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Posts Tagged ‘Self Publishing’

You go, Chris Roberts!

Before I explain the title, here’s a story from my childhood:

I was in junior high (“middle school” for you non-New-Englanders) and I had kinda grown up on my Atari game system, arcades and (later) my Apple IIc.

Sometime during those wonder years I met a friend with a PC:  a 486 Windows 3.something. And he had Wing Commander. I hadn’t played anything quite like it, and I’m not sure anyone had. It was a quasi-3d space shooter which had so much more. The storyline won’t knock yer panties off, but the game had a storyline! This was revolutionary back then.

Storyline PLUS great gameplay = I rode my bike 3 miles after school to go watch my friend play this game. I eventually did play (and got my own PC), but this game shaped all my future gaming in so many ways. Wing Commander was the benchmark by which I measured many other games that came down thru the years (even non-space-sims). Between this game, Pool of Radiance and Railroad Tycoon, my gaming pedigree was established.

The man behind Wing Commander kinda disappeared for a while. But now he’s back.

And he’s crowd-funding his next project.

Watch his video explaining the project. He talks about how he could have signed with a publisher (with his street cred, publishers line up for him), but he doesn’t necessarily agree with current publishers’ visions of the future of gaming. He wanted to retain control of his own project and develop it for his beloved platform: PC.

God damn, we live in an exciting time! I see projects getting “crown funded” all the time on sites like Kickstarter nowadays. Creative people with great ideas can see their projects come to life and succeed/fail based on their own merits – rather than on some gatekeeper’s whim (sound familiar?). To see this sort of “do it yourself” invasion spread across many aspects of life today is truly inspirational. We self-published writers might have the best toolset of them all (Amazon, ’nuff said), but sites like Kickstarter and Gamecrafter are spreading the revolution into other creative avenues.

Bravo to these pioneers. And Bravo to Chris Roberts. I’ll be happily funding your project and eagerly await the release of Star Citizen (or whatever you call it in the end).

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No, I’m not going to investigate this beyond “some random shit I remember and this post from yesterday.”

What can I say? I’m not a frakin blogger – it’s not my job to keep you informed. I can say this: only click that link if you are VERY interested in the publishing world and have some extra time on your hands (it’s looong).

I can also summarize (kinda) what’s in that long blog post, because I think it’s interesting. Here goes:

Like most everything else about “big publishing”, those companies (for the most part) use an archaic and mysterious accounting/royalty system. In most cases, the author never really knows how many books they sell. Instead, there is some wacky formula that results in a check. The publishers use techniques such as “basket accounting” and other measures to (purposefully?) obfuscate numbers and (really?) rip off their writers.

Can I use such a harsh term as “rip off?” I dunno… read the whole article above. This is from 2007 (NY Times). This is from 2010, author sues for failure to pay royalties. This is from 2012, among the claims: undercutting royalties. What I find interesting about the countless articles I found while “researching” this blog post, is the common theme: publishers (and sometimes agents) are ripping-of the writers. True, sometimes they take care of their bestselling writers, but “the rest” are often left to the courts and lawyers.

And, of course, this, the DOJ lawsuit against the “big six” publishers for price-fixing. While it doesn’t directly point to royalty “funk”, it does suggest there is damning proof that the publishing industry colluded to fix prices. If they’re capable of breaking the law in that fashion, what else are they capable of? I know that’s wild conjecture, but if you read the long article I posted at the top — is it just conjecture?

A prominent blogger/writer had been tracking her royalty statements and believed there to be discrepancies or flat-out lies from the publisher & agency. She blogged about it (the post I linked above) and her website was attacked. Staged? Who knows. Coincidence? Maybe. It’s hard to put anything past a struggling industry that would gouge their customer-base to save themselves. Fuckers. I know for a fact some nice people work for those publishing companies, but the douchebag execs (or whoever) in charge are asshats. I hope their actions bring them down, and I wish our laws were stricter regarding jailing individuals within a corporation for their illegal activities.

