Friday, October 29, 2021

So, A Thing Happened

So, a thing happened.  I can't remember if I talked about it here or over at The Writing Spectacle, but this is the gist of it...  Earlier this month, I got a letter from Amazon.  It talked about illegitimate page reads and how they weren't paying for those or some such nonsense. I read it, thought it was a general letter to authors in the KU program, and filed it in the Archives.  Then I dilly-dallied checking out my September numbers until a few days ago.  Imagine my surprise, when the report showed a big fat zero in the place where it should've shown money for my page reads.

Then I remembered the letter.

I went into the Archives and pulled the letter out.  I guess it wasn't for everyone after all.  At the bottom, it said if I had any questions to reply to the letter, so I did.  I got an auto-gram stating it could take up to 5 days to research my case.  This morning, I got a new letter telling me basically nothing.  It did assure me that my account is still in good standing, but reaffirming the fact that illegitimate page reads were not going to get paid for.  But not actually saying my page reads were illegitimate or what have you.

Basically what I took from the reply was that those page reads I had in September are gone and I have no recourse to get my big whopping $3.79 from Amazon.  Sort of a 'so sorry, Charlie, but you're screwed.  Thanks for playing and we appreciate your business.' kind of thing.

Except now I don't feel like I can trust Amazon to give me a definite accounting of what I'm getting paid.  I mean, it's always been a case of trust.  Authors have to trust all of their sales outlets to give them the right numbers and then to put the right amounts into their bank accounts.  We have to trust the booksellers to not screw us royally.  And I can do that.  I have done it for over 6 years now.  Except now I can't.

Amazon wants me to continue to trust them, but they don't trust that my sales are real sales.  As if I somehow got someone to make up page reads somehow and risked my account in order to bilk the big 'Zon out of less than $4.  I'm the chick who found a pricey cell phone at the lake and then did my damndest to find the owner, including waiting around at a safe location for someone to come pick up the thing.  I'm the gal at the Walmart who stops the dude whose dollar just fell out of his pocket.  I couldn't have been in on it.  And since I wasn't in on it, they have got to be somehow thinking there's a Robin Hood character randomly faking page reads so the little guys like me can have pennies out of the big KU pool.  I can't parse it any other way.  

And they want me to remain exclusive with them throughout all this.  Except if I can't trust them to report the right page reads to me, how can I trust them to report actual sales?  How can I trust that tomorrow they won't tell me my book sales are illegitimate and they aren't paying for those either?  =o\

I've been a good little author.  I was on the frontlines defending Amazon when anyone would say anything negative about them.  And they thumbed their nose at me.  

Now, taking my books off Amazon would be stupid.  They're still the biggest fish in town and cancelling my books on there would be like cutting off nose because I ran afoul of a skunk.  Still need my nose, even if sometimes it encounters something that stinks.  But I am taking my books out of KU.  I can't see any other way around the lack of trust there. 

Unfortunately, a whole bunch of my books just re-upped for a 90 day stint.  If you're a subscriber, and you still want to read my books through KU, you'd better get cracking.

I managed to get Ugly and the Beast out just as it was renewing.  And Cinder Ugly a day before it went.  Sleeping Ugly should be out on the 1st.  That's one series.  As for the rest of them, they fall out eventually.  

I had hoped to do some kind of sale thing, but right now, I'm too meh.  I need to start thinking about going wide with all of these, which means changing back matter, etc.

It sucks.  Truly.  And you might think 'All this over $3.79???', but what if it was $379?  Or $3790?  Put it another way... What if it was $4 from me and $4 from you and $4 from every author in the KU program?  Why are we even in this thing if they can do this to any of us with no reason, no explanation, or anything?

They kicked me, who's no bigger than a guppy in the grand scheme of publishing.  I wonder how many other guppies they kicked this month.  

So, I'm out of it.  As soon as I can be out of it.  It was good while it lasted.  Time to dust off my Draft to Digital account and see if I can't pick my sales up off the floor.  A MODEL CURSE will be the first series to launch there.  I'll let you know about that and about the other series and singles as they become available widely.

By the way, don't look for me to do NaNoWriMo this year.  Maybe it'll be a NaNoEdMo if I can get my head out of my as... armpit long enough to get back to work on Untitled Fantasy, but there will be no new words.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Not a Real Writer

I've heard said time and again that if you don't show up and treat this writing thing like a job every day, you're not a real writer.  :shrug:  I guess that means I'm not a 'real' writer.  

Oh, the first year of publishing, I treated it like a job.  I was crankin' and spankin' on some writerly thing every day.  If I wasn't writing, I was editing.  Or marketing.  Or formatting.  Or doing cover stuff.  Or schmoozing.  I published 4 books that year.  For all that work, I sold 1017 copies.  Of course, during that year I spent just under $5000.  

