Sunday, May 30, 2010

Joe Konrath and the Fallacy of Victimless Book Piracy

Mystery writer Joe Konrath has become another major writer who doesn't fear ebook piracy and who thinks pirates help more than hurt. .A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: Piracy... Again

I just adore very successful writers who come out in favor of piracy or make it a victimless crime because it hasn't hurt them. Of course, it's not hurt them enough to notice because they have so many other ways to sell their books, unlike most other authors.

Think of it this way. Someone steals $1000 from a wealthy person. It doesn't really hurt them. Someone steals $1000 from someone on welfare. The poor person will probably end up homeless.

Think of it this way. Very successful authors who publish through the large conglomerates (New York based publishers owned by conglomerates, i.e. most of the publishers of books you see in bookstores) have diversified risk. That means lots of book titles in many formats-- paper (hard cover, trade, and massmarket), ebook, audio, and possibly media rights (TV, movies, graphic novels, etc.). Those paper books are available in most brick and mortar stores. The new book title as well as the backlist is available in paper on those bookstore shelves.

Most other authors with the conglomerate publishers are very lucky to have one book on those shelves for a very short time, and with the possible exception of the ebook, there are no other media rights sold. Other authors have no paper books on those shelves and must rely on online sales for their paper books, if they have a paper version, and their ebook version.

Most newer authors with the conglomerate presses get a very small advance, unlike the $100,000+ for a three-book deal Konrath has talked about for his books. Depending on the genre, etc., the advance runs from under $3,000 to $10,000 with his agent taking a 15% chunk. It will probably be the only money the author will ever see on that book. The author will be expected to use at least 10 to 25% for promotion.

If the first book doesn't sell well enough, the publisher will not buy the next book of that author. End of career or a major restart with a new name for the author.

Those authors with indie press and ebook publishers get no advance. Their books are only available online, usually as ebooks or more expensive trade paperbacks. They must bear the promotion expenses as well as the incredible amount of time needed to get their names out to the reading public since they don't have the platform of a major publisher.

Some have done quite well because they produce numerous books a year, those books are high quality and similar in kind, and the book is a popular genre like erotica. Everyone else struggles to come out even after the expenses of the website, etc.
Few will make minimum wage for their time, not including the years it took to develop publishable craft and the months it took to write the book. They continue on with the hope that they will be able to make a good living eventually. Most never will.

Most authors cannot continue to write if there is no profit after a period of time. The only exception is the hobby writer who has a second income through a financially successful spouse or who is able to hold down a full-time job as well as writing two or three novels a year and spending many hours promoting them in their "spare" time.

With their diversified list of books, types of media, and sales sites, the average conglomerate publisher can take a loss, perceived or real, on ebook sales. The average small press or ebook publisher goes out of business because they aren't so diversified and ebook sales plummet.

It's hard to believe that piracy doesn't hurt when an epublishers' entire list is available for free all over the Internet, there's no income from any other source because the books are only available as ebooks, and the money isn't coming in.

It's hard to say piracy doesn't hurt when an ebook has thousands of pirated downloads all over the web, and the author can't take her family out to McD's with her quarterly royalty check, and the only thing the author gets from all that "free" promotion of pirated earlier books is that her next new book will hit the pirate lists even faster than the last did.

Some of the most successful indie ebook published authors of the last years are some of the biggest foes of pirates because they are watching their own profits dropping while the market is expanding.

I belong to lots of lists where some of these small publishers and authors hang out, and many are hemorrhaging to death. Authors are becoming dispirited that their "fans" show so little respect for them by stealing their work, and their income continues to fall. It's getting harder and harder to justify spending hundreds of hours of their lives in a profession they are losing money at. Publishers are watching the steady march toward bankruptcy and are fighting to stay in business.

What does this mean to the reader? Those authors who are making lots of money will continue to publish. You will continue to see the big names in the bookstores and online. The conglomerate publishers will continue to publish lots of books for much fewer authors. That means fewer choices of the types of paper books available.

The small presses and epublishers where future conglomerate stars are developing a following and the types of books that aren't mainstream are being published will disappear so you'd better develop a taste for the authors on the bestseller lists, and only those authors, because everyone else will disappear.

Ebook piracy a victimless crime? Maybe for a few authors like Konrath, but not for the rest of us.

For information on authors who are being hurt by piracy, I suggest the group Authors Without Yachts, .

For information on copyright and epublishing, I suggest my blog articles on the subject. Click on the "copyright" label to the left to find them.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Links of Interest

CRAFT: How to show the reader a character's skills/powers/whatever without being boring.

PROMOTION: What to do with extra galleys (ARCs) before you are published.

PROMOTION: The value of having short stories in anthologies.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: Cost comparisons between paper and ebooks.

ONLINE IDEA GENERATORS: A list of plot, worldbuilding, name, etc., generators to get the ideas flowing.

