“Why should we have to pay for the stories in your head?”
Last week, Facebook was buzzing over an incident with a romance author who received a horrible message from a “fan”. The woman had purchased ebooks by the author, read them, returned them for a refund, then complained that while she enjoyed the stories just fine, the author should make all her books free because paying for them was too difficult for the “fan”. The author blocked her (because duh) so the “fan” created a new account and messaged the author again, calling her names and telling her that she could have been a bestseller if only she’d make her books free for everyone, then ended her message with the line above.
First off, I’m at a loss as to how one becomes a bestseller by giving away all the books. I didn’t get any further than Algebra II/Trigonometry in high school, and I made every effort to avoid math in college, but I can still add like a boss. Zero plus zero equals zero, no matter how you swing it. You can’t really say it’s selling when you charge zero dollars for the product. That, my friends, is called giving. Maybe the “fan” meant to say the author would become a best-giver.
But the real issue was that closing line. It’s bothered me for days now, in a way that ties in to all the heartache we go through when trying to be successful creators. We worry that our stories aren’t good enough, that no one will like them, that the people who claim to like them are only saying so to assuage our fragile egos, that we simply suck. For every writer who finishes a book and makes it available for readers to purchase and read, there are a thousand writers who just couldn’t manage to complete a story. And for every thousand writers who start but don’t finish, there are ten thousand who never even begin. It takes an extraordinary amount of courage and faith in yourself to put creative work out into the world for public consumption. When a writer decides to try making this their living, that’s a big decision, fully dependent on readers to make that living happen. So imagine how crushing it would be to hear that while the stories are wonderful, the reader doesn’t feel they are worth paying for.
Let’s move it closer to home. Most of us work outside the house. So imagine, for a moment, your supervisor calling you into her office. “We love your work,” she says. “You’re efficient and friendly to your coworkers and you get all your assignments completed on time without fail. But we just don’t feel that you should be paid for that effort. You’re willing to do your work for free, right?”
I know I’m preaching to the choir, so here’s the gist: if you feel that your favorite writers are not worth paying for, you’re welcome to create your own stories in your own head. If you don’t want to expend the energy, go learn how to use the ebook service at your local library. Writers have bills to pay and families to feed. We love writing, but it’s a job, and we expect to be paid. Writing takes time and effort and even expense. You’re paying for the stories in our heads because you know you never would have come up with them on your own.
Telling writers their work is without value is jerky. Don’t be a jerk.
THERE ARE NO MOVIE SPOILERS IN THIS UPCOMING POST
I know what I want to talk to you about today, but my migraine is making it hard for me to use the English language so I’m going to try to used those things called words and see how I do.
Anyway, as you’ve guessed by now, this post is brought to you by…
That’s right…I’m gonna talk about the movie WITHOUT SPOILERS! The things I’m going to mention are public knowledge from even before the movie came out so…if you’ve not seen the movie, you are safe to continue reading.
Now, why is this post brought to you by a movie? Well, a post on FB yesterday about this movie got me to thinking about character and the reasons they exist in your story.
As many of you know, I have a degree in Theatre Education and used to teach Drama at both the middle school and high school level. My minor is in English…specifically in Shakespeare and Creative Writing. So I usually direct large casted shows AND I tend to go see movies (and plays) and then consider what I’ve learned from them and apply it to writing books because I’m weird.
This time I’m hoping my weirdness is helpful…if my headache doesn’t work against me. Here goes. I’m going to talk about 3 things we can learn from this movie and I’ll keep them as brief and to the point as I can (for me).
A. Writing for a Large Cast –
Many folks were concerned when the Avengers movies came out that having that many characters can cause bad writing where no character gets enough time to show importance (other than to, you know, fight the baddy). Then Joss Whedon surprised those skeptics (like I knew he would). That said, the story of Civil War (penned by Jack Kirby, Mark Millar, and Joe Simon) is a work of art. If you want to know how to use your large cast effectively, watch this movie. Not only do we get time with all of them, big or small, what they do sets us up for the continuation of the universe (*cough cough* Infinity War *cough cough*) as well as expanding their character. Always a plus. THESE two things are something to always keep in mind when you have a large number of characters. Are some of them throwaways? Sure! But ones that you keep around, know why you do and let that drive your story.
