Centigrade 232

I just watched the Thursday Colbert Report and find myself thinking that Stephen Colbert is completely missing the point.

With regard to the Amazon/Hachette dispute he references a first time author and how the lack of anyone being able to pre-order her book on Amazon is the kiss of death for a new title.

Well, yes, if you go through traditional publishing. Sadly, that publishing approach has failed to keep up with the times.

Case in point: I just published my first novel length story on Amazon. Dark Streets will be available tomorrow, once it completes the Amazon review process.

Unlike authors published through Hachette, or in fact any other traditional publisher, 70% of any sales are mine (as opposed to 10-15% through traditional publishing), I retain the rights in perpetuity as well as total creative control, I publish whenever I’m ready, and my story is available for as long as I want to make it so.

What Hachette and other publishers aren’t saying is that they missed the boat and let someone else control not only the means of distribution for books, but also provide a direct line from the writer to the reader.

How many of us remember the name of the publisher of the last book we read? If you’d asked me in the 70’s I’d have said Penguin, or New English Library. Back then those were the only publishers who made available the books I wanted to read. Now, I don’t have a bloody clue. Most of what I read comes to me not from a traditional publisher, but the actual writer. That’s a pretty tough value stream to replace*.

Publishing is changing *very* fast and we’re going to hear a lot of sturm und drang from traditional publishers. After that, unless they change, we’re going to hear nothing.


* I do have some thoughts on this – my day job is helping companies with process improvement and identifying value streams – and I’ll post those on another day.


One thing at a time

When I started this blog almost a year ago my main intention was to put more of my energy into writing. Well, mission accomplished – to a degree. I’ve certainly done that, just not on the blog. Why is that?

The simple answer is that of the time that I’ve been able to make available to write, most of it has gone into writing stories. As of today I find myself mercifully within reach of completing Dark Streets – a story that has grown in the writing – and with several other stories in progress that will require much less effort to finish.

The main thing I’ve learned in the last year is that I’m not good at estimating time for this kind of project. I find it hard to believe that it’s coming up on a year since I began this venture, but there it is.

I’ve mentioned before that Dark Streets began as a series of connected short stories and evolved into a full length narrative. I think that evolution is partially responsible for this story taking more time to complete. I’ve had to think more deeply about structure and plot elements than I would have had to if they had stayed short stories.

Whatever the cause, the path is clear now, and there are a handful of chapters left to complete the story. I’ve revised the publication date several times since last November, but I now feel confident that I’m going to get across the finish line in time to publish at the end of March, more or less the anniversary of starting this journey.

After that, it’s on to the next story – Shadow Paths but one thing at a time, one thing at a time…

Getting the hang of things – my first short story is now free

This self-publishing lark involves a number of compromises, especially with respect to writing time vs publishing time. For a few weeks now I’ve meant to try to find a way to put my first short story – The Facebook Genocide – out for free and I’ve finally got the hang of it. I think.

It’s now available for free by clicking here: Smashwords or on the cover image at top left of my home page, and selecting your preferred format. It’s available in a variety of standard formats as well as for iPad, Nook, and Sony Reader. As it propagates from Smashwords to the various distribution channels, the price reduction will also appear there.

From what I can tell getting it out for free on the Kindle takes a little more work as Amazon set a minimum price of 0.99c, which is only lowered if it can be demonstrated that it has been available for a lower price on other major distribution sites. I’ll hassle Amazon about that once the free price point is out there on Nook so I can point to it.

As always, I’d appreciate any reviews or comments. I think the story has become more relevant in the context of the flurry of NSA activity in the months since I published it, and I hope it strikes a chord with readers.

What’s next?

Like everyone else getting into the self-publishing world, I’m learning as I go about how to make my work available and create as many opportunities as possible for someone to find it. I’ve now put The Facebook Genocide out on Smashwords, from where it will hopefully get to Barnes and Noble, and on Goodreads, where if anyone ever reads it I hope to get some reviews.

There’s an interesting balance to be struck as you go down the self-publishing road in that the time taken to organize and promote your work on the internet is time taken away from finishing new work. A wise man has already talked about this balancing act, and his choice to spend more time completing and making a body of work available than promoting the heck out of one or two works. It’s advice I intend to take. For me, this is more about finally getting out stories I’ve developed over decades and which have languished in desk drawers and forgotten folders on hard drives. It’s about giving them a chance to be read.

And so I’ve already moved on to the next work – the Dark Streets part of the title of this blog. It’s a novel-length story about near-future London that’s been gestating for a long time as a series of inter-connected short stories. I found a way to tie them together as one long narrative, and so I’m rewriting them into a coherent single story with multiple threads. My current plan is to publish Dark Streets at the end of August.

After that it’ll be time for Shadow Paths, a young adult story that I wrote about 8 years ago. It needs an extensive rewrite and I’m eager to get to it, but as I wrote in my first blog post this is a journey of a thousand li and I need to take it one step at a time…

Why Self-publish? Why Do Anything Else?

Self-publishing is big news at the moment, and with good reason.

The changes that have taken place over the last decade, and especially in the last year, have made the act of self-publishing almost free. The tools that are available – again at essentially no cost – allow individual writers to publish and make their work available in forms that look just as professional as established publishing companies.

With hard work, an ounce or two of common sense, and the ability to write something worth reading, anyone can reach out into the world and see if there’s an audience for what they have to say.

For me personally it’s become the answer to all the excuses I’ve used over the years to not complete and polish my writing to a level where it might be worthwhile for someone else to read it.

If there was ever any doubt in my mind that we are really at the tipping point of the gathering revolution in publishing, it’s a couple of pieces posted online in the last month.

Both are by Hugh Howey, the current big story on self-publishing success. I can’t frame it any better than he has, so I encourage you to take a few minutes and read his Advice To Aspiring Authors on his blog, and a piece published today in Salon: Self Publishing Is The Future And Great For Aspiring Authors.

The latter is such patent common sense that it can’t fail to attract pages of indignant commentary.