The Future of Publishing – One Man’s Perspective

THIS POST IS FOR READERS and WRITERS:

The discussion of the publishing industry and its place in the future continues to rage on the interwebs. The Amazon/Hachette debate has really fired it up a notch, and folks are screaming from both sides of the debate.

The latest piece to get me going was Why We Need Independent Bookstores More Than Ever on the Publishing Perspectives website. I felt the need to weigh in on the conversation, and did so as follows:

~~Hi, I’m a buggy maker. You know, as in horse and buggy? I believe we must stop immediately this move toward automobiles. Oh sure, Ford claims they’re doing it just to help people move about from Point A to Point B more quickly, and to provide convenience and productivity to their lives, but I know the real reason: they’re trying to put me out of business and become a monopoly! Please help! We must stop Henry Ford before he takes over the world! We buggy makers must stick together to beat back this demon.

~~I’m truly fascinated that publishers are choosing to fight technological advances, rather than adapt to them to make their businesses safe and profitable well into the future. It’s so damned shortsighted. Their stubbornness will be their undoing, in the end. Only those willing to adjust in a way that’s fair to both authors and readers will survive.

~~Barnes and Noble is dead. They may still be kicking, but that’s just residual nerves and muscle twitches. The mega bookstore, know also as bookstaurus megalasaur, is extinct. And independents? They’re most likely going to survive as Joe’s Garage, Coffee Shop & Bookstore, or something like that. Stores dedicated solely to the sales of books are on the way out, lest they be high-end collectors’ shops.

~~So time for the publishers to wake up and smell Joe’s coffee. Stop kicking and screaming and clawing at the big bad Amazon, and offer consumers a fair alternative. Compete. Or die.

Anyone who thinks print books will remain the dominant format for readers for more than a few years down the road, should immediately visit their neurologist for an MRI… or their psychiatrist. The Star Trek-ification of America (and soon the world) is well under way. Kindergarteners are now getting tablets to read on in some districts, and today’s youth are accustomed to doing virtually everything online; reading eBooks will be second nature to them.

The traditional publishing model is simply no longer viable, but I suppose it’s no mystery that they are unwilling to go gently into that good night. The sad part is that they needn’t die; they need only evolve to accommodate the new market paradigm. I say this as someone who co-founded and now runs a hybrid small press publisher, Evolved Publishing.

~~~~~

When we first formed EP, we did so with a couple of driving forces in mind: 1) Where is this market going in the next 10-15 years? 2) What sort of publisher would we want to affiliate with as authors?

The first question was critical for obvious reasons. We naturally wanted to form a business model that would make sense given the new market paradigm; we didn’t want to be obsolete in 5 years. The second question was critical because we viewed our primary competition not as traditional publishers–whom we fully expected, quite frankly, to self-destruct at some point–but rather the burgeoning self-publishing option.

And so we moved forward with a few key points in mind:

  • eBooks are the future of reading.
  • As happened in the music industry, everything would move to the internet.
  • Consumers would find new, cheap options, meaning pricing pressures would be a big part of our business.
  • Content would be king, meaning we had to attract quality independent authors who produce quality books.

First Bullet Point Above: Yes, we offer print books, but not via traditional typesetting. Rather, we offer high quality POD (Print-on-Demand) books to keep our overhead costs to a minimum, and to thereby offer both authors and readers the best possible deal.

Second Bullet Point Above: In addition to eBooks and POD paper books, we also offer audiobooks and foreign translations where it makes sense, and again, we keep overhead to an absolute minimum. Furthermore, we all work from home offices – no buildings, no high overhead related to those costs. We live in an electronic world – the internet age. The office building is simply not needed.

Third Bullet Point Above: Whoever it was in traditional publishing (and yes, they all colluded) that thought it was fair to consumers to price eBooks, for which the production costs are so low, higher than paperbacks, for which the production costs are so high, simply missed the boat. This is grossly unfair to consumers, and the backlash was inevitable. Now, there’s something to be said for the value of “content”–the author’s hard-fought battle to create the book, and all their blood, sweat, tears, and talent–and pricing an ebook with fair author consideration in mind. Still, the actual “production” costs are limited, and so the ultimate price should be almost entirely about content. At EP, almost all of our eBooks are priced at $3.99–only a few exceptions, and most of those are special omnibus editions. You’ll never see an eBook from EP priced at $12.99 or $14.99. Ridiculous!

Fourth Bullet Point Above: We must have great content to offer readers. That means that our guiding philosophy at EP is absolutely critical: Quality is Priority #1! Every book must be written well, edited well, and presented (formatted) well. Period. Especially in the new wild wild wild wild wild wild west known as self-publishing, quality matters. The gatekeepers can still serve a valuable function for consumers, and we at Evolved Publishing seek to provide readers this simple assurance: if you purchase one of our books, you’ll get a professional product.

