread for each of the titles, that's be hilarious.

The Magic Awakes.
A Steampunk Alliance Novel.

Followed by

The TechnoMage Returns
A Steampunk Alliance Novel.

Followed by

Nosferatu Encoded
A Steampunk Alliance Novel.

Followed by
Her Broken Gaze
A Wiccan Wanderers Tale
posted by seanyboy at 9:37 AM on March 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


One of these days I will get around to writing just the absolute most loathsome right-wing Clancy-esque military scifi I can possibly muster. I mean somewhere between John Norman and John Ringo and maybe Terry Goodkind. Like all about a guy who is the best at everything and has the most sex with the hottest girls and kills terrorists and does the most martial arts.

I abandoned the idea initially because I was worried that people would miss the satire.

It is now clear to me that the folks who miss the satire may be a tremendous source of income.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:39 AM on March 1, 2011 [53 favorites]




One of these days I will get around to writing just the absolute most loathsome right-wing Clancy-esque military scifi I can possibly muster. I mean somewhere between John Norman and John Ringo and maybe Terry Goodkind. Like all about a guy who is the best at everything and has the most sex with the hottest girls and kills terrorists and does the most martial arts.


This is a game you loose just by playing.
posted by The Whelk at 9:41 AM on March 1, 2011


The phrase "does the most martial arts" made me splutter coffee all over my monitor. I would read that book, FAMOUS MONSTER!
posted by bewilderbeast at 9:42 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


are you saying I could sell this?

You could probably retire on sales of Brooklyn Furees logo top hats alone.
posted by mikepop at 9:42 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Leta: at one point did it professionally, albeit for peanuts

I have a jar of peanuts right here that I will be opening when I commence my drinking-and-writing-for-profit experimentgainful employment on Thursday. You are officially invited over on Friday to eat the rest of the peanuts and make the stories I wrote suck less.

I should warn you, though, I will require you to type quietly and work in the dark.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:42 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK Peeps, I have some titles. If you could hilariously and ironically knock out a thousand or so words in this thread for each of the titles, that's be hilarious.

Bonus points if you can kick off your novel with one of these starting sentences.
posted by Behemoth at 9:43 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I've written for eBook genre anthologies (YES. STEAMPUNK. The last Steampunk thread totally gave me a title) And I never (yet) got great money off it - for a bunch of reasons - and I found I didn't like writing short adventure stuff anyway. You think genre work is gonna be easier cause there is a formula but it's more like trying to hit that arch, tossed off tone in light comedy, it's super hard to make it look that casual while still sticking to the structure.
posted by The Whelk at 9:45 AM on March 1, 2011


I mean somewhere between John Norman and John Ringo and maybe Terry Goodkind. Like all about a guy who is the best at everything and has the most sex with the hottest girls and kills terrorists and does the most martial arts.

Dude you so totally need to read all of the Reacher books and I am really not kidding. Lee Child straddles the line between straight-up Manly Men's Adventure and over-the-top lunacy so perfectly that I still have no idea whether he's taking the piss or not.

Start with Tripwire; at the beginning, our ex-MP Jack Reacher has been down and out in Florida, and working a job digging pools. But he has perfected a pool digging method that exercises every muscle in his body at the same time. By the end of the book he is in New York and his girlfriend is the hottest lawyer in the world and he's survived a -- oh hell, that's telling. But it's AWESOME.
posted by Shepherd at 9:45 AM on March 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


p.s. this thread definitely convinced me to finish my goddamn novel.
posted by Shepherd at 9:46 AM on March 1, 2011


I swear I'm going to work a reference to The Pudgy Budgie in something, somewhere.
posted by The Whelk at 9:47 AM on March 1, 2011


(and decent editors who actually care about your work are worth their weight in cheesecake and handjobs)
posted by The Whelk at 9:48 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


FAMOUS MONSTER: ...a guy who is the best at everything and has the most sex with the hottest girls and kills terrorists and does the most martial arts.

You mean The Executioner?
posted by spacely_sprocket at 9:48 AM on March 1, 2011


I'm going through one of my "I should write a book" phases right now

Please do.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:50 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kadin2048: "The problem with trying to start a Kindle competitor is mostly that Apple wants a truly extortionate share (30%, IIRC) of in-app purchases made on iOS devices, and currently the iPad is the only device in wide enough circulation to make sense as a target for an Amazon competitor."

padraigin: "That answered a few questions I didn't even know I had, but I still wonder how long Amazon will let authors take a 70% cut of total sales before they lay the smackdown and change the system."

So in one camp, the 70-30 split is extortionate, and the other, it's too good to last. I'm assuming Amazon loves their 30 percent markup and ridiculous margin. And would love to see the market grow.

I guess the more interesting aspect is how self publishers go straight for low price, high volume. The traditional book publishing process, as I am given to understand, is to start out high and drop the price later if sales look promising. What I'm not sure about, is whether this is a strategy to reduce risk of printing lots of worthless books, or to capture a group of high value buyers, like a library or something. Upon reflection, I guess neither strategy particularly matters to ebooks...
posted by pwnguin at 9:51 AM on March 1, 2011


OK Peeps, I have some titles. If you could hilariously and ironically knock out a thousand or so words in this thread for each of the titles, that's be hilarious.

Chain story by thread participants, then e-published, and profit-sharing? I'm in.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 9:52 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, if it'll bring you back from the Void, I pretty much have to, Flo.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:52 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


...decent editors who actually care about your work are worth their weight in cheesecake and handjobs

How much does a handjob weigh?

This discussion has been wonderful, a lot of insightful and funny people in this thread. And robocop totally needs to write a book.
posted by marxchivist at 9:52 AM on March 1, 2011


Her unedited prose doesn't seem much worse that Stephanie Meyers, so having an editor isn't a guarantee of quality fictional prose.

I'm a bit flummoxed by these claims. Have you guys read Twilight? The writing isn't underedited pap. On a prose level, it's functional, although sometimes stylistically silly. I mean, compare Hocking's first paragraph to the first paragraph of Twilight: "My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue. I was wearing my favorite shirt--sleeveless, white eyelet lace; I was wearing it as a farewell gesture. My carry-on item was a parka."

That being said, I have read some published YA paranormal romance that was pretty badly written. Aprilynne Pike's Wings is the first that comes to mind (there are others). But even it is a notch better than what Hocking is writing, I'm assuming because of the noble efforts of editors.

I posted a little bit about this on the last eBook thread, I find the whole story pretty interesting and have been watching to see how it pans out. I was querying my first project a year ago, the same time that Hocking was. She got fed up with her lack of success and went the eBook route. I'm working on my third book since, hoping I'll finally get an agent. My prose is better than hers, and I suspect my writing is, too (try as I might, I just can't get past her first chapter), but frankly, because I believe in my writing, I don't want to give up on traditional publishing just yet.

But it's frustrating. Good lord is it frustrating. The whole query letter thing. Reading snarky agent blogs who treat all authors like idiots. All of that. A lot of the other aspiring authors I know are reaching their saturation point and looking more earnestly into self-publishing. Part of me can't blame them, or people like Hocking. Traditional wisdom says keep writing more books. Recent NY Times bestseller Beth Revis queried ten manuscripts before getting an agent.

I honestly think everything about her success has to do with genre, cover design, and price point. Her book was the top YA sale result over at the nookstore back when I got my nook. I kept looking at it, thinking how the cover made it look like a mainstream book, but there were other tell-tale signs that it was self-pubbed so I never looked into her until she made it big. I doubt other book buyers did all that much research.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:54 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not to give anything away but a certain group of certain internet people have been writing on a collective project for a while now .... *whistling*
posted by The Whelk at 9:54 AM on March 1, 2011


I am now rubbing my hands together, plotting my career as a freelance editor to self publishers.

I am actually good at this, and at one point did it professionally, albeit for peanuts and on a very small scale.


My dream-job of freelance typesetting and cover design might actually be a possibility some day!
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:00 AM on March 1, 2011


thsmchnekllsfascists, can you draw a picture of a ninja wearing a jetpack punching a six armed demon in the gnards with a robotic ghost-fist?

What font fits best with that image?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:02 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Have you guys read Twilight? The writing isn't underedited pap. On a prose level, it's functional, although sometimes stylistically silly.

I would say the prose is often non-functional, although it appears to be functional to a quick reader who doesn't much care for prose. The site I linked to breaks it down very nicely. Of course, it's easy to pick on Meyers but her editor isn't the only offender. I picked up a romance novel from a very famous "traditional romance" author a few months ago and it was very poorly edited. It's not that the editors don't care, exactly - it's that publishers realize that readers don't care. They're reading for the plot (for some genres, the sex) and the HOA. The prose is secondary at best.
posted by muddgirl at 10:02 AM on March 1, 2011


Well, if it'll bring you back from the Void, I pretty much have to, Flo.

Well, I was just planning on passing through, actually, but if it will offer you any encouragement, I'll stick around.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:04 AM on March 1, 2011


Self publishing is the moderately successful respectable son in the publishing family. Self-published audio books are the real black sheep. *shudder* I once listened to the first chapter of a self published, author voiced ham radio themed paranormal fiction book.

That said, you people need to stop commenting in this thread and get to work writing books for me to read.
posted by ChrisHartley at 10:05 AM on March 1, 2011



What font fits best with that image?

Papyrus
posted by The Whelk at 10:06 AM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


thsmchnekllsfascists, can you draw a picture of a ninja wearing a jetpack punching a six armed demon in the gnards with a robotic ghost-fist?

Of course. Also, probably eurostile bold oblique.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:06 AM on March 1, 2011


There are many editors & design folks on MetaFilter - we should create a packaging/editing agency for self-publishers. this is a semi-serious comment

We already have the [+] logo...
posted by catlet at 10:07 AM on March 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


So in one camp, the 70-30 split is extortionate, and the other, it's too good to last.

It's not quite the same.

Amazon is doing a 70/30 split between itself and the publishers. So if you're a publisher (or self-published author), you sell your stuff via the Kindle store and net 70%. Done. For that 30% you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing: the hardware/software platform (Kindle readers and Kindle software for other platforms), the distribution network, the payment system, use of AMZ's servers, etc.

Apple is asking for 30% of all in-app sales just for use of their hardware platform. So, let's say you were going to compete with Amazon by launching a service to compete with Amazon. You might write a reader application that gets content from your store. For the privilege of having that application run on iOS, Apple takes 30%. That leaves exactly nothing for you, as the would-be operator of an Amazon competitor, to live on, unless you cut publishers a worse deal than Amazon is. You're dead before you even start.

Amazon wants 30% and all you need to bring to the table is the content you want to sell on the Kindle; Apple wants 30% and you still need to write the application and probably design and host a lot of backend infrastructure. It's a pretty crummy deal, and I think it will pretty much keep anyone from competing with Amazon on iOS particularly if, as I suspect has or will happen, Amazon gets preferential terms that keep it from having to cut Apple in like a new player would.

If Apple were charging something less, like 5% or even 10%, then a developer would have a 20% spread to play with; they might be able to develop an e-reader application that didn't suck and put together a store with some content by offering publishers / authors better terms than Amazon. But there's no room to do that right now.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:08 AM on March 1, 2011


I'm just waiting for the Metafilter Fan Fiction.
posted by The Whelk at 10:08 AM on March 1, 2011


paisley henosis, can I at least wear a headlamp?
posted by Leta at 10:10 AM on March 1, 2011


I'm just waiting for the Metafilter Fan Fiction.

I'm just waiting for the metafilter slashfic.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:10 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The prose is secondary at best.

Yes, well, that's why it's functional, rather than artful. People can pick apart minor grammatical/logical lapses, but it generally conveys meaning fine. Meyer's biggest crime is her overwriting, her tendency to use inappropriate diction ("irate" or the infamous "chagrined"), but given that her narrator is an overwrought teenage girl, that always seemed, well, appropriate to me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:11 AM on March 1, 2011


It'll be called ...CONTACTS.
posted by The Whelk at 10:11 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just waiting for the Metafilter Fan Fiction.

I'm just waiting for the metafilter slashfic.


I'm waiting for the Metafilter parody.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:12 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Behind the Blue Door: Confessions of a Favorites Whore
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:13 AM on March 1, 2011 [12 favorites]


Fap And Move On.
posted by The Whelk at 10:14 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm waiting for the Metafilter parody.

