Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Recap and Follow-up to Meeting #2

Another week goes by...and that's another week of blog posts that I planned and never wrote. I'll get around to them eventually, but the actual writing (aka the fiction, aka the fun stuff, aka the stuff that will make me money) comes first and I'm finding myself with less and less time each week.

As a quick preview on some upcoming topics (because, hey, it might motivate me to actually write them), we've got:

Career Observations from "Rain"
Teaching Creative Writing: Instinctive vs Analytic
The Devil's Advocate Speaks! -- Tell, Don't Show
The Devil's Advocate Speaks! -- EXTREMEism

That should take me through the end of the month at my pace, right? :P

Anyways, the meat of the matter here is that we had another meeting of the Pre-Professional Fiction Writers Business Workshop Extravaganza Fantastique...et al. And this one was a highly productive one -- from my perspective. There was some engaging discussion and identification of areas that we will need to explore more thoroughly, as well as a brief (and then long, and then lengthy) presentation from myself on publication process (and then agents, and then indie pub, and then...it was over).

Below, you'll find a quick recap of the discussion's highlights (including the list of topics that we've identified to talk more about in the coming weeks), as well as some supplementary reading material that I sent out after the meeting for folks to look into if they're interested. Peruse at your own pace and discretion.

(The email is unmodified, except to include Jessica's notes from the discussion.)

Hey, all.

So, we had a productive meeting tonight it seems. Lots of good questions, and I feel like I have a better handle on where we're all at, and thus where we need to go next.

For those of you who couldn't make it, I've attached Jessica's highly-effective notes that she took from the discussion. It outlines the major topics and points that we addressed, but doesn't go into too much detail. Perfect for a quick summary if you're interested in what's going on. And if you have any questions or confusion, please email me and I'll try to flesh it out a bit for you.

(Thanks again to Jessica for putting that together so quickly.)

Story Structure
Writing speed/discipline
[Not compromising/compromising your craft for the business side]
Cash Flow
Audience/Market (genre)/Appeal
Reviews, blurbs (publisher usually handles that if it goes through a publisher)
Publishers, particularly smaller presses, might want your help with marketing
Public Profile
Cross-medium stuff (like comics/graphic novels)
Agents vs. Indie-route

The Traditional Process: You get 12-17.5% of the sales (of which an agent would get 15%)
Supply: Producer (writer)
Demand: Consumer, buyer (reader)
Need a distributor: Starts with a Publisher
Publishers can only publish so much, so they need gatekeepers:
Editors (Agents can recommend work to be submitted to an editor—weed out the sludge.)
Agent pros:Another set of eyes on a manuscript—can also help you focus on craft
They know the market better than you and can place your book better than you.
(They get generally 15% of anything you make from what you end up selling)
(Never give payment up front to an agent)
Finding an agent: Ms. Snark
Agent cons:Another gatekeeper who gets in the way, can “ruin” your manuscript with editing?
Might do what’s best for them—getting you a big advance, but few royalties?—but notwhat’s best for you?
Agents get money first, then they give you the rest of the money
General Agent Challenges: 
1. They get the money first 
a. Must be okay with not having complete control of the finances 
2. They’re unregulated 
a. Always check list of client s 
3. Some are setting up their own publishing houses—creates a conflict of interestbecause they have to think of their publishing business first and you second. Won’tnecessarily be looking to get you the best deal, will more likely want to publishthrough their own publishing house. 
a. Some writers say don’t go to agents with their own publishing houses
(Try to) Go straight to an editor. Many editors say they don’t accept un-agented work… might not be
true if they really like your work.
The Non-Traditional Indie Process:Supply: Producer (writer)
Demand: Consumer, buyer (reader)
Need a distributor: Internet (Particularly Amazon KDP, 70% royalty) (Also B&N)
You have to do cover, manage publicity, make your own money (Dean Wesley Smith: the big hurry,breaks down the traditional and indie models)

(Heh. It was in a much prettier format in the actual doc. Sorry about that.)

Now, there were a number of topics that were raised and that we were really only able to go into briefly. In order to provide you guys with the best resources possible, I gathered some of the research links that sprang to my mind during the discussion (as well as a few gems that I just found tonight). I've organized the links below by topic, so read the ones you're interested in, and skip the ones you aren't. (Or else save them for later, whichevs.) Naturally, your understanding of the below posts is somewhat contingent on knowing what we talked about. Read Jessica's notes first, then move on to the links below.

