Most of the years while digital and audio have been growing, and print publishers, at the same time, shrinking, there has been a sort of “us and them” attitude involved. When “indie” publishing started to be the fad – gurus popping up all over with their savant secrets – this attitude persisted. You must do it this way, or you must go back and bow down to traditional publishing and do it their way. You can’t have it both ways. I’m here to tell you that not only is that not true, it’s harmful.
Over the last year I’ve seen a lot of different combinations of things put into play. Here’s what I believe – from what I’ve learned.
You should always retain your digital and audio rights if you can, but let’s face it – traditional publishers aren’t stupid. A lot of them are now locking in these rights and not letting go. That does not have to kill an established writer – it can work to your benefit.
A: Keep all your books, stories, screenplays, essays, etc. in play. Anything you can keep the rights to publish electronically – do that. Get the work out there in front of people.
B: If your publisher is holding onto the rights on newer works, play off of that. Many of these same publishers are willing to include marketing info for their titles in the back of eBooks published by the author, or even another publisher. EVERYONE makes more money if you cross-promote. If your book is getting front-run promotion from a NYC publisher, use that to market the works that YOU control as well. We have at least one author who received a very good promotional deal through his current traditional publisher, and is now selling like crazy (and making more money) on the works that the same publisher does NOT control.
C: Pay attention to your work, and your rights. Keep copies of the final files of things. Don’t write, publish, forget, and then later on wish you had a document file for your book. If it’s a backlist title, well, you know what I’ll say next. If you are established with a backlist…you should be contacting me, or someone like me. Someone who will scan the book, get you a document copy, not charge you to do that – and help publish your book.
D: If you get a traditional offer, and they are paying you well, take it and use that publicity to move the things you also control.
The playing field is never going to be completely even. Big Traditional Publishers have money. Authors (generally) do not. Authors create and write books, editors edit them, and publishers publish them. Except, these days, a lot of those hats are being shuffled and doubled up. If you can, learn from the marketing strategies – good and bad – of your traditional publisher. If you see something that works, give it a shot…don’t spend your mortgage money trying to follow the footsteps of a guru. If you don’t feel comfortable publishing and marketing your own work, there are alternatives. Crossroad Press is an alternative. There are others.
The key is – be more involved. Keep your apples in one hand, and the oranges close to the vest. Pay attention, track your rights, and keep your work active and viable. Opportunity, regardless of what they say in old cliches, does not come knocking…you have to spot it, recognize it, and act.
Now…go sell a million books and make me proud.
I have been sadly neglecting both the promotion of my older books, and the creation of new ones. Being a publisher is demanding, and one of the things I now have to do is figure out how to more successfully budget my time. I can’t let the writing suffer too much, or I might wither and blow away…and that would be bad…I’m sure of it.
I have several projects in various stages of completion. I know I owe a new installment for The DeChance Chronicles, and I have two good possibilities. One is that I write “Nevermore” – the continuation of Kali’s Tale, where Donovan tells the tale of how / why Edgar Allen Poe wrote The Raven … Another is that I have Donovan, also in storyteller mode, explain to a group of children who hate The Scarlet Letter – that there is a great deal more to the story, and while Hawthorne gave a brief, boring outline, he wasn’t much of a storyteller… That would be titled The Scarlet Rose.
I am about 2/3 of the way through novelizing KILLER GREEN – the screenplay. That book will need a serious rewrite when it’s done to flesh out characters. It’s fast, fun, and I hope to finish it soon. I also have the novel (or novella, possibly) Tattered Remnants – a very complex pyschological thriller involving book binding and serial murder – which is partially completed, as well as a novella for The Tales of the Scattered Earth.
Then there is my apocalyptic end-of-the-world zombie book – “Run, if You Want to Live,” involving ultra-marathon running and a zombie menace.
I have – in other words – no lack of ideas. It’s time…time is killing me. I must defeat it.
I’d also like to hear from any of you with an opinion on what should be next.