B. The Purpose of an Added Character –
As we all know, SONY “leant” Spider-Man to Marvel to be added to this movie. Many have been asking why since the original Civil War storyline from the comics isn’t followed to the letter. They felt his chatter and juvenile behavior wasn’t needed. But it was. We need perspective…and this movie is all about giving us perspective.
Known Fact: The “war” between Tony’s side and Steve’s side is about signing a piece of paper that makes the Avengers answer to someone. One favors, one doesn’t, they both have valid reasons…etc. etc. etc. But those papers are brought about because unlike other superhero movies of the past, this alters your perspective as a viewer to think about the bad that has occurred when the Avengers were “saving” the world. No one has really ever addressed this at this scale.
Spider-Man is another way of giving the viewer perspective. It shows the difference of age (which throws great light onto our characters). Heck, there’s lines peppered throughout this entire movie about the age of these guys and their futures. Having Peter there not only makes it blazingly apparent to us (if you missed all the subtle hints) but it also connects him to the group in a way that I feel will be important moving forward. He’s not like the rest (and some of you are happy for that as you found him annoying)…just like the next wave of Marvel movies will not be like what we’ve seen so far. Plus, the underlying thing with Spider-Man is…say it with me now, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And that, my friends, is very much what Civil War is about.
So how does this translate to writing. First and foremost, see the big picture of your story or series. Secondly, remember that not all your characters need to be the same. Their differences will give your work depth and to offer up alternative views (whether they are right or wrong) and thus create a richer world for them to live in. Personally, I love David Coe’s Quick Tip Tuesday post called, What We Can Learn From Ro Laren, where he refers to this…so go read that post after this one. It expands on what I’m alluding to better than I could probably explain it.
3. Crafting a Character (we want more of) –
If you’re going to do it, do it right…and the way they introduce Black Panther is done right! I had no real strong interest in the upcoming movie about him (because I knew nothing about this character)…but I’m chomping at the bit now. I’m sold! I’ve drunk the Cool-Aid! Give me the Black Panther movie NOW!
My point? When you add a character into a story and you’ve done it right, your reader will want more of them. So if you find you forget about them (I’ve done this) or you don’t crave to spend more time with them (and not because they are the bad guy or gross in a twisted way that would make all but serial killers uncomfortable) your readers might not care either. So think about not just backstory, or purpose, but the crafting of those things as well…that is vital. Way to go, Marvel, on this one! Sincerely wonderfully done!!! For both Spider-Man and Black Panther!
That’s it for me this time around, until then, write hard, bathe in imagination, and go see Civil War if you have not yet. It sincerely is the best Marvel movie out so far and bonus? It’s filled with examples of some well crafted writing (plot/character/dialogue) as well as using all three effortlessly to set up for the future of the universe…or in book speak, the series.
Originally from Michigan, Tamsin L. Silver is the creator/writer of two YA Urban Fantasy Series, Windfire and The Sabrina Grayson Novels, as well as the Web Series, Skye of the Damned. She graduated from Winthrop University with a BA in Theatre/Secondary Education and a minor in Creative Writing/Shakespeare. She has taught both middle school and high school theatre and run two successful theater companies, one of which in the place she currently lives: New York City. You can learn more about her and find links to all her things at www.tamsinsilver.com
Before I even start, go ahead and google the phrase Inciting Event.
Don’t bother to read them all. Half make no sense. But I did like one by Lucy Gold at Answers.com. According to Lucy, an Inciting Event is, “The conflict that begins the action of the story and causes the protagonist to act. Without this event, there would be no story.” She has edited the original with a more wordy and writerly addition, but really, it was unnecessary. This says it all, and it’s pretty much how I explain and use the concept.
Understanding the theory of the Inciting Event, and its placement, and executing it well, are, together, the most important things in grabbing readers for your story: novel, short, novella, novelette, or even an epic series of a million words. “Wait!”, you say. “George R.R. Martin’s sixth novel in the Game of Thrones had color pictures and twenty pages of history and text and … So does mine. There is NO Inciting Event until, like, page fifty! So there!”
