Of ebooks, self-published, traditionally published, digitally first published

There is a lot of discussion going around about ebook pricing and what authors control. I have been epublished since 2004, in the whole spectrum of ebooks produced by traditional publishers, by digital first publishers, and self-publishing. In only one of these did (or do) I have any say whatsoever on price, or even availability of format. This is called a trade-off; if I self-publish a book in eformat or print, I have to do or hire done everything that goes into the production, and lower overhead can mean lower unit price in the end. But price is only one consideration when it comes to trying to decide what is best for me as a writer and what is best for my readers.

Recently I had email conversations with Macmillan’s contracts department, with the end result being a contract amendment that will make Wild Wild West and Wicked Hot, my two Macmillan titles which have never been available as ebooks, finally available in various formats for readers possibly as soon as late February.

But! you may cry. Your other Macmillan ebooks cost $9.99! Why would you do that?

It’s true that $9.99 has been the price in the past and will likely be the price for the near future; I’m not going to make any predictions about the further future but I do believe that eventually mass market pricing will become the rule for ebooks, especially those that release after the hardcover or trade version. So while I might be able to do it myself at a lower price in the immediate future, in the long run it’s likely to become a wash. 

Additionally, not going forward with the amendment would mean instead beginning the laborious process of reversion of rights, with no guarantee how long that would take, impacting availability of print versions, and then finally when reversion might happen in the future, weeks of revising, re-editing, contracting cover art, formatting for the various ebook formats, uploading to sales channels, all of which would take more than the eight weeks proposed by Macmillan.

So I asked myself: what’s the best thing to do for readers? Ensure that these books are as widely available in as many formats as possible as soon as possible? Or delay that for an unknown period of time so that I could put ebooks out at an initially lower price which Macmillan may well move to as the rule in the future? 

Then I asked myself: what’s the best thing to do for myself as a writer? Do I want to spend months wrangling with this legally and technically? Or do I want to leave it in the hands of a very competent publisher and spend my time writing instead?

For me, the choice was very clear. Writing wins. Getting as many books in as many formats as possible to readers in the most expedient manner wins. I signed the amendment happily and with no internal conflict whatsoever.

All of which is to say: yes, I can do it all myself. That doesn’t make it the best choice in every situation. The two ebooks I put out myself last year required no small investment of my time, time I could have spent writing more new work. I still think it’s a valid option for material that has no other way to market, but I’m wary of the trade-off in writing time. And the pricing advantage may well prove temporary, while my time is something I can never get back.

Three Kids in a House (to say nothing of the cat)

I got the date wrong on the previous entry, as it turns out tomorrow is Thursday, not Tuesday. So you still have plenty of time to pre-order The Departed. In my defense, it’s easy to lose track of dates in the chaos that happens when school is out for winter break and there are three kids in the house, to say nothing of the cat.

About the cat. He was scheduled for surgery between Christmas and New Year because it was a good time to do dental extractions that had to be done. This meant that from 9:00 the prior night his food dish had to be taken away and when he returned from the vet he was supposed to only have a small amount of canned food.

Cat is an emotional eater, being a Found Cat, with an attachment to his food dish that goes beyond devotion and a dread of that horseman of the apocalypse, Famine, that threatens whenever he can see the bottom of his food dish. Fear of Famine can be alleviated by shaking the kibble to cover the bottom at times, but at others only another layer of kibble is enough to insulate him from the threat of starvation. (We refer to the howling that goes along with this daily drama as his Apocalypse Meow.)

So when the cat came home from the vet, post-anesthetic and sutured and traumatized by a. the surgery itself b. his separation from his food dish c. spending the day in a cage instead of sprawled on his favorite sleeping spot, the continued threat of Famine was more than he could cope with. He got the allowed canned food. Then, before bed, since he was still howling for more and hadn’t thrown up, another small amount. His food dish of kibble remained on the counter so he wouldn’t overeat or tear his sutures with unsoftened food.

In the middle of the night, there was a loud crashing noise that sent me rushing downstairs, ready to hit any lurking serial killer with the frying pan my mother sent me for Christmas which weighs a thousand pounds and could stop a rhino amped up on meth (see reading Shiloh Walker below, serial killers could be anywhere) only to discover that the cat, desperate to be reunited with his food dish, had jumped up onto the kitchen counter and knocked it to the floor where it belonged. Only it was still in a ziplock and thus cat-proofed.