On other notes – American Pies is available now in eBook formats – print soon – and My Soul to Keep, Ancient Eyes, and Maelstrom are recently out in unabridged audio from Audible.com. Upcoming there is Kali’s Tale – book IV of the DeChance Chronicles.
– Off to put words in their proper order….
By David Niall Wilson
Those of you who follow my antics will be aware that – among the publishing, fictioneering, and other activities that fill my waking hours and dreams, I’ve been working on a book titled American Pies. The book is available in eBook formats now from Crossroad Press, and will be at all eBook sites by tomorrow. The trade paperback is in “production”. This is – sort of – a book about how to bake fruit-filed pies. It is also a commentary on the cookie-cutter, dumbed-down versions of our culture we have come to take for granted – like cardboard-boxed pies at the grocery store, or pre-baked desserts from the freezer you just heat up. What’s up with that? Where did they come from – and where did the fresh fruit, hot ovens, and integrity go?
I don’t know where it went, but I spent my winter gathering up all of it I could find, and baking it into thirteen pies. Twelve of them are just fruit-filled standards, though some with oddball filling choices, like persimmon and nectarine. The thirteenth – the lucky pie? The American pie. Red white and blue with stars…I made it, and I ate it, and it rocked. Now you can make it too.
Along the way you’ll meet my grandmothers, you’ll learn of a tiny town named Flora, Illinois – and hopefully, you’ll catch some of my love of the freshly baked fruit pie. Included are metric and Imperial measurements and oven settings, provided by “The Pie Bloke,” Darren Pulsford from across the big pond.
I hope some of you will check the book out…and if you do, share your photos and stories with me. That’s another thing Americans do, you see. We eat pie, drink coffee (or beer) and tell stories.
We just finished the basic rebuild of the Crossroad Press online store. In early December we lost it to a server crash, only to find that our backups were corrupt. The most recent good backup we had was from 2010, so I just started from scratch.
This time out, things are better. There is an “About us” page, a contact page, and a symmetry to the layout that was lacking before. Instead of audiobooks and eBooks and print books being separated, there is one page per book, and on that page you can purchase whatever formats are available. The books, instead of being organized just by genre, are separated by author now, making it possible for some coupons and sales we hope to try in the New Year.
We remain a DRM free digital publisher. You can read our books on just about any reading device, and we’ll be happy to help you figure out how to get the books ON your device if you need assistance.
Over at the Crossroad Press blog, http://www.crossroadpress.com we are nos serving up news and updates, including the most recent Crossroad Press bestseller list – the top ten from our 78 Audible.com audiobooks.
So check us out at the newly revamped CROSSROAD PRESS STORE … use the coupon code welcomeback for a one-time 25% off savings.
If you don’t see me, I’m writing – I have a Donovan DeChance novel to finish…
Recently I’ve been asked several questions by authors I hope to work with that have actually saddened me. How much will it cost me – directed at anything a publisher should be doing for their authors – gets me every time. It should cost you nothing. If a publisher tries to tell you to pay for your own cover, your own editor, or any part of the process (and this includes scanning and reconstructing a book that they plan on publishing in digital) – they aren’t a publisher. They are in business making money OFF of writers, not for them.
Traditionally publisher paid advances. At Crossroad Press we don’t do that. We have opted to keep our overhead as low as possible and to give the lion’s share of all money made to the authors. We do not charge for covers. We do not expect authors to kick in on anything, in fact. Authors create, and publishers provide that creativity to the public – hopefully to make money first for the author, and THEN for themselves. If this is skewed the other direction, you can pretty much rest assured that the “publisher” has their own interest at heart.
So, just to be clear, there is a message here. If a publisher wants to publish your work, it is THEIR job to get the cover, convert the book, edit the book – not yours. I actually heard today of an e-mail from a publisher who claimed it was no longer the responsibility of publishers to market the works of their authors? Really? How then do you suppose money will be made?
