Sunday, July 26, 2015
I've subscribed to Penny Sansevieri's free and immensely helpful newsletter for at least three years, and often follow the advice. I've also interviewed Penny on my Crazy Tuesday radio show, and can vouch for her generosity with her expert marketing advice for authors.
Now, Joel Friedlander and Penny Sansevieri want to help you to improve your discoverability on Amazon and they assure you this is the best next step to finding more readers!
Their webinar will be taking place on Monday, July 27 at 1:00pm PST.
Log-in information is going out the morning of the webinar - but you can register this weekend!
Join by visiting: http://bit.ly/TruckloadWebinarsignup
Permission granted to share. Penny says, "Please forward this email to your friends and colleagues, because you won't see the same strategies used by anyone else in the business - and there's a reason our clients get better results!"
The webinar will be hosted on GoToWebinar, which will take just a few minutes to launch on your computer, tablet or mobile, so we recommend you start the log-in process at least 5 minutes early so you're not rushed. You can get a heads up on the (super simple) process by visiting GoToWebinar in advance.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
I've been reading news stories about the Pluto fly-by with excitement over the expansion of the human mind into the vastness of space beyond the conventionally recognized boundary of the Solar System. Pluto (known as Yuggoth, home of eldritch entities, in the Lovecraftian mythos, and discovered to be the outpost of an interstellar invasion in Robert Heinlein's HAVE SPACESUIT, WILL TRAVEL) has geological activity and several moons. When I learned about the Solar System as a child, Pluto was a full-fledged planet of inert, icy rock and had no moon.
A not-uncommon SF trope speculates that the shared beliefs of human minds collectively shape reality. For instance, the Earth was flat until we decided it was round. There were only four elements until chemists decided otherwise.
From an early story on this premise, THE NEW REALITY (1950) by Charles L. Harness:
"And I repeat, the universe is the work of man. I believe that man began his existence in some incredibly simple world-- the original and true noumenon of our present universe. And that over the centuries man expanded his little world into its present vastness and incomprehensible intricacy solely by dint of imagination. . . . Even this brilliant man would probably say that the earth was round in 600 B.C., even as it is today. But I know it was flat then--as truly flat as it is truly round today. What has changed? Not the Thing-in-Itself we call the earth. No, it is the mind of man that has changed. But in his preposterous blindness, he mistakes what is really his own mental quickening for a broadened application of science and more precise methods of investigation--"
Heinlein plays with a similar notion in WALDO (1942):
"Suppose Chaos were king and the order we thought we detected in the world about us a mere phantasm of the imagination; where would that lead us? In that case, Waldo decided, it was entirely possible that a ten-pound weight did fall ten times as fast as a one-pound weight until the day the audacious Galileo decided in his mind that it was not so. Perhaps the whole science of ballistics derived from the convictions of a few firm-minded individuals who had sold the notion to the world. Perhaps the very stars were held firm in their courses by the unvarying faith of the astronomers. Orderly Cosmos, created out of Chaos -- by Mind! The world was flat before geographers decided to think of it otherwise. The world was flat, and the Sun, tub size, rose in the east and set in the west. The stars were little lights, studding a pellucid dome which barely cleared the tallest mountains. Storms were the wrath of gods and had nothing to do with the calculus of air masses."
Along those lines, speaking postmodernly, did the Solar System end at Saturn before more powerful instruments revealed Uranus? Did Pluto exist before the anomalous wobble in Neptune's orbit was discovered? Did the former ninth planet objectively lose its planet status and become a dwarf planet when astronomers decreed it so? In my childhood, was it really a moonless world?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
EPIC's eBook Awards Competition is now accepting entries. Since 2000, the
eBook Awards Competition (formerly the EPPIE Awards) has recognized the
very best of ePublished works in all genres of fiction, non-fiction, and
poetry. The longest running competition of its kind, the eBook Awards
Competition continues this tradition. To view the rules and enter, visit
Also, EPIC’s Ariana eBook Cover Art Competition is accepting cover entries.
For information visit
Please share and thank you for helping us spread the word. #EPICOrg
Posted with permission by
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Previous Parts to this series:
This post is about a Life Hack which has led to riches.
We have been discussing the love story that every novel needs. The core of the matter is the ability to love yourself, which is very different from self-love or narcissism.
To love yourself, you have to come to trust yourself. Sometimes it takes a blindingly confusing Romance to achieve that kind of self-trust that lets you love yourself enough to love another. Can you rely on yourself to come through in a pinch?
One of the Big Issues couples face, sometimes at the outset of their Love Story, sometimes right in the middle of the Romance, and sometimes as a prelude to Divorce, is the issue of Reliability.
Can you trust this person? Has something they've done so surprised and shocked you that you no longer know "who" this person really is? Studying the Identity of others is the key to not being betrayed.
Writers who depict characters losing trust often brush aside the whole matter of how different people understand the world, as if understanding the world had nothing to do with trusting a specific person.