TWITTER FOR WRITERS: For those who Twitter, here are some excellent resources for writers.

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: That live appointment with an editor or agent at a convention. How to be "beautiful."

BUSINESS OF WRITING: Why you should keep copies of everything you write.

WORLDBUILDING: The world or the story? Which should come first?

CRAFT: Rearranging to make your book stronger.

CRAFT: The antagonist and the protagonist. A really nice piece on how each works with the other in a story.

PROMOTION: Using your email list for promotion.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Subplot, CRAFT

The main plot of the novel drives the story forward through the whole work.

Some novels have only one plot. A simple romance's plot is boy and girl meet, one or both screws it up because of some inner flaw or weakness, but they manage to change enough to create a happily ever after.

Other novels have a major story line and minor story lines. Most often, these books mix genres like romantic suspense, or they are more complex in both subject matter and word count.

A minor story line is called a subplot. The two major types of subplot are the parallel and the independent subplot.

The parallel subplot is a smaller element of the overall plot that intersects the major plot with both its major character or characters and the events. The main plot affects the subplot, and the subplot affects the main plot.

In AVATAR, Sully's romance with Neytiri is one of the parallel subplots in the main story of Sully's learning about the planet Pandora and his decision to save it from the other humans.

His relationship with Neytiri is his personal introduction to the planet, its people, and their ways, and his emotional/romantic relationship with her teaches him the value of its people as well as giving him the original impetus to reconsider his decision to spy on the scientists and betray the locals to the corporation and its mercenaries.

In my STAR-CROSSED, Kellen's struggle against sexual slavery, his owner Cadaran, and his search for his freedom parallels Tristan and Mara's sweet relationship and their own fight for Tristan's freedom against Cadaran as representative of the corrupt government.

A complex novel may have numerous parallel subplots. Some may be almost as complex as the main plot, and others may be short and simple pieces of the puzzle that is the story.

A simple subplot in STAR-CROSSED involves Tristan's relationship with Floppy, the intelligent alien kitty.

When Tristan lives in Mara's house, Floppy sees him as a rival for Mara's time and attention, and the housekeeper has told Floppy that Tristan with his sneaky male ways is a danger to her.

Floppy works to prevent a physical relationship between Mara and Tristan, and he's more than willing to kill Tristan to protect Mara.

Floppy and Tristan gradually learn to like each other when Tristan teaches Floppy to read.

After Tristan saves Mara's life at the risk to his own freedom, Floppy is totally won over to Tristan's side.

This subplot not only drives the main story forward by interfering with the romantic relationship of the hero and heroine, it also is comic or scary in contrast to the main story line's tone at that moment to add variety.

An independent subplot doesn't impact the main story. A common use of this kind of subplot is in a mystery where the main character has a home life subplot as well as trying to catch the killer in the main plot.

At its least, an independent subplot gives a fuller picture of the main character or a more complete view of the world he inhabits.

At its best, it reflects the main plot thematically or emotionally. For example, the hero must face the death of his father and their issues of abuse at the same time as he is chasing a serial killer who targets elderly men which may indicate he was abused by an older man when he was little.

The TV show, HOUSE, often uses the independent subplot which involves the relationships of the hospital staff to reflect the main plot of discovering what is killing their patient.

In most episodes, House will gain a valuable clue to the illness through his interactions with another character during that subplot.

The very strongest subplot, even those that aren't parallel, brings a thematic, characterization, and worldbuilding depth to the novel.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Links of Interest

BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING: How enhanced ebook rights can derail a movie deal.

PROMOTION: Tips for online promotion courtesy of Kensington's Digital Content/Marketing Manager.

MARKETS/AGENTS: Listing of publishers and agents looking for YA and kid books.

MARKETS: Trends in Middle Grade SF

MARKETS: Trends in Teen SF.

CRAFT: A misunderstanding is not a major conflict.

MARKETS: Contemporary romance isn't dead.

RESOURCES: Ten of the best websites for authors, new and experienced.

CRAFT: Backstory. An excellent twelve part series on how to include backstory in your novel.

BUSINESS OF WRITING: The possibilities of using apps for the iPad to create an enhanced book.

CRAFT: Situation ideas versus character ideas to create a novel.“vs-”-character-ideas

Monday, May 17, 2010

Flashbacks, CRAFT

QUESTION: Writers are often told that editors and readers hate flashbacks, but I see them, some of them full scenes, used all the time. What gives?

The first thing you must consider is the kind of book you're talking about. Flashbacks are quite common in literary fiction, not very common in genre (popular fiction).

Literary fiction and some mainstream fiction aren't concerned with plot and linear time (one event followed by another event). In fact, plot suspense is often tossed away by having the end of the book revealed at the beginning of the book.

Popular fiction, however, depends on plot and linear time, and the reader wants to see what happens next.

Flashbacks are a major speed bump which slows or stops the reader's forward movement through the story. The reader must pause and readjust at the beginning of the flashback and then again at the resumption of the regular plot. That pause can be fatal to the reader's immersion into the story.

