My Hope for the 12th Doctor

… Is that he remembers how to kick ass like the 3rd Doctor:

 

judo

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Self-Publishing: Who Is Making The Money?

 

This story in The Guardian caught my attention: 391,000 books were self-published in the United States last year.

Holy, suffering, jumping, dying Moses!

That’s a staggering number of titles – I won’t go into the quality of the books. Most people in the industry agree that most self-published titles lack the kind of editing, style and quality of writing that you see with traditionally published books. But I have to ask: if, say, 300,000 books wind up being self-published each year, and a good portion via Kindle Direct Publishing, for example, who is making the money?

While self-published books receive a higher royalty, the vast, vast majority might make a couple of hundred bucks. A book’s success is wholly dependent on the author’s brand and the ability to market those books. Just as in traditional publishing, social media is the primary source of book marketing because it’s basically cost-free. A book’s success will likely depend on an author’s social media currency, and good on those authors who capitalize on it for profit. (Though my Twitter feed is spammed continually be self-pubbed authors trying to flog their stuff. Twitter seems to be the marketing tool of choice next to blog tours & giveaways.) But here’s the thing: is it not in Amazon’s best interest to flood the market with self pubbed titles? I mean, they own the market – Amazon makes money whether one Kindle Direct Publishing title sells or whether a hundred thousand sell.

Very simply, the math is in Amazon’s favor – or really any self publishing venue online. If they own the marketplace, then it makes sense to get as many titles listed in your online bookstore as humanly possible regardless of their quality or content and then skim pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters off each one that sells. KA-CHING!  (And don’t even get me started on the Kindle Direct Published titles that are *free* Those free titles skew the Amazon rankings, don’t you know.)

Look … the fact is that most traditionally published authors don’t earn out their advance on royalties.  There’s no advance on royalties with self-publishing, but I think writers need to be aware of just how many copies they’re going to likely sell before they decide to self-publishing with Amazon or anyone else.

This is a bad model for authors but you can’t disagree, it’s a hell of a business approach and one that is reflective of the mind-numbing level of change in the publishing industry. I also think it’s unsustainable and might possibly face a self-published author backlash in a few year’s time because the truth hasn’t yet sunken in for those with dreams of becoming the next self-publishing phenomenon. I think what you’re writing is important too, if you want to make a few bucks out of the self-publishing gig. Romance and literature make up the lion’s share of self-published books according to the article – sadly, what’s missing are the sales figures.

If we had those numbers, I think authors might go into self-publishing with realistic expectations.

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Canada’s Reaction to Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize in Literature

Damn it … where are my tap shoes??

 

 

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Canada Doesn’t Give A Damn About Its Veterans

 

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Updated on on 15 June 2016. This post first appeared on October 4, 2013. New government is a lot like the old government as we veterans are now told by federal lawyers there is no ‘duty of care’ to Canada’s veterans.

I first learned the Government of Canada is closing the Veteran’s Affairs office in Saskatoon back in the fall. It’s part of a cost cutting regime our federal Conservatives have been embarking on for the past year or so as they try to reign in the deficit. And really, this closure has nothing to do with former Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force personnel – it has to do with the civilians working at the Veteran’s Affairs office here in town. It’s about eliminating federal public service jobs because they eat up a large chunk of the budget. We veterans are just caught in the line of fire, that’s all.

I suppose I could be very shrill and sanctimonious – I could say government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper was very quick to put our military personnel in harm’s way as part of an aggressive foreign policy that had nothing to do with international peacekeeping and everything to do with supporting the U.S. “war on terror”. But I won’t. There’s lots of special interest groups and opposition political parties that are trying to score points. It’s what they do.

And you know, I’ve never really had mind-blowingly amazing  service any time I darkened the doors of the Veteran’s Affairs office here in Saskatoon. Everything is behind thick panes of glass – you know, security glass. You walk into a waiting room with some tables and generic semi-comfy office chairs. There’s copies of the Royal Canadian Legion’s magazine and of course lots of pamphlets on programs and services available to veterans. But every time I paid a visit, I didn’t really feel that welcome – how could I or anyone? The civil servants that are supposed to guide vets through the labyrinth of complex federal regulations deliberately written in vague bureaucratic language that you need a lawyer to decipher speak in that very same language – a language, ironically, that veterans don’t speak.

(The regulatory language of what veterans are entitled to and more importantly, how to access benefits is unbearably difficult to understand, and I’m a word guy. I write books for crying out loud! The media should be reporting on how vague and complicated it is to actually understand how to access veteran’s services.)

I don’t blame the public servants working there, of course – bureaucrats and the Ministry decided to turn Veteran’s Affairs offices into the unwelcoming places they are. I guess all the locked doors and security glass, the talking through a tiny window in the glass to a civil servant exists because the powers that be are afraid veterans are going to go postal. That we’re going to suddenly become violent because we aren’t getting the help we need because of what Canada asked us to do on its behalf.

There’s a lot of symbolism in thick panes of security glass.

I have a regular non-civil service job. I get that our government has to cut back on its payroll to balance the books. I know that most Canadians support these cuts because none of us has any kind of benefit package including a pension and annual sick days that comes within ten miles of what civil servants receive. There’s an old saying in Canada: everyone hates the public service and everyone wants to work for the public service.

But, there are some things that shouldn’t be cut. Veterans programs and services need to be at the top of that list because it is about a bargain the country struck with volunteers who signed up to serve. We (military personnel) will serve our nation faithfully. We will lay down our lives if necessary to protect you. And you (Canada), when the time comes … you must take care of us because of what we did.