Right. That is George. You are you. He doesn’t have to work to gain readership. You do. I do.
A fabo Inciting Event is also the main, huge, outstanding difference between genre and mainstream literary novels. And George. I know. Mustn’t forget George.
In literary fiction, the Inciting Event can happen anywhere. In literary, it can be something small and seemingly unimportant, that the reader (and maybe the writer) figure out is important only a hundred pages in. Want to sell stories to your family and three close friends? Skip the Inciting Event!
Yes. I know that some Literary Novels have an Inciting Event. In The Lovely Bones, the main character dies. Pretty Inciting. And the book was successful. But successful literary novels are RARE! And one reason is that literary stories are seldom as compelling as genre stories. And one of the reasons for that is the lack of an Inciting Event.
In genre writing, the Inciting Event needs (MUST) happen or be hinted at in the first 1,000 words. Best if it happens or is hinted at on the first page. Successful genre novels are everywhere! Do you want to build an audience from your first book/story? If you are trying to build a readership, put the Inciting Event up front and make it personal to the main character and the reader.
Yes, you also have to world-build, create voice, indicate setting, suggest genre, and intro your character, among other things, all without info dumps or backstory or talking to your reader. But that Inciting Event (in the mystery genre it’s call “the body on the first page”) is the foremost part of Bait and Hook. (Yes, you can search this site for Bait and Hook. But finish this first, Okay?)
The Inciting Event doesn’t just show the reader the conflict, it also gives the main character motivation, a reason to care about your plot and conflict, and indicates his or her raison d’être. It also makes your reader care. And caring is the way to keep them reading.
I hint at the Inciting Event on page one, para one in SKINWALKER:
I wheeled my bike down Decatur Street and eased deeper into the French Quarter, the bike’s engine purring. My shotgun, a Benelli M4 Super 90, was slung over my back and loaded for vamp with hand-packed silver-fléchette rounds. I carried a selection of silver crosses in my belt, hidden under my leather jacket, and stakes, secured in loops at my jeans-clad thighs. The saddlebags on my bike were filled with my meager travel belongings—clothes in one side, tools of the trade in the other. As a vamp killer for hire, I travel light.
I’d need to put the vamp-hunting tools out of sight for my interview. My hostess might be offended. Not a good thing when said hostess held my next paycheck in her hands and possessed a set of fangs of her own.
Note how the above paras introduce the character, show setting, and sell the genre. This is called doing double duty with a literary device.
On page 3 I let the reader know what the Inciting Event was:
I needed work. My best bet was a job killing off a rogue vampire that was terrorizing the city of New Orleans. It had taken down three tourists and left a squad of cops, drained and smiling, dead where it dropped them. Scuttlebutt said it hadn’t been satisfied with just blood—it had eaten their internal organs. All that suggested the rogue was old, powerful, and deadly, a whacked-out vamp. The nutty ones were always the worst.
Note above that I give motivation and push the genre aspect at the same time.
I intro Inciting Event more fully on manuscript page 8 by placing the main character in danger:
The room was spartan but expensive, and each piece of furniture looked Spanish. Old Spanish. Like Queen-Isabella-and-Christopher-Columbus old. The woman, wearing a teal dress and soft slippers, standing beside the desk, could have passed for twenty until you looked in her eyes. Then she might have passed for said queen’s older sister. Old, old, old eyes. Peaceful as she stepped toward me. Until she caught my scent.
In a single instant her eyes bled red, pupils went wide and black, and her fangs snapped down. She leaped. I dodged under her leap as I pulled the cross and ripped the derringer from my scalp, to the far wall where I held out the weapons. The cross was for the vamp, the gun for the Troll. She hissed at me, fangs fully extended. Her claws were bone white and two inches long. Troll had pulled a gun. A big gun. Men and their pissing contests. Crap. Why can’t they ever just let me be the only one with a gun.
“Predator,” she hissed. “In my territory.” Vamp anger pheromones filled the air, bitter as wormwood.
