Crossposted to the Deadline Dames. Check out our new shiny!

Good afternoon, my dears. A couple things, then a small Friday post, then off into the wild blue yonder.

* If you look at my events calendar, you’ll see I’m at the Auburn, WA, public library tomorrow (Saturday), and on Sunday I’m at the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s for the SF/F Authorfest. I’ll gladly sign books at both events, though there will be no books for sale at the Auburn library. I’m beginning to get pre-event nerves (nobody will show up, my heart will stop from sheer terror, someone will throw rotten fruit, etc., etc.) so I will just content myself with saying, if you’re in the area, both events promise to be a lot of fun.

* Want to know what makes me feel really, really unclean, and not in a good way? This article about James Frey preying on creative writing graduates.

This is the essence of the terms being offered by Frey’s company Full Fathom Five: In exchange for delivering a finished book within a set number of months, the writer would receive $250 (some contracts allowed for another $250 upon completion), along with a percentage of all revenue generated by the project, including television, film, and merchandise rights—30 percent if the idea was originally Frey’s, 40 percent if it was originally the writer’s. The writer would be financially responsible for any legal action brought against the book but would not own its copyright. Full Fathom Five could use the writer’s name or a pseudonym without his or her permission, even if the writer was no longer involved with the series, and the company could substitute the writer’s full name for a pseudonym at any point in the future. The writer was forbidden from signing contracts that would “conflict” with the project; what that might be wasn’t specified. The writer would not have approval over his or her publicity, pictures, or biographical materials. There was a $50,000 penalty if the writer publicly admitted to working with Full Fathom Five without permission. (Inside Full Fathom Five, p. 3)

In case you’re wondering, these are bad, bad terms. They’re the sort of terms Guy Pearce’s Warhol offered Sienna Miller’s Edie Sedgwick, only without the initial friendship. Or the sort of terms Lord Ruthven might have offered one of his victims. I’ll just content myself with noting that Frey’s earlier hijinks make me feel filthy about this in a way that James Patterson’s or VC Andrews’s ghostwriters don’t. Also, dude, if you’re a rebel, you don’t need to go around saying what a rebel you are. Henry Miller would kick Frey’s ass for presumption.

“But wait!” you might say. “Nobody’s forcing these people to sign with Frey’s company! He’s not holding a gun to their heads or anything!”

True. But Bernie Madoff didn’t hold a gun to anyone’s head either; scam artists don’t have to and we still prosecute them–or at least, evince some distaste for their methods. As a professional, I cannot condone Frey’s behavior and I hope one or two aspiring writers might decide in light of that article not to lend themselves to this nastiness. ‘Nuff said.

* Also, while I’m in take no prisoners mode, there’s the same kerfluffle there is every year over NaNoWriMo. (No, I’m not linking to the kerfluffles. They make me tired.) NaNo is great for one thing: teaching aspiring writers to shut up, sit down, and make writing a priority. That’s great, and it’s just the sort of lesson a lot of people who want to write often need. But writing only one month out of the year is not a good way to maximize your chances of producing quality, publishable work. That’s like saying a two-hour class can teach you to safely be a trapeze acrobat. I’m not knocking NaNo–I’ve participated several times, and plan to participate next year. It’s a good thing, but it’s not the sole means of becoming a writer or of learning to consistently produce publishable work.

Anyway. I promised another process post, didn’t I?

Read the rest of this entry » )

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames.

First, an announcement. Readers AleBB and Amanda N., please email me and tell me which mug/shirt you want. I have your addresses, but not the exact prizes you want.

Also, if you check out the latest (March ‘10) Romantic Times, I’m in there with Nalini Singh, Anne Rice, and Debbie Macomber (not to mention some fellow Dames, I think). We’re all talking about angels and demons, and having a great time. Plus, there are some Dame books recommended in that article!’

Now. It’s Friday. I’m supposed to do a Friday post. But what I really want to do is get back to the book that’s been bugging me. It’s a bright sunny windy day, and the itching under my skin can only be a work of fiction dying to get out. So, it’s going to be a Friday Four! I’m going to answer four common questions I get asked when I tell people I write for a living.

Seriously. These are the things I get asked/said to me most often when I tell people what I do. Enjoy!