Most flashbacks are poorly done, even in published writing, and the inexperienced writer would be wise to avoid them entirely because they give too much information which can be deleted without a loss to the story. Instead, the important bits can be sprinkled judiciously through the story with dialogue and interiors.

ASK ME A QUESTION: I welcome questions on craft and publishing. Ask me via the comments section of this blog, or via my website I've had to moderate the comments section of this blog because of spam so your comment will not appear immediately.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Links of Interest

CRAFT: Why cliffhangers can be bad.

WORLDBUILDING: Interesting article on how Monica Burns used her interests in Roman history to create a contemporary paranormal series.

CRAFT: Being risky and not in your writing.

CRAFT: The use of placeholders in an early draft.

BUSINESS OF WRITING: How to find an honest publisher or agent.

CRAFT: Creating a great voice.

THE NOVEL PITCH: What an agent or editor wants to hear when you give a live query at a conference.


Monday, May 10, 2010

How to Foreshadow, CRAFT

I'm sure you've watched a movie or TV show where a character is getting ready to open a door, and you just know that the killer is waiting for her. You scream silently, "No, no, don't open that door!"

How do you know something the character doesn't? Part of that is foreshadowing. The filmmaker has given you clues that the character doesn't have.

For a written story, an author doesn't have the luxury of using spooky music or atmospheric lighting, but she does have other tricks to give the reader the same sense of something lurking behind that closed door.

The simplest way to do this is to have more than one viewpoint in your story. For example, one character learns that the killer is going after your heroine, then when you switch to the heroine's viewpoint, the reader will be expecting something bad to happen.

Another way is to embed a clue that the heroine sees but doesn't recognize as important because she's learning so much and being menaced at the same time. The reader will often pick up on the clue and recognize the danger.

A third way is to have your character more ignorant or innocent than the reader. A child may misunderstand a situation an adult would recognize as dangerous, and the person who refuses to believe a psychopath or monster is lurking will be easy prey in the reader's eyes.

A fourth way is a subtle use of language. Stephen King is a master of giving the reader the creeps when nothing appears to be happening but soon will. I recommend his ON WRITING which should be in your local library for more on the subject.

A fifth way is genre expectations. In a horror novel, the reader is expecting that scare so it takes almost nothing to make her tense as the character opens that door in the empty house that may be the killer's hiding place.

A really clever way to use genre expectations is to set up a scary situation then let it fizzle, and the moment the character and the reader let their guard down, the killer makes his move.

Foreshadowing doesn't have to be about unhappy or dangerous things to come. You can as easily foreshadow happy events. The square shape in the hero's tuxedo jacket pocket may be a diamond engagement ring box, and he and the heroine are dining at a very nice restaurant, after all, so you and the heroine may be guessing which way the meal will end.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Links of Interest

THE BUSINESS OF WRITING: The false assumptions about being a pro writer and the painful realities.

PROMOTION: How to hit the NY Times bestseller list.

MARKET: "Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine" is now taking electronic submissions.

BUSINESS OF WRITING: Finding the courage to submit your works.

MARKET: SCARY KISSES anthology now open for submissions.

CRAFT: The three things a scene needs.

BUSINESS OF WRITING: Why you should behave yourself online if you want a writing career.

CRAFT: Starting your novel at the wrong place.

PROMOTION: Post your author events for free.

MARKET: Sf, fantasy, and horror short stories.

CRAFT: Listening to real live conversation to create great dialogue.

MARKET: short story guidelines.

BUSINESS OF WRITING: Setting long term goals for your writing career.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Reinventing Yourself, BUSINESS OF WRITING

QUESTION: In a recent interview, a famous author said that she has reinvented herself (changed what she wrote) three times. Why did she do this?

Almost everyone who writes long enough for the NY conglomerate publishers has to reinvent themselves or leave publishing.

Markets die. For example, the historical romance market has faded drastically over the last five years although it's trying to make a comeback. Many of its writers started writing contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense.

Publishers die or drop lines, and some authors are trapped in contracts that won't allow them to move their successful series to another publisher or write anything in direct competition to their series so they have to make a major change in direction with a new and very different series.

Selling numbers fall to a point that no publisher wants her books so the author has to start over with a new name.

Authors change. One successful paranormal romance author lost her young child, and she left PNR and started writing inspirationals.

Some authors get bored.

Other authors are trend whores (their term) who change with the shifting popularity of types of books.

The danger with the constant shift in types of books is that you lose fans every time you make a shift, and you have to work extra hard at marketing yourself to a new group of people.

The most successful way to reinvent yourself is to build a brand with a certain type of books, write at least six, then start a second series or type of book that shares many of the same readers. Then you publish one book of each type every year. A good example of this is Jim Butcher with his urban fantasy DRESDEN FILES and his traditional fantasy series.