Thursday, November 24, 2011

Things I am Thankful For

Here are some things that I am thankful for:

1. Sarcasm.  No, seriously, I love sarcasm.  I mean it.  I am NOT being sarcastic right now.  It'd probably the first time in months, but I swear I'm not.  You know what?  This really isn't working.  I better just get started on my turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Win a Signed Copy of "The Man in the Cinder Clouds"

If you're looking for a gift idea for your favorite reader for Christmas, young or old, click the link below and enter to win a signed copy of "The Man in the Cinder Clouds":

There's also an interview about my writing history and methods, with a nice teaser about the sequel to "The Man in the Cinder Clouds".

Thanks, Sheryl, for including me on your blog!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The History of E-Books and The Future of Self-Publishing

E-Books and self-publishing have an interesting history.  They have an even more interesting future.

The first edition Kindle was released on November 19, 2007.  Other devices followed suit (e.g. Nook, Kobo, iPad, etc.).  Publishers and the buying public were slow to accept E-Readers, though. 

And for good reason.

In addition to the expenses (and bugs) associated with early-generation E-Readers, content was an issue.  Publishers treated E-Books as second-rate, releasing them long after print books were published, so content was either unavailable or old news.  E-Books were viewed as sales cannibals and had to be properly isolated in the know, squash the competition.  (NOTE: It's The American Way.)

Rather than embrace the transition to digital media for what it's worth, it looks like the publishers resisted the move in every way possible.  E-Books were created by scanning print copies, and they came out with so many errors you'd think publishers screwed up the typesetting intentionally out of spite.  Not to mention the rights-management nightmare authors (and agents) faced.

While publishers dragged their heels, slowly and obstinately venturing into the E-Book market like a child being forced to eat a plate of cold Brussels sprouts, self-publishers have embraced the medium, learning its ins and outs and providing content that has quality competitive to traditionally published books. 

In the meantime, E-Readers took hold with consumers.

Earlier this year, news broke that sold 105 E-Books for every 100 print books.  While E-Books account for only 14% of all general consumer fiction and non-fiction (according to Forrester Research), it is clear that they are on the rise...although it is also clear that print is not dead.

But that market is changing, too.

Print-on-demand (POD) services like Lulu have been around for many years (since 2002 in Lulu's case).  Authors were limited in how they could use them, though.  Publishers had a lock on distribution, there was no other way to get into a major bookstore or library.  Vanity projects dominated the self-publishing market.  In order to sell copies, authors had to find ways to get copies in front of people on their own.  Marketing options were limited and sales were low or non-existent.

Then, one of the world's foremost booksellers,, opened its doors to self-publishers.  We could now get our books on shelves (albeit virtual shelves).  Companies like CreateSpace (owned by offer print-on-demand with a slew of additional services, ranging from interior and cover design, to access to an expanded distribution network—i.e. the wholesalers who sell to libraries and bookstores.

Many talented writers have embraced self-publishing.  Some—Barry Eisler and J.K. Rowling, for example—stepping away from lucrative contracts, and others—like John Locke and Amanda Hocking—starting out on their own and finding success.

I think the future is bright for self-published authors.  We are on the forefront of the E-Book market, embracing it faster and deeper than publishers and since we are individuals, we are each able to maneuver faster.

We can also mobilize, and find strength in our numbers.  Add in the power of social networking, and marketing your work becomes much more dynamic (and affordable, with the primary investment being time).

Don't let anyone tell you "Don't try to're not [INSERT NAME FROM ABOVE] and can't expect their success.  Traditional publishing is still your only real option."

You're not one of those people, and shouldn't try to be.  Be yourself.  And write the best book you can.  If it's really good, and if you work hard, you will find your audience.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Self-Published Books: The Perception of Quality

I'm proud to share a guest post from a great writer and good friend, Sue Quinn.  Sue is also an excellent critique partner, with a very keen eye for character development.  So without further ado, here's Self-Published Books: The Perception of Quality

by Susan Kaye Quinn, author of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)

The question of quality in self-published books is a sticky subject, just because self-publishers and traditionalists tend to line up along this issue, ready to duke it out (Note: I’m a fence straddler, firmly in both camps. I’m self-publishing my new paranormal/SF novel Open Minds, but still pursuing traditional publication with my middle grade stories).

Whose Perception?

The perception of the quality of self-published books (or traditionally published books) depends a LOT on whose perception you’re talking about. For a long time, self-published books were considered, by people in the publishing business, to be the last resort of desperate authors not sufficiently talented to get published through a real publisher. I’m not exactly sure when this viewpoint became prevalent. Sometime after Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain self-published their works and before John Locke sold a million self-published e-books on Amazon. Many writers who aspired to be real authors would never seriously consider self-publishing. There was a belief (still held by some) that an author needed the stamp of approval—the cachet—of being selected for publication by a large publishing house in order to separate them from the riff-raff of self-publishing. (There was also the issue of distribution—NY publishing houses had a lock on it.)

