Bread and Butter Books

Some of you may not know, but I tried to be a potter. I was decent at it, too. I loved the tactile sensation of the soft yet rough clay. The instant gratification of it yet knowing it wasn’t done yet. That I could take that wet, smooth, delicate thing and turn it into a hard, functional, object of beauty. And sell it! There’s money in pottery, especially in this area. It’s expensive as heckaroni to start up. It’s a horrible Catch-22 situation. To make good stuff to sell, you need good equipment. From the wheel to the kiln to tools to clay to materials for glazes. You get the idea.

One thing about pottery is most of us had our pots we loved to make but for various reasons, they didn’t sell that well. Often the reason was because we had to sell them at a higher price. Pottery ain’t cheap! And then there were pots we hated to make yet they sold faster than we could produce them. We called those pots “bread and butter pots”. We made what we didn’t like in order to afford to make what we loved the craft for.

Now that I am a writer, I really really want to write science fiction and fantasy. Yet they don’t sell that well. Not in the lesfic niche market. What does sell is romance. Holy cow! Lesbians love their romance! And for good reasons! But dangit, I don’t like writing romance. It’s tough for me to write. Butch Girls Can Fix Anything was a fluke I think. And after eight (yes, eight) years, it is still selling like mad.

Since it first came out in early 2007, it has sold 3226 copies. That number may not mean much, I know. Heck, I don’t know much about it either since I have nothing to really compare it to. Except since Regal Crest started doing ebooks, sales took off. Of that number above, 2007 of those are ebooks. Amazing, isn’t it? No, print books aren’t dead, far from it. But ebooks aren’t going away.

I often wonder if BGCFA sells so well as an ebook because of the title. I mean, do you want to sit on the bus and read the paper version of a book with that name? Or would you rather hold you tablet or reader so the title is hidden? Same with a lot of lesfic titles, I suppose. And no, I’m not removing “Butch Girls” from the title of the other books.

Meanwhile, To Sleep has only sold 132 total copies in its first year (compared to BGCFA’s 605). I love that series and those that have read it, and have told me they did, have liked it too. I’ve read a few Amazon reviews that were negative and I appreciate them. I’d like to hear from more folks who read it and didn’t like it. There’s THREE more in The Soliloquy series and I can’t fix what I don’t know is broke. Ya know?

With these sales numbers, it means 2015 will be the Year of Romance for me. I am going to put out at least one of these, more if I can, but I don’t want to set goals (again) and set myself up to fail (again). I am not a hobby writer. Let me repeat that. I am not a hobby writer. I am in this for the long haul. This is my job, as much of a job as I can do. Writing takes up several spoons and I need the right ones in place. I am lucky to have a partner who has a stable job that allows us to be comfortable but we could use my additional income from book sales to take care of extras and to put into this thing we keep hearing about called “savings”.

So, those of you who like SF and F? BUY THEM! Tell everyone else to buy them, too. Don’t buy used. Don’t borrow or share. Buy them new. It tells the publisher that they are worth offering contracts to writers. It tells writers they are worth writing. It gets them out of our heads and desktop folders and into your hands. I am lucky that my publisher (who I heart muchly) takes risks on that genre. To Sleep has not yet earned back its investment. Our hope is the release of To Dream will increase sales.

BIG Announcement

I could drag it out and torture y’all. But I won’t.

(gargle) Ahem.

(shuffles papers)

(taps microphone) Is this on?

(ducks a shoe thrown from the audience)

I am not a one book wonder any more.

Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC has bought To Sleep. It has a tentative publication date of November 2013.

Go ahead. Scream. I’ll wait.
.
.
.
.

Done? Good. Now it is my turn.

CAN YOU FREAKIN’ BELIEVE IT?? I know, I know, about damn time. I hope the wait was worth it.

Writing Stuff

Hey, had a short story get published in Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal. I’ve had two other pieces published by them. This story, “White Trash, Dirty Laundry, and the Southern Mafia” is an interesting piece, quite different from most stuff I do. Very different indeed.

What else? Oh, NaNoWriMo is about to start again. And, again, I have no freakin’ clue what to write. I’ll come up with something (I have 5 days). Butch Girls Can Fix Anything was written in my first NaNo, waaaay back in ’04 and since then, I have “won” every year but two. No bets on how I will do this year.

That’s about it for today.

Self-Publishing Rant

…and it’s not mine! Someone else thinks like I do! Wow!

I haven’t a clue who this guy is but I like ‘im.

(in the quotes below, the bolding and such is mine)

The Publishing Cart Before the Storytelling Horse

I got a little rant stuck between my teeth. It’s like a caraway seed, or a beefy tendon, or a .22 shell casing (hey, fuck you, a boy’s gotta get his vitamins and minerals somehow).

Self-publishers, I’m talking to you.

And I’m talking to the pundits, too. In fact, I’m talking more to the pundits than to those actually walking the self-publishing path. Not everybody. Just a handful.

If you get a little froth on your screen, here — *hands you a squeegee* — just wipe it away.

Here, then, is the core of my message to you:

It is time to upgrade the discussion.

See why I like him?

First, it means: we get it. Self-publishing is the path you’ve chosen and further, is a path you believe is lined with chocolate flowers and hoverboards and bags of money and the mealy bones of traditionally-published authors. Self-publishing is a proven commodity. You can stop selling the world on its power. This isn’t Amway. You don’t get a stipend every time another author decides to self-publish. You’re not squatting atop the pinnacle of a pyramid scheme. (And if you are, you should climb down. One word: hemmorhoids.)