It doesn’t matter if the service person is a veteran of combat in Afghanistan or a recently retired administrative clerk who has spent twenty years filing military paperwork on a safe Canadian military base somewhere: We served our country. You didn’t. You owe us.

All in the name of government restraint, I suppose. We’re told that we can access many of the services online now, but that ain’t service. That’s a freaking website. That’s not talking with a case worker.  If the regulations are vague and hard to understand, a website is a thousand times worse.  Military personnel  and veterans know all about service – we know more than any public servant, elected politician or Canadian civilian can ever possibly conceive.

Unfortunately none of this resonates with most Canadians. (Seriously. Whenever I visit the United States and the folks there learn that I am a veteran, they immediately shake my hand and thank me for my service, even though I am from a foreign country. In Canada, if someone learns that I am a veteran I generally get a blank stare and a polite “oh”.) The government knows this. The cuts will come and let’s say that Harper loses the next election. Does anyone in their right mind think the Liberals or NDP will reopen the offices that are now closing? Not a freaking chance. UPDATE – was wrong on that one. But they might as well remained closed since everything is behind locked doors and security glass, but I digress.

I think a lot of veterans give up. I think that’s why the government can point to the fact that of the 600,000 veterans in Canada only 130,000 have a file with Veteran’s Affairs and only 7,500 have an assigned case manager..

The ongoing rash of veteran suicides is a symptom of a much larger problem that nobody really wants to talk about. Combine this with the fact that military personnel are trained to suck it up and soldier on from the first day of boot camp, well, you know the drill.

Nobody is marching in the streets in support of Canadian veterans. They won’t either. The cuts will continue and nobody really gives a damn. Harper’s people know it. The Liberals know it. The NDP knows it.  Nothing to see here, folks. We’re just veterans, that’s all.

It is so exhausting.

It’s so unbelievably soul destroying to know that the country you volunteered to serve, protect and possibly lay down your life for, doesn’t give a damn.

Dear Canada, let’s be honest for once – all of us. If you truly cared about about your veterans, better services would exist. Our national leaders would be held to account. That’s not happening. Veterans issues aren’t even a blip on anyone’s radar. .

And there is probably still that thick protective glass in the waiting rooms of the remaining Veteran’s Affairs offices in Canada.

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My 4 Favorite Writer’s Resources

I’ve slapped together this blog post for my writer’s group in Saskatoon, so there’s probably nothing new here if you’ve been trying to get published for a while.

Anyhoo, back when I started this whole “getting published” gig, in the days when there was no Internet and dinosaurs walked the earth, the only writing resource that one could find was this brick building called a library. And all the books on writing were reference volumes, so you couldn’t borrow them. I’d take a notepad and pull the thick writer’s market book off the shelf to spend hours flipping through the pages trying to find out the intricacies of getting the terrible, awful, crummy bad stuff I’d typed on my typewriter out to the mystical magical world of sweet publishing legitimacy.

Thank the Gods those days are over. There is so much incredible writer resource stuff online that you can easily spend days flipping through the hundreds of websites, blogs, guides, web forums, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that are out there. So, which places did I peruse (and still lurk)? Here’s my list in no particular order.

1) Absolute Write Forums: Yeah, that place. Specifically, the Bewares and Background Checks forum. There you will find first-hand experience with publishers and agents, who is accepting submissions, who isn’t and most importantly, who to avoid. There’s the usual web-forum drama and I swear, there is no force on earth stronger than Absolute Write member’s hatred for the soul sucking entity known as Publish America.  This place needs to be your starting point on your journey because the forum has been a fixture for newbie writers since like … well, forever. Its sheer volume of content means there’s a pretty damned good chance that anyone who is anyone in publishing has a thread about them. Do check it out – actually, bookmark it.

2) Preditors and Editors: Again, massive content on who is who and who you should run like hell from in the way of agents and publishers. This is another Internet oldie but a goodie, and a damned fine public service to anyone who is seriously thinking about throwing their project out the publishing gods in hope of sweet, juicy, publishing manna. (It’s been a must-visit site since 1997, people. They’ve been sued, they’ve been pilloried and they’re still helping writers every single day.)

3) Agent Query: Another fine resource that will help you learn a little bit about the agents that are out there and what they’re looking for. And listen, if you’re going to query an agent, for crying out loud please read their submission guidelines. Agents are mond0-busy and don’t have time to screw around with people who can’t read a sentence on a website.

4) Pub Rants: Literary agent Kristen Nelson is one of the most sought-after agents out there and for good reason: she knows what the hell she’s talking about and her agency has this habit of selling really damned good books. Oh … she’s been blogging since 2006 and in February of this year, moved her blog to my first linky. But she’s kept seven year’s worth of stuff on the old blog alive and well. Here’s the link. Do check it out, and do pay close attention to her annual post wherein Kristen provides the statistics for that year – from the number of queries to the number of requests to the number of offers to the number of deals. That annual blog post alone will give you a clear indication as to how freaking hard it is to get an agent and a book deal.

Honorable mentions:

a) Your favorite author’s blog. Seriously. If there’s an author you love to read, they likely have a blog. Google them and find it because every published author that I know of has a blog and is always posting yummy authorly advice for you to chew on. (Sort of like this blog post)

b) Twitter: I cannot stress enough how amazing this resource is – so long as you actually use it as a resource and not a distraction to your writing.  Literary agents are on there. Publishers too. And they offer free advice in 140 characters or less but for crying out loud, don’t query an agent on Twitter. It pisses them off and they will inform Planet Earth that people who query them on Twitter don’t get very far.

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