“I’m not human,” I said, my voice steady. “That’s what you smell.” I couldn’t do anything about the tripping heart rate, which I knew would drive her further over the edge; I’m an animal. Biological factors always kick in. So much for trying not to be nervous. The cross in my hand glowed with a cold white light, and Katie, if that was her original name, tucked her head, shielding her eyes. Not attacking, which meant that she was thinking. Good.
I place my character in mortal danger once and I hint at the Inciting Event four times in Chapter One. Then, I finish introducing the Inciting Event on manuscript page 77, while in Beast’s Point of View:
More-than-five blocks later, smelled fresh blood. Crouched in shadow of alley wall. Crept forward, paw, paw, paw into darkness, belly hairs dragging across dirty stone of man-road. Mad one crouched in man-light. Wrinkled. Dry. Rotted. Stink of rich new blood. Human. Eating sounds. Mad one ate without regard for thief-of-food. Gray light and blackness formed over it. It seemed to shift. To change. Wrinkles faded. Rot smell died.
I hunched close to road. Padded close. Within range. Gathered all power in. Weight balanced. Silent. Sprang. Through air. Long tail revolving for stability. Forelegs reaching. Unsheathing claws. Lips back. Mouth open. Killing teeth bared.
It looked up. Glimpse of face, pale in dim light. And was gone. Gone. Fast.
Shock flooded through. Overshot place where mad one was, and now was not. Passed through empty air. Retracted claws. Lifted paws to break fall. Crashed hard into brick wall. Weight on one pad, bending into it. Body whipping. Hard slam. Bruising shoulder. Ramming hip. Drop to ground, eyes searching.
Strange sound. Look up. There. On ledge, one, two stories. Too high to leap. It clung to window ledge. Looking down. Laughing. I growled, spat. It jumped. High, to rooftop, running. Not hiding escape.
My character has agreed to hunt a rogue-vampire but it turns out the creature is something that she has never seen or heard of before. By the time she knows this, she is in too deep. She cares.
So, what is your Inciting Event and what page do you hint about it? Page 1? Or page fifty after a bunch of colored pictures and a twenty page history lesson?
I know this was long. Sorry about that. Nah. Not really!
I’ve been doing some reviewing of books off Netgalley. This has allowed me to expand my reading into areas I might not have explored and to authors I might not have known about. I’ve found some gems. But this week, I started reading a romantic suspense and though it was written well enough, I knew in about twenty pages how the book would play out. I skipped to the end and discovered I was right. Now with some books, this predictability isn’t a problem. The journey and the characters will carry me through. This book? Not so much. I didn’t engage with the characters in that twenty pages and I wasn’t interested in knowing more. So that’s a did not finish book.
Predictability as a writer is necessary. There are things a character will not do and if you break out of those limits, then the unpredictability is bad. Readers engage with characters and need to know that what they are doing makes sense within who they are. And if they go ‘out of character,’ there has to be a logical/reasonable reason.
On the other hand, you want to be unpredictable. You don’t necessarily want to go with the obvious. You’ll sometimes hear the advice that when you’re plotting, you should brainstorm ideas about what should happen and you should go with the fifth or later. That way, the story will be fresh and not obvious, and yet your reader will say, of course! It makes perfect sense! How did I not see that coming?
I heard a story once about A.E. Van Vogt. He was known for unexpected twists and really fresh stories. The story I heard was that he once said that every so many words or pages, he’d take a hard right turn and do something completely unexpected. It was very deliberately done, rather mechanical. He didn’t think, so this is how the story is going, he thought, how can I jump out of this groove to somewhere else entirely? It takes enormous talent to be able to do that and still tell and coherent story with good characterization.
This, right now, is important to me because I’m 2/3 through the draft of this novel, and I stopped dead. It took me a day or so to figure out that I’d done two things wrong. I’d let two characters do something out of character for them, and the road I’d taken was too predictable. So I have to rip out about 15k words and figure out a new road that’s both exciting and within character, both predictable and unpredictable.
So I’ve spent the past couple of days figuring out where I jumped the shark and trying to plot out new and interesting ideas. My brain has been a little cottony on the subject, but I’m making progress.
