Monday, July 28, 2014

Are There 5 Reasons to Stick With Major Publishers? No, There Are Zero Reasons

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why We Still Need Publishers



I wrote a post over at Insatiable Booksluts recently that drew some attention from unexpected places. The post was a satirical dramatization of the publishing vs. Amazon situation; I’m not an Amazon superfan, but I do like to make decisions based on correct information (see also, “Amazon Is Not a Monopoly or a Monopsony”), so I’m often writing about this topic–not because I don’t like publishers, but because I know that I can like publishers and also believe that they could rethink their business model.

Some who found my IB post commented that they thought it was only a matter of time before publishers went out of business, that self-publishing would take over and be The Way to publish books going forward. Amazon gives authors better terms and publishing is becoming an obsolete middleman, or something to that effect.

I was surprised to get this response, because I’ve always been vocal about the fact that, yes, we need publishers. I want to clear up the idea that I’m egging people onto the anti-publishing bandwagon.
A major anti-publisher argument seems to be that authors provide most of the work and publishers just scoop up their product, package it, and make money on it because they are “known” and authors are not. Publishers do so much more than that, though.  Publishers perform a necessary and not-easily-replaced service to the book industry as a whole.

The role of the publisher isn’t to take a book that’s pretty much finished and turn it out to the public. Editors help shape books in significant ways. A good editor doesn’t just tell you that you have made typos or that your sentences are grammatically incorrect; a good editor looks at every part of a book, from character development to plotting to theme, and tells you what doesn’t work, what works really well, what needs to be cut, what needs to be built up. A good editor reconstructs a story from the raw materials and makes it as good as it can possibly be.

Case in point: The Great Gatsby went through heavy editing to become the well-beloved novel it is today. Fitzgerald’s editor gave him loads of constructive notes–it didn’t fall out of F. Scott as a fully-formed entity. Books often need revision, even if they’re written by super-famous authors.

A good editor has experience editing a lot of different novels and brings knowledge to the table from years of publishing experience. They know what works, what doesn’t work, what is now a cliche, what sells, what flops. They know if there are five other novels just like yours, but better, that are slated to come out later this year. They know if you’re truly talented or writing out of your ass.

Publishers know books. They know the industry upside down and inside out. They don’t just provide a printing and design service for authors; publishers provide expertise. And authors, you need expertise. We readers don’t have that expertise, no matter how many books we’ve read; it’s a whole different ballgame on the business end.

Working with a publisher is forming a partnership. Part of finding the right partner is finding someone who will offer you a fair deal. You don’t have to take the first offer, or any offer, if you don’t like their terms. But don’t knock what publishers bring to the table, because it’s irreplaceable to many of us as readers and customers.

Frankly, for me, a reading world without publishers would be terrible. I would probably stop reading new books full stop. What would you do if publishing vanished altogether?

About Susie Rodarme

Susie writes, edits, and web designs over at her site Insatiable Booksluts. She's obsessed with small press literary fiction. Follow her on Twitter @thebooksluts.

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You can find the original article at: http://bookriot.com/2014/07/08/still-need-publishers/

Monday, July 14, 2014

7 Ways to Beat Writer's Block

By Andrew Lewis Conn

Andrew Lewis Conn's O, Africa! is an ingenious, clever adventure novel about the first film to be shot entirely in Africa, set in the early days of filmmaking. Conn shares some ways to beat the most notorious writers' affliction.

1. Watch Movies About Writer's Block. With very few exceptions (Capote, My Brilliant Career, Deconstructing Harry), movies are a notoriously bad medium for showing the work that goes into being a writer (which, for the most part consists, let’s face it, of a person sitting in solitude for strange and intolerable numbers of hours). It’s nearly impossible for films to visualize so internal a process, so you get instead lots of furrowed brows, lovers thrashing about, and balled-up manuscript pages sailing across rooms. What movies can do really well, however, is show people going batshit crazy! So watch some classic movies about writer's block and resign yourself not to be Humphrey Bogart in In a Lonely Place! Don’t be Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys (well, maybe, sometimes)! Don’t be CGI Nicholas Cage twins in Adaptation! Do not strive for that special Barton Fink feeling! And, for God’s sake, do not check yourself into the Overlook Hotel!

2. Play Writer's Block “Mad Libs.” Replace the names of other professions (garbage collector, litigation attorney, algebra teacher, etc.) in the phrase “writer’s block” and play out those scenarios to see what an absurd self-diagnosis it is we’re talking about here. To wit, imagine you break your arm in an automobile accident. It’s a bad fracture and you’re rushed to the emergency room. There you are, lying on the table, bone jutting out, with a tourniquet corded around your arm, and in comes a brooding, Byronic-looking doctor who informs you that he’d love to set your arm but he can’t today, just can’t, because he’s suffering from “physician's block.” Everyone’s working life is hard: do your job.

3. Get a corporate writing gig. The greatest upshot of doing some kind of writing work for a living is that it forces you to show up. By logging those hours you learn how to write through your worst day. You develop muscle memory that allows you to write professionally and well independent of your mood. You develop craft that will save you and pull you though your least inspired assignment, your worst hangover, your lowest insomnia, your crappiest day. (Conversely, the dangers of writing for a living are these: most business and corporate writing is about positioning things in very clear and concretized ways, whereas fiction is all about ambiguity and longing and questioning—the art of the “if/but.” It’s also easy to get into bad, cheap habits: speed, glibness, settling for thumbnail portraiture. For all that, I’d argue that the benefits—which include a paycheck and, er, benefits!—significantly outweigh the demerits.)