NSFW: that has already been done.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:14 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


One thing I've noticed in fannish writing is that a whole subculture has risen around volunteer editors (called "beta readers"). I've wondered if there was some way to turn the amateur editors doing that into a resource for the struggling author in this sort of position.

I've noticed this as well, and I've also noticed that the better writers attract better betas.

I don't know how this would work, ultimately. While I've served (for free) as a sounding board-type reader, a proofreader, and a development editor for a few writer friends, doing it well is (or should be) time-consuming and labor-intensive and should be compensated. Traditional publishing houses have been able to pay for that. They don't always pay incredibly well, barring some star editors who may be better known than their authors, but I can't imagine that many self-publishing writers who are just starting out would be willing or able to pay me my minimum (for a short job that looks fairly clean, won't require hours of hand-holding while I persuade the author why it would be good to make the changes I've suggested, etc.), which, the last time I was freelancing, was about $40 an hour.
posted by rtha at 10:15 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've noticed this as well, and I've also noticed that the better writers attract better betas.

Yeah, this. I beta'd for some absolutely rubbish writers, who were usually really unwilling to take feedback, and didn't give very good feedback, either. In the end, I found a gaggle of smart-sounding people on message boards and asked them if they wanted to start a critique group. It's actually really difficult to find people who are willing to give your writing a proper thrashing. And it's a ton of work, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:20 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the thing about fanfiction beta readers is that they are usually writers themselves, and therefore they can trade services - in the professional world these would probably be called writing partners.
posted by muddgirl at 10:24 AM on March 1, 2011


FWIW, the term beta is pretty mainstream now, at least in YA circles.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:26 AM on March 1, 2011


It's actually really difficult to find people who are willing to give your writing a proper thrashing.
There's a tricky feedback cycle with that too. The folks who can thrash have probably been burned a few too many times by someone who claimed to want thrashing but really wanted to be told that practically everything was perfect from the start. I never really got past starting with beta reading because I ran into too many people who asked for "really tough" editing and then got butthurt because I corrected their spelling.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:33 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Magic Awakes.
A Steampunk Alliance Novel.


CHAPTER ONE: THE TIME OF THE MAGIC.

In which Heroes are Introduced, amid Portent and More Portent.

Gel'dara the Steam Elf coolly assessed the situation, using eyes which acted as stereo cameras swiveling in unison inside her elven head which sat atop her lithe body, draped in the finest silks and fabrics from the weavers of the Steam Elf Empire who make the best silks and fabrics, better than what regular people make, yes I'm getting to what the fucking situation is, hold your goddamn horses, but her lithe slender body was not obscured beneath them; indeed, her beautiful frame was accented by her magnificent garments.

She narrowed her eyes, which were dark.

"It seems there is a situation," she said in her sonorous voice. "A steam situation. This is why the Steam Elf emissaries have been sent, I am one of them by the way, anyway they have been sent to provide our wisdom and counsel and also all the other things we do in our exotic way which are better, like if you drink our wine you will get so drunk, drunker than anyone would ever get on regular wine. So don't do that. We also bring our mighty steamships and steam technology. Incidentally, the steam technology uses the same steam yours does. Just a heads up, in case that's going to be important later. That's why I'm pointing it out." She looked across her aquiline nose at the man sitting on the other side of the room.

Rock Masterson, head of the New York Guild of Adventurers (Chelsea local 133), pondered this, while his lean muscly figure existed in the fine cotton of his shirt. "All right," he replied, exhibiting the devil-may-care attitude which was part of why everyone liked him so much, and ran a hand through his long hair, and then put his fedora back on, which he wore cockily, as though he knew how irresistible he was. He knew that Geldara found his self-assured charm infuriating, yet he loved to tease her - sometimes he felt he could almost see the hint of an elven smile on her ruby lips. "So tell me about this situation, pretty lady."

Gel'dara's violet eyes flashed. "You would do well to remember that you are addressing Steam Elf royalty, Masterson. You and I may have had many adventures together, in the past, but do not think for a moment that this grants you leave to be so familiar. I am a daughter of the Gogglequist Chancellor, which is a very important thing, and my skills as a warrior are beyond reproach. Do not test me." Her eyes stopped flashing.

"All right, all right," stated Masterson. "Jeez, I was just trying to have some fun. I believe you Steam Elves call it q'lors'quing."

"Your knowledge of Steam Elven is as impeccable as always," lilted Gel'dara. "But we have more urgent matters to attend to. I received an important message from one of our steam-powered Messenger Owls last Dawnsongsday - I believe in your imperfect language it is called Saturday." The Messenger Owls were like that owl out of Clash of the Titans, the first one, but copper-colored and with goggles on. "It seems that Kevin von Darken has returned."

At this, the big Brooklynite's face blanched whitely. "The Baron von Darken? But..."

"Hold your tongue," interrupted the lissome Steam Elf. "There is yet more. It would appear that he has once again built an army of his mechanical warriors, and they mass even now at the gates of Passaic. If my spies are correct, and they usually are because elves are so stealthy they're incredible at being spies, Kevin intends to penetrate into Fort Lee - an easy feat for such a powerful dark mage - and then he will march his army unstoppably over the Martha Washington Bridge, penetrating into Washington Heights and splitting its defenses apart with the thrust of his army's might. It is our belief that then, with a mighty heave, his army will make one final, powerful thrust into the defenseless borough of Manhattan, battering it with wave after wave of ramming assaults, and it will not be long before..."

"Oh no!" ejaculated Masterson.

"Oh yes," exclaimed Gel'Dara. "Now you see why we need the help of you and your Adventurers' Guild (Chelsea local 133)."

Rock Masterson knew that this was a grave situation. Though Gel'Dara was doing her elven best to remain composed, as befit a proud warrior woman of her station, he could see that she was quivering just slightly. His heightened senses detected that her jewelry, which had all gears and such on it, was emitting the tiniest, musical tinkling sound.

"I can see that this is serious, Qil'zradian," said the big New Yorker, using the Steam Elven word for princess to calm her and also to show his appreciation of the gravity of what was going on. Ironically, that same gravity would be defied by his steamship, the Wild Gear, to carry Gel'Dara back home to meet with the Steam Elf Council of Magic.

But first, he gathered his faithful crew. They had served alongside him faithfully many times now, and he looked them over (note to self: think of names for these people later): The flighty cute girl who says dumb shit like "squee" all the time and has goggles; the troubled loner with a dark past who probably uses a sword and has like a scar and is sarcastic but has a heart of gold; the other girl whose job is to have unresolved sexual tension with at least one other character and I don't know we can make her Asian or something and maybe she's good at shooting things OH OH I know she can be tough and gets real mad because she has to dress all sexy at some point and she's totally got a short temper; the crackpot inventor with a pith helmet and a huge mustache who's scatterbrained and invents good things; the tough dumb guy who's a bruiser but has surprising personality quirks you wouldn't expect him to have like maybe he crochets or something so we can all pretend you haven't read this exact same drizzly squirty shit a thousand times already; and the black guy.

"Looks like it's time for another adventure," expressed Rock Masterson.

"Another one?" inquired the flighty cute girl who says dumb shit like "squee" all the time and has goggles. "But I just bought a new corset! Squee!"

"Yeah," erupted the other girl whose job is to have unresolved sexual tension with at least one other character and I don't know we can make her Asian or something and maybe she's good at shooting things OH OH I know she can be tough and gets real mad because she has to dress all sexy at some point and she's totally got a short temper. "And I just finished cleaning the bloodstains off my best skirt from our last adventure! That's because of all the beating people up I did. Some of whom were even our enemies! Quick reminder there, about the short temper."

"Jesus fucking christ, I am so sick of you assholes," sighed the black guy.

"No time to talk," Masterson commanded. "Let's (I'll think of a catchphrase later)!"

BE WITH US FOR THE NEXT EXCITING CHAPTER WHEN ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE DIES, UP TO AND INCLUDING THE PROTAGONISTS, ANTAGONISTS, ANCILLARY CHARACTERS, AN ENTIRE BOTTLE OF WHISKEY, AND YOU.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:48 AM on March 1, 2011 [120 favorites]


Leta: paisley henosis, can I at least wear a headlamp

Yes. Yes, you may.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:50 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a tricky feedback cycle with that too. The folks who can thrash have probably been burned a few too many times by someone who claimed to want thrashing but really wanted to be told that practically everything was perfect from the start. I never really got past starting with beta reading because I ran into too many people who asked for "really tough" editing and then got butthurt because I corrected their spelling.

Constructive feedback is an art. I'm not saying that you weren't doing it right ( I have no idea) but many people don't.

Heavy criticism doesn't have to be brutal, and a good critic must point out the story's strengths as well as weaknesses. The goal is to improve the story, not tear it apart.

It's also worth noting that spelling mistakes and typos are the last thing an editor should be correcting. On one hand there's no excuse for these still being in the draft that your beta editor/critical reader receives. But on the other hand, demonstrating typographical errors is not useful critique. I can do that myself as I examine my manuscript draft #350. What most writers need is help with the more subjective elements, and the parts that require some distance to really see.

I'd be pretty peeved if I sent someone a document and all I got back was a bunch of comments along the lines ofL: "You missed a period here. and You spelled "like" as "lkie" here." Peeved and embarrassed..

Good editors are hard to find. And it isn't enough to give tough criticism. I'm of the opinion that the modern world needs more skilled editors and publishers far more than it needs more writers.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:57 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I found a video walk through of how to publish your book to Kindle.

Does anybody know the normal length for these, in pages? What about the expected content, what's normal for self published Kindle books in a movie-rating style? G? PG13? X?
posted by paisley henosis at 11:00 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


PhoBWan, I'm glad to hear you say that, as I was scratching my head. I beta/use betas all the time, and none of us, as far as I know, have any connection with fanfic. I think terminology floats back and forth, and do have plenty of "writing friends," but I think I'd personally reserve the term "writing partners" for actual co-authors.
posted by cupcakeninja at 11:01 AM on March 1, 2011


You spelled "of" as "ofL" there.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:11 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gel'dara the Steam Elf coolly assessed the situation, using eyes which acted as stereo cameras swiveling in unison inside her elven head which sat atop her lithe body

Cory? Is that you?
posted by Ratio at 11:17 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


That was an intentional joke, you addle-pated buffoon! If you were only as familiar with the works of Guriakin, you would have known that. But no, of course you weren't.

(heavy sigh) Gawd!

Fine! I'll change it to be conventional. You're murdering my art, I hope you're happy.
posted by aramaic at 11:18 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does anybody know the normal length for these, in pages? What about the expected content, what's normal for self published Kindle books in a movie-rating style? G? PG13? X?

Why would the range be any different from normal books? I would imagine there's everything from short stories to tomes, G to NC-17.
posted by kmz at 11:26 AM on March 1, 2011


Wow, that's really cool! I had suspected you could get away with self-publishing nonfiction in the how-to-make-money-on-eBay vein, but novels. Huh. Good for her!

This has me thinking...

I generally do agree that even great writers benefit from an editor, but honestly, as big a writing snob as I am, if you dig around in the right places it's not that hard to find fanfiction that's published-quality -- and I can think of six published authors who started out writing fanfiction. (I completely understand the fanfiction hate because it's a lot easier to find ridiculous, awful stuff, and a lot of fandoms aren't big enough to have much selection. If you've never read it before, it can be difficult to find a way in and most people don't have any great incentive to put in the legwork.) Most authors of fanfiction have people look over their stuff and give them feedback before posting it, but some of them don't even do that much and it's still very good. As someone who suffers crippling perfectionism about her own writing I really admire people who can do that, and especially those who post chapters as they write them and end up with something completely well-structured and coherent. I am continually impressed by what individual writers can accomplish without outside help.

And hell, if something is pretty cheap I'm not going to be that upset by a typographical error here and there. I've paid $25 for hardback books that had errors.

Also, I've certainly read stuff friends have written that was quite good despite having no professional editor. Not to mention the great comments here on MeFi are merely self-edited. (Granted, editors can help with structural problems in longer works, and there are some different considerations for fiction, but the point is we all know on some level that plenty of people can write perfectly well without an editor. Not having an editor does not mean something is bad.)