These were the perceptions of the industry insiders—writers, agents, and publishers. But there’s really only one perception that matters: readers.

And I’m fairly certain that most readers have no idea who publishes the books they read.

For sure, I couldn’t name two publishers before I started writing. Most readers just are interested in the story and to some extent the craft. With the advent of e-books and digital distribution, more readers are reading self-published books. Has their perception changed? I don’t think so: they still want quality books to read, and don’t really care who publishes it.

But the perception of industry insiders with regards to self-publishing has started to change, for two reasons: 1) money and 2) the authors choosing to self-publish.

When JK Rowling fires her agent and goes the self-publishing route with Pottermore, industry people sit up and take notice. When self-published authors start selling thousands of books a month, more people pay attention. When traditionally published authors start self-publishing their backlists, and make serious money doing so, industry insiders (writers, agents, and publishers alike) start to wonder how this is going to change things for them.

But What About Quality?

I believe that the quality of a book is a highly subjective thing.

I’m not talking about typo’s or grammatical errors. Those are quality measures that are easy (EASY!) to meet, and any self-published or traditionally published author would do well to make sure their books are thoroughly copyedited. An occasional typo is going to get through (this happens in traditionally published books too). That’s not a problem, but chronic lack of copyediting is.

What I really mean by Quality is whether a book can be considered good enough to rave about or recommend to your friends. This is an enormously subjective thing. Again, industry insiders (writers, agents, and publishers) have their own ideas about what kinds of books are high “quality” and should be published. But once again, readers have their own perception of quality, one that is measured by a single metric: book sales.

Example: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Did you love this book? You’re in good company with 30 million copies sold. I hated it. Seriously, I could NOT get through the first book. Gave up after 100 pages, skipped to the end, and STILL couldn’t read it. I love the Lisbeth Salander character, but I just could not wade through the descriptive passages and maudlin tangents. Even Nathan Bransford thinks that this book would have a hard time getting published today.

But there was something in that book that people loved (even though I couldn’t find it). There are other examples: The Shack, Twilight. These books were phenomenons because of some aspect of the story, not because of the quality of their craft.

So do sales = quality, or at least the kind of quality that matters, i.e. quality to readers? Does the inverse hold true? Low sales = low quality?

Not necessarily.

Readers buy the books that they like. The pool of readers who like your particular brand of gritty spaghetti westerns in space may not be as large as the vast ocean of readers that like vampire romances. This doesn’t mean your book is low quality; it means that your book has a small readership. If however, your gritty spaghetti western is really an awfully written book, with no plot, cardboard characters, and a trite ending, then even that small readership is going to say meh and move on to the next book.

If you want more sales for your novel, options include: 1) writing a better book, 2) writing a book with broader appeal, or 3) doing a better job of matching your book with the audience that loves it. Quality is a part of #1, and is the part you have the most control over. Taking charge of all three is part of being an entrepreneurial author.

The Democratization of Publishing

I think we’re moving from a patronage model of publishing to an entrepreneurial model. Writers are empowered by the option of self-publishing to treat their writing as a small business, investing in their writing careers to get them off the ground. This means that more books will see print than ever before, and not just ones that previously were dashed off by writers impatient with the traditional publishing process. These are books that would have been trunked when they didn’t catch the golden ring of a big publishing contract.

This summer and fall, I’m seeing a huge number of very talented writers stepping off the traditional-publishing-hamster-wheel and taking a spin on the self-publishing roulette. As more and more of these writers get their books into the hands of readers—as more and more of them climb the Amazon bestseller charts—I think the perceptions of industry insiders with regards to the “quality” of self-publishing will seriously start to change.

Because readers will love these books, buy them, and recommend them to all their friends.

See more guest posts about Open Minds at the Virtual Launch Party!

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep. 

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her. 

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available for $2.99 in e-book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and $9.99 in print (Amazon, Createspace). 

Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! (Check out the prizes here.) 
Three ways to enter (you can have multiple entries):

1)    Leave a comment here or at the Virtual Launch Party post

2)    Tweet (with tag #keepingOPENMINDS)
                Example: When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous
                thing to keep. #keepingOPENMINDS @susankayequinn #SF #YA
                avail NOW

                Example: Celebrate the launch of OPEN MINDS by @susankayequinn 

                                                                                  #keepingOPENMINDS #SciFi #paranormal #YA avail NOW  
3)    Facebook (tag @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn)
Example: Celebrate the launch of paranormal/SF novel OPEN MINDS by @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn for a chance to win Open Books/Open Minds prizes!