4. Place your trust in craft, not inspiration. Leave chasing vampires, looking for the Loch Ness Monster, and making friends with the Easter Bunny to others. Because writer's block, similar those other figments, does not exist. There’s writing and there’s not writing (and, within those two large camps, factions of good writing, poor writing, and mediocre writing). Like anything else, there are going to be good days and bad days. But let’s not get all exalted about it! Demystifying the process for oneself—treating it as craft, as labor, as back work; and approaching the process like a bricklayer—can relieve an enormous amount of self-imposed psychological pressure. There’s going to school and there’s playing hooky. There’s reporting for work and there’s calling in sick. A big part of being a pro is about showing up, not making excuses, and getting on with it. Be a professional.

5. Get your hands dirty. The world is bursting with things that are begging for description. So leave the lonely room or crowded coffee shop and do something intensely physical or visual. Return to lonely room or crowded coffee shop. Describe what you’ve just seen or done. Now describe what you have seen or done from the perspective of others. Describe what you have seen or done from the POV of an infant or an alien newly arrived on Earth or your future, 80-year-old self. Repeat.

6. Get your ass in a chair. Comfy? Good! Now promise yourself that you will not rise from said sedentary bucket until you’ve committed to the page or computer screen one sentence, paragraph, or page with which you are moderately satisfied. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

7. Write out of love. One of the simplest and most profound explanations of why we write that I ever heard came from Bruce Springsteen during a Charlie Rose interview. (And anyone who doubts that Springsteen is one of America’s supreme story writers, equipped with an actor’s ability to inhabit the skins of wildly different characters, has never listened to Nebraska.) Asked about his creative process, the Boss said something to the effect of: “You write about what you love and you write about things you’re trying to make sense of.” Have heroes. Read their stuff. Listen to their music. Watch their movies. Be open to inspiration and allow yourself to learn from their example. Then double-down on your commitment to doing the work—good work that takes the form of an expression of love—in the hopes that you might carry that torch a few inches forward.

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You can find the original article at: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/62947-7-ways-to-beat-writer-s-block.html

Monday, July 7, 2014

Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck: Rejections from the Eyeshot Outbox

By Jamie Allen

A long, long time ago, before Twitter or Facebook or even the Y2K Bug, a literary website called Eyeshot came into the world. The year was 1999. The editor of the site, 20-something writer Lee Klein, lived in Brooklyn.

To get things going, Klein wrote the site’s first few stories under pseudonyms. But within a few years, guided by Klein’s particular tastes, the site regularly featured the likes of Zadie Smith, Daniel Alarcon, Tao Lin and Randa Jarrar. Most established literary outlets had little presence online at the dawn of Internet lit, but upstarts like Eyeshot, Pindeldyboz,and others offered fiction, humor and nonfiction. Writers visited these sites daily to see who got published, as they worked on their own stories for consideration. 

I found Eyeshot while living in suburban Atlanta in 2002. I submitted something, and not only did Klein email back right away, he accepted the piece. Even better, his enthusiastic response to the submission filled me with helium.

So I submitted more. Then something else happened: Rejection. 

I didn’t just get the cold, two-line, de rigueur dismissal of the literary industry. No form letter here. From Eyeshot, you received a (very) personal email from Klein, just an hour or two after submission of the piece. The email often started off by asking what the hell you were thinking.

Once your vision cleared and you took in the rest of the email, you found that Klein had actually read every sentence in your rejected story. He offered feedback on where things went wrong for him. He’d tack on something about his activities there in Brooklyn. And then he would sign off with a polite thanks, an apology and a request for more submissions.

If you want to be a published writer, and especially if you live in suburbia, you need someone to tell you the Truth about your work. Klein offered this, free of charge. His brusque honesty hooked me. I didn’t know what he looked like, but I pictured a shorter, wider version of Joey Ramone sitting on the other side of the computer screen, a punk encircled by books and empty coffee cups, cigarette dangling from his lips, voice husky with the weight of his smoky critiques. (Note: He doesn’t look like a hefty Joey Ramone.)

I had no idea at the time if Klein sent bespoke rejections to everyone or just the “lucky” ones. The answer became obvious when Klein started posting collections of his rejections on Eyeshot. These tiny, tight bursts of writing hummed with energy that hopscotched among comical, cruel, warm, demented, high level and nitpicky. Send him a piece of your soul on Microsoft Word, Klein seemed to believe, and you deserved a piece of his soul right back. An amazing little act of generosity, considering the number of terrible pieces of writing out there. (Klein estimates that he has tapped out more than a thousand original rejections.) 

A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Klein will publish a novel later this summer, The Shimmering Go-Between (Atticus Books). As a precursor, Barrelhouse Books presents Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck, a 214-page collection of Klein’s best blow-offs, turndowns and tender slaps. A quick read—one email per page—it’ll make the reader cringe, LOL and furrow eyebrows. It contains handsome writing, as well as goofy email prose. And the central character—Klein himself—plays a delightfully erratic, blustery, supportive and hysterical critic to the army of wannabe writers filling up email boxes everywhere. 

“Learn to spell FELLATIO!” he implores in one rejection. “I’m not going to post this because it’s not funny at all.”

“You brought blood to my brain,” he confronts in another. “Meet me at 9 pm for a duel of chicken bones and hot sauce, somewhere near the L train—at the KFC at 14th and 3rd. I will show you rude and crude. I will teach you the meaning of removed. I will show you what happens when eager talent is misdirected.”

Klein intones to another eager writer, “Excuse me for sounding like that senator debating Dan Quayle, but I know Joyce very well, and you are no James Joyce.”

At first blush, this concept—publishing rejections that broke the hearts of (anonymous) writers—might seem cruel. Maybe. But we all know that writing is difficult. Writers need candid feedback. If an editor possesses little time or energy to respond properly to poor writing, fine. But let us celebrate the editors who speak up. 