~~~~~

Make no mistake about it, folks, traditional publishers set up their business model with only one thing in mind: themselves. Unless you end up being one of their mega-superstars, you can expect as an author to be treated with a certain amount of contempt and unfair financial consideration. Don’t get me wrong; as a business owner I understand the value of profit! We can’t stay in business without it. But fair is fair, and traditional publishers have abused most authors for far too long. Well, now that the market has evolved and authors have new options, and consumers have new options, traditional publishers are going to pay a dear price.

At Evolved Publishing, we recognized first and foremost that the authors are the stars of the show, not us. Without the extraordinary authors we’ve attracted to EP (too many to name here without leaving someone out), we would not be what we are. How do we attract them? For one, we pay them a fair, even attractive royalty rate. After all, they don’t have to publish with us; they can publish themselves. Second, we provide them with first-rate editing, excellent cover art & illustrations, and professional formatting. Third, we work to coordinate group marketing activities that are more about sweat and muscle than they are money invested. Finally, we give them an enjoyable team environment where we all interact and work with one another in a respectful and mutually beneficial way.

Why don’t traditional publishers do this? What is stopping them? Seriously, I’m not trying to give away any secrets here; I believe we have a lot to offer authors and I’m willing to stand by our reputation in the face of new competition. I just don’t get why traditional publishers still fail to understand what is required to treat their authors–ALL of their authors–well.

Look, it’s a tough marketplace out there; we can all be honest about that. For every writer that makes a living as an author, a thousand more must toil away at their day jobs while they pursue that dream. It’s tough! As a result, treating authors well, affording them the respect, dignity, and financial consideration they deserve, is more important than ever. Furthermore, giving them a place where they can inspire one another, cry on each other’s shoulders, commiserate and celebrate and motivate, is especially important. The days of leaving authors to drift alone in the wilderness is behind us, as publishers, because there’s now a name for that: self-publishing. Want to be relevant as a publisher? Here’s a crazy idea: service your clients!

Geez, I’m so sick and tired of the establishment clinging to their spoils as if they were the Gods of publishing, and the rest of us mere mortals created to do their bidding. But you know what? I’m also just about over it. Seriously, they don’t matter anymore. A new day has dawned.

If you’re an author looking for a home where you’ll be treated fairly, even if you’ve previously self-published to less than satisfying results, you should give Evolved Publishing a look. Just go to the website and surf around, and discover for yourself what we’re all about. Of course, you’ll eventually need to go to the Submissions Page.

If you’re a reader looking for quality books at a fair price, you need to stop by our Book Shop, because we have some seriously excellent books from some seriously talented authors. As an avid reader, you do yourself a disservice by not checking out some of the amazing works we have available.

I shall now step down from my soapbox. :)

~~~~~~~~~~

Working to Catch Up

THIS 1st PART IS FOR READERS (and fans of Forgive Me, Alex):

Devils_Bane_300dpi_2x3

I’ve heard from more than a few of you with something along these lines: “Hurry up and finish the damn sequel, Diamond!” I’m trying. I really am.

My duties as managing publisher/editor at Evolved Publishing have forced my duties as an author into the back seat. Well, the view back there sucks! And I’m getting tired of it.

So I’m now officially back to writing every day, even if just for an hour (hopefully 2 or 3 on most days). I simply must make daily progress, or The Devil’s Bane will just keep being relegated to the dustbin of what-would-have-been. Indeed, I’ve been re-reading The Devil’s Bane in preparation for charging full steam ahead starting Sunday night. (So by the time you see this on Monday, I will have already gone back to work on it.)

It’s interesting to discover that despite all the time away from them, those characters remain clear in my mind – a part of my life. I suppose that’s to be expected after working on Forgive Me, Alex for 5 years. These “people” are as real to me as the guy next door. Pretty cool.

I’ve also been doing a little forward plotting as I prepare to jump back into it, and I’m sneaking up on the conclusion that I’m going to have to kill off a beloved character. I mentioned this to a reader, and her reaction was, “Oh no! Which one? Oh my God, who are you going to kill? Who?”

Yeah, I had to smile at that. I’m such a sadistic $#$&! sometimes.

Who will die? To be honest, I’m not sure, as the plot can go one of two ways, but I see two beloved characters in the crosshairs, and I suspect one of them will fall. You’ll just have to wait and see.

I think this is the part where I say, “Na na na na na na.”

