Tag Archives: the roses are dead

The Roses are Still Dead (Why NY Publishers are 2 Steps Behind. Again.)

HM Ward, the roses are dead, publishing industry 2016,Four years ago, I began writing shorter works for the sole purpose of capturing the reader who doesn’t like to read. It was an odd thing, to realize there are readers who don’t enjoy the process of reading. It could be due to anything from time constraints, to education, to visual impairments. The point is, they don’t want to settle back into a book and admire the words. They want the story told in a way that’s evocative, engaging, and provides a sense of instant gratification.

According to a New York Times article, “no one has tried to do a bite-sized commercial fiction model, at least not in any sustainable way.”

Let me introduce myself:

I’m no one. I’ve had 21 New York Times bestsellers in the past three years. I’ve hit the USA Today list over 30 times, too. I was #1 at Digital Book World. I hit the Wall Street Journal list. I’ve been on the cover of the New York Times and featured in articles in HuffPo and Forbes. I’ve sold over six figures annually in paper (without a New York publisher), most of which are bite-sized books containing roughly 125 pages of text. These titles sold so well in the US that AmazonCrossing bought the rights to sell 20 of these novellas in Germany in paper and digital. Sales there are echoing the same principles seen in the US – there’s a thirst for shorter works. Give it to Amazon to step outside the box and color outside the lines with me. They’re not a traditional anything, but then that’s been part of the problem–a lack of change.

New York is a city where change thrives. It’s a living breathing thing that can’t be denied. New York City is a place where you can walk down the street and find anything and everything. There are no limits, and no end to innovation except when it comes to publishing. Traditional NY publishers never cease to amaze me with their sloth-like movements and overall aversion to change. It took four years of watching authors like me, who have grossed over 8 figures a year, to decide it might be worth a look. Suddenly our bamboozle of tastelessness is re-branded as ‘new’ and ‘never been done before!’

That clause that they added to the end of the sentence should cover the anomalies out there. The Hugh Howey type that writes WOOL (those were novellas that NY repackaged into novels) is a rarity. But lightning doesn’t strike twice. Oh, wait…Hugh got struck more than twice.  The man’s a pioneer, a visionary and he’s not the only one, thank God, but we are few and far between. Needless to say, it gets lonely out here when you do everything backward and upside down from the mainstream way of publishing, especially if it is done on purpose.

Very few see the intentionality at the heart of these decisions. It wasn’t luck. There’s no way luck would have struck over 20 times and landed me on the New York Times list, which is the gold standard of which books are being consumed most rapidly at this current week in time.

If it’s not luck, then what is it? Simple. That’s the market pulse and until now traditional publishers have been flat-lining it with big fat books.  I’ve been glad that traditional NY publishers didn’t notice this ‘little’ market hole. I’ve been quite happliy camping out here since 2012. There are a few friends here as well. We’re the ones that ruffle feathers because we did something unusual and it worked.

Welcome, New York Traditional Publishers. Pull up a chair, and don’t lose your nerve when no one understands what you’re doing. Up until now you’ve only catered to readers. Guess what? The people who don’t normally read for pleasure have a different set of expectations. They don’t follow the rules, they don’t care about traditional guidelines, and they’re remarkably demure. They assume that these books aren’t for them. They think authors create their works for the people who are the literary connoisseurs of our day. The novella, bite-sized crowd is too meek to realize they matter. They’re too humble to suspect that someone might actually care about their needs and desires. They’re sick of mass consumed fast food type of reads and ‘rags.’ They want the steak, and they would have taken it years ago if you stopped trying to shove a 32oz porterhouse down their throat. Sometimes a reader just want canapes. They can enjoy them easily, one-handed, with a baby on their hip. They can sneak a story on the train on the way to work and get the grin of satisfaction before they step off onto the platform.