And lets face it, a lot of stuff that's published today does have an editor and isn't very good; when publishing is an industry, there will always be books that are sold not because they're good books -- whatever we want to say that means -- but because they'll sell a lot for some other reason. Right now it's Twilight clones -- some of which may be better than Twilight (which, not being a fan of Twilight myself, I think is easily possible) but there's just so many published it's hard to wade through. But if I were going to dive in? Well, I'd much rather pay $3 for an ebook that sounds promising than a lot more for something officially published, or even fight the teens and other adults like me on the library hold list.

So, from that perspective, it's weird to me that I ever thought novels would be much harder to self-publish -- or at least ebook versions, because selling physical copies is considerably more difficult. I think at least some of the resistance to reading a self-published novel -- or maybe even all the resistance -- is largely the perception that it's going to be a poorly written piece of trash because it lacks an editor. Because, let's face it, until you read a little of it you just don't know -- which is the case with professionally published books, too, we just have less reason for bias because we feel there's a gatekeeper for quality. (And at least with the Kindle, you can get a free sample of an ebook, a feature I LOVE; I always feel weird about reading a whole chapter of a book in a retail store. If this writer has samples available, I'll check them out today.)

I didn't question that overly much until today, when I thought about it seriously for the first time. But writers have been put in an odd place compared to other artists, when it comes to independent efforts. Everyone more or less has come to accept that indie musicians and indie filmmakers can turn out amazing stuff, and plenty of people like some of those efforts more than what's being developed by the big guys. Most people like both, and that's great for everyone, I think. We've come to accept that most visual artists and photographers tend to be independent operations too, and we are empirically willing to search for those whose work we enjoy. Yes, there's lots of crap too, but somehow that doesn't lead us to say that anything good is only possible in the context of a huge corporate model with lots of collaboration. We now accept, for example, that while most musical artists could benefit from a great producer, some of those same artists actually have a great ear for production themselves, or that a producer doesn't have to be famous to be good, or some of us don't care about production much at all.

Not to mention the reason we tend to like indie stuff is because it can be tailored to a much smaller audience. Bigger outfits don't get that luxury, and they're risk averse if they're not sure that people will like something; they need to make more money to sustain themselves. As a result, not only do people have to settle for something that has wide appeal and lose out on what might have more intense appeal for them specifically, people also miss out on a lot of things they don't even know they'd like for lack of exposure. People like to say that art is universal, but I just don't buy that. There's not a single "great work of art" that doesn't have its sincere detractors and an even larger group of people who are merely underwhelmed by it. Everyone has had the experience of intensely liking some obscure thing that no one else does, or being the person who's baffled that so many people like something they don't. People have wildly different experiences and personalities and tastes, and most people see their own tastes change as they age. Works that touch a large audience are certainly impressive, but most of us are perfectly happy with things that speak to us even if no one else likes it. Even Pixar doesn't speak to everyone.

So we sort through the independent offerings.

But when we imagine self-published authors, we suddenly think they have no concept of grammar or writing and everything they produce will be a mess -- like editors actually just accept anything, wave a magic wand, and make it great. In truth, editors tend to accept stuff that's already pretty well-written -- and so yes, we can consider them gatekeepers of quality in that regard. It's not entirely nonsensical to think if someone self-publishes, then they were probably too crappy to get published traditionally -- but it's not always right, either, since sometimes they just don't have the kind of book anyone is looking for. Anything that bridges genres, for example, despite that some of the greatest books of the last decade have done just that, is notoriously hard to publish just because publishers don't know how to market it and bookstores don't know what section to stock it in. If you write something like "magical realism", chances are you have a struggle ahead of you no matter how good you are. This is slowly changing as it becomes clearer that people really like books that aren't easily categorized, especially because you can only read within a fixed genre for so long until nothing seems new anymore. But huge industries move slowly in that regard; if it were to keep up with taste, they'd have dropped their resistance to stuff like this ten years ago. It's only the big finnicky system they've established that holds them back from it, and inability to risk losing too money.

But the point is that plenty of writers are decent editors -- as evidenced by the fact that some published authors even go on to be editors as well -- or have people around them that are good readers during the drafts, and not being traditionally published doesn't always mean someone sucks. And when you think of the ebook model, as opposed to the traditional writers-getting-fucked-over-by-paying-for-and-self-publishing-physical-copies-that-won't-sell model, things start to look pretty promising.

Because yeah, for a long time writers did need publishing companies to distribute their work; they didn't have the time or means to bind their own books and ship them around to sellers. But they don't need publishers as much anymore, and it seems they'll need them less in the future. And they have the opportunity to make more money this way. And it's cheaper for consumers this way. And there's more variety this way. And things like "where are we going to physically stock this" this don't keep great writers from being published. And considerations like "I don't think I can sell enough to make up for the physical copies of the book and pay all the people involved" don't keep great writers from being published.

To self-publish now, writers just need writing ability, editing ability, and ebook formatting ability. Many have all three, more have at least the first two -- and anyone who has writing ability need only acquire the other two, either by utilizing people they already know or by outright paying someone. This is really cheap compared to the traditional system.

(It is shockingly easy to format an ebook, especially if you don't have to worry about pictures or any odd text formatting; I do it all the time. Footnotes and references are only a bit harder. Most people who write novels only need rudimentary HTML and a splash of CSS to make it look decent. You don't even need to know what the CSS means, actually; if you have someone else write it, you can use it over and over for everything. You need to know enough HTML to use the appropriate tags, but you can save as HTML in most word editing programs so you don't even have to sit there and manually type paragraph and italics tags.)

Then you have to take care of promotion, but even being published by a major publishing house is no promise of promotion. I don't mean to downplay the significance of the exposure traditional publishing offers, of course, only to point out that it's not automatically a huge bonus either. I read a shload of books and I usually hear about them online or from someone I know, and more and more now, through samples of ebooks that just have high ratings. I used to pick up physical books with intriguing covers, and publishers negotiate that sort of thing -- but I haven't done that at all since I got a Kindle. Promotion is the problem for all independent artistic efforts (and even traditional efforts) so I don't see it as all that uniquely troubling, especially the way things are changing and decentralizing.

And when a writer doesn't have to sell nearly as many copies to make the same amount of money, well. Any writers who care more about exposure than money are likely to be more motivated to work on promotion anyway, or hire someone for that purpose. It's still likely cheaper to pay for only the services you need and to the extent that you need them, rather than sign away a lot of money to a system that'll handle it for you and will decide whether or not to promote you based on its own needs. (I mean, okay, there will always be some genuinely awful writers who pay editors and formatters and hire someone to promote their work, and yes, they'll end up losing money. Anyone, at any time, is capable of pouring money into something that won't work out, writing or otherwise, plus the people that would lose money in that scenario aren't people who'd be better off with traditional publishing because no one would publish them.)

So really, I don't see any reason why writing shouldn't have an indie component like movies or music or visual art, where people just poke around until they find stuff they like. If some of that resistance is fading, great; I think people will be better off for it.

I've been writing a couple novels for a long time now. I had been assuming that I would just pursue traditional publishing, and probably I still will. But I definitely have more to think about, now -- and by the time I actually finish them (which doesn't seem likely any time soon LOLOLOL) I'll probably have a lot more to think about. I like the idea of having people who know what they're doing look over my work and make suggestions, but I'm going to have to do that before I even show anything to an agent anyway. Traditional publishing is looking more and more like a headache with little pay-off in comparison.

What sort of bothers me, just now, is the inkling that if I were to pursue traditional publishing it would be more for my own ego: part of me still wants to know that I'm "good enough" for it, and the thought of self-publishing still feels like "giving up" even though I just analyzed it. The resistance has really been ingrained in me, apparently. I would hope that I wouldn't make a decision based solely on that.
posted by Nattie at 11:30 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


FAMOUS MONSTER, not even joking, I would pay $3 to read a full novel of that.
posted by Nattie at 11:35 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


FAMOUS MONSTER, not even joking, I would pay $3 to read a full novel of that.

Me too. Get cracking.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:37 AM on March 1, 2011


Her eyes stopped flashing.

So glad you explained that. I hate when authors forget and then their hero is walking around with naked eyes the whole rest of the book.
posted by Hoenikker at 11:38 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


FAMOUS MONSTER: I want the Black Guy's dialogue to be only variations on how much he hates everyone.

Please?
posted by The Whelk at 11:40 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]



Then you have to take care of promotion, but even being published by a major publishing house is no promise of promotion. I don't mean to downplay the significance of the exposure traditional publishing offers, of course, only to point out that it's not automatically a huge bonus either.


Promotion is the elephant in the room here, I'd worked for big houses that did NOTHING to promote or market stuff and smaller houses that wanted to but had no idea what they were doing Vs. doing it myself and wow what a different promotion makes and it's shocking how much you have to do, personally, even if you're with big names cause something like 5 books will make the bulk of their profits for the year so your effort isn;t even getting a seat in the marketing dept.
posted by The Whelk at 11:43 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


So while I was at the gym I spent a half hour on the stair master, listening to Led Zep, and pondering Piston Hands.

Curse you people. I have a baby to care for, you know.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:45 AM on March 1, 2011


> I had suspected you could get away with self-publishing nonfiction in the how-to-make-money-on-eBay vein, but novels.

Selling fiction via ebook is actually a better fit than selling technical info, particularly if you're selling quickly-turned-out genre work.

With technical info, piracy is a problem: It dilutes the value of products premised on competitive advantage.

With $1-3 fiction works, having easily-copied books just builds up a fanbase.

If you're writing fiction, and haven't already been rubbing shoulders for years with the Manhattan Farrar Straus crowd, ebooks seem like the ideal way to go... assuming that you think replacing your workaday job might be more lastingly rewarding than an earful of this summer's gossip at Breadloaf.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:46 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The irony is, though, that according to Hocking she hasn't really done all that much to promote herself. She put her books up on the major sites, has a blogspot blog, and made a goodreads page for her books. That's about it.

All that being said, I'm hearing increasingly that mainstream fiction authors have to do their own promotion. From the sounds of all those writers boards, this is a terrifying prospect for a lot of older writers, because the way the pendulum's swinging is that this means blogging and tweeting and stuff.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:47 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I could probably keep it going for maybe a novella at best. But some of those are pretty thick.

OTHER POINTS:

1. A thing which would be necessary and also pad the length of it out is maybe a chapter or so where the author, now all the way through a bottle of rotgut, just devolves into straight-up haranguing the reader, like GOD DAMN IT YOU'VE READ THIS SAME BOOK A HUNDRED TIMES AND YOU'LL READ IT A HUNDRED MORE AND EACH AND EVERY TIME YOU PAID ACTUAL MONEY FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF DIFFERENT CHARACTER NAMES AND THAT'S ABOUT IT, WHEN I THINK ABOUT HOW MUCH MONEY HAS BEEN WASTED ON THIS SHIT I WANT TO DIE, I DON'T KNOW IF I HATE YOU OR MYSELF MORE sort of thing, like I would really want it to be in an incredibly uncomfortable place for at least one chapter, far past the warm chuckle of good-natured fun-poking. Just someone's inner emptiness unable to contain its howl. I mean like I would actually sit down and think of the author as a character.

2. Hoenikker: Initially I was going to have her slap herself on the side of the head and then her eyes would stop flashing but I've got this thing about doing chiefly visual gags in the medium of text, and also the casual reader might mistake it for an indication that she is a robot and not just me making fun of bad writing. I seriously have no idea why that would matter to me, come to think of it, but there it is.

3. The Whelk: Conditional upon me actually doing anything with this - your wish is granted, long live FAMOUS MONSTER.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:49 AM on March 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


BE WITH US FOR THE NEXT EXCITING CHAPTER

MOAR. In all seriousness: if you write 80 pages of that I will pay you three dollars. Consider this the local MeFi version of Kickstarter or something.
posted by IjonTichy at 11:52 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


> because the way the pendulum's swinging is that this means blogging and tweeting and stuff

Your Web Marketing Factotum will replace your agent.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:52 AM on March 1, 2011


I think that it's pretty obvious that the other girl whose job is to have unresolved sexual tension with at least one other character and I don't know we can make her Asian or something and maybe she's good at shooting things OH OH I know she can be tough and gets real mad because she has to dress all sexy at some point and she's totally got a short temper's sexual tension should be with the Steam Elf Princess. And they totally won't acknowledge it even though everyone else is smirking about it all the time. And then they're imprisoned together because they got caught spying by the sorcerer and they console each other in their despair and then it's all won't you please hold me oooh your body is so soft.