In this game of writing, no one returns a service like Klein. Like a good sport, he also compliments a splendid shot.

“I like the way you write,” he says.

“I admire and support highly detailed writing,” he says.

“Your story’s first paragraph is good, and so is your language, the rhythm, and aerodynamics,” he says.

He also uses “maybe” a lot and Ye Olde Trick of placing a question mark at the end of a frank statement to lightly mute his howl. Sometimes he merely asks questions.

“How do you want them to respond to your stuff?” he poses to one writer. “How do you want to move and manipulate them, make their minds go mmm?”

The reader will find solid counsel in the pages. Bonus entertainment value springs from Klein’s description of his hangovers, his penchant for autoerotic discourse, his flirtations with certain submitters and his hopeless battle to stop writers from submitting stories involving dentists. He often seems at his wit’s end. 

“I’d like what you sent a little more if it were rapped,” he tells one writer.

“The aura of this one is sort of a freckly yellow,” he explains to another, “which reminds me of bananas, which doesn’t make me want to post it.”

“There were no alligators in it,” he offers yet another. “Maybe if you exchanged the hail for alligators and the CEO for a baseball bat, we’d have something, but as it is, with neither alligator nor baseball bat, we cannot offer acceptance.”

Sometimes, Klein rants randomly, with the occasional typo.

“Suicide’s a downer, isn’t? It used to be, is it still? Do you know why everyone’s sending stuff on suicide? What the hell? People must be trying to kill other people off?”

When he leaves behind the business of rejections and opens a window into his life, Klein the editor transforms into what he longs to find—a talented writer with a warped sensibility. 

“I just moved to Iowa City,” he writes in one rejection. “Cats have been hunting down the bunnies the last few days. The thing we’ve learned is that bunnies make noises, a crazy distress signal, like five high ‘ehnt-ehnt-ehnt-ehnt-ehnt’ blasts and then are silent and all nose sniffing. Who knew? Turns out rabbits aren’t on those circular animal noise maker things kids have for good reason! Cow goes moo moo, lamb goes bah bah, bird goes tweet tweet, bunny goes crazy fucking murderous high-alert alarm freakout.”

In another email, we breathe a whiff of Brooklyn and its fleeting wonders—before Klein lowers the boom on the submitting writer.

“Late last night I was boundless energy personified, relentless thirst, desire, awareness, alive in an endless city of funny smart pretty eagle-winged adolescents in their late twenties I somehow didn’t hate, but now the world seems reduced to you and me. Listen, if someone accepts any of these, do not trust that source. You’ve got some work to do.”

Back in the early aughts, Klein held a few readings in New York that asked us to reconsider the practice. At an Eyeshot/Klein “reading,” you brought your own book, sat down with others and read silently for one hour. In an era of writer performances every night, in every Brooklyn bar and coffee shop, Klein wanted attendees to appreciate the principal, sacred connection between writer and reader. 

In Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck, cynics might presume that Klein cares little for his fellow writers if he’s so willing to shred egos. But his aim aligns with those readings and his respect for the writer-reader relationship. He simply wants others to show the same. 

“Readerly love is unlike motherly love,” he tells a writer in the collection. “It’s absolutely conditional. Don’t expect readers protected behind computer screens won’t sneer, roll eyes, get bored.”

Let’s hope some of the rejected took Klein’s advice. Eyeshot, a sprawling and chaotic site, still churns 15 years later. Klein, now a married dad living in Philadelphia, publishes regularly. And he shares what he knows—even, at the least, how to handle rejection. 

“Do you hate me now?” he writes. “You shouldn’t. I don’t hate you because I didn’t want to post your story. The story exists outside of you. You are not your story. You can take what I say and think about it, or cry, or tell me to piss off. All are acceptable. Or ignore me. Whatever.”

By the end of the collection, readers understand that when Klein says “whatever,” he might not mean it at all. Jamie Allen is an Atlanta-based writer.

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You can find the original article at: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2014/07/thanks-and-sorry-and-good-luck-by-lee-klein-review.html

Monday, June 30, 2014

Going Their Own Way: The Creator-Owned Comic Book Renaissance

By Zack Smith

 


Going Their Own Way: The Creator-Owned Comic Book Renaissance 
Jonathan Hickman remembers the lean days of his early comics-writing career. “It is not an exaggeration that one time we got a royalty check for Pax Romana, and my wife opened the envelope and started crying,” the scribe behind Avengers and Fantastic Four says.

Today, Hickman is lauded as one of the most successful writers in comics, with long runs on some of Marvel’s top properties alongside such creator-owned titles at Image Comics as The Manhattan Projects and East of West. And Pax Romana, despite selling poorly at one time, has remained in print and was recently optioned as a TV series by Syfy.

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Part of this success, Hickman explains, was simply staying with his craft throughout the rocky beginnings. “You’re gambling on yourself, and that’s something that I’m always willing to do,” he says. “If you’re a creative person who believes in himself, and if you’re willing to work, to put in the hours — really put in the hours, not just sit at your desk surfing the Internet and coming up with reasons not to work — you are on the right path.”

There’s no guaranteed way to sustainably break into the comics industry, but for many creators, transforming their passion of writing or illustrating sequential narratives into a long-term career has recently proven a longer and more complicated path than in previous decades. Companies that focus on creator-owned work, particularly Image, Oni Press and Avatar Press, along with portions of such companies as Dark Horse, BOOM! Studios, Dynamite Entertainment and IDW Publishing, have become places where both up-and-coming creators and established industry veterans can publish their own original characters and concepts. But aside from building their own playground of original material, creators are now fostering tightrope careers that straddle both their creator-owned books and characters owned by larger companies like Marvel and DC (Marvel also supports a limited creator-owned imprint, Icon).

