I’m Not The Jerk In E-book Pricing, And Trunk Novels

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about some things, so I might as well do a blog post.

* Every time I say “trunk novel”, someone asks what that is. A trunk novel is a term for a novel that won’t ever escape the inside of a trunk. It’s a piece a writer works on solely for his/her own gratification, one that stands little chance of every being published, mostly because the writer understands it’s horrible. It’s the writing version of junk food. I love my trunk novels. (Yes. That’s plural.) Often I work on them during breaks from other books. They’re sort of dry runs, practice to keep me in the game. It can also mean a trunk novel that gets published after a writer is famous, or famous and dead.

* OK, guys, let’s get serious. Lots of you are emailing me telling me that various e-book distributors are protesting publishers’ move to agency pricing by pulling my books. You invariably ask me to “talk to the publishers” and solve this problem.

I cannot do that. Furthermore, I will not even consider it and the very thought makes me cranky.

First, the publishers have little control over whether the distributors carry their books. Publishers and distributors are two separate companies and make their own decisions. Second, I would not dream of coming down on the side of the distributors on this issue, for the simple fact that the publishers’ interests in this case align with my own. The agency pricing model gives writers a better deal, and it keeps the books around for longer. The distributors want to profit at the expense of the writers (who produce the content) and the publishers (who invest in quality control and on the chance that the content will made the money back for them).

In short, THE PUBLISHERS ARE NOT THE ENEMY HERE, AND THE WRITERS ARE NOT THE ENEMY EITHER.

It is perfectly natural for the distributors to want to maximize their profits, or to keep going with business models that benefit them at the expense of the writers or publishers. They’re businesses, maximizing their profits is what they DO. But neither I nor the publishers should take the rap for it. Because it is also well within publishers’ rights to say, “We invest in bringing this content to the marketplace. We pay the advance, we provide the editing and quality control, we provide the art and marketing, and we will set the price for it as we see fit.” And in this one case, the publishers’ views align nicely with the rights and views of the writers producing the books in the first damn place. Professional writers are OF COURSE going to support their publishers in seeking the pricing and policies that grant them a living wage (or a close approximation of one). Or, to be more precise, that maximize the chances that a writer can afford to continue writing because the financial rewards are enough to let them scrape by. (This is where I go off on my “just because you’re published doesn’t mean you’re rich” rant. I’ll save that for another day.)

The distributors’ response–yanking certain publishers’ goods in order to pressure them into dropping the agency pricing model–is greedy and short-sighted in the extreme. Brick and mortar stores, e-book sites like Fictionwise, other sites like Amazon, are DISTRIBUTORS. The whole purpose of these companies is to distribute the goods that people want to buy, in this case, books. If they do not distribute, people should get annoyed and find somewhere else to shop. Distributors shoot themselves in the foot in these kinds of situations, despite their PR working overtime (usually through their customer platforms) to convince customers that someone else (the big bad publishers, the writers) are to blame.

I understand people contact the writers because we are the “face” of our books. People write to me about all sorts of things I have zero control over, like cover prices or font sizes or distribution to foreign countries or or or…you get the idea. It irks me that there are problems I can’t solve for the readers or to facilitate their enjoyment, but that’s life.

But please, please, dear Readers, don’t jump on me because a distributor is kicking and screaming over the e-book pricing model that may very well make or break an author’s chances to keep bringing these books to you. (Although, really, e-books are such a small part of total book sales…even though it doesn’t seem like it to people on the Internet.) Don’t jump on my publisher, or THE publishers, either. The publisher wants me to keep writing as much as you do; the publisher wants you to have the books as much as I do and you do. It’s the distributor who doesn’t want agency pricing because it gives the publisher and writer a bigger slice of the profits (profits that distributors have grown accustomed to in the last five-ten years or so) that deserves your ire. They are the ones you should be demanding an answer from–an honest answer, not “the big bad publishers are picking on poor little us, waaaah!”

Honestly, if it was the publisher being an asshole, I’d tell you. If it was me being an asshole, I’d admit it.

In this case, it’s neither. We’re not the assholes here, and filling up my email inbox with rants about how I need to get on the publisher and yell at them do not help. I know you’re frustrated. I’m frustrated too, as you can probably tell. I have no choice but to sit tight and wait for it to all shake out, since there is literally nothing I can do. In this case, the publishers are going into battle on behalf of writers. Well, it’s on behalf of their own profits, but it’s benefiting writers. Fair enough.