1. Huh. Is there any money in that?

I’m very lucky that I can support myself by writing, and I do it by being pretty careful what I spend money on. (I’m helped by the fact that my priorities do not seem to be the average person’s set of priorities.) When you’re only paid twice a year and expected to live on chunks of your advances for months at a time, you have to budget pretty carefully. Also, you need to build up a safety cushion for those times when the royalty or advance payments dry up. It happens.

So yeah, there’s money…but only because I’m careful.

2. So how long does it take you to write a book?

It depends on the type of book. There’s the brute work of typing 60-100K words (and quite possibly twice that amount if there are multiple drafts, endings, and revisions). There’s the research involved, which can add hours and hours (even if it is Internet-based, which I don’t recommend…but that’s another blog post). There’s the time between revisions/drafts to let it sit and cool down. Then there’s the emotional energy and time one invests into a book.

For example, the Watcher books were relatively painless to write. They were fun and I had the structure down after the second one, so it was a matter of relaxing into the structure. I could probably write one of those every couple months, if I wasn’t doing anything else. Contrast that with the Jill Kismet books, which take a lot out of me. I need a year for each Kismet book, period. This is partly because I have other projects going at the same time, but it’s mostly because Jill’s world is a very dark place and the emotional toll of entering that world and suffering with her, as well as feeling her triumphs, is very large.

Oddly, short stories sometimes take me longer than novels, because the word count is so limited–I have to have everything just right before I draw my sword and make my cut.

So, that’s actually a very complex question. There are books that took me three years to write, books that took me a month and a half of intense effort, books that sort of dumped themselves out of my head whole. Writing a book is an incredibly complex process, with all sorts of factors affecting it. So I usually say, “From a month to three years, it depends on the book.”

3. I always wanted to write a book. How do you get published?

Persistence. Sheer dumb brute persistence. And luck, but the harder you work, the more likely you are to be lucky.

There are many ways to climb the mountain to publication[1], as well as many ways to climb the mountain of a sustainable writing career. The bedrock all these ways rest on is not quitting and learning.

You do not have a guarantee of getting published. All you can do is maximize your chances. Plenty of people do not bother to maximize their chances and so, just clog up the pipes with slush. But I can tell you this much: if you quit, it’s CERTAIN that you will never get published. If you don’t keep producing work and submitting, of course you’ll never get there. It’s a question of whether or not this matters enough to you.

The other half of the answer is learning. I never open a finished book of mine without wincing at things I could have done better and feeling the urge to correct/revise. Never. Part of that is simply my work ethic; the other part is that I an consistently and constantly trying to learn more about language, grammar, what makes stories work, what makes writing work. I rarely read for pleasure anymore; instead, I’m “looking under the hood” and seeing how the story is put together while another part of me is searching for typos. It’s become a reflex by now.

If you aren’t wincing and thinking you could do better when you open up a story/document you wrote six months ago, it’s time to focus on some more learning. I sincerely believe this is not a finite process.

4. I’ve got this great idea for a book. Why don’t you write it and we’ll split it 50-50?

Writers sometimes joke about this, but it isn’t really a joke. People actually say this to me. The only thing that saves the top of my head from blowing off while steam shoots off my ears and I reach for something sharp is the fact that most people don’t have the faintest idea how much work it is to write a book. They know that they walk into a bookstore and see the finished product and it takes them ten minutes to buy it if the line’s super-long around Christmas.

They do not see the months or years it took to write that book, the different drafts, the revisions and proofing process, the waiting for publication schedules to line up…I could go on. It’s like people thinking a television commercial only takes thirty seconds to film because that’s how long the finished product ends up being.

I used to try to explain this to people, but two sentences into the explanation people’s eyes would glaze over. People largely don’t care to hear about how their conveniences or consumable entertainment actually comes into being. Listening to that is too much like work, and I suspect it drains some of the “magic” from the mental image people have of writers.

So now I just settle for taking a deep breath, reminding myself that dismemberment is frowned upon in most social situations, and say, “Sorry. I’ve got my own books to write.”

The funny thing about this is most people just nod and move on with the conversation. There is, however, a slight but definite proportion of people who are actually offended when I say that. I suspect they are some of the same people you read about here. I actually had one man say to me, “What, my ideas aren’t good enough for you?”[2]

*snorts* So here’s what I wish I could say: “It’s not that your ideas aren’t good enough. It’s that I’d rather spend my time on the line of my ideas that’s stretching out the door and around the block. Other ideas are free to wait in line, and I’ll get the money for the actual effort put into writing them, thank you very much. Next!”

