My weird book contract dillema

So I entered my space opera novel (one of 64) in a contest and placed – I guess. Anyway, I “won” a publishing contract with the publisher, a small outfit that does mostly e-books (that I will decline to name at the moment). It is a surprisingly hard decision whether to sign t or not. So if you have a moment, follow me while I puzzle out the problem.

There’s no out of pocket for me. The Publisher covers or provides editing, cover art, printing and the like.

They are not asking for all rights, just license to publish.

There is zero advance.

The royalty rates are at the low end of acceptable, but acceptable.

I am required to complete their 3 month marketing academy (In lieu of an advance, they claim).

I would be required to establish a website that they approve, at my expense.

They want me to cut down from 130k to 110k words.

These guys are small, but they are not a vanity press. The money flows (or at least trickles)  in the right direction. I am resigned that no matter where I go with this, I will not see a sizable advance, and I will be called upon to do the bulk if not the entirety of the marketing work.

PRO’s

  • I could have a book out by this time next year.
  • It would be from an actual publisher that is not myself.
  • This offer is in my hands, right now. All other opportunities currently exist only in my mind.
  • I might actually learn something in their class.

CON’s

  • I’ve never heard of these guys, and likely, neither have you.
  • The contract is not as clear as I would prefer about which rights I am granting.
  • 20k words is about four full chapters, or all references to a major character. The plot has a lot of moving, interlocking parts.
  • I don’t mind putting together a website. I  mind getting someone to sign off on it that isn’t paying for it.
  • No sensible adult mistakes a required class for payment.
  • This is a small pond when I honestly think I could make it in the open ocean.
  • I could write a lot of fun books using this universe, unless I somehow lose control of it all right here.

There are logistical benefits to having a decision by Monday. I will update as thoughts occur.

UPDATE: This thread continues in my other blog “One of 64” (who would have seen that coming?)

 

http://the64.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/winning-a-contest-brings-up-red-flags/

 

Now you know.

 

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Do the work or take your chances

I’m a bit deflated at the moment. A bid I worked pretty hard to research and get right will go largely for naught because some out-of-town outfit has underbid us by half based (presumably) solely on the bid documents, which I know to be incomplete and on occasion contradictory.

This is called “buying a job” and there’s no defense against it unless you are also willing to take a loss on the project.

Here’s my policy: $0 is still better than the -$X you lose bidding a job for less than your cost.

The end client – an arm of the county government – will have no choice but to accept the lowest bid. Good luck with that.

I have added a new post to Writing Made Visible about e-books – a subject of much discussion on this site as well. In particular, let’s go back to Mike Stackpole’s Authors Can Be Stupid series of blogs:

This is from the yesterday’s addition to that series: …A Brief Note on Self-Publishing – which attempts to summarize the previous eight posts:

I do not believe that even digital self-publishing is easy. I believe it is simple, and there is a world of difference between those two things. Establishing your own business is hard work. If you don’t put that work in, you will not reap the benefits of your business, pure and simple.

At this writing, Mike (he’s local – we’ve met) is still going on about this.

Now that we basically know that autism is unrelated to vaccination, a bigger, better study links the condition to older parents. But before you panic – here’s some perspective:

“This study does not say advanced mother or father age causes autism,” [Study co-author Shanie F] Dawson tells WebMD. “This is one risk factor among many factors that contribute. In the majority of cases, we are not going to find that any one factor accounts for any individual child’s autism. Parental age is just one risk factor that is interacting with other genetic and environmental factors that lead to a child developing autism.”

I have my 2010 Writer’s Market! (Happy birthday to me!) Among the discoveries from my initial skimming of the pages: there seem to be moire markets fro graphic novels than middle-grade fantasy novels. Here I sit with a head full of ideas that would work well (or better) in that format, and all I have to show for it are words – dull old-fashioned words.

OK, I’m 95% there in terms of pro-quality copy (don’t judge by this blog – I never do a second draft here). I’m only 65% there in terms of  pro-quality illustration – and I am woefully under-equipped. While I’m sure I have the talent to get to 75%;  I’m not certain I have the talent to get to 90% – which is the threshold to start asking for money.

That leaves me with two choices:

  1. Find reliable collaborator (which is a huge challenge – especially among middle-aged adults with lives and jobs. A Collaboration involves 2-3 times the time commitment vs just banging the thing out by yourself.)
  2. Become a better artist. I’m not certain if my talent ceiuling goes high enough, but I won’t know by guessing. So I’m going to commit to drawing something every day – and re-educating myself in the craft. The we shall see.

Meanwhile, if you are a competent artist withtime on your hands – Boy do I have some ideas for you.

