Let’s Talk About Assholes

Not like that, you pervert. Get your mind out of the gutter. “Asshole” is the catch-all phrase we use to describe someone with less than desirable traits. It’s a label it get a lot, since I have the personality equivalent of “resting bitch face” (which is ALSO a thing I have. I hear “smile” an awful lot). But to your average person, I am standoffish, sarcastic and often cold. This buys me the asshole label, usually sarcastically, but hey, it’s a catch-all, right? More accurately, though, I am just not a huge “people person”, and buy and large, most people are OK with that when you’re polite and funny.

I try not to be an asshole.

starfish.jpg

It was this or a cat’s butt

But sometimes that term gets tossed around as an excuse. Not as a label for someone like me, who forgets to reply to your email for two weeks (sorry), but for truly unacceptable and reprehensible behavior. When someone is a serial abuser, but they haven’t abused you. “Man, he sure is an asshole.” No, an asshole cuts you off in traffic. An asshole takes too long to reply to your text or email (seriously, I’m sorry). Asshole behavior is the behavior that there is probably a reason for. They really needed to get over to make that exit. They were really busy and their dog died so they took a while to reply. Asshole behavior is not abuse, gaslighting or anything of that sort.

 

Because those people, abusers, they are nice people. They are people that everyone likes. Because that protects them. “There’s no way that could be true! They’re so nice!” That’s what those people do. They are very careful to not be assholes. Because when their abuse comes to light, there is a collection of people saying “They were always really nice to me. If that’s true, why aren’t you spelling out their abuse in graphic detail?” It may not be the same person saying those things. It might be a few people just whispering them, or pretending to under the guise of  “I’m just sayin'”.

Or just lumping them in the basket of “well, they’re an asshole. That’s not a reason not to be friends with them.” Except, no. Assholes are those people who you wonder about at first, and then you get to know them and they are deep, warm people. Or maybe, they’re just not for you and your personalities don’t line up, so you keep calling them an asshole. But don’t use it as an excuse. It’s not like being friends with an asshole driver: yeah, sometimes they cut people off and drive too fast. It’s like being friends with a drunk driver: they put people in danger, and need professional help, and you should not get in a car with them until they can prove that behavior has changed.

DESR

 

 

Reader Debt

Every so often, I see a plot post/meme/tweet/pagan incantation about what readers owe authors- reviews! Word of mouth! – or something along the lines of this:

Which.. no, no that is not. The only way you keep writing is if you keep writing (Note: Tez is quoting from a newsletter there). You may or may not make some/much/any money from it, but that’s the definition, folks.

But let’s be abundantly clear about what a reader owes you: the price of the book. That’s it. If, for example, you wish to read *my* book (which you should- it has been favorably compared to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Firefly and Twilight Zone!), you may purchase it for two dollars and ninety-nine cents, which you should most certainly do. Once you have done that, our transaction is concluded! I hope you enjoy it!

nothing

What readers owe authors

And, in the event that a reader does like it, I hope they do leave a pleasant review and tell all their friends that they should purchase said book as well. But they don’t have to. And so many authors see this as a must. But, friends, it is not. Do they help? You bet! I only have 16 reviews on my silly little collection, mostly favorable, and that helps. Is it the end-all, be-all of book selling? It is not. Does it have any bearing on my continuing to write? Certainly not. If everyone in the universe went and bought it and my next royalty check was for some absurd amount of money, or simply had more number to the left of the decimal place rather than the right, it would probably make writing more easier. But it doesn’t determine if I do.

 

Likewise, if you do not enjoy my book, I hope you keep your pretty little reader mouth shut and not tell everyone what a steaming heap of prequel-level garbage my book is, and leaving a scathing review that makes me want to never even think about words again. But you can do those things if you want! You don’t owe me jack beyond the two dollars and ninety-nine cents you spent on my book. In fact, if you want everyone who reads your book to write a review, you might regret that. I’m sure people didn’t enjoy mine and refrained from saying so. That is probably a good thing.

