The Public Domain … and Working for a Living

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One of the things the Internet has made possible is the wide-spread sharing of work in the Public Domain.  This is work that is not copyright to any estate, individual, etc., but is free to use – as a person sees fit – for fun, profit, or what-have you.  All well and good.  We have even scanned and presented a few older titles through Crossroad Press, sort of testing the waters…but here’s the thing.

Sharing Public Domain material is one thing, and trying to capitalize off of the work of others with no effort on your own part is ass-hattery.

Case in point.  There is a wonderful site – Librivox – where narrators and readers are taking their time, effort, and love of books and the written word and making something wonderful.  They are offering public domain narrations of public domain books and stories, as well as public domain podcasts, etc. available to listeners and readers everywhere.  It’s a lot of work.

We have done over 200 audiobooks at Crossroad Press, so I feel somewhat qualified to comment on the number of hours our narrators spend reading, editing, mixing, and tweaking files to prepare them for listeners.  It’s probably a ration of close to two to three hours for every one hour produced, and your average book runs around eight hours.

What I’ve seen lately is this…people going to these public domain sites, downloading the audio, maybe sprucing it up with some music (also public domain) and putting it up for sale through sites like Audible.com … profiting off of work that was done in good faith for the benefit of all…and for free.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.  Public Domain work IS free for use in any way you see fit, but you cannot copyright it.  If you add music, or content to it, you can copyright that music or content IF that music or content is – in fact – something you own the rights to.  You can’t copyright the “production” of work you did not create and have no rights to.

And let’s be serious…only a jerk profits off of other people’s volunteer work. I just wanted to point out this practice, and to frown upon it publicly.  If the narrators themselves want to make their Public Domain work available for sale, I see that as a way some folks can pay them back for their generosity.  If a third party who did nothing more than download the files and then upload them back into a sales outlet profits, I consider that – if not illegal, at the least worthy of a golden-asshat award. (there should BE golden asshat awards…seriously…).

Go give LIbrivox a listen … you won’t be disappointed.

 

-DNW

Using Facebook and Social Media as an Author – 10 Tips / Rules from my Experience

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Ten tips for using Facebook as an author:

1) Have a personal profile AND an author’s page. This allows you all the perks of both, but gives you a good way to split your personal from professional “imprint” . . . and in case you achieve the fame you crave, you can have more than 500 likes on your author’s page, but not on a personal profile.

2) Do not make a new page for your new book. If you have a series with an actual following, it’s worthwhile to break those fans off with a page of their own, but in general, use your author’s page to build a solid list of readers, and don’t break it into pieces. Most of those who join the new page will just be people from the old page, and it serves no real purpose.

3) If you decided to send a notice to a successful author and they take you up on “liking” your page, or friending you, do not follow up with “Hey! Thanks for that! Here’s the link to my brand new book you might want to buy. As a corrolary, do not post that same link directly onto said successful autors (or anyone’s for that matter) timeline without their permission.

4) Be aware that online “Events” – again – probably only reach the same people as your author’s page, and probably annoy at least half of the people you invite. Just post the information on your author’s page. Concentrate on building the base for that page.

5) Only “sponsor” a post when you REALLY want it to be more visibile. Ther is no solid evidence (none) that promoted posts actually sell anything, but they DO spread the word wider and longer if there is something you are trying to emphasize…as with any Facebook promotion, take anything they say with a grain of salt. FB is a horrible marketing tool.

6) Post regularly and not just links to buy your newest book. Do not post every time you get a new review from a friend on Good Reads or Amazon, people are not stupid. Give them the information on what your book is about, and the information on where to find it. If you have a promotion or contest, post that, and politely request your friends share it.

7) Remember the first rule of Internet Marketing. (My rule) You’ll gather more flies with lolcats than with persistence. You will get more shares, likes, and comments with something entertaining or amusing that you’ve used to draw attention to your work than you will to a review on someone’s blog, or an entire blog tour of places no one was going to go anyway. In fact, my opinion on blog tours is that if you can’t tour on already very popular blogs, they are a waste of time, other than to up your numbers on certain search engines.

