Friday, April 3, 2020


By Abir

These are extraordinary times. How has the business of being an author changed, for you, in this new reality? 

Welcome to Friday.

Another week in this new reality draws to a close, not that there seems to be much of difference between a weekday and the weekend anymore. I hope you’re all hunkered down, safe and sound, looking after your loved ones and have a plentiful supply of life’s essentials: tea, toilet paper and a shed load of good books to read.

So this week’s question: How has the business of being an author changed in this brave new world?

I suppose the first thing to say is that my productivity has plummeted. It’s not just declined, it’s fallen through the floor and heading for the subway. I’m not the only author who seems to have been affected in this way, but that’s cold comfort. 

Too often I find myself staring at a blank screen for what feels like hours. When the words come, they come as a trickle and they’re bad…really bad. Like grade school bad. I can feel my characters staring up at me and saying, ‘What the hell, mate? What sort of words are these? You know we talk more goodly than this, right?’

I mouth them an apology and blame it on the fact that since the schools closed and the kids have been at home, my routine has gone out of the window. But the truth is deeper than that. I haven’t been able to focus for almost a month now. 

I’m trying to write two books at the moment: the fifth book in the Wyndham and Banerjee series, and my first non-India set book: one which is based mainly in present-day USA. Unfortunately both are floundering at the moment.

I was intrigued to read yesterday that Jim is writing a book set in India – I can’t wait to read it! 

Each morning I get up and tell myself, ‘Today I will break the impasse. Today the words will start flowing,’ and then I’ll spend the best part of the morning arsing around doing admin and e mails and all the other stuff rather than concentrating on the writing. Things have gotten so bad that I’ve even made a start on my taxes rather than write words.

I’m counting my blessings, though. The family are all safe and well. Even my stubborn old mum who’s in her seventies but acts like she’s twenty-five, has taken heed of the advice I and my sister have shouted at her and has been self-isolating. And as an author, used to having months with little cash coming in, I’m aware at just how lucky I am that my livelihood, so far, hasn’t been damaged to any great degree. 

What has been hit are the events and book festivals I was scheduled to attend. These are being cancelled across the world. In one fortnight alone, I was supposed to be in Belfast, Glasgow and Lyon in France, and missing these hurts, as meeting people at events are my favourite, but what hurts most is the cancellation of the Edgars in New York. I love my trips to the US, and I was hoping to tack on a week or two for research. That plan has now gone out of the window. 

Throughout the summer, I was scheduled to attend festivals from the north of Scotland to India. All have been cancelled, and while there’s a revenue hit – in the UK authors are generally paid to appear at festivals - that’s minimal inconvenience compared to the what the hard working organisers go through.

In terms of book launches, I’ve been quite fortunate. I had fa ew launches of my books scheduled in different countries during this period, but most have been pushed back. To be honest my biggest concern is Italy – not for my books, but for my wonderful publishers there who have always treated me like family. They are fantastic people and I worry for them. For the moment they are all well, but it’s been difficult.

The final part of the picture, I suppose, is book sales. I receive my UK sales figures on a weekly basis, and after the first week of lock down I saw a 30% rise (albeit from a low base!) in sales across all formats and books. This seems to be in keeping with the market as a whole, which saw a 30% to 35% rise that week. But then last week the bookshops closed and Amazon have stopped shipping physical books, so who knows what this week’s sales will look like.

So that’s it. My writing life has slowed and feels like plodding through treacle. I fill the time by doing taxes, pretending to teach the kids, shouting at my mum to stay indoors and, in turn am being shouted at by my wife, who thinks that if I so much as look outside, I’m going to catch Covid-19. I keep telling her I’m invincible but she doesn’t listen. But as long as that’s the sum of my worries, it really isn’t so bad.

Take care, folks. Look after yourselves and your families and hopefully we’ll get through this soon.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

I Wrote a Book about a Quarantine in an Italian Villa and I Don’t Know How to Promote It from James W. Ziskin

These are extraordinary times. How has the business of being an author changed, for you, in this new reality?

From Jim

There’s a remarkable irony, or coincidence, in this time of social distancing and self-isolation. To wit, I wrote a book about a quarantine that came out the day after the first U.S. case of Coronavirus was diagnosed. More on that in a bit. First, here’s what I’ve been doing under quarantine.