Just as the Internet has created a lot of authors, it has created a lot of “publishers”. Make sure you know your own goals when you approach them. If all you want is a book with your name on it, publish it yourself and keep what little return you get. If you go with an actual publisher, don’t pay them to publish you – that’s the same as doing it yourself, except more expensive with less return.
End very short rant. I guess I just don’t understand greed very well. I recognize it, but I don’t understand it.
I wanted to take a day out today and direct you all to a friend and colleague of mine, Dr. John B. Rosenman. John and I met at a writing group long ago in Virginia Beach. We were two of the members of the group who wrote horror – most of the others were (at the time) fantasy and Sci-fi oriented, and the whole shooting match was led by the talented and (often) wise Mr. Richard Rowand, who eventually edited STARSHORE Magazine and published my first important story.
Anyway…through those years, and all of those between (decades) John has been writing stories and novels and finding them homes. He may be the single most dedicated writer I’ve ever met. He’s always working on a story, reworking an idea, searching for flaws where too many other writers would hit send and move on…and he has produced some remarkable stories. He has appeared in literally hundreds of magazines and anthologies, and has a number of novels to his credit, and I’m hoping this little nudge will encourage you to check some of them out.
I will point you specifically at two Sci-Fi novels that we have published at Crossroad Press. Both of these were previously published, but we were fortunate enough to pick them up. John writes novels on a sweeping scale. There are messages and socially significant sub-themes in his alien cultures, and deep emotional insights in his romance. While they qualify, probably, as space opera, they go beyond that. Here are the two we’ve published to date. Read them and let me know if I’m not right!
Aaron Okonkwo, a Nigerian scientist, travels with a crew in the 24th century to evaluate Viridis, which proves to be a beautiful and fabulous world. There, Aaron discovers a strange, alien species and amazing machines and technology left in a vast underground complex by a mysterious race called the Creators.
Aaron soon falls under the irresistible, seductive spell of Nightsong, a green alien female with ominous and bewitching powers. However, an even greater danger rises. He will be forced to fight for the planet’s survival against a ruthless invasion of many ships to conquer and enslave the planet – just as Africa itself was once enslaved. Aaron knows it’s A Senseless Act of Beauty to try to reclaim his ancient warrior heritage and fight back against such overwhelming odds, but he knows he must try. – $2.99
Killer angels are roaming outer space looking for their messiah. If Captain Latimore can’t make them believe he’s the one, everyone on his crew – and many more besides – will die.
Captain Eric Latimore leads a four-person crew to Lagos to investigate a previous team’s mysterious disappearance. Once there, he discovers that an ominous alien presence is invading their dreams. Each member of his crew has the same dream – huge, seductively beautiful “angels” speak to them telepathically.
The creatures strand his crew on the planet and only Latimore can free them – if he survives. $2.99.
Which is, for those who care, my day to share with hundreds of thousands of others who served. It’s something I’m proud of…so…that’s my thought for the day. I’m glad my country has a day to celebrate those of us who sacrificed years of our lives…
Currently reading: City of Knives – Unpublished (until I publish it) novel by International bestselling author William Bayer. VERY good book, with tango, and nazi weapons collectors, and mystery in Buenos Aries … good stuff.
Currently listening to : The Sufferer’s Song – by Steven Savile, narrated by Andrew Randall
Currently writing : Kali’s Tale – or I will be after I write the final chapter tonight of the origin story of Donovan DeChance. For those Donovan lovers out there, and those who WANT to be…this is must-read entertainment.
So…back to it. Miles to go before we sleep…
This year I started out Nanowrimo (Wordcount just over 20k for those keeping track) working on the next novel in the Donovan DeChance series, which was to be “Kali’s Tale,” the story of one of the young vampires in Vintage Soul setting off for a town near The Great Dismal Swamp to kill the one who created her. Along the way, I decided I wanted a flashback for Donovan. It would be, I said, the short story of how he became who, and what he is – a back-story filler for those who love that sort of thing. I hit the right spot in the book, started the flashback, and danged if it didn’t spin out of control…
For one thing, I’m writing the flashback with no more of an outline than a brief synopsis. This freed me up to add in a lot of details. That turned what was to be a chapter, maybe two, into five, and then six. I chose a familiar setting for the story – the western town of Rookwood, but before the days of Hallowed Ground. In fact, SIlas Boone is a boy, as is the eight-fingered piano player McGraw. There is still life and love and mystery in the town. In Hallowed Ground it’s the dying husk of a settlement that’s purpose – supplying things to those traveling west – had left it all but a ghost town. In 1842, it was very much alive.