The next year, I was still treating it like a job but treating it like a job was getting harder.  I published three books that year.  I sold 693 copies and spent a little over $2000.

Year three, the 'treat it like a job' thing fell apart.  I published 2 books and the numbers were 262 sold and $1500 spent.

I'd go on, but I think you can see where I'm going with this.  Maybe.  

When you look at the numbers, you might think: the more work I put into it, the better I did.  Or you can look at it the other way: the worse I did, the less likely I was to want to put the work into it.  It's the latter.  

Oh, I do see an uptick in sales when I'm putting more effort (and more money, by the way) into it, but it's rarely enough of an uptick to make it seem worthwhile.  I'm sitting here shelling out funds I don't really have to make sales that don't even come close to covering what I spent.  The reality of that is that I can no longer justify the outgo.  In money or in time spent.

I realize that last part there might make it seem like I'm prepping y'all for an announcement that I'm quitting.  I'm not.  I'm still writing.  I'm still editing.  It's just slower now and I'm more likely now to put time toward other pursuits that might actually give me something to show for my efforts.  If that makes me not a 'real writer' in others' eyes, I guess I'll have to live with that.  :shrug:

But when you get here and see that I still haven't progress toward the publication of another book, you might understand a little better where I'm at.  The last three books I published sold 30 copies.  Not thirty each... thirty combined.  The one book I published this year has sold just over 11 copies.  Numbers like that don't make me jazzed about putting in a full day at the job of writer.  

Add in the other, non-writing stuff that gets me in a bad place, and you can understand a little more.  

Of course, even to me, that all sounds like excuses.  If this was a regular job, I would've been fired years ago.  I'm not putting in the hours and I'm not making any money for the company I work for.  Thankfully, the CFO likes me.  And he sees all the non-writing things I do for the company as a whole.  And he appreciates the writing stuff I do do even if it's not making money, so I'm not in danger of being fired by him.

The CEO isn't so sure.  I may fire myself yet.  But not today.  

So, I'm not a real writer.  Not at the moment anyway.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe next year.  Until then, I'll be plodding along and hoping.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Industry News and Stuff

 A UK publisher of nature guides, etc. is talking about paper shortages over there in Europe.  I tried getting alternate sources for this, but was unable to find anything.  I wouldn't be surprised if it was true, but without additional sources, I can't trust the info.  Wait, I just found an article... which sounds more like a marketing ploy than actual news of a paper shortage.  A 'buy books now in case there's a paper shortage' sort of thing.  

In other writerly news, I saw a thread talking about the price of paperbacks in a mostly UK crime fiction FB group I belong to.  The general consensus was that people weren't willing to pay 15 pounds for a paperback.  Couldn't even conceive of why anyone would price their paperback at more than 15 pounds.  I didn't chime in.  I have at least one above that price point.  I had to or I wouldn't have made any money on that book.  As it is, I make about $1-2 per paperback, which is about 10% of any given book's price.  Considering I make 70% on an ebook, I don't think getting 10% on a paperback is too much to ask.

Oh, hey... Did anyone else get a super fun letter from Amazon earlier in the month about illegitimate ebook page reads?  I archived it because I didn't think it pertained to me.  Ummm... When I went to look at my previous month's sales to resolve the per page price for my spreadsheet, I noted that I'm not getting paid for ANY page reads in September.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  Since I did, in fact, have page reads in September, I un-archived the letter and contacted Amazon.  They're looking into it.  My page reads only amounted to 842 pages, which works out to less than $4, but it's the principle of the thing.  Someone out there in America read books 2-4 in the genie series.  1 person does not a scammer make.  And imagine if they cut $4 from every author in the KU.  Gah.  So, if you got the letter, check your sales for September before that option goes away on 11/1.  Otherwise, you'll probably be screwed.

If you're not keeping track of this stuff, you probably should be.  I know it's a pain in the ass, but better a pain in the ass than in the pocketbook.  And these days, every $4 counts.  That's like 2 loaves of bread and a half gallon of milk here.  Or a tub of Edy's ice cream (minus the tax) at Dollar General.  Two tubs of Great Value ice cream at Wallyworld.  (Heh, maybe I should measure everything in ice cream.)  Or, here in SW MO, a gallon and a quarter of gasoline.  

Anyway, that's the news I've got for you this morning.  Got any news for me?  

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Ideas are Everywhere

 A question writers often get asked is "Where did you come up with your ideas?"

For me, the general answer is 'everywhere'.  If the question starts with a 'how', the answer changes to 'no clue, they're just there'.  Where?  Everywhere.

