Cameron Chapman

Uncensored

Writing Again

Just taking a minute for a quick update. The third and fourth Steam and Steel Chronicles novellas are currently with my beta reader. She’s usually really quick with notes for me, so I may start with revisions on them later this week. Still no idea what the titles will be, but I’ll post here when I come up with them.

I’m working on an urban fantasy novel I started last year. I had about 25,000 words done on it, mostly just bits and pieces of scenes. And then I got distracted with other things and dropped it, though always with the intention to go back and finish it. So I’m going to try to finish it soon. It will be the start of a loose series I’m working on, with books all set in the same world, and possibly with some reoccurring characters. I have one other book planned for sure, but it’s going to be a big world, so there will be a lot of room for new stories in the future. (more…)

A Hiatus & Some Book News

So, I’ve gone through some major, life-changing personal things during the past few weeks. The direction of my life is very much up in the air at the moment, and I have to admit it’s kind of scary. Actually, it’s really scary.

There are a couple things I do know:

  1. I’m going to keep writing, both fiction and non-fiction. This is not something I’m ever going to give up if I can help it.
  2. I’m still working to get the last two books of The Steam and Steel Chronicles out. I had hoped to get book three out at the end of January and the fourth out in February, but that’s probably going to be pushed back by about a month. I still hope they’ll both be out before spring.

But basically everything else in my life is completely in limbo at the moment. To say it sucks is an understatement, but much of what is happening is beyond my control.

So that brings me to my next point: I’m going to be blogging a lot less for probably a few months, at least on this blog. I need to focus on my work, my books, and my life at the moment, and that means something’s got to give. I may still blog occasionally, when I find the time or have something I feel is important to say, but mostly it’s going to just be announcements about when my books will be available.

On that note, Hold My Hand is now available through the Kindle Owners Lending Library on Amazon, and will be available for free to everyone via Amazon from January 12-14, and then again later this month or next month (I’ll announce that when I finalize the dates). So if you haven’t read it (and based on my sales figures, most of you haven’t), take this opportunity to get it for free!

My Take on One-Pass Manuscript Revision

I’m approaching the revision process for the last two books of The Steam and Steel Chronicles, and thought I might share my revision process, as it stands now. It’s based on Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Manuscript Revision process (I highly recommend reading that post before you finish this one—go ahead, I’ll wait), though I’ve made a number of tweaks to it that fit my own way of writing and revising.

A couple of points before I begin, though:

  1. One-pass revision is probably not going to work well for first-time novelists or first-time revisers. If you’ve never revised a novel or if this is your first novel, you’re almost certainly going to need to do more than one pass. That’s okay.
  2. You need to figure out what method works best for you. If you prefer to go over your manuscript ten times, then that’s fine. Personally, I don’t. My goal is to continue writing new things, and get the old things as perfect as is reasonable in as little time as is possible. That means 1-2 revision cycles, tops.

So, without further ado, here is my method: (more…)

Two Years?

I just came across some pretty disturbing information about the time frames involved in legacy publishing. Right now, from the time a book is signed until it’s actually released is running upwards of two years. TWO YEARS! And in some cases, we’re talking about ebooks taking that long!

What on earth are publishers doing with writers’ manuscripts that it takes them two years to publish them? I mean, seriously. I’m asking the question.

As an individual, I can put an ebook out in a matter of months. That includes a couple rounds of editing, copyediting, cover design, formatting, uploading, and marketing. And I work full time, so it’s not like I just have all day to do these things. If I can do this in a matter of months, why does it take publishers years? These are people with staff. With resources at their fingertips I could only dream of. And it takes them twenty-four months to put out a novel? As a freakin’ ebook?

And if you tell me that it’s because of backlog, because there’s too much in the pipeline to begin with, then the problem is only going to get worse. I’d say it’s time to fix that pipeline problem. Hire some additional staff or publish fewer books, faster. It’s not rocket science. I’ve worked with a large publisher, and I have to tell you that the inefficiencies in that system are astonishing.

Yet they wonder why indies are doing so well? As an indie author, I can see a market trend that I find interesting and I can write to it. I don’t have to wait three or four years (if you consider the time to write the book, get an agent, make the submissions rounds, and finally get signed, in addition to the actual publishing time) for someone else to put my book out. I see a trend, decide if it’s something I can actually passionately write about, and I can write it and have it out before that trend has reached its peak.

Publishers have a very hard time doing that anymore, because their publishing workflow and timeline is just too damn long. There are too many steps to the process that aren’t necessary and there are too many points of failure (and let me tell you, they do fail, and in my experience, they fail quite often). There are hundreds of digital tools out there that can be used to speed up the publication process and make it more productive and more useful, and from what I can tell, large publishers aren’t using any of them.