~~~~~~~~~~

THIS 2nd PART IS FOR WRITERS:

Write every day. I mean every… single… stinking… day! Take my experience as a lesson, and don’t do as I did, or next thing you know, like me, you’ll be wondering why it will be over 3 years between books. DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN!

As I look back on it now, I can’t help but wonder how different things would have been if only I’d taken 30-60 minutes a day to write. Seriously, maybe you only have time to sit down for a few minutes when you first wake up, or right before you go to bed, or while you’re waiting for the pizza delivery guy to show up. So what? Sit down for that half hour and crank out a few paragraphs, because even those few paragraphs will keep you engaged in the process.

More importantly, they will represent real forward progress.

Frankly, if I had started doing that right after Forgive Me, Alex came out, I’d have already completed The Devil’s Bane… a few paragraphs at a time.

Everyone complains about workload (*raising my hand*), but 30-60 minutes a day? Really? I… you… can’t find 30-60 minutes a day? Of course you… we… can.

I know what you’re thinking: “Diamond, if I have to do it a few paragraphs a day, I’ll never finish the damn thing!”

Wrong. Think about it. The average page is about 500 words. Just 500 words! If you did that every day – 1 little old page – you’d complete a 300-page novel in less than a year. Then, let’s assume you need a few months for editing, beta reader feedback, more editing, etc. You’d have a finely-polished novel done in about 18 months.

The alternative? To do what I’m doing now: looking back and wondering where the last 2 years have gone. Please… don’t let that happen.

Even if you only have time to sit down and write a single page, do it. And do it every… single… stinking… day!

~~~~~~~~~~

What’s in a Pen Name?

THIS POST IS FOR READERS and WRITERS:

You know me here as Lane Diamond, but my real name is Dave Lane. So why did I decide to write (and edit and publish) under a pen name?

When I first prepared to shop my first book around to literary agents back in 2008, I did what every author in that situation should do: I searched the internet for anyone else who’d published with the same name as mine. Why? Because every author should be unique. Many actors use screen names for precisely the same reason: you don’t want to be confused with another actor, or in my case, with another author. When people search on my “name” as an author, I want them to find my work, not someone else’s.

In my case, there were a few too many Dave Lanes out there in the internet world and publishing world. One of them was some knucklehead aryan race white supremacist out of the UK who’d published several books. Yeah, just what I needed: to be confused with that guy.

So it was settled: I needed a pen name. Now, what should I use? Well, I’d long been known by my nickname of Diamond, which went back to my old band and karaoke days (shortened from Diamond Dave), so it made sense to me to incorporate that. Dave Diamond? Taken. Diamond Dave? Taken rather aggressively by David Lee Roth, formerly of Van Halen. Diamond Lane? Nah, that just sounds off, since Diamond is more of a last name and… wait a second…. Lane Diamond?

And there you have it. You won’t find any others, unless you happen to be looking at an engagement ring, in which case you might purchase a [Neil] Lane diamond. As far as individuals go, I think I cornered the market. That means if you search my pen name in some combination with literary, book, author, writer, editor, publisher, etc, you’re going to find me. Perfect.

Are you an aspiring author? Is your name John Smith, or Jane Doe, or… eek!… Stephen King or Kathy Reichs? Yeah, then you need a pen name. The most important consideration in picking one is NOT some hidden, special meaning to you. It is uniqueness. Period. If you happen to be able to get both, as I did, then good for you.

Oh, and as far as using as a title for your book the same one that’s been used a dozen times by others? …well, that’s for another discussion.

~~~~~~~~~~

The Problem with First-Person Narratives – Beware the I-Bombs! (Part 2 – Practical Examples)

THIS POST IS FOR WRITERS:

This post is a follow-up to one I did some time ago: The Problem with First-Person Narratives – Beware the I-Bombs! If you haven’t read that one yet, this would be a good time to do so.