I gave up, gave the cat a little more canned food, and poured water into his kibble per the vet’s instructions so it would soften enough to not hurt his mouth. Then stuck it inside the microwave so he couldn’t knock it down again before it softened enough to be safe to eat.

All of which is why I can’t keep track of dates. But I’ve got my frying pan to protect me from things that go bump in the night, and lifting the thing down from the top of the refrigerator, which is the only place it fits, to the stove, and back up, is my entire New Year’s fitness plan. If I survive until New Year’s, what with the three kids in the house. To say nothing of the cat.

Don’t miss the followup to The Missing

Shiloh Walker sent me The Departed, the followup to The Missing, in December. And since then I’ve been telling myself I need to write a review for it, something beyond “Buy this and read it with all the lights on.” It releases tomorrow (or possibly at midnight if you’ve preordered electronically) so the time has come to take a stab at it.

I first read Shiloh when we were in an anthology together, Ellora’s Cavemen Legendary Tails 2. She’s only gotten better, book after book. Her suspense really will make you want to turn on all the lights and keep your cell phone ready to hit 911 in case that noise is actually a serial killer, but what I love beyond the thriller pacing is her unflinching ability to confront all the dark and ugly depths people can sink to without making me despair for humanity. There are always heroes struggling to do the right thing in big and little ways, ordinary and extraordinary people who fight for justice. Dez is an extraordinary heroine, but she’s also utterly human and fallible, no superwoman in spandex tights. She deserves her hero and her happy ending and I know you’ll enjoy going along for the wild ride that gets her there.

The Departed
stands alone, but those who didn’t read
The Missing
first will want to read it immediately afterward so do yourself a favor and buy both together.

Then don’t forget to leave all the lights on.

Writing Grinches

The self-publishing, epublishing, blogging, and all manner of PEOPLE DARING TO WRITE AND PUBLISH in various ways enabled by the internet have certainly produced a lot of Writing Grinches. “We don’t need all these books. Bloggers aren’t real journalists. Ebooks aren’t real books. Self-published books aren’t real books. All these books just mean more garbage for readers to wade through.”

Wow. So much hate for the written word. What’s up with these Writing Grinches? To them I say: writing teaches people to think clearly. In what way is the world worse off if more people want to spend their time training themselves to think clearly? Now imagine a world full of people freely and cheerfully reading all the trash produced by these writing upstarts. Did you know that readers make better citizens, that there is no single thing you can encourage to produce better students, better employees, better neighbors than reading? Yes, even those who read trash like comic books and online comics, romance novels and erotic romance ebooks, self-published tales of all types. Readers are better human beings, no matter what they read. Writers are better human beings, no matter what they write.

So, Writing Grinches, expand your hearts and sit down with the Writing Whos, or stick to your grinchy ways, but I say more power to all who want to read and write, and may we continue to freely do both. Yes, even if somebody calls what we read and/or write trash. Maybe especially then.

Fear and love

The kids have started dance. And almost immediately we suspected the oldest was in the wrong class, that she was ready to move up to beginning ballet instead of pre. So we discussed this with her teacher who agreed and suggested she try out the beginning class right away instead of after the holiday break. Immediately, she expressed all manner of fear. “But I don’t want to perform!” “But I don’t want to be in a different class from my sister!” All the way home it was fear, fear, fear.

So we hauled her off to the trial class after a day of angst. We watched her glow while she put on real ballet slippers. We watched her leap and balance and twirl and work at the barre. We saw a confidence that was new. And when class was over, she gushed. It was fantastic, amazing, she loved it. She didn’t want to leave. She wanted to stay and watch the next class of more advanced students. Finally we dragged her away to eat something, but we knew: she’d found IT.

Sometimes the thing you love most is the thing you fear most. Sometimes fear points you in the very direction you should go. The thing you love, the thing you can’t tear yourself away from, the thing you’ll do all the time because it is its own reward. 

If there’s something you’re afraid of, you don’t have to wait until the New Year to make a resolution to give it a try. Just try. You might love it. You might not want to stop.