Monday, 24 December 2012

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Swoon - you may when you read the contract

SW♥♥N will be launched next spring by MacMillan Children's Publishing. It sounds a bit like a YA version of Authonomy; writers will load their unpublished novels, and other members will vote on them. The inducement is that MacMillan may publish successful books. 

Anyone like me who has experience of Authonomy will view this project with a jaundiced eye. Writers are a desperate lot, and many will do anything for a chance of publication. This means it is very easy to attract them to a site run by an established publisher, and very difficult to stop them gaming the system. Another problem is that editors think they know better than readers, and tend not to put much faith in the wisdom of crowds, even when that is what they set out to do. Plus these sites are time-sinks, using energy that would be better spent writing or self-publishing.

For the 'lucky' chosen authors, this is what they will get:

Once a manuscript is chosen by the community and the SW♥♥N Reads publishing team, the author will receive a $10,000 advance and a standard royalty-based publishing contract for world rights, including the following royalty rates:
  • Hardcover – 10% of list price
  • Trade Paperback – 6% of list price
  • Paper Over Board – 8% of list price
  • Mass Market Paperback – 6% of list price
  • E-book – 25% of amount received
  • Graphic Book – 6% of list price
  • Electronic Graphic Book – 10% of amount received
  • Audio – 10% of amount received
  • Digital Audio – 20% of amount received
  • Multimedia/Gaming – 10% of amount received
So other people will take between 90% and 94% of the profits of each print book, leaving 6 - 10% for the author. For ebooks, which cost nothing at point of sale, the publisher takes three quarters of the 'amount received'. They will own world rights, and modern publishing contracts take the rights for a very, very long time.

Stingy and mean are words that come to mind. Exploitative, that's another. It's depressing to think that plenty of writers will view this as an opportunity.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Are publishers missing a trick?

Steven Pressfield wrote a fascinating article going into the financial details of two recent book deals; EL James's, which has received major publicity, and Hugh Howey's, which passed almost unremarked by journalists. But it's Hugh's publishing contract which may change the face of publishing. 

Here it is in Hugh's own words:

"After three rounds of publishers winking, flirting, and making passes at WOOL this year -- after a dozen or so offers that I would've fallen over myself to accept earlier in my career -- after walking away from two 7-figure deals last month that would've meant giving up all control of my publishing future and all of my rights -- Simon and Schuster blew my agent and myself out of the water with a deal that is everything we've been looking for from the very beginning (and never expected to get).

"Less money. More respect. Ultimate freedom.

"This is the contract I've been hoping for, and not just for myself. To be honest, I didn't think it would happen to me. I thought this was a contract for the future -- for other authors. But my agent and I went into these several rounds of discussions telling each other that it was crucial to have these conversations with publishers so that they would get used to hearing what was important to authors. And what's important to authors isn't *always* large advances. We want long-term stability; we want to retain our rights; we want the freedom to publish our way; we think digital rights should either remain in our hands or pay a whole lot better. 

"By keeping my digital rights, I'll be able to retain the sensible (i.e. cheap) price of my ebooks so that they will (hopefully) continue to sell. I can lower the price and do promotions anytime I want. I can see my sales in real-time like I always have so I know what works and what doesn't. I can keep the first book at perma-free. 

"Simon and Schuster, meanwhile, will do what they do best: they are releasing WOOL in March. They are also doing something awesome here at my behest (read: begging) by releasing the hardback and paperback simultaneously! This means a major push with an affordable paperback in bookstores, with a hardback available for libraries and the handful of people who might prefer one (i.e. my mother). 

"We were told by other major publishers that they don't ever see doing print-only deals. When I praised Kristin [Hugh's agent] for pulling this off, she told me it was all about having a client willing to say 'no'. For three rounds, we turned down unfair contracts hidden behind large advances. What we ended up with in the end, of course, is far more valuable to me."

Hugh Howey is an outlier; his staggering success with Wool surprised even him. It started life as a short story he didn't bother to promote, and word of mouth made it a best-seller. Ridley Scott is to make the film version. Right now, only a stellar writer would be so much in demand that he can negotiate his own terms. But I've often thought, if an indie author can sell significant numbers of ebooks, there remains a virtually untapped market (still the major part of the market) for his print books. Why aren't publishers making print deals with authors with a proven sales record? These books are as safe a bet as you'll find in publishing.

If I, all on my own, doing my own proofreading, editing, formatting, cover and marketing, can sell over 40,000 copies of Remix, how many print copies could a publisher sell? And there are hundreds of self-publishers who have done better than me with ebooks, while barely scraping the surface of print sales. This is a huge opportunity, currently wasted.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The problem with animals and pets in novels...

I've just finished reading Hollowland by Amanda Hocking. I felt I owed it to such a successful indie, a self-made millionaire by the age of twenty-eight, to check out a novel of hers. And this one is free.

Though I'm not the target reader, I rather enjoyed it, as the heroine is level-headed and ruthless on occasion and the story though episodic moves along briskly. It's the first zombie novel I've ever read. It ended when I wasn't expecting, but a) it's the first in a series and b) I was misled by the percentage read indicator - the Kindle edition included another book's extract at the end.

My major criticism was the lioness that the heroine, Remy, acquires along the way. She sees the animal trapped in a truck, releases her and calls her Ripley. Ripley turns out to be friendly towards humans, but eats zombies. And I took Ripley altogether too seriously. I worried a lot about her.

She has a chain attached to a collar round her neck. It bothered me that she has to drag this around for most of the book. It must have got in her way when tackling zombies. I fretted when she went for a swim - wouldn't the chain drag her under? One of the first things Remy does for the lioness is give her a drink. It's the only drink Ripley gets in the book, poor thing. She fends for herself whenever Remy's little group are away doing something, then magically reappears and jumps in their truck when they are off somewhere new. She's very convenient, no trouble at all.

Had I included a pet lion in a novel, I'd have reread Born Free and tried to make it as realistic as possible, because ideally an animal in a novel should be as convincing as the human characters. Just like a real pet, it is not to be undertaken lightly. For starters, you have to account for the darned thing the whole time. If you forget, your reader may fret. Instead of being gripped by your plot, she will be concerned the dog hasn't been taken for a walk in days, the parrot must be lonely, or what is that dragon living on?

Perhaps I'm too literal minded. Amanda's fans all think Ripley's cool, just the way she's written.