If you want your characters to sparkle, to come to life with depth, you need to study real people in depth, how they think and what they think about -- and why.
To know whether a given person will see this politician as a Hero and that politician as a Villain, you need to know more about that given person than just what they've said on Facebook. To predict behavior, you must understand the person.
Likewise, a writer must create a character from the inside out and place that character within the spectrum of the reader's everyday experience of "people in general." A character has to be recognizable to the reader.
I've never seen a more comprehensive rundown on exactly how to accomplish that framing of a character to be trusted by the reader than in this article:
It is about a real life billionaire -- as in "How To Marry A Billionaire" only for real.
This old man was young and hot, at one time -- and he wasn't a billionaire then.
Knowing how this fellow, Charlie Munger, approached analyzing the world of people and technology, of science and psychology, of marketing and value, you could have guessed he would become very-very-very rich.
There are more ways to be rich than just to have a lot of money. Romance writers depict most all those ways of achieving wealth of body, mind and soul, but in this case, Charlie Munger set out to make money -- and he succeeded. He is happy with that choice, very professional about it.
This method sketched in this article is one you can use to characterize a character who is going to become a billionaire. Is that guy or gal worth marrying, though? What kind of billionaire would they be?
The path to riches is fraught with failures, to be sure, but those failures lead to formulating a set of rules about what behavior to expect from certain Groups, and how to define those Groups.
If you understand the goals, motivations and belief sets common among a lot of people, you can trust them to behave in a predictable way.
Trust that is not "betrayed" or violated is based in a full, deep, far reaching, multi-variable understanding of the parameters that define another person. To trust someone you must study them, and study the Groups to which they belong.
To understand the forces driving another person, you must understand that "forces" also drive you -- some from inside, some chosen by you, some launched by others, and some from the Heavens.
To attain that kind of understanding of another, as pointed out in previous entries in this series, you must somehow find a way to love yourself so that you do not see only yourself when you look at others. That method of finding a way to love yourself is called a Life Hack. Cracking the code of life, gaining entry into another person's innermost being and finding yourself in there -- that is a Life Hack. Fiction is the textbook to that course in coding life. Romance 101 is required for graduation.
Fiction has to reflect the general shape of reality to be comprehensible and believable. You have to be able to see into another person in order to love them. After that, what you see in them can draw you into Romance under the right circumstances.
There can be love without romance, and romance without love. They are independent variables. So you can surround your characters with other characters, some of whom reflect your Main Character back at himself, some of whom show complex depths that are lovable, some of whom are shallow and unlovable, and one or two of whom totally enchant your main character.
Enchanted, your Main Character may fall into a Romance.
Or, if you are writing another genre, your main character may learn to trust another by understanding that other. Once trusted, that other character may be able to learn to love himself, and thus become truly rich. The password, the key, to life hacking is trust. If you are betrayed, it is because you did not understand what you were trusting. Read that article about Charlie Munger.
Study how Charlie Munger, Billionaire Extraordinaire, studies the world and trusts people will behave predictably. Use that method to depict a character who is learning the difference between riches and love. That difference is one of the most powerful life hacks.
Here's a previous blog post on the 1% and the nature of the billionaire phenomenon.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
• Author website building with our exclusive Sitebuilder software and low-cost hosting (in most cases just $6 per month).
• Free seminars, covering topics such as marketing and publicity, movie deals, estate planning, and more.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
A Facebook post this week drew attention to a Wikipedia list of fictional expletives. ("Shen," from Jacqueline's Sime-Gen universe, appears there, as do "hraka" and "embleer" from WATERSHIP DOWN and many invented rude words from works I'm not familiar with.) From that page, I discovered a cool and useful page I had no idea existed:Lists of Fictional Things
The subcategories range all the way from the cosmic -- list of fictional universes -- through planets, animals, plants, languages, etc., down to minute trivia (e.g., radio stations, TV stations, diaries, addresses of fictional characters).
These lists are fun to explore. Who'd have thought there would be enough fictional license plate numbers to warrant a page of their own?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
In Part 1 of this series
we noted how the signature of a Strong Character is that the Character "arcs" -- or changes their emotional responses to situations because of some life-lesson learned "the hard way" in the "school of hard knocks."
Characters get pummeled by Events you create. They learn from the Events (the plot) and they do not necessarily learn the best or most correct lesson the first time you hit them with an Event.
Characters that are strong at the beginning of the story get pummeled with Events until they break -- think of Spock crying alone in the briefing room. Leonard Nimoy knew Spock's strength had to be broken in order to engage viewer interest.
Granite strength all by itself is not interesting. So writers break their strongest characters.
Start with a weak character, someone gripped by the "I can't" or "I'm doing all I can, so how can you expect more of me?" attitude, hammer that character to pulverize them, and chronicle their path to becoming a strong character. That's Character Arc.