So authors, please, enough badgering. Market to people in a way that makes them want to buy your book, and write books that people will want to leave (favorable) reviews of. Stop worrying about how each review and each sale affects your career/sales ranking/ego/whatever.

DESR

The Approching (Learning) Curve

Writing, as a profession, is a nebulous and often silly thing. Writing, in and of itself, is straightforward. You write, tell the story that is in your head, and that is about it. But the attempt sell ones work commercially introduces all manner of grey area.

These areas are those things you wish you had a map for, the things that I now say I wish someone had told me that when I started. To quote a friend: Here’s the thing: It’s all out there. All of it. You just have to look. If you do, you can save yourself a whole bunch of heartache, work, and, hopefully, rejection.

I talked the other day about submissions, manuscript format and the like. Those are hard-and-fast things. Please, follow them. Always. This is basic and common to every market, every book, every editor.

But what about the grey areas? What should you do when the rejection comes? What about reviews?

Honestly, this is a problem. There are so many wonderful things about the internet, and what it does for the writing and reading communities. It brings us all together. You can get to know your favorite authors, authors can thank readers. It’s grand. Only… some people take to far. There are far too many instances like that, things which are completely inappropriate. So let’s run through a few scenarios and see how you, and author, can comport yourself professionally.

 

oreo

Trust me

 

 

I got a rejection from [an agent, and editor, etc]: Sorry. Eat an Oreo. That’s it. Do not reply to the editor. Do not say thank you to them. Do not ask for feedback- it is not their job. Editors and agents get literally thousands of emails. If you just clog them up with more emails, they will remember you, and not for any of the reasons you want.

Most of all, do not be angry. They are doing their job. Do not threaten them, do not send an all-caps rant to them, nothing. Don’t even subtweet them. You think editors don’t see that stuff? Even if it is much later, and another editor/agent/whatever sees that you are in the habit of bashing people online… do you think it helps your chances?

In short: Do not reply to a rejection in any way, shape or form.

My book got a really nasty review! Sorry. Eat an Oreo. Leave it alone. They were wrong? They were stupid? They gave you two stars because their Kindle battery died in the middle of your book (it’s happened). I cannot be clear enough about this: do not reply to a review ever. It is a bad look, no matter how right you are. If there is clear abuse/misinformation/whatever, contact wherever the review is hosted. Don’t leave a reply. Ever. And certainly don’t do anything close to stalking, intimidating, or threaten them. If you do, though, please make sure I can see it, because there is nothing that brings me greater joy than watching stupid authors melt down publicly.

My book got a great review! Awesome! You may eat Oreos at you discretion. Do not reply. Not even to say thank you. It’s a bad look, and looking like you got a nice review from a friend (even if they are not) won’t help you.

Also, if you buy reviews, you are an ass.

My MS is ready! Time to submit! Hold up, tiger. Eat an Oreo and slow down. Real talk: Your manuscript sucks. Look at it, typos all over the place. Did you really write in first person present? Why? Look, you couldn’t even keep it straight and wind up in past half the damn time. You forgot about Carl’s B story for, like, six chapters. Your ending is flat out boring. Seriously, your mom is embarrassed for you.

Still with me? Good. First off, you needed to hear that, because you are in for a world of hurt over the next few months. But you can prevent some of that! Get beta readers. GOOD beta readers. Not your friends, not people who like you. People who will tell you what I just told you up there. Your friends will be all “OH EM GEE DEEN UR SUCH A GR8 RITER”. I’m not joking, this happens, so get people who will make your work better, not tell you how great it is– even if it is great (which it isn’t. You suck. Give up now).

Which brings us to query letter time!

PFFFFT DESR, my book is a special snowflake and I hate the idea of writing a query letter. Totes don’t need one. This doesn’t fit anywhere else, so you get it here, and it gets its very own paragraph:

You are not a special snowflake, and neither is your book. You and your precious baby are another drop in the ocean, and agents and editors are drowning in them. So get it out of your head that you’re special, that you’re the exception and that you don’t have to play by the rules.

