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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 2

  1. #1551
    Old revolutionary muravyets's Avatar
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    It's interesting that you mention the origins of book distribution -- buying the block, then getting it bound, etc. Two of my favorite writers from about that time are Sterne and Pope, and they both write sometimes about writing and being writers back in the 18th century, and they mention subscriptions and such things.

    I have this vision of the business once upon a time -- At some point, I think publishers became a sort of "Jim Likes It" list of books filtered through the tastes of the person(s) whose name was on the letterhead -- Houghton Mifflin, Macmillan, Little Brown (*reflexively adds Jug*), Charles Scribner, etc. But earlier, it seemed not so much that publishers were the arbiters of taste as that writers convinced publishers that their books would sell.

    But both Pope and Sterne sometimes hint about writers, especially new ones, building their own readerships through subscriptions that amounted to pre-ordering. It suggests that a publisher, who was laying out the cash, had to be assured of a minimum number of sales before he'd pay for a first press run. I suppose this would be especially true of books that were released in serial volumes. But it does seem to me that, back in the day, writers were primarily their own main promoters and marketers.

    It seems to me like the publishing industry model through the industrial age, 19th and 20th centuries, was heavily dependent on the distribution structure. If that structure changes radically, does that entire model go away? Are we dialed back to the pre-industrial or proto-industrial writing business of the 1700s as our starting point? Should we be looking at how books were sold then and think about transferring that model to 21st century tech?

    Just wondering.
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  2. #1552
    practical experience, FTW movieman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    The mainstream publishers will dominate the market. They have the money, they have the backlist, they have the authors, they have the marketing experience.
    I'm not so sure. I think mainstream publishers will still be the easiest way for a new author to get established, because the poor quality of the vast majority of self-published fiction by unknown authors will push readers towards them; the publisher's logo will at least indicate that the book is readable and the publisher will be able to get it reviewed in places that people will go to find new books. But once an author is established, the temptation of 70% royalties on e-books instead of 30% seems likely to draw many into self-publishing.

  3. #1553
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I've been reading the volume 1 and will return here when I finish. Kudos to UJ for all his input and to my fellow authors. What I've learned far outweighs what I know. Keep the knowledge coming.
    Last edited by Tobby C. Cantrell; 04-19-2011 at 03:35 AM. Reason: Spelling error

  4. #1554
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Charles Scribner started out printing collected volumes of sermons, a genre of the early 19th century. The firm became Charles Scribner and Sons, then Charles Scribner's Sons ... and so on.

    The subscription model of publishing is old, and is still going on. People were put up money for the printing; when enough came in, the author would write the book and print it, and everyone who was subscribed got a copy. Upton Sinclair used this model too (leading to rumors that he self-published--he didn't) in the early years of the 20th century. In the later years of the 20th century, some fanzines were based on the subscription model. The best-known recent author to use this particular method, I believe, is Lawrence Watt-Evans.

    In the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Mass, there's a display of 19th century whaling artifacts. One of them is a paperback book, a whaling romance. If you walk around the back of the display, you can see that the back cover is missing, and, if you squat down and squint, you can read that last page. It ends with a plea from the author saying, in effect, "If you liked this book, please write to the publisher and ask them to hire me to write another one."

    At least one 19th century American publishing house based its origin in the fact that under American copyright law at the time, any European book was in the public domain in America, so he printed and sold European books without needing to pay the authors.

  5. #1555
    Old revolutionary muravyets's Avatar
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    Pardon me. *races out to the PEM to check that book.* Thanks for the tip.
    Hell is other people. -- Jean Paul Sartre

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  6. #1556
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    If you want my opinion, which is probably worth what you paid for it, this year about 35% of the income for the Big Six will be from e-book sales. I base this on publicly available data; I have no way of knowing what any publisher's internal financials look like.

  7. #1557
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by movieman View Post
    I'm not so sure. I think mainstream publishers will still be the easiest way for a new author to get established, because the poor quality of the vast majority of self-published fiction by unknown authors will push readers towards them; the publisher's logo will at least indicate that the book is readable and the publisher will be able to get it reviewed in places that people will go to find new books. But once an author is established, the temptation of 70% royalties on e-books instead of 30% seems likely to draw many into self-publishing.
    I disagree. An awful lot of mainstream publishing is cra*p. eBooks are probably worse - sure - but hopefully they will improve. Competition should ensure that good digital stuff sells and bad stuff doesn't.
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  8. #1558
    practical experience, FTW movieman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by euclid View Post
    I disagree. An awful lot of mainstream publishing is cra*p. eBooks are probably worse - sure - but hopefully they will improve.
    Try spending a few hours going through some ebook sites reading samples and get back to us on that. Other than the previously published authors who are self-publishing their backlist, most of the self-published ebooks I've looked at are unreadable; even when the idea was good I couldn't get more than a couple of pages into the actual writing.