And then after they escape and take the sorcerer prisoner AND rescue the True Prince of the Southern Waste from post-apocalyptic biker gangs, the other girl whose job is to have unresolved sexual tension with at least one other character and I don't know we can make her Asian or something and maybe she's good at shooting things OH OH I know she can be tough and gets real mad because she has to dress all sexy at some point and she's totally got a short temper marries the Steam Elf Princess and the next novel is about their children (who have all this tension going on because of having to fit into multiple cultures.)
posted by endless_forms at 11:53 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh fuck, you're right, I forgot to throw a gay character in there. Into the next (hypothetical) revision it goes!
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:55 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm hearing increasingly that mainstream fiction authors have to do their own promotion.

Yes, this exactly, right? That's supposed to be the big plus of being traditionally published; you get exposure, glorious exposure! But that's not what I'm hearing from actual authors. The majority of authors have to promote themselves. So... this is looking pretty whack, right?

Given that...

* you can produce something of good quality without a professional editor
* you increasingly don't need the ability (and thus the equipment) to produce physical books
* you then don't need someone to negotiate with booksellers
* you can make more money self-publishing ebooks
* it's cheaper for consumers to buy your ebooks
* which might actually mean more readers, if not now then in the future when more people have ereaders

What... what exactly is the point of traditional publishing, then? You'll have to do your own promotion either way. Maybe, in some vague sense, you'll produce a better book with a publishing house editor. I mean, yeah, on the whole, they're great, have lots of experience -- I would assume they know what they're doing and I don't want to devalue that. But I've read a lot of great stuff that didn't have an editor, or had a non-professional editor (a "beta") or editors. Plus, sometimes writers hate their editor -- and it's not always ego, some people just don't work well together, or have completely different artistic tastes, and editors are people like everyone else and are capable of just being dicks or being untalented despite years of experience. You don't get to pick your editor in traditional publishing, but if you self-publish you can pick people who you know you can work with, who knows how to work with you, and whose opinion you value. You have more opportunity to talk things over, too.

So...? We're left with the idea that people are just wary of self-published stuff. That seems completely surmountable.

This is really bothering me. I don't know why it should, which is what's even more absurd; I guess I'm just used to the idea of traditional publishing being The Thing. It's like, I dunno, thinking you're going to grow up and have a big wedding and three children and a white picket fence, and then along the way you realize there are alternatives and actually you don't want those things at all and you just thought of things in those terms because that's how you were supposed to think of them. It's hard to let go of, I guess.
posted by Nattie at 12:01 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's hilarious is that no publishers would give her a break.

Reminds me of the Beatle's demo tape ...every record label in the UK (over 30) passed on it before EMI. THAT's how clueless industry people always were.

The people in these industries were not magicians ... they were just the only game in town. GAME OVER.

@clvrmnky: "Self-published" is still code for "needs an editor."

According to the video she sold 169,000 books in December. I'm sure she'll worry about needing an editor when she can find time.
posted by Twang at 12:02 PM on March 1, 2011


I'm hearing increasingly that mainstream fiction authors have to do their own promotion.

Uh-huh. Sounds like lots of that going around, especially since that "collapse" the other year. People having to figure things out for ARCs, self-funding of ads, etc., etc. I think there's still a lot of stuff wrapped up in trad publishing that can't be easily replicated otherwise, but it's shrinking. Lord knows, if both Borders & B&N die, and all the book sections die in (the already-ill) newspapers and magazines, well...
posted by cupcakeninja at 12:03 PM on March 1, 2011


The comics industry has been having this conversation for *years*.
posted by The Whelk at 12:03 PM on March 1, 2011


Joking aside, metafilter could absolutely do this. A bit of contributed fiction, FAMOUS MONSTER's awesome first chapter, exceptional comments that are long enough to engage and self-enclosed to stand alone (scody trying to not get the job, etc). We could package it up into an eBook, sell it on amazon / Apple Reader, etc and contribute any earnings to a charity of choice. I'd be well up for giving up a day or so to help this happen. MeMail me if you want in & if there's more than a couple of you, I'll bang something onto projects.
posted by seanyboy at 12:16 PM on March 1, 2011


GOD DAMN IT YOU'VE READ THIS SAME BOOK A HUNDRED TIMES AND YOU'LL READ IT A HUNDRED MORE AND EACH AND EVERY TIME YOU PAID ACTUAL MONEY FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF DIFFERENT CHARACTER NAMES AND THAT'S ABOUT IT, WHEN I THINK ABOUT HOW MUCH MONEY HAS BEEN WASTED ON THIS SHIT I WANT TO DIE, I DON'T KNOW IF I HATE YOU OR MYSELF MORE

BUT BACK TO WORK; I WONDER HOW I'M GOING TO SHOEHORN A GOLDEN RETRIEVER INTO THE PLOT OF THIS ONE.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:19 PM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Metafilter needs a section where aspiring editors can post their info and qualifications, and the rest of us can send them our writing to go over. Possibly in exchange for a reasonable fund.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:20 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I was joking (I'm not sure I wasn't, either). I have very little to do with myself at the moment (cf. this entire thread) so have had time to ponder how I would actually do this.

At the moment I'm thinking an epistolary novella opening with a letter from agent to author, then the first chapter (which I would have to pad out because that ain't a chapter), then a page or two of edits (including naming the characters) not done by the author and then off we go.

If I took this on I would be more than happy to shoulder the burden of it my own bad self - I doubt I'd make the kind of cash that Amanda Hocking does, but still.

And I might have the time to do so, for the same reason that I'm not positive I would give all the proceeds to charity as there's a possibility the company I work for may fold in the next few weeks. So an additional source of income might be welcome, for me.

Still - your godhead of choice doesn't shut a door without opening a window. Hmm..
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:26 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


On further reflection I realize how opportunistic some of that sounds so let me be clear that I would only use the notion of a steampunk story taking place in NYC, and no other element offered up; the idea of profiting off someone's ideas wholesale doesn't sit well with me. So the Pudgy Budgie would remain unmolested. By me, at least.

And for what it's worth I do think that should get written. More than one project, perhaps; if I have the amount of free time I mentioned above anytime soon I would be happy to contribute.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:30 PM on March 1, 2011


If you wrote a novel FAMOUS MONSTER, I'd be utterly happy to buy it. Feel free to use any idea I've proferred. Internet Mashup, baby! Don't make it too long though. Not sure how much steampunk parody I can read.

I still think metafilter members could put together a charity eBook.
posted by seanyboy at 12:34 PM on March 1, 2011


Do it. And call it FAMOUS MONSTER, which is a great title as well as good branding.
posted by msalt at 12:38 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


kmz: Why would the range be any different from normal books? I would imagine there's everything from short stories to tomes, G to NC-17.

I guess I should be asking: how long are Amada Hocking's books? Are they more G rated in tone or R or what?
posted by paisley henosis at 12:38 PM on March 1, 2011


"Self-published" is still code for "needs an editor."

The fact that she conflates "editor" and "copy editor" in that review indicates you might be right.

insanely difficult to do well and very easy to do poorly.

I think you're dead wrong here. "Insanely difficult"? No. And "very easy to do poorly?" Where's your bad novel?

This starts to look really interesting for the survival of writing that doesn't have to target the masses.

I'm not sure how a Twilight/True Blood-style novel doesn't "target the masses."

So how much do editors charge per book?

Oh, they don't have that business model yet, huh?


Sure we do. We charge by the hour, or make a estimate based on length of the book and a sample of the writing.

I'm cheap, fwiw.

(and decent editors who actually care about your work are worth their weight in cheesecake and handjobs)

I'm flexible on compensation, but I don't really like cheesecake.

How much does a handjob weigh?

Ten bucks, same as in town.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:39 PM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


At the moment I'm thinking an epistolary novella opening with a letter from agent to author, then the first chapter (which I would have to pad out because that ain't a chapter), then a page or two of edits (including naming the characters) not done by the author and then off we go.

I don't think ebooks can do this yet, but it would be interesting to do it as a returned manuscript with the editor's handwritten notes. They'd start off professional sounding and grow increasingly despairing, then angry, then self-reflective on their chosen profession, etc.

I guess you've got those two voices interwoven, which is probably more suitable for the format.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:43 PM on March 1, 2011


Uh-huh. Sounds like lots of that going around, especially since that "collapse" the other year. People having to figure things out for ARCs, self-funding of ads, etc., etc. I think there's still a lot of stuff wrapped up in trad publishing that can't be easily replicated otherwise, but it's shrinking. Lord knows, if both Borders & B&N die, and all the book sections die in (the already-ill) newspapers and magazines, well...

It's been interesting to watch how all of this is evolving--not only in sales, but in terms of promotion. I'm kind of in this awkward place between reviewer and writer--my blog gets a sizable number of hits because of my reviews, and that, in turn, has enabled me to sign up for programs like Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab and Netgalley, where publishers provide electronic ARCs for reviewers. Because of the low cost of digital galleys, publishers are willing to send out books for review to more book bloggers, and I think this, in many ways, allows them to build necessary buzz. It seems to me that it's the authors whose publishers don't do egalleys who really have to struggle to get the word out.

But it's also caused a sort of democratization in reviewing, something that many authors seem uncomfortable with (I could easily put together a post of author's reactions to reader reviews, because it's fascinating, but I think I'm too close to the subject). Unlike, say, Kirkus reviewers, book bloggers are easily open to charges of being unqualified. Many authors seem to hold the opinion that eARCs rob them of sales, because these are people who would be motivated book buyers (this, I question; I've bought exponentially more books since getting into the reviewing scene than I did before, and I've been told first-hand that people have purchased books because of my reviews). In general, it seems that the elite air surrounding even commercial publishing is breaking down. Things are becoming more reader centric. Self-published authors are often already motivated self-promoters. I suspect all writers will now have to learn these skills. I don't suspect this will be an easy, or painless, evolution of the biz.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:47 PM on March 1, 2011


Don't make it too long though. Not sure how much steampunk parody I can read.

Yeah that was among my first thoughts. I'm thinking novella at best with - well, being epistolary there'll be some additional materials to sort of explain what you're reading and exactly why this person wrote a book and why anyone thought they could: the intitial emails, a few "uh, are you okay?" exchanges upon seeing the manuscript thus far, ending with the revelation that the author has checked himself into a treatment facility and his magnum opus is being released as an e-book to recoup costs on his advance and also to give insight into the creative process (such as it is). But you're right, I have no idea how long even the most competent of writers could keep up the joke of "You know, genre fiction is pretty terrible a lot of the time" and still have it be funny or interesting. All I can say is I'll try to make it worth your three bucks.

Long story short I'm thinking something along the lines of a Garth Marenghi-type author just having a complete breakdown.

I still think metafilter members could put together a charity eBook.

I agree. I'd happily pitch in.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:50 PM on March 1, 2011


How much does an editor cost? Well, I have fixed up a friend's technical book for free. (OK, I got a copy and he put my name in the foreword.) It was proof-reading, mostly, because he had another wonk do the technical read, but I helped with spelling, grammar, style, etc.

A certain technical training outfit has such bad materials that I had a small agreement to proof-read their slide decks for a while -- but then the authors got mad that the outfit was deducting my fee from their own so they stopped using me...with predictable results *facepalm*

It doesn't take much more than sprachgefül and some common sense to improve many pieces. The real work of editing -- improving pace and character and plot -- canonly be done once the mechanics have been fixed (for which read "all too seldom").
posted by wenestvedt at 1:01 PM on March 1, 2011


FAMOUS MONSTER, please give let me sign up somewhere to buy your novella so I don't forget to buy it when (if? please let it be when!) you finish it! Maybe just make a Google Spreadsheet or a mailing list of some kind?
posted by sveskemus at 1:04 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh wow.

Yeah, no problem. I'll mark you down as "wants to be reminded" ... I suppose if anyone else would like to be added to this, feel free to give me a shout, in-thread or via MeFiMail or whatever tickles your fancy. I'll need a short while to set up an e-mail address for it but then yeah, this works.