I’ll not repeat what I said in that post. Rather, I shall move right on the some practical before and after samples, identifying both the problem and at least one potential fix. I’ve used actual examples from pieces I’ve edited/reviewed/read, so as always, I shall not mention any writers’ names, so as to protect the not-so-innocent.

~~~

BAD: When I was young, I pointed out the inconsistencies as if I caught him cheating at cards, which he also did quite often.

Notes: The new opening below is a simple turn of phrase to not make it appear all about “I” at every moment. The second key change was making it not about “I” catching the cheating, but about “he” doing the cheating. Focus on the characters and actions around “I,” making it about them as much as possible, relying on the fact that we’re in the POV of “I,” and trusting the reader to react as “I” would want them to react.

BETTER: As a youngster, I pointed out the inconsistencies, as if he’d been cheating at cards or something—which he did quite often.

~~~

BAD: I used to think I could make a living as a skier, but then I realized that I was wrong.

Notes: This option, with its 4 “I” in just 20 words, is all telling and rather… well, dull. The second option takes us deeper inside the character’s true motivations, and concludes with a striking self-admonition (and commentary) in the form of monologue.

BETTER: I’d imagined skiing bringing me wealth and fame. Yeah, money and girls—a life to make most folks bristle with envy, at least the guys. I’m such an idiot!

~~~

BAD: I hear a sound from behind the garage, and I wonder what it might be. Maybe I should investigate.

Notes: Blah! Ick! Phooey! Where to begin? 1) It’s all telling; nothing actually happens. 2) Yeah? Well, we wonder too, so please give us something. What kind of sound? A prowler? A dog? An alien invasion? 3) The narrator suggests doing something, but again… nothing actually happens. Seriously, haven’t you always wanted to read a book in which nothing actually happens? No? Shocker! In fact, elsewhere in the story, the author suggests (again weakly) that the character is fearful of a stalker. Okay… so…? It’s time to engage the reader.

BETTER: I spin around as a loud crash echoes from behind the garage. It seems those tottering, beat-up old garbage cans are still good for something. I waste not a second in bolting for the back door, zipping inside the house and throwing the deadbolt firmly into place. Next stop: the phone and a 9-1-1 call.

~~~

BAD: I thought I’d be able to figure out how I got here in the first place, but I still couldn’t believe I was lost.

Notes: “But enough about me. What do you think about me?” That’s how these I-Bombs often feel, as if it’s just all about “me” and nothing else matters. Also, this violates almost every rule of Show vs. Tell, failing to bring the reader into the moment. Remember those 3 words: “in the moment.” The best fiction brings a reader in and allows her to experience the story right along with the characters, as it happens. Ah yes, 3 more important words: “as it happens.” In this particular scene, the author attempted—and failed—to paint the character’s fear at being so completely lost. She simply didn’t paint the scene for us at all.

BETTER: How did I get here? For that matter, where the devil was here? What a ridiculous situation, to be so utterly lost. I glanced around again, mindful of the knot growing in my stomach—churning, rumbling, threatening to seek escape at any moment. I spun around and… nope, no toilets out here. Well this is just great!

Another Note: I’m a huge fan of the writer’s directive to “make every word count.” However, you must create the story for the reader. This is a classic case of under-writing. As an author, you can’t keep critical secrets. It’s not enough that you see the image in your mind; the reader must see the image in her mind. So share!

~~~

BAD: I thought I might make her understand. I thought I could appeal to her feminine wiles. I thought I’d probably get lucky, in the end. I guess I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did.

Notes: At this point, it seems as though I shouldn’t have to say anything. You should be jumping all over this and in your best Arnold Horshack voice (for you fellow old-timers out there), yelling, “Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! I know it, Mr. Kotter.” Nonetheless….

First, if you’re writing a first-person narrative, make it a point to use the Find function in MS Word, and type in “[space]I[space]“, and check the box that says “Highlight all items found in:”. This will highlight with a black box every instance of “I” in your manuscript. In time, you’ll want to do the same for variations: I’ll, I’m, I’d. Then, with the selections highlighted, scroll down and look for instances where those black boxes appear like a swarm of flies. Yep… time to revise.

In the case of the example above, the word “I” appears 10 times in 38 words. Umm… no. Just no.

BETTER: She’d come around in time. After all, how could she resist my manly charms, my smooth moves, my irresistible… well, me?

She didn’t respond at all. She just turned around without a word, and left.