I’ve answered a lot of questions. Donovan’s age. How he met Cleo, his familiar…why he does what he does, and how he discovered it…this has opened up a hundred years of adventures I can come back to, while maintaining the modern-day line of books simultaneously.
Kali’s Tale will likely not include this flashback. It’s simply too long. It will be either a short novel on it’s own, or a novelette, and it will be released before the new year. Kali’s Tale I return to in a day or two, once this “flashback” that became a book is in the can. I’ll leave you with a short excerpt…
The old wagon smelled of sweat, leather, cheap liquor, and a miasma of spices, herbs, and chemicals that would have driven a bloodhound crazy. Donovan leaned back into a pile of old rags and tried to peer out through the crack between two of the wagon’s warped boards at the passing countryside. He knew they were getting close. Whenever they neared a town, or a settlement, Rathman picked up the pace. The two old ponies scented fresh apples and hay, and the old man scented whiskey and women. Donovan knew he would work long into the night, but hoped, in the end, it would mean a hot meal. Sometimes, if he could keep his distance from Rathman and find an hour’s work sweeping, or scrubbing, or shoveling out a stable, he could earn a decent meal before the old man’s screeching, bullying voice dragged him back to the wagon. At least it was something to hope for.
The town they expected to run up on next was called Rookwood. Donovan had never seen the place, but Rathman remembered it from many years back. Donovan hoped it was a lot of years, because the old fraud was seldom welcomed back to a place a second time if anyone remembered his previous visit, and it wasn’t easy to forget. For one thing, the decrepit old wagon was painted over with brilliant, garish designs.
“Dr. Hugo Rathman, Healer, Mystic, and Clairvoyant” was painted dead center in paint so bright and so red that circling buzzards had mistaken it for blood more than once and spiraled down to have a closer look. More than once Donovan had peered out into the driver’s seat of the wagon to be certain the carrion feeders weren’t after Rathman himself. The old man could drink himself into a death-like stupor so deep that he seemed dead.
Finally they passed by the first small grouping of board and tar shacks. Donovan caught sight of a think boy with wild hair and no shirt. For just a second he’d have sworn the kid met his gaze, right through the boards. A second later, the boy was off, flying barefoot across the desert toward town. Apparently visitors weren’t common in Rookwood. Donovan frowned. The rarer they were, the more likely someone would remember Rathman. It was possible that the old man hadn’t cheated anyone on his last visit, but that would make this a rare visit indeed. At least three lawmen were watching out for the wagon because ill townsfolk had taken one or more of Rathman’s potions and either fallen deeper into their illness, or died outright – poisoned.
Whatever the situation, Rathman didn’t hesitate. He aimed the wagon dead-center down the main road of the town, bumping through potholes and jarring Donovan’s teeth with each jouncing yard they progressed. The wagon creaked and moaned, but it held together. It always managed to hold together. Like Rathman, it seemed there was no force on the road or in the desert that could put the final nail in its coffin.
“You ready, boy” Rathman grated, turning so that his unshaven face, wild dark hair and red-veined eyes glared back into the shadows. There was no way he could see into the interior, but he still managed to stare directly into the particular shadows where Donovan rested.
“Yes sir,” Donovan said.
Rathman stared a moment longer, then nodded. He turned back to the reins, steered around a corner a bit too quickly, nearly tilting the wagon up on two wheels, and a moment later they came to a halt. Donovan rose, stepping up to the front of the wagon and peering out around the edge.
