Thursday, June 30, 2011

Things are in flux.

Kristine Kathryn Russch is really doing an extraordinary service for writers.  Check out this post on her blog.

Even though I'm a new unknown writer, I still have preconceived notions about things.  They're generally based on years of reading puclications like Locus and the SFWA bulletin

In the 1980s, for instance, new writers sometimes got book advances in the low five figures.  Some of them, anyway.  It was possible.

I always kind of felt I could use some of that action.

Now, since about 2004, I might as well have been living on a deserted island.   I moved to Gainesville from Orlando that year and I could no longer find those publications.

Oh, but I'd occasionally buy a book like The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction.  (Seriously--I'm not making that up, there really was such a book.  It was a useful, entertaining read, too.)  In it I learned that publishers still wanted to see manuscripts that looked like they were produced on typewriters.  Which was no doubt true at the time, but I accept it as graven in stone forever.

Another thing I "learned" in those days was that you couldn't make a living with short fiction; it was wise to concentrate on novels.

Many people still think that.  The news that it's not true hasn't gotten out yet.

God bless Kris Rusch.

So obviously it's a new ballgame.  Many people in the industry are hurting now.  Not just writers--editors and agents too!

Oh yeah, that reminds me, another thing I accepted as gospel:

You have to get an agent.  Can't get anywhere without one.

Now I'm really quite leery of them.

But the more I think about it, the more I like that I can be my own publisher.  It's fun.  I can do whatever I want.  Release a book of old short stories.  Publish that long novella about the amphibious serpent who didn't understand why humans wanted to base a religion around him--some people liked that one, but everybody said the subject matter and the length  (40,000 words) counted against it.  It's be silly to send it anywhere, they said.

I myself felt it was a little offbeat, and kind of preachy in spots--but if I took that stuff out, I removed the story's heart. So I never wrote the ending.

Well, I'm sure gonna write it now.  Because these days, heck, if I released it for 99 cents I'd get something  for it--and something's a lot better than nothing.

Besides, I always kind of liked those characters.  Now at least a few folks will meet them, and I'll at least get some pocket change.

Maybe a whole lot more.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A bit of backpedaling

Yesterday's rant against the publishing industry was maybe a little over the top.

It doesn't really do to demonize anyone.  Or any institution, for that matter.  So I hereby apologize for any bad vibes I may have broadcast.

I've socialized with editors at Science Fiction conventions.  They're generally nice people.  I certainly didn't mean to cast any aspersions their way.

That doesn't mean I've changed my opinion!  The editors aren't in control of their companies these days.  The bean counters are.

When I read on her blog about the contract shenanigans they tried with Kristine Kathryn Rusch, I was stunned.  The woman used to be editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction, for crying out loud! If they'll pull that sort of crap with her, I can't help but think they'd chew me up and spit me out without a second thought. Or pretty much any of us.  It's dismaying.

And that business about the e-book royalties? That's just horrible.

But I gather SFWA are looking into the situation. So thank goodness for that much. Maybe sanity will eventually prevail.

But all things considered, I'm glad to be an indie writer right now.

Still, I'm wishing everybody in the business well. Peace and love, people, peace and love.

Just wanted to get all that off my chest.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Remembering Sugar

I recently lost a little cat that I loved a lot.

Her name was Sugar. She was a fluffy little yellow thing with unique beautiful eyes.

Sometimes, with cats of the opposite gender to their people, there can be a real flirty aspect to the relationship.

It was like that with Sugar. She loved being cuddled and fussed over, and she'd make these sensuous little cooing noises while it was going on.

Then suddenly she didn't want to stay inside, which was out of character for her. And it seemed to hurt her to be picked up.

When I let her out for the last time, I wondered if I was doing the right thing.  I vowed to keep her in next time whether she liked it or not, and get her to a vet.

But I haven't seen her since.

When it's time for cats to leave this world, they go fast.

Good-bye, little thing.  I'm grateful for the time we had.  It was fun.

I love you.

A turning point

At this point in time I have very little faith in the New York publishing industry.

Some of you, I know, will spring to their defense.  There's a segment of American society that always sticks up for the powerful in knee-jerk fashion whether it's in their best interests to do so or not.  (Case in point: the number of people who got indignant and upset when it looked like there might be a public option for health care--because the poor downtrodden insurance companies would have had to compete with the government!!)

Now, I personally have about as much confidence in the moral integrity of Big Publishing these days as I do in that of stockbrokers, oil companies, bankers--and insurance companies.

Which is to say, very little at all.

I formed this opinion largely after reading the blogs of industry insiders like Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith,  Michael Stackpole, and J. A. Konrath.

Check it out. Things look pretty grim in the world of Big Publishing these days.

It hasn't always been that way. Maybe someday it will change back to the way it used to be (a few lawsuits down the road, I'm thinking). Maybe it won't.

But for now, at least, I'm steering clear.

Who am I, you may ask, to sit in judgment on an entire industry? Some little pipsqueak unpublished writer?

I'm somebody who has become leery of doing any business with them, that's who.

Now, pardon me for pointing out the obvious, but every successful writer was an unpublished aspirant at first. Without exception!

Writers provide the content that publishers are in the business of selling. Without them there would be no publishing industry.

I mean, duh!

Whether or not I'm any good at my craft has no bearing at all on the validity of the point I'm making here. Which is:

For too many years the tail has been wagging the dog. We've acted like they were doing us a favor to publish us when in fact they couldn't have stayed in business without us.

And now, suddenly, we can compete with them on surprisingly equal terms.

Why shouldn't we do that?

What obligation do we have to help them preserve their outmoded business practices?

None that I can see.

I've been writing for years, and I've been steadily improving all the while, I think.   I'm finishing up a science fiction novel that I feel is the best thing I've ever done. Up until a week ago, the game plan was to send it off to one of the few publishers who will still look at unagented manuscripts.

No more.

So you see, it's not like I don't have any options. I could continue down the traditional path (and I really think the new book would have stood a good chance in New York) if I wanted to.

I don't want to.

It's a turning point.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A beginning

Okay, hello out there, all you people reading this!  Welcome.

My name is Michael Edward Walston, and I'm a science fiction writer who is about to embark on a voyage into the realm of indie publishing.

I've been writing for years, and I've seen the number of markets where new writers without agents can submit their work shrink steadily.  Like many others, I have found this to be discouraging.

Then I discovered  This is a website that allows you to publish a book in electronic form--for free--and then charge people for downloading it.  You can set the price yourself, or even give it away for nothing.  If you do charge for it, Smashwords keeps 15% of the take--and they also provide a free distribution channel that allows you to get into other online stores. The ones available change from time to time but they currently include the Apple iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, Borders, Diesel and others--and word is that Amazon will soon be included too.

Offhand, I can't remember the last time my thinking about something changed so drastically in such a short time.  It took maybe five minutes to decide I wanted to go this route instead of continuing to bash my head against the brick wall of "Big Publishing".

I'll have much more to say on this topic in future posts.

Stay tuned.