So, Strong Characters can be weak at the beginning of the Arc, and the strength is revealed as you hammer them into becoming Strong.
What exactly is it that writers hammer at in either the strong or weak character that changes them, that morphs them along an Arc?
What causes people to change in real life? What causes people to start to behave differently, and seem "out of character" for a while, until friends and family get used to the new person?
What changes in life that re-formulates a person's behavior?
I submit that the easiest attribute of a Character for a writer to depict as Arcing, or changing in a way that readers can see as realistic, is the ability to Love.
That is the "wall" that Events hammer at to Arc a character.
It is the ability to establish and maintain Relationships that distinguishes the Happy person from the miserable person. We draw our strength of character from our "stance" among our people, our family, our co-workers, our buddies, our spouse, our children, our distant relatives, and just friends made via organizations.
How many times have you seen the story of the lone-gunman who shoots up a crowd and nobody expected it because "he kept to himself" and "he seemed like a nice guy" but he had no close friends (or the ones he had were likewise disconnected.)
As humans, we need to belong, to connect, to be surrounded by layers upon layers of people who know intimately, less well, distantly, and just feel general kinship with because we share a fandom, a reading taste, a craft etc. We speak of "the Music World" and "the Golf World" -- and we say, "Welcome to my world."
We live in "worlds" composed of layers of associates.
The entre into such a "world" is via the close, immediate, intertwined, personal Relationship.
Enemies, Adversaries, a policeman's quarry (think TV Series THE FUGITIVE), relationships can be incredibly intimate and even replace true love for a time.
Social networking has leveraged that layered-worlds structure of human life into a profitable business where you are their product which they sell to advertisers.
We are creatures of Relationship, embedded in a physical world composed of intricate layers of interlaced relationships. Think of the way genetics has evolved -- almost all life on Earth shares basic building block genes. (almost since there are non-carbon single-cell life near hot vents in the bottom of the ocean)
Most all life on Earth is genetically related, which is why we can use animals to test new drugs and why we shudder at the mere thought of doing that! We are all of one piece.
But we don't see that, at least not at the surface of our awareness. We don't see into another person's emotional life, the internal structure of another person's decision making process, their most dearly held values, their unconscious assumptions about what is right and what is wrong.
That realm of the unconsciously held Value System is where the writer works.
Writers probe, explore, learn, and map their own unconscious minds, especially the Value System they imbibed with Mother's Milk. We acquire our first values from our parents, but as life goes on, we acquire more layers of values around those.
Sometimes the later value acquisitions logically contradict earlier ones, but we hold onto all of them as our OWN -- we identify with the wild and incompatible mix of values we have created and call it our Identity.
Thus when a person's Values are attacked by another person (who may or may not have different values), it feels like a threat to LIFE ITSELF. It feels like a threat to existence. People will tolerate starvation or being shot at by hostiles better than they will having their unconscious Values contradicted.
Yes, mere words can trigger a counter-attack as if life and existence were at stake.
Politics and Religion are two topics that are rooted in that first learned, unconscious value system that most likely has been overlaid by Values acquired in college, which have been overlaid by Values acquired on the job.
That's why they are explosive topics for family gatherings (and wondrous sources of Conflict that can advance a Plot).
Today, in our modern world, Politics and Religion are mixing at depths not seen since the Middle Ages when The Church basically ran the Governments of Europe.
The Crusades were a show-don't-tell manifestation of the mixing of Politics (Kings) with Religion (The Cross).
Today, the explosive mix is Science vs. Religion. What sane person could possibly reject Evolution or want to teach Creationism in schools? See? "sane" -- "If you don't share my Values, you are not a Person."
In other words, we tend to work on the assumption that the only people whose opinions count are the people who share our Values.
But nobody shares anyone's Values. As described above, each individual person accumulates layers upon layers of different values and morphs the disparate mess into some kind of ball of wax which they use as their Identity.
Each of us is unique -- but we want to associate only with those who are identical to us, at least in our intimate relationships.
As noted in Part 1, look closely at the TV Series SUITS. Suits works via the way the senior (Harvey Specter) sees himself in the junior (Mike Ross). When Mike doesn't do what Harvey would do, Harvey is uncomfortable and acts out.
Now back to the Romance Novel, which is what this blog is all about.
Consider the various ideas of what Love is.
You will find Romance depicted as about co-dependence, as about feelings only, as about bodily functions only, as about paying attention only to me. And all of these variations are real, and all matter, and all of them are necessary ingredients in Romance.
It is very true that you can have amazing Romance without a trace of Love at all.
"Love" (with a capital L) is a spiritual thing that transcends our innate insanities. Love with a capital L is an experience of the Soul that changes the Soul -- i.e. that causes Character to Arc.
Real change happens when channels of the Personality open to Love.
That happens under different circumstances for different people at different times of Life. Sometimes it is religious conversion, sometimes encountering a senior mentor, sometimes the birth of your first child, sometimes it is finding your Soul Mate.