Okay. Maybe it’s naive of me to think a huge corp would “care” about their customer base. I’m sure every large company makes decisions to benefit themselves, at the expense of others. In this case, the “others” happens to be “the reading public” and my fellow writers. And that just wrinkles my panties. Why? Because these people are my clients & peers as well. They are my partners in storytelling and it hurts me to think they are being ripped-off by some engorged, out-of-touch “old boys” network.

Fuck “big” publishing.

I know I’ve never come out and said those exact words before, but enough prancing around my views. Yes, there are honest, awesome people in publishing. I’m not angry at those people. For those agents/publishers with integrity, I say this: keep doing what you’re doing. You guys/gals rock!

To the rest of the publishing industry: see above, fuck you.

To my fellow self-pubbers: we have a unique advantage and you should embrace the business-side of things. Now, I know many writers don’t want to deal with numbers and such. But I think you should. Just like a small-business owner, you must wear many hats in the beginning, and this will include financials. True, when a small business grows, perhaps someone can be hired to handle finances. But those first few years of doing it yourself will give you amazing insight into the “whole picture.” As a self-published author, we have the advantage of full visibility into our sales (by the minute on the Kindle platform). We can run our own metrics and nothing is hidden. It’s not too hard, embrace it, enjoy the freedom & clarity you have.

Unfortunately, many people still honestly believe a book coming from a big publisher is better on face than a self-published book. I do read other blog posts (usually by traditionally published authors) on this topic quite often. And they make some nice points. One such author claimed the quality is better with trad-published books and then went on to state his latest novel published by a big house had at least 30 typos in it. Check out the negative reviews for the top Kindle fantasy book (Game of Thrones): the reviewers claim there is a typo “on every page.”

And don’t try to argue that trad-published authors tell a better story than a self-pub just because some agent/publisher put their stamp on the book. You are beyond reason if you believe that, and may other people’s Gods have mercy on your worthless soul.

Unfortunately, some other self-pubbers don’t put the “right” amount of time & effort into polishing their work/image in the ways they should as a writer (grammar, style, content, responses to criticism, etc). And this has led to a damaging rep for self-published works. So, I’ll keep shouting from the rooftops on this topic to my comrades in arms: FIX YOUR SHIT AND ONLY RELEASE FINISHED PRODUCTS!

Damn… if you made it to the end of this expletive-laced post, kudos! You have more stamina than most.

updates on Alexandria soon!

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If you’ve been coming to my blog for a while, you know how transparent I am in most things. Since I do tutor other self-publishing writers, I try to share as much as I can about the process. So, how’d the free promo for Eden go? What are my thoughts? Keep yer shirt on (please!) and read below.

First of all, If you’re like me and you truly believe “PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN”, check out the previous blog post ripe with pics. Yeah, baby. That’s some great stuff. We shot up to the #1 Fantasy Epic after just a few hours (on the free store, as Eden was free during the promo). Shortly afterwards, we claimed the #1 spot in Sci-Fi as well. We held both spots during the whole promotion. Throughout most of Friday & Saturday we were also #1 for the entire “Fantasy” genre.

The numbers (Eden downloads during the promo):

  • 15,456* (US Store)
  • 537 (UK Store)
  • 70 (Germany)
  • 1 (Spain – thanks for chipping-in!)

* As I wrote this blog post, we got 9 more downloads, eventho Eden is now back to its normal price of $4.99. Weird… must be the ghost in the Amazon machine.

I really wasn’t expecting such a large turnout, but I’m jazzed by those numbers. (especially from the Iberian peninsula! Must be my 1 Portuguese friend…)

After all of this, I’m starting to construct my new novel “rollout plan,” and it certainly includes the Kindle Select program. Look for my thoughts on that matter in the next few weeks, if self-pubbing is your bag.

