Download Samurai novelette Cold Saké — FREE* now on Kindle Unlimited

Have you joined the free trial of Kindle Unlimited? If so, now’s your chance to download and read Katherine M. Lawrence’s novelette for free*!

* Well, it’s “free” during the free trial, and included in the $9.99 Kindle Unlimited subscription meal if you decide to try the book later.

Cold Saké  introduces Yamabuki, a young woman samurai who actually lived in 12th-century Japan. In this tale, she encounters supernatural mysteries in a remote country inn.

Cold Saké novelette, Kindle edition

Cold Saké, by Katherine M. Lawrence

And Cold Saké is but the beginning. Yamabuki is the lead character in Katherine’s upcoming multi-novel saga about this young woman warrior as she faces challenges in the runup to the great Gempei War. Katherine is about to hand over to our editor her manuscript for the first full-length novel featuring Yamabuki. (An extended excerpt from an early draft of the novel is included in the Cold Sake ebook.) Katherine’s novel, as well as a short story and a shorter novel, are coming this fall in ebook and paperback formats. (Sign up for our newsletter to get early word on release dates.)

Meanwhile, you can get Cold Saké now!

Photo: Comstock

Our new domain: TootSweet.Ink

We have a few domains currently, and odds are, if you tried one of the others, you were redirected here to our new domain:

TootSweet.Ink

WordPress.com (our current host) supposedly redirects all URLs, including the RSS feeds, so feed readers like Feedly may continue to work fine. Our new feed URL is http://tootsweet.ink/feed if you would like to update our entry in your reader of choice.

What is vanity press? (The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 1: The Numbers)

Laura Lis Scott:

Independent publishing and self-publishing should not be confused with vanity publishing, which is a completely different animal, epitomized by Author Solutions.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

authorsolutionsPRHThe more you study an operation like Author Solutions, the more it resembles a two-bit internet scam, except on a colossal scale.

Internet scammers work on percentages. They know that only a tiny fraction of people will get hoodwinked so they flood the world’s inboxes with spammy junk.

While reputable self-publishing services can rely on author referrals and word-of-mouth, Author Solutions is forced to take a different approach. According to figures released by Author Solutions itself when it was looking for a buyer in 2012, it spent a whopping $11.9m on customer acquisition in 2011 alone.

This money is spent on:

View original 1,975 more words

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Times for submissions

Call me old school. I started writing on typewriters. And that meant Courier was the font. (Actually I liked Elite a bit more, but I digress.) You typed your pages in Courier, and you typed them double spaced.

If you search online for manuscript formatting today, you find recommendations — and they are quite particular — for the same thing: Courier double-spaced. Compile your novel in Scrivener for manuscript and you get Courier.

Today at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, though, four working editors in traditional publishing said they don’t want — to the point of hating — Courier.

Use Times 12 pt double spaced, and have 1″ margins all around, and indent your paragraphs 1/2″ — and indent in styles, not using tabs. (Page layout down the line is done using styles, not your hacky carriage returns, spaces and tabs.

And do NOT use Courier. (It was mentioned in the same breath as Comic Sans. Enough said?)

So there it is, another data point.

(For the record, we’re fine with Courier, but agree about using styles. Learn the styles usage in your wordprocessor. Find them under Help. Be kind to those downstream.)

keyboard photo by Laura Scott

Independent Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Pros and Cons

I

After months or years of writing and rewriting, editing and revising, reworking and polishing, you’ve finally done it—you’ve completed your novel! You have your manuscript in hand, substantial in heft, ready for the next step.

Now what?

What is an author to do with a completed novel manuscript? These are the pros and cons I can think of.

The Options

Independent (or “Self-”) Publishing

Pros

  1. I keep my rights.
  2. The burden of having a hit from the start is reduced, because the book can continue to earn income for the rest of my life.
  3. The book is faster to market.
  4. I decide what the book is and when the book is ready. (Admittedly, this may be viewed as a con as well.)
  5. I choose my own editor(s) and proofreaders.
  6. I choose my own designers.
  7. I control the book’s print layout.
  8. I have a say (or even control) in how the book is marketed, and how I am marketed.
  9. I’m free of the imperatives of hit-driven economics, which seem to be a growing force in traditional publishing, where huge bestsellers are their main priority to cover their overheads.