People (and Characters) change not by becoming someone else, not by losing or gaining abilities or Talents, but by re-arranging their characteristics.
Thus a Character Arc Event causes an aggressive person who is likely to solve any problem by putting out a Hit on the opposition into someone who behaves more like Harvey Specter in SUITS and leverages the other person's emotional weaknesses.
The Aggression is still there, but the channel is different.
An alcoholic might morph into someone who eats or smokes too much, but holds a job and is kind to his kids.
All the traits remain, but the emphasis and utilization changes.
Why does that happen?
One of the key ingredients that forms our crazy-quilt pattern of Values is our Relationships. There is a well studied trait of human perception (see the TV Series Perception) that causes us to see ourselves in others.
When you hate someone, when someone just plain drives you crazy, and you go around with an inner dialogue counting their failings and what they should do about it, then very likely (not always, but most of the time) you are seeing yourself in that person.
Other people are the mirror in which we see our own reflection.
But like with a mirror, you see a reversal of the image, and you can see what is behind you (e.g. in your subconscious). You see deeper into yourself, into the dark underside of yourself, because the other person is so very different from you.
You see their faults, and their faults are visible because they are different.
Writers leverage that common human perception by creating Characters who are so very different from the reader that the reader is barely aware of the similarity. When it strikes the reader just right, that difference allows the reader to identify with the character and walk in their moccasins.
So people react emotionally to other people according to how they love or hate themselves. But as noted above, Identity is a pearl composed of layers of contradiction accreted around a sharp-grain of pain that caused the acquisition of a Value.
That pain might be a parental smack, a deprivation from a toy, a forced-sharing with a sibling, and rewards of kindness, love, joy, celebration.
Right and Wrong and what is more important than what (i.e. Values) are absorbed from parents via what the parents do, not what the parents say -- so Values are non-verbal and conveyed with a Sharp Pain that forces the pain to be wrapped by a Value that will henceforth prevent that Pain.
So when we see someone who is Wrong -- we react to that wrongness. How we react, what we do about Wrong People, is influenced by our ability to Love our own Self -- to admire our pearls that encase our Pain and create Values.
If we Love ourselves because we know how we have just barely managed to cope with our Pain, we are able to see others struggling (and sometimes failing) to cope with their Pain. We know that sometimes a Pain does not get encased in a Pearl of Values - a lesson is not (yet) learned and successfully applied to life.
Lessons can be rejected, maybe never learned, because of some other Belief that is in the way, that contradicts or conflicts and thus causes Truth to be rejected.
People who do not (yet) love themselves, see nothing but their own reflection in the mirrors of the people around them, and thus are in effect isolated, alone, unloved, and frustrated. Such people may compensate by narcissism, which others interpret as self-love.
How does a writer depict people caught in a House of Mirrors life where all they can see in those around them are hateful traits?
Dialogue is the answer. How a Character speaks, what opinions so desperately need airing, what opinions (and the vocabulary to express them) burst out with loud urgency, and to whom those opinions are expressed (with what collateral damage), depicts the Character's inner conflict, inner story, and subconscious Values.
A Character's emotional life is revealed in Dialogue.
Here is an example to study, from a piece of non-fiction analyzing our current real world situation.
The author is
-------quote from opening line----------
As the GOP sabotage and sedition continues, the US appears to be going the way of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth (P-LC) rather than the way of the Roman Empire.
If you know your history, this is not an insult; but, rather, a tragedy in progress. The P-LC was a powerful and progressive state during the early Reformation era, reaching its Golden Age in about 1575.
Note the sidling up to the chosen audience by characterizing an entire group of people "the GOP" as if they are all identical to one another. This is a valid representation of what a person who lives a House of Mirrors existence actually sees in those around them -- no difference one to another, because they are all reflections of him/herself.
The opening sentence here is brilliant in that it instantly and efficiently says, "Listen to me because I'm just like you."
The rest of the historical thesis in this article is a brilliant analysis, considering the point of view.
Take a Character who shares this writers contempt and disdain for those who see things differently and create some Events that would shatter his certainty that his view is the only laudable view.
It doesn't matter what views your Character holds, or opposes. The writing exercise is to Depict a Conflict of Values and its Resolution.
It will work better as a Novel if you choose some vast conflict of World Shattering importance that is utterly unrelated to the headlines of today. Just lift out of this article the attitude of this writer -- not the content.
Your task is to create a Character who views Others with such contempt, then discovers that what he hates in them is actually inside himself, that he never perceived them at all. As he comes to resolve his inner conflict, he begins the journey to being able to Love himself.
Where does that lead? It will lead him to his Happily Ever After, but not in one or even a thousand steps. Along the way, he will discover how those he held in contempt are actually struggling as he was. He will find Love for them, and his way of speaking of them will change (his Character will Arc).