As an update to Babylon, the paperback and hardcover proofs are on their way to my house as we speak. If those look good, I’ll be enabling them on their respective sites for purchase. I’m also still working on a CT-based launch party (full of hardcovers), so I’ll announce that once we get a location/date. Also, I banged out a few chapters of Alexandria over the weekend (the next novel in the series). Let’s see if I can finish it in a timely manner so nobody has to wait an exorbitant amount of time. Hell, I’m interested to see what happens next too (no, I don’t write with outlines – plotting is the devil!).

Did you know?

I do have another novel out there… For Duty has kind of been my little, out-of-favor step child. And that’s amusing, because many of my close friends actually like it better than Eden. True, it’s sci-fi, but as I said in a few interviews: the story could have taken place anywhere. I’m not one to drown a reader in technobabble or lengthy back story. For Duty is about the characters and the story, not much else. And at ~70,000 words, it’s a quick read. Check it out! 🙂

For those of you new to my little blog here (you cannot hide from me!), I’m working on the audiobook to Eden. The talented Ms. Jacobs is doing the reading – she also voiced the Babylon trailer and she’s full of so much AWESOME, I cannot even begin to describe it.

We’re also working on a graphic novel version of Eden. I’ll have another treat from that project to share soonish.

Does Matt Know?

Yes, I know my blog banner looks like half-eaten roadkill.

Completely Unrelated

Yup, I’m sure I’m violating some “blogger’s code” or someshit. But, my wife & I have been thoroughly enjoying Geek & Sundry on YouTube. If you are a gamer, you must watch “The Guild.” If you are a German boardgamer (yes, we are), you must watch “Tabletop.” If you have an unhealthy obsession with Felicia Day, you must watch “The Flog.” Down with Network Television – rising indy channels are where it’s at. Give it a look-see if you have a geeky bone in your body.

Fin.

What a weekend…

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So, you think you want to begin work on that audiobook of yours? Your novel is “out there” and you want to expand your audience into the land of listeners. While you may know how to put pen to paper (or finger to key/screen), you may not necessarily know jack about voice acting, producing an audio work of art or anything else related. As I go through the process, I’ll share and hopefully we can all learn together!

So, I met (in person) the voice actress for Eden last night for the first time. We’d been in contact over email/phone for about a year leading up to this so we weren’t complete strangers. I swear, every time I talk with her I learn something new! The “audio world” is a big, bad place for little girls in red cloaks (like me). So, here’s some “getting started” tips for a fellow audiobook newbie:

  • Work with a trained voice actor/actress. Sure, Uncle Bob can read your book – he’s got a nice, dulcet voice. Right? Wrong. Many fiction audiobooks (like print books) live and die by the quality of the reader/pro reviews. And many of those reviews will judge the quality of the narration. Awful narration will kill a classic and fantastic narration can lift almost any work. There’s a ton more you have still to do beyond Uncle Bob’s recording, so start-off on the right foot for this massive undertaking: work with a pro.
  • Know what you want. There are as many ways to narrate a book as there are ohmygoditssogoodmyheadasplode fans of tween vampire stories. For fiction, I don’t feel a “flat” narration does you any justice. Why would you want your dramatic scenes read the same as the description of a fork? (hopefully you don’t do too much fork-description in your books) While a “flat” reading may be suitable for a non-fiction book, I prefer the expressive form. I want to feel as the characters do, and a great voice actor can get your audience to some special places alongside your words.  On that same point, you might not want a campy “radio show” reading either. Again, this is where a pro will know the difference between proper expression and eye-rolling lameness. A powerful, expressive reading is where I believe most fiction is at. Aim for that and your listener(s) will be engaged and swept into the performance of your professional actor.
  • Get some help. Use the resources on the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) to link-up with a “real” production studio. Talk to friends in the biz. Read some blogs. As a self-publishing man/woman, you’ll likely be the producer. This means you’ll need someone to master the audio (no, it doesn’t come in a single, perfect track from your voice actor). As the producer, you’ll also have to give direction to your voice actor. Listen to early samples and make sure the characters are developing the way you want them to. If there’s something wrong (like he’s taking a deep breath between each sentence), nip it in the bud! Basically, you need to manage this project like you would any other. Stay on top of things, stay communicative and stay involved! If you are expecting to hand someone your manuscript and receive a perfect mp3 6 months later — your expectations might need some adjusting.