This battle is about so much more than the length of the book. It’s taking a market segment that’s been ignored for decades. They were marginalized. These readers have been made to feel inferior because their desired attributes didn’t line up with what New York Publishers were dishing out. No one wants to consume the same thing, the same size, every day at every meal, so why would we think readers should? Reading is a way to feed the soul. It ignites the imagination and sparks hope within weary hearts. It’s a lifeline that’s been denied to far too many, largely because bigger books mean bigger profits in the traditional world.

What happened to books like The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe? Peter & Wendy? The Wolves of Willoughby Chase? Those fit in my pocket and cost less than $5. I could afford them when we were broke. I could finish them before my eyes betrayed me and a migraine blurred the words. I found magic, adventure, and hope in a compact size. The act of reading isn’t this complacent act that’s lazy and lounging. A good read makes you feel alive, and these shorter works can do that in a sustainable way that’s not possible with longer books. Sustain that.

I’m disappointed that New York hasn’t caught up yet. They’re always two steps behind, or in this case, roughly four years. Hat off to Indie authors and AmazonCrossing for forging new roads and plowing through the propaganda to find out what readers really want and then having the guts to give it to them.


The Roses are Dead (Too Much Manure in Publishing)

The Roses are Dead (too much manure in publishing)These are the things people will tell you that you’re passing up if you don’t sign on the traditional line, and I’m calling it. It’s bullshit. Seriously stinky stuff, and a lot of people don’t know, so here’s my post.

This is the stuff that’s been spread far and wide by the publishing industry for years and most of it is BS. I’m gonna be blunt, b/c you’re assuming the grass is greener on the other side, but they don’t even have grass over there. Things are that messed up.

An advance against royalties – Have you heard how many of our peers didn’t get paid? They entered into a multi book deal like you were offered and well, the pub didn’t think book 1 went very well, so books 2 & 3 were cancelled. No money for you.
There’s the appearance of stability when working with a publisher, but they cannot offer you job security. All of a sudden, your 3 book, 6-figure deal ends up earning you $30K over 2 years and you want to poke your eye out with a fork. True story – just not mine, thank god. Ask around.

Passing up Print distribution.
PRINT IS DEAD. There’s no money in print. Why do you think the big 5.5 are buying up Indie ebooks? Why don’t we see the stores stocked with these titles? Where’d they go? I know for a fact that one publisher’s plan was to acquire enough Indies to release 70+ new titles in one season and NOT PRINT A THING. But that’s not what they told me. Print is dead and the pubs are noticing that isn’t where the money is. Which is also why you’re getting any guarantee of a print run when you sign that six figure deal.

My books will not be in bookstores.
Mine are and have been since day 1. If enough ppl ask for your book, they will order your book.

My books are likely never to be found in a library.
Also, not true. If enough ppl (usually 6 or so) ask for your book, they will buy your book, Indie or not.

I will never have an editor who will work with me to develop the book and the follow-ups because she loved it enough to acquire it for her house.
Bwuahahhaha! I’m sorry, but you’re assuming that they know better than you. Dude, they’re part of a dying breed, and they’re dying b/c they don’t want to change. No one jumps up and down and screams, “oooh, ooooh! pick me!” to be the next casualty of the publishing industry.

I gave up the chance to grow as an author under their (NY editor’s) tutelage.
Again, they can’t tell their ass from their elbow and you’re gonna look really weird at parties trying to sit on the wrong one.

A team of marketing and publicity experts with contacts.
FAKE! Guess what? The experts are few and far between. If the market has shifted to primarily selling intangible goods and you have a panel of ppl who rock at selling paper, then you have a serious problem. The experts aren’t there. They’ll put you on a mailing list with 2K subscribers that’s WAY past it’s heyday, and then tell you to buy a bookbub ad (on your dime.)

Authors are expected to market themselves, traditionally published or Indie. If you fail, even after being picked up by one of the big boys, it’s your fault. It’s never their fault. That’s not the kind of people you want to work with. Ever read an article where the publisher goes, “Our marketing effort just didn’t connect with readers.” It’s always the author under-performed, or the title couldn’t cross over to print.