8) If you have a blog, and you post regularly there, I recommend Networked Blogs on Facebook. You can post a short note and a link for each post automatically to your various pages and / or personal profile and you you can avoid doubling content while reminding folks about your blog.

9) BE ENGAGING – and this rule applies to Facebook, Twitter, PARTICULARLY Pinterest and other Social Media sites. Nothing irritates me more or faster than a feed full of nothing but links, or a Pinterest page that has one board – My books – or maybe two … My Books and My friend’s Books. Social Media (as everyone knows by now) is supposed to be a converation. If you use it like a virtual mirror and keep TELLING it who the fairest one of all is, you’ll be scratching your head and wondering why no one pays attention. Be yourself – unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.

10) Do not try to fashion yourself after success. Because Anne Rice or Joe Hill or any other person can create a spectacular following on a social media site does not mean that if you a: copy what they do or b: listen to them because they proclaim themselves a guru (NOTE: I am not a guru, all of this is just observations and my own experience) or c: desperately cling to them hoping they will mention you and draw you along in their wake – that it will work. You, and your work, have to stand alone. If you don’t stand out as a memorable, engaging person, or your work does not prove to actually reach the heights you claim it does…no amount of manipulation of social media will make it so. Spend more time writing – less time trying to figure out how to sell it. Engage when you can, be interesting, funny, and real, and trust your talent. USE your talent. Don’t try to be someone else – unless (of course, you can be Batman, or The Fist of Goodness, in which case refer to rule 9)

-DNW

Some Career Notes on the Past 2 Years

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Since we’ve really kicked Crossroad Press into gear, and I’ve concentrated more of my writing on drawing my big, fictional universe into one entity – and promoting the original series work I’ve created, there has been an interesting shift and upswing.  I have consolidated my sales numbers and earnings across all my many books for 2011 and 2012 and can present some findings.

1) So far in 2012 (which means through sales in July) I have already made almost twice what I did in 2011.

2) Series books sell better than stand-alone novels.   Collections sell fairly steadily.

3) Attaching a cover by a famous artist can boost sales, but not as much as tying works together and being creative in how you present this in your marketing material.

4) There is absolutely NO WAY to tell what will, and what will not be the big seller – though you can sometimes guess.

One of my focuses this past year has been tying Hallowed Ground, Donovan DeChance, O.C.L.T.,  and many of my other works that take place in and around the few fictional settings I’ve created into a larger universe.  This has helped me lead readers from one book and one series to the next, and has significantly impacted sales.

Tying in with other authors?  Same effect. We published the very successful LOST THINGS by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham this year, tied in loosely to the O.C.L.T. series, and I have watched steady sales across the series during this debut.

It cannot be said enough – promotions that reach people who have never heard of you, do not attend conventions – or at least not the same ones you do – who had NO IDEA you existed…those are the promotions that bring big new sales numbers and spread you like a fictional plague.  Repeated posts to the same boards, groups, newsletters, etc. can sustain a certain number of sales on new works, but do your already-in-print stuff no good at all.

The goal is to sustain growth.  I’ll try to pop back with some figures as things progress and 2013 approaches.  In the meantime, follow the link below to find all (or most) of my digital works.  See if you don’t find something that appeals to you.

For the record…my top ten bestselling titles over the two year period, in order:

  • Vintage Soul – Book 2 of the DeChance Chronicles
  • The Parting – A Novel of the O.C.L.T.
  • Heart of a Dragon – Book 1 of the DeChance Chronicles
  • My Soul to Keep – Book III of the DeChance Chronicles
  • Kali’s Tale – Book IV of the DeChance Chronicles
  • The Call of Distant Shores – Lovecraftian Collection
  • The Second Veil – Book II of the Tales of the Scattered Earth
  • On the Third Day
  • Ancient Eyes
  • Deep Blue

FIND MY DIGITAL WORKS THROUGH THIS POST:

David Niall Wilson in Digital – 31 Books and Growing

New Interview at HORROR WORLD

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The good folks at Horror World (Blu Gilliand in particular) have interviewed me about Crossroad Press, the state of publishing, and my writing.  Here is an excerpt …

HW: For something that started out as a way for you to get your own work out in the digital format, Crossroads Press has grown at a startling pace. Has the rate of growth surprised you? How have you had to adjust to keep up with it?