Harsh? You bet your ass. But not writing a query letter, not polishing your MS until it shines, is like showing up to a job interview in Bermuda shorts without ever turning in a résumé. You’re just going to get laughed out of the office, and the only small mercy you get as a writer is that you only get a form letter, instead of seeing them laugh. That’s harsh.

So sit down and write the letter. Did you do it? GOOD. It sucks. Your mom is embarrassed again. Why do you do this to here? Google ‘query letter critiques’. Polish your query letter. Make it shine. Then, maybe, your mom will look at you again. Don’t get your hopes up, though.

hope

God, I love that gif.

No one has bought my book and I have submitted it everywhere! I told you it sucked. Write another one. Every writer has a million words sitting in the garbage. Very nearly every book that has been published has been rejected literally dozens of times. Life goes on. Can it, start a new one. It can be hard, to be sure, especially that first one. You worked so hard on it, were so sure it was *THE* book and… no one wants it.

Eat an Oreo.

DESR

Something Clickbaity About the Secret of Publishing Success

Publishing is a weird, weird game. You can’t swing a dead cat on the internet without hitting no less that 4,572,901 articles on How To Get Published, How To Get An Agent, How To Get a Book Deal and How To Attract Perverts By Swinging Dead Cats. The thing is, those articles are universally bullshit (except for the attracting perverts one. Those are pretty accurate). Because the only secret is there is no secret. There is skill, and there is luck, and there is timing, and all are involved in some measure that isn’t the same from one book to the next.

weirdBut, man, do people rail about how their way is the best way- and with good reason, if not good information. If you are an author, likely you want your book out there. And just as likely, you have a fair amount of skill and at least a working knowledge of language, but you probably aren’t an expert of publishing. So you start googling, which leads you down the rabbit hole mentioned in the previous paragraph.

It used to be fairly straightforward- You found and queried an agent, in turn to the big publishing houses, and then you got a book deal or you didn’t. The waters, to say the least, are muddied now. There are sill the big houses and their myriad imprints, there is self-publishing, and seemingly endless small presses in the middle.

And it’s that middle group that needs to be addressed. Before I go on, a small disclaimer- I am not stating anything dogmatically in this post. I self-published. That doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t go the traditional route, or even that I won’t at some point. Self-publishing is not for everyone- hell, a lot of days, it isn’t for me. Nor am I condemning anyone- anyone who doesn’t deserve it, anyway. But more on that in a second. My point is, none of this is meant as an attack on what you do. It is to bring attention to a problem- a big one- in publishing, which doesn’t get talked about very much.

That problem is ‘small presses’ which are either a) Vanity Presses or B) Completely useless. Thanks to Amazon and the like, publishing is easier than ever. Literally a few clicks, and your book is available to the world. This means anyone can do it, an that carries with it the painfully obvious fact that anyone can do it.

This also means that anyone can be a publishing company. Email me a word document, and I can ‘publish’ it for you. I’ll give you 50%. If the book sells for $3.99 on Amazon, I make a tidy 20% (Eighty cents, baby!) for doing very nearly nothing.

Because of that accessibility- either through design or ignorance- people start ‘publishing companies’, and boy do they make promises. Peruse a few small press websites, and you’ll find so many buzzwords, you’ll think you showed up at an SEO conference. But really read what they have to say, and you’ll find there are a lot of words that don’t actually say anything.

Not a great look for a book publisher.

Even worse, they do, you know, buy books. Which, on the surface, should be good. But when authors regularly receive little-to-no support in the areas of editing, design, distribution or reviews- you know, the things you give up a percentage to GET- what’s the point? If an author has to do everything themselves, why shouldn’t they just do it themselves?

What these individuals thought process is, I have no idea. But when this is a story I have heard from multiple people- people who are very good authors- that they signed a contract, signed over rights, and received nothing in return? Just… why?

Maybe it’s well-intentioned ignorance on the part of publishers. How hard can it be to sell ebooks? Frank can design covers, Susie can edit, and we’ll tweet about it and it will sell. This is also the mentality of 75% of self-publishers. So they make grand promises, and have no clue what is actually involved. And so the author loses rights, sales and time.