Instead of trying to convince people to self-publish, it may in fact be time to help people self-publish well. While self-publishing may by this point be a proven path it doesn’t remain a guaranteed path. In fact it’s no such thing: I know several self-published authors out in the world with great books, kick-ass covers, and they are certainly not selling to their potential. In fact, if they continue to sell as they appear to sell then I would suggest these books would have done much better had they been published — gasp — traditionally. Succeeding in an increasingly glutted space is no easy trick. Every bubble pops. Every gold rush either reveals a limited supply or instead ends up devaluing the gold one finds there. The reality is that it’s going to become harder — note that I didn’t say impossible — to succeed in that space and so it behooves the Wise Pundits With Their Long Beards to acknowledge the realities and help authors do well.

(…)

Though, actually, let’s take a step backward. Here’s another problem: maybe we should stop putting the publishing cart before the storytelling horse. In self-publishing, I see so much that focuses on sales numbers and money earned, but I see alarmingly little that devotes itself toward telling good stories. After all, that’s the point, right? Selling is, or should be, secondary. The quality of one’s writing and the power of one’s storytelling is key. It’s primary. It’s why we do this thing that we do. Any time you hear about the major self-publishers, it’s always about the sales, the percentage, the money earned. What’s rare is a comment about how good the books are. When the narrative was all about Amanda Hocking, everybody was buzzing about her numbers, but nobody I know was buzzing about how good those books were. Focus less on the delivery of the stories and more about the quality of what’s being delivered.

It goes on from there in a wonderful, well laid out rant that makes me envious. To have such control and to make such sense! My favorite part is probably the end.

The rhetoric often assumes that we’re all on our own side of the fence, but here’s a newsflash for you: there’s no goddamn fence. You’re a storyteller. I’m a storyteller. Good books are good books no matter how they got to market. You make your choice, so why not let others do the same? Further: don’t be a sanctimonious dick about it. Upgrade your attitude. Elevate the discussion. You should be proud of your own accomplishments and excited that the path you picked was the right path. Go any further than that and you do little to endear anybody toward your imaginary bullshit either/or dichotomy.

We should all be helping one another tell great stories.

Let’s talk to one another not as publishers, but as writers and storytellers.

All of us, wondrously pantsless. And probably drunk.

Amen.

*drops mic off stage, disappears in a cloud of incredulity and oompah music*

More on Borders Books

More information and better written articles are slowly appearing. Writer Beware has an excellent (as always) post about it that has good links to further explanations and opinions.

Borders isn’t the only bookstore to announce bankruptcy. There’s one in Canada (which came as a surprise as opposed to the slow shipwreck crash of Borders) and a huge chain in Australia.

What is interesting are the comments to the post. I was going to quote some of them and decided not to. My theories on the self-publish mentality belong in another post/rant for another time.

Borders Books Bankruptcy

(say that real fast three times!)

At first, I was saddened by the bankruptcy filing of Borders Books. Not that we have one near us, but that any bookstore closing/failing is never a good thing.

But then someone reminded me of why it is an awful thing in this case. Let me explain.

As a writer, my publisher sells my book for me. Regal Crest is listed with several distributors who produce catalogs from which bookstores, such as Borders, order books from. But, unlike you and me ordering from a catalog, books are done differently. If I order seeds from a catalog, I pay for those seeds first, get them, and if I don’t use them all, unless the packet was unopened and IF the company has a decent return policy, I am S.O.L. and have seeds left over. Now let’s say Borders orders 5 of my books. They don’t pay for them. Consider it commission sales, I suppose. They sell 3. They return 2 (returns are standard practice and publishers who don’t accept returns, don’t survive for long). And, eventually, they get around to paying the distributor for the 3 they sold. Then, the distributor pays Regal Crest who then pays me. Bigger publishing houses are their own distributors so Borders would be paying them directly.

Now, back to the seeds. If I bought the seeds on my credit card, the credit card company pays the seed company then waits for me to pay them. If I declare bankruptcy, I can either pay them back a very small fraction or not at all, depending on the type of bankruptcy. So the credit card company is out of the money I owe them.

Borders is declaring bankruptcy. They sold a lot of books. They got paid for them immediately by the customer or shortly after by the credit card companies. But they’ve not paid the distributors or publishers yet. Which means RCE’s distributor isn’t getting paid which means RCE isn’t getting paid which means, you guessed it, I’m not getting paid.

In reading an article about Borders, I came across this information: (bolding mine)

Now the company is set to close some 200 stores and shed much of its staff in the coming weeks. The stores slated for closure are scattered throughout the country, including three outlets in Manhattan, 35 in California and 15 stores in the Chicago metropolitan area.

The company currently operates more than 650 stores and employs 19,500 people. Borders said that its stores would remain open during the bankruptcy process and that its rewards program would remain in effect. The company said it would continue to honor gift cards and coupons.

In its filing in United States Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, Borders listed $1.29 billion in debt and $1.27 billion in assets. As of the filing, Borders owed $272 million to its 30 largest unsecured creditors — including $41.1 million to the Penguin Group USA.

(source)

Now, first, FIFTEEN stores in the Chicago area?! Fifteen? For real? And that’s just the number they are closing. FIFTEEN!?

Second, $41.1 million owed just to Penguin. That’s a lot of money. And you can bet those writers aren’t going to be paid any more than I will be.

I am betting that we are going to start seeing other large chain stores start to falter. Like Borders, a lot of them exploded in growth that no longer has the demand. Borders (and the other Big Box Book Stores) killed a lot of small, locally owned bookstores. And now the Internet has killed them. Karma’s a bitch.