What’s new in my book world? Riley’s dad is back and murder and mayhem are on the agenda: Whisper of Shadows.
Diana Pharaoh Francis writes books of a fantastical, adventurous, and often romantic nature. Her award-nominated books include The Path series, the Horngate Witches series, the Crosspointe Chronicles, and Diamond City Magic books, and the Mission:Magic series. She’s owned by two corgis, sp
ends much of her time herding children, and likes rocks, geocaching, knotting up yarn, and has a thing for 1800s England, especially the Victorians. For more about her writing, visit www.dianapfrancis.com. She can also be found on twitter as @dianapfrancis.
I made it through Home Ec without doing myself bodily harm.
Considering that the girl at the table next to me ran the needle of her electric Singer sewing machine right through her finger (and broke the damn needle off IN her finger), I figured that I dodged a bullet.
One of the tools we used in that class was a seam ripper. It was a pointy little sharp hooked thing that slid under stitches and cut through thread so you could take out a crooked seam. Part of sewing is ripping out your mistakes and putting the pieces back together again. And while I haven’t sewed anything since that long-ago class, years later, I’m thinking about seam rippers, and how sometimes you have to tear things apart to re-stitch them. It happens when you’re sewing a shirt, and it happens when you’re stitching a plot together.
I’m working on the new epically-epic epic fantasy that still must not be named (seriously, we don’t have a final title yet, and I’m not allowed to tell you about the world yet). I finished the draft, read it through, and decided that while I liked parts of it, there were other sections that weren’t working, or that needed to get moved around, condensed and smashed together with other parts, or expanded. So I took a mental seam ripper to it and took it apart, then stitched it back together.
Sew it up, rip it out. Move the pieces around, sew it up again. Rip out different parts. Repeat until it’s right.
One of the benefits of experience is spotting things that need to be ripped out and stitched up differently on your own, before they get to an editor. If you’ve been called out on something on a previous book, you add it to your mental list of things to watch for on future manuscripts. Then when you read over your draft, you’re going through your checklist, looking for places to use your seam ripper, places where you need to go back and take the manuscript apart so you can put it back together better this time. The more ‘missed stitches’ you can find on your own to fix before the book goes to the editor, the cleaner the manuscript and the less the editor has to send back with comments. I’d rather find and fix my own mistakes before anyone else sees them; somehow, that’s less intimidating than having them pointed out by someone else.
At the same time, it’s incredibly valuable to have other people find the dropped stitches you can’t see. That’s where having a good editor and good beta readers comes in handy. They’ll add to your mental checklist for the next book, so you can watch for those issues the next time. And even with all of that help, there will still be a comment in a review that strikes true, that makes you realize you could do something better, and now you know to watch for yet another thing to make the next book even stronger.
It’s part of the craft. It’s humbling and exhausting, frustrating and exciting, and it stokes all your writerly insecurities, but then at the end, once you’ve done all the restitching, you read through the draft and go, ‘Yes! This is what I had in mind!’ And it’s all worth it.
The April Survey results are in! This month was all about writing reviews. Here’s what our awesome survey respondents told me.
Question 1: How often do you leave a review? 58% said ‘sometimes if I’m not too busy’, 17% each said ‘always/only if I like the book’, 4% said ‘never/only for authors I actually know’
Question 2: What motivates you to leave reviews? 75% said ‘I know they help authors’ while 70% said ‘I loved the book’. 62% said ‘to help others discover the book’ and 37% said ‘I like to comment on the author’s work’ while 33% review when they hate a book.
Question 3: The top reason by far for not leaving a review was ‘too much of a hassle’.
Question 4: Over 86% knew that reviews are considered by potential book buyers, while 65% understand that the number and quality of reviews influence both the Amazon algorithm for visibility and for the ‘also read’ suggestions. 52% recognize that the good reviews lead to more visibility on Goodreads, and over 35% know that plenty of good reviews help on sites like Bookbub and Promocave.
Question 5: What encourages you to leave a review? Over 70% said getting a free review copy from NetGalley, 63% said knowing that reviews help authors, 37% said being personally asked by the author/helping other readers discover an author, and 29% said having an author thank them on social media/meeting an author at a convention.