The changed attitude will not change the facts of the Situation, but it will open vistas of opportunity for different sorts of actions to change the facts. (yes, it's a series of novels)
Once your Character understands how lovable his opposition is, even though they are flat out wrong, his actions will begin to be instructive rather than destructive, and solutions will appear that were never visible before.
The key to Character Arc is the introduction of Love which penetrates the Mirror Effect so that one Character can actually perceive what is inside another Character. Thus begins all Relationship.
So every novel needs a love story, even if there is no Romance. And every Romance, to create a realistic Happily Ever After needs a Love story -- the story of learning to Love yourself so that you can see through the mirror-surface and into the people around you.
That Love Story gives the fictional world the necessary verisimilitude to draw a reader into the Fantasy world.
Here are more posts on Alien Romance discussing verisimilitude, story arc, and Romance.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Authors' Guild writes:
We announced our Fair Contract Initiative earlier this summer. Now our first detailed analysis tackles today’s inadequate e-book royalties. At the heart of our concern with the unfair industry-standard e-book royalty rate is its failure to treat authors as full partners in the publishing enterprise. This will be a resounding theme in our initiative; it’s what’s wrong with many of the one-sided “standard” clauses we’ll be examining in future installments.
Traditionally, the author-publisher partnership was an equal one. Authors earned around 50% of their books’ profits. That equal split is reflected in the traditional hardcover royalty of 15% of list (cover price, that is, not the much lower wholesale price), and in the 50-50 split of publishers’ earnings from selling paperback, book club, or reprint rights. Authors generally received an even larger share than the publisher for non-print rights (such as stage and screen rights) and foreign rights.
But today’s standard contracts give authors just 25% of the publisher’s “net receipts” (more or less what the publisher collects from a book sale) for e-book royalties. That doesn’t look like a partnership to us.
We maintain that a 50-50 split in e-book profits is fair because the traditional author-publisher relationship is essentially a joint venture. The author writes the book, and by any fair measure the author’s efforts represent most of the labor invested and most of the resulting value. The publisher, like a venture capitalist, invests in the author’s work by paying an advance so the author can make ends meet while the book gets finished. Generally, the publisher also provides editing, marketing, packaging, and distribution services. In return for fronting the financial risk and providing these services, the publisher gets to share in the book’s profits. Not a bad deal. This worked well enough throughout much of the twentieth century: publishers prospered and authors had a decent shot at earning a living.How the e-book rate evolvedFrom the mid-1990s, when e-book provisions regularly began appearing in contracts, until around 2004, e-royalties varied wildly. Many of the e-rates at major publishing houses were shockingly low—less than 10% of net receipts—and some were at 50%. Some standard contracts left them open to negotiation. As the years passed, and especially between 2000 and 2004, many publishers paid authors 50% of their net receipts from e-book sales, in keeping with the idea that authors and publishers were equal partners in the book business.
In 2004, we saw a hint of things to come. Random House, which had previously paid 50% of its revenues for e-book sales, anticipated the coming boom in e-book sales and cut its e-rates significantly. Other publishers followed, and gradually e-royalties began to coalesce around 25%. By 2010 it was clear that publishers had successfully tipped the scales on the longstanding partnership between author and publisher to achieve a 75-25 balance in their favor. The lowball e-royalty was inequitable, but initially it didn’t have much effect on authors’ bottom lines. As late as 2009, e-books accounted for a paltry 3–5% of book sales. Authors and agents ought to have pushed back, but with e-book sales so low it didn’t make much sense to risk the chance of any individual book deal falling apart over e-royalties. We called the 25% rate a “low-water mark.” We said, “Once the digital market gets large enough, authors with strong sales records won’t put up with this: they’ll go where they’ll once again be paid as full partners in the exploitation of their creative work.”
E-books now represent 25–30% of all adult trade book sales, but for the vast majority of authors the rate remains unchanged. If anything, publishers have dug in their heels. Why? There’s a contractual roadblock, for one: major book publishers have agreed to include “most favored nation” clauses in thousands of existing contracts. These clauses require automatic adjustment or renegotiation of e-book royalties if the publisher changes its standard royalty rate, giving publishers a strong incentive to maintain the status quo. And the increasing consolidation of the book industry has drastically reduced competition among publishers, allowing them more than ever to hand authors “take it or leave it” deals in the expectation that the author won’t find a better offer.
The elephant in the roomAnd then there’s the elephant in the room: Amazon, which has used its e-book dominance to demand steep discounts from publishers and drive down the price of frontlist e-books, even selling them at a loss. As a result, there’s simply not as much e-book revenue to split as there was in 2011when we reported on the e-book royalty math. At that time, publishers made a killing on frontlist e-book sales as compared to frontlist hardcover sales—at the author’s expense—because, as compared to today, the price of e-books was relatively high.
When we analyzed e-royalties for three books in the 2011 post, “E-Book Royalty Math: The House Always Wins,” we found that every time an e-book was sold in place of a hardcover, the author’s take decreased substantially, while the publisher’s take increased. Since 2011, we have found that publishers’ e-gains have diminished. But the author’s share has fallen even farther. Amazon has squeezed the publishers, to be sure. The publishers have helped recoup their losses by passing them on to their authors.
