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Posts Tagged ‘Kristine Kathryn Rusch’

No, I’m not talking about Ghostbusters.  Although it might be time to watch the movie again.  This post has been bubbling around, trying to take form for several weeks.  Kate’s post this past Sunday, and the comments to it, brought it to life.

A little background first.  When I first got my kindle, I was a skeptic.  I love books.  I love the feel of them, the look of them, etc.  I couldn’t imagine reading on anything like the kindle.  For one thing, I spend so much of the day sitting before the computer that the thought of reading on some sort of device simply didn’t excite me.  Then I got the kindle and very quickly realized that I preferred it to physical books — at least when reading for entertainment.

It didn’t take long to realize something else.  The errors in spelling, punctuation and formatting I’d started seeing in hard copy books seemed to leap off the digital page.  There is something about reading on my kindle — or on my tablet — that seems to accept the errors that have gotten past the copy editors and proofreaders.  Was it because there were more errors in ebooks than in hard copy books, or was there another explanation?

A figurative stroll through different e-reader related forums quickly revealed I wasn’t the only one asking these questions.  Even now, two years after receiving my kindle, the question is asked in the kindle forums almost weekly.  Speculation runs from laziness by legacy publishers to too many people thinking they are the next great writer waiting to be discovered and who are taking advantage of the ease of self-publishing digitally.  The truth of the matter is a bit more complex.

When it comes to problems seen in e-books put out by publishers, the first occurs when titles are scanned and then digitized.  This process often creates OCR errors where letters are altered.  This usually occurs near the margins and is easy enough to spot — if the file is proofread.  Unfortunately, it appears that many of these titles aren’t proofed before being put on sale. I’ve seen a couple of examples where the OCR errors were so bad, the text was almost unreadable.

The bulk of errors in e-books seem to come from the lack of proofreading and, to a lesser extent, copy editing.  This occurs, despite what a lot of the complainers in the different fora believe, in both indie and legacy published titles.  It occurs in indie titles, especially those that are self-published, because authors are, on the whole, their own worst editors.  It occurs in legacy published titles because they have cut back on their employees so much that they now rely on the authors and agents to do much of the editing and proofreading that editors used to do.

So, how does this relate back to Kate’s post and what are we, as authors, supposed to do?

Simple, we follow the guidelines, especially the one that almost every publisher includes: make sure your work is as close to publishable as possible.  That means more than having a good story.  It means making sure it is formatted according to guidelines.  It means having beta readers who know to look for more than misspelled words and comma faults.  It means, if necessary, hiring an editor to go over your manuscript before submitting it.

There are reasons for guidelines that go beyond making it easy for the editor to read the submission.  First — and this is very important — your ability to follow the guidelines is the editor’s first impression of your work.  Take the guidelines for Naked Reader press for example.  The very first thing listed under “guidelines” is the fact that we have set submission periods.  So, if you send something outside of the submission periods, I know you haven’t read the guidelines.  The same goes if you fail to send a synopsis of your novel or if all you send is the synopsis.  We want both.

Now, back to Kate’s post and some of the comments.  Part of any publisher’s guidelines are how to format your submission.  NRP uses standard manuscript format:  double spaced, one inch margins, 12 or 14 point Courier or Times New Roman.  Simple, right?

Apparently not.  We get titles that are single spaced.  We get titles without first line indents.  We get titles where there are additional spaces between paragraphs.  We get submissions that don’t have a cover email with the information asked for: name, contact information, publication credits.

NRP hasn’t gotten to the point yet where we are refusing to look at submissions that don’t meet our guidelines.  I know of a number of other publishers and agents that have.  I will tell you, though, that a manuscript not formatted according to guidelines starts with a strike against it.  Why?  Because I have to wonder about an author who doesn’t care enough to follow them.

So, it is up to the author to make sure he’s followed the guidelines just as he’s done all he can to make sure he is submitting the best story he can.  Frankly, this is true whether the author is submitting a title to a publisher or he’s publishing it himself.  If there is a reason for not following the format guidelines listed by a publisher, tell them.  Or at least send an email and ask if it’s okay.

I hear you saying that you have decided not to submit to a publisher but are going the self-publishing route.  After all, you have a great novel.  You’ve done your homework and know there are free programs out there to help you create your e-book.  So why worry about format guidelines and submission processes when you can take your e-book directly to the public?

As an author, I understand the sentiment.  It’s hard to get a publisher these days, especially a legacy publisher.  It’s even harder to get an agent — something you need to get your foot in the door at most legacy publishers.  It really is easy to understand why so many writers are choosing to do it themselves.

What many of them seem to have forgotten is that the same rules for submitting to a publisher apply to self-publishing.  You have to have a well-edited, proofread manuscript in a format readers are used to.  That means beta readers, proofreaders and, if necessary, professional editing.  It also means cover art and GOOD cover art.  Readers will tear you apart on the boards for bad cover art, or for generic cover art.  If they don’t like the font you use for your title, they will let you know.

Despite what you hear from a lot of bloggers, despite the fame of some indies like Amanda Hocking, there is still an onus about self-published work.  If you doubt it, read the boards.  See how many people won’t buy a novel originally priced at 99 cents because they know it’s by an “indie” and won’t be any good or will be so poorly formatted as to be unreadable.  Check out threads like those asking why indies keep shooting themselves in the foot by not having their novels professionally edited or formatted for e-books.

Don’t get me wrong.  As quick as they are to condemn a poorly written or poorly edited/formatted book, they are just as quick to praise one.  So, what does that mean?

It means he writer is not only the keymaster — the creator of the story — but is also the gatekeeper.  It doesn’t matter if the novel is going to a legacy publisher or is being self-published.  It needs to be as clean — as well written, edited and proofread — as possible before submission.  You are the master of your story.  Don’t be afraid to act the role.

