How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Not Tell People How to Read #amwriting

Every so often, I run across an article predicting the demise of print books, or ebooks, or books altogether, critical thinking, libraries, and so on. Every time I see one of these articles, I read it to see which argument the writer has elected to trot out, whose numbers they’re paying attention to, and whether they have anything new to add to the conversation.

Spoiler alert: most of them fail at that last thing.

I have ebook and print versions of all my books. Here’s what I know.

Ebooks are cheap and easy to produce. Once the final proofing is done on a story, I can bang out a perfectly acceptable ebook in an hour. No fancy razzmatazz, but the story is there with all you need to enjoy it. I typically spend a few hours to make it a little prettier than that. For most of my ebooks, I make about 70% of what you pay, and the distributor takes the rest.

Print books are less cheap and less easy to produce, but still not a huge investment. My print books typically take about a day to format. I can do it in four hours or so with zero razzmatazz, but as with my ebooks, I prefer taking a little time to do it right. For most of my print books, how much I get of what you pay depends completely on where you buy it. Unless you get it directly from me at a show, a $15.99 book sale pays me anywhere from $1-6. The rest goes to pay for printing and those pesky distributors. (Before you get excited about how much I earn from a book sale at a show, remember that I have to pay to be at that show.)

Major publishers can charge less for the smaller-sized paperbacks because they can print 10,000 at a time, which makes them super-cheap. They make money because a $1 profit on 10,000 sales is still $10,000.

Like most indies, I get my print books from a Print-On-Demand service, which means my print books are not super-cheap. They are still relatively cheap, but I have to charge what I do because my volume is much lower and I like doing crazy things like eating food, using electricity, and sleeping in a bed.

Major publishers would like ebooks to die for a lot of complex reasons that boil down to the fact they don’t control the sales channels for ebooks, but they do control the sales channels for print books.

You see, indies price our ebooks cheaper than our print books because there’s no paper involved, and it’s easier to get ebooks distributed around the world than print books. If I want to get my print books into a Barnes & Noble, I have to convince a store manager that they want my books in their store, then go through some hoops and provide a method for them to return the books to me for a refund if they don’t sell in an allotted amount of time. And also not get very much money for them.

By the way, when publishers get those returned books back, they still counted as sales for the bestseller lists.

But I digress.

Even if I do all that for Barnes & Noble, that gets me into one (1) B&N store. Not all of them. One.

That thing you just thought upon learning this information is about how I feel about it, only tempered because I’ve known this for a while.

To get worldwide distribution for my ebooks, I upload the file to three different websites. That’s it. No haggling, no convincing, no crap.

An in case you happen to still think indie books are inferior, I challenge you to visit the bestseller lists on Amazon and pick out all the indie books in the Top 100 of any given category. Author services has become an industry. Artists of high quality have turned to cover art as a way to pay the bills. Editors have gone freelance. Indies are teaming up in collectives and co-ops like Clockwork Dragon to trade skills.

Ebooks aren’t going to die. Print books are also not going to die. Each has inherent strengths and weaknesses. It’s okay to like one and not the other. It’s also okay to like both.

As they tell kids in school, what matters is that you read and support the people who make the things you love, in whichever format you prefer. When you stop supporting us, we stop producing it. Because we’re people who like to do silly things like eat, use electricity, and sleep in beds.

P.S. I left out audiobooks for a reason. Whole other topic.

A Serious Moment

I was raised in a time and place where we didn’t talk about politics or religion much. Not for any particular reason, other than perhaps because my homework seemed to be a topic of incessant and pointed interest.

At extended family gatherings, I didn’t have That Uncle because we didn’t talk much about That Stuff. We watched football, ate foodstuffs, and played cards. When people did the talking thing, they had more than enough family whatnot to keep them occupied. Occasionally, someone would bring up some political thing, but everyone just agreed about it and moved on. Religion also came up once in a while, but typically in the form of determining when everyone last went to church and why it wasn’t Gramma’s church.

