An Excellent Vacation, and More

Great news! Death’s Excellent Vacation has just released!

With an all-new Sookie Stackhouse story and twelve other original tales, editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner bring together a stellar collection of tour guides who offer vacations that are frightening, funny, and touching for the fanged, the furry, the demonic, and the grotesque. Learn why it really can be an endless summer-for immortals.

My story, The Heart Is Always Right, focuses on an EvilMart checker…and a gargoyle who wants to go to Bermuda. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I’m thrilled to be in such a great anthology. It’s available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Indiebound, Powell’s, Book Depository, and Amazon.

That’s the big news for today–and, of course, Jealousy is still out. I’m just now getting a swell of emails about it. The next book, Defiance, is tentatively scheduled for next spring. So it’s not that long of a wait, I promise.

A couple crunchy links today: the Bookshop Blog on why the book hasn’t had its demise just yet. And Michael Bhaskar on the real cost of digital publishing:

The main argument for why royalties should be higher in digital seems to be that, given we don’t have a physical book, the costs to the publisher must be so much lower. This is very easy to answer. The per unit cost of printing a book is, in most cases, not where the majority of a publishers’ costs are directed. They are directed at overheads, at editorial and editorial management, at sales, marketing and publicity. Regardless of whether you have a print book or not, these costs are absolutely consistent. So really the only difference we can talk about is the marginal print cost difference, only a fraction of a book’s total cost.

Moreover there is then a whole new set of costs associated with digital. First, you need people, such as myself, to manage, develop and grow this new area and put in place the foundations for strong publishing companies that will last the next 50 years. Second, there is the cost of conversion of an ebook, which although small still has an impact if sales volumes are low, as they are for many ebooks. Third, there is then a host of distribution systems, business system upgrades and additions and new digital production software requiring investment. People might argue that this is a one-off cost, and once amortised should then be factored out. Yet this fails to understand the nature of most software agreements, which work as SaaS (software as a service) arrangements, whereby the software is leased on a usage fee basis. So in fact as time goes by and we use these new systems more, we will have to pay more, in absolute terms. Even basic technology can subsume surprisingly large chunks of income – DRM (Digital Rights Management) for example can eat as much as 7-9% of a book’s RRP, although this would usually not be felt by the publisher. (Bookbrunch)

I wish I could pound this into the head of everyone who says “But authors are greeeeeeedy because ebooks are cheeeeeap!” A quality ebook is not cheap to produce, kids.

Following up on yesterday’s “when students plagiarize”, today we have an article on when teachers cheat.

This morning was full of unpleasant business, but the sun has come out and all is well now. There are nice things about my life now, and the unpleasantnesses are getting further and further apart. It’s a good thing.

i hope your day is similarly perking up, dear Reader. Now it’s time for me to take a bunch of werwulfen through Central Park on a dare…

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Same As It Ever Was

Morning. I had a helluva weekend, how ’bout you? For me it’s straight to work on revisions for the next Dru book, and a whole clutch of things I kind of let slide while the release madness was jumping up and down under my skin like red-hot ants.

Yeah, great image, right?

A couple of great links: LA Banks on writing the paranormal. I about died laughing because I’ve done what she describes before. And Michelle Sagara on the fact that not everyone has to love one’s books. John E. Dunn on who owns a book and Trip Gabriel on how student plagiarism could be rooted in “changing ideas of authorship.” (Both of those two last courtesy Victoria Strauss.)

I don’t quite agree with that last one. I’m more likely to ascribe it to a new form of the same old laziness–almost everyone wants something for nothing, and given a way to cheat, significant proportions of people will. I don’t think “ideas of authorship” have changed. I think people are just as they have always been, except it’s easier to plagiarize and easier to be caught doing so because of the way the Internet works.

Anyway, I have an event to announce! On August 19 at 7pm, I will be at the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s, to read from and sign copies of Jealousy! (More information here.) You can even preorder signed copies.

I may–MAY, mind you–even be wearing heels.

Yes, the excitement. I don’t know how we stand it either. *grin*

The only thing I have left to say is a huge thank-you to everyone who has deluged me with congratulations and wonderful responses to Jealousy‘s release. I am overwhelmed by the support and cautiously optimistic, since plenty of you seem to have read it and like it. Thank you! You are, after all, who I write for.