DNW: At first, it was sluggish. There’s still some resistance to eBooks, and now that the resistance is breaking down, there is a huge scramble of publishers, agents, etc. trying to tell authors they are the next big thing and to make money off of them. We started slow, kept our heads, remained fair, and as time passed, it started to steamroll. We solicited most of our authors in the first year or so. Most of our authors now come to us as referrals from our other authors, or through word-of mouth. We (very literally) end up with new relationships and properties every day.

So the quick answer to your question is, yes, at first it surprised me, but now I see it as business as usual. We are doing good things, and it’s catching people’s attention.

You’ve got a very flexible model as far as what you’ll take from authors, such as taking books from a series that started with another publisher. Why do you think traditional publishers find it difficult to see the benefits in such flexibility?

We started out with only a couple of “rules.” We wanted works from established authors, preferably with a backlist AND some new content, but either was fine. The other rule was that it is just pointless to let words rot on a hard drive, or in a closet. If you’ve written it, it should be out there. Also, authors are at their best when the rules are lax and they can write what they want to write – what feels right for them at the time. My own series, The DeChance Chronicles, was born of my frustration at the rules behind White Wolf’s World of Darkness novels (of which I wrote about a half-dozen).

Bigger publishers are market and numbers driven. They look and see that book two of something fell off from book one. They never consider it might be a marketing failure, they just drop it. If that happens, when a new “big” publisher looks at it, the first thing they will do is check numbers on that second book – which were bad – and say no. We believe in letting the books sink or swim on their own merit, and we also believe in our authors.

In your opinion, are traditional publishers on their way out? Are they going to be able to keep up with the radical shifts the publishing business is going through right now?

People are always playing the death knell for traditional publishing (we’ve heard it a few times for horror as well, I believe). The simple fact is…they have a lot of money. They still control the top echelon of popular writers. They have the most important keys to the kingdom…the ability to make a book visible, and the ability to pay people money up front.

Authors, as a whole, are an insecure lot. They want validation. I fall right in there with them. It’s rough, even in the face of an overall not-great-deal, to turn down a contract to publish your book. Money up front is a hedge against not being successful enough, and New York City still has money.

Read the entire interview BY CLICKING HERE!

Blessed With Sons, & Daughters

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Off to the US NAVY

Parents joke around a lot about kids growing up, kicking them out into the world, etc…  When the time comes for them to go, it’s just not as funny.  It’s important, and it’s necessary … but it’s never easy.

Trish and I are blessed with a big family.  We have Stephanie, Bill, Zach, Zane and Katie.  Stephanie started pulling free three years ago.  She’s on her senior year of college at Columbia College in South Carolina.  Bill headed out last year to the US Navy, and he’s down in Georgia getting ready to sink beneath the waves on a submarine.

Now – tomorrow – Zach is following, heading off to Great Lakes, and boot camp, leaving another big empty room … shrinking the home front by a voice and a smile.  There are things that we’ll be able to do as the house empties out that we could not do before, but the fact remains, it gets emptier each time.

I have known Zach the longest of any of the kids. He’s not the oldest, but I was there when he was born.  I watched him grow up and then missed some of the most important years of his life – because that’s how it happens, sometimes, with families.  Now he’s leaving again, but I know he’ll be back.