    Competition should ensure that good digital stuff sells and bad stuff doesn't.
    The problem I see is that if 99% of self-published ebooks are horrible, how does a new author writing good stuff get noticed without a publisher to push them?

  9. #1559
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by movieman View Post
    Try spending a few hours going through some ebook sites reading samples and get back to us on that. Other than the previously published authors who are self-publishing their backlist, most of the self-published ebooks I've looked at are unreadable; even when the idea was good I couldn't get more than a couple of pages into the actual writing.
    Been there, done that, even blogged about it. You're right, but my point is that I've lost count of the number of times I've bought paper books and been disappointed, or amazed at how cr*ppy they were.


    The problem I see is that if 99% of self-published ebooks are horrible, how does a new author writing good stuff get noticed without a publisher to push them?
    Good, energetic promotion (by e-networking) and then word of mouth. I'll be trying this soon, maybe by the end of the year.
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
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  10. #1560
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by euclid View Post
    Good, energetic promotion (by e-networking) and then word of mouth. I'll be trying this soon, maybe by the end of the year.

    Faustus: Come, I think hell's a fable.

    Mephistopheles: Aye, think so still, 'til experience change thy mind.

    Euclid, you didn't invent that idea. It's worked...remarkably poorly...for the ones who have gone before.

  11. #1561
    Today is your last day. FOTSGreg's Avatar
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    I just lost a long post regarding commercial vs epublishing and the myths that have already become established and why there's so much crap online.

    I can't recover the whole thing or my reasoning, but suffice it to say that no one should be surprised that 90% of the stuff available online is crap. Ninety percent of anything is crap.

    Even "gatekeepered" commercial publishing produces crap - sometimes it turns those who wrote the crap into gazillionaires, but usually it doesn't.

    It just always amazes me when I hear of someone complaining that something they found online is crap.

    Use the 90% Rule. Spend your money wisely with the full understanding that "gatekeepering" does not necessarily mean "good" nor does self-or epublished necessarily mean "bad".

    I've read crap from well-established Name authors epublished lately. But I've read crap from well-established Name authors commercially-published recently as well.

    Let the buyer beware.

    Find my books on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/fotsgreg
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  12. #1562
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Well said, Greg.

    The thing about buying eBooks (on Kindle, anyhow) is that they supply a generous sample of each book free of charge, so you can get an idea what's good and what's bad before you spend your money.

    Hey Greg, I clicked on your Kindle page. Are those all self-published? Are they books or short stories? The Amazon info is not clear.
    Last edited by euclid; 04-19-2011 at 06:09 AM.
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  14. #1564
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Thanks for that link, Jim. Theft of IP is a major worry for ebooks, no doubt about it, but hopefully the ePlatforms will stamp it out before my stuff arrives there.
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
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  15. #1565
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Obscurity is a far greater enemy for writers than piracy will ever be.

  16. #1566
    Mostly annoying Hallen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Obscurity is a far greater enemy for writers than piracy will ever be.
    Quote of the month, right there.
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  17. #1567
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Obscurity is a far greater enemy for writers than piracy will ever be.

    If only I were well known enough to be pirated. Well, there was that one time, but that is another tale of woe, horsey.
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  18. #1568
    empty-nester! shadowwalker's Avatar
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    I think one needs to differentiate between subjective crap (I can't stand the style; I thought the plot was dumb) and objective crap (the formatting is unreadable; the grammar was atrocious). Under subjective, one could say there's a ton of crap coming from commercial publishers; under objective (or maybe technical), I don't think one can. Which seems to me to be the main difference between commercial publishing and self-publishing.
    Je suis Charlie

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  19. #1569
    Today is your last day. FOTSGreg's Avatar
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    Forgive me for I do not wish to spam the thread, but I want to answer Euclid publically since his question was initially public. My stories on Kindle are all short stories, thus far. They're all self-epublished, but have received, in most cases, substantial critical comment, particularly down in the SYW threads.

    Are they perfect? Of course not. There's a substantial amount that I still need to learn about writing. Are they making me money? You betcha'. Not a huge amount by any stretch, but a lot more than they were a year ago. One of my stories, After Action Report, has blown everything else away including stories that I thought were much better. I don't even think it's one of my better stories, but the number of sales makes me a liar.