Ideas are a dime a dozen. What makes a book special is the time, care, and effort the writer puts into expressing the idea and its consequences, the effort spent revising until it’s as good as it can be, the effort the publisher puts into it from their end, and the ongoing engagement the writer cultivates with the readers. Five seconds of “hey I have an idea!” isn’t worth much when stacked against those months or years of backbreaking effort.

Anyway. So there you have it, the four most-common questions I’m asked when I tell people I write for a living. Someday, just to shake things up, I’m going to tell someone that I shave gorillas for a living.

They’ll probably say, “Huh. Is there any money in that?”

[1] Note that when I say “publication” I mean traditional publishing with all its quality control. I do not mean self or vanity publishing.
[2]At that point I realized I was dealing with irrationality, and took refuge in absurdity. “Yes. My cake is burning, thank you.” And I walked away.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

First the news, then the fail. Aren’t you excited?

I am pleased and proud to announce that Orbit Books will be bringing out all five Dante Valentine books in an omnibus, with an all-new cover, in March 2011. I’ve seen some roughs of the cover, which unfortunately I can’t share, but they are splendid. I am incredibly happy to be able to announce this. I have other good news, but I have to wait to share it. Which just about kills me.

And now, onto the fail!

Some of you may have heard about a second Amazonfail over the weekend. Basically, on Friday afternoon-evening, Amazon announced that it was disabling the buy buttons from all MacMillan books. (Later, unannounced, they pulled sample chapters of MacM books from the Kindle.) MacMillan is a huge publisher, and plenty of SF/F authors were affected, including one or two of the Deadline Dames, Tobias Buckell and John Scalzi.

The reason? MacMillan wanted to go to “dynamic pricing”. Which meant that when an ebook first came out, it would be priced higher ($12.99-$15.99) and the price would decrease (to $5.99) over time, analogous to a book coming out in hardcover, then cheaper in trade paperback, then even cheaper in mass market, and finally the cheapest of all in remainder. Amazon threw a gigantic tantrum over this, wanting to sell ebooks for $9.99, world without end, amen.

MacMillan released a statement, Amazon dragged their feet and finally on Sunday released (on the Kindle forum on their website, of all places) a self-serving piece of tripe meant to portray themselves as the underdog looking out for consumers instead of a corporation caught trying to strongarm market share.

There are a couple of things I want to say about this debacle. But first, the links!

* The original breaking story in NYT and VentureBeat.
* MacMillan’s statement.
* Amazon’s statement.
* Laura Anne Gilman’s take on Amazon’s statement.
* Tobias Buckell’s very good breakdown of ebook pricing. Even if you read NOTHING else on the debacle, read this–because it addresses one of the nastiest misconceptions of the whole thing–namely, that ebooks are free to manufacture.
* John Scalzi on how Amazon humped the bunk and on ebook pricing.

The things I want to say:

1. This is not new behavior. Amazon has a habit of delisting or trying to strongarm publishers on Friday evenings. Remember when they wanted to eff over small publishers? Remember when they went through and delisted and deranked LBGT titles? Once is chance, twice coincidence, three times means it’s a policy, a pattern. I am no longer willing to give Amazon the benefit of any doubt.

2. Ebooks are not free to produce, dammit. As Tobias Buckell points out, ebooks are not cheaper for publishers to produce than paper books. That’s because publishers are providing quality control. Self-published ebooks are not free to produce either; the cost is borne by the buyer more directly without quality control; vanity press ebooks are paid for by the author. THIS SHIT IS NOT FREE. The biggest misconception I’ve seen in this debate is “ebooks are free, MacMillan is trying to gouge the reader!” NO, GODDAMMIT. Ebooks need to be edited and converted into ebook format, as well as marketed and invested in to be made available. Don’t bring up the music industry, because a book is not a pop song. Don’t bring up Baen or Cory Doctorow either, they make their money in other ways. I wish I could tell all the sanctimonious bastards badmouthing MacM to “QUIT USING THIS AS A RED HERRING. Go read Buckell’s explanation again.” If there’s anything that makes my blood pressure spike in this whole thing, this is it.