These were our calculations for several books in 2011. The trend was obvious. Compared with hardcovers, each e-book sold brought big gains to the publisher and sizable losses to the author when the author’s royalties are compared to the publisher’s gross profit (income per copy minus expenses per copy), calculated using industry-standard contract terms:
Author’s Royalty vs. Publisher’s Profit, 2011The Help, by Kathryn StockettAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $3.75 hardcover; $2.28 e-book.Author’s E-Loss = -39%Publisher’s Margin: $4.75 hardcover; $6.32 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain = +33%
Hell’s Corner, by David BaldacciAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $4.20 hardcover; $2.63 e-book.Author’s E-Loss = -37%Publisher’s Margin: $5.80 hardcover; $7.37 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain = +27%
Unbroken, by Laura HillenbrandAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $4.05 hardcover; $3.38 e-book.Author’s E-Loss = -17%Publisher’s Margin: $5.45 hardcover; $9.62 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain = +77%
What’s happening now? We ran the numbers again using the following recent bestsellers. Because of lower e-book prices, the publishers don’t do as well as they used to, though they still come out ahead when consumers choose e-books over hardcovers. But authors fare worse than ever:
Author’s Royalty vs. Publisher’s Profit, 2015All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony DoerAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $4.04 hardcover; $2.09 e-book.Author’s E-Loss= -48%Publisher’s Margin: $5.44 hardcover; $5.80 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain: +7%Being Mortal, by Atul GawandeAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $3.90 hardcover; $1.92 e-book.Author’s E-Loss= -51%Publisher’s Margin: $5.10 hardcover; $5.27 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain: +3.5%A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne TylerAuthor’s Standard Royalty: $3.89; $1.92 e-book.Author’s E-Loss: -51%Publisher’s Margin: $5.09 hardcover; $5.27 e-book.Publisher’s E-Gain: +3.5%
Exceptions to the ruleIt’s time for a change. If the publishers won’t correct this imbalance on their own, it will take a critical mass of authors and agents willing to fight for a fair 50% e-book royalty. We hope that established authors and, particularly, bestselling authors will start to push back and stand up to publishers on the royalty rate—on behalf of all authors, as well as themselves.There have been cracks in some publishers’ façades. Some bestselling authors have managed to obtain a 50% e-book split, though they’re asked to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep these terms secret. We’ve also heard of authors with strong sales histories negotiating 50-50 royalty splits in exchange for foregoing an advance or getting a lower advance; or where the 50% rate kicks in only after a certain threshold level of sales. For instance, a major romance publishing house has offered 50% royalties, but only after the first 10,000 electronic copies—a high bar to clear in the current digital climate. But overall, publishers’ apparent inflexibility on their standard e-book royalty demonstrates their unwillingness to change it.We know and respect the fact that publishers—especially in this era of media consolidation—need to meet their bottom lines. But if professional authors are going to continue to produce the sort of work publishing houses are willing to stake their reputations on, those authors need a fair share of the profits from their art and labor. In a time when electronic books provide an increasing share of revenues at significantly lower production and distribution costs, publishers’ e-book royalty practices need to change.
 In calculating these numbers and percentages for hardcover editions, we made the following assumptions: (1) the publisher sells at an average 50% discount to the wholesaler or retailer, (2) the royalty rate is 15% of list price (as it is for most hardcover books, after 10,000 units are sold), (3) the average marginal cost to manufacture the book and get it to the store is $3, and (4) the return rate is 25% (a handy number—if one of four books produced is returned, then the $3 marginal cost of producing the book is spread over three other books, giving us a return cost of $1 per book). We also rounded up retail list price a few pennies to give us easy figures to work with.Likewise, in calculating these numbers and percentages for the 2015 set of e-books, we are assuming that under the agency model—which is reportedly the new standard in the Big Five’s agreements with Amazon—the online bookseller pays 70% of the retail list price of the e-book to the publisher. The bookseller, acting as the publisher’s agent, sells the e-book at the price established by the publisher. The unit costs to the publisher are simply the author’s royalty and the encryption and transmission fees, for which we deduct a generous 50 cents per unit.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
This week, we sent a letter to Congress asking for help in fighting piracy, which affects us all. Authors care about e-book piracy. We hear this increasingly from our members. From 2009 to 2013, the number of Internet piracy alerts we received increased over 300%. In the next year alone, from 2013 to 2014, it doubled.
There is a direct connection between e-book piracy and authors’ pocketbooks. The publishing industry as a whole loses $80 to $100 million to piracy annually, according to the Association of American Publishers. Many publishers have the resources to adjust their business models to absorb piracy-related losses, but individual authors don’t. Each time a standard frontlist e-book is pirated rather than purchased through a normal retail channel, its author forgoes what would have been nearly $2 in royalties. This adds up and make a real dent in the typical author’s earnings. (According to our recent survey, median writing-related income for full-time authors in 2014 was only $17,500.)