Indie publisher Image, bolstered by the success of Robert Kirkman’s comic-turned-TV series The Walking Dead, has led the charge on this recent development: seven of the 10 most-ordered trade paperbacks from Diamond Comic Distributors came from the imprint in April alone. While it’d be logical to solely credit The Walking Dead with this upstart dominance, only one Dead collection was on the list; the other trades include a nudity-and-swearing-filled parental sci-fi adventure (Saga), two supernatural Westerns (East of West and Pretty Deadly) and the offbeat comedy Sex Criminals, whose title alone would have kept it off most store shelves in the past, let alone its number one position a few months ago.

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Paste touched base with several of today’s most critically-acclaimed and best-selling writers, whose careers have veered between their own unique creations and the mainstream superhero sphere, to discuss this new career trend. These scribes also describe the challenges they’ve faced, their perceptions of the industry and what they hope their new creator-owned success means for the future of comics.

Starting Out

For writers, the road to success usually begins on a risky, low-paying path to build an audience, starting with creator-owned, often self-published, work. This foundation can lead to freelance assignments at larger companies, which in turn can help create a rapport with mainstream fans and diehards of established properties, such as Batman or The Avengers.

If those writers develop a unique voice and track record, some of those fans will follow them to their own creator-owned properties — a shift that increases the writers’ chances of having a long-term career in comics. This emergent direction represents a new end goal for veteran writers, who may have remained alongside the major publishers and their batch of legacy superheroes into their twilight years. Some still do, but more of today’s major writers are entering the latter half of their careers with their own properties after establishing a fan base at the big publishers.

Ed Brubaker, the noir revivalist behind Fatale and Velvet, recently signed a long-term contract alongside artist Sean Phillips with Image to release more creator-owned books over the next five years, starting with new series The Fade Out. This scenario is a far cry from the days when the pair’s undercover super villain epic, Sleeper, struggled to release over two 12-issue “seasons.”

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“It’s basically like Image becoming our patrons, because even as successful as we are, I still have freelancer paranoia. I still worry about whether we’re being commercial enough, or if we’re going to suddenly get cancelled. I’m still shell-shocked from the struggle to keep Sleeper alive, way back when,” Brubaker says. “So now I don’t have to worry about that. Now I just have to worry about creating great comics, and Image will be working on making them successful.”

After Sleeper, Brubaker moved on to larger work-for-hire runs on DC’s Catwoman and, more significantly, Marvel’s Captain America, where many of his storylines were incorporated into the recent smash film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Unsurprisingly, Brubaker admits he’s more comfortable focusing on his own books through Image than at a larger company. “For profit-sharing, I’ve never seen a deal anywhere in comics — from indie publishers, book market GN publishers or the big two — that’s as good as Image’s standard deal,” Brubaker says. “The vast majority of the money made on the books and single issues goes to the creators. They’re not in it for the money, they’re in it to help us create.”


Going “Mainstream”

Fact: most comics without years of pre-established back issues and action figures will have a harder time landing in the hands of consumers, and creators are acutely aware of this situation. “Some of this is on you and your ability to connect with the readers,” Kieron Gillen, the writer behind Young Avengers, Wolverine: Origin II and Iron Man, says.
Gillen also helms multiple creator-owned books through smaller publishers Avatar and Image, such as Three, Über and The Wicked + The Divine. The scribe is also living proof that curating major properties (that happen to have toy and movie deals) can help translate to interest in subsequent creator-owned projects. “My orders on my indie books are higher post-Marvel than pre-Marvel,” he says. “It’s pretty good evidence of that.”

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Hickman also acknowledges the unique challenge of attracting fans of his superhero work to his creator-owned books. “The game is obviously to develop your own audience and, in kind of an equally-healthy back-and-forth — not something parasitic — help each other out,” he says. “The audience gets something unique. If you’re in a creative team that’s somewhat idiosyncratic, and you bring something to creating comics that you can’t get anywhere else, that’s great for the reader and great for you. Now people know your name from writing Uncanny X-Men or something similar.”
But work-for-hire projects hold a bittersweet proposition, as they fall under the discretion of outside editors and publishers who have the power to hire and remove a team from a book, as well as significantly influence the storyline’s direction. “With creator-owned books, I’ve got all the freedom in the world,” Cullen Bunn, who’s currently working on a variety of work-for-hire projects including Magneto for Marvel, Sinestro for DC and The Shadow for Dynamite, says. “These are my characters, my worlds and my stories, and I can do whatever I want with them.”

Cullen’s work-for-hire titles complement a creator-owned cache that includes the long-running supernatural Western The Sixth Gun and the brutal horror-fantasy Helheim for Oni Press, as well as the new medical thriller The Empty Man for BOOM! Studios. “If I screw it up, though, it’s all on me,” he says. “With existing properties, though, that freedom is greatly diminished. Corporate directives, the rich character backgrounds and future plans must all be honored. Editors and other creators may have plans or specific visions for the characters. And fans may have preconceived notions about what should be done with a particular character. All those things take a bit of getting accustomed to.”


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Hickman admits that simply being an acclaimed-but-unknown creator meant it was difficult to sell his earliest work before working on mammoth team books for Marvel. “There’s no getting away from the fact that my first book at Image, The Nightly News, was nominated for an Eisner and a lot of people talked about, it got a lot of buzz … and sold something like 5,000 copies a month,” he says. “But that book got Marvel interested in me as a creator, and people read your Marvel work, and then my next Image book started off at something like 20,000 copies.”

The Long Game

Though work on established properties can bolster a creator’s sales and reputation, a long-term focus on one’s own creations can offer career longevity that work-for-hire can’t guarantee. “While it’s never been a stated policy, obviously, comics have a long history of putting veteran creative folks out to pasture when their work is no longer perceived as contemporary,” Michael Eury, a former DC Comics editor who now oversees the comics history magazine Back Issue!, says.