(BTW, sorry about the heavy sampling of Dean and Kris posts. They're the most readily available to me at such short notice. If anyone wants to hear about similar ideas from another author's perspective -- y'know, for balance and all -- email me and I'll try to dig up some of my other research. Or google the topics yourself. Couldn't hurt too much, right?)

Compromising Your Vision/Integrity/Whatever for "the Market"One concern that was raised in passing is the fear that we, as writers, will have to compromise in some way in order to sell. I assume the use of compromise is in reference to fundamental change, as opposed to the more usual give-and-take that goes into any business relationship. To combat your fears, I share the following two gems. I'm sure there is more that can be said on this question/concern, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share these.

Self-Publishing vs. Sushi
Couldn't decide whether to put this in the Compromise section or the Publishing section. Decided to put it here because it's equally informative and encouraging. In brief, this is a chart of why you should write the book you want to write. If you like venn diagrams and visual explanations of otherwise seemingly complex ideas, this is the link for you. (It's also short, unlike most of the stuff I share with you.)

The Business Rusch: Believe in Yourself
I just read this tonight, and I was very much encouraged. Read it to find stories of now-famous, well-respected, classic authors who had to battle with publishers to release the book they wanted to write. Empowering stuff, folks.

Money and the Publishing Biz in GeneralWe talked at length about cash flow and the publishing process. (Again, see Jessica's notes for a quick summary.) I provide the following links as both further explanation of how publishing works, as well as a few pieces of advice about how to approach a publishing company as a writer.

The New World of Publishing: The Big Hurry
I shared this one before, but it's more applicable now. Dean uses some modest assumptions and calculations (yes, math, don't be scared) to explore both the Traditional Publishing route and the Indie Publishing route from a new author's perspective. It gives a clear picture of the type of timetable we need to approach this career from.

The New World of Publishing: Cash Flow
VERY similar to the above post, but with a different purpose. Dean uses slightly more generous numbers to explore the earning potential -- and, more importantly, the timing involved in earning that money -- of both the Traditional and Indie routes. (This is what I'm talking about when I say it takes two years for a publisher to release a book, for example.)

The Business Rusch Publishing Series
Kris Rusch's series of blog posts on the publishing business are extensive and definitely worth your time if you want to understand the basics of the industry (and you should want to understand as much as possible about the industry). Even if you don't have time to read the whole series right now, I highly recommend you read the first two posts (the series overview and understanding publishing) in order to get a different explanation of how we deliver product (stories) to consumers (readers).

The Business Rusch: The Writer's Guide to Evaluating a Traditional Publishing Company
We talked at length, it seems, on the various complications involved in securing an agent -- particularly while the industry is in a phase of transition right now -- but we didn't spend any time talking about traditional publishers, and how they're also facing challenges in making the transition. In many cases, choosing a bad publisher can be just as detrimental to a book as choosing a bad agent. So here's Kris's advice on choosing a good publisher in these changing times.

Agents, both good and badOkay, here's the debate, presented as succinctly as I could get. I know I don't have everything (not even close). I probably don't even have enough to really give a clear picture of this debate. But here's a sample of the complicated mess that is the agent component of our industry.

(NOTE: Please read the comments wherever possible. Because this is such a volatile topic right now, you'll often find a number of significant points or heated debates occurring in the comments on each post.)
The New World of Publishing: Why Bad Agent Information Gets Taught
But Why Would You...Ever Need an Agent in This New World?
Literary Agents and Conflicts of Interest -- A Compendium
Writing Excuses 4.4: Agents. Do you need one?

In addition, here are the blogs I mentioned that provide a balanced, three-pronged approach to considering agents. Enjoy at your own risk. :)
Writer Beware
Miss Snark
Bad Agent Sydney

And a few bits more on business sense in Indie publishingFinally, because I find him so damn entertaining and on-topic with his blunt attitudes, here are a few more posts from Dean about his fears for writers in this changing time. Read. Enjoy. Disagree. Educate yourselves. And so on.
A Number of Things I Am Confused About
That's all I have for tonight. Hopefully this material is helpful. As I said, if you ever have any questions, email me and I'll be sure to get back to you.

See you all next week (if not before).
-joshua kehe

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