Mar

4

2014

The Pessimist’s Guide to Things That Will Never Work

by Dan Balow

tired young businessman

This is the first in a three-part series on attitudes toward work, specifically for people in publishing.

Today, I am writing about pessimism.  If there were a book glorifying its virtues, it would be the title above.  It would be a thousand pages long with an updated and expanded edition published annually.

Full disclosure…I became a baseball fan of the Chicago Cubs in 1966, a year when they lost a team record 103 games.  Their last World Series Championship? Just five short years after Orville and Wilbur Wright flew twelve seconds in a powered aircraft at Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903.  A long time ago.

Trust me, I understood pessimism from a young age. 

I define pessimism as a defense mechanism for anyone who wants to avoid disappointment. Pessimists expect to lose a coin flip even though there is just as good a chance they could win.

Back to the Cubs, the late Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko once wrote, “An optimist looks at a glass of water and sees it as half full. A pessimist looks at the same glass and sees it as half empty. A Cubs fan looks at it and says, ‘When’s it gonna spill?’”

There are good reasons to be a pessimist, especially for authors. The odds are stacked against both the new author and previously published author.  Considering all the people who want to write a book in the world, you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than publishing a best-seller that makes enough money so you can quit your day job.

There are even some pessimists at publishers, because even after deciding to publish a book, the chances are about 50/50 that it will never earn back the advance paid to the author. 

The most interesting aspect of this is that while eternal optimists are considered unrealistic, pessimists are often considered wise, when really they have simple 20/20 hindsight mistaken for wise foresight.  You know them.  The “I knew it wouldn’t work” crowd.

Publishing is a tough business, but if it were easy, everyone would be doing it and making lots of money.

The great science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein said it best,  “Don’t ever become a pessimist…a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.”

It is pretty simple.  Choose this day your attitude.  Optimism is just a lot more enjoyable!

Mar

3

2014

Did You Feel the Tremor in the Industry Last Week?

by Steve Laube

800px-Good_Friday_Earthquake_at_Turnagain_Arm

I know what it is like to feel the earth move under my feet having experienced the ’64 Alaska earthquake firsthand. (The above picture is from the neighborhood where we lived called Turnagain Arm.) Therefore I know the difference between a 9.2 Richter scale quake and a tremor that registers near 2.0 on the scale.

Last Thursday Amazon announced they were reducing the royalty payments for authors and vendors who use their ACX service to sell self-published audio books. The amount will change on March 12th for new contracts to a flat rate of 40% instead of the 50%-90% rate they currently pay.

No big deal, right? Sort of like a 2.0 tremor. If you blinked you missed it. And since many don’t have an ACX account to sell audio books they are unaffected. However this should be a reminder to all authors and publishers who use KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) that Amazon can change their royalty terms at any time.

This is the danger of putting all the proverbial eggs in one basket. If any author chooses to only utilize the economic system of Amazon for their sales they can be vulnerable to any changes. I once met a man who sold the foil that was used to make the dairy creamer packets for McDonalds. He had one client. His job was to search the world for the best price on foil. And he lived in terror of losing his client.

Be very clear, I am not suggesting that this is going to happen. Amazon’s 70% royalty rate on kindle ebooks has not changed. All I am suggesting is that it could.

[ Read More → ]

Feb

28

2014

Fun Fridays – February 28, 2014

“Thunderstruck” by 2Cellos.

Re-imagine something and turn it into something of your own. Great artists and Great writers do this every day.
Who knew AC/DC could ever sound like this?

[ Read More → ]

Feb

27

2014

How Much Back Story?

by Tamela Hancock Murray

escape

Sometimes in my review of a novel, I find that the story doesn’t pick up soon enough. I’m not sure what I’ll be reading about and my interest may lag, though I can still eye great writing.

“But I wanted my readers to know about my characters,” the author may protest.

Understandable, indeed.

However, I believe it’s important to lay out the basic conflicts for the reader early on so she’ll know what she’ll be exploring with you and will be eager to keep diving in. Before I learn that the hero had a difficult childhood and the heroine struggles with lingering effects of poverty, I want to know their immediate obstacles to their current goals. Those goals may be (whether they know it or not) their ultimate romance. Or they may be involved in a quest. Or perhaps solving a mystery. In any event, the reader wants to know what type of book he’ll be reading and will want to learn what obstacles he’ll be overcoming with the characters right away. Then, once the reader is interested in the characters’ journey, their back story will be all the more fascinating and relevant.