I don’t spend as much time in the car, running errands. I drink more than usual, which makes me feel like a true writer. My wife and I are cooking more often, trying new dishes, and treating this isolation as a gift of time to spend together, even if we’re both doing our different work.

Funny, though. Writing is no easier. Despite the luxury of time, it’s still a slog. Most days, at least. I’ve written a short story, “The Twenty-Five-Year Engagement,” that will appear in an anthology this fall. I wrestled with some far-out ideas (Caveman Detective, for one); there were no limitations on what kind of story we could write. But, in the end, I decided to take a stab at a traditional Holmesian story with Watson narrating. The challenges were many. The voice had to be right, which presented vocabulary and grammatical difficulties. I had a couple of tricks up my sleeve to be sure the words and phrases I used were in currency in 1883 London. First, a concordance of the complete works of A. Conan Doyle. If the word I was looking for could be found there, obviously it was okay for my story. Another great resource is Google’s Ngram Viewer It’s not foolproof, but it saved me from several terms that I’d assumed were fine to use but were not. Some were Americanisms not used in England at that time. Others were simply more modern. The experience was an entertaining one. I hope you’ll order the book.

In League with Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon (December 1, 2020) edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger

Click to buy

I’ve also begun working on a new novel. Taking a short break from my Ellie Stone series. Tentatively titled ARTICLE 352, it’s set in India during the eighteen-month Emergency. From June 1975 to January 1977, Indira Gandhi ruled by decree, suspended many civil liberties, censored the press, and jailed her political opponents. (ARTICLE 352 refers to the provision in the Indian Constitution that grants the president the power to declare a national emergency.) And though I have plenty of time to work on this book these days, the research is a bear. I hope to get back to India later this year to do essential on-site digging.

By far the biggest change in the business of being an author is the ability to promote. As I mentioned above, my latest Ellie Stone mystery, TURN TO STONE, came out January 21, 2020, exactly one day after the first Covid-19 case in the U.S. was diagnosed. I was able to schedule only two signings before it became clear that this was a crisis and public gatherings were canceled. So, along with so many other writers—all writers, really—I’m faced with the prospect of promoting a book without leaving the house. And I confess that I have not figured it out yet. And do I really need to point out that TURN TO STONE is a book that’s actually about a quarantine in an Italian villa in 1963?

Click to buy

I considered posting some videos or photos of me preparing some of the delicious Tuscan dishes that appear in my book, but there’s a problem. A lot—most—of the recipes call for ingredients not easily found here. Rigatoni al sugo di capriolo, for example, calls for roebuck. But it’s a challenge to find venison these days. Veal shanks, too, are not always available and, given the current pandemic, I’m feeling less than inspired to traipse around town to hunt them down.

Another idea that some authors—our own Catriona McPherson included—have done is to read chapters from their books on Facebook. I’d love to try that, but there is the snag of my narrator’s being a twenty-seven-year-old woman... Still, I might just do it and shock/bemuse the world.

Here’s the shocked/bemused world reacting to my reading Ellie Stone:

Last year, I wrote a story for LOW DOWN DIRTY VOTE Vol. 1, an anthology aimed at preventing voter suppression. Recently, David Hagerty, one of the talented authors featured in the collection, suggested we read our stories one by one on Facebook. Lucky for me, Mysti Berry generously offered to read my story, “Who Is Stuart Bridge,” which again has a first-person female narrator. Here’s the schedule. If you miss it, we’ll be posting the recordings on Facebook once the live readings are complete. The FB links are in blue.

Sunday April 5 - David Hagerty reading "Chicago Style"
Monday April 6 - Catriona McPherson "Twelve, Angry"
Tuesday April 7 - Travis Richardson "Another Statistic"
Wednesday April 8 Mysti (Berry Content) reading for James Ziskin's "Who Is Stuart Bridge?"
Thursday April 9 Dale Berry (Berry Content) reading for Camille Minichino's "Civic Duty"
Friday April 10 Ann Parker "A Clean Sweep"
Saturday April 11 Kris E Calvin "Operation Fair Vote"

 Click to buy
Click to buy
So that’s what’s different today for me. I wish you all a safe quarantine. Read some books, write more, or just listen to some great authors tell their stories. And I would welcome any and all suggestions on how to promote this book at this time. Mille grazie! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Up around the bend

The world, and the way we live in it, has changed. These are extraordinary times. How has the business of being an author changed, for you, in this new reality?

by Dietrich

These are extraordinary times, and the world keeps revolving and evolving and many of the events going on around us keep us on the edge of our seats. And in order for me to get any decent writing done, I sometimes feel I need to extract myself from what’s going on in the real world, tune it all out, sit at my desk and get my head into the imaginary world that my characters live in.

