Playground 51: The American Magic School  

Posted by Demon Hunter

Finally got the website up, with a sample chapter, and the first book should be up for sale on Amazon this weekend (depending on how long it takes me to format everything).

Focus Driven  

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I admit it, I lost my focus. You could probably tell because blog updates have been few and far between the last couple of months. Sure the holidays had to have a lot to do with it, and personal relationship problems had a lot to do with it, but the other business i'm trying to run has a huge part of it too.

As the saying goes, you cannot serve two masters. And Lord, if that ain't the truth! ,I'm sitting here 5:40 in the morning, reassessing my goals and trying to get back on track.

The good news is, I finally got myself a domain name and a web hosting package. My site is there, but since my laptop isn't working right now, i haven't been able to design the site yet. Should be up and running soon though, income taxes are on the way and I'm planning on buying myself a nice desktop computer, with plenty of space for all my web-design/writing programs.
I'm also getting a nice new desk where I can keep all my stuff organized, maybe a new all-in-one printer, since the one I'm using now is acting funny.

Inclosing, I'm just glad a i caught myself worrying about my other business too much. I was about to drop another $100 to buy domain names for it, and I still might, but I have to remember, the writing comes first. The writing is what I've been dedicating most of my life too. The writing is where my focus needs to be. Even though the other job offers quick, easy money, and lord knows writing full novels (which is what I'm presently doing, haven't gotten into writing novellas yet) is anything but easy. But as morbid as it sounds, when I'm dead, i'd rather be known as a great writter then a great internet marketing person. Sooo this is me, getting back on the ball. Very happy I caught myself before I fell off completely. :)


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Okay,so I've been gone for over a month! Sorry, I don't plan my vacations so i can't alert people when i decide to take one.  I knew the holidays were going to make me too frazzled to concentrate on my writing, so I decided to take that month off that Steven King suggested in his book "On Writing".  Now when I do the final edit I can decide if the story is going the way I wanted it to, and edit it with new eyes. I also got a job blogging for someone else so that takes up a lot of time as well. Still, the ball is rolling and i'm ready to get this book out there!

Plus, I got someone to draw a pic of one of my characters, VEGAS! LOL! I think it's cute, not exactly how i pictured him, but I love other peoples interpretations of my characters. Just the kind of boost I needed to get me motivated and get my story out there.

 What sweet early Christmas gift for me! Ohh, and sample chapters of the book are coming soon!

Back From the Holiday Hussle  

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It’s been a bit since my last posting (you can thank holiday insanity and trying to raise funds for christmas) and I have so much on my mind, I don’t even know where to start. :P

First thing is I want to sing the praises of my Natural Reader. This little gizmo can valuable to any writer. I use this thing to read my story back to me when i've had enough of reading it myself. Editing with this program is awesome, because it reads your story back to you and you can hear when something isn't right.

Usually the advice is to read your book outloud, but I find this kind of tedious and less effective than natural reader. Even though you are less likely to see words that aren’t there when you read out loud, I find that I still make that mistake sometimes. The natural reader doesn’t make that mistake, it see’s only what’s there and it makes re-reading the same book (that you’ve read 300 times already, no doubt) a little more fun.

Another thing I wanted to talk about is Amazon and how it almost totally DESTROYED ITSELF over a book about how to molest children. Unbelievable! I'm late with my rant so im sure everyone is over it, but this really pissed me off. And not just for the reasons everyone else is pissed off about it either, uh-uh, I have some completely selfish reasons for being upset :P

I was one of the, i'm sure, THOUSANDS of people who wrote angry letters to amazon telling them to pull the book out of their stores. If nothing else, think how bad this makes the self publishing industry on Amazon look? I KNEW there was going to be the industry slaves who were going to use this as evidence that no book should be published without gatekeepers making sure it's proper for the viewing public.

Yes, during a few online discussions about this fiasco, a notable one being on the Huffington Post, I saw people stating exactly that!

As if all self published authors are just trying to slip complete anarchy past the publishers and get it to the public to dismantle what's left of our good society. And look, to be fair, my book does contain a pedophile in it, but rest assured, my pedophile is attacked and humiliated in just about every section he appears in! And that's good, that's how it should be.

Because pedophiles are DEFINITELY bad people, and we cannot make fun of people because of their race--we cannot make fun of people because of their religion--But damn-it, do not tell us that we cannot make fun of pedophiles!!!!!