Discussing either of these topics with strangers wasn’t even in the realm of possibilities.

As such, I’m reticent to get into these two topics, especially on the internet. For once, though, I’d like to be serious and take a firm stand on a few important things.

Nazis are bad.

Institutional Racism is also bad.

Slavery is really bad.

Representation matters.

Science is important.

Climate change is real.

Mental health problems should not be shameful.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are, someone cares about you.

If these stances make me a radical loon, then so be it. I’m a radical loon.

By John Picken from Chicago, USA

This @storybundle Thing Happened #fantasy #ebook #SPShow @NIWA_writers

Topic: https://storybundle.com/epic

Once upon a time, there were two authors. Well, actually, there are thousands, but this story is about two. Five. Fifteen, really. But we’ll start with two, because one of them is me, and the other one is Kevin J Anderson.

For clarity, this story is not a romance. There is no romance in this story at all.

Okay, there’s a little, but it’s all in books. Because we’re authors and that stuff is about the human condition, and that’s what spec fic is about. Besides, I’ve met Kevin’s wife, Rebecca, and she’s lovely.

*ahem*

Moving on.

Once upon a time, there was an indie author and an established, famous, excellent person. No lie! I’ve met him in person and he’s pretty cool. This one time, we were both concurrently at a convention–which is to say that I was there as part of Clockwork Dragon, and he was there because he’s Kevin J Motherf—ing Anderson (not his real middle name). This fan walks up, and Kevin drops everything to say hi, pose for a pic, sign some books, and remember the dude’s name from ten years ago in Greenland*.

*Not actually Greenland.

Everything I know about how to behave toward fans was reinforced by watching this man. I didn’t learn it from him, because by the time I met him, I’d been at this for a while and come to similar conclusions on my own. I’m smart and stuff, or so people tell me. Also, did you know I write books? It’s amazing! You may have read one or more of them without noticing because I’m an indie, and that’s our lot in life.

But I digress.

Again.

At this point, I should probably sum up, because there isn’t too much.

Ta da! *hand flourish* Look at that. Pretty, ain’t it?

Kevin graciously extended an invite to some indies like myself to have a book in the 2017 Truly Epic Fantasy Bundle on Storybundle. Other authors with books in there include some dudes named Brandon Sanderson, RA Salvatore, and Michael Stackpole. Y’know, regular guys you’ve never heard of.

Part of the proceeds benefits starving* indie authors like myself and Erik. The other part benefits the Challenger Learning Centers for Space Education, which is all about STEM and full of excellent people.

*Not actually starving to death. Erik and I are both in excellent health and should be around long enough to finish The Greatest Sin. No promises after that.

The End of Summer #amwriting

 

Summer is officially over as far as I’m concerned, because I have no more conventions until after Labor Day. My schedule through the end of the year:

Readerfest–Seattle, WA
Renton City Comic Con–Renton, WA
GeekGirlCon–Seattle, WA
Galaxaar–Issaquah, WA
Jet City Comic Show–Tacoma, WA
Orycon–Portland, OR

That’s it. No heavy travel, and all relatively small shows. I remain a Municipal Liaison for my NaNoWriMo region, and I already have a plan for my NaNo this year. It’s a book that I know in advance will require multiple revision passes for detail and layered meaning.

Other projects on the horizon:

Spirit Knights 5 should be out next March, hopefully with a concurrent audiobook. This will complete the series, but not end the adventures in that version of Earth, or with Claire and the gang. I’ll take a hiatus from urban fantasy to focus on other things next year, then come back to it with at least two books set in that world. More info about it as the book’s checklist earns checkmarks.

Darkside Seattle should have another installment by the end of the year. I’m not firm on that deadline. It may be January instead. Regardless, work continues on the novella collection. Looking forward to 1-3 more releases next year. The first novel should be out in late 2019 or early 2020.

The Greatest Sin earned a positive Kirkus review (“luminous”, “daring”!), and there will be another announcement regarding it in a few days. Book 6 is in the works, and we’re hoping to return to May for our release month after some annoying setbacks this year.