In other news around the industry, check out what Kris Rusch and Joe Konrath have to say about the future of traditional or legacy publishing.

What do you think about the keymaster/gatekeeper roles and about the future of publishing?

Cross-posted to The Naked Truth and to Mad Genius Club.

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What would a Friday be without the weekly (I know, sometimes daily and hourly) update on the Borders bankruptcy?

Bloomberg reported yesterday that Borders wants to find $50 million more in financing.  Mind you, this is in addition to the more than $500 million debtor-in-possession loan it has already secured.  The reason?  Because they aren’t selling as much as they’d forecast.  Gee, imagine that.  Have a bad business plan — oh wait, they haven’t filed their new business plan/restructuring plan with the bankruptcy court yet — and close a third of your stores and threaten the close of even more and your sales go down.  Who’d have thunk it?

Bitter?  You bet.  I love bookstores.  The Borders nearest to where I live is one of those closing, despite the fact the store was posting a profit.  Some very good folks have lost their jobs even as Borders was asking for permission to pay its executives millions in bonuses.  Sorry, I don’t believe in rewarding folks who aren’t getting the job done while punishing those who are.

Any way, there’s a lot of subtext in the Bloomberg article.  How much is true, I can’t say.  I expect a lot of it.  Unfortunately, I can’t even say I’m surprised.  This is a company that should have seen the writing on the wall more than two years ago and either didn’t or failed to do anything about it.  Now they want publishers and other suppliers to trust that they’ll pay their bills — after already proving before the bankruptcy filing that they won’t.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s time for them to prove they have a clue by filing their new business plan/reorganization plan instead of holding their hand out for more money while telling their creditors to bend over and trust them not to kick them in the rear again.

On another front, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a follow-up to her post about royalty statements.  I wrote about the original article earlier this week.  As I said then, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Rusch yet, but I have been following her blog for quite awhile now and I urge every writer and small press publisher/editor to do the same.

These two articles by Ms. Rusch point out problems I’ve heard about from writer friends for a long time.  No one has really rocked the boat because traditional publishing was the only game in town.  Now, however, with the advent of the Amazon KDP program as well as Barnes and Noble’s PubIt program, authors now have an alternative.  Throw in the growth of small press e-publishers and, well, the landscape is changing.

I won’t try to paraphrase what Ms. Rusch says in her articles.  Instead, I suggest you read them and the comments that follow.  Then, if you are traditionally published, check your royalty statements.  If you have access to your Bookscan numbers, look at them and compare them to what your statements say you sold.  Then, if you feel there is an under-reporting of your sales by your publisher, report it to your professional organizations and urge them to take action.

One last note.  Over at Mad Genius Club, there’s a writing prompt contest going on.  The winner will receive their choice of two titles from NRP, including Chris McMahon’s upcoming novella Flight of the Phoenix.  Go check it out.  You have until 0600 EST Sunday to get your entries in.

(Cross-posted to The Naked Truth.)

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This past weekend was one of those rare weekends when I didn’t write, didn’t edit, didn’t do anything with regard to the publishing industry other than re-reading one of Dave Freer’s books for fun.  I didn’t even read the blogs I normally do.  Instead, I enjoyed spending the weekend at university with my son — always a reason to celebrate.

So, imagine my reaction when I got home last night and started going through my regular blog reading and found some of my concerns now being voiced by names bigger and more knowledgeable than I.

A little background first.  I may be a very small fish in a huge pond when it comes to being a published author, but I keep my ear to the ground and I talk to a number of others who have been in the business a lot longer than I.  One thread has seemed to be consistent of late — the concern that royalty statements aren’t accurately reflecting the number of sales any given author is making.  Now, this concern isn’t anything new.  Writers have had issues with Bookscan numbers for quite awhile simply because Bookscan doesn’t report all sales.  It simply reports sales from selected markets and then extrapolates from there.  Okay, it might be easier for a a publisher to simply pay a third party to do this, but come on, guys, the publisher surely knows how many books are printed, how many are shipped, how many are sitting in a warehouse somewhere and how many have been returned.  A simple in-house computing program could track that.

So, Bookscan had been an issue of concern.  Then Amazon did something the publishers hated.  They made Bookscan numbers available to authors who take part in their Author Central program.  Oooops.  Now writers can track their own numbers for printed books without breaking the bank.

That then focused attention on e-book sales and gets back to my conversations with some of my writer friends.  More than one talked about how they were getting royalty statements saying they had sold a very small number of e-books — far less than what their fan mail and in-person conversations with readers led them to believe — and, very suspiciously, they sold the exact same number of copies of multiple titles.  Okay, I’m a pretty trusting person, but when a royalty statement says Author A sold 8 copies each of three books and this is exactly what they sold the previous royalty period as well…well, I start getting suspicious.

Seems I’m not alone.  One of those I respect a great deal in the business is Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Rusch, but I have followed her posts in “The Business Rusch” for some time now.  Her post on the 13th about royalty statements is something every writer needs to read, digest, read again and then act on.  Remember, the publishing industry is changing very rapidly right now and publishers are struggling to figure out how to adapt — I hope they are at least — and I think Ms. Rusch is right when she says that adopting a new accounting method that accurately tracks e-book sales is not high on publishers’ priority lists right now.

Maybe Bookscan will soon start tracking e-book sales as well.  It won’t be perfect, far from it.  But it will be one more weapon in a writer’s arsenal to protect himself.

(As an aside, another blog every writer should be following is Dean Wesley Smith‘s.  Between him and Ms. Rusch, the business of publishing is made much more understandable for writers at all stages of their careers.)

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