Orson Scott Card* is attributed with saying: "Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any."  I don't necessarily ascribe to that.  I think I'm a good writer, but I don't get five or six ideas EVERY DAY.  I think I'd go nuts if I did.  I'd be like a puppy with a dozen different toys all thrown at him at once... GAH!

I do get ideas a lot.  The really good ones... the ones that won't leave me alone... they go into a Word file.  Most of the ideas never make it there.  

News stories often make for good ideas.  Especially for crime fiction.  Natural Causes got its kernel from a crime story that made headlines.  Of course, the book totally diverges from the real story, but the kernel is there.  

Sometimes, the ideas just come from my brain noodling through things.  Like with Early Grave.  I started with the idea that I wanted to do another SCIU novel and then I got to thinking about how I could write a suspense novel with a serial killer that's premise hadn't been done to death.  (pardon the pun)  I came up with the idea that someone was killing old people in nursing homes and making it look like the deaths were natural.  But I didn't want to do an Angel of Death thing.  This killer actually hates old people and wants them dead.  Then I remembered I'd sent Ned Washington to Toledo at the beginning of Fertile Ground.  Voila!  Plot, MC, Setting and we're off to the races.

Sometimes something that happens to you will give you ideas.  Accidental Death was an assortment of experiences, people, and events over the course of my life that rolled themselves into a novel.  

Of course, AD actually started with the basic question 'What if...'  The 'What if' is often a valuable source for ideas.  In the case of AD, the question was 'What if a death that they ruled was accidental wasn't?'  And it sort of snowballed from there.  

Every rare once in a while, I'll get a story idea from a dream.  That's where Untitled Fantasy came from.  Of course, the end product isn't much like the dream.  Hell, I can't even really remember what the dream was about.  I know I got out of bed afterwards and wrote down the crux of it and then when I got up, I transferred it into my Ideas file.  And then I started writing the book.  (Which took me a huge amount of time to finish.)  Like I said, for me, the dream ideas are rare.  Mostly because my dreams are too weird to translate into a story people would want to read.

So, really, ideas are everywhere.  If you can't see that, you're probably going to have a hard time as a writer.  Oh, you could still write.  Some writers only ever have one good idea and one good book in them.  Look at Margaret Mitchell.  She only ever wrote one book (even if some of her other scribblings have now been published) and it was BIG.  If that's your course, if you find yourself NEEDING to write that one book, do it.

Me?  I'll be over here fending off new ideas so I can focus on writing and editing the ideas I already have in the works.  Which, right now, means getting off my dead ass and working on this crazy fantasy idea I dreamed up.  

What about you?  If you're not a writer (yet), what ideas do you have that could be made into a story?  If you're already a writer, where do your ideas come from?

*If you're not familiar with Card, he wrote ENDER'S GAME.  Yes, the one they made into a movie.  He wrote a bunch of other stuff, too.  Definitely not a dude who was short of ideas.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Updates and Decisions I'm Not Ready to Make

Well, I finally finished the edit notes for Untitled Fantasy.  And I counted them, finally.  30 pages of notes - college rule, single side - for roughly 97000 words.  Or 1 page of notes per approximately 3200 words worth of story.  

As always, some are as simple as noting that a comma needs to be inserted or removed.  But I really try not to hit the simple stuff on the first draft.  Most of it is bigger stuff - rewriting a line, etc.  Some of it is huge, like rewriting an entire scene.  

All in all, though, this is a solid book.  Nothing that makes me want to scrap a whole chapter or anything.  

Okay, so maybe I'm unsure about whether to leave a large chunk of the end to the next book.  I'll either figure it out myself or let my readers tell me what they think.  But that's down the road a ways.  

I'm also playing with the idea of adding to the beginning because right now, it just sort of throws the reader into the thick of things without a whole lot of set-up.  (Not the main thick, but sort of the beginning thick.)

I had hoped to have this phase finished by the end of October, but somehow it reached the friggin' 18th of the month and finishing this phase in the remaining 13 days seems problematic.  We'll see how it goes.

And I need a title.  I had a list of potential titles, but I just looked at it and they all suck.  I'm not sure what in my head thought 'Time of the Twins' would've been a good idea... There's a Dragonlance book with that title already.  Nope nope nope.  Not riffin' off that series and don't even want a hint it's anything like those books.  Derp.  It's bad enough I've already got my name lending the impression I'm nursing at the Brandon Sanderson teats.  

Speaking of which, I might publish this under my maiden name.  B.E. Meissner worked for me when I was a maiden, so why not now?  