Granted, some publishers are putting books out rather quickly, in less than a year (my own non-fiction book was done in less than eight months between the time I signed the contract and the time it was available on Amazon, and less than a year when you look back to when the proposal was originally submitted). Some small fiction publishers manage to get books out in a matter of months. But the standard, the length of time most legacy published authors are coming to expect, is now eighteen months to two years. And that’s after the contract is signed.

I’m sorry, but this isn’t acceptable. Let’s actually crunch the numbers here:

I write a novel. Let’s say it takes me six months to get it into submission-ready condition (which is typical for a lot of professional, career-oriented authors). Let’s say I start this on January 1, 2012 (for ease of tracking). It’s ready to go on July 1, 2012.

I send it out to agents. It takes six months to find an agent who wants to take me on (which is honestly probably a bit on the quick side, as I know a lot of people who sub for much longer, but we’ll be optimistic here). It’s now January 1, 2013. It takes that agent another three months to find an interested publisher, and a month beyond that to negotiate an acceptable contract (again, this is being optimistic, but I’m trying to paint a best-case scenario here, not a worst-case one). It’s now May 1, 2013.

The publisher schedules it for release in April of 2015, just under two years after the contract is signed. But that’s three years and three months after I started writing the thing. And don’t forget that I’ll need to do a good bit of marketing after the book is released, so I better just round it up to four years.

Now, let’s say I have a very good agent, and she gets me a good advance for a first-time author: $30,000 for the book. I know a lot of authors would jump at that kind of advance, and a lot of them are getting paid a whole lot less than that. But broken down yearly, that’s only $7,500.

You might argue that during the two years that book is with the publisher I can be writing other things. But that publisher might just (probably does) have a clause in their contract saying I can’t publish any other novels (or even book-length works) before this one comes out. So effectively, my hands are tied. And the publisher isn’t going to contract another book from me until they see how the first one fares.

$7,500 a year. A part-time minimum wage job at McDonald’s pays more than that. Sure, you might get royalties down the line, but probably not until after that four years is up. And even then it’s completely up in the air whether you’ll actually get anything more than your initial advance. And we’re expected to make a living on that? I don’t know about you, but that wouldn’t cover my mortgage for the year (and I live in a very, very inexpensive area).

Authors need to look at writing and publishing as a business if they want to actually make a living at it (and if you don’t, then ignore what I’m saying here). You need to site down and crunch the numbers and the time involved in each and figure out which one fits your own goals. Just remember that there are indie published authors out there who are making the best seller lists (including at least two in the Kindle Millions Club), so that’s not a deciding factor anymore.

Repeat After Me…

I spend a lot of time on writer’s forums (probably more than I should). Absolute Write is one of my favorites, as are the NaNoWriMo forums until they die out sometime around the holidays (they don’t actually die out, but they do become a lot less active). I’ve been active on various others at times, too.

I enjoy writing forums, and I enjoy interacting with other writers. Especially since I work at home and have very little interaction with the outside world on a daily basis. But there are some questions that get asked on a recurring basis, with slight variations each time, that kind of bug me (maybe it’s just because I’ve spent way too much time on these forums, and so it all seems a bit repetitive to me). (more…)

What I’m Reading: Indie vs. Legacy

So I was thinking about my reading habits due to a few discussions on various websites, and I realized something: for the past six months or so, I’ve been reading a ton of indie published books and books published by very small publishers, and very few legacy published books. In fact, most of the legacy published books I’ve read in the past six months were purchased a long time ago and have been sitting in my to-read pile for awhile.

Since I got my Nook Color back in the spring, I’ve read ebooks by Amanda Hocking (indie), Zoe Winters (indie), Lindsay Buroker (indie), Greta van der Rol (small press), Kimberly Menozzi (small press and indie), Poppet (small press), Calista Taylor (indie), and Randolph Lalonde (indie). Print books I’ve read this year only include Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series (which I started reading last year) and Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. Oh, and some books I either picked up at places like Big Lots (when they’re $2 apiece for a hardcover), or books that have been shared among myself, my mother, and my grandmother (like John Grisham’s A Painted House). (more…)

Writing: Career or Hobby?

I was driving home from the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 midnight release one night (my husband’s airsoft team always does an appearance at these things) and we got talking about creative pursuits as a career vs as a hobby. It started out, I think, with a discussion of the music industry. Individual recording artists are often upset about the low royalties being paid out from services like Spotify. They get a fraction of a cent for each time their song is played, meaning they have little chance of gaining any kind of real income from these plays. And so they decry the industry and these services, and say they’re what is killing the music industry.