For what it's worth, the overwhelmingly positive response in this thread has done a lot to shift me from "ha ha this would be a funny thing to do" to "Okay, need to make time for this one."
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:09 PM on March 1, 2011


I want the Black Guy's dialogue to be only variations on how much he hates everyone.

Duh. And, just in case it isn't obvious, you can't give him a name. He's "The Black Guy".
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 1:17 PM on March 1, 2011


Remind me plz FAMOUS MONSTER.
posted by Nattie at 1:22 PM on March 1, 2011


What's bouncing around in my head right now is that whoever was given the thankless job of editing it - before they more or less completely give up - assigns names to the characters in the endnotes of the first chapter, to be used going forward, but is forced to admit that they have no idea what to name the Black Guy so his name becomes Guy.

Guy Black.

on preview: okay! into the spreadsheet you go. it is warm there.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:23 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The tragedy of this thread is that there's a lot of stuff I'd like to comment on, but I actually have a book due to the printer next week, so I don't really have the time.

Long story short: a lot of people do just fine without college, too -- they start their own businesses or whatnot -- but that doesn't really constitute a method that others can follow. There will always be people who just strike out on their own and succeed. But the "system" -- be it "education as a means for preparing for a professional future" or mainstream publishing -- exists partly as a business, and partly as a road map. I wouldn't begrudge anyone's success through self-publishing any more than I would begrudge someone who didn't need a college degree to succeed, but at the same time, for a number of reasons, I can't recommend someone not do either of those things, if they wanted a professional career or to become an author. (Note that's "author," not "writer" -- anyone can be a writer; just write.) By all means -- if you just can't crack traditional publishing, go do what you need to do. But you've got a better chance of getting an agent or an editor to look at your book if it's any good than you do hoping lighting will strike with self e-publishing.

To put it another way: this sort of thing is the "Angry Birds" of e-publishing.

As for the benefits of a professional editor, well, let's just say I'm pretty secure in my future prospects -- sure, you have betas, but authors have used writer's groups and the like for criticism for decades, but that hasn't stopped them from needing (in some cases, really needing) a professional editor nonetheless. I'm less certain about publishing houses, but I won't exactly shed any tears over them as entities.

Self-published authors are often already motivated self-promoters. I suspect all writers will now have to learn these skills. I don't suspect this will be an easy, or painless, evolution of the biz.

I'd say that future is already here. I know you're familiar with genre, so you probably don't have to try hard to think of outspoken authors with a strong web presence, via twitter, blog, or whatever. Whether that's good for the field is an open question; it seems to be pretty good for those authors so far, and given the abysmal promotion budgets (I once knew of a major book that a big publisher was professing heavy support for, and that had a publicity budget of ... $600), it's at least understandable.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:43 PM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


FURTHERMORE! I am heading out for the day and do not want to miss any further requests so please just shoot me a MeMail if you would like to be notified when this thing is ready for public consumption (followed by public digestion and then of course public excretion).
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:44 PM on March 1, 2011


Metafilter needs a section where aspiring editors can post their info and qualifications

Not just aspiring editors - the MeFite editing brigade has significant experience in fiction, non-fiction, and technical work.

I know some MeFi editors have profiles on Jobs.
posted by catlet at 1:44 PM on March 1, 2011


Re: producing an ePub

I haven't used it yet, but it looks like Sigil is pretty highly recommended. I produce html eBooks for Distributed Proofreaders, and we are just starting to get into mobile eBooks (primarily ePubs), which are currently auto-generated from HTML with mediocre results.
posted by muddgirl at 2:21 PM on March 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


In many ways, editors are not just caretakers of punctuation, spelling and grammar; they ensure that the story maintains continuity, that the plot structure or timeline of referenced events is adhered to, that thematic tropes aren't overused or mixed together, and that purple prose and awkward phraseology are stamped out.

I don't have an issue with self-publishing as an industry; what I DO have a problem with is the surfeit of writers who declare themselves "experts" in a subject arbitrarily (I met someone online in just three weeks and married him - I'm an ONLINE DATING EXPERT!) or get bent out of shape over being edited at ALL.

An editor does a lot more than what you imagine he or she does. For example, I routinely:

- Fact-check everything that's been cited for spelling, source, clarity and contextual usage within an article/doctoral thesis/chapter

- Check the public mail boxes for each author for threats, comments, media requests, etc. and respond, forward or ignore accordingly

- Act as a de facto PR agent on the author's behalf, when necessary

- Review article pitches and ideas for future publication and/or provide them for writers, including sources, contact information, etc.

- Provide run dates, metrics, and audience demographics for the author by source/publication for their portfolios

- Review the ROI involved by topic, author, web site, turnaround time, etc.

- Write teasers, descriptions, headlines, promotional copy and keywords associated with each piece and/or choose images/get image approval/press kit assembly, etc.

YMMV.

I'm sure my job is being edged out by the self-publishing industry. When I complete a survey, there's almost NEVER a job title in any pull-down menu that remotely resembles what I do. Writer? Editor? What's that?

It doesn't help that the kind of guidelines provided in professional publication "bibles" (such as the AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style are being outpaced by constantly evolving Internet verbiage. I am editing web-based content, and it needs to cater to an audience that feeds off a diet of memes, made-up slang and technology-based naming conventions that didn't exist the year before. Lump that in with readers who think they should see "Do's and Don'ts" instead of "Dos and don'ts" and... well... yeah (DO HAS? DO IS? WTF? "It looks weird to me!").

I've edited at least one famous author whose work was virtually unreadable and required approval on every single edit I made -- even factual errors that were glaringly obvious, such as numbering chapters 8, 9, 12. I've also worked with an uncredited ghost writer for at least one celebrity -- said celebrity couldn't turn on the computer without help, but managed to "write" one or two books a year for several years.

What you can charge and what people will buy is relative; there is no "set" charge for editing or writing in today's world.

Amassing a huge following quickly is indicative of having actualized one of three possibilities:

1. You have insane marketing skills and will stop at nothing to promote yourself and your newest product, whether it's a blog, e-book, coaching program, video series, etc. This means you must produce your content quickly, update consistently, promote daily (minimum) and be available for any kind of interaction with the public and the media without question. This is the realm of the self-publisher, the celebrity blogger, social media kings and queens, and people shepherded into the public consciousness by Oprah Winfrey.

2. You have achieved resonance with a certain type of niche audience and will maintain it as long as you don't deviate from the formula that helped you achieve that. (In other words, sometimes in trying to pull off a Richard Bachman, you end up pulling a Chris Gaines instead. Sorry for mixing media in my analogy.) Occasionally, this makes you a "one-hit wonder" - i.e., you've thrown Jane Austen and zombies into a blender, or you've decided that men and women correspond with nearby planets.

3. You're a good writer with a particular style or set of characters that are embraced by a wide variety of audiences, regardless of your target demo, and you've got the power of a wealthy publishing house behind you to make sure that your work gets translated and distributed the world over. Your audience follows Dr. Scarpetta's adventures for years, buys every Letter in the alphabet (and its corresponding crime) or waits for your newest film adaptation starring Rachel McAdams.

Self-published writers are going to have to learn to adapt in order to poach audiences from each of the above possibilities as their careers evolve to stay current on profitable. This might include branching out into new forms of expression as the number of direct competitors increases. Ultimately, the way to win this game is to become your own brand from the get-go, or accept that you have a limited run within your current career choice and a back-up plan in place to implement when your audience moves on.

I'd love to see excerpts from famous authors' works before and after editing posted somewhere, much in the same vein as the "before/after Photoshop" photography sites. There's a lot more work involved in being a professional editor than just "airbrushing" the copy, so to speak.

TL;DR - your favorite writer is potentially unrecognizable without editing, and a good relationship between an editor and an author can make the difference between mediocrity and magic.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:45 PM on March 1, 2011 [21 favorites]


Finally, I can do something with the Nanowrimo book I wrote 6 years ago!
posted by luvcraft at 2:57 PM on March 1, 2011


I'd love to see excerpts from famous authors' works before and after editing posted somewhere, much in the same vein as the "before/after Photoshop" photography sites.

The most famous recent example is Gordon Lish's work on Raymond Carver's short stories, as depicted in a New Yorker feature. E.G. the story "Beginners." Of course, there's a serious controversy over whether Lish did violence to Carver's work with his heavy hand.

Check out the end! "Gin's gone."
posted by msalt at 3:02 PM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Good on her.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:05 PM on March 1, 2011


Well I know what I'll be doing this weekend.

Vampire Novel it is the
n.

So you might say it's going to be something of a...vampire weekend for you, huh?
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:06 PM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jesus, msalt - thank you for that!

I think I'll keep this link handy the next time someone complains about me putting paragraphs in chronological order or changing a source's citations from "first name" to "last name" throughout...
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:17 PM on March 1, 2011


sorry, stay current OR profitable, 1st sentence after 3. para above in my initial comment

(Please don't implement an editing window beyond preview, Metafilter. Some of us old-schoolers are still OK with marking up copy.)
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:27 PM on March 1, 2011


I'm kind of suprised Amazon hasn't done the same thing for music. It would be easy for them to allow self publication of tracks and take the same 30% of whatever the artist charged. Musicians would get a centralized marketplace and some level of promotion (especially if there was a Top Sellers list), the buyer would get a centralized location for browsing, and Amazon gets its cut. Seen like a no-brainer.
posted by rtimmel at 4:04 PM on March 1, 2011


rtimmel: They probably would if they weren't also trying to negotiate good deals for distributing existing music archives electronically.
The record industry seems to have a strong history of collective bargaining, unlike the publishing industry. Also publishing nearly missed the digital revolution, some could argue that they are simply past the point where they can resist the dominance of Amazon and Apple.

But I bet you could get your album listed as a self published. physical product if you wanted to put some effort into it.
posted by darkfred at 4:11 PM on March 1, 2011


while his lean muscly figure existed in the fine cotton of his shirt

That is the best thing I've read for at least a week.
posted by flaterik at 4:18 PM on March 1, 2011


Is there a breakdown anywhere of self published ebooks books by sales? How about demographics of those actually buying/reading this sort of thing?

Granted, still early days, but I note that the kind of books that seem to hit it big are those that have either a young (vampires) or tech absorbed (IT books) audience rather than, say general non-fiction or murder mysteries.

Just curious
posted by IndigoJones at 4:20 PM on March 1, 2011


robocop is bleeding, please write don't write a book. Write many books.
posted by Uncle Ira at 4:47 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a really interesting thread for me, in no small part because I've been toying with starting an ebook publishing business for several years, and am only now looking at really doing it (mostly I delayed because I didn't have the money to do stuff like incorporate and buy ISBNs). I've also pretty much decided to self-publish my fantasy novella (which afaict is too short for book publishers and too long even for novella-publishing fantasy magazines). So it's inspiring to hear about somebody making a success of it.
posted by joannemerriam at 5:35 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


FAMOUS MONSTER, I would like to be reminded also!

If you want some inspiration for the format, see the novel Ibid. It a book written entirely in footnotes and contains an introductory section that is in the spirit of what you're descibing.

God speed and steam ahead!
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 8:49 PM on March 1, 2011


Please remind me, too! Also, I'd like to be added to a list of MeFi editors or even just "beta readers," if such a list exists.
posted by audacity at 8:50 PM on March 1, 2011


Fuck it. The Pudgy Budgie is taking to the sky, along with the Furies, Spex, a shitload of herons, hushed whispers of Maxwell's equations in Battery Park alchemy shops, dirigible battles, voltaic piles, and more plot twists than a boiler room pipe fitting.

The Charge Must Flow.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:48 PM on March 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Good for her. I doubt there are more than a handful of authors making money like this, but I'm happy for those few who do make it work. The more people who can earn a living from writing in this world, the better.
Fuck that. I cannot read the excruciating first chapter of "My Blood Approves" knowing that it is a best seller and take away some notion that something good is happening to this world.
posted by aesacus at 11:19 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel: Fuck it. The Pudgy Budgie is taking to the sky, along with the Furies, Spex, a shitload of herons, hushed whispers of Maxwell's equations in Battery Park alchemy shops, dirigible battles, voltaic piles, and more plot twists than a boiler room pipe fitting.

Score! I have no earthly idea what a voltaic pile is, but i'm deeply interested in reading about one. Especially if it turns out to be an ailment (A steampunk ailment!) that the Pudgy Budgie somehow suffers from, leading to a side quest which involves the above-mentioned shitload of herons.