And I’m hanging onto my notes about that job. The whole project is swarming with free-floating chunks of magical thinking and when those pieces collide with reality, doors may open unexpectedly.

Now you know.

We found a way to run new rope through a headblock without someone (usually me) up at the headblock to force the issue:

We took a one foot section of the new rope and removed the central core. Then we stuck the onld (thinner) manila line and the end of the new rope halfway each into the empty sleeve, and taped the hell out of it with electrical tape. We had to yank it sternly to get that portion through the block (there are keepers,you see, which are designed to keep the rope in the block, but also just barely let the new thicker rope pass). In 30 linesets, it only broke once.

Every fire curtain is rigged a different way, so if you’re going to mess with it (like, say, re-roping it), you’d best march up to the grid and discover how the contraption is actually rigged.

Burkhard Heim may have come as close to a Unified Field Theory as anyone else [according to a New Scientist article which may require registration to view]. More importantly to the fictional future, his theories point the way towards a functional hyperdrive. Heim rarely published, and never published in English so much of his work from the 1950’s is just now being “discovered”.

My dream of a unified combat damage system for both melee weapons and firearms may not be possible. Primary evidence is that armor designed to prtect against melee weapons is useless against bullets, and for the most part vice-versa. Running numbers I discovered that melee damage can be satifactorily measured in Newtons while ballistic damage can be satisfactorily measured in Joules (kilojoules, actually). These line up with the damage range consensus among most RPGs.

E-books, copyright and zombies.

I wouldn’t count on another entry here until after the holidays.

Now you know.

Beyond Demand Studios

I have decided to blow off Demand Studios for a while. Some of that simply coincided with the creative blahs that left this blog unattended for a week. But most of it had to do with money.

DS pays a flat fee of $5-20 for a 250-500 word article – preferably with photos. I decided from the get-go that they didnt pay me enough to find photos for them. But they had some topics on the list that I actually had an interest in, so I wrote them up, and the money appeared in Pay Pal. All well and good.

But what they purchased for less than a penny a word was All Rights. So I can’t re-use that material elsewhere, which – so you know – is the staple of free-lance profitability. The difference between a hobby and a living is the ability to sell an article (or at least a version of it) several different times.

My stuff about headlamps and forest rangers appears on Trails.com, if you care. But I’ve been paid off and have no incentive to actively promote the content.

Angela Hoy of Writer’s Weekly did a long expose on DS recently, and while I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, the fire kinda went out after I read it. I don’t care the Freelancewriting.com is in cahoots with DS. I don’t really mind that DS makes a lot of money (a lot!), though I think they’d be better served sharing a little more with the writers.

To be fair, Deborah Ng, of freelancewriters.com objects to Hoy’s characterizations.

DS claims proficient writers can earn above minimum wage, which runs contrary to my experience. Of course, I am notorious for over-research. If I knew the subject of a $20 article, and could bang it out off the top of my head, this would be true. But that seems the exception for just about every writer.

I do not, as a matter of policy, track writing income by the hour. On that basis, I make far more money as a stagehand – let alone a technical director – than writing anything. I calculate income by the published word.

Now, factor in that I don’t have to query – they pick the topics. BUT factor in my time slogging through their long (and slow-loading) topic list, chock full of unclear, troublesome prompts. Well, still easier than concocting a 250 word query.

Even so, $.04/word – max – is below my minimum rate – which is based on first rights, not all rights, and never includes photos (always extra!).

I’m not saying I’ll never write for them again. After all, the check cleared. I’m just saying that I’m not that hungry – and I don’t anticipate getting that hungry.

Web writing in general pays a fraction of what free-lancers have become accustomed to from magazines. But the web isn’t dying – its growing, Magazines are having the opposite experience. So I ask myself, do I want to fight with all the other veteran freelancers for a hold on the last parts of the ship still above water? Or do I cast about looking for a new way to stay afloat on what has become a very different ocean?

(The metaphor’s a mess – I know. This blog is always a first draft. You get what you pay for. )

I’m not the only one trying to figure this out.

Meanwhile, after 23 articles, my Examiner earnings are still below what I grossed in 9 articles for DS. But that will eventually reverse. And my Examiner experiment is more of self-education about SEO than serious revenue generation.

And I just took a gig blogging about the suns for phxsunsnews.com for a rate so low I dare not speak of it. But that’s largely recreational.

I’m thinking about starting a blog covering the sea-change in short non-fiction. Since I’m desperately trying to keep track of it anyway.

But I’m not making any promises – unless  you’re writing me a check.

Now you know.

Easing Back with a bunch of links

I dunno why – sometimes its just not in me to blog. Not a lack of material; Ive had several informative adventures over the past week.  But when the time came – I just did other things. Don’t take this personally, dear reader, I ignored other blogs as well.