~~~

BAD: I saw smoke rising over the downtown district.

Notes: This is the simplest of all remedies, and it falls smack under the heading of “Show, Don’t Tell.” The first-person narrator, the character, is telling the story, so if he conveys some action, we know it’s because he saw/heard/felt it, etc. So just paint the picture for us.

BETTER: Smoke rose over the downtown district.

~~~

I hope those examples will help guide you in trying to eliminate your own I-Bombs. Of course, my alternatives above are just a single example, in each case, of how you might fix the problem. Ultimately, your own style and voice will dictate the fix, and that’s fine. Just fix it! No carpet-I-Bombing allowed. :)

~~~~~~~~~~

Noir Detective Mystery “Hot Sinatra” by Axel Howerton an Award Finalist

THIS POST IS FOR READERS:

The big news is that Hot Sinatra by Axel Howerton is one of five finalists for the Arthur Ellis Award: BEST FIRST NOVEL. For a complete listing of finalists for this prestigious award, please visit the Crime Writers of Canada website.

Why am I so thrilled about this? First, I’m a fan. I absolutely loved Hot Sinatra as a reader. Second, I had the privilege of co-editing this book, including doing the final polishing edit. Third, I had the honor of publishing it for Evolved Publishing.

Okay… I know what some of you are thinking: “Oh sure, Diamond is talking about this because he edited and published the book.” Fair enough, BUT… seriously, I LOVED this book as a reader. I’ve long been a fan of the likes of Mickey Spillane, Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, and others of that ilk. So when I first read Hot Sinatra with an eye toward publishing it, I did so as a reader with awfully high standards. And yes, Axel Howerton’s book passed the test.

I categorized this post under “Readers” and “Characters.” Why the “Characters” category? Simple, Hot Sinatra is one great, tasty, funny, compelling character stew! Not only is the main character, Moss Cole, a lot of fun, but much of the supporting cast is just a riot. You’re going to love some of these characters. In particular, many readers have commented positively on Manlove and Kickerdick – a pair of knee-breakers unlike any you’ve encountered before, believe me.

I enthusiastically recommend Hot Sinatra, but if you’re still in doubt, just sample the portions that sites like Amazon and Smashwords offer. That should convince you. Of course, you can also see what other reviewers have said.

Don’t miss out. Grab your copy today.

Hot_Sinatra_v2_300dpi_200x298

Available at Amazon US, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords.

Oh… and did I mention that it’s also available in French, Italian and Spanish? Yeppers.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Raven Reviews” Interviews Lane Diamond – Publisher, Editor and Author

THIS POST IS FOR READERS and WRITERS:

I had the opportunity to sit and answer some questions about the industry with Michele Biring-Pani, purveyor of Raven Reviews. We cover a wide range of subjects, and I offer some practical advice without pulling too many punches.

Please stop by at the link below:

Interview with Evolved Publishing’s Managing Publisher/Editor Lane Diamond

~~~~~~~~~~

Lane Diamond Is Now Offering “Mini-Edits” for Writers

THIS POST IS FOR WRITERS:

As a writing coach and longtime freelance editor, I know that many writers yearn for assistance, but don’t quite have the financial means to hire the help they need. Well, what if you could get help for just $20, or $10, or even $5?

Yep, you heard right.

It occurred to me that many writers might find helpful “mini-edits” of short segments that are giving them some trouble. As a writer, you might learn what you need, at least for one pesky little problem, by getting edits and helpful notes on 500 words or less – maybe even as little as a couple of paragraphs.

What would my mini-edits include? Well, I would do the actual edits in your MS Word document, using their Track Changes process, so you would see what I deleted and what I offered as an alternative. If you like it, you can simply ACCEPT the changes and – Voila! – your segment is fixed. I will also include helpful notes where appropriate, and possibly even links to additional resources to help you address your issue(s). In other words, I give you everything I give any client, or any author with Evolved Publishing, for example – just in smaller bursts.

If this sounds like a service that will benefit you, just visit my Writing Coach page, and you’ll find the purchase options for mini-edits right near the top of the page.

~~~~~