As far as the publishing industry goes, in the years that I’ve been an author a lot has happened. Digital print-on-demand has become a great option to traditional offset printing. And we’ve bounced from print books to books-on-tape, to ebooks on disc to ebooks online, and back to print again. And audiobooks have come along, and they continue to be a growing segment of the industry. And self-publishing has evolved and continues to offer another avenue for authors as well as for readers. Platforms like Smashwords and CreateSpace allow indie authors to upload and market their work. 

While there has been a recent decline for the big-box book stores, it seems that many indie bookstores are starting to pick up and thrive once more. And Amazon’s book sales just keep jumping and showing stronger numbers every year. Social media, blogs and podcasts have become popular ways for published authors as well as those who are self-published to get noticed and promote their work online. And more literary festivals, conventions and special events keep popping up. 

Whatever the format, print books, ebooks, audiobooks, traditionally published or self-published, the good news is people continue to read, and they’re not just looking for the latest books, they’re also interested in backlists too.

And there are great blog sites like this one where an author can join in with other authors and be heard, and if they’re crafty, they can sneak in a little self-promotion. For example:

Cradle of the Deep 

Getting into bed with the wrong guy can get you killed.

Wanting to free herself from her boyfriend, aging gangster ‘Maddog’ Palmieri, Bobbi Ricci concocts a misguided plan with Denny, Maddog’s ex-driver, a guy who’s bent on getting even with the gangster for the humiliating way in which he was sacked.

Helping themselves to the gangster’s secret money stash, along with his Cadillac, Bobbi and Denny slip out of town, expecting to lay low for a while before enjoying the spoils.

Realizing he’s been betrayed, an enraged Maddog calls in stone-cold killer Lee Trane. As Trane picks up their trail, plans quickly change for Bobbi and Denny, who now find themselves on a wild chase of misadventure through northern British Columbia and into Alaska.

Time is running out for them once they find out that Trane’s been sent to do away with them, or worse, bring them back – either way, Maddog will make them pay.

It comes out November 3rd, and can be preordered from my publisher ECW Press here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Strange New World

Terry Shames here: 

We have a very apt question to reply to this week:
The world, and the way we live in it, has changed. These are extraordinary times. How has the business of being an author changed, for you, in this new reality?

How has it changed, past tense? It is still changing. It changes hourly.

 My new reality differs from my old reality in that without being able to go out, I have a lot more time. Which could mean more time to do productive things, but apparently actually means more time to be distracted.

Major distraction #1: 3,000-piece puzzle

I usually start working mid-day at the latest. That is, until two weeks ago when my husband and I decided to start doing social distancing a week before it was mandated. I couldn’t figure out why it took me until four or five in the afternoon to start actually putting words on paper. And then I saw an interesting take on the situation  from another author. He said that he thought authors’ brains are usually working in the background on whatever they are writing, but that worries about the virus assault have taken up the space we usually have in our brains for processing.

Distraction #2--going for walks and taking photos of flowers.

That may explain why, even though I’ve been writing 1,000-2,000 words a day, when I go back and look at the words, some of them are absolute gibberish. My first drafts are never lovely things to behold, but this is another level altogether. That said, though, I do find it’s helpful to have words down—even if they are crappy words. Editing is easier for me than having to come up with original thoughts.

As for the publishing industry itself, my agent has been worrying on her blog that publishing has dead in the water. That publishing houses were stepping back, that editors and agents were having the same trouble focusing as everyone else and therefore were not as able to look at new work. But now she says that appears to be changing and that like the rest of us the publishing world is adjusting to the new normal. I hope so. I haven’t wanted to push her about the revised manuscript I sent her a week ago.