So basically, please put me down as someone who would like to be informed when this is purchasable because I have $5 here burning an impatient hole in my pocket.
posted by pseudonymph at 1:38 AM on March 2, 2011


I have no earthly idea what a voltaic pile is

$20, same as in town.
posted by mikepop at 5:08 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I cannot read the excruciating first chapter of "My Blood Approves" knowing that it is a best seller and take away some notion that something good is happening to this world.

This isn't about Hocking - whose writing doesn't speak to me either.

It's about joannemerriam and the others in this thread who are suddenly perceiving new possibilities for self-expression.

I consider that an unalloyed Wonderful Thing.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:36 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of these days I will get around to writing just the absolute most loathsome right-wing Clancy-esque military scifi I can possibly muster. I mean somewhere between John Norman and John Ringo and maybe Terry Goodkind. Like all about a guy who is the best at everything and has the most sex with the hottest girls and kills terrorists and does the most martial arts.

I fear this has been done already.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:47 AM on March 2, 2011


Dark NanoBlood Rising: the Space Ninja death triumph prophecy begins
an ND¢ joint

Cricter Phasetron awoke in the hyperbolic chamber where super space ninjas wake up and thought "I can feel I was just born knowing all the karate ever and having laser gun hands, but it appears something is wrong." He busted out of the chamber and saw a bunch of scientists in silver science suits and said "In the 4 seconds I've been alive I've extrapolated that you have been secretly inventing evil super space ninjas designed to enslave humanity. Looks like you shouldn't have left the insightomotron on too long chumps!" The evil scientists just had time to look over at the control panel and see that Phasetron was indeed correct, and to utter the last syllables of their lives - "Oooh fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu!" before their eyeballs were kicked down their body and out their eyes with their evil brains caught on them. Because Cricter had awakened early thanks to the overbaked insightmotron and was able to use his insouciant telekinesis to increase his super karate too, making him the single greatest space ninja ever. And he would need all his powers to bring peace to a galaxy torn asunder by the cyclopiansamuri wars currently tearing it asunder even more than it already was.

Just then in walked Nansumi Silverbeam the beautiful and sincere girl who likes to read books but is really super beautiful and amazing and genius but nobody knows it because she is so humble. "I know we were meant to love each other Cricter, because the space prophecy foretells it, and I feel in my heart a great longing for you which is very spiritual and yet chastely loinwarming, but I have been betrothed to Blandolf Goodnicer, the prince of Saturnalia 12 and he is so caring and respectful and not dangerous. Alas I am sure to be unable to decide which of you to give my space nano virginity to while many great adventures unfold" she said beautifully.

"Don't worry Silverbeam" Cricter replied "You won't have to choose between me and your precious Prince who I know I will not like even though he is so nice because I can't possibly be yours though the prophecy foretells it and I am one of the only ones who realizes how truly super beautiful and amazing and genius you are because my computer brain implant module has revealed all your wonderful deeds in the seconds we've been staring into each others chronotron eye-phasetrons which look like swirling smoke-filled eyes (visit ndcentjoint.com to purchase awesome contacts that look like these) but can transfer laser ebeams and unlock the many puzzles and mysteries we are sure to face if we can use logic and have a little luck. I can't be yours, because I am too consumed by the need to hunt down every single evil space ninja these scientists ebirthed and destroy them so that humanity can again know peace. I'll be too busy using laser karate so much all the time and in so much danger trying to unlock the hidden puzzles in the darkest corners of the galaxy and I can't risk someone as special as you ever getting hurt." "Looks like you don't have a choice Cricter" smiled Nansumi "because I'm the only one who knows how to pilot the fastest cloaknanofrigate in the galaxy, and Von Kampf Braincrunch is about to detonate a mindwipe from Richoletta 4 in twelve vector hours!" Phasetron knew he had no choice but to go with her. "Alright Silverbeam, but remember, when the laser karate starts, you be sure to hide." "Yeah right" she said with a seductive grin. Just as he leaned in to kiss her because he couldn't resist her beauty -- Oh shit e-zombies!!!!!!!

Etc. now where do I go to get my money?
posted by ND¢ at 7:21 AM on March 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Mefites are discussing betas. And writing nonsense for fun. My Internet universe is imploding.
posted by zennie at 7:24 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jeff considered himself a pretty normal dude. He did all the normal things you would have expected of a twenty-something white guy nowadays. He worked enough to get by, maybe even ahead, in a job he really didn’t care much about. He cared too much what strangers thought of him, but not enough about what he friends did. They considered him a good guy anyways, which he would have been glad to know if he thought to ask. He was passionate about sports when his team was winning, but indifferent the rest of the time. Maybe Jeff relied on natural talent a bit too much, never really needing to buckle down and try hard, but because Jeff was a ninja, that’s perfectly understandable.
Ninjas just tend to be good at things.
As it turns out, Jeff was a pretty good ninja. He didn’t look like a ninja, of course, but that’s true for most good ninjas. Jeff looked like an average white guy in his mid-twenties of average height, with average brown hair, and average looks. The best ninja is the ninja you least expect and looking at Jeff, you wouldn’t even know. He just looked so average. Jeff certainly didn’t. He was such a good ninja that, up to that morning in March, he didn’t even know he was a ninja.
When he woke up that morning in March, Jeff just considered himself a normal guy with a normal hangover from a normal night out with friends. He did not consider himself a rugged hero of legend, but he did carry his hangover well, accepting the pain and aches as battle wounds righteously earned, as new challenges to be conquered with coffee and a greasy diner breakfast.
So Jeff roused himself from bed and donned his cleanest clothes, which were not clean at all, but really, how much effort can you expect from a hungover dude on a Sunday morning? That he made it to the diner around the corner from the apartment he shared with friends he had not yet shed from college should be enough of an accomplishment for most people.
But, as we know, Jeff was not most people.
Most people, upon entering the crowded diner, would roll their eyes and exchange meaningful glances with their dining companions about the long wait. They’d start to think up alternate plans, maybe opt for a bagel or something, feeling that their hunger was too unique and immediate to have to wait amongst lesser appetites. Jeff did not mind that it would take ten minutes, maybe more, of waiting awkwardly by the old broken jukebox to get a seat at the counter. He didn’t even mind that while waiting he would be tortured by the sights and smells of coffee and bacon and syrup that would play across the face of his yawning hunger like a fishing lure. He just leaned against the wall next to the jukebox and put his hands in his jacket pockets to wait.
In his left pocket he found five dollars he did not know he had. This pleased Jeff, even though this sort of thing happened all the time. Jeff constantly found five dollars - in his pockets, on the ground, and once even mailed to him by a woman who though he was her great nephew, but he was not.
Jeff did not keep that last five dollars, because it wasn’t the Right Thing To Do, but he did keep that five he found in his pocket that morning in March. Maybe he had left it there from the night before? Jeff didn’t think that much about it because it was so routine. If he had asked his friends how often they found five dollars, he would have been surprised by their answers.
Still, the discovery of five dollars was a happy distraction from the growing hunger he felt inside him. Jeff decided to use that money to expand his breakfast plans, maybe make it more of a brunch, a single large meal that would last him most of the day. Jeff did not know that this was his ninja instincts planning ahead. Jeff’s day would have much more in it than laundry and a quick shopping trip. It would have conflict, probably some violence, and maybe even a bit of passion.
Jeff’s first conflict of the day was claiming a seat at the counter when one became available. He saw another patron, one who had blown in after Jeff by a good seven minutes, try to make a move for the vacant seat. The guy had no chance - ninja, after all - but Jeff did admire his pluck. Jeff was a good winner like that.
But the guy was not a good loser. “Hey,” he said as Jeff slid onto the stool, “I was going to sit there.”
“Sorry, man. I’ve been waiting for like ten minutes,” Jeff replied. He added a slight wincing shrug, always a showman, to help ease the pain. Jeff turned back to the counter and picked up a menu even though he already had decided what he was going to order.
The guy muttered something and Jeff lost any respect he had for him. For a brief moment, his ninja soul uncoiled, flaring into life, but the moment passed and Jeff would rather eat eggs and toast and bacon than punish a dude for being more hungry than patient. And let it be said, Jeff would have totally ruined that guy. Even though Jeff’s ninja soul had slept dormant and incomplete most of his life, even though Jeff never had any formal combat training, and even though Jeff was a nice guy at heart, Jeff was the biggest badass in the entire diner. And that included the two cops eating by the window, the Marine vet who worked the grill, and the two ex-cons, one of whom had killed a guy with his fists and got away with it, that sat at a table uncomfortably near the police.
Jeff placed his order with the counter waitress, a woman of middle age who could have easily been cast as a waitress in a movie if she had only called Jeff ‘Hon’ or something. Training is important, no matter how much of a natural you are, as Jeff would soon learn. As he sipped his coffee, black, Jeff saw the seat poacher claim a stool across the diner from him. Though Jeff was impacted in no way by the guy sitting down in a seat that wouldn’t even allow for accidental yet meaningful eye contact, he tensed anyways. Quick as sunlight breaking through on a cloudy day, Jeff pictured all the ways he could punish the guy with the tools at hand. A perfectly thrown fork would nail his hand to the counter. A sharp kick to a napkin holder would send it spinning across the room to crash into his head. A whispered word of breaking would shatter the cup of hot coffee, driving ceramic shards deep into soon to be scalded skin.
These sort of thoughts had been coming unbidden more and more for the past week or so. Jeff had chalked them up to a need to get laid, or maybe stress at work. He did not know it was his ninja soul blooming, ready to open like a flower. So Jeff ate his breakfast in silence, never imagining the violence he pictured was totally within his grasp.
But someone did know what Jeff was capable of and that someone was headed Jeff’s way.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:38 AM on March 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


Did you catch Wanted the other night on FX too?
posted by ND¢ at 7:43 AM on March 2, 2011


Confidential to ND¢: Holy motherfucking shit. If there is a thing in this universe funnier than "laser karate" I'm not sure I want to know about it.

Confidentual to robocop is bleeding: YES.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:44 AM on March 2, 2011


As every Campbell scholar knows, the Hero's Journey begins with a bout of insomnia and basic cable.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:50 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just bundle up all the great writing in this thread into a book called "Favorite Added: Mefi Story Starters" and put it out there and let everyone write continuations and post them to a new subsite.
posted by mikepop at 7:53 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


As every Campbell scholar knows, the Hero's Journey begins with a bout of insomnia and basic cable.

Works for both Bruce and Joseph.
posted by zennie at 8:05 AM on March 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Hold your tongue," interrupted the lissome Steam Elf. "There is yet more. It would appear that he has once again built an army of his mechanical warriors, and they mass even now at the gates of Passaic. If my spies are correct, and they usually are because elves are so stealthy they're incredible at being spies, Kevin intends to penetrate into Fort Lee - an easy feat for such a powerful dark mage - and then he will march his army unstoppably over the Martha Washington Bridge, penetrating into Washington Heights and splitting its defenses apart with the thrust of his army's might. It is our belief that then, with a mighty heave, his army will make one final, powerful thrust into the defenseless borough of Manhattan, battering it with wave after wave of ramming assaults, and it will not be long before..."

"Oh no!" ejaculated Masterson.


Fucking epic.
posted by odinsdream at 8:09 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hgrar Rararr, Yeti Cosmonaut

Hgrar Rararr was not thinking about the humans the Yeti had wiped out hundreds of years ago when they decided to abandon hiding in the mountains and stuff and instead take over the world. He was thinking about spaceship controls because he was in one. Also, he had never paid attention to ancient history in school so he didn't have a lot of material to think about such things even if he was so inclined (which, he wasn't). Hgrar was thinking about Mars because he was going to be the first Yeti to land on it.

Hgrar prepared his ship, the Erowrrrr, for final descent. He did this just by pressing a few buttons because Yeti technology was advanced enough to make this look easy, although it was not too advanced because he was the first Yeti to explore this far in space. The ship landed and Hgrar allowed himself a quiet victory growl. This would have surprised his fellow cosmonauts back at Yeti Moon Base since he was known as a tough, no-nonsense Yeti who never let his emotions get the better of him. Still, in this private moment he could not deny celebrating this epic feat as he was secretly quite sensitive and even wrote poetry.