Eury cites legendary Superman artist Curt Swan as an example. Though he had a long and successful run on the Superman books, DC and Warner Bros. gradually phased out Swan’s style of illustration from Superman merchandise throughout the 1970s and 1980s. “Then along came the Man of Steel reboot with John Byrne in 1986, and Swan received very little work after that,” Eury says. “Now, even Byrne’s Superman seems like ancient history.”


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Many writers now view their own creations as not just a way to stay in the industry, but as their preferred modus operandi. “I enjoy working for companies like Marvel and DC, and I’d like to stay involved with their properties in some way going forward,” Bunn says. “That said, I’d love for more readers to find some of my other work. So, my long-term goal would be to get a few more long stories of my own cooking.” 

Even creators who’ve worked in comics across several decades have seen a sea change in long-term careers in the industry. “The major companies are great for getting your name out there to the public readership, but require that you be a team player, even as they do all that they can to let you know you’re not really part of their team,” writer-artist Jim Starlin, who created such major Marvel characters as the cosmic villain Thanos (who appears in the upcoming film Guardians of the Galaxy), says. “Working for yourself and on your own creations is the only sane way to go, in the long run. The only person you can really depend on in this business is yourself.”

There’s no way of telling what the future holds for the comics industry, but it’s still possible for creators to speculate about how they’d like to see things change. “I’d like to see Image get a larger market share, along with the other companies,” Hickman says. “Every percent they gain of market share is a couple million dollars into the pockets of creators. Even though we want to move on to other arguments, and I’m not trivializing anything, we’re not done with the battle for creator’s rights. The talent still deserves to be paid more in comics, to work in comics and to have a good life, and not feel like they’re grinding it out day after day. More money at Image is more money to the creators, and I think that’s fantastic.”

Image’s focus on creator-owned books has helped the company’s continued growth — its orders represented 9.3 percent of the comics retail market and 10.3 percent of the unit market share from Diamond in April 2014, an increase from 3.9 percent in both categories that month in 2009. While that’s still a fraction of the market represented by Marvel and DC’s books, it’s still a case where all the titles are owned by their creators and offer a variety of styles and subject matter beyond the superhero books. Image also accomplishes this without the marketing budgets of the massive corporations (Disney and Warner Bros., respectively) that own Marvel and DC.

“I think the biggest difference in the last few years is that it feels like more stores are starting to take Image and other non-Marvel and DC publishers a lot more seriously, and give them a lot more shelf-space,” Brubaker says. “I think some of that is probably because they have a lot of readers looking for new comics outside superheroes, and now Image is publishing a lot of books by bigger name writers and artists. But it’s nice to see retailers supporting more mainstream genre works. I think that’s a good path to a wider audience.”

Brubaker sees this evolution as hopeful for the industry’s future. “A few years ago, I wouldn’t have believed I could make my whole living just doing creator-owned books,” he says, “because it always felt like such a crapshoot when we started Criminal. But now a lot of us have been able to bring our readerships with us to new projects. And many of the other new Image series are selling more in trade than they do in single issues, so the map is already changing. It’s just going to keep getting bigger and more noticeable.”

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You can fin d the original article at: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2014/06/going-their-own-way-the-creator-owned-comic-book-renaissance.html

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Problem with Plagiarism




Did the heroine have glasses? Well, now she wears contacts. Was she skinny? Guess who’s gained a few pounds?





Plagiarism has had a makeover. Find out what to look for so you can protect your work from thieves or, if you’re a reader, how you can alert an author who you think might be a victim.


Internet Marketers have been a persistent problem in the world of Indie publishing, and instead of dying out over time, they’ve evolved, becoming more devious than ever.


First they plagiarized erotica. Outright copied, pasted and published it. When that didn’t prove sustainable, they outsourced erotica production to third world ESL writers. On top of that, their covers made raunchy look tame and put a big target on the genre’s back.


Oh, yeah, we’re talking about erotica, which you don’t write so why should you care? Well, keep reading. It may have all started in erotica, but it’s grown so much bigger over time.


When booksellers cracked down on erotica, everything changed. For one, internet marketers moved into Christian Romance. Did you know you can actually buy a ‘pack’ of Christian Romance plots for $20 on internet marketing forums? (It’s at least good for a laugh, especially the carnie clown plot.)


Internet marketers buy these plot packets by the dozens and either outsource the actual writing or write the books themselves. Next thing you know, there are 15 books for sale featuring a bible thumpin’ clown in a carnival of sin. (Yes, this is what the seamy underworld of internet marketing busies itself with. Kind of amazing, isn’t it?)


While many Internet Marketers have decided to hang out in Christian Romance, some have focused on the Romance genre as whole and moved on to a more sophisticated form of plagiarism: Rewriting entire books.


Did the heroine have glasses? Well, now she wears contacts.


Was she skinny? Guess who’s gained a few pounds?


Did she love strawberries? It’s blueberries now.


Did she have a tic of twirling her hair? The rewrite makes her a lip biter.


While the phrasing is (mostly) changed, the pacing, the plot and the entire architecture of the story remain the same. Character attributes are named with a thesaurus. A confident cowboy becomes a strong rancher. Amazingly, they both have the same problem and the same resolution to their problems! And the heroines are oddly similar.


We’re not talking about two books that both feature firefighters or werewolves, we’re talking about a paragraph by paragraph rewrite of an existing book. The sequence of events is exactly the same, just with new wording.


As you can imagine, it’s a tricky thing to convince a bookseller that a book has been plagiarized when none of the details seem to match. The bookseller representative has to have the ability to discern that it’s the same story paraphrased in new words.