Maybe it’s malicious, in which case it’s worse and less understandable. I don’t know why one would spend several thousand dollars to purchase rights and do worse than nothing with them, but the internet is full of examples of hate which I don’t understand, so, whatever.

In any case, if you’re an author, with a book to sell, seeking a book deal, let me tell you a secret word to use:

minion no

Say it with me

NO.

It’s a very powerful word. Because, plain and simple, you have the product. Without books to sell, a publishing company is Starbucks without coffee. There’s a lot of fancy marketing and pretty colors, but the product is what they need. And they need it.

So you can tell them no. Even if you really, really want to say yes, because no one else offered you a contract. Because this is your dream. Well- and I hate to sound like a motivational poster- your dream deserves better than sitting on someone else’s shelf.

And if you are inclined to say yes, get everything- everything– in writing. Because all that crap they promised you over the phone or over email? Doesn’t matter if it’s not in the contract. Make them put it in, and if they won’t, walk away. It might not feel this way, but they need you more than you need them.

DESR

Six of One…

The internet does not lack for head-shaking pieces opinion pieces- half the time, I am pretty sure that is the very definition of the internet. And certainly it doesn’t lack for pieces on the present state of the publishing, to which I have contributed my fair share. But sometimes (weekly), one comes along that is BOTH, and sets itself above all the other dumbass pieces on publishing.

Here is the most recent example.

He looks smug because he is taking your money and stamping out local businesses, dumbass.

I am an author-publisher. But that doesn’t define me, as either of those things. And the fact that I can publish my own work doesn’t mean that publishing is going to die, nor does it mean that publishing is evil.

The basic premise of the article- the title in fact: “Amazon is doing the world a favor by crushing book publishers”- is 100% weapons-grade bullcrap. The author instantly asserts that books are published by huge conglomerates. OK, awesome. How is Amazon better? Well, at least with Amazon we know we’ll get honest information and ethical behavior. Except, not. Amazon- unlike a later assertion- doesn’t presently have much in the way of competition, and does anyone actually believe Amazon won’t drop the 70% cut it gives authors the second they have the opportunity to do so? Maybe Hugh Howey, but relying on his opinion of Amazon is kind of like asking the North Korean Director of Propaganda if Kim Jon Il was a good dude.

All this is to say nothing of “the traditional publishing paradigm”, which the author treats as though no one buys a physical book anymore. Except physical books are ~70% of book sales. Scroll down a bit in that link- Amazon isn’t crushing publishing houses; they’re crushing bookstores. Huge conglomerates know how to make money, even if it takes them time to adapt.

Capitalism is capitalism, and nothing is going to change that. Publishing will shift, ebooks will certainly gain marketshare over the next few years, and are sure cheaper to produce than paper ones, but pretending Amazon is in any way better than the publishing companies that are out there is irresponsible and idiotic.

Getting Over Yourself

Allow me to present two truths:

1. No one likes being rejected

2. If you seek to write professionally, you will be rejected.

Bummer, right? It seems every day, on some form of social media, someone is bemoaning a rejection. Not that this is bad- that’s just point number one up there. But, as a writer, you know it’s coming. Even the best of the best, the most well-loved and revered authors were rejected. In some cases, much more harshly than you or I ever will be. So how do you get over it and move on?

It's not as bad as all that

It’s not as bad as all that

It starts, I think, with what’s inside. Artists are, generally speaking, kind of an insecure bunch, particularly when it comes to their own works. So when the work is rejected, that makes it sting that much more. But, as point 2 states up there, it’s gonna happen, so my advice? Expect, revel in it, and just accept that. That’s not to say you’re going to (or should be happy), but do this: when you get a rejection, set a timer of some sort. That’s your time to feel crappy about it. When that time is up, it’s over. Tell yourself to bury it and move on. Or, as the saying goes, hope springs eternal: Have another something ready to submit. Rejection from one place? Fine. I’ll submit something somewhere else. They don’t need you? You don’t need them.