Since Yeti use a lot of non-verbal communication Hgrar did not speak any words as he set foot on Mars. He eSent a message via typeLink: "Landing successful. Proceeding with mission." His bright white spacesuit was a brilliant contrast against the red Martian soil. His spaceship was also sleek and white as he walked away from it towards a ridge. According to probes they sent earlier, beyond the ridge was a water source where he could begin setting up the terraForm equipment which would start turning Mars into a more Earth-like planet.

As he came to the top of the ridge he would have been surprised by what looked like a small settlement of some kind, if he hadn't instead been surprised first by a vehicle approaching him at a very high speed. It was not sleek like his spaceship and his moonBuggy back home. Instead it was a mishmosh of various metals and its surface seemed alive with turning gears and thrusting pistons. Hgrar stood transfixed and wondered if it was steam trailing out behind this strange mechanical apparition that stopped a short distance away.

With a hiss a hatchway opened and three suited figures emerged. Unlike his spacesuit, these creatures were wearing suits made of a mix of coppery-colored metal and some sort of stiff black material. Like their strange vehicle their suits were covered with all sort of clicking and whirring machinery that looked old to him as Yeti technology had replaced much of it with electronics or at least enclosed gears and things when they were needed.

His surprise turned to alarm as one of them raised what looked like a weapon and with a whirr sent a ball covered in hooks and barbs directly at him, pretty much confirming that it was a weapon of some sort. The primitive projectile ripped open his suit and he fell to the ground gasping for air. His alarm turned back to surprise as he saw through the helmets of the suits that inside the suits were humans, which as mentioned before he did not know a lot about but he knew what they sort of looked like and that were supposed to have been all wiped out by the Yeti hundreds of years ago. There was still a lot of alarm mixed in with his surprise, actually, since he was still losing air and they were now grabbing him and dragging him towards their vehicle. Then surprise came on a bit stronger as Hgrar looked at one of the humans yelling something at him and noticed that she was a female, and that he felt attracted to her. This was right before he passed out.
posted by mikepop at 9:16 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


part of the reason i've been on the fence about going with a publishing house for couple of books i've been working on is because of the ludicrously high hidden costs of being a published author. i've spoken to numerous of my published friends (and yes, they are numerous) and am blown away at how exploitative the publisher-writer relationship can be.

first off, only a handful of these people got advances. with a couple of them, at first i thought the advances were outstanding. then my friends found out the sad truth about the money: publishing houses seem to have dispensed with the need of actual literary or non-fiction editors. if you actually want to have a "sound board" and someone to "get" your style, you have to hire them yourself. almost all of my published friends basically were given copy-editors whose job was more akin to a project manager than an editor.

then there's the publishing house hustle.

so, let's say you get a book deal as a non-fiction writer with a prestigious house, but they say, "well, we dont really have money for an advance, but you have our prestige". some of my friends are in semi/academic careers in which publishing is a must, so that's a reason to bite the bullet. for others it was the bait: they didnt get actual real advances they got basically kind of a "hook" fee. these are good writers and good books, the pub houses knew they had product that would sell. so they hoodwink the writers a few grand to lock them into contracts at almost no cost to the house.

contract is locked. future published author is stoked. then reality fixes them for a smackdown: now there's the real cost of taking time off a job to write the books. add to that any potential costs in specialized research or fact checking. then, if it's a discipline based book, you may need charts or infographics and you have to pay that out of your pocket. by the time the finished manuscript goes to press, more than a few easily spent well over $20K just to get the damn books written.

by this time, none of my friends were boasting about being a published authors because now they knew the next set of bad news would make it's way: not one of the publishing houses involved put any money to promote these people's books. and i seriously, i mean, not one of them.

now, two of the most enterprising friends were able to negotiate sponsors for their book tours. but both are also frackingly brilliant entrepreneurs. those without sponsors ended up either racking bills in the tens of thousands or had to considerably limit their marketing.

oh, and did you know publishing houses make you pay out of your own pocket for books you want to give away for review?

oh, and did you know publishing houses will fight you tooth and nail if you try to give away pdfs or digital versions of said books for review because they want you to pay for meatspace copies to begin with?

just a couple of weeks ago i had a convo with one of these friends and they said that, after all was said and done, if they had to do it all over again, they would have gone the route of self-publishing electronically. and this person, by the way, has sold in the low tens of thousands of their book and it has been translated into several languages already. this person is actually a "hit" as far as the publishing world is concerned. yet, given how little money they've actually seen in return, compared to the cost of getting published, they wouldnt do it again if she were a n00b.

so these news couldnt have come at a better time because my friend ended up the aforementioned convo with the words, "do it yourself". i may well go that route after all. dont be shocked if you see an "editor wanted" listing on the MeFi job board with my name on it.
posted by liza at 11:08 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nosferatu Encoded
A Steampunk Alliance Novel


By It's Raining Florence Henderson

Chapter 1

Batshit Insane, LTD.

The downside to being an invisible hipster ninja assassin is that, generally speaking, people can't see you. And while that may be an advantage when spider-walking between the Hadelands gaslight chandeliers on the ceiling at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (given that it would seriously hurt your hipster-cred to be caught buying popular event tickets in the non-ironic seating section), when furiously pedaling your fixie along New York Avenue in early-morning traffic, it means you'd better hug the right curb like you want to be more than just friends.

Dylan McMehsalot popped a wheelie to avoid committing to a long-term relationship with a body cast courtesy of a swerving taxi with a fat ass, then shot a neodymium magnet bolt from his wrist-mounted crossbow to the top of a passing Metrobus and sailed right over the belching boiler of the braking cab as the nano-fiber cable trailing from the bolt-shaft suddenly snapped taught and reeled him up to the roof of the lumbering Metrobus like a mutant steam-punk marlin pre-dressed for mounting.

"Ninja needs a lift like a fish needs a bicycle," Dylan quipped as he settled onto the soot-grimed roof of the Metrobus to finish his commute in style. He nibbled the oversized silicone bite valve of his porcelain-lined, copper hydro-pack reservoir with blindingly-whitened bicuspids to wet his pouty, full, beeswax-polished lips with a few precious drops of quad-shot, Fair Trade Certified, organic, shade grown, iced vanilla latte (no whip). Shrugging non-committedly despite the immediate rush of pleasure accompanying the sweet nectar now vigorously French-kissing his parched throat, Dylan flipped on his leather-clad, aBacus-enabled, wireless night-vision goggles to browse the profile of his latest target once more before the breach, (dear friends). Yeah… There's an app for that.

The target was none other than President Orlok. Leader of the Free Dark World. God-Count Nosferatu. No problem. Dylan McMehsalot had been staking The Undead Lords of Darkness in their Impenetrable Lairs since way before it was cool.

But he was flying into this assignment hot. Very hot. Full steam ahead, even. Because the stakes had never been so high. If the fate of all mankind wasn't yet riding on the shoulders of our impeccably under-dressed hipster ninja assassin, it was definitely waiting at the next stop, ticket in hand. And that was one ticket that Dylan McMehsalot planned to punch. With extreme prejudice. Return trip optional.
# # #
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:14 PM on March 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


A MODERN FABLE
By THE WHELK



The King is dead. He threw a spent beer can at the TV. The King is dead and she didn't even wait for the body to cool before she moved in, started to redecorate, started to give commands. Well no one was gonna command him. He opened another beer. He'd caught the rabbit, the balls of fire, shook them up and broke them free - he *was* King, vast and huge and resplendent in his gold and platinum. The first King. The ONLY King. And he gave it up. Gave it up honorably. Settled down. Retired. Sitting in a brown leather recliner with only a small TV and Big Momma to comfort him. It was nice. It was peaceful.

Then She came.

She took his daughter, the fool little blackbird. He didn't like to speak ill of kin but she'd ran her pink peddle pushers straight to the gates of Never Land as soon as The Lady set up house. He couldn't stop her. No man could could a girl with a wild hair in her head. Not even a King.

So he sat there, listening to the Lady decree from the Shake Rattle Throne, the throne he built with his own hands. Not even the Fab had this kind of nerve. Even the Thin White Duke knew to leave his realm alone. It was just disrespectful, that's what it was. He threw another can at the TV, missing it and hitting the wooden wall duck.

"You could call her" Said big Momma, cleaning a skillet.

"I'll be dead in the ground 40 days before I give her another look."

Big Momma didn't even look up. "She knows the Lady's realm. You two go back a while. She's still got power." Momma rubbed the rim of the skillet. "You know how."

The King stared into a space just above the TV. The dowager was unpredictable, she had eaten so many who came to her for help. Unpredictable. Unstable. No one visited her lightly.

Still.

It wouldn't take much. Just call her name. Like a little prayer. What's the harm? If it could help get Billy back.....

The King got on his knees and wispered Her Name.

And then he was gone.

Big Momma picked up the beer cans and folded up his blanket and then returned to washing up.
posted by The Whelk at 6:26 PM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


CONTINUED

Changing worlds is a snap really, just like changing key. It's the dismount that's' trouble, it feels just like falling. The King threw up, wobbly kneed at the gates of the Dowager's realm. Before he got to his feet and pair of hands was around his eyes.

"Who's that girl?!"

"I know who"

"No fun if you don't guess!"

"The Dowager Queen?"

A voice laughed, like bells. "You got that baby!" She removed her hands and revealed a young girl in a red cocktail dress and bleached hairdo. She twirled around.

"Like what you see daddy-o? You think you finally want be to tell you a bedtime storyr?"

Before he could answer the King was pinned against the stone walls by a winged harpy - her talons gripping his large, soft frame.

"Or maybe I should just eat you, old one. it's been so long ...you so cherished....perish the thought of being so hungry. You've been through the wilderness, beat, incomplete, et me end your misery."

The king was unmoved. he stared right into her face, those oddly blank eyes, the flimsiness of the shadows cast....

The harpy changed again, now a flickering light show of silver and black. She was larger then life, a giant face framed in a Lana Turned do, illuminated by an unseen projector.

"You are a mystery to me Old King. Coming to my realm. I will could consume you as quick as looking at you. Makes do difference if you're a King or a commoner, or ..whatever you are."

The King looked up. The light flicking off the huge face changed his form slightly. Leaner. Stronger. Younger. He spoke up to her.

"I dislike petty magics Queen. I look around, I see no minions, no face-dancers and glamazons. You called upon me once before. You are in my debt. I ask only audience."

The silvery face of the Queen vanished into mist. From below came a smaller crouched figure, almost a little girl.

"True Blue?" True blue is that you?"

The King advanced toward her, but she bade him stop. "No! No! Don't look. "

"I'm just looking for help in finding my daughter, she's been taken by the Lady. I thought maybe you could help-"

The Queen began to wail. Her body came into light, a slip of girl, torn fishnets and off the shoulder shirts, a tangle of hair.

"No no no! Not her! I tried it all, I tried the ray of light and the Celebration. and then she ..she.." The Queen was about to collapse, bent over in a wail.

He rushed up to help her. She hid her face.

"Stay away from her True Blue. She doesn't know Love You Yah Yah Yah. She doesn't know the Do Ron Ron or Do Wop Diddy Or the Sophisticated Boom Boom. She's a thief. A good one. "

He tried to pat her turned head, that fried bleach blond mop "Now now, she's Mercury's Daughter, she must know the rules-"

"RULES?!" The Queen screamed. She turned her face toward him

"SHE TOOK MY EYES. MY EYES!"

And a smooth face turned toward him, an egg with a mouth, with only two tearing pinpricks in the middle.

"Oh dear" Thought the King, and for a second every Classic Rock DJ in the country thought the same thing.
posted by The Whelk at 8:02 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: I haven't used it yet, but it looks like Sigil is pretty highly recommended.

Ohhhh my goodness I hate it. No integrated sepllcheck? Terrible news for me. Copy from Sigil to MSWord, no problems at all. Copy from MSWord back into Sigil, font size shoots up to 73, font changes and after I fix those and the spaces between paragraphs are one character, an inch tall. Awesome. Load the previous save? First of all: look out, because the load and save buttons are both a piece of paper with an arrow pointing down, second of all don't load anything from a thumb drive or the app will crash and third of all if you already did that then the app will apparently store a cached version of the app as a blank document and will open *that* instead of your file even after you exit the app and start over.