[ Read More → ]

Feb

26

2014

What Will You Give Up for Lent?

by Karen Ball

Lent

Believe it or not, Easter is just around the corner. Which means something else is almost upon us:

Lent.

I love the idea of a 40-day preparation for Easter, of refocusing our hearts and minds to spend more time in prayer and contemplation of what Christ has done for us. And I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of “giving up” something for those 40 days. Even more intriguing—and sometimes amusing–is what people choose to surrender. For example:

Watching TV
Playing computer games
Chocolate (now there’s a sacrifice!)
Going online
Sugar
Caffeine (just shoot me now!)
Wearing shoes

And on and on it goes. (In fact, check out the websites at the end of this blog that share the multitudes of things folks give up for this season.) But I want to suggest something a bit different for those of us who make our living in publishing. How about giving up something really tough? How about giving up something like:

[ Read More → ]

Feb

25

2014

Basketball and Writing

by Dan Balow

Basketball

Next week is March and that means basketball “March Madness” around the country.  From high school to college, teams will compete in tournaments where excitement is at its peak.  

One of my hobbies is to work as the official scorer for the Wheaton College (Illinois) men’s and women’s home basketball games.  I started doing this back in the late 70’s, took some time away from it when our kids were young and then started up again in earnest about eight years ago.

I sit at the scorer table at center court, in a striped referee shirt and mark down in a book what happens.  If I am wrong, someone gets mad.

[ Read More → ]

Feb

24

2014

Defusing Contract Landmines

by Steve Laube

Laptop explodes

During the last six months we have run into some landmines buried within some small press contracts. In each case it was the author’s relationship with the publisher that helped land the offer, and so we proceeded to review the paperwork in order to protect the author’s interests.

In one case the small publisher was very grateful for our negotiations and contract changes. They plan to change their contract for all authors in the future. We were glad to help our client form that new partnership.

In two cases the publisher said they could not afford to hire a lawyer to review our requested changes to the contract and thus were unwilling to negotiate. We recommended the author walk away both times.

In yet another case the publisher wouldn’t negotiate and said, in essence, “take it or leave it.” We walked away. Our client terminated their relationship with us and signed the deal on their own.

[ Read More → ]

Feb

21

2014

Fun Fridays – February 21, 2014

A parody of the song “Blurred Lines” now called “Church Signs.”
Found at Jon Acuff’s “Stuff Christians Like” blog. Blame him.

[ Read More → ]

Feb

20

2014

Do You Like to Cry While Reading?

by Tamela Hancock Murray

Woman in tears

I’ll have to admit, I don’t like to cry. I don’t even like depressing songs. Instead I prefer things that are upbeat. For example, here are some of the lyrics to a song that helped me get through my teen years:

Flashlight.

Red Light.

Neon Light.

Spotlight.

Most of all you can funk. Help me find the funk….

Yoww

I think I found the funk!

["Flashlight" was written by Ronald R. Brooks, Gregory E. Jacobs, David R. Elliot, Bernard Worrell, William Earl Collins, and George Clinton Jr..]

Not that I can’t get serious. But I still like that fun song even today.

So now it’s your turn, if you like to cry while reading. What have been your favorite tearjerker books? I’ll give you a clue. Steve Laube told me that the marketing people at Bethany Publishing House wanted to mail a box of tissues with every copy of Deborah Raney’s A Vow to Cherish when it was first published.

So, what is your favorite tearjerker novel? 

[ Read More → ]

Feb

19

2014

Spring is Here!

by Karen Ball

[caption id="attachment_7939" align="aligncenter" width="456"]2014 spring flower A picture of a beautiful flower I took this morning in our garden.[/caption]

It started two weeks ago. Little green sprouts poking up through the frozen, barren ground. Ground that, thanks to a winter of record-breaking cold, was so hard just a month ago that not even my shovel made a dent in it. So you can imagine my delight when I spotted those bits of green pushing their way through that same, dead earth. I checked them every day, watching and waiting. Because I knew what was coming. And sure enough, last week those hardy green shoots boasted buds. With unseasonable frosts in the forecast, I worried they wouldn’t make it. But hallelujah! Not only did they survive, but this week they exploded in beautiful blossoms. Now, instead of empty ground, crocuses and miniature irises paint my yard with purple and yellow. And today, the daffodils and jonquils joined in, bringing a smile to my face and heart with the news:

Spring is here!

[ Read More → ]
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