3. Amazon is not the little guy here. Amazon is not looking out for reader interest. Amazon got caught being an asshole.

4. I do not agree with Buckell and Scalzi about DRM. In my mind, DRM is the only faint and fading protection authors have against book pirates, and throwing out DRM instead of concentrating on how to build it better and more efficient and so it doesn’t enrage the consumer is throwing Baby out with bathwater. This is not a popular view, but it is mine and I will not have the comments section be dragged down into telling me how I’m WRONG and BAD for having it. You’ve been warned.

5. I still have Amazon links on my site, as a courtesy to my readers. If you want to buy my books through Amazon (always assuming they don’t delist me for some goddamn reason or another), who am I to complain? But I do list Barnes & Noble, Borders, Indiebound, Powell’s, and (upcoming links) Book Depository first. If it so moves you to buy through them, or through anyone else, first, then more power to you.

That about covers it. Play nice in comments, feel free to post links to other rundowns of the whole thing. I’m exhausted and still nursing a cold, so off I go to drink some tea and get some revisions done. And let my blood pressure come down. Otherwise I might bust a gasket, and who will write these books then?

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

It’s funny–the further along I go, the more the Universe steps in to help out. I could also view it as my thinking changing so I can take better advantage of opportunities. Potayto, potahto. Like I told the Princess when she asked me if the gods are real: whether they’re psychological constructs or actual beings, the net effect is the same–and you need to be just as careful about what you believe.

Anyway. The Selkie sent me this great link about Louisa May Alcott this morning; the American Masters episode is on tonight. (I will probably not watch it; our telly is DVD-only.) Of all Alcott’s work, I liked A Long Fatal Love Chase best; Little Women irritated me beyond bearing but I persevered because it was a Classic. I did like Jo the best out of all the March sisters, true. It was impossible not to, really. I wanted to slap Meg and send Beth to a hospital. And Amy? I’d slap her twice.

The thing that strikes me in this article about Alcott is that she decided what she was going to do, and she wrote what would sell because she wanted the money. This is treated as a revelation, because in our society artists (and women artists in particular) are not supposed to be in it for the filthy lucre. Money is at bottom, implicitly supposed to be the preserve of men. (As Ann Crittenden points out, when Motherhood started becoming sacred was when mothers started getting really economically screwed.) It’s news that Alcott was a hack, yet the fact that Poe, Dumas, and Dickens were hacks lacks a certain power of titillation.

Reading the Alcott piece, and listening to the interview, I was struck with a single vivid scene: Louisa May, like Scarlett O’Hara, swearing she or her folk would never be hungry again. Louisa May wrote to sell because her family was hungry, and instead of bemoaning it and dying gracefully she decided to do something about it.

Nobility is hard to come by when you’re starving. We have these myths of the Noble Poor, and that’s what they are–myths. I’ve been poor, and there’s nothing noble about it. It’s terrifying and dirty and ugly. When people are frightened and hungry, nobility is the exception. You can’t count on it.

Louisa May Alcott “resolved to take fate by the throat and shake a living out of her.” (Amen to that.) There was none of this “I’ve been rejected so I’m going to give up and bemoan that Editors don’t want my Precious Prose.” Instead it was, “I’m going to find out what they want, and I’m going to give it to them the best way I know how, and they are going to pay me for it. And if it takes me getting rejected fifty times, why then, I’ll get rejected fifty times. Or a hundred. Or a thousand. But they’re not going to lick me.”

Oh, Louisa. Over a hundred years ago you decided this, and you’re still an inspiration. You go, girl.

As for me, dear Reader, I’m gonna go take Fate by the throat and shake some more. Care to join me?

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

I’m going to be in the wilds of revision for a while. (Like, maybe 30K words of revision. *cries*)

But tonight I am at Powell’s in Beaverton, for their SF/F Bookclub. (Details on my events page.) I am told this is a public event and that I could announce it. If you drop by, please be quiet and respectful of the book club, and I will stay briefly after the club discussion ends if you’d like me to sign something or chat a bit.

