Color consulting and other updates!

It’s been a busy winter so far.

I’m now officially doing color consulting! It’s been something I’ve dabbled in over the past couple years, when clients would reach out to me.

I’m almost done with the edits for the final installment of The Steam and Steel Chronicles. I’m hoping to have it done in the next few weeks. But hey, I’m still releasing books faster than George R.R. Martin!

I’m also working on a few other side projects that I’ll be revealing in the next few months. So stay tuned!

I’ve been busy!!!

I know I’ve been neglecting this blog lately. But the truth is, I’ve been very busy!

I’m almost finished with the initial draft of my upcoming book on color theory. The deadline for the final section is less than two weeks away. I’ve still got a TON of work left to do on it (someday I’ll learn not to procrastinate), but I’m 99% sure I’ll meet the deadline without issue. Of course, then I’ll have to dive into edits, etc., but that part always goes much faster for me.

A couple months ago I wrote a short ebook about Pinterest, aimed at businesses who want to make the most of the site. I finally got around to formatting it and I’ll be releasing that on Tuesday, July 9th on both Gumroad and Sellbox. I’ll post links when it’s live. I’m putting it on sale for $12, basically what you’d spend on lunch. And anyone who buys it now will get access to any updated versions in the future at no extra cost.

I’ve also been working on a couple of other side projects which I’ll hopefully be launching this summer. (Also, can I just say how the hell is it July already???)

I started writing for another new blog recently, too. It’s not live yet, but I’ll be sure to link to it when it is.

Summer is always busy for me, so don’t expect a lot of updates until Fall. But at some point I’m going to get back into blogging regularly!

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.

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Transparency in Indie Publishing, Month 10

Wow, it’s hard to believe that I’ve been self-publishing for ten months now! I hit a big milestone this month: I sold my 1,000th ebook! This is a huge deal to me, since most self-published books never sell more than a couple hundred copies. I’ve also had my best sales month to date.

As far as marketing this month, I’ve been plugging a little bit on Google+ and Twitter, which I know has generated a few sales. And I had a couple of new reviews on Amazon (if you’ve read either of the books and feel like leaving a review, I really do appreciate them!), some of which were really favorable. One of my favorite quotes from a review of The Great Healion Race:

This is not Edward and Bella, living in perfection for all eternity. These are two adults with overwhelming baggage as the ballast for their journey. I especially appreciated how Ms. Chapman allowed her protaganists to be messy, angry and human.

Seriously, that’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about my books. Because that’s exactly what I was going for: complicated people who have messy, screwed-up lives, and find a way to love each other anyway.

Below are my sales numbers for this month. I saw a drop in sales for the second book, but a big jump in the first book. Hopefully that will translate to more sales for the second book in the next couple of months. Continue reading

Transparency in Indie Publishing, Month 6

Wow, so I’ve been selling my novellas online for six calendar months now! Holy cow!

Sales went up in July, but only just barely. This tells me that I need to get my butt in gear and finish up book 3 and get it out there. Also, I’m starting on it today, as part of Camp NaNoWriMo!

So, without further ado, here are the numbers for this month: Continue reading

Ebook Piracy

It seems like every single day there’s another article about ebook piracy and how it threatens the publishing industry and authors. In all honesty, I’m getting sick of hearing about it. Piracy, for the vast majority of authors, is going to have much less effect on sales than obscurity (which piracy can actually help with).

And in all honesty, combating piracy is relatively simple. It doesn’t require any technical know-how whatsoever. Any author or publisher can do it. There’s no DRM involved, nor any other fancy acronyms. There are three simple steps to minimize the effect of piracy on your ebooks:

  1. Your books need to be simple to purchase legally. As in, 2-3 clicks from the time I decide I want to buy it to the time I’m actually reading it (Kindle and Nook both excel in this department, not sure about other ereaders, though many publisher sites fail in this regard).
  2. Your books need to be high quality and you need to back that up with proof. If someone loves something, they’re more likely to respect it. If they don’t see the value in your work, they’re not going to understand why you expect them to pay for it. It should be easy for someone to preview your work, too, so they can see what they’re buying before they actually buy it (sort of like reading a little of a book before buying it at the bookstore). This is a proof of quality, to an extent, at least to the extent that it proves whether you can string words together into coherent sentences.
  3. Your books need to be reasonably priced. This is probably the trickiest part of the equation, partially because what’s reasonable to one person is unreasonable to another. But at the moment, “reasonable” seems to be anywhere from $.99 to $9.99, depending on the specific work, genre, and author.