Thank you for participating! I’ll get the free ebook prize out to our drawing winner!
The May survey is all about how you like to interact with an author at a convention. Here’s the link. I’ll do a drawing for one person to win 4 ebook short stories, one from each of my series, at the end of the month from survey respondents!
Do you like a little Steampunk with your fairy tales? Check out Gaslight and Grimm, with our story The Patented Troll, a clockwork riff on The Billy Goats Gruff.
The first three Blaine McFadden Adventures novellas are now together in one collection, King’s Convicts–find out what the Velant Prison years were really like, and how Blaine, Piran, Verran, Dawe and Kestel came to have each other’s backs.
Welcome to a special release-day edition of Quick-Tip Tuesday. Today is the official publication day for Shadow’s Blade, book III of The Case Files of Justis Fearsson (following Spell Blind and His Father’s Eyes). I have a giveaway going on my Facebook page; my publisher, Baen Books, is giving away five copies on Goodreads; I’ve been posting teasers from the book and last week I recorded an interview for the Baen podcast. Pretty standard release time stuff.
I love this book and this series, and would very much like to write more in the Fearsson universe, so if you have not yet started reading the Fearsson books, please consider picking them up and giving them a read. And if you have been reading them (thank you!) and have been waiting with bated breath for this newest volume to drop, now’s a great time to order your copy. We’ll wait. [Cue hold-time music . . .]
Ah, you’re back! Good. Let’s carry on.
My fellow MW contributors and I have celebrated releases here before. At this point, you’re probably all too familiar with the drill. We’ve written of the tension, the fear that this book’s sales won’t meet expectations and will make it that much harder for us to sell the next one. And we’ve written as well of the flip side, the thrill of having a new book out, of seeing our latest title in print form. It never grows old, and I promise you I never, ever take it for granted.
But on release days in particular I am reminded of advice I have offered here before, and since this is Quick-Tip Tuesday . . .
Success is something I have tried to define for myself. I would love to make bestseller lists with every release. I’d love to have starred reviews in every journal. I’d love to see Shadow’s Blade, which I think reflects my best work to date, nominated for a truckload of awards. But those things all lie beyond my control. I’d be lying to you if I said that I don’t take poor sales to heart, and that I don’t take personally each less-than-stellar review. I still get rejections, and I take those personally, too. I know I shouldn’t. I’ve told all of you that you shouldn’t either, because it really is good advice. But this is far easier said than done.
We all have things we want to achieve, and I have been trying recently to catalog them — to compartmentalize them, if you will — in such a way as to cushion the disappointments and highlight the successes. So let’s try it. Let’s think in terms of Goals, Ambitions, and Dreams.
I look at Goals as those things I can control and realistically expect myself to achieve. I have been editing my first series, the LonTobyn Chronicle (Children of Amarid, The Outlanders, Eagle-Sage) for re-release later this year. I have the rights back and I’m basically self-publishing them, although not quite. More on this is the near future, but for today suffice it to say that I’m going through each book in the series and cleaning up the prose, making the books leaner and more readable. My goal is to have all three ready for publication by the end of the summer. I also want to pitch three more Fearsson books to Baen. I’d like to have those contracted by the fall as well. And I have an idea for a Thieftaker novella. I’d like to have it written by the end of they year. Those are goals. They’re fairly lofty, but I think I can get all of them done. And while Baen’s willingness to contract new Fearsson books lies beyond my control, I do think there’s a decent chance it will happen.
Then there are my Ambitions. I’m hoping that the reissue of the LonTobyn books and the re-release over the next year and a half of my Winds of the Forelands and Blood of the Southlands series, will bring me a good number of new readers. I have sales figures in mind for these books — numbers I’d like to reach. I don’t know if I can get there, but I do believe that if I’m smart about publicizing the releases and reaching out to my current readers, I can reach the levels I have in mind. I would also like to see the new Fearsson books build on the numbers we’re seeing so far for the first set. And I’m hoping the new Thieftaker novella will help me build support for a continuation of the Thieftaker franchise in some form. These are ambitions rather than goals, because I have far less control over these things, and far less certainty that I can make them happen. I’m confident, but I’m not sure, the way I am about my goals. If I don’t get all that I want, I’ll be disappointed, but my failure to achieve those things won’t be for lack of effort.