On another note, after Left Coast Crime was cancelled, last week the Mayhem and Murder conference, scheduled for Saturday, March 21, was cancelled as well. And then a miracle occurred. Lori Rader-day and Dana Kaye, organizers of the conference, decided to take it on-line. Some of the original participants couldn’t be in the on-line event, but Lori and Dana did a brilliant job of shuffling and rescheduling to bring the conference to those interested. Almost 1,000 people signed up. The conference went on all day. I had originally intended to take part in my panel and maybe dip in here and there with other panels. I ended up watching almost day as one panel after another turned out to be as meaningful on line as in person. And the interview Dana did with Greg Hurwitz was inspired. It was almost as good seeing writer friends’ faces on the computer as it would have been in person.. You can watch the replay of the conference here: One last tidbit. During the panels, watchers were encouraged to add their comments or questions, and there was a constant stream of chat going on at the side of the screen. Interesting comments and questions.

Personally sheltering-in-place has been fine for me, because I realize how introverted I really am. Lots of people have been calling me to “say hello,” and I get tired of it! After the first few people call each day, I hear the phone ring and think, “leave me alone!” But I had a great cocktail party with two close friends Friday night—on Zoom. And my husband and I talk to my son and his girlfriend via Face Time most days.

Lucy and I wish this was over!

It’s all about coping and figuring out what makes me as an author feel like I’m moving forward. I’m curious to know how others are coping—or not.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Responding to the New Reality

Q: The world, and the way we live in it, has changed. These are extraordinary times. How has the business of being an author changed, for you, in this new reality?

Brenda Chapman here.

These are indeed exceptional times. My husband Ted and I have socially isolated for the past two weeks, some days not even unlocking the door to go outside. Happily, we've discovered Zoom and have had video conferences with family and friends to make us feel less isolated.

Dundurn released my latest book Closing Time last week, so yes, I've been fully impacted by the pandemic on the business end. The events I had lined up have been cancelled, including yesterday's decision to shelve the Ottawa book launch on May 9th. Everyone understands but the good news is that the bookseller has lots of copies and is taking orders for delivery or curbside pick up. Not the party I imagined, but still something to offer those who'd planned to attend. The last two launches, a band played for beer, and they were pumped to return for this one. I said that we'd have to have a big party when this mandatory separation is all over -- I'm pretty sure people will be ready to kick up their heels by then. The beer will definitely be flowing.

My publisher has been working on other ways to reach people. They asked me to do a reading on video in my home for them to post on Instagram. You can listen to me read the first chapter of Closing Time by clicking here and this way will get a flavour of my writing and the mystery. Dundurn also asked me to take over their Instagram account on Friday afternoon and I agreed without any idea what I was agreeing to do. This led to a scramble when I realized just before show time that I wasn't simply writing answers to questions but would be live with a need to talk (basically a monologue) for fifteen minutes. "Come up with something to say," I was told moments before. After jotting down a few ideas, I spent the ensuing time trying to figure out how to get onto Dundurn's account and how to make the video go live. The amazing thing was how much fun it all was after I knew I hadn't botched it up. Exhilerating even. 

So now that I've figured out some of this video technology, particularly Zoom, I'm available for virtual book club visits - anywhere in the world! If you have a book club or know of a group that would like to read one of my mysteries, I'd be pleased to join you for a visit. I'll even pour my own glass of wine. Simply go to my website ( and reach me through the Contact link at the top of the main page. It's a way to meet and chat with readers from the safety of our homes. And I have lots of spare time these days!

I have some book store signings and a couple of other speaking engagements lined up May into June and am waiting to see if these will be postponed or cancelled as well. Media spots are non-starters too with the local newsrooms closing or understandably focusing on Covid-19.

Perhaps the biggest change for me as a writer then, has been the uncertainty for book promotion, and the need to be creative and to roll with the shifting landscape. This is a difficult time to have a book newly released, but on the scheme of the chaos going on across the world, I'm not prepared to belly ache. Instead, I am encouraged by the way this crisis has brought people together (albeit virtually), the kindness of strangers and communities, the selfless acts of so many health professionals, first responders, grocery store workers, government workers, truckers, cleaners ... the list goes on and on.