Back to the word mines, my dears. Have a good Monday.

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Always The Same, And Different

This is going to be short and sweet, because wow, busy. Not only is there the Readers on Deadline, but this week has been full of Dame releases–of which I am one, since Jealousy, the third in the Strange Angels series, officially released yesterday. Thanks for all the good wishes! I’ve heard from a few Readers who have finished it already–glad you like it, guys!

Plus, I’m in our local newspaper. Along with a few other people. Ahem.

Release days are always nerve-wracking for me. I’ve had over 20 of them, and each time I’ve been a pile of bare nerves. That’s one thing nobody ever tells aspiring authors about publication–after you’ve done all you can to the book and it goes into production, you have the nail-biting wait for it to release…and then it’s out in the wide wide world, in the Readers’ hands, and oh my God, what if they hate it?

The butterflies have largely gone down today. If everyone hates it, there’s nothing I can do. You’d think it would get easier, but I’m here to tell you, it hasn’t so far. I do recover more quickly. It only takes me two or three days instead of a week to bounce back from the stomach-churning uncertainty. I’ll take it. I have yet to meet a writer who doesn’t have kittens, penguins, or some other small cute animal on release day. Which is not as cuddly and comfortable as it sounds.

So while I go nurse my nerves, dear Readers, be gentle with yourselves this weekend.

You’re worth it.

Over and out!

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Publishing And Misplaced Punishment

Why was I up at 6am this morning? Oh, yeah. Getting the morning run out of the way so I can hit an early open climb at the rock wall. Yes, I am going to be attempting my first open climb. I hope nobody laughs at me and I hope I don’t embarrass myself. It’s bad enough that I’m going to be wearing capris. LOOK, I HAVE TO, ALL RIGHT? They allow freedom of movement and don’t interfere with my foot and toeholds the way jeans or my yoga pants do.

Anyway.

John Scalzi, as usual, hits it out of the park with Why “Punishing The Publisher” Usually Doesn’t:

So, on one hand, the attempt on the part of the potential reader to send a message to the publisher via the refusal to buy a particular work has succeeded. On the other hand, the message the publisher has received is “this author can’t sell.” To be fair, this has more to do with the publisher than with the reader. But that doesn’t change the result for the author. (John Scalzi)

YES. *points at Scalzi* What he said.

I wish I could make some people–including some people who have recently tried to take me to task and explain to me “how publishing REALLY works”–read this. Of course, it probably wouldn’t do a lot of good, for the simple reason that a lot of people who try to tell me “how publishing REALLY works” have no fricking idea; they have an emotional hobbyhorse to ride and it involves blaming Big Bad Publishing (which, like most straw men, doesn’t really exist) for their various ills in one way or another. I’d be a lot more likely to believe them and listen if they had, oh let’s say, any real publishing experience. And no, vanity press or one self-published missive full of typos does not count as experience that qualifies someone to be nasty or condescending to me about publishing.

But I digress. Moving on.

Scalzi highlights something I wish more people understood, and I know plenty of authors try to educate their readers about: that the publisher is generally consistently trying the best they can, but they are also hedging their bets. When bets are hedged and a reader decides to “punish” a publisher by not buying a certain author (especially when this “punishment” is aimed at something like a distribution problem that is not the publisher’s fault), what happens is that the author gets screwed. Which means that the reader has shot him/herself in the foot, because it’s now harder for the author to bring you those stories you love.

I’m not saying that readers shouldn’t be angry. What I’m saying is that readers need to direct that anger at the companies that are actually to blame–companies like Amazon, or distributors of ebooks who don’t like the agency model. Those are the institutions that deserve a reader’s ire in the current brouhaha over ebook pricing. Not the author, who ends up getting the full force of the misplaced “punishment”.

If you will, allow me to suggest to you another course of action in situations like these: Rather than “punishing the publisher” by not buying a particular book you would otherwise buy, support the author by purchasing the book. Why? Because the support you give an author allows that author to have a better bargaining position with the publisher the next time the two of them negotiate a contract, and you know what? Generally speaking, authors like being able to make potential readers happy, and thanks to that there thing called “the Internets,” authors are often aware of the wishes and desires of their readers and will try to make them happy whenever possible. (John Scalzi)

I know I do, dear Readers. Every other writer I know does, too. We want to make you happy. We like you.

Over and out.

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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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