Now I’ve got to go hop on the treadmill and work all this adrenaline anger off.

See you around.

PS: Behave in the comments, please. Thanks.

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News, Events, And Links

Good morning, all. First, the news.

* There may be a 6-10K-word story dealing with Selene and Nikolai’s reunion in Saint City in the works. I’ll have details when everything firms up, but for right now, I thought I’d let you guys know.

* Events! I will be at the Ooligan Press Write To Publish event on May 23, 2010, at 2pm. I will also be signing in conjunction with Devon Monk and Ilona Andrews at the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s on May 25, and by my lonesome in the same location on August 19 to celebrate the release of Jealousy. Details of the Powell’s signings will be forthcoming; they’re usually around 7pm.

* Release news: Heaven’s Spite, the next Jill Kismet novel, is due for release in November 2010. I just confirmed this with my editor yesterday (or was it the day before?) Anyway, now I know, so now you know.

And, linkspam:

* Post-Healthcare Fatigue Syndrome. Don’t worry, the Republicans are still tirelessly working to make sure only the rich have healthcare. Oh, and stirring up their nutwing base to terrify the rest of us. It’s unsurprising, even if it is enough to make one sick enough to need that public option.

* A great Tor.com article on my very favorite fairy tale. Seriously. I collect versions of Beauty and the Beast. I even wrote my own take on it, as yet unpublished.

* Tim Burton might direct Maleficent’s story. OH PLEASE OH PLEASE. Maleficent is my very favorite villain in any Disney movie. The horns! The shapeshifting! The elegant black cape! The sneer! Oh, please, let this come to pass.

* If you’re not reading the Comics Curmudgeon, you’re missing out. I check in with Josh daily to see what the hell he’s come up with now. Comics snark is pure LOVE.

I think that’s about all. I’m on the last push to complete Dru 4, have a detail-round of revisions due for Kismet 5, and there’s a short story in there somewhere needing to be written. I bought a hat to cover up the fact that my hair is at an awkward length. I’ve stocked up on coffee, because the way things are going, it’s going to become one of my major food groups through the month of April.

Fasten your seatbelts, kiddos, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

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Audiobook Wow

My God, you guys. I just listened to the boathouse scene in Betrayals on audiobook. (Strange Angels is here.) A copy of it was just delivered today, and OH MY GOD, you GUYS, the woman reading it is spectacular. She just nails Christophe. It’s amazing. I finished listening to the scene and had cold chills.

It’s an exotic experience to hear words that you agonized over read professionally. I just about came out of my skin, I was jumping up and down and squealing so hard. This is the first time I’ve had the chance to listen to my own work in audiobook format. It’s so strange. But ZOMG, wow. I was blown away.

Little things like this totally make my day.

I have to zip, because I’m in a ticklish spot with the current book and I want to get a good handle on a showdown scene before everyone comes home for the day. But I just had to pop in and tell you that. Plus, stay tuned for an upcoming contest! I have a Reader Request for the mark Japhrimel put on Dante’s shoulder; I know what it looks like but I think I need an artist to draw it for me. I think this particular Reader is planning to do something with whatever I come up with, so that’s a consideration.

If you’re not an artist, don’t worry. There will be a contest for you to win something too!

Anyway, off I go. I am grinning foolishly and not at all calm right now.

Some days I love being me.

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Linkspam! (And Drop-Dead!)

Links this morning!

* Ever wonder how the Deadline Dames came to be? Wonder no more. Here’s the real story. (Devon Monk is a GENIUS.) Before you ask, yes, I am considering a Tiger Lili short story.

* Motoko Rich on the math of of publishing meeting the ebook. (h/t to Colleen Lindsay and Victoria Strauss.)

* It’s amazing what gets left out of a Will Rogers quote. (h/t to Mary Robinette Kowal.)

It’s ironic that not so long ago I couldn’t run a mile without wanting to throw up and die, not necessarily in that order. This morning I was actually Quite Put Out that I could “only” run two miles, taking it easy because of the cold the Princess brought home from middle school. It isn’t a bad cold by any means, except it made me so exhausted yesterday I could barely crawl. A little bit of stuffiness, a little bit of sore throat, and a whole lotta tired. Oh well.