Cons

  1. Limited marketing resources. While it’s possible to have serious money promoting your traditionally published novel, in going indie there’s pretty much no chance at all. And there’s lots of noise in the market—lots of competition. It’s very very hard to be discovered by readers.
  2. The book may not sell well.
  3. By self-publishing, I earn the often vehement disrespect of the highbrows.
  4. I risk being blacklisted by some editors and publishers in traditional publishing. (Some people claim I will be closing the doors forever.)
  5. I can expect to receive the cold shoulder from many reviewers, especially those in old media (newspapers, magazines).
  6. I have to find my own editors and proofreaders.
  7. I have to find my own designers or do it myself.
  8. I have to lay out the book myself (though I’ve done lots of layout, and enjoy the work, so this isn’t much of a con).
  9. I have to work very hard to get my book into bookstores. Some say it’s impossible. Others say it’s not only possible, but they are doing it, though it’s hard.
  10. I’m mostly dependent upon Amazon for sales. Can Amazon be trusted?

Traditional Publishing

Pros

  1. If I have the skill and luck to (a) get an agent and (b) get a book deal, I can say I’m published by a traditional New York publishing house. That appeals to my vanity.
  2. If the publisher believes they can sell this book, it may get into a lot of bookstores.
  3. Old media book reviewers may pay attention.
  4. I may receive more than a token advance (i.e., money I actually can live on). It’s a long shot, but hey, someone has to win the Powerball eventually.
  5. The Big 5 have some talented and experienced editors and marketers. (This pro is attenuated by the fact that there are talented and experienced editors and marketers outside of the Big 5.)
  6. I would not have to pay out of pocket for editing and proofreading. (TANSTAAFL—I’ll be paying in the overall deal. This isn’t charity.)

Cons

  1. All the pros listed above require a lot of luck. I believe in my own writing. However, even assuming I write a very good book, the odds of getting any kind of book deal with the Big 5 are against me. So the most likely outcome is that there is nothing in the “pros” column. The myth of meritocracy says that all the cream rises to the top, but life tells us that this is not true. When the “slush pile” — and how’s that for an indication of how publishers view writers? — is filtered first by entry-level readers with no experience and questionable ability, you can get shut out before you even get started.
  2. Not only that, if I am not lucky enough to get an agent who believes in my work and whom I believe can do right by me, my odds at getting a deal with the Big 5, which already are long, become longer. I have to win the lottery twice to win anything at all.
  3. I may be asked to change my novel to make it into something the agent thinks she can sell to the publishers. This constitutes altering my work to someone else’s vision, and doing it on spec—after writing my vision on spec.
  4. I may be asked to change my novel to make it into something the publisher wants to sell. Even if I’m writing genre, this sounds like a painful thing.
  5. Publishers seem to be investing real marketing resources only in their bestsellers. The rest of the authors get some tacit marketing support for a few months, and if the book doesn’t sell, it gets remaindered, returned, and disappears from bookstores. So once my book is no longer “new,” what happens to it then?
  6. Assuming the long shot happens and I actually have the opportunity to sign a book deal, I will be selling away all my rights for life plus 70 years, so whatever the advance might be, odds are that is all I will ever see out of the book.
  7. The advances publishers are offering on average aren’t enough to live on, and they’re spread out.
  8. The process of seeking an agent and a book deal is slow. It might take a couple of years to get anywhere.
  9. I have no real influence on how the book is marketed.

Am I leaving anything out?

Tipping the Scales

Everyone’s situation is different. Everyone will weigh these factors differently. Here’s where I’m coming from:

  • I am in my 50s. Everything I do that affects finances I have to look at in terms of an investment. One-off deals have to be pretty darned big to entice me away from long-term results. In this regard, if I just look at the numbers, a one-time sale must come with a significant advance to outweigh the prospect of earning smaller amounts continuously; and realistically, as an unknown author, I cannot reasonably expect an advance larger than the median of $10,000-$15,000—and that’s if I can interest one of the Big 5 at all. Even a possible one-time advance of $50,000 doesn’t sound like much. (See my thoughts on this.)
  • I’m old and cranky enough to know that traditional publishers don’t have a crystal ball, and don’t have perfect taste. I don’t either, but if it’s my taste and my decision, I can at least adapt and change.
  • I’m compulsively entrepreneurial.
  • I like the idea of wading into the future instead of gambling on the past.
  • It’s not like the New York publishers are even the publishers we think they are, not when they’re appendices of global conglomerates who don’t give two hoots about books.

What do you think? What tips the scales for you?

Gumbo

G is for Gumbo

GSome of my favorite foods are gumbo.