Sometimes there is a silver lining as well- it is a pretty saturated market out there, after all- and most of us are eager to sign the first chance we get, be that for short fiction or some book deal. But how many stories have you heard of someone passing up an offer, and then getting a better one? So maybe the short story you submitted to the place that pays $0.01/word will get picked up by Fireside. Or you pass up a small press and get signed to a big one. Step back from the rejection, and look at the big picture- maybe they did you a favor.

Speaking of the big picture- there is simply so many people submitting to so many markets, you’re going to get left out sometime. Your work might still be fantastic, but those are the numbers. Besides, would you really want everything you wrote to be accepted? Sure, the paydays would be nicer, but what motivation would you have to improve? Would readers want all you, all the time?

So- take it in stride as best you can, and be the best writer you can and it will all (probably) work out.

DESR

Why I Get Paid to Write (and you should too)

This is a thing, it seems, which crops up from time to time. Some form of writer’s not being paid, maybe they shouldn’t, exposure is reward enough, etc. Now, for the most part, the people saying this are probably quite well-intentioned. But it’s untrue and a trap for writers.

I have about 950 followers on Twitter, a couple hundred subscribers to this blog, and like ten on Facebook, because I hate Facebook and forget it exists. So it’s not like I am swimming in fame or my Kickstarter is the literary version of the Veronica Mars campaign. Obviously a little exposure would do me good (also, I’m kind of a miserable self-promoter). But here’s the thing: Giving my work away doesn’t help.

I’ve done it- the 444 project was a free thing- and, as I said, well intentioned, but it didn’t do me any good. Perhaps a few followers, but no books sold and no backers to Kickstarter as a direct result of it. Because what happens, when you give your product away, as a writer, is you remove value from it. SFWA pro rate says that a word of fiction is worth $0.06, and various markets are higher or lower, but that’s the baseline. So why should I tell people each word is worth zero cents?

If you think that’s not the case, and are saying, no, Dean, they read the free bit and then love it and then go buy the book, think of your last trip to the grocery store where they had samples out. You took one, even if you weren’t hungry, right? And how many times did you buy the product that is sitting right there? Pretty rare, right? Most of the time- in most cases, always- you munch on whatever it is, and then go get what you were going to get anyway. It works the same with writing. Maybe one person or two loves the free stuff, and shells out a few bucks for my books, but the odds on that are slim- let’s say one person in 1,000, which is probably optimistic. That means if I make $5 off every book sold, I need 60,000 people to read the free bit to equal what I would make off one 5,000 word sale at pro rate (that number is 120,000 if it’s a Fireside sale).

Stitch Loves Getting Paid for his Work

Stitch Loves Getting Paid for his Work

It also devalues the market as a whole. It’s a buyers market, to be sure, fiction is. Just search the hashtag ‘writer‘, ‘amwriting‘, etc on Twitter and see how many results you get (also, fellow scribes: can some of you be a little less up-your-own-ass about writing? It’s just pretentious sometimes, ya know? If you’re nodding, going yup, ignore this. If you’re incredulous, I’m talking to you). There are other markets that pay a whole bunch more than fiction does, because no one writes press releases for a hobby. It’s a big sea of fiction out there (which, incidentally, decreases your odds considerably in the above paragraph), and sending the message hey I am just giving it away doesn’t help the market overall (it bears pointing out that publishing it- even for free- likely means you can never sell it, either).

There are, however, ways of sampling your work or gaining exposure that are beneficial. A guest post or interview will often do wonders. This gains you exposure while accomplishing the opposite of giving a story away- it emphasizes the value of your work, shows you have pride in it. Readers respond to this. Likewise, I write my column at Nerds Feather for free (You can pay me if you want, G), and guess what? This blog, the Kickstarter and my book have all had hits and sales because of it.

Excerpts are a different story, and the more effective sample. Leaving the reader hanging will make them want to know what happens next- think of the grocery store again. Which is more likely to get someone to buy bacon- giving them a strip of bacon, or them smelling bacon cooking? Let them smell your work, and make them hungry for it. Don’t give them a bite size piece they can munch on and walk away.

DESR

PS: gentle reminder that I have a Kickstarter campaign running right now to support a print run of 3024AD that will be distributed through indie brick-and-mortars. Please support it!