It was an alley between what looked to be a stable, and a taller wooden building that might have been a saloon or hotel. Rathman dropped the reins, stood, and stretched, pressing his knuckles tightly into the lower half of his back. He’d been sitting in the same position for nearly thirty miles, and Donovan knew it would take more than an hour for the stoop to leave him.
“I’m goin’ to see about getting the horses taken in,” he said. “You get this wagon ready – hear? We’ll be settin’ up in the morning, and there’s no time for delays.”
Rathman seemed to drop almost into a trance then, as if listening to a voice Donovan couldn’t hear. Then he turned back.
“Put out the books, and the rheumatism tinctures. Arrange some of the other cures behind. Then get this place presentable and set up my table. I believe the spirits might just speak to me here. There’s something in the air.”
Donovan thought that all there was in the air was dust. He thought, very briefly, of his father, sickly and barely able to carry himself to work in a mine so dark and deep it swallowed men whole. He thought of his mother, though he could barely remember her face. He thought of the tiny room that had been his, the bed that had grown too short to contain his long, lanky legs, and he sighed. At that moment, he’d have traded half his life to be back there, caring for his father – assuming the old man hadn’t passed on – and getting ready to take his own turn in the mines.
“Apprentice,” was the title he’d been granted so long ago. “Assistant to a man of books and medicine. A learned scholar with the ear of the spirits and the mind of a professor. What it had boiled down to was the life of an indentured manservant. He’d learned to read, but only by his own dogged effort, and stolen moments with Rathman’s precious books. When he proved he could earn a dime or two by reading from the old tales to those who passed by, the good “doctor” had taken an interest and taught what he could between drunken binges and fits of curse-spewing malevolence. He was obviously torn between the fear of teaching too much and having Donovan run off on his own, and the greedy desire for his apprentice to be able to shoulder a share of the burden of making their living. It was also true that no listener had ever asked for their money back, or threatened to run Donovan out of town on a rail, and likely Rathman held that against him too.
We recently moved most of the Crossroad Press audiobook operation onto the Audible ACX system. This is a very cool interface that allows rights holders, narrators, and producers, and authors to collaborate on audiobook projects. It is easy to sign in and be a part of things, but it is also easy to take that ease for granted. Here’s rule #1. No matter which role you sign in to fulfill, you still have to know what you’re doing. Not all books are eligible for ACX. Not just any old Skype microphone plugged into your laptop with a USB cord is going to make you a narrator. There are other considerations…but I’m going to bulletize most of them, and then give a couple of reasons why having your book done through a company like Crossroad Press – even on ACX – might still be a better option than going it alone.
1. Narration is an art. It requires an ability to act. It isn’t the same thing as a live reading at a convention, and it isn’t the same thing as a radio broadcast or a podcast. It has to be learned, and if you go in with the arrogant notion you can just “do it” you probably won’t get many jobs. As a rights holder and publisher you have to be familiar enough with audiobooks to tell the difference, and to choose a voice that will benefit your project.
2. Sound quality is very important. Your book will be competing for sales with professional studios in the market place. If someone spends a membership credit on Audible, or plops down the money to buy your book, and it’s full of background noise, computer fans, humm, or barkind dogs they aren’t coming back, and you’ll end up with some bad reviews.
3. Presentation matters. Cover art, the intro and outro to the book, and the marketing copy are important pieces of the whole project, and should not be ignored.
4. Note to narrators. The audition script isn’t optional. If you run through ACX and drop your professional demo tape in on a thousand jobs, my guess is you’ll get zero. Take the time to scope out projects that are right for you. Study the script provided and submit an audition that is appropriate and that demonstrates how you are right for “that” book.