For the most part, the authors affected have prevailed in shutting down the plagiarists’ accounts. However, at times, booksellers have failed to see the problem. They’re completely unaware of the new face of plagiarism. They’re looking for copy/paste, not rewrites or theft of ideas and concepts.


Here’s what we want readers to know: More often than not readers are the ones who spot the rewrite plagiarism in the first place. No matter how the marketers mix up the words, readers can spot a fake a mile away.


What to do when you find one of these rewritten books? Please contact the author of the earlier work and let them know. (Note that publication dates sometimes update and a good way to determine which book was first is often by the date of the earliest review.)Then return the book. You’re the first line of defense, the most likely to spot something amiss, so please say something to the author.


However, don’t try to sort it out yourself, let the author handle it. It is possible for stories to be very similar due to the strict genre tropes used in romance (and other genres), so don’t openly accuse anyone of anything. Let the author deal with it, they’ll be able to tell if it’s a copycat or a just an unfortunate coincidence.


If we’re going to fight this kind of plagiarism, both readers and authors need to know what’s going on and take prudent steps to address it. The last thing anyone wants is a bunch of spammy internet marketers ruining ebooks. We hope this piece will raise awareness and give authors a reference point when this kind of plagiarism hits them.


Note: This piece is anonymous to safeguard the authors involved. Most of them did not even want to talk about their experiences and guaranteed anonymity was the only way they would come forward. If you doubt the risk in going public, look what happened to author Dylan Cross just this week when he took on a piracy site.

- See more at: http://indiereader.com/2014/06/26409/#sthash.rNpiPFpr.dpuf

__________________________________

You can find the original article at: http://indiereader.com/2014/06/26409/



By

Did the heroine have glasses? Well, now she wears contacts. Was she skinny? Guess who’s gained a few pounds?

Featured, Homepage Sub  •  Jun 18, 2014
Plagiarism has had a makeover. Find out what to look for so you can protect your work from thieves or, if you’re a reader, how you can alert an author who you think might be a victim.
Internet Marketers have been a persistent problem in the world of Indie publishing, and instead of dying out over time, they’ve evolved, becoming more devious than ever.
First they plagiarized erotica. Outright copied, pasted and published it. When that didn’t prove sustainable, they outsourced erotica production to third world ESL writers. On top of that, their covers made raunchy look tame and put a big target on the genre’s back.
Oh, yeah, we’re talking about erotica, which you don’t write so why should you care? Well, keep reading. It may have all started in erotica, but it’s grown so much bigger over time.
When booksellers cracked down on erotica, everything changed. For one, internet marketers moved into Christian Romance. Did you know you can actually buy a ‘pack’ of Christian Romance plots for $20 on internet marketing forums? (It’s at least good for a laugh, especially the carnie clown plot.)
Internet marketers buy these plot packets by the dozens and either outsource the actual writing or write the books themselves. Next thing you know, there are 15 books for sale featuring a bible thumpin’ clown in a carnival of sin. (Yes, this is what the seamy underworld of internet marketing busies itself with. Kind of amazing, isn’t it?)
While many Internet Marketers have decided to hang out in Christian Romance, some have focused on the Romance genre as whole and moved on to a more sophisticated form of plagiarism: Rewriting entire books.
Did the heroine have glasses? Well, now she wears contacts.
Was she skinny? Guess who’s gained a few pounds?
Did she love strawberries? It’s blueberries now.
Did she have a tic of twirling her hair? The rewrite makes her a lip biter.
While the phrasing is (mostly) changed, the pacing, the plot and the entire architecture of the story remain the same. Character attributes are named with a thesaurus. A confident cowboy becomes a strong rancher. Amazingly, they both have the same problem and the same resolution to their problems! And the heroines are oddly similar.
We’re not talking about two books that both feature firefighters or werewolves, we’re talking about a paragraph by paragraph rewrite of an existing book. The sequence of events is exactly the same, just with new wording.
As you can imagine, it’s a tricky thing to convince a bookseller that a book has been plagiarized when none of the details seem to match. The bookseller representative has to have the ability to discern that it’s the same story paraphrased in new words.
For the most part, the authors affected have prevailed in shutting down the plagiarists’ accounts. However, at times, booksellers have failed to see the problem. They’re completely unaware of the new face of plagiarism. They’re looking for copy/paste, not rewrites or theft of ideas and concepts.
Here’s what we want readers to know: More often than not readers are the ones who spot the rewrite plagiarism in the first place. No matter how the marketers mix up the words, readers can spot a fake a mile away.
What to do when you find one of these rewritten books? Please contact the author of the earlier work and let them know. (Note that publication dates sometimes update and a good way to determine which book was first is often by the date of the earliest review.)Then return the book. You’re the first line of defense, the most likely to spot something amiss, so please say something to the author.
However, don’t try to sort it out yourself, let the author handle it. It is possible for stories to be very similar due to the strict genre tropes used in romance (and other genres), so don’t openly accuse anyone of anything. Let the author deal with it, they’ll be able to tell if it’s a copycat or a just an unfortunate coincidence.
If we’re going to fight this kind of plagiarism, both readers and authors need to know what’s going on and take prudent steps to address it. The last thing anyone wants is a bunch of spammy internet marketers ruining ebooks. We hope this piece will raise awareness and give authors a reference point when this kind of plagiarism hits them.
Note: This piece is anonymous to safeguard the authors involved. Most of them did not even want to talk about their experiences and guaranteed anonymity was the only way they would come forward. If you doubt the risk in going public, look what happened to author Dylan Cross just this week when he took on a piracy site.
- See more at: http://indiereader.com/2014/06/26409/#sthash.rNpiPFpr.dpuf
By

Did the heroine have glasses? Well, now she wears contacts. Was she skinny? Guess who’s gained a few pounds?