Wherever you are, I hope that you are well and safe as are those people you care about. Keep strong, read lots of books, reach out to those living alone, and have the odd glass of wine :-) Until next time.


Twitter: brendaAchapman

Facebook: BrendaChapmanAuthor

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Publishing Times They Are A Changin’

What change in the publishing landscape over the past decade and a half has impacted you the most?

by Paul D. Marks

There’s a lot of things one could say here: social media, Netflix et al, because they take time from people reading. Smart phones and other things that have shortened our attention span and added to our need for things in short, fast, adrenalin-inducing bites. All of these have affected publishing, even if they’re not directly publishing. But if I had to pick one thing it would be Amazon—on several levels.

When Amazon started they were mainly a book seller. Then, if I remember correctly, they expanded into CDs and videos. Now, of course, they sell everything. You could probably buy a submarine on there if you wanted to. But they still sell books. And they’ve changed how books are published and sold.

And then there’s the Kindle (and like-minded devices). Instant gratification: you don’t even need a bookstore anymore. Other people do it too, Nook, Kobo, et al, but Amazon seems to have gotten the ball rolling. You can order any time of day or night and your book magically appears. And while I have a Kindle app on my tablet and do read books on it occasionally, I still prefer hardcover or paperback books. Call me Ishmael, uh, I mean call me old-fashioned. But in this coronavirus time of house arrest, er, sheltering in place it’s nice to know you can download a book that’s never been touched or breathed on by anyone else….

That said, these devices, along with being able to order books so easily on line and have them arrive in a couple of days, led the way to the demise of many brick and mortar bookstores, though I keep hearing that bookstores and paper books are making a comeback just like vinyl.

Amazon also made self-publishing a real thing and that has definitely changed the publishing landscape. Now there are more authors than you can throw a book at. And self-publishing has pluses and minuses, like most everything else. It’s given a lot more opportunity to a lot more people and it’s also opened up publishing to people who maybe should really be thinking of another line of work. I use it to self-publish single previously published stories. And it works pretty well.

Amazon also gives us an opportunity to push our books like never before. And to see “instant” ratings. To get reviews by customers and give them. Which can also be frustrating when we want to respond to a bad review, especially one that might not have anything to do with the actual content of a book, but we bite our tongues.

There are also the scammers who manage to find a way to manipulate the numbers and get their books at the top of the list. Or the sock puppeteers who post fake reviews to get more attention or take attention away from their rivals. But I think—I hope—these seem to be happening less and less.
As a writer, I think Amazon opened the floodgates to a huge variety of books that the old traditional publishing world would never have allowed through the gates. Some good, some bad, but overall better for writers and readers to have more choices. Also, older and more obscure books stay in print forever and are easier to get.

I know some people have complaints about Amazon and some are valid. But overall I think Amazon has been a boon to publishing, and especially to writers. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


And now for the usual BSP:

Coming June 1st from Down & Out Books - The Blues Don't Care:

"The Blues Don’t Care is a fun, atmospheric look at 1940s Los Angeles that almost perfectly captures the tone of all those old black and white gangster movies of the day. Bobby Saxon is such a fan of those films himself that he uses them as training films in his quest to make himself into a detective capable of solving a murder the police have little interest in solving for themselves. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it makes him crazily reckless. And that’s exactly why The Blues Don’t Care is so much fun. (Well, that and one other thing about Bobby you’re going to have to learn for yourself – trust me.)" Sam Sattler, Book Chase

Please join me on Facebook: and check out my website

Thursday, March 26, 2020

I've already MADE lemonade! By Catriona

This week's question is "What changes in publishing in the last fifteen years have had the biggest impact on your writing career?"

And I. Just. Can't.

I'm sorry. It's a good question and I'm sure lots of people are interested in the answer. I just can't.

Ten days into curve-flattening isolation, if I let myself think back over the landscape of either publishing, or my career, or - God knows - both at once, I'll cry.

So in the pursuit of what we have nobly re-cast as self-care - the same thing that used to be called flaking out - I'm going to talk about lemons instead. The rest of this blog is brought to you by the philosophy "What's life if we can't still rant about basically nothing?"