The supers from Maze Beset are getting some fresh love in a project with no deadline at this time. This will be another case of me leaving the series title behind in favor of something else. I expect to have at least one book sometime next year for this world.

In Ilauris news, I’ve settled on the Elf book as my next project on that front, which I’m hoping to release in Fall 2018. Also, a story from the pirate faction will appear in an anthology titled Undercurrents: What Lies Beneath. The pirates feel like a short story subject instead of a novel subject, so there may be more to come from that.

My first turn as an anthology editor, Bridges, releases in November. I don’t have a story in it, but I’m exited about the project anyway. All the stories came from members of the Northwest Independent Writers Association, a group to which I belong. Without NIWA, I never would have met Jeffrey Cook, and we all know how that’s turned out (hint: well).

As part of Clockwork Dragon, I’ve got an anthology project in the works for Spring 2019, Spring 2020, and Spring 2021 releases. Yep, I’m that far ahead of this thing. It’s going to be awesome, and I look forward to sharing all the super-secret details with everyone after Norwescon 2018! If you’re looking for Dwago’s book, circumstances have delayed it again, and I have no new hopeful release date at this time.

For future planning, I can confirm I’ll definitely be at Emerald City Comic Con, Miscon, GEARCon, and GenCon again in 2018. I’ll be at other shows too, but they’re unconfirmed at this point.

Goodbye, @Ragbrai_Iowa. Hello, @Gen_con

The Ragbrai chapter of my life has ended. Probably. We’ll see. I’d like to go back again someday, maybe when my publishing schedule is better arranged to slide in training. Here are some pictures in case you missed them on Twitter (I’m @AuthorLeeFrench).

First pie of Ragbrai, actually had at Shari’s in Moses Lake, WA.

My home away from home for the week of Ragbrai. This year, I splurged and got the tent rental from Pork Belly Ventures. Worth it.

A nice, welcoming touch in Orange City, IA.

I think I got snookered with store-bought pie this time.

The best pie of Ragbrai 2017. Blueberry with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

A town called Mallard where they make duck jokes. I’m so surprised. There was a rubber ducky race in town, and a lady holding a sign that said “Release the Quackin'”. The picture didn’t turn out. Alas.

Breakfast on Day 7. By then, it’s just like, to heck with yogurt, let’s skip to the pie. The banana made it healthy, of course.

Me at the end. Look how relieved I am to only have about one mile left to go. It’s like Ragbrai is hard work or something.

If I ever go back, I’m going to angle for a really difficult year, like the least flat ever, or the longest, or something.

Next up is a trip to Indianapolis, IN for Gencon. I like the show a lot, and this is Gencon’s 50th year. If you’re going, take a moment to wander the Author’s Avenue aisles. I’ll be the one in the hat with the dragon on top. Say hi and ask for a demo of Dwago.

The Casual Cyclist’s Guide to Last-Minute @RAGBRAI_IOWA Prep #cycling

This happened on the 12th. By day 1 of Ragbrai, I won’t have ridden my bike for 10 days. This is not a disaster, it’s just a recipe for needing Butt Butt’r and ibuprofen.

I have to travel a pretty long distance to reach Iowa, so I’m leaving tomorrow. My packing includes books and gear for MALCon in Denver, where I’ll be August 4-6. Your packing, on the other hand, should not stuff your car full to the brim. Unless you’re moving your own vehicle from town to town somehow, you’re limited to two duffels while on the ride.

Herein is a list of things I’ve found helpful while on Ragbrai, but are not obvious.

