Sunday, May 30, 2010

My writing week 3 (21)

Hi all,

I ended last week fearful about the shape the publishing industry will be in when I finally finish one of the novels I am writing. I have been reading a lot about ebooks and debating ebook authors like Graham Storrs about what effect ebooks might have on the publishing industry, and I have come to the conclusion that they will probably destroy the publishing industry leaving authors to battle it out online, selling their ebooks for $2 and having to rise above a biblical flood of free ebooks.

On the weekend I attended an online convention, Survival of Writers in the 21st Century, at, where, dark fantasy, author Scott Nicholson confirmed my fears. He said that he didn't expect the NY print market to be a viable proposition, especially for new authors, after the next five years. He thought that most ebooks will soon be selling for $2, as his already are. In the past months I have regularly checked the Amazon top 100 bestsellers and, on average, a third of the books have sold for $2 or less. Scott thinks that eventually consumers will expect to pay nothing for ebooks. At $2 an ebook, most publishers won't be making any money out of them, and most established authors will realise they are better off going it alone, ditching their publisher and getting their 70% of the Amazon list price of $2.

The only publishers who will not survive on 70% of the $2 list price are those with huge volumes from mega selling authors (except most of them will realise they're better off getting the whole 70%). Australian publishers will become all but extinct as they don't sell the volumes required to survive at a $2 price. Print books won't survive as readers no longer buy $15US trade paperbacks or $8US paperbacks, turning to the $2 ebook. Of course some publishers will try to keep the price of ebooks at around $10, but then their books will be choice pickings for pirated copies and be undercut by the price of other ebooks.

With little or no publishers left, new authors will need to battle it out on the web. One way to do this is to charge less than competitors. So they will charge $1, but most will soon find they don't have a big enough profile to sell more than a few ebooks, so the will decide to try to establish a profile by giving the book away for free. Of course there will be those, who through luck or skill or bullshit, manage to get a buzz going and sell their $1 ebook, but for millions it will only result in a useless flooding of the web.

With millions of free ebooks, many of them edited (whether paid for or edited by a friend), there are sure to be many quality free ebooks that consumer who expects free ebooks can choose from. To make this choice easier there will be a number of websites set up to tell you which are the quality free ebooks. One of these websites will eventually become dominate and be taken over by an ailing Amazon, struggling to survive selling $2 ebooks.

So it doesn't look good for writers like me. One thing I have decided is that I better improve my editing skills because it is highly unlikely that any of my novels will ever be edited by a publisher because there won't many of them around. I am also about to get a small inheritance which I will keep in term deposits until I need to pay for an editor to at least copy edit my completed novels.

I have also decided I better get over hoping people decide that even $10US is a fair price for ebooks, with the publishing industry surviving. They won't, It won't. What I need to do is concentrate my thoughts on thinking of ways to survive in a world where authors are no longer paid for downloads of their ebook novels. I have asked myself, is it enough to just be read, to make no money out of writing? The answer is a definite yes.

I also need to do much more writing. Last week I didn't come close to reaching my new writing goal, but if I had achieved it in the first week of trying, it wouldn't have been much of a challenge, would it?


Sunday, May 23, 2010

My writing week 3 (20)

Hi all,

It's been a tough few weeks but I'm getting back into writing, reading about writing and reading fiction. I forgot to mention the Jennifer Bryne Presents' episode on Bestsellers and Blockbusters. The panel was made up of Mathew Reilly, Di Morrisey, Bryce Courtenay and Lee Child. It was an excellent show with the bestselling authors having a go at so called writers of literature who they said were jealous because they couldn't write bestsellers, even if they tried.

Bryce mentioned that when he is writing he is aware of four protagonists: the two very important characters and the one they play off, and the reader. I was thinking about the two first draft novels I have written and both have two important characters and another they play off. I am not sure about the fourth protagonist, although I don't think as I write: this will make the reader work. I don't treat the reader as a moron either, but if something is important to the plot, I try to make it as clear as possible. One of the criticisms of the panel was that literature writers want the reader to do the work, whereas bestselling authors have already done the work for their readers. They also said that if a reader didn't understand their books, then it was their fault as the writer, unlike literature authors who blamed the reader.

As a paid up member of Aussiecon 4, I get to vote in the Hugo awards. I was not going to bother because I doubted I would have read any of the nominees, but a few weeks ago Aussiecon4 sent me a url address and a code to download copies of all the nominees' works. I downloaded all the science fiction nominees and will start reading the short stories and work my way up through the novellas and novelettes. Not sure if I will get to the novels in time. It would be nice to think that everyone who votes in a particular category would have read all the nominees, thus giving the Hugo's a bit more credibility. I have previously criticised the Hugos and other popular voted awards of lacking the prestige of those awarded by judging panels.