His brother Zane isn’t too far behind him – one year – then we get holidays and visits…their lives and families will expand outward.  I hope we’ll stay a family that is close.  I don’t want to be right up one another’s faces, but I want home to be just that.  Home.  For all of them.  (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want them to move back in …)  I just want to know that when we are together, it will be a happy, important time for everyone and not a chore or a duty.

I can promise there will be pie…

And I’m not even ready to start thinking about Katie following them off into the sunset…with her we still have years.  Really fast years that will dribble through our fingers, I know…  But still, years.

You’ll understand this more later, Zach, but Fair Winds, and Following Seas from your Dad.   Bill – we’ll see you soon, I hope.  Stephanie will be here for Thanksgiving.  Trish and Katie can hug me while I try to pretend none of it bothers me…  I’ll miss you bud.

A lot.

And I love you all…

Your Dad

 

Nevermore – Book V of the DeChance Chronicles Underway

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I’ve started (finally) working on the next Donovan DeChance book.  This story will follow directly on the tail of the events in Kali’s Tale – still a stand-alone story, and still something you could read without having read the others, though I realize that as time goes on…it’s less and less true that the full experience is there.  It’s just not possible to rehash everything properly without detracting from the new story.

Those of you who have been reading along will remember we left Donovan and Amethyst in a bed and breakfast near Old Mill, North Carolina, as well as O.C.L.T. Team member Geoffrey Bullfinch.  You’ll also remember that Donovan had decided not to return immediately to California, but to take a break, of sorts.

The whole crew is there, Cleo the oversized Egyptian Mau, Asmodeus the ancient Egyptian crow, and our heroes.  In Kali’s Tale, Donovan referenced a place that once existed on the borderline of Virginia and North Carolina – the Halfway House – which was a bar / hotel that existed in both states at once.

People went there to get away with things that they could not on the other side of the border, marriages at a younger age were possible in NC, and the dueling laws were different.  A lot of rough characters frequented the place, but a lot of famous “others” were known to stay as well.  Among them?

Edgar Allen Poe.

One legend has Poe penning the first draft of THE RAVEN there, and so, I’m riffing on that…and Donovan is going to “tell a story” which will lead to questions – and a quest – taking them into ancient byways, through time and the Great Dismal Swamp, to what I hope will be a satisfying “could-have-been” piece with a twist of history.

If you want to catch up…

The DeChance Chronicles consist of Heart of a Dragon, Vintage Soul, My Soul to Keep (Which is the Donovan origin story) and Kali’s Tale.  All are available in a multitude of digital formats (including digital audio for all but Kali’s Tale, and that’s on the way).  Heart of a Dragon will be available as a trade paperback later this year.

Buy The DeChance Chronicles for Kindle or in Audio 

Buy the DeChance Chronicles for Nook or other ePub ready devices

Buy direct from Crossroad Press

 

Rats scurrying from a Drowning Ship – RUN AWAY

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I’m going to make this very quick, because I’m a day or so behind paying my authors – that’s what publishers do, by the way.  They don’t charge their authors for “services” – they show faith in the work, and they share in the profit and success…

I now know of at least two, and possibly three “services” signing on with or being created by literary agents and/or agencies.  These “services” volunteer to scan, convert, get covers, for, publish, etc. eBooks from author’s old backlist titles.  For a price.  Usually a BIG price.  Let’s be clear, while they probably do what they can for their high-profile clients, they are doing no favors, marketing, or actual selling for most.  Just taking money.

I have even been told that some are being pressured.  They are being told that they can’t go do their own editions of books that agents haven’t thought about, represented, or cared about for YEARS – because originally that title was repped by the agent.

Let me tell you something – that agent better have a clause in their very old contract that says – eRights.  Just like with a publisher, agents sign on to represent certain rights of certain properties.  My old agent did some film negotiation, and did print books.  Nowhere in our agreement did it say he had rights that didn’t even exist when the book was sold / published / first represented, and – my agent not being a crook – he never tried to claim that it did.