Despite many publishers’ implementation of anti-piracy software and technological protection measures, the problem continues to grow. According to the International Intellectual Property Alliance, the effectiveness of protection measures is limited by “business models built entirely around manufacturing and distributing technologies, software, devices, components, or tools, or around providing services, to gain unlawful access to the content or to copy it without authorization.”
So we’re asking Congress to do something about it. This letter, addressed to the House Judiciary Committee (which is spearheading a review of U.S. copyright law), reminds members of Congress that Internet piracy directly harms authors’ ability to make a living. It asks them to consider key changes to the U.S. Copyright Act to give authors a productive remedy for online infringement—not the ineffective, Sisyphean system currently in place, known as “Notice and Takedown.”
Court decisions have construed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s Notice and Takedown provisions to mean that a copyright owner is required to send a notice for each separate instance (i.e., copy) of infringement, specifying the URL. But as soon as a pirated copy is taken down, it is usually put right back up. Needless to say, copyright owners cannot keep up with this senseless game, and individual authors do not begin to have the resources to send a new notice every time a pirated copy is posted or reposted.
We are asking for a “Notice and Stay-Down” regime: once a webhost knows a work is being infringed, it should not continue to receive “safe harbor” immunity from claims of infringement unless it takes reasonable measures to remove all infringing copies of the same work.
You can help supplement our efforts to create more awareness among members of Congress by contacting your Representative to express your support for this change. Feel free to pass along our letter or write your own. And, as always, if you’ve been a victim of Internet piracy, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, July 09, 2015
I've just finished rereading SUNSHINE, a fantastically good vampire novel by Robin McKinley. Like Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series and Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, SUNSHINE depicts an alternate version of our world in which vampires, werewolves, and other nonhuman beings are "out," their existence publicly known. It's interesting to see how differently various authors handle this premise. In Hamilton's and Harris's fiction, vampires and other creatures enjoy varying degrees of acceptance, more so in Harris's than Hamilton's, because of the availability of artificial blood in the world of Sookie Stackhouse. McKinley's version is much darker. SUNSHINE takes place in a North America ravaged by the Voodoo Wars, still in the process of rebuilding. Magically tainted "bad spots" and ruined cities seem far more common than safe havens. Supernatural beings, collectively called the Others, incite suspicion or, more typically, horror. Vampires are worst of all. Even human magic-users are regarded with wariness and have to register their existence. A government agency called the Special Other Forces—SOF—monitors the Others and strives to protect ordinary citizens from them.
Since this novel was published after 9-11, I'm certain the analogy between SOF and Homeland Security isn't accidental. All Others are feared and shunned, even though not all of them are dangerous, just as not all members of certain religions and ethnic groups are terrorists. TVTropes labels fear and loathing of imaginary scapegoated groups in fantasy and SF "fantastic racism":Fantastic Racism
We're all familiar with STAR TREK's IDIC ideal of rejoicing in diversity. The original STAR TREK portrayed an Earth civilization that had moved beyond racial and national prejudice, with a black woman on the bridge and Chekov, a representative of the Cold War enemy of that era, shown as a valued member of the crew. In the first season, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy befriended a nonhumanoid "monster" with silicon-based biology, who looked like an ambulatory rock. Throughout the various series and movies, we saw characters of many different planets and species working together for the greater good.
Does contemplation of fantastic racism have any impact on actual racism? Does appreciation of STAR TREK and other works that undercut prejudice against aliens or supernatural creatures transfer over to real life? Does a fan of such literature and films necessarily hold more generous attitudes toward mundane "Others"? Are SF fans typically more open to ethnic and cultural diversity in their everyday lives than the general population?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
I talk a lot on this blog about how to depict character -- not just characterization, but how to show-don't-tell the "strength" of a character.
One of the signatures of "strength" (as Editors define it when asking for "strong" characters) is the clearly defined "story arc" that the character travels throughout the story.
If you've been watching the USA series SUITS (on their "characters welcome" presentation) you have noted how, in the season finale in March 2015, showed couples finally articulating the emotions the viewers had seen were developing.
That finale came complete with a marriage proposal.
SUITS is a series about high-powered lawyers eviscerating each other while struggling to hang onto some kind of code of decency.
It is not a love story. It is not a Romance. It is, however, all about Character Arc.
And it has been renewed for a summer 2015 run.
The show is also made available on streaming services, such as Amazon Prime.
Why do these high-profile dramas always tiptoe around the edges of a love story, even when they are about something incompatible with couple-formation?
The vague, general answer to that question is "verisimilitude" -- to make the created world of the characters seem like reality, so vastly un-real things can happen and seem real.