The branding a big name publisher can provide.
They have no idea how to do this. The authors who have brands sold scads of books and the pubs rode coattails. You make your brand. You ARE your brand. This is one of those shiny things they dangle to get you to sign, and then you find out it was never there. How do you market intangible goods (goods you can’t touch)? I know, and I’m very aware that they do not.

I gave up the opportunity to learn from marketing and publicity experts as well.
No, you didn’t. When a big publisher did research on serials, guess who they looked at? When the publishers want to check the market to see what unexpected stuff is going on, do you really think they’re looking at each other? No, they’re looking at us – Indies. Why? Because we take more risks, and understand the market better b/c we have to. They still get paid even if they’re sitting on their elbows. We don’t eat if we don’t sell our stuff. Poverty is a motivator–it’s a bonus really.

I gave up being branded alongside bestselling authors who have been publishing for many years and have many readers.
I’ve had the big 5 come to me (after refusing over $1.5 million in contracts) to ask me to blurb their book. I’m 100% Indie and pretty much told them that they have no idea how to do anything when I turned them down. They still came asking. You are in good company, and we tend to be more forthright and supportive.

I am less likely to ever make a national bestseller list.
Everyone says that. Statistically, this is inaccurate as the list has been taken over by Indies. As an Indie, you’re more likely to make a list IMHO. You have complete control.

I am less likely to sell my other rights, such as audio and foreign translation. Some might counter that I can self-publish my books in audio form, but this is now much more difficult due to recent changes in royalties provided the primary providers of indie Audiobooks, ACX.
Don’t even get me started on ACX, but to counter your point – you WILL get audio offers for your book. They’ll be around $1K, b/c ‘audio just isn’t worth that much.’ Which is BS. Take it if you want or do it yourself and use a different platform. There’s more than just ACX out there. You will get offers on foreign too. Take it if you want. They will find you.

I have most likely lost the chance to sell movie rights.
Not true. Several indies sold film rights.

I may have damaged my chances to become a hybrid author.
Hybrid is a term that the industry made up so they won’t get left behind. They want you to think they’re relevant and still have something to offer. They don’t.

When I walked away from my auction offers, I was told, point-blank, that I would be a “hard sell” to any New York editor after this.
That’s bullshit. Money talks. See above reference of me blowing them off and then being asked to blurb a book 2 weeks later. That was a pressure tactic and it’s BS.

The cachet of being associated with a big publisher. Being invited to publisher parties at big writers conferences. Networking with industry professionals in a concentrated setting and with a common goal in mind. Being sent on book tours or participating in book signings.
You can still do that and laugh at them as you walk by b/c you’re making more money and have more freedom. Ta ta!

If I ever accept a NY contract, I’ll never be marketed as a “debut author.”
They wanted to mark me as a ‘debut’ author after publishing 40+ books. I don’t think that’s a good thing. It’s the newB stamp.

I have lost the opportunity for a traditional publishing house to establish a brand for me.
You said this twice. THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THEY INTENDED ON MAKING A BRAND FOR YOU. Branding things is difficult, branding people is even harder. That’s not what they do. They know how to print paper and they’re abandoning that in an attempt to remain relevant.

I have no idea who got under your skin, but most of these concerns are BS fed to Indies by agents and editors. It’s a sales technique called ‘fear of loss’ – look at everything you gave up by leaving us. Meanwhile, they’re telling you about the Indie side of things and they have no clue. A dog can’t say what it’s like to live as a cat, you get me?

Pay attention to where you hear things. This is part of them tainting the market and making us afraid so we’ll sign away our rights for a song. They’re taking advantage of people and it’s wrong.

It’s hard to make an ‘informed’ decision when the trads are blowing so much smoke up our butts. Seriously.

To those who trad-pubbed and signed on the line, I’m not slamming you. People have to do what they have to do, but please be aware that the industry is crumbling and there are so many false concepts and things that will be offered if you only ‘sign here! Sign now! Don’t wait!’ If anyone treats you like that, run the other way. Fast.

(Originally posted on 3/10/14 on my old blog)