  1. A flashlight. You’ll want this in case you ever need to do anything at night. Which you will. I promise. It’s best to have one with a clip of some sort so you don’t have to turn it off in the dark inside a kybo.
  2. Clothespins or similar clips, possibly 2-4 small carabiners. I use these to hang wet cycling clothes after rinsing them out. You may also want a 6-10 foot length of rope. I don’t bother, as I can always drape everything over my tent. The clothespins hold things in case of a breeze or awkward placement needs.
  3. Walking shoes. Probably with regular socks. If your flipflops are super-comfy for walking around, more power to ya. I’ve never had a pair of sandals in which I was happy to walk more than a half mile or so, plus regular shoes means no sunburns on my feet. In most overnight towns, you’ll have to walk a fair distance to get to the expo, the entertainment and/or the food vendors. Even when you use the shuttles, you’ll still end up walking around quite a bit.
  4. Hand sanitizer. All kybos should have either a hand washing station or a hand sanitizer dispenser. Should.
  5. Emergency food substance. Maybe you, like me, have trouble forcing yourself to eat first thing in the morning. Maybe you’re a grazer. Maybe you just want to save a little money. Whatever you might come up with for a reason, it’s in your best interest to have a little something along with you. Anytime you feel yourself powering down between towns, stuff your EFS into your food hole, give it a few minutes to settle, and get back in the saddle. Protein-heavy bars work well for this.

Other than those things, don’t forget your sunscreen, toothbrush and toothpaste, and as much cycling gear as you feel comfortable bringing. I always get a new water bottle at the expo on Saturday for the week. Also, bring a sweater or light jacket, and expect to sleep in a sleeping bag, because it can get cold. You never know. I got mild hypothermia on Ragbrai once. Try not to do that.

I’ll be riding with Pork Belly Ventures, as I usually do, so I don’t have to worry about some toiletries and other things. You should consider how much of that kind of stuff you want to bring. If you aren’t riding with a charter, you’ll wind up showering in a wide variety of interesting locales. Be prepared for cold showers, not warm.

A few other tips:

  1. Keep a list handy with the names of the places you expect to camp every night. This way, if you feel lost, you can ask a local for directions.
  2. Bring cash for food. Gear dealers will generally accept credit cards, but food vendors don’t always, especially in the pass-through towns. Plan a budget and bring a little bit of a cushion if you can, in case you’re way off for how much you’re going to eat.
  3. Follow the basic riding rules and suggestions in the official Ragbrai booklet. Really. They’re designed to prevent problems like injury and heatstroke.
  4. Do not expect the SAG wagon to find you out on the road. This is my fifth time, and I’ve seen one on the route once. Once. They often fill up in the early towns and take the vehicle route to the overnight town. In the event you get hurt, your bike gets trashed, or you absolutely can’t go any further, try 911 on your phone. Flip your bike upside down if you can. People will stop to help you. I promise. If you *can* make it to the next town, do that and seek help there.
  5. The only reason you need two water bottles is if you want two different drinks in them. There will be opportunities in every single pass-through town to refill. Do not panic about water, just remember to drink it.
  6. For day 1-3, take the painkiller before you get on the bike. There’s no point to waiting until you feel pain. Trust that you will and prepare accordingly. By day 4, you should be okay to go without.

Internet and phone service are spotty and questionable all week long, especially since we won’t be going through any large towns this year, so plan to be disconnected the whole time. Don’t expect to hear much from me on Twitter or FB until it’s all over, because I don’t have either app on my phone (on purpose!).

Good luck, and see you on the road!

New Release: A Curse of Memories #ebook #books #fantasy #series

Chavali is back in The Greatest Sin book 5: A Curse of Memories. Eldrack sets her on the trail of the traitor whose actions caused a fellow agent’s death, a mission she accepts with fervor.

The ebook is 99 cents until tomorrow, when it assumes its regular price. If you’re new to the series, you can meet Chavali for the first time in The Fallen, book 1 of the series. She’s a cranky, sarcastic fraud of a fortune teller happy to fleece strangers for the benefit of her clan by telling them exactly what they want to hear.

The world of The Greatest Sin has lost its Creator and hates that fact. Chavali doesn’t care, but she’s about to get dragged, kicking and screaming, into the quest to find the Creator and bring Her back.