I have read a bit this week about ebooks, particularly the ipad. Universally they say that Its display is bad, being unreadable in bright light. Users suggest it is great for checking emails, the web and reading ebooks, but at $629, for the cheapest model, why not get a $260 kindle if you are just going to use it for ebooks and then use your notebook or iphone for connecting to the internet when you are on the move. Telstra and Optus have price plans for the ipad starting at $20 for 1GB of data, but the Kindle has no extra ongoing costs after it is purchased. I think ipad will fail as an ebook reader and Apple's bookstore will fail under the might of Amazon.

I was surprised to read on a literary agent's blog that she was surprised that the 25% an author gets for an ebook from their publisher, would not be 25% of the listed price on Apple bookstore, but 25% of the 70% the publisher gets of the listed price. I thought that would have been obvious.

So with all my reading/watching of all things book related, did I make time to write? Yes. I am still editing the novella - changing it a bit too. I have a plan that involves me writing for at least 20 hours a week. Four hours on weekdays and whatever on weekends. This should drastically increase my output. I just hope life doesn't intervene with too much. There are still a lot of things to be done after my father's death, but at least the Brisbane Lions are ensuring I lose interest in watching them play.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

My writing week 3 (18/19)

Hi all,

My father died just over a week ago, on Mother's day. The previous few weeks he had been unable to communicate and just wanted to wander the corridors of the nursing home.
Two Monday's ago he stopped eating and drinking and just slept.The last few days he spent unconscious. I was sadder then then I am now. It's not relief, definitely not shock, just an acknowledgement that we lost him bit by bit.

I helped my mum organise the funeral and start to reorganise her life and finalise dad's. I had an argument with a moron at AATP who wanted to charge mum $60 to change the home phone over to her name, and wanted a death certificate that day, one day after his death, to do it.

Mum received a letter from her health fund, Latrobe, addressed to dad and offering him condolences for her death. How could they get it so wrong? She had been the one talking to them on the phone.

The funeral was on Friday. A brilliant sunny day. About 70 people turned up, which was more than I expected.

I spent a lot of time writing last week, not speculative fiction but my father's eulogy. The first time I read it out loud it went for fifteen minutes. I eventually got it down to just under ten, but with a bit of ad libbing on the day, it probably went longer. No one seemed to mind, with a few people coming up to me after the service saying they appreciated me filling them in on my father's busy life.

So, I didn't get far editing my novella last week. And I missed three of the sessions at the online speculative fiction conference (although I tried to log on late to the third one and it would not let me in).

I have been catching up on my newspaper reading over the last two days and must do some research on Google's bookstore which is just about to open. I have read that they will only give publishers 63% of the retail cost compared to 70% at Amazon. I still reckon Amazon will easily win the war because it is the place people go to buy books.

My printer died straight after I printed the final copy of the eulogy. I bought a new one yesterday. This one has five toner cartridges, with three different color cartridges. I am not sure whether it will it save me money by just having to replace the color that has run out instead of the entire color cartridge, or cost me more, by not having available generic refills.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

transcript for Well Rounded Worlds session

Hi all,

The transcript for the Well Rounded Worlds session (which I attended) at the online speculative fiction convention is available here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My writing week 3 (17)

Hi all,

I finished the first draft of the science fiction/fantasy novella I've been slowly writing over the past few weeks. It is now called The Watchers and is just under 9,000 words. Hopefully I can quickly revise it before sending it off to my writers group to be critiqued. Which means I should make an effort to critique some of their stories in the coming weeks, unfortunately there have been very few new pieces placed on it to critique in the past few months. I'll see what happens.

I had a couple of moments of synchronicity last week. While trying to write some authentic period dialogue for my novella I read a story in the Macquarie Pen Anthology of Australia Literature that had the same sort of characters in it, thus expediting the end of the novella. On Sunday's Ockham's Razor Dr Michael Lardelli from the University of Adelaide gave a talk stating that the world had reached peak oil in 2008, that night I watched the second part of the mediocre mini-series Burn on ABC which had been about climate change but at the end dramatised the world economic collapse when peak oil was reached in 2009. Lardelli's talk said that we might not be able to prioritise the remaining oil for building the necessary alternative energy infrastructure to replace the lack of oil. So the world might be in for another, bigger economic collapse in the next few years as it recovers from the GFC and demand for oil is unmet. Another reason for starting to do something about climate change now.

I attended the online speculative fiction writing convention on Sunday morning for a session on World Building by author Lynn Flewelling. The session gave me few things to think about when describing new technology in worlds I have created. I will put a transcript of the session up on my blog sometime later this week.

The convention goes for the whole of May and I am booked into four more sessions: Artificial Intelligence and Sexuality; The Book Deal and the Publishing Process; Brainstorming the Future of the Novel; and Survival for 21st Century Writers.

Nothing to report on ebooks this week, but next week I must do a check of the 100 bestselling kindle ebooks to see if there has been much change in their prices.

Hopefully life doesn't intervene in my writing too much this week so I can get through an edit of the novella and be back editing the novel next week.