Because the other day, I posted this pic on Facebook

in a bit of a panic about how to use up the lemons I was currently harvesting from the two lemon trees (kinda; see below) in my garden. It's not normally a problem because I can give them ot friends and leave them at the road end for strangers. This year I'm not seeing friends and I don't want to encourage carloads of people to stop and cough on fruit.

After I posted the pic, two things happened. A friend, a dear friend, a real-life friend, mentioned lemon curd. Also a sister, a real sister, my sister, mentioned marmalade. Now, the Paddington reference made me smile but at the same time my eyes rolled, my teeth gnashed and my fists clenched.

My recipe for lemon curd uses only eight lemons and twelve - twelve - eggs. Also, if I bought enough sugar to make marmalade from my lemon harvest, I'd - quite properly - be set upon for hoarding by the other shoppers. It was like being told about zucchini bread in July, when courgettes you could cross the Atlantic in  are flumping up the path toward the house in the dead of night.

To be fair, I had hidden the true extent of the problem. As well as that bowl in the kitchen there was also a wheelbarrow outside, too heavy to lug up the step:

And here's the tree all these lemons came from, after I picked them:

Plus the other lemon tree I haven't got to yet (kinda; see below).

Why didn't I post all these pics? Because I thought someone might ask "Why'dya plant too many citrus trees?" And than I'd lose my mind.

Because I didn't. If I had planted four citrus trees on the terrace in my garden I would now have a navel, a Seville, a tangerine and a proper yellow lemon tree instead of what I've got which is a navel, a Meyer lemon tree, whose fruit is distinguished by being "so sweet" - that's a direct quote from a pal - when everyone knows the raison d'etre of a lemon is to be SOUR. Sorry. Okay, so a navel, a Meyer lemon, a Meyer lemon/tangerine splice for God's sake, and - I kid you not - a pomelo.

A what, you ask.


I think whoever built this house put in the trees before they sold it to the first owner and they were using up whatever stock they'd bought from the wholesale tree nursery. There's no other explanation. Pomelo! Jesus wept. Google "pomelo". You find this:

Can you eat a pomelo?
What does a pomelo taste like?
What is the benefit of pomelo?

Now Google "orange". You find:

"Is it okay to eat an orange every day?"

Something no one ever asked about a pomelo in the history of the world.


Take care, everyone.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Being Frank and... by Cathy Ace

What change in the publishing landscape over the past decade and a half has impacted you the most?

First of all, if you didn’t read Frank’s piece yesterday…do that, because he said what I would have said, but better than I would have said it. He talked about self-publishing and the access to e-books…then mentioned the perennial problem of getting readers to find out about and choose to read your books, but – as Frank wisely observed – that’s a blog for another day.

So, moving forward – and bearing in mind that in the “current situation” (my chosen euphemism for being quarantined due to the global pandemic) my answer might change within the next two hours – I think a huge change has been the shift in accessibility to Print On Demand,both for traditional and indie/self-publishers. E-books are e-books, and print is print, and the way the two options get themselves into the hands of readers is very different (NB: Yes, I know that these are extraordinary times and that the new normal isn’t anything close to normal at all, so bear with me?).

Well, here’s the thing: my Canadian traditional publisher and my British traditional publisher both shifted my books onto a Print On Demand (POD) footing long before I stopped signing contracts with them. They took the business decision that they didn’t want their money tied up in boxes and boxes of books sitting in warehouses. Fair enough. But that meant that certain booksellers wouldn’t stock those titles because – no matter if it’s a traditional publisher using POD or an independent/self publisher using POD – bookstores won’t pay upfront for books to put on their shelves without knowing they can return them to the distributor if they remain unsold, and both my publishers had a “non returnable” clause with their POD provider. When I signed with those publishers, this wasn’t the case. But the contracts I had signed with them allowed them to do this. So, there I was, being published by two traditional publishing houses, neither of which could get my books onto bookshelves in bricks and mortar bookstores any better than I could by setting up my own publishing company and taking up the same contracts for my new books with POD providers that those publishers had.

So that’s what I did. I’m no worse off than I was. 