In real life, characters are people. People have strong times in life, and weak times in life, and just slogging along day to day times in life. Life goes in cycles. Not all of a real life is a "story" -- your life's story is laced through the Events in your life, but most of life is not eventful. Sometimes non-eventfulness is just what you want most.
A novel or TV Series, though, focuses on the periods of the main character's life when Events are hammering at the Character. Some Events break the character in half and leave him/her helpless, and other Events temper the Character's strength.
We relate to those life segments because we have lived through them, or helped someone through them, or been elated or devastated by someone we know going through them.
Life is hard. We all know that. We go to fiction to look at life from a perspective that reveals how to survive, how to win, how to get to our own idea of "Happily Ever After." The first thing we learn, reading our first juvenile fiction, is it is possible to win against all odds.
A little older, we learn about the Character traits that merit winning.
After that, fiction opens up, no longer YA, no longer aimed at a particular age group but aimed at a personality type that is at a particular emotional maturity level. Thus Genre is born, created by marketers looking to sell a stream of identical products.
That's what books (or TV Series Episodes) are. They are all identical, yet each is new and different.
So the life-lessons are sequenced and marketed to people at various maturity levels looking to get away from the rut of daily life and experience what it would be like to break through to the next higher maturity level.
How does a writer deliver that experience of "the next higher maturity level" without turning preachy, intellectual, abstract, philosophical, boring?
The most effective method for delivering an entertaining life-elevating experience to a reader is Character Arc.
The writer starts with a Character whose age, gender, spiritual awareness, politics, values, and life-situation resembles the intended reader's -- but differs enough so the reader can adopt an objective (this is not me) attitude.
That's paragraph one - or the infamous narrative hook. The narrative hook has to be fabricated out of the theme, the character, and the character's internal and external conflicts.
Page One delivers an Event -- not necessarily a Life Event, but a Change of Situation.
Something happens, but not to the main Character. On Page One the reader learns which character is the Main Character because the Main Character is the character whose actions happen TO someone else. As in chess, the player playing White makes the first move. The character who is arcing makes the first move, and thus becomes the Main Character.
Now, why does that Main Character have to be involved in a Love Story?
Love Story is not sex. It is not Romance. It is more like "Velcro of the soul" -- it is opening your heart and soul to another, becoming involved in that other's emotional, intellectual and spiritual life, values and Character Arc.
A Love Story is not just a story. It is a plot. The plot of the story, the internal conflict.
Look again at SUITS. The pilot episode involved one guy (the Main Character) getting suckered into doing a drug-drop by a so-called friend, running for his life, and accidentally plunging into a job interview (all in a big hotel) where a Law Firm was interviewing for associates. It turns out, being a Lawyer was his youthful aim in life. He gets the job despite not having the proper degree and officially passing the Bar.
The guy who hires him does not love him. He's into women. But through the impact they have on each other, they learn to love themselves, and now (2015 seasons) Romance is ripening into Marriage. That is story-arc. One character's internal world changes because of the impact of being deeply involved in another character's internal world.
STORY is the sequence of emotions the Character experiences. PLOT is the sequence of events outside the character that reflects and makes visible to the reader/viewer what is going on inside the Character. Proposing Marriage brings Story and Plot together in one scene.
Keeping in mind that LOVE is not about sex, not about Romance, not about Winning or Losing or Commanding or Demanding or Controlling, we need to look at what Love is exactly so that we can see why every novel, TV Series, or story of any sort needs a thread woven through it that depicts Love.
The simple answer is just verisimilitude -- to make any story powerful, there has to be something in it that "rings a bell" or resonates with the reader/viewer. The fictional world has to have something in it that resembles reality -- then you can do anything and make it believable.
If Love is included, you achieve two objectives with a few spare words. You create that verisimilitude, and you depict a world where happiness is possible (even if it doesn't exist). Check out the TV Series Once Upon A Time about a world where Happiness exists, or does not exist.
We all want love, and most of us have experienced long stretches of years where we feel nobody loves us (least of all ourselves). While going through such a period, it seems like a steady state -- that life will always be love-less, that nobody cares.
That's not depression but realism.
Take a Character who is in such a period, and show-don't-tell how that Character will be able to break him/herself out of that loveless rut.
If you, the writer, do not know how your Character can break out of a love-less life-cycle, all you have to do is check out today's major headlines, then dig into History, browse some blogs, and you will find examples of every mental/emotional state along that Character Arc.
As a writer, you are an artist. Artists discern patterns clearly that others see only dimly. Artists depict what they see so vividly that others can recognize in the Art the same pattern they see in Life, but dimly. Art triggers that wondrous AHA! moment.
No matter what the conflict, theme, situation, your Character can triumph over all adversity by Arcing into a state of being more able to Love, more willing to Love, more open to Love.
In Part 2 of Why Every Novel Needs A Love Story, (next Tuesday)
we'll look at some seriously explosive inspirational material. Meanwhile, think carefully about how you would define love -- because without Love there is no Romance.