Anyway, I’m popping in today to spread the word about something else. The vanity press scam PublishAmerica is on Twitter. If you can, please spread the word about this company that claims to be a traditional publisher. Retweet, blog, link, whatever you can. I don’t often ask this sort of thing, but I think this is incredibly important. People come here a lot for writing/publishing advice, I would be remiss in my duty if I didn’t encourage you to tell anyone you know who wants to get published about this.

I have absolutely nothing against vanity presses. Really. I think they’re tremendously useful sometimes, especially for pet projects, family histories, and other niche self-publishing. I myself used for the Anna Beguine books, for a number of reasons. I knew what I was doing and what I was getting into, and what I was paying for.

That’s the thing about vanity presses–you are paying for a service, and the company needs to be honest about their fees or it’s just another bait and switch. The trouble comes when a vanity press starts impersonating a traditional publisher.

Traditional publishing follows Yog’s Lawthe money flows TOWARD THE WRITER. In vanity press or self-publishing, you’re shelling out for a service. There is a huge difference.

PublishAmerica is gruesome because they try to present themselves as a trad publisher. As Atlanta Nights showed, however, there is no quality control or editorial work done there. Instead, the company soaks authors for the price of self-publishing and does things like promise to set up book signings, which never materialize. The point of a traditional publisher is to get third-party customers to pay for the company’s overhead; the point of a vanity press is that the authors pay for overhead, salary, etc. This is a huge distinction.

A slight aside here: you all know I volunteer at an indie bookshop. When PublishAmerica or their poor victims call, we just say no. We don’t even listen. We can’t. We can’t carry the books–they’re full of typos and badly produced, since there’s no editing or quality control. We also can’t be pressured into running signings, because we eat the cost of the books ordered through the distributors. Since vanity press or POD books usually have a long lag time between order and delivery, it ends up being a bitch of a hassle to get them unless someone else (not us!) plunks the cash down up front. Not only that, but those types of books end up being nonreturnable. A lot of bookstores hear “PublishAmerica” and just turn right off.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Look at what other writers, editors, and agents say. Check out Writer Beware’s two thumbs down list–PA’s there. Check out what Preditors & Editors has to say. (PublishAmerica threatened to sue them. Classy, no?)

Like I said, I don’t have anything against vanity presses. I don’t have anything against self-publishing. What I object to is a vanity press trying to pass itself off as a traditional publisher in order to snooker newbie writers. Getting published is hard work. It is not easier when Bad People take advantage of the desire of writers to be published to make a quick buck, promising things they cannot and will not deliver. PublishAmerica is not around to provide a service–they’re around to separate you from your money. I can’t be any clearer than that.

If you want to self-publish, I really recommend I haven’t had a bad experience with them yet, and they were upfront about fees and marketing packages. I’ll take a vanity press that is honest and upfront with me over a dishonest one any day of the week.

So please, spread the word. If you know anyone who is considering PA, or if you’re considering them yourself, please be warned.

Be careful out there.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Mar. 16th, 2009 11:42 am)

I’m on the last push of revisions today, so this will be short. No, I’m not disappointed in the revisions. It’s something else.

I’ve found out that a fan I know (by name, even) has been uploading my work to a file-stealing site. (It’s not file-”sharing”. It’s file-STEALING, dammit.) It’s disappointing and hurtful to see a fan who claims to love my work uploading it to sites where people can steal it. It’s going to be awful hard to pay the rent if people continue stealing this way. Already this weekend I spent a lot of time (that I could have been using to write those books) on demanding that these sites take my copyrighted work down. It was sobering, disappointing, and hurtful to see this fan’s very unique “handle” used again on a file-stealing site, as the person who uploaded my work to be stolen.

I work very hard to make these stories. The publishers work very hard to bring them to people. When they’re stolen and torrented it makes it harder for both me and the publisher, but mostly me. The publisher, after all, is a huge company with profits. I’m a mom with kids to feed and a non-infinite bank account. Congress isn’t going to be financing a million-dollar bonus for me personally anytime soon, you know.

Comments are disabled on this post[1] because I don’t want to hear a bunch of people defending file-stealing, and because I don’t want to hear a rant against DRM and how it makes it harder for “honest” people. Look, some people are assholes, and that’s why we have police, DRM, anti-theft devices, etc., etc. If human nature were different, we wouldn’t need these things. DRM isn’t perfect, true. But it’s what we’ve got right now to try and deter people from being assholes. Sure it gets cracked almost as soon as it’s created. But there’s no other choice right at this moment to try and protect artists, because some people–even people who claim to be “fans”–are going to be assholes and steal things.