Oh and the Windows version (and only the Windows version) has OpenCandy, which means your firewall/AV will try to stop it AND the installer will give you an ad.

Also I have no idea what I should be doing for margins, but there are none at all and
the print preview is apparently my document rendered in like 5point font or some such.

I hope somebody can say "oh, PH, you really just need to _________" or "watch [this]" or "read [that]" or something, but at this point I feel like Word/OpenOffice/an RTF editor would be quicker and less frustrating than this damned thing.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:14 AM on March 3, 2011


paisley henosis: First of all: look out, because the load and save buttons are both a piece of paper with an arrow pointing down, second of all don't load anything from a thumb drive or the app will crash and third of all if you already did that then the app will apparently store a cached version of the app as a blank document and will open *that* instead of your file even after you exit the app and start over.

Disregard that! Those were both save buttons! Load does not have a button but once I found it this headache went away.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:17 AM on March 3, 2011


Found this guide to creating an ebook out of your manuscript which looks pretty good. Now I'm writing in Word and going to use Sigil just for the ebook stuff at the end. Still can't figure out how to indent the first line of a paragraph in Sigil, but I guess I'll cross that bridge later.

Also: this is harder than I thought it would be! Apparently writing a 10 page essay for class in one night is a lot easier than creating a whole world from nothing and writing 10 pages about it in one day.
posted by paisley henosis at 1:01 PM on March 3, 2011


CONTINUED

Big Momma walked in the woods between the worlds. They're not very different then most woods, a little hotter, a bit wetter, a little more teaming with creeping plant life and the occasional swarm of ten million fireflies but otherwise just another wood. She stood before a rock, just an ordinary stone, stuck in the mud. With a penknife she slowly scrapped off
the moss, then circled it three times with salt.

"Little Demon! I've come on the bitch wind to bring you forth. Speak!"

The rock was silent

"I'll shake a chicken in the middle of the room Little Demon! I've set the burning ring! Don't play a hide and go seek! Your house is on fire and your children are gone! Mother calls you home!"

From someplace deep under the earth came a voice, almost a whisper. " You are not my Mother. But you are a part of her. I will speak, for now."

"Can no one stop the Lady?

"The big wheel keeps on turnin'" Said the Little Demon. "No one will know if he headin' up or down."

A slow rising sound began to fill the wood, just on the edge of hearing.

"The others know. Go Around The Roses and Run Rabbit. You know them too Little Demon, what do they say?"

The noise got louder.

"The shades won't help you, little girl. Stagger Lee? Crow Jane? All haunting city shops and old men's ears. They fear the Lady even more then you do."

"She's new" Big Momma hissed. "What could she possibly-"

"Silence young one! Stop listen to that sound.." The bullfrogs croaked around her, beating out a rhythm GA GA GA GA GA GA GA GA GA

"She has taken him. She has taken Him and put a shade in his place. Soon she'll have the entire kingdom. And you sent the King right into her clutches."

Big Momma stepped back, out of the circle. A mistake. The frogs advanced on her. The Little Demon erupted into a laugh, loud enough to shake the wood. RAH RAH AH HA HA RAH RAH OH LA LA. RAH RAH A HA HA HA.

Big Momma ran, faster then ever before, faster then when she was Proud Mary. Faster then the speed of song. She fell face first into a bower, the thorns tore on her legs and arms. For the first time Big Momma felt old. She laid there a moment, until a yard bird appeared out of thicket and landed on her shoulder. It leaned its small beak to her ancient ear.

"There is a house in New Orleans, old mother, where the three still dwell. In hiding. Secret. Safe. Go there and find your answers."

The bird flew away and Big Momma sat up.

"Oh Lord." She thought. "Anyone but them."
posted by The Whelk at 2:05 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Update from her blog
I did check out one of her books (because $.99 why not?) and couldn't get past chapter two (gah!), but .......I am not the target audience. Anyways, good for her living her dream, unlike most of us. And as per the link, she seems totally aware of the whole editor issue:

There is so much stress in doing it all yourself. The editing is never good enough. And finding an editor isn't as easy everyone thinks. People thinking an editor is just having someone read through it a few times, checking for basic grammar and spelling, and while that is part of it, it's also much larger than that. It's helping tighten up sentences, watching repeated phrases, helping with flow, etc.

And it is really, really hard (or at least, it has been for me) to find an editor that can do all that. My books have all been edited - several times, by dozens of people with varying backgrounds - and people still find errors

posted by mkim at 5:01 PM on March 5, 2011


My books have all been edited - several times, by dozens of people with varying backgrounds - and people still find errors

To be fair, I find errors in major releases from the big houses (and I'm not one of those guys who unfailingly zeroes in on that stuff) so there is that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:48 PM on March 5, 2011


Recent blog post from Amanda Hockins on the realities of self-publishing

And while I do think I will not be the only one to do this - others will be as successful as I've been, some even more so - I don't think it will happen that often.

Traditional publishing and indie publishing aren't all that different, and I don't think people realize that. Some books and authors are best sellers, but most aren't. It may be easier to self-publish than it is to traditionally publish, but in all honesty, it's harder to be a best seller self-publishing than it is with a house.

posted by msalt at 10:11 AM on March 7, 2011


As ever, MetaFilter rewards my time admirably – and considerably more than mainstream media alternatives.

Thank you, writers, for your delightful efforts demonstrating the potential just waiting for the right opportunity to bubble up into the world (like a dirigible lifting off over a steam-shrouded... sorry... um, anyhow)

What this new model may succeed in doing is providing a reward to more people for slogging through the long, hard, process of getting from cool ideas to books that reach enough people to sustain a career as an author. In that world there are more authors and more engaged readers and I think that's a fine thing.

Sure, we want everything as long as it's free, but where there is emotional engagement we will pay to support artists. We want their drama and the touch of their hand, as artists like Amanda Palmer are demonstrating. It's that personal niche where the traditional publishing model is weak and thus where successful independents will create a thriving new model. Whether the old model can survive alongside it remains to be seen.
posted by MetaGrrrl at 8:47 AM on March 8, 2011


Hi, I posted this in the other e-book thread, but I thought I'd add it below too:

Metafilter always has a hilariously anti-journalism/anti-publishing stance that thinks that it's a techy libertarian empowerment that destabilizes large institutions, but it's actually profoundly corporatist, sharing both the CFO's addiction to cutting expenses without looking at value and the social Darwinist's imputation of a moral "ought" from an financial "is" (e.g., arguments that traditional journalism & publishing houses deserved to die, because the new economy doesn't benefit them).

All of which is just an introduction to this curious piece of news: self-publishing wunderkind Amanda Hocking has just signed up with St Martin's for $2mill. Here are some quotes from Publishers Lunch:

"I've done as much with self-publishing as any person can do," Hocking told the NYT Thursday. "People have bad things to say about publishers, but I think they still have services, and I want to see what they are. And if they end up not being any good, I don't have to keep using them. But I do think they have something to offer."

SMP publisher Matthew Shear evidently wanted to win the auction "pretty badly," having first heard of Hocking six months before from her eventual acquiring editor, Rose Hilliard. Shear looks at self-publishing as a way for authors "to perhaps make a certain amount of money sooner rather than later" but a publisher "provides an extraordinary amount of knowledge into the whole publishing process. We have the editors, we have the marketers, we have the art directors, we have the publicists, we have the sales force. And they can go out and get Amanda's books to a much, much bigger readership than she had been able to get to before."

And Hocking, while obviously excited by her new and parallel career direction, is bemused by the reaction: "It is crazy that we live in a time that I have to justify taking a seven-figure a publishing deal with St. Martin's," she wrote. "Ten years ago, nobody would question this. Now everybody is."

posted by johnasdf at 9:50 AM on March 25, 2011


Shit, this is going to close soon. Just in case anybody cares, I am 50 pages into my YA/Adventure steam punk not-ironic-but-with-many-tongues-in-cheeks-to-those-who-get-the-jokes novel, which I will be publishing on Kindle once it is finished. It will be $3 for the whole thing and probably the first act (~100 pages) will be 99 cents or a buck or whatever.

I have a family member who is a professional content editor who will be going over it for me, so that at least won't be an issue.

If you're curious / want to support a drinking Mefite with a writing problem, MeMail me and I'll drop you a link when it's "published."
posted by paisley henosis at 10:42 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


PS- if I sign a 7 figure deal I swear I will buy every single Mefite early adopter a beer.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:44 AM on March 25, 2011


Could you make a post to projects when ready too? I'm happy to throw drinks money your way, but I've got a lousy (and lossy) memory for such things.
posted by bonehead at 10:44 AM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re. Hocking's forthcoming book deal: I'm kind of at a loss to understand how the behavior of an outlier negates the validity of a trend.

When we see sales of indie-published books start to fall, publishers rebound and reduce their e-book prices to match what people are willing to pay, POD publishers and new-model publishers like Seth Godin's Domino Project fail, and distributors like Amazon, Ingram and Barnes & Noble getting out of the publishing business after all -- then we can talk about how indie publishing was just a fad. Until then, it looks like a real change agent. I'll be surprised as hell if what we're looking at now ends up being the final model -- but it sure does look like a sea-change to me.
posted by lodurr at 11:16 AM on March 25, 2011


bonehead: Could you make a post to projects when ready too? I'm happy to throw drinks money your way, but I've got a lousy (and lossy) memory for such things

That's a good idea, I'll do that when I'm closer to finished. I didn't even think of that, thanks.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:24 PM on March 25, 2011


Hi Lodurr, looks like I'm responding to you here too. Okay--it's a no brainer that this is a sea change and that Hocking is an outlier. With regards to Hocking, the question is how many times is she an outlier? She's distinctive twice rather than just once, being both one of the few self-published writers who've hit it big and being one of the few who've been bought out. How many authors will duplicate either of these?

It's not that interesting to me to argue that indie publishing is NOT a fad. I'm more interested in learning what that means. I predict we will see the following:

* Publishing houses will not die, but their model will change significantly.
* The big guy here isn't the publishing house, it's Amazon, Apple and Google.
* For the short term, at least, the values offered by publishing houses will turn self-publishing into a farm league for emerging writers without a Gaiman-sized fan-base.
* More flexible attempts by publishers to escape the book model by selling small content at low prices.
* Creating of freelance bookkeeper, book packagers, publicists, etc.--basically publishing infrastructure you can hire without having the real estate of a big publishing house.
* Self-publishing will most immediately help genre fiction and writing not concerned with economic incentive (e.g., avant-garde poetry)--it will probably "hurt" other desirable genres that are rewarded by gatekeepers (lit fic) or require capital investments (nonfiction reporting, translation). Hocking worked because she was in the right genre, whereas the current publishing infrastructure can create prominence around literary fiction writers who would never survive in a self-publishing context. For example, Nam Le's The Boat only sold like 6,000 copies, but has become sort of a classic because it was given the thumbs up by the relevant gatekeepers.
* Another way to look at this is: Metafilter loves a number of books that were heavily publicized by mainstream publishing (Infinite Jest, Cloud Atlas, Cavalier and Clay, Bill Bryson). Obviously big publishing can be the bane of quality literary fiction, but what's curious is how rarely Ask.Mefi book recommendation threads have books from small presses, like Coffee House, Graywolf, etc. The post-ebook world might look that: all the high quality non-genre books are basically invisible.

I'll stop before I further bore anyone...!
posted by johnasdf at 11:30 AM on March 27, 2011


Well, she's not one of the first who's been bought out, actually. Going indy and getting bought out has begun to seem like a model. (Dan Brown and the Eragon kid sprng to mind, but there are others.)

As for the rest, You're probably not really talking to me. When I refer to Hocking as an 'outlier' in this context, I'm just saying that her getting 'bought out' or 'selling out' (or, in her terms, taking what looks like a really good deal) doesn't really say anything about whether or not this indie revolution is going to happen or not. I think I more or less agree with you on most of your points.
posted by lodurr at 6:11 PM on March 27, 2011


Just in case anybody cares, I am 50 pages into my YA/Adventure steam punk not-ironic-but-with-many-tongues-in-cheeks-to-those-who-get-the-jokes novel.

Fantastic! On the get-of-your-ass front, I'm on page 135 of the redraft of my 270-page novel.
posted by Shepherd at 6:22 AM on March 28, 2011


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