Featured, Homepage Sub  •  Jun 18, 2014
Plagiarism has had a makeover. Find out what to look for so you can protect your work from thieves or, if you’re a reader, how you can alert an author who you think might be a victim.
Internet Marketers have been a persistent problem in the world of Indie publishing, and instead of dying out over time, they’ve evolved, becoming more devious than ever.
First they plagiarized erotica. Outright copied, pasted and published it. When that didn’t prove sustainable, they outsourced erotica production to third world ESL writers. On top of that, their covers made raunchy look tame and put a big target on the genre’s back.
Oh, yeah, we’re talking about erotica, which you don’t write so why should you care? Well, keep reading. It may have all started in erotica, but it’s grown so much bigger over time.
When booksellers cracked down on erotica, everything changed. For one, internet marketers moved into Christian Romance. Did you know you can actually buy a ‘pack’ of Christian Romance plots for $20 on internet marketing forums? (It’s at least good for a laugh, especially the carnie clown plot.)
Internet marketers buy these plot packets by the dozens and either outsource the actual writing or write the books themselves. Next thing you know, there are 15 books for sale featuring a bible thumpin’ clown in a carnival of sin. (Yes, this is what the seamy underworld of internet marketing busies itself with. Kind of amazing, isn’t it?)
While many Internet Marketers have decided to hang out in Christian Romance, some have focused on the Romance genre as whole and moved on to a more sophisticated form of plagiarism: Rewriting entire books.
Did the heroine have glasses? Well, now she wears contacts.
Was she skinny? Guess who’s gained a few pounds?
Did she love strawberries? It’s blueberries now.
Did she have a tic of twirling her hair? The rewrite makes her a lip biter.
While the phrasing is (mostly) changed, the pacing, the plot and the entire architecture of the story remain the same. Character attributes are named with a thesaurus. A confident cowboy becomes a strong rancher. Amazingly, they both have the same problem and the same resolution to their problems! And the heroines are oddly similar.
We’re not talking about two books that both feature firefighters or werewolves, we’re talking about a paragraph by paragraph rewrite of an existing book. The sequence of events is exactly the same, just with new wording.
As you can imagine, it’s a tricky thing to convince a bookseller that a book has been plagiarized when none of the details seem to match. The bookseller representative has to have the ability to discern that it’s the same story paraphrased in new words.
For the most part, the authors affected have prevailed in shutting down the plagiarists’ accounts. However, at times, booksellers have failed to see the problem. They’re completely unaware of the new face of plagiarism. They’re looking for copy/paste, not rewrites or theft of ideas and concepts.
Here’s what we want readers to know: More often than not readers are the ones who spot the rewrite plagiarism in the first place. No matter how the marketers mix up the words, readers can spot a fake a mile away.
What to do when you find one of these rewritten books? Please contact the author of the earlier work and let them know. (Note that publication dates sometimes update and a good way to determine which book was first is often by the date of the earliest review.)Then return the book. You’re the first line of defense, the most likely to spot something amiss, so please say something to the author.
However, don’t try to sort it out yourself, let the author handle it. It is possible for stories to be very similar due to the strict genre tropes used in romance (and other genres), so don’t openly accuse anyone of anything. Let the author deal with it, they’ll be able to tell if it’s a copycat or a just an unfortunate coincidence.
If we’re going to fight this kind of plagiarism, both readers and authors need to know what’s going on and take prudent steps to address it. The last thing anyone wants is a bunch of spammy internet marketers ruining ebooks. We hope this piece will raise awareness and give authors a reference point when this kind of plagiarism hits them.
Note: This piece is anonymous to safeguard the authors involved. Most of them did not even want to talk about their experiences and guaranteed anonymity was the only way they would come forward. If you doubt the risk in going public, look what happened to author Dylan Cross just this week when he took on a piracy site.
- See more at: http://indiereader.com/2014/06/26409/#sthash.rNpiPFpr.dpuf

Monday, June 16, 2014

Goliath vs. Goliath: Why the Amazon-Hachette Debate Is Really a War Between Traditional and Self-Publishing

by Brooke Warner Become a fan
Publisher of She Writes Press; Founder of Warner Coaching Inc.; Author of 'What's Your Book?'


Like anyone who's tuned into the raging debate going on in publishing right now between Amazon vs. Hachette, I've been doing a lot of reading online. I've seen people coming down hard on Amazon, and down harder on publishers. Because of the space I stand in, pretty solidly between traditional publishing and self-publishing, I've found myself feeling like a child torn between two parents she loves, fears, and reveres.

Though this dispute is over contract negotiations and pricing, the commentary over it online belies so so much more. Like any war, it's showcasing where people's allegiances lie. On the one hand you have James Patterson running a full-page ad in the New York Times that was received about as well as anything Big Five publishers put out bemoaning the ways in which Amazon is undercutting their business, and on the other you have Barry Eisler, described in a recent Publishers Weekly article on the topic as a self-publishing activist, making it clear that the industry is pretty much freaking out about the wrong thing: Amazon is not the problem; it's technology. And then there are folks on the far end of the self-publishing spectrum, like David Gaughran, who has made some measured points about the Amazon v. Hachette dispute, but who's pretty black and white about who the wrongful party is: publishers. In a recent post about the pros of underpricing ebooks on Amazon, he wrote: "Worrying about the 'industry' is pointless because the industry does not care about you."