And finally I have my Dreams. The re-release of my backlist brings those books the recognition and commercial success I hoped they would enjoy the first time around. The Fearsson books catch fire and catapult me onto bestseller lists. The groundswell of support for the new Thieftaker renews interest in the first four Thieftaker novels and turns them into big sellers. Clearly, I have almost NO control over these things, and chances are none of them will happen. But I can dream, right? And if even one of them does turn into reality . . . Well, I’ll be really, really pleased.
So I’m going to push myself to achieve my goals. I’ll do everything I can to make my ambitions come to fruition. And I’ll dream a little. Because here’s the thing: Dreams can’t come true if I don’t push myself to be ambitious. And I can’t entertain my ambitions if I don’t put my butt in the chair and meet my goals.
If I define my success only by whether or not my dreams come true, I’m setting myself up for failure. If, on the other hand, I define success by whether or not I meet my goals — whether or not I sit at my keyboard and write the best books and stories and series proposals I’m capable of writing — then success becomes something I can control. Success becomes a matter of personal achievement rather than something founded on a set of impersonal metrics I can’t influence. And I prefer it that way.
Keep writing. Define success on your terms. And, to quote John Hartness, buy my shit.
Hey y’all – I’m having some real life headspace issues today, and can’t quite get the post I wanted to write formulated in a coherent fashion, so this is a reprint from my website from several years ago. It still remains pretty relevant. I’ll be back in two Mondays with my head on straight. Thanks!
Blame Kris Rusch and her excellent blog for this post. Kris writes one of the best business of writing blogs out there, and if you desire a career in this business and aren’t reading her stuff, you’re probably missing opportunities. But anyway, that’s irrelevant here, except that she mentioned Yog’s Law in a recent post, and it inspired this rant. So…sorry about that
Yog’s Law, simply put, states that “money flows to the writer.” Traditional publishing companies and writers use this anthem to decry shady business practices by vanity presses and unethical agents, and in those cases it is very valid. If an agent charges a “reading fee” to look at your manuscript, they’re not a real agent, they’re a scam artist getting paid to read books. Agents get paid to sell books. When you make money, your agent makes money. Same as a sports agent or an actor’s agent. None of these people get a thin dime if their client isn’t working. That’s one reason agents have more than one client — so they don’t starve!
And the statement used to be just as valid in the publishing world. Unscrupulous vanity presses trying to pass themselves off as legitimate publishers would come up with fees for all sorts of things that publishers typically do for their authors for free, like editing, layout, formatting, cover art, etc. These are red flags when dealing with a publisher – if they want you to pay for these things, and you’re an author, then you’re not dealing with a publisher, you’re dealing with a crook.
But the world is different now. I say that a lot, because we’re living in the flippin’ future, people! Seriously, my cell phone has more computing power than the machines that put men on the moon! So the world is different, and the usual laws don’t always apply in the same ways.
Or do they?
Does Yog’s Law still apply just as firmly as it used to?
Yes. But in the case of a self-published author it’s important to understand that sometimes the PUBLISHER has to spend money so that the WRITER can make money.
And those people often inhabit the same body. That’s where the wicket gets all sticky. As a self-published author, or even someone just reading about and paying attention to self-publishing, you need to understand that there are times when you wear the writer hat, and times when you wear the publisher hat. When I’m ripping apart Return to Eden: Genesis next month, I’ll be wearing my writer hat. When I just paid a guy to redo all the covers for my Black Knight Chronicles books, I was wearing my publisher hat.
Yes, money should flow towards the writer. But sometimes the publisher has to pay for things. And those two roles may be fulfilled by the same person. So whenever you hear someone toss around “money flows towards the writer” just understand that they haven’t thought through the fact that sometimes you’re the writer, collecting the coins, and sometimes you’re the publisher, spending them.