Independent movie producers say the same kinds of things. They only make a few cents (if that) whenever their movie is streamed via Netflix. Unless their film is viewed millions of times, they won’t make much money off of it.

I hear the same kind of thing coming from a lot of authors. If they’re forced to sell their ebooks at $.99, they’re only making $.35 on each sale. They have to sell thousands of copies to make any money. (The same things are said at $2.99, $4.99, and pretty much anything under the price of a mass-market paperback.)

Part of this has to do with the number of celebrities we see in each of these fields, and pretty much every other creative field. We see the J.K. Rowlings, the Stephenie Meyers, the Stephen Kings, of the world, and we think that that’s what success looks like. We think that all we should need to do is write something great (or not so great, depending on your opinion) and the riches should follow. (more…)

An Experiment with KDP Select

Earlier this year I published a women’s fiction book, Hold My Hand, but have done very little to promote it (I sent it to a couple of review sites, but so far no reviews have been posted). Sales, as could be expected, have been dismal.

So yesterday, when I logged into my Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) dashboard, I was very intrigued by the new KDP Select program. Basically, KDP Select lets indie authors add their books to the Kindle Owners Lending Library in exchange for a 90-day exclusive with Amazon (you also get 5 days of free promotion during that 90-day period). Now, the best part is that you earn a royalty every time your book is loaned out. There’s a royalty pool each month, and you get paid based on the number of times your book is loaned, based on the percentage of the total number of loans.

The book will still be for sale during this time, but only via Amazon. It’s in the process of being un-published from everywhere else (though I’ll probably put it back up once the 90-day exclusive is over). I’m hoping that if nothing else, this will get the word out about the book, and hopefully even get some reviews. If, at the end of the three months, there’s no change in sales and it hasn’t been borrowed much, then I’ll have to rethink some things about the book (probably the cover first).

So, I’ll post an update at the end of the 90-day period and let everyone know how it went. I’m also interested in how others who are trying the program fair, so if you are, please let me know in the comments how it goes (feel free to post a link to your own blog if you write a post about it).

My Writing Routine

After reading this post over on John August’s blog, about what his writing routine is, I thought I might write the same kind of post to detail my own writing habits. I write for a living, both blog articles and copywriting, as well as do some blog editing. On the side, I write novels, novellas, and screenplays. I’ve also written two non-fiction books.

When and Where Do You Write?

I start my writing day sometime between 7:30 and 9:00 every morning. I’m most productive when I get to my desk before 8:00, but that doesn’t always happen. The bulk of my work writing is done at my desk. It’s a giant wooden desk I salvaged from the magazine where I used to work, and was used by my late editor. I like to think that it has good vibes left over from him.

I start with email and checking social media. Then I usually get down to researching whatever it is I need to write for the day. I usually start out with some kind of outline, even if it’s just a handful of bullet points, and then I get down to actually writing. Many posts I can finish in a single day, though some take longer. Books are a different story entirely.

I break for a quick lunch sometime between 11:00 and noon. I’m usually back at my desk within about 20 minutes, and sometimes I even eat at my desk. Then it’s usually back to work until 2:00 or 3:00 at least. At that time, I usually take a break. Sometimes I have errands to run, while other times I just watch a little TV or take a walk. Depends on the day. I’ll work for another hour or two before dinner (we usually eat between 4:00 and 5:00), and then, depending on whether I finished my work for the day or not, I’ll either go back to my office for a couple more hours or I’ll bring my laptop into the living room, and either do more work or spend time doing other things online.

My fiction writing is mostly done either first thing in the morning, on breaks during the day, or just before bed. (more…)

Why $2.99 Doesn’t Devalue Your Work

There seems to be a certain camp in the writing and publishing worlds that feels like selling a novel at $2.99 is somehow devaluing that novel, and novels in general. The idea seems to be that readers will refuse to pay more than $2.99 for novels eventually, and that will somehow topple the publishing industry.

But no one is asking whether readers should pay more than $2.99 for most books. We’ve just accepted that paperbacks are priced at $8.99-$16 and that hardcover books are priced at $20-$30. And so we feel like ebooks should be priced somewhere along that line, too. But does anyone know why a mass market paperback is priced at $9? Or a trade paperback at $16? Or why a hardcover book is $25?

In the 1960s, a paperback book might cost anywhere from 25¢ up to around $.75 or so depending on the length, publisher, genre, author, and specific year (you can find evidence of these prices by looking at old book covers from that era). Now, a lot of these books were shorter than what we’re used to these days, coming in at around 150-200 pages. They were “pocket books”, in their truest sense: they would fit in your pocket. (more…)