So, here begins my journey down the path of audiobook self-publishing. I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes on the way, but you can bet yer panties my team will produce a quality work of art. As I stumble along, I’ll share my thoughts and experiences. Now that we can self-publish to Audible.com, the barriers are gone. It truly is an exciting time to be a writer!

Oh, and one more thing for 2012 or 2013: audiobook launch party in L.A. – go big or go home, kiddies!!  😉

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A few weeks back, I posted my thoughts on what to do when your first novel draft is finished. I’m doing all of this as I go through the editing process for Babylon, so I figured it would be cool to share.

So you sent your second draft off to your “first reader,” your trusted pair of eyes. This blessed person has read the manuscript and came back with some suggestions. Chances are, they also caught some typos (though that wasn’t their main objective). You fix the typos and ponder the rest – do you agree with their suggestions? You may on some, and maybe not on others. There’s certainly no harm in granting a stay of execution for some of your prose until the next round of review. However, if your first reader points out any major holes or obvious problems, you best go fix them!

So, time for that third draft. Fix the typos and decide what you will re-write based on the first bit of feedback. This third draft is important! I typically print off 3-5 copies of this draft to distribute to my “A-Team.” These folk are not only willing to help you, they are the first opinions on your masterpiece. You’ve now had time to edit the whole thing at least 3 times. It’s put-up-or-shutup time for the manuscript. Keep in mind, this is still a “content” review. We don’t want anyone taking a fine-tooth comb to the grammar just yet. Generally, you’ll get a mixed-bag of comments and suggestions. If there is a common theme to the suggestions, try to look at those objectively and prepare to make some changes. Chances are, your readers picked-up on something critical you missed. Listen to them! More often than not, they are correct from their outside position. Of course, the opposite is also true – you may disagree and discard some suggestions. Let’s look at both situations!

With Eden, nobody liked a “side quest” I had the characters take on their way from Brasilia to Eden. Quite universally, I got: “why would they go off and do that, when they are focused on this?” My only answer was “because I liked writing it!” The story flowed much better without this added chapter and removing it was easier than I thought it would be. Oftentimes, your garbage can be removed with little to no pain. Funny how that works…

Conversely, I had one reader note that the beginning of Eden was too slow. I disregarded that remark because I knew it started in the thick of things better than most novels, and nobody else had the same complaint. With The Antaran Legacy, one reader didn’t think that religion would be a major factor in a futuristic society. Not being an avid sci-fi reader, I realized where she was coming from but respectfully disagreed. I kept religion a (minor) source of conflict in that novel as it is in many other futuristic yarns. It has its place.

So, that’s the process. Analyze each bit of advice and decide if it has merit for your work. Incorporate changes (or not) to arrive at revisions 4,5,6 and beyond. Widen your initial audience as you go to get more varied opinions (or reinforce existing ones). Then, at a certain point, you will (hopefully) be content enough to finalize the editing process. That entails a few more revisions on your own. Be sure to read the manuscript out loud at least once – you’ll be surprised at how many things you will edit after that exercise! Sprinkle-in those little recurring themes/messages/thoughts, and you’re off to the final step: send the darn thing to your editor!

NOW we’re editing for grammar/style. Be sure to hire a pro. Revise the manuscript once or twice after you get it back from your editor and you’re done! Some writers tweak for months/years after they get their manuscript back. I’m of a different mindset: ship it out! You’ve spent enough time with the story. Let it go! Set it free! And then move on to the next story. As a storyteller, that’s your job.

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Before I start in to my little bit of news, I just want to spend a bit of time on “life.”

For much of my life I quit when things got tough. I abandoned my writing dream because I thought society needed me to operate a register/fix computers. Relationships ended for me at the slightest hint of conflict – my longest relationship before college was 2 months. College challenged me and I lost my academic scholarship after the 1st semester. Each and every time someone in the world took advantage of me, I rolled-over and allowed it to happen.