Evil does not deserve civil rights!

Btw, while we're on the subject of pedo's...the news and media beats it into our heads that you can't tell a pedophile by how they look, and i do believe that's true...but every pedo I ever seen on the news LOOKS exactly like you would expect a pedo to look...


Anyway, that's my mini rant. I was feeling guilty for not blogging here. On top of everything else I'm working on my new blog so that's another reason for the slowness getting the post out.

Hope everyone else had a great Thanksgiving. I did, now to go bust my ass to see if I can top it come Christmas.

My Secret  

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Okay, the truth is there's a little secret about my work that i've been keeping. I was going to explain myself eventually...after I felt like I was really a success at this self publishing thing.

The secret is that I actually did have an agent that was interested in this work. A very big agent (in the YA  fantasy world anyway). Now, he asked for a copy of my manuscript, but I guess I didn't feel the work was ready to send it to him yet. Then by the time I felt it was ready, I had gotten all swept up into the idea of self publishing. Even though a lot of people were telling me I was crazy for it.

And I did feel crazy for doing this up until a few days ago. I mean, who the hell doesn't jump at the chance to work with an agent? Only a moron right?
Imagine if I fail at this self publishing thing. OMIGAWD! I gave up the chance to work with a real AGENT! What a failure!

Except, the more blogs I read, the more I talk to other authors in and out of the industry, the more unspectacular the whole traditionally publishing route sounds to me. And at this point no matter what happens, I know I wouldn't be happy publishing traditionally. Why? Because I know my personality and I am not the type who can tolerate suits telling me what "art" is. There are suits and there ate artist. Suits know marketing, they know distribution channels, they know other suits, but ART? No.

Now, I get it. To be a rich, super successful writer you need marketing, you need suits. So rather then deal with suits I've restructured my goals, career wise, a little. My dream is no longer to be a multi-millionaire. My dream is to be one of the best writers ever. Not "the best that I can be", the best writer, PERIOD.

A suit isn't going to help me accomplish that goal. A suit is going to kick my book into shape so that it sells lots and lots of copies. An editor? Yes, they definately help. An agent? Hmmmm.... Publisher? Not really.

I'm putting this out now rather then when I become a "successful indie writer", because a successful indie writer is someone who sells more then 100 copies of their book. Call me conceited, but I'm pretty sure I can sell more than 100 copies of my awesomeness :) . So, I'm going to say that I'm successful enough to be sure about the path I'm on.

Another thing about the agent that contacted me. He has an author in his stable ("stable" i don't know what else to call them)who is very successful. I see her books everywhere, that's why I got weak in the knees when this particular agent seemed intrested. I went to this authors website and a read an except of her book..hmmm what can i say. I was not impressed. A little chigrined may be better wording for it. But at the time it was cool to me. I mean if he liked her book he would certainly LOVE mine. Better chances for me right? And maybe that was true, maybe it wasn't. But now looking back on that, it just proves my point that suits know marketing. They don't know art. The fact is you can sell ANYTHING if you market it, just right.

So, knowing that fact. I thinks to myself "If a suit can pretend to know art, maybe a writer can pretend to know marketing". Marketing is an ART in a way, isn't it? Yes, there is an art to it. Red paint here, in this portrait, bring out this emotions, expresses this idea. A finely worded ad, placed here, will get me X amount sales. Check stats to see if my message is reaching the public. HAZAH! My bank account will show that my art is relevant! AHAHA!

Everyone always uses the music industry as an example so im going to do it to. Industry music today SUCKS. Everyone knows it. The stuff on the radio is crap and you have to be drugged up to stand to listen to it. That's probably why so many American teenagers are hocked up on anti depressants and ADHD drugs.

Just sayin'.

Industry music sucks butt. And why is that? Because suits don't know shit about art. They'd rather brainwash the public into buying nonsense because it's easier and less risky for them. You can't tell for sure how real art will catch people, because all emotions aren't the type that lead people to buy stuff. And the emotions that lead people to buy stuff are the only emotions suits care about.

The suits jobs just keeps getting easier, they don't have to put any work into an artist anymore. Computerized voices and the artist are already trained to follow orders by the time they reach that level.

Now I will admit, industry books aren't anywhere near as bad as industry music. There are some pretty good industry books out there. But the devil is in the process and how the authors get treated. The writer has already cleaned and polished the book by the time an agent reads it. The writer has done all the hard work, yet gets somewhere between 5-8% of the profits. Is that fair? Doesn't seem it to me. If it seems fair to you then by all means go for it.