Note that I did not say, “One of my favorite foods is gumbo”; gumbo is not a singular dish, but more a genre of dishes following a general form:

  • Roux
  • Vegetables
  • Stock
  • Spices
  • Meat (or other)
roux

Roux can be thick or thin, light or taken all the way towards black. Just don’t burn it!

Everyone who makes gumbo makes it differently. Roux — basically a cooked combination of oil or fat and starch, usually flour (and if this sounds somewhat similar to your Thanksgiving gravy recipe, it is!) — can be created from vegetable oil, turkey drippings, pork fat, or other alternative, cooked on high heat or low heat, made thick like paste or thin like soup, and brought to a golden blonde color or all the way to a brown so dark it’s almost black. Yes, there are rules: don’t stop stirring, and don’t let it burn. That’s just about it on the rules. The rest is to personal style and taste of the chef … and the diners.

peppers

Which veggies?

What vegetables you use are also up to you. The traditional “trinity” consists of chopped celery, onions and peppers, but which you actually use, and in what proportions, again is up to personal style. You mix these into the roux, cooking them in its heat.

stock pouring into gumbo

You choose what stock to use.

The stock is usually chicken stock, but it could be turkey stock, beef stock, even a vegetable stock. You pour this in once you’ve driven off the water from the vegetables — which then take up the stock.

The traditional spice in gumbo is cayenne pepper, but again, it’s a matter of taste.

spices

You like it spicy? Savory?


Some add numerous different pepper varieties, salt, garlic, onion…. You get the idea.

Meat of course is a matter of taste. Vegetarians might use radish or potato. Personally I love it with pork sausages and chicken.

gumbo

Chicken? Pork? Potato? You choose.

Some people think that gumbo always has seafood. That’s not required. In fact, it can be quite rare. Fancy restaurants may offer a seafood gumbo, but that could be just to appeal to their clientele.

The final result, as you can imagine, could almost be anything. The only thing consistent is the general form of the dish.

books

Photo: Germán Póo-Caamaño (Creative Commons)

Aren’t novels similar?

We have conventions about what must comprise novels — a protagonist or protagonists, some sort of conflict, an obstacle and/or antagonist, and a resolution — and there are general rules of grammar and punctuation, even if much of that really comes down to contemporary conventions and personal style. There is a general collective sense of what a novel is.

And yet does that mean that novels can be predicted? Of course not. Like gumbo, novels, while following the general form, can really be almost anything.

And like gumbo, when they’re prepared well by a talented chef, they are delicious.

Photo: Lâm HUA (Creative Commons)

F is for Focus

FThere’s a good reason time/task management apps and systems are all the rage: We all have too much on our plate, too much to do, not enough energy, not enough time. We grasp at systems to help us get organized, to help us focus.

This isn’t a new thing. Before “Getting Things Done,” there were the Franklin Planner, Day-Timer, Day Runner, and various other systems to organize the too-much-to-do into prioritized do-it-this-way lists, and focus on, well, getting things done.

I’ve tried GTD, Franklin and Day Runner systems (as well as other experiments and oddball approaches like one-sheet and 3-day-rule hacks). In my own lay understanding: GTD has you have separate processes for the organizing and the doing, and then do the simple, easy things first; the Franklin system starts with governing values, from which you define goals, by which you decide on which tasks must be done today, which should be done today, and which could be done today, always being away of what’s urgent vs. what’s important; and Dayrunner was, basically, keep all your info together and write everything down.

I’m sure I’m doing injustice to all of them.

I haven’t been good at sticking to any of these systems. They all have merit. But in the end, they come down to systems to Build a Better Superego, a more effective parent persona to waggle a finger at us, a bigger stick with which to beat ourselves.

Ultimately, though, what we do easiest and almost compulsively is the work that requires no to-do list: the work we love. For this, no superego is required.

Yet we have to allow ourselves to embrace this love. We have to give ourselves time and place to focus, where we can allow that work of love to happen — where we feel free to lose ourselves in that work, not because it’s on a list but because it’s what we want to do, need to do.

We need a box of time within which we are free to focus on that which we love doing.

John Cleese has some very interesting thoughts on this.

Enjoy.

BTW, Kate was going to write our F post today, but instead she’s working on her Yamabuki saga. That’s what we like!

Focus!