That was my life.

Then, I was forced to grow a pair of non-nerf nuts. In 1999, the doctors told me I might lose my entire tongue. They said I’d be fed from a machine for the rest of my life. They said they might need to remove a portion of my face. They said I wouldn’t be able to swallow without medicine to assist me. They said I’d lose all my teeth. They said I’d never taste food again. They said it would be YEARS until I was anywhere near whole.

Fuck that shit.

I finally took control of my own life and sought the best doctor in the world for my surgery. I remained one step ahead of the doctors by retraining myself to swallow and retraining myself to eat and talk – all without their help. Why? Because their help meant I had to abide by their schedule.  Well, I was finished with the mounting losses. I watched other patients give in and who could blame them? The type of cancer I warred against left no prisoners. It is brutal and I can see where the white flag becomes a relief.

Just like Dido, there was no white flag above my door.

I bled and clawed and scratched and fought for every inch cancer took from me. Though grueling, it was how I chose to not only beat the disease but conquer everything else as well. While I’m still in near-constant pain compared to a “normal/healthy” chap, I’m not fighting at the same level anymore. However, when I target something that matters to me, you can bet I’ll unsheathe my +5 sword and do battle again.

And so it goes with the graphic novel version of Eden. I want it. Bad. It will happen. So, when my artist quit on me a few weeks ago, I didn’t despair. I contacted another artist who provided amazing samples and asked if he wanted the job. He said “yes.”

So, work continues:

Artwork by Andres Cornejo

More details to come, along with a more “official” announcement welcoming Andres to the team.

Be excellent, my friends…

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Yeah, I’ve been quiet and there’s a reason: when you survive one of those “mean cancers”, you really never stop fighting it.

I was in Wisconsin last week, on business, and I forgot my daily meds. You see, the radiation I received weakened my thyroid and left me exhausted for years afterwards. I always assumed it was just an after effect of my year-long battle, but a blood test before we traveled to Vietnam revealed my thyroid deficiency. Now, I take a pill everyday to correct the issue – yay modern medicine!

Well, I forgot those pills at home last week. Doing some quick “Matt math” in my head, I reasoned I could survive 5 days without my maintenance meds. After all, I’ve been taking them for years – the residual effects should be able to “carry” me for a little bit, right?

Wrong.

I guess I forgot that I’m not a doctor. I was drained and tired again last week, almost immediately. Then, my flight home was delayed-then-canceled late friday night and I scrambled to find an alternate route home. Though I succeeded, it was an extra level of stress/effort at a time where I was ready to collapse. Heap on top of all of this the fact that we’re selling our house and it makes for a recipe for less blog updates! 🙂

Fear not, I’m back on my sauce and working on one of the many projects I’ve hinted at recently. Of course, this is in addition to Babylon and I’ll have some teaser artwork quite soon for y’all.

In the meantime, Eden made a “mid-list“! Woot: Four Stars and Up Mid-List

So, not quite a “bestseller” yet (whatever that means these days), but I suppose I could tag my covers as such:

“A novel by mid-lister Matthew C. Plourde”

And the subtag:

“He’s good, but not that good.”

Actually, I wonder if some of the other self-publishers are cheating when they list themselves as “Bestselling Authors.” I mean – what list are you looking at? The one your kid made out of crayon? Does it need to be NY Times? Eden has been in the Amazon top 100 in religious fiction and epic fantasy quite a bit over the past 3 months – does that qualify?

I’ve even seen some self-pubbers “steal” shit for their trailers. One trailer very clearly had a scene from The Mummy in it, and I’d call him on it if I wanted to be petty. He actually had a supporting quote from a bestselling author but it makes me question the validity of that endorsement. If the author was willing to steal copyrighted material (likely without permission from Universal Pictures), then what else are they willing to do to try and snag a sale?

Dammit guys/gals, if yer self-publishing – don’t cheat/steal! ‘Nuff said.

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