Thursday, May 24, 2012

Big publishers vs the indie press

Are the big publishers even still relevant? One of the things about being a writer that a lot of people don’t stop to think about, is that at some point you have to consider how you’re going to get what you’ve written into the hands of readers. That’s the publishing aspect of the business. It can be a daunting and soul-crushing process that most writers would prefer not to have to think about.

Publishing has traditionally been an ugly, cutthroat business. We’ve all heard stories about famous authors whose work was rejected by one short-sighted publisher after another. (I wouldn’t want to be one of the editors who rejected Harry Potter!) The big publishers have lots of expenses they need to recoup, and often aren’t willing to take chances on anything that doesn’t fit an established niche. Which leaves you in a bad position indeed if your masterpiece is outside of the proverbial box.

Many writers are astonished to learn that when they do finally land a publisher, they may get only a measly 10% of the royalties. And, you as an author are still expected to do most of the marketing and promotion work! Why would any author agree to such an insane arrangement? Because until very recently the big publishing houses held all the cards. If you were a writer that wanted to get your work before the public, you had no other choice. As a business model, it made perfect sense when authors had to rely on someone who could not only create the physical book, but also get it into bookstores. Typesetting, printing, and distribution of printed materials was and is an expensive and complex business.

Things are different now. You no longer need a printing press--if you have a computer and an internet connection, you can get your book published. You must be prepared to provide for yourself those services that traditional publishers provide--editorial services, layout and cover artists, for example. (More about this later.) And, of course, the indie route doesn’t carry quite the cachet of having your book published by a big name. This is something I’ve never quite understood. Think about it--writers are the only professionals who are stigmatized by selling their work themselves. Who benefits from this attitude? The big publishing houses! It seems that the more irrelevant they become they more stubbornly they cling to the status quo. I read this week that Houghton-Mifflin has filed for bankruptcy. I predict that they will be but the first of many.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Getting creeped out

Sorry for the prolonged absence from the blog, it was unintentional. I was supposed to go on a promising paranormal investigation and planned on coming back with a great story, but it didn’t happen. A friend recently inherited a substantial spread of land way out in the middle of nowhere. Plenty of paranormal activity has been reported there over the years and we were going to take our equipment and check it out. Alas, my friend got kicked by a horse! So we’ve had to postpone.

In the meantime, I’m hard at work on my next book in the Ghost Hunting with Margo series. I figure it makes sense for a book about ghost hunting to be published around Halloween, so that’s the plan. You heard it here first! Obviously I can’t tell you anything about the plot, but I can tell you the tentative title will be “The Science Professor’s Ghost”. A couple of readers have written to me to say they would like to hear more of the ghosts and their stories, and I’m happy to oblige.

An interesting thing happened while I was working on the draft: going back over some sections that I’d written earlier, I actually got kind of creeped out. I wrote it, I know what happens--but I still got goose bumps! I consider this a good sign. One of the hazards of being a ghost fiction writer is that you get rather jaded. When, by necessity, you have to spend a lot of time in dark, scary places trying to talk to ghosts, stuff just doesn’t phase you anymore. I’m curious to know if this happens to other writers. If you’re a paranormal writer--or even if you’re not--has something you wrote yourself ever given you the creeps? Please let me know.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Get well soon

One of the things I really like about my neighborhood, aside from the fact that it's close to all the cool stuff, is that I'm right on Turtle Creek. Turtle Creek, as the name implies, is a creek with turtles in it. According to Wikipedia, it's a tributary of the Trinity River. When I moved back to Dallas from Switzerland 3 years ago, I discovered a small park across the street from me right on the banks of the creek. At the time it was home to a white swan, a mated pair of Australian black swans, three grey geese and hundreds upon hundreds of ducks.

Since then, the white swan has disappeared, the two remaining geese have moved downstream, and one of the black swans has gone missing. In addition, the duck population has been decimated. We suspect coyotes are to blame. The lone black swan is a popular neighborhood resident and much loved. Everyone keeps an eye on him and he seems to appreciate the attention now that he is without his mate.

It recently dawned on me that it had been a while since I've seen the swan. He hides sometimes, and I didn't think anything of it at first. But when several days passed and there was still no sign of him, I began to fear the worst. A few days ago, I learned that he was attacked by raccoons, or possibly coyotes. He was rescued but injured, and is now convalescing in a wildlife center. Please join me in sending him your positive healing vibes! He is a beloved neighborhood pet and we are looking forward to having him back home.