And now the blatant self promotion…PLEASE consider trying my books while you’re holed up? My Cait Morgan Mysteries offer traditional puzzle mysteries for the armchair traveler, with each book being set in a different country; my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries feature a quartet of softly-boiled female PIs who run their business out of a Welsh stately home; my amazon #1 bestseller The Wrong Boy is a tale of psychological suspense set in a clifftop village in Wales. You can find out more about my books by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Biggest Publishing Change - Two Truths and a Lie

What change in the publishing landscape over the past decade and a half has impacted you the most?

- From Frank

It's a good thing I'm going early in the week, because the easy answer is either still out there or at least not yet beaten to death. Because I'm going to lie to you about it. Ready?

Self-publishing is the biggest change, hands down.

Whether it is a good change or not depends on where you sit, I suppose. But it has been a massive change, fueled of course by the other big change - the advent of ebooks. The former couldn't have happened without the latter.

My first several books were published by very small presses. Unfortunately, they kept going under (or getting out of the fiction business). It happened three separate times, which led me to begin to wonder if it was me

Maybe it was - who knows? But that's a separate story.

What I do know is that around 2011, I had the digital rights to all of my books, and it was starting to look like ebooks were real and self-publishing could work. Since my publisher at the time (the third one, who hadn't contracted out of fiction yet) didn't care about ebooks, I took the plunge and published my River City books myself. Then I went further and published all of the books and short story collections I had ready to go at the time. That included producing a paperback version for each, which was a process I've gotten much better at over time... yeah, my first attempt at those River City short story collections were rough.

The ebooks did well. In fact, for a while there, they did extraodinarily well. I actually first started to consider retiring from law enforcement on the basis of those sales numbers during the latter half of 2012. Of course, sales returned to earth within a year, but the experience of having total control over my own work was one I reveled in.

The discussions of self/independent publishing versus traditional publishing are legion, and I won't rehash them here. Each has its advantages and disadvantages that tend to mirror each other. Proponents and detractors of both have valid points (though they tend to accentuate the positives of their own stance and the negatives of the other, I've noticed).

Because there are advantages to each route, I've ultimately adopted a hybrid approach. Some of my work (River City series and Stefan Kopriva mysteries) I publish myself. Other work (Charlie-316, for example) is published by Down and Out Books. As much as I can, I focus on those positives of each approach and mitigate the negatives (or simply accept them). You could say I'm trying to eat my cake and have it, too.

But I told you I was going to lie to you at the beginning of this post, didn't I? And I did. Self-publishing and ebooks are certainly monumental changes in the publishing world. This is true. But they are perhaps not the biggest change. I think a case can be made that the biggest change for all authors has been a shift in the nature of our greatest challenge.

See, it used to be that the hardest thing was access. Getting past the gatekeepers. Can I get an agent to represent me or a publisher to want to publish my work? That was the challenge, one that most of those who "failed" did not manage to overcome. Failure for those writers was an unpublished manuscript in a bottom drawer, or God forbid, long forgotten in a box in the garage or attic.

But now? Access is not a problem. Between traditional and independent publishing options, a writer can be published, one way or the other. S/he can write a great book and it can be produced professionally, with great editing, attractive formatting and a eye-catching cover. It's not the biggest challenge anymore. 

What is?

Being read.

With so many books out there, being discovered by readers is the bigger challenge to break out. How do you get eyes on your book so that readers will get hooked on your work?

Failure for writers now comes not in the form of an unpublished book in the bottom drawer but as an unread book, languishing on Amazon with two reviews and six digital sales a year.

How big a change is that? Or is it a distinction without a difference? 

Truthfully, that's a whole different blog post. So is the question of how to overcome that challenge (something all of my colleagues here could weigh in on with some considerable knowledge). If we suppose the book itself is great and packaged that way, too, then the answer is marketing, right? And I hate marketing. It honestly feels like I'm screaming at a rock concert while everyone else is screaming, too. I can barely hear them, and who is hearing me?

But I said I'd leave that for some other post, didn't I? I think I've answered this one - the biggest change in publishing? To my mind, that the author's greatest challenge has gone from being access to publication to access to readers' eyeballs and interest.

Your mileage may vary, of course.


Blatant Self-Promotion? 

How can I do that after I just said how much I dislike marketing? But it's necessary, isn't it?  

Let's go with the minimalist approach, then.

My latest book is In the Cut. You can read about it if you click the link.