It’s sad and disappointing. But it’s the way it is.

I’ve got to get some revisions done. See you guys in a bit.

[1] ETA: Comments are also locked because I will not abide speculation as to identity. Compounding the situation by holding up this person’s identity is not what I’m interested in. So do not ask, I will not answer, and comments remain closed. Thank you. And to those of you who have expressed support, thank you as well. I appreciate it more than I can say.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. Please comment there.

I’ve fallen into the rhythm of revision. It really doesn’t take that long to do when you can bring all your faculties to bear on a particular book. It’s like watching the jumprope on the playground, catching its beat so you can hop in. Which is about the only part of playing with other kids I ever liked, in school.

Anyway, we’re fifty pages or so into the second YA; second-draft revisions are going well. I halted last night just at the place where I had to make a significant architectural change. It was a good decision to stop there, because I was making various nasty notes to myself about how the story sucked and I hated the secondary characters and should kill them in various gruesomely interesting ways. This is how I know it’s time to step away from the manuscript.

Both the little ones are sniffling and coughing. Colds go through our house like wildfire. I keep telling myself it means they will have nice strong immune systems. This does not comfort me as much when I wake up with body aches and a husky voice. I am pouring down the fluids and taking my vities. (Vitamin C, CoQ10 and L-Lysine might not work, but they make me feel better. And the B vities DO work, I swear.) Since I have a writer’s mixer on March 7–at Cover to Cover Books, we’re going to play Ask The Working Writer–I can’t afford to lose my voice or be cranky at the end of the week. *crosses fingers* (You can RSVP at Facebook or MySpace. Technology, she is wonderful.)

The thing that is making me crankier than the cold this morning is the flood of torrenting. This career is hard work, and people stealing ebooks and torrenting them just makes me…well, I don’t want to go off into a long ramble of cusswords and spleen. I’m glad people like my work. I’m not so glad that people want to steal it. And when I’m spending time demanding websites take those torrents down, I’m not writing. Which means fans don’t get the books as quickly.

This really cheeses my buns. Torrenting ebooks is not freeing information or sticking it to the Man, or whatever people like to tell themselves. It’s stealing. That’s the only word that applies. Naturally I don’t like it when my work is stolen. And don’t even tell me “they’ll buy it if they like it” or “it’s publicity” or “people wouldn’t take YOUR work unless it’s free so why are you bitching?” All those arguments are red herrings, and insulting besides. So don’t go there.

Anyway. I’m thinking I can knock out another fifty pages revised and get total wordcount up by a few K. At least, that’s what I’m hoping. Wish me luck and choco.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. Please comment there.

Plenty more stuff about Roy Blount’s op-ed in the New York Times concerning Kindle’s Text-To-Speech function. (My initial take on it was yesterday.) I’m just going to point you at Wil Wheaton, who got together links to Scalzi, Gaiman, and Doctorow’s responses. Doctorow’s in particular seemed to go over the line into enraged. YMMV.

I am left wondering if these guys read the same op-ed I did. I saw it as Blunt saying: “We need to be vigilant about our rights here.” I really wonder if others read stuff about the piece elsewhere on the Net that colored their response to it, calling Blount a big meanie etc. etc., and getting All Het Up.

One thing Scalzi said was that he pitied the person who thought TTS was a replacement for audiobooks or someone reading work aloud, implying that therefore this tech wouldn’t take off and be a threat. Look, that’s not the point. I understand ebooks and am glad my work is accessible that way, but I don’t read them. (This is purely personal preference, here.) I prefer paper and I pity people who don’t have the sensual experience of a book in their hands. I can still insist that I get my royalties from ebooks and that torrenting is stealing.

It doesn’t matter that a computer reading it isn’t the same experience as a human reading it. The point is that the technology is there and someone is going to try to figure out how to make it workable to steal. Just like people figured out how to make ebooks easy and workable to steal. This is just human nature, folks. Someone is going to do it; plus, this is a new way to distribute and spread author’s works, we need to look at those rights and get them codified in contracts JUST LIKE AUDIOBOOKS AND EBOOKS. It’s that simple. I don’t see anything wrong with saying so, or with Blount saying so from his platform as president of the Author’s Guild. I like AG and am a dues-paying member because I think it’s valuable for the legal help alone, though God knows I don’t want to ever have to use that. So, I disagree. Not vehemently or anything, but I really totally disagree with the points being made so far in that corner of the Interwebs.