As someone who came up in publishing working for small presses (very much left out of this conversation about the Big Five), it's sad to see how polarized publishing has become. I've called myself an equal advocate for traditional publishing and self-publishing for years, ever since I worked with a successfully self-published author in 2007. I worked for 14 years for small presses, and I now run a press that's "third-way" publishing, and I'm proud of the ways in which She Writes Press is more self-publishing than traditional. But I also value the ways in which we're more traditional than self-publishing. And this is why I can see both sides of the debate -- and why it's so clear that the larger debate that's happening is one of hearts and minds. It's not a debate between Amazon and Hachette, but rather between those who are more intellectually and/or emotionally aligned with self-publishing or traditional publishing.

To give you a bit of perspective from the industry, Amazon is threatening. Bottom line. Bookstores are worried that Amazon will put them out of business. Publishers believe (and rightly so in my opinion, despite Gaughran's good logic to convince me otherwise) that Amazon is devaluing content. (Note: It depends on the genre!) (For the other perspective on this, read Mark Coker of Smashwords.) Many self-published authors don't understand the ways in which terms are forced upon publishers by Amazon. When I negotiated a distribution deal with Ingram Publisher Services, they told me not to bother taking issue with the terms from Amazon. They were non-negotiable. And what comes from Amazon, from my experience as a publisher, is a mixed bag. We have to pay a lot of fees, and a lot of co-op. There's a ton of competition to get our titles in front of viewers, and a lot of behavior that feels very controlling, and ultimately, for publishers who don't play by the rules, punitive. A lot of publishers see Amazon as thuggish in their negotiating style, and I understand why. 

The punitive measures Amazon has taken with Hachette include things like not allowing customers to preorder and delaying shipping. It's been argued that perhaps Amazon has legitimate reasons for this -- like Hachette not being able to get Amazon the inventory it needs, and therefore being unreliable. But even if this claim were true (and I'm sure it's more nuanced than this), why shouldn't Hachette be cut a break for delayed shipping on a title or two? Why can't Amazon just fulfill the orders when the books arrive, like they would any of their self-published titles? Doesn't Hachette have a history with Amazon of delivering inventory on time? From the publisher's perspective, this just feels like bad business. It's good business to cut your best customers a little slack, to work with them rather than against them. But Amazon's clients are not publishers, and they're not even book buyers. Its customers are aspiring authors and publishers because their money doesn't come from selling books; it comes from publishing and printing books. Where their relationship with publishers is concerned, they act a lot like the kid in school who's popular with the masses for snubbing the elite. They're catering to the 99%. Meanwhile, the industry's big failure has been in its incapacity to see itself as elite, and allowing Amazon to scoop up major popularity points with the 99%, making publishers less and less relevant as the general public sees them as being completely out of touch. All the while the publishers have just sat back and done what they normally do: act slowly and inefficiently.

I've seen several articles offering solutions for how publishers can turn the tides on Amazon, basically by pulling their inventory and selling direct to readers. If any of these op-ed writers had ever spent one week working in a publishing house they'd realize how utterly ridiculous that proposition actually is. Amazon has a stronghold on publishers. Publishers' distributors have Amazon reps, paid positions that are exclusively dedicated to the Amazon relationship and negotiating presales and all sorts of other deals. Amazon pushes a lot of content, and can make up anywhere from 20% to 60% of a publisher's entire sales. Publishing houses (for the most part) do not have the resources, nor the inclination, to sell directly. And even if they did, it wouldn't replace the volume Amazon does. Part of the distribution solution for publishers has been the outsourcing of fulfillment. Even though big publishers do have their own warehouses, they rely on their distributors and wholesalers to get the books out to the masses. Going back to an old-school model of shipping out onesies and twosies would be laughable to any big publisher (and most small ones too), simply because publishers themselves don't want to be in the fulfillment business.

I find myself, like any child in a complicated family dynamic, feeling mad at both sides sometimes. I look at their worst offenses and think to myself, What the hell are you doing? I think Amazon acts like a bully, but only to publishers, not to authors or its customers. And I also see the ways in which the publishing industry is so slow to act, so archaic, so stuck in its ways and it's painful. They can't see the ground they're losing with readers. They fail to see how much they're reviled by aspiring authors, and how the barriers to entry being so high, coupled with publishers putting out utter crap (like Reality show titles galore -- and titles that are cringe-worthy, which you can find on a daily basis if you follow Publishers Lunch) make readers who used to be loyal fans feel as if the publishing industry has totally lost its head to the bottom line. While there are still such great books being put out, and many many small presses doing great work and doing right by their authors, the "industry" has made so many mistakes that they're past being able to do damage control at this point.

Traditional publishing's worst offense has been to publish bad books and then try to hold out the party line that they're the gold standard, and the guardians of what matters to our culture. They've lowered their own bars so low that many of their titles are worse than self-published titles. As a result, we have this brave new frontier in publishing, where it's anyone's game, and that's a good thing. Anyone can publish. Anyone can succeed. But the tragedy unfolding as the publishing world gets more polarized is that the long and good traditions of the industry (good design, editorial control, etc.) are not being adhered to by the masses. Self-published authors often generate books that are half-baked, that have poor design, that any self-respecting publisher wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. But Amazon champions those authors, and gives them legitimacy and makes them feel like they're part of the club.

I can't imagine that this divide will never be reconciled, and it's why we can anticipate that the separation between self-publishing and the industry will only get wider and wider. And because Amazon is clearly on the side of the self-publisher, the industry will never be happy with the role Amazon plays in publishing. This is an epic battle, to be sure, but it's between two giants -- Goliath vs. Goliath in this case. And from my place in the middle, looking at these Goliaths as two parental figures I've come of age with, I see them both as fallen angels. Both sides have had their failings exposed. And while I still do love and respect and revere both sides in a way, I also see them for what they both are -- limited, flawed, self-serving, and far from perfect.
Follow Brooke Warner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/brooke_warner