Now, the above steps aren’t going to eliminate ebook pirates. But, they will minimize the number of people who want to buy your work but are pirating it instead. Nine times out of ten, it’s because either they can’t find your books easily on legitimate sites (what do you mean your ebook isn’t available directly through the Kindle or Nook or Sony Reader or the iPad?), your book is overpriced (I’m sorry, I’m not paying $15 for an ebook when the paperback is $10, especially when I know the author is only getting $1-2 from that sale), or the buyer doesn’t know what kind of quality to expect.

Pirates are still going to pirate, and people are still going to download books/music/movies/etc. illegally. The key is to make it easier for someone to purchase your book legally than it is to pirate it. Most readers want to support the authors they love. If given the choice between purchasing a book at a reasonable price from a legitimate vendor or downloading from a pirate site, most readers will buy it legitimately.

(Note that I’m talking about readers here, not just people who download ebooks illegally. There are tons of people who collect pirated books, music, movies, etc., who never would have purchased them in the first place and never bother to read/listen to/watch what they’ve downloaded.)

Personally, I’m not worried about piracy. At this point, obscurity is a much larger threat to my writing career than piracy is. My books are all released without DRM (when given the choice), and so far none have shown up on torrent or file sharing sites (without my prior knowledge, that is). If they do, I’m going to hope that I gain some fans through those sites, people who will later go on to buy my books or recommend me to their friends.

Another Big Announcement! (Hint: It Involves a Contract!)

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I have another big announcement to share with everyone. I’m sure people have noticed how little I’ve been posting here for the past month or so, and also that I’ve been a little less active at times on Twitter and Facebook.

That’s because I’ve been working on a non-fiction book for John Wiley & Sons. I signed the contract in mid-February for The Smashing Idea Book, part of the Smashing Book series. It’s a big project, with a ton of research involved, and it’s been taking up a lot of my time. I have very tight deadlines (with a quarter of the book due every three weeks), and my regular work load hasn’t let up that much (I’ve had to adjust some things, but I’m still doing a ton of freelance writing), so that’s why I’ve been a bit less active elsewhere. It’s a bit different to be working under tight deadlines again, and I’m learning that time management is not necessarily my biggest strength!

The writing and editing of the book will be wrapping up in the middle of May (I’ve already submitted the first half, and am working on edits for the first quarter), and after that I should be back to my regular blogging/tweeting schedule. If you’re interested, you can already pre-order The Smashing Idea Book through Amazon UK (it’s not available on the US site yet, but should be before too long).

I’ll share more details as I have them!

An Excerpt from Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris

This is just a quick post to let  everyone know that I’ve added an excerpt from the first chapter of Aboard the Unstoppable Aerostat Fenris under the “Fiction Excerpts” page in the main navigation (under “Steampunk Novella”, cause the full title doesn’t fit on one line). Or you can just click here to get to it. It’s the first scene, which makes up half of the first chapter.

The novella is now completely formatted, and I’m just waiting on the artwork for the cover. My husband is doing a digital painting of part of one of the scenes (I’m not so good at digital painting, so I’m leaving that part of the design up to him). We collaborated on what the image would include, and I’ll likely be doing the text layout and such for the cover (though he keeps trying to convince me to let him do it; this is what happens when designers are married to each other).

I spent a bit of time today formatting the ebook for Kindle. I’ve still got to do the formatting for epub and Smashwords, which I’ll do over the next few days. If all goes well, the book will be out on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords by the end of this week. Stay tuned!