Anyway, that’s probably my last word on the whole issue, since it seems emotions are getting involved and that means nastiness can’t be far behind. Besides, I’m spitting distance from finishing this short story, and I want it done and out of the way early so I can fix the second YA book.

It’s snowing here, off and on–it’s too warm to stick and we’re getting spatters of desultory hail too. It’s good writing weather. Hell, any weather is good writing weather. Especially when you’re writing an antihero half-vampire in suburbia.

I do love my job.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. Please comment there.

Let’s talk, you and me. Let’s talk about money.

I like money. It makes it possible for me to feed my children and my book habit. I work damn hard every day for the money I get. Right now I’m on a jag of seven-day workweeks getting stuff done. I’m glad to have the work. I’m glad to have earned the work by being a professional.

But there’s something I’m having trouble with this morning. It’s the assorted silly and ugly responses to Roy Blount’s (president of the Author’s Guild) op-ed piece in the New York Times–the one where he says quite reasonably, “But people who want to keep on doing creative things for a living must be duly vigilant about any new means of transmitting their work.”

He’s talking about the Kindle 2’s voice capability. And in the blogsphere this morning I’ve come across many responses, most disagreeing with him for various specious reasons. These responses are mostly people who do not make their living from writing. This issue is bound up, with me, with the issue of DRM and piracy and a lot of others.

There is this persistent baseline assumption hanging around that artists don’t deserve to get paid because what they provide is a luxury. (It’s very Puritan of us.) This unconscious line of thinking says, “Why should artists bitch if I want to get their work for free? There’s lots of people willing to work for free–the Internet is awash with free fiction, free art, free free free and all for me!”

Yeah, and as Harlan Ellison obliquely noted in his famous rant, you get what you effing pay for. And there are a lot of people wanting writers to work for nothing.

I am cranky this morning, so I can boil my response down to two words. F!ck that.

I am not saying that everyone who calls themselves an artist deserves a mansion. Far from. Traditional publishing provides a popular product because of quality control. The gatekeepers and wickets an author has to go through to get traditionally published are just that: quality control, because a publisher is laying out cold hard cash to produce the books on paper. (This ties in with that huge post on epublishing I’m still planning.) Good e-presses have quality control as well, and guess what? Their books cost more because of that quality control. People pay more for professionally-produced audiobooks and music because of quality control. There are people selling podcasts–not just handing them out for free–and that money goes toward quality control–better tech to capture the voice, better stories, more in-depth reporting, etc., etc. (Publicity podcasts for free are a different animal. Don’t use them as a red herring.)

Blount’s point here is that authors deserve to get paid when there is a new means of transmitting their work. Those rights need to be guarded. Not just because we have to eat like the rest of you–but because YOU want quality fiction. Don’t you?

We could be nice and sweet and let our work get taken for free, a chunk at a time. And starve to death. Then, no more quality fiction.

Don’t tell me that the wave of the future is all free stuff. (To begin with, the Internet is not ubiquitous yet. It just feels that way to anyone in it.) Look, I can produce a better product when I take more care with it. That’s just the way it is. When I am properly paid for the care I take–when it’s possible (even if hard work) for me to feed my kids on what I make from writing–I don’t have to spend eight to ten hours at the office then come home and scrape up energy to write. I can spend those eight hours writing. (And then usually another three or four writing too, but that’s another blog post.)

But the unspoken assumption in a lot of people saying that the Author’s Guild is greedy, or that DRM didn’t work for the music industry so it won’t work for publishing, or throwing any number of red herrings up to say professional writers shouldn’t get paid for their work–which is essentially what I’m seeing all over the place–is that writers do not DESERVE fair pay for their effort, because what they produce isn’t important.

If it isn’t important, why should we produce it at all? Do you really want to wake up one day and have nothing but shoddy fanfic[1] for free on the internet in the place of books, quality ebooks, and quality fiction? Yes, you and I know it’s not going to happen. People love their books and music too much.