But before I sign on with anyone, I want to see if maybe I might be as good at playing a suit as the suits are at playing artist. Gotta be brave, gotta be bold and sometimes do things that are a little crazy.

Bad Writer, BAD!  

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To be honest, I've been slacking off on the writing this past week. Posting to my blog took a long time coming this week, and I haven't gotten as much work done as I would have hoped too.

My excuses are good, so I can't be too hard on myself. I've been sick with the kidney problems, my son is sick with a fever and I had a fight with the hubby that resulted in him being kicked out.

Why? To be honest i'm not sure if i'm ready to get THAT personal over the internet. But let's just say it's bad and a resolution won't come easy.

Everything is upside down and chaotic right now. There has been some good news, but the bad news has just sapped a lot of the energy right out of me.

Anyway, i'm going to try to get some writing done today. If i don't set fire to my computer and just chuck it out of a window from stress, then I guess it'll still count as a successful work day. : )


Interesting Article I just read from Self-Publishing Review  

Posted by Demon Hunter in , , ,

I thought this article was interesting and I had to repost. Hope you enjoy if you haven't read it already. 

The Trouble with Amazon Critics

There’s an interesting post at the Nation called The Trouble with Amazon that’s a few shades too negative about Amazon’s influence on publishing.  Though Amazon has done some seriously shady things regarding pricing and strong-arming publishers, it also has advantages.  The main issue I have with the piece is this:
Take the issue of choice: when it comes to the books it stocks, Amazon makes no pretense of selectivity. Provided it carries an ISBN and isn’t offensive, Amazon is happy to sell any book Joe Schmo cares to publish. “We want to make every book available—the good, the bad and the ugly,” Bezos once said. Spurred on by Amazon and the growth of self-publishing companies like XLibris and Lulu, the number of new books being published has soared. According to industry statisticians Bowker, just over 172,000 titles were released in 2005. Last year “traditional” output had risen to 288,000 titles, a significant enough increase by itself. But adding what Bowker describes as “self-published” and “micro-niche” books, the total inflates to a staggering 1 million new titles in just twelve months….
This apparent anomaly of greater choice resulting in a narrower selection finds a corollary in Amazon’s use of metrics to recommend titles based on previous purchases. The algorithms at work here are highly sophisticated and are widely credited with expanding consumer choice. Yet such metric-based systems can simultaneously increase the variety of books purchased by individual customers while decreasing the overall variety of books bought by everyone. This is because, as blogger Whimsley explains, “In Internet World the customers see further, but they are all looking out from the same tall hilltop. In Offline World individual customers are standing on different, lower hilltops. They may not see as far individually, but more of the ground is visible to someone.”
The loss of serendipity that comes with not knowing exactly what one is looking for is lamented by ex-Amazon editor James Marcus: “Personalization strikes me as a mixed blessing. While it gives people what they want—or what they think they want—it also engineers spontaneity out of the picture. The happy accident, the freakish discovery, ceases to exist. And that’s a problem.”
There are a number of ways in which this is wrong.  For one, to think that surfing on Amazon from book to book, listmania list to listmania list, does not offer some amount of serendipity really doesn’t understand how people discover things on the web.  But more importantly, Amazon is just better at linking people up with books.  You can make a good argument that it strips away the personal touch of a bookstore, but there are some things at which a computer is better, especially considering it’s accessing every book that’s ever been in print.
An example – I recently bought my brother a couple of books for his birthday.  They were:
He works in psychology and loves graphic novels so these books were perfect.  And they were linked up side by side on Amazon.  The odds of me going into a bookstore and the store having one or both of these fairly obscure books – plus an employee knowing about a book if I ask, “Hey, this looks good.  Any others like it?” is small.  Not small: impossibly small.  I have found a great many books in this way, as I’m sure have other people.
At the same time I acknowledge what is being lost with this new system.  I recently watched this documentary (recommended):
What Wal-Mart has done to communities (not to mention its own employees) is a nightmare.  Amazon’s discounts are having the same effect.  Bookstores are going out of business.  Additionally:
Blocked at every turn in their attempts to escape this relentless race to the bottom, publishers have seen their revenues fall, forcing many to make cutbacks and concentrate more on lead titles, the blockbusters that, accountants tell them, are the most profitable component of their business. Fewer staff and falling promotion budgets mean that books by less established authors—the “mid-list”—receive ever shorter shrift.