[Photo: Lâm HUA (Creative Commons)]

E is for eBooks

EFor decades, the music industry believed that what they sold were albums (on vinyl and then on CD). When mp3s became a standard electronic file format for audio files, the music studios had no idea what to do. The idea that they were selling music seemed to elude them. Now things have started to settle out a bit, and you can buy music online from a number of retailers. But not so long ago, the only way you could buy music was to buy their album product or pirate the content. For years, I would play the CDs I bought once — when I ripped them to iTunes so I could put the mp3 files onto my iPod.

We’re seeing similar things now in the book industry, which is only now starting to wake up to the fact that they are in fact selling writing, not the physical package of the writing we call “books.”

eBooks really kind of brought that to the fore. At first, people were skeptical — I was skeptical. But lots of people loved this easier, quicker, convenient way to buy and read books. It was about the content, not about the package.

Of course there’s still packaging involved, but the means to create that packaging are not restricted to the deep-pocketed few. Meanwhile, authors are finding that their readers are much closer, much more within reach directly in the market than ever before.

Of course, ebooks represent a minority of overall book sales (or so we suspect). But the paradigm has shifted. We are not selling packages created by publishers. We are selling writing created by authors.

The Disruptive “D”

DPublishing is undergoing disruption.

Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen introduced the world to his analysis of technological changes in his seminal “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” where be coined the word (and idea) of “disruption.”

Long standing firms (incumbents) suddenly lose the power and dominance to disruptors who enter the market either at the low end, or in places that the incumbent does not serve; then the disruptor gets a toe-hold, and starts to move up the food chain where the profits are better.

It’s happening in publishing, just as it happened in automobiles when the Japanese entered the car market at the low end and pretty much overturned Detroit’s dominance.

Peter Drucker tells us about how products work in markets. First, there is the product itself; second, the channel of distribution; and third, the market itself (i.e., how the product is consumed). Managers can order a product change more easily than a distribution change or a market change.

Consider motion pictures, going back to the days of silent movies. It was a very cumbersome process—requiring consumers to go to a theater at set times to sit before a screen as a group and watch what the film maker had to show.

Today, while theaters are still a factor, movies are streamed directly to homes and watched commercial free. Odd, the place we see commercials now is in theaters. Moreover, we watch the films whenever we want.

At one time television almost drove movie theaters into oblivion. Television monetized itself based on the concept of the commercial—radio had been doing that for some time. Yet, with the advent of the DVR, such as TiVo, commercials could be skipped by a process of fast-forwarding.

And of course, Netflix takes it to a whole other level, not to mention series such as Game of Thrones, True Blood, and True Detectives.

Back to Drucker. The product has changed a bit, yet if someone from 1920 were to see a current movie, they’d pretty much get that that’s what it was…a movie.

But the channels of distribution, and how we consume the movie, have changed quite a bit and the old business models have been disrupted.

People got rich off those business models and anyone who’s seen Hollywood mansions knows that for a time the model worked well for the owners.

Publishing is going through much of the same—disruption.

Like the theaters of old, until recently books had to be “consumed” in special place—bookstores and libraries. With Amazon and Kindle and other electronic means, publishing is shaking out and the publishers largely do not like what is happening.

Detroit did not make long-term headway by pointing out how “crummy” the first Japanese cars were, though students of the early 1970s can go back and see there were all sorts of articles out there to prove just that.

However, with time, the Japanese automobile manufacturers came up-market all the way to the Lexus.

Publishers are trying to use the same argument about the e-press. “There are a lot of crummy books out there,” they say, and they’d be right, but anyone who’s spent any time at an antiquarian books store will probably say that it has always been so.

It’s not whether a book is good or bad, but how does it navigate the channels of distribution and how is it consumed? The existing channels are being disrupted, just like movie theaters went to their nadir as television made distributed home-viewing more popular than centralized theater-viewing. Everyone’s said, “I’ll wait for it to come out on DVD,” or is that Blu-ray or Netflix now?

At bottom, the artist (the writer) has not changed, though we’ve given up our candle-lit rooms with inkwells and quills for the halo light of laptops with word processors integrated with grammar and spellcheckers, dictionaries, and thesauruses.

Was it Marx who said that the Workers would do well to seize the means of production? Those of us who were early adopters of word processors, decades ago, whether we knew it or not, were doing exactly that—seizing the means of production.

But the other part of equation—distribution and consumption—are now being disrupted as other industries were in other eras.

We are now seizing the means of distribution and consumption, and like Detroit, there may be no way to stop this.

Indeed, Elvis has left the building.