Specific to ACX is the royalty share option. I’ve seen sides being drawn on this issue recently. Here’s the thing…while it takes a good bit of time to narrate and edit the audio for a book…as an author I can tell you it takes a good deal of time and work to write the book, and some to publish it as well. Authors and publishers have always had to wait for sales and made their money from royalties. In the new publishing paradigm, I can see this shift happening for voice talent as well. Over time, as you develop a body of work, you begin to receive royalties on all of them each pay period, and it develops into a revenue stream. If you are paid up front, it’s also a gamble. Say you do a project for $150-$200 a finished hour, and you sit back to watch the book sell ten thousand copies. A royalty share contract would include you in that success…and honestly, it seems to me it would give you the incentive to do an even better job on the book. On the other hand, if the book is by an unknown author, the up-front payment might be the way to go. It’s always a gamble, but at least in a royalty share it’s a shared gamble.
My last point here, before I link to a few of our ACX titles, is that there is still value in having someone like Crossroad Press handle your book. For one thing, we work with our own established sound engineer. This adds a level of quality control most authors and agents just aren’t qualified to add on their own, unless they happen to be sound engineers on the side. We provide good quality cover art. We have an established market, growing every day, that draws people to our new titles. These are important, but here’s a kicker.
There are two awards important to audiobooks. The Audie, which is issued by the APA … and the golden earphone, which you get through reviews in Audiofile Magazine. WE have an established arrangement to get our titles into the review process at Audiofile. We are members of the APA. The only way to nominate a work for the Audie is to pay the APA for each nomination, and even as a member we pay $100 a title for those that are included. This can be very important step in getting people to listen to your book.
None of this is to say that you can’t sign onto ACX and make your own book…you can, of course, and if you are careful, pay attention, and listen to advice, you can probably make a quality book. On the other hand, if you’re a writer, you can get someone like Crossroad Press to handle it, and get on with writing, because the biggest problem form writers in this new digitized world is that most of the advice tells you to do everything yourself. It can really cut into your writing time if you aren’t a full-time, stay at home writer, and even then it calls for several unique skill-sets Publishers aren’t dead…they just have to change. Crossroad Press has been dedicated from day one to giving most of the money to the people who create the stories. Being an author, that’s important to me.
If you’d like to check out what we’ve been doing through ACX…you can find all of our ACX titles here:
Here are links to a few of our titles: Just click the images.
BAD MOON BOOKS is about to release my novel MAELSTROM in trade paperback, and a very limited hardcover edition. The hardcover will be printed only in the quantities ordered during the reservation period. A few of those who pre-order the HC limited will win copies of a a hand-bound story set in Lavender, California, where the action in the novel takes place. It is POSSIBLE that those people will have their names included in the story as well. It is PROBABLE that no more than five or six copies will ever exist…anything is possible. Details will be released as I have them, but for now … Go pre-order the book!
Cover art by the talented Alex McVey
Something in Lavender, California is waking up. Rituals not properly completed for centuries are coming together. Nothing is what it seems.
When Nick Leatherman, his girlfriend Ruthie, and their buddies Flash and Weasel invade Shady Grove Cemetery for a “ghost hunt” on their way home from a concert, they are drawn into a web of darkness and intrigue that threatens to consume them. Nick and Ruthie witness a gruesome murder, and Nick’s pocketknife shows up at the crime scene the next morning. Nick has had problems in the past, and Inspector Kendall Straker remembers. He remembers Ned Leatherman, Nick’s alcoholic step-father as well, and he doesn’t believe the boy is a killer. The problem is that the knife – emblazoned with the name of the band Maelstrom – is the only clue he has.
Horace Goldbough is the local pastor. He’s built a huge following and a beautiful church, but there are things about the good reverend that the town doesn’t know. In particular there is his relationship with a dark woman named Beauchane, and a certain book he keeps hidden from the world.
With local reporters, and a television talk-show host hounding his every step, Straker attempts to unravel the series of grisly killings terrorizing Lavender, while simultaneously protecting Nick. Nick, in the meantime, has begun his own investigation, feeling trapped and needing to clear his name.
Ritual words are being spoken, and a power that has been denied access to the Earth for centuries is poised to strike. The clock is ticking. Can Straker, Nick, and Maelstrom find the answer to the killings and put an end to them before the final ritual takes place, or will a horror be unleashed on the unsuspecting town of Lavender beyond their comprehension?