So Amazon is having an effect on publishers in the same way that brick and mortar Barnes & Nobles have had a negative effect – forcing publishers to go for the big sale.  It goes on:
Look at books like Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies or Roberto BolaƱo’s Savage Detectives,” says Paul Yamazaki, chief buyer at City Lights in San Francisco. “These are serious, sophisticated books that began life with modest expectations, but after dedicated work by the publisher and independent booksellers, they went on to reach wider audiences. This sort of publishing is under threat today.”
I don’t buy it. Are you telling me that Amazon played no part at all in the popularity of Savage Detectives?  Of course not – and if there’s evidence of anything it’s that this new system is much friendlier on independent writing than the old gatekeeper/brick & mortar bookstore system.  Especially if you take into account ebooks, a revolution spurred by the Kindle.
Here’s where I get lost:
“If left unchecked…predatory pricing policies will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to maintain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public.”
The logic here makes limited sense.  A site that carries everything gives less choice than a store that carries a couple thousand titles because of…human nature.  My proselytizing about self-publishing is predicated on the exact opposite idea – the gatekeeping-obsessed publishing industry means that many ideas won’t see the light of day.  An important book never finding a publisher is more pressing an issue than a “vetted” book being priced too low.  Theresa Neilsen Hayden’s argument is thus:
A fixed $10 price point would certainly be good for Amazon’s ebook business, but it would take a shark-sized bite out of the market for hot new bestsellers, which is trade book publishing’s single most profitable area.
That revenue source is what keeps a lot of publishing companies afloat. It provides the liquidity that enables them to buy and publish smaller and less commercially secure titles: odd books, books by unknown writers, books with limited but enthusiastic audiences, et cetera.
My honest estimate is that the result would be fewer and less diverse titles overall, published less well than they are now.
This is persuasive.  If publishers are losing money due to a dwindling book market, this will cut into their bottom line even more.  Once we go all ebook and publishers aren’t making $30 on a hardcover, this will get even worse.  No wonder they’re terrified.
The Music Industry
At the same time, this seems a bit of their own doing.  Publishers seem to have fallen into the same trap as the music industry:
They can’t afford to cultivate bands for years and years. They can’t help them grow their fan bases one member at a time.
They need the artists in their stable to pump out the hits. They need their albums to go gold and platinum. They need to sell high volumes of the albums they have in their stable.
Because if they don’t they won’t be able to cover their huge overhead and won’t turn a profit.
This is why record labels love to work with other people in the music industry that are built around the top 20 “hits” model (i.e. MTV, radio, retail stores, Rolling Stone Magazine).
This is also why the music industry is failing. It’s built around the top 20% “hits” model and it has failed to adapt and move to the Internet and its bottom 80% “non-hits” model.
In part, we’re in a phase where publishers are obsessed with the hit model because that’s what Barnes & Noble – or Amazon – demand.  But I have a suspicion this has something to do with the amount of overhead – i.e. giving a celebrity 7 million dollars, while not nurturing first-time writers who may have longevity. Publishers are terrified of the Brave New World of e-publishing because it will so drastically cut into their revenue.  The answer isn’t to overcharge for ebooks – it’s to reform their overhead.
There are many things to fault Amazon for, but this seems like a fault – not with Amazon – but with traditional publishing.  “A boss at Scribner, where I was a senior editor for two and a half years, announced at an editorial meeting that when it came to advances, “$50,000 is the new $100,000.”  For one thing, $50,000 isn’t a terrible amount of money – but how many advances could be given out for Justin Cronin’s $3.75 million advance for The Passage?
I can hear writers thinking – but I want a million dollars!  I do too: but I’d also like to see publishers publishing the widest variety of voices.  Amazon has horrible faults, but this criticism seems to overlook traditional publishing’s own culpability.   The end result of all this is more and more people looking to self-publish to avoid these pricing schemes and take more royalties.
The piece ends:
A healthy publishing industry would ensure that skilled authors are recompensed fairly for their work, that selection by trusted and well-resourced editors reduces endless variety to meaningful choice.
Ah-ha!  That’s what this is about: gatekeeping.  The subtext to this whole thing is aimed at self-publishers, not Amazon – “selection by trusted and well-resourced editors reduces endless variety.”  I’m all for writers making a living, but suggesting that strident gatekeeping will increase our choice is frankly absurd.