But do not expect those of us who write or play–those of us who produce these things you enjoy–to act as if it’s happened, or to live on air. We are not effing epiphytes. Don’t expect us to roll over and play dead when there’s a new means of transmitting our work and there’s a question of rights to it. Naturally a lot of people want shit for free. That’s human nature. It’s also human nature to say, “I spent a lot of time and effort on this shit, pay me before you use it.” That’s what an economy IS, tension between those two points.

The trouble is the persistent assumption that artists don’t deserve to be paid at all. That basic assumption is all bound up in the myth of the suffering artist–that you have to be a self-destructive, penniless, alcoholic jerk to create Great Arte that will sell for millions after you die in a garret. Screw that. I want to be a well-rounded decent human being and use my life doing the things I love, creating what I believe I was meant to create and making a reasonable living from it.

Slight side note here: Don’t even start with the “Well, everyone wants to do that–and nobody would do the sh!t jobs if we all had the means to be Artists and Do What We Love.” This is not true. This profession, like any other, depends on professionalism and hard work. There are a lot of Speshul Snowflakes who expect to be paid for essentially producing nothing, which is NOT what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the writer who consistently produces sellable product, and gets through those quality control checks publishing has evolved. The proportion of “writers” willing to work hard enough to eventually make it is small. The means to do what you love comes with hard work and discipline. This is universal. So don’t say I’m advocating that every Speshul Snowflake get a stipend. Because I’m not.

I’ve achieved a certain small amount of success doing the thing I love, and of COURSE I’m going to want to continue to be paid for the work and effort I put into it. Sure, tomorrow sales could tank and the world could decide I’m a bad writer (I already know I’m not a writer for everyone) and I may have to go back to flipping burgers, fixing plumbing, delivering pizza, doing insurance analysis, something.

But that is going to be because you, dear Reader, don’t want me anymore. I don’t want it to be because you want me, but I can’t make a living because some asshole decides he has a god-given right to steal and torrent my work, or because Amazon decides I don’t get a slice of those (insert rights here) rights just because THEY want all the money, world without end, amen. It’s natural for huge corporations to have to be forced to give up any cash at all, whether to their workers or what-have-you.

Naturally I am going to support the Author’s Guild and argue that I deserve to be paid for my work. That’s why I’ve worked so damn hard to get through those quality control wickets and be a goddamn professional.

People in our culture tend to be shocked and offended when artists want to get paid, because it strikes right at the heart of the Puritan assumption that all art is luxury and suspect, and therefore Not Worth Anything. (Except gloating over in the middle of the night.) Add in the human propensity to want things for free, and you have a cocktail of assumptions swirling around, and an overly-strong emotional response when those assumptions are challenged.

I used to think that I could argue with people over this issue and that they would eventually admit that I deserved to make a living too, if I was producing a quality product. (Yes, I know products and businesses fail all the time. But these people are asking me to fail at making a living because they don’t want to pay for something they use, not because they don’t want the item in the first place.) Now I am to the point of just shrugging my shoulders and saying, “Of course you want shit for free. That’s human nature. But don’t expect me to roll over and give it, and don’t expect me to be quiet about it when you want me to give up my rights–they’re called rights for a REASON, you know–or when you expect me to work and produce these things you want for free when I’ve got rent to pay and kids to feed and books to buy.”

I think it’s incumbent upon artists to be businesspeople too. And expecting shit for free is not how business is conducted.

I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me, and they will talk about how I’m shortsighted and how electronic rights are meant to be free or are going to be free anyway in the future so why bother fighting now, or how the Kindle’s voice capability is just for the reader and not for the writer, and on and on. But all I keep hearing under all that is the ugly assumption that writers and artists are assholes for expecting to get paid for work that’s gone through the quality control wickets. And while it might be a widespread assumption in our still-very-Puritan culture, I don’t have a lot of patience with that dreck anymore.

Especially not today, when I woke up cranky.

Over and out.

[1] I like fanfic and think it’s great practice for beginning writers, as well as a stage each writer goes through. But the overwhelming percentage of fanfic I’ve ever seen is, well, only fanfic-quality. This isn’t a bad thing–but do you want this to be the only fiction you have access to? Do you?

Posted from A Fire of Reason. Please comment there.



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