An agent’s job is to sell your books.  To represent them to viable markets and find you the best deal.  The agent suggesting you PAY to be self-published and then give them a percentage? What’s that about? I can give them references of at least three agents who know they’d have a better deal through Crossroad Press – and we would charge NOTHING for exactly the same services…so what is in it for the agents?  You can bet they get a cut for everyone they opt in.  Don’t let them strongarm you either.  Even if they DO have the representation for your eRights, you don’t have to sign the deal they want you to – if they got your book a deal at Random House, it’s still up to you to say yes – or no.  THEY WORK FOR YOU…if it ever feels differently than that, you should find a different agent.

If you pay thousands of dollars to have your old titles made into eBooks, you are being screwed.  You are being screwed by frightened people whose existence is threatened by new paradigms in publishing.  They can’t save themselves with this, but they can tie up and ruin successes that you might have.  I’m not even going to pitch Crossroad Press here, I’m just going to say – don’t let them steal your rights. Publishers have been trying – but the AGENTS?  They are supposed to be YOUR representative – it’s your well-being and success they are supposed to care about.  If they have so little faith in your work that they feel they need to grab a couple of thousand dollars up front and run – they aren’t representing you at all any more, just themselves.

I’m not going to start naming names – but the agencies and “services” are not obscure – they are involving big agencies and big names, and I will say one thing.

The first two or three top-shelf authors who either break off and fly solo, or go with a newer, more cutting edge publisher like Crossroad Press? The whole thing is going to tumble.  These people have had TWENTY YEARS to figure out what to do about the Internet…how long will it take them to figure out that they blew it?

Irritated beyond belief – sad for those already taken in – not happy in NC.

-DNW

It's Not All Apples & Oranges Anymore

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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.

-DNW

The Line-up for New Projects. DeChance & Killer Green

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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….

DNW

New Paradigms for Authors

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As we have worked, poked, and prodded Crossroad Press into something fluid – a publisher that works with change instead of against it and strives to provide opportunity where so many times in the past it seemed there was none, some important shifts have occurred.  I wanted to take just a moment to talk about some of the things we can do and that we are doing with authors, their backlists, and their new material.

In the old days – if you wrote a series, you were at the mercy of your publisher.  If they decided, for instance, after two or three volumes were published, that they no longer wanted to continue the series – odds are that series was dead.  Getting a new publisher to take book three, or four of a series was iffy at best, and usually never happened.

At Crossroad Press, we are more than willing to take up a viable series that is already in progress and help the author to continue it.  In fact, if you have books two and three of something that died long ago lying about…you should contact us.  There is no reason you can’t continue to publish your series, and if the original publisher is actually still offering the earlier books, the two sets can only feed off of one another.  Something to think about.

Another thing is those books you may have written on spec for a series, or a particular editor or agent, who decided to go a different direction, or just flat turned you down.  No reason your work should go to waste.  We’ve actually developed a couple of original series – The Tales of the Scattered Earth and O.C.L.T. to allow a lot of genre series books to be re-vamped slightly and published…again – this was not something that was going to happen under the old publishing models.

Cross genre books.  How many authors write what they want to write, and how many write what they, their agent, or some editor they are trying to please believes will sell?  How many have a novel, or two, or twenty, that has never seen the light of day?  Why?  If you are a successful horror author with a mystery and a fantasy and a young adult you’ve written that no one would touch because you are a horror writer?  For God’s sake…contact me.  I am willing to bet that if more authors were writing what they feel like writing, the quality would leap dramatically.

Lastly – old books you think aren’t good enough anymore, or are dated, or you just aren’t sure about.  We have done one such title, revised heavily in collaboration with a second author – retitled – and back into the publishing mix.  We have more in line.  If you were forced to rush, or compromise, hated your cover, your title…guess what?  We care what YOU think, and we’re here to work with you.

The world has shifted.  Stephen King’s Roland would say – The World has passed on – Ka is a wheel, after all.  Publishing, also, is a wheel.  Don’t let it grind you under…wheels are for traveling.  Climb aboard.

-DNW

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