And I'm playing with the idea of trying to get this published through Baen or something.  Gah, the idea of querying makes me want to hurl.  But they have resources I don't have, so going with them would get me a better cover than I can afford.  It would definitely get me better exposure.  The question is whether they'd want an old self-pubber like me.  :shrug:

Decisions, decisions.  On the upside, I have a lot of work to do before I have to make a decision of any kind.  Yay for turtle speed.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Anything Can be a Weapon

 On FB the other day, I saw people arguing about whether or not keys were an effective weapon against assault.  You know the idea, I hope... Hold your keys with the points sticking out between your fingers and if you're assaulted, go for their face.  One dude was totally against it, saying you'd be better off going barehanded than with your keys because the keys could mangle your hands.  P'shaw.  I'd rather chance hurting my hands to inflict maximum damage on my attacker than not.

But the thread got me thinking...  In fiction, and in real life, anything can be a weapon if you're sufficiently motivated.  In the movie Die Hard II, John McClain kills an attacker with an icicle.  In The Presidio, Sean McConnery's character beats a guy up using only his thumb.  In Grosse Pointe Blank, the MC killed a dude with a pen.  

There's a reason jails make people get rid of their keys, pens, belts, etc. before entering.  Hell, prison shanks are made from damn near everything.  Sharpen a toothbrush and there ya go.

My aunt once stabbed her husband with a fork.  Not to kill him, mind you, but to keep him from eating the last piece of pie.

When I'm out alone at the lake, I make note of the various things within reach I could use to defend myself if need be.  I have a nasty fillet knife in my tackle box.  I have another nasty knife in my go-bag that I sometimes transfer to my pocket.  And I trained myself to be able to pull it out and flip it open one-handed.  I also carry pepper-spray.  I might not always be able to reach those, though.  So I look elsewhere.  Any rock or stick will do.  Hell, at the end of the book Red Dragon, the MCs wife hits the killer with a fishing pole - complete with lures at the end.  If you've never accidentally stuck a fish hook in your hand, you don't know what exquisite pain that can be.  In that case, the pain was sufficient to distract the killer and allow time for someone else to kill him.  Yay.

If it's pointy, a person can be stabbed with it.  If it's heavy, a person can be pummeled with it.  If it's sharp, they can be cut.  In Red 2, the Asian assassin kills a guy with origami, for petesakes.  Who says paper can't be a weapon?  LOL

The idea isn't necessarily to kill the other person.  Especially in a self-defense situation.  The idea might be as simple as giving yourself or your characters a chance to get away.  Stab the villain in the face with your nail file and run like hell.  Scratch them with your car keys.  Poke them with your stiletto heel.  Hit them with your purse full of whatever.  (In 101 Dalmations (the live action one with Glen Close), the heroine's purse was filled with stones she was collecting to pave her garden walk.)

Expand your idea of what can be a weapon and use it to enrich your fiction.  Or save your own life.  Whatever works for you.

What are some other unusual weapons you seen or read about?

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Updates... Finally

Sorry that it's been a couple months since I posted here.  If you've been following along over at The Writing Spectacle, you know why.  If not, I was helping a friend prepare to move.  That's done now, so I am trying to get back to my regularly scheduled life.  Which means writing... or rather writerly pursuits.

Yesterday, I picked up Untitled Fantasy again and got back to making edit notes.  I was a little over halfway through.  Now I'm a little bit more over halfway through.

I feared I wouldn't be able to get back into the groove after six weeks away, but I picked up right where I'd left off and it was like I hadn't ever stopped.  Which was totally cool.  Usually my brain is all like 'what the hell is happening here' and then I'm forced to go back and figure out where I left off.  Yay for brain cooperation.  

This is still a behemoth and I still have 42% of the book to make edit notes on, but I'm progressing again.  Now, let's see if the notes I made in July and August make any sense when I circle around and start inputting them into the manuscript.  

I've also been playing with the idea of writing that Christmas short story set in my genie world.  Don't get your hopes up.  I started that thing a few years ago and never got back to it.  But it would be a nice thing to finish and get out there in the world in time for the holidays.  We'll see.

One thing I really need to do is get back to marketing, but I'm not sure where to start and how well any of it will be received after all this time.  I mean, it's been a while since anything sold, so the rankings are in the basement and generally, whether we like it or not, that means people are less likely to want to take a chance on a new-to-them book with craptastic rankings.  It's best to market when you have a reason to market - like a new book out.  Since I don't have a new book out and I'm not going to any time soon, I guess I'll have to make up my own reasons and go for it.  Halloween is always a good reason.  Maybe I'll do a sale on the genie books around Halloween.  Maybe the model books.  We'll see.  Stay tuned.

Also, looking forward, we have a little less than three months to the end of the year.  Yeah, I know you don't want to think about that, but I need to.  Spreadsheets arem't going to make themselves and all that.  

So, what's on your plate these days?  What's up for the rest of the year?  Any plans?  Or are you hiding from the 2022 workload for a bit longer?