Today is the drop-dead date (I should blog about drop-deads, maybe this Friday) for beginning serious work on a couple projects, so I won’t be around so much for a couple weeks. If you send me an email, it’s going to be a while before I get to it. It’s not you, it’s that I’m focusing on getting some stuff out the door. Nuff said.

And with that, off I go to turn off the wireless router and get down into it. Catch you on the flip side.

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Got Zombies, Be Back In A Bit…

Just a flyby post, since the last few days have been crazy. Next week will be better.

Tonight at 6:30PM (Pacific) I’ll be doing #askawriter on Twitter or about 20 minutes/half an hour. Come by and ask questions about writing/publishing. I will NOT answer questions such as “will you read my manuscript?” or “can you help me with my homework?” Other than that, fair game.

It’s a beautiful blue-sky day and I’ve some zombies to kill. Catch you later.

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Awesomely Utter Zaniness Is About To Commence

I got SFF Hero Conan the Barbarian dedicated to me, first thing this morning. That will put a GREAT shine on anyone’s day. Plus, I’m getting more work done, about to see if I can bump up my morning runs to 2.5 miles, and just basically looking forward to a day that is going to kick a ton of ass.

So, while I’m off humming the waltz that was playing while James Earl Jones turned into a giant snake (oh, my God, I love that scene), you could read Scalzi’s Why Publishing Will Not Go Away Anytime Soon, a very nice little three-act play. You could try to imagine the point at which I completely lost it and started laughing hysterically while nodding vigorously and screaming “Yes, YES!” so loud I’m sure the neighbors think I’m Up To No Good.

Yes, I’m in that particular stage of hyper where I can tell a book is going to break loose soon. It’s probably going to be revisions on Heaven’s Spite, which took a left turn while I was weaving in some plot tangles. I have to think about this, and I’m sure when I go back to finish it I’ll lunge through the next hundred pages of revision at warp speed and somehow discover I’ve added another 2-3K words. That’s how these things usually happen.

So, today will be a day of awesomely utter zaniness for me. I hope yours will be just as fun.

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Optimism Proceeds Apace

First, the links: there’s a giveaway of Flesh Circus over at NL Berger’s place. And here’s an opinion piece about how the Internet does not mean the death of publishing. Oh, and nuts in Texas might be affecting the textbooks your children will use. (This last one is why I’m so glad I have a great deal of information and supplementary reading for my kids just hanging around the house.)

It’s been a time of big changes here at Casa Saintcrow, and we’ve just accomplished one of the biggest. Which has required a wrenching in our personal habits–now we’re all getting up between 6 and 7 AM. This is not cool for my biorhythms, man.

I have always been a night owl. Always. Given my druthers, I’d be completely nocturnal. Unfortunately, life won’t allow that. So I’m stuck on a schedule that my entire body rebels against. It’s hell for the first half-hour or so of my day, until I can get enough coffee in to trick my flesh into believing that it should be vertical, not to mention ambulatory and thinking.

Fortunately, the Little Prince and Princess are both so excited, they adore the new schedule and are quickly falling into a routine. And getting up this early leaves me with a shoal of time in the early afternoon that’s turned quite productive. (My productivity has also been helped by a number of stressors Going Away.) So, it’s got its good things.

The “make 2010 MY year” Optimism Experiment is going full steam. I’m fitting into size 14 jeans. While this does not sound like a lot, if you’ve ever lost a significant amount of weight, you know what it feels like to hit a milestone. Which this size definitely is, for me. I have even more grounds for optimism, in that there’s been nothing so far in the past two months that I couldn’t handle. I am beginning to feel okay about things, another huge step up.

On the other hand…I think I have to ditch about 1K I wrote yesterday evening. It’s a great scene, but I think it belongs a touch later in the book. This is why having a slush file for each book is so important for me. Of all the slush piles, the one for To Hell And Back is most extensive, because I had two or three different fully-finished versions of the book. That was a lot of work. Damn.

In any case, it’s time for the treadmill now. I am feeling cautiously, faintly optimistic about this entire 2010 thing. Which is way, way better than the alternative.

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