    Before the end of this month I will have an 80k word novel, HATCHINGS, up on Kindle and a number of other platforms online via Smashwords. I also plan an anthology, but little of that matters. I have a 5-year plan for what I hope to accomplish via Kindle, etc., but even if that plan doesn't pan out perfectly, I plan to continue to pursue both commercial and self-epublishing - and to continue to read and listen to the advice of Masters like our Uncle Jim whose thread this is and to whom I apologize profusely for thus comment.

    Find my books on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/fotsgreg
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  20. #1570
    Esteemed thinker Calliopenjo's Avatar
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    Uncle Jim,

    Is there a rule on dialogue tag placement?

    Wounded I sing, tormented I indite. Victor Herbert (1859-1924)

  21. #1571
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calliopenjo View Post

    Is there a rule on dialogue tag placement?
    No. There isn't a rule.

    The master rules still apply: If it works, it's right, and Don't confuse the readers.

    Anything else is a matter of style. Sentence rhythm, the pace of the scene, the amount of dialog, how distinctive your characters are; all these will influence your use of dialog tags.

    Find a favorite author. Take one of his or her books and go through with a hi-liter, marking all the dialog tags. Make up your own mind.

    This is an art. You are the artist. Be bold, be bold, but not too bold....

  22. #1572
    practical experience, FTW Purple Rose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    If you walk around the back of the display, you can see that the back cover is missing, and, if you squat down and squint, you can read that last page. It ends with a plea from the author saying, in effect, "If you liked this book, please write to the publisher and ask them to hire me to write another one."
    Sad but this brings to life, for me, at least, the romance of writing.

  23. #1573
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Yog's Law and Self-Publishing.

    Yog's Law is very simple: Money flows toward the author.

    For commercial publishing, this is absolutely true. Once you've moved away from it, you're out of the realm of commercial publishing.

    The next stop is vanity publishing. Here you find the so-called "self-publishing services" along with the true vanities. In this area, the publishers run the gamut from A Very Bad Idea right the way down to An Out-And-Out Scam, with a vast morass of well-intentioned-but-undercapitalized and well-intentioned-but-incompetent in between. From an author's point of view, there's no practical difference between a scammer and an incompetent: both are time-and-money sinks; neither will get your book into the hands of readers.

    Yog's Law will keep you safe from this part of the publishing landscape. Use it as your compass and your guide.

    Last is true self-publishing. Yog's Law is true here, too. Self-publishing is the part of the map where the author hires the editor, hires the cover artist, the typesetter, the proofreader, contracts the printer, buys the ISBN, arranges distribution, promotion, marketing, and carries out every other aspect of publishing. What you need to recall is that while the author is the publisher, "publisher" and "author" are separate roles. One of the classic mistakes I see with self-published authors is that they don't put "paying the author" in their business plan as an expense. The money still needs to move from one pocket to another. Those pockets may be in the same pair of pants, but that movement must be in the business plan, and it has to happen. Here too, Yog's Law is completely true, and will help the self-publisher run his/her business as a business.

    Avoid unhappy surprises. Live by Yog's Law.

  24. #1574
    Esteemed thinker Calliopenjo's Avatar
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    Smile

    Thank you Uncle Jim.

    Wounded I sing, tormented I indite. Victor Herbert (1859-1924)

  25. #1575
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Yog's Law and Self-Publishing.

    Yog's Law is very simple: Money flows toward the author.

    For commercial publishing, this is absolutely true. Once you've moved away from it, you're out of the realm of commercial publishing.

    The next stop is vanity publishing. Here you find the so-called "self-publishing services" along with the true vanities. In this area, the publishers run the gamut from A Very Bad Idea right the way down to An Out-And-Out Scam, with a vast morass of well-intentioned-but-undercapitalized and well-intentioned-but-incompetent in between. From an author's point of view, there's no practical difference between a scammer and an incompetent: both are time-and-money sinks; neither will get your book into the hands of readers.

    Yog's Law will keep you safe from this part of the publishing landscape. Use it as your compass and your guide.

    Last is true self-publishing. Yog's Law is true here, too. Self-publishing is the part of the map where the author hires the editor, hires the cover artist, the typesetter, the proofreader, contracts the printer, buys the ISBN, arranges distribution, promotion, marketing, and carries out every other aspect of publishing. What you need to recall is that while the author is the publisher, "publisher" and "author" are separate roles. One of the classic mistakes I see with self-published authors is that they don't put "paying the author" in their business plan as an expense. The money still needs to move from one pocket to another. Those pockets may be in the same pair of pants, but that movement must be in the business plan, and it has to happen. Here too, Yog's Law is completely true, and will help the self-publisher run his/her business as a business.

    Avoid unhappy surprises. Live by Yog's Law.
    Where does Mephistopheles live in all this?
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
    I'm on Twitter @jjtoner_YA



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