What follows now is arguably the pinnacle of American civilization. Enjoy:

From the on-line strip, and recommended reading,  Dresden Codak 42 3rd Act Twists.

Corey Doctorow is trying to reinvent publishing as we know it. Good luck with that – seriously. We note here that he is greatly aided by wide name recognition achieved by mostly traditional publishing.

A New Scientist opinion piece suggests that as technology approaches perfect digital recall, we may soon discover that be able to forget is as important as being able to remember.

If you haven’t been following the e-book evolutions as closely as I have, this Time magazine profile might catch you up a bit.

Once off the pavement, the muffler is the most vulnerable portion of an Equinox.

Statistically, mountain lions aren’t a real threat, even in the deep wilderness, but the 13 species of rattlesnake that live in Arizona are – at least to the foolish.

If you don’t update your blog, the only traffic comes from random search terms.

Now you know.

Notes from the Writer’s Group 9/17/09

This is late, of course. I had day job obligations starting literally hours after the meeting which extended virtually non-stop until Saturday afternoon. Then I had a backlog of contest stories to plow through.;

The deadline for contest stories was (is) today – and my scores are submitted – thank you very much. Without going into inappropriate detail, of the 14 stories that were submitted, 12 were good reads.

Among the stories I judged (I skipped the one I wrote) I scored the top eight within two points of each other.

Some really good stories (including, I fear, my own) probably lost solely because they did not directly address the contest theme.

On that subject – a far more organized contest: Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Contest. We promise to have our results before their Nov 2nd deadline.

We are lurching towards a coherent business plan with the anthology, but not quite so that I feel comfortable sharing details just yet. Besides, the official organ for such information would be our Meet-up website.

A good site for info on Morrigan and all her Celtic friends (as well as a host of other pantheons) Encyclopedia Mythica. On that subject, a report on the possible eruption of Mt Rainier.

The Universe, which runs on the History Channel, has a whole episode dedicated to how to destroy the world. Is Morrigan watching?

For a completely non-romantic, true life account of dysfunctional DEA operations in Mexico, read Deep Cover, by Michael Levine.

And another loong screed [5 parts] on the wisdom and future of e-books.

There’s got to be a way to create a “substantial publishing record” with self-published e-books. In the next post, I’m going to talk about possible ways to do this and why they could be methods for obtaining “legitimacy.” I’ll also include opinions from a self-publishing author, a traditional author, and input from a traditional publisher. Stay tuned!

Now You Know.

Writer’s Group Notes for 9/10/09

The last time I posted I got 52 hits within 24 hours. My normal rate is like six. There are two possibilities: a particular phrase ranked high in a search engine, or the link I left on the meet-up site got clicked – a lot. The only way to test this is two seperate entries (though they both share this paragraph).

This entry tests the writer’s Meet-up link hypothesis. That would be the Central Phoenix Writer’s Meet-up on whose behalf I “organize” the Thursday night splinter cell.

I don’t have a whole lot of notes from that meeting. I was somewhat distracted by my beloved children doing homework/fighting at the table behind me. I do have some links – and we’ll get to those presently.

My son learned some things about writing:

* Copy down the actual writing prompt – that is how you stay on topic.

* Research first, then write.

* The advantage of a word processor is that you can move text around. The advantage of a draft on paper is that you can’t accidentally obliterate 100 words in two keystrokes.

* Writing well means ignoring whatever silly thing your sister is doing to distract you.

* The sooner you get down to writing, the sooner you’re done, and you can let your beloved Father, who has been glowering at you on and off for several hours, have his precious laptop back.

We all had to learn those lessons as young writers (swap “laptop” for “electric typewriter”). Most of us, like my son, learned them the hard way.

He didn’t finish the essay at the coffee shop. We didn’t print out a final copy until midnight. One of many reasons this blog is 24 hours “late”.

LINKS:

Galaxy Express on digital SF Romance sales

YA author Mary Pearson discusses what YA lit is and isn’t.

Aussie scribe Lee Masterson on word count categories

Writer’s Digest interviews Anne Tyler about flawed characters among other things.

And from way back in WD’s backlog, a subject constantly bouncing around in my mind: Too Many Ideas Syndrome:

Cynthia Whitcomb, who has sold 70 screenplays and seen 29 come to the screen, puts on a chef’s hat instead. Her advice: “Think of your ideas like pots on the stove in the kitchen of your creative mind. Lift the lids and look inside. One of them is always closest to being soup. Write that one first.”

My son could use that advice.

Lookee there, it’s past midnight.

Now You Know.