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Is it any wonder so many authors are turning to self-publishing? Not to me and probably not to the authors–myself included–who are publishing their own books. If you aren’t a celebrity, an athlete, been a nanny for some has-been (and never- shoud-have-been–Kate Gosselin, I’m looking at you) celebrity, been tried for murder (whether guilty or not), been tried as an accomplice to murder, or any number of things that shoved you into the spotlight for your undeserved 15 minutes of fame, then you may as well give up on being published by any of the big publishers.

Oh, wait, I forgot, if you were raised by wolves in the woods (or only imagined you were), a part of a gang in L.A. (or only imagined you were), or a recovering drug addict (or only imagined you were), then you can probably get a publisher interested in your story (made-up or not).

And now comes news of Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, both receiving publishing contracts so they can tell us the story of their relationship, murder trial, and imprisonment in Italy. Do we really need to read about it from their point of view? I don’t think so but hey, I don’t have to buy their books when they come out (and believe me, I won’t) nor do I have to read them. I’m not interested in hearing their side of the story because I’ve already read/heard it.

And I have to wonder if there are really that many people out there who will buy these books with their stories that are as stale as day-old-bread? I guess there must be judging by the fact that the publishers are apparently signing them as fast as they can.

\Rant off

/BSP on

If you’d like to read a great self-published story, try Whistling Woman by CC Tillery (that’s me with my sister), only .99 on Kindle and coming soon to print!

It’s a wonderful story about our great-aunt Bessie, based on family
stories and chock-full of history about the mountains of western North
Carolina, Cherokee legends and medicine, and the Melungeon
people. Set in the town of Hot Springs around the turn of the 20th
century, it’s historical southern literature at its best!
(I can’t believe I just typed that but I happen to believe it and I really
need to get over my aversion to self-promotion!)

\BSP off

 

Very interesting and thought-provoking post by Jane on Dear Author; Publishers, It’s Your Move. In the article, Jane gives a list of 8 things publishers can do to reconnect with their readers and in number 4 notes that: “The great wealth of crappy self publishing offerings helps to increase the value of quality offerings but if the higher priced goods are crappy, then readers might as well pay $.99 instead of $7.99.”

I have to admit to a slight wince when I read the “great wealth of crappy self publishing offerings.” My sister, Christy Tillery French (the other half of CC Tillery) and I spent upwards of 4 months reading, proofing,and formatting then re-reading, re-proofing, and re-formatting many times over before we even considered submitting Whistling Woman to Kindle Direct Publishing. Quality was uppermost in our mind while we did that. We read countless books on how to format your e-book for the various e-readers and did our best to follow the directions of authors who have walked the self-publishing path before us. And from all indications, we got it right. Everyone I’ve talked to who has read or is reading Whistling Woman (available on Kindle for a low $2.99!), has commented on how clean the formatting is. Both Christy and I have read the book on our Kindles and (pardon the vanity) it looks beautiful. So I have to disagree on the quality of self-published e-books. There are some that are of an equal or higher quality than the e-books being released by the major publishers.

In fact, judging by the e-books I’ve read from the major publishers vs. the self-published e-books, I’d venture to say that whether you pay the outrageous prices from the big publishers or the much lower price for a self-published book, the odds of getting a poor quality e-book are about the same. I have a Sony Touch e-reader, a Kindle, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab with all the e-reader apps, and I have numerous e-books on each one. With the exception of one Stephen King book and a few books by fave authors, I’ve never paid more than $5 for any e-book. I just refuse to do it and I no longer have an auto-buy list simply because I learned pretty fast that in the world of e-books, high price doesn’t always equal high quality. So, being a cheapskate, a skinflint, and a Scrooge admirer of the highest order, most of the e-books I buy cost no more than $.99, and though I don’t know for sure, I’d be willing to bet I have just as many that were free. A great many of those books are self-published, as Whistling Woman is, and I’ve found very few that have glaring formatting errors, typos, or grammatical mistakes. Which leads me to believe that most self-published authors are at least making an effort to get it right.

I heartily agree with Jane’s admonitions to the big publishers, “Be synonymous with quality” but I have to add that a cheaper price doesn’t always mean cheaper quality. And yes, I know that Jane isn’t saying all self-published books are low-quality because the truth is, there are quite a few that are…well, crappy, but there are also quite a few self-published authors who take pride in their work and strive to make it the best it can be.

Today’s my birthday and I’ve spent the day doing only things I enjoy doing.  I started the day reading, and with the exception of a few phone calls from family and friends, managed to while away the entire morning lost in a book.  After a completely non-nutritious lunch, I decided the next thing I wanted to do was work on the most important thing in my life right now: Whistling Woman.

First a little backstory; Whistling Woman is a book my sister, Christy Tillery French, and I co-wrote about the life of our great aunt.  It’s part fact, part fiction, and includes a lot of the stories we grew up hearing from our dad and our great aunt Bessie when she was alive.  Christy calls it faction–love that word!–and it works but I’m not really sure what recognized genre it would fall under.  Historical fiction?  Southern literature?  Whatever, it takes place in Hot Springs, North Carolina, in the late 1800’s and there’s quite a bit of history and folklore pertaining to the mountains of western NC, as well as the family stories.

We finished the book a couple of weeks ago and since then have been trying to decide which way to go now that the manuscript is complete.  We first thought, try for an agent and hope they can sell it to one of the big publishers in NY.  But then we started thinking about the time factor.  While you could say the book was inspired by our great aunt’s life, the real inspiration is our dad.  He told us most of the stories that play such an important part of the book, and he continues to tell us the stories today–thank God!  But you see, Daddy will turn 83 years old next month, and while he’s healthy and he comes from a family that is long-lived, you just never know.  One of his oil paintings will grace the cover and it’s very important to us to be able to give him the book so…we started looking at smaller publishers and POD publishers.  Still a wait in most cases so then we started thinking of self-publishing, something both of us swore we’d never do.

Oh, how the not-so-mighty have fallen.  Yep, we’ve decided the thing to do is self-publish.  Not only does it give us more control over the book and how it’s presented, it’s a lot quicker.  As an added bonus, we wouldn’t be under contract with a publisher and any money the book makes comes back to us without anyone else taking a cut.

Can we all say Scrooge-alicious?  I can and I do because while I have been making money with my writing and I know Christy has too, this is a book from our hearts, a true labor of love, so why share the money from our hard work with someone else?

So, that’s how we came to the decision to self-publish.  And today, on my birthday, I decided to get down to business.  I sent an email off to a local printer, BP Solutions in Asheville, to a woman who comes highly recommended by a member of one of the writing groups I belong to–thanks Celia!–and less than 5 minutes after I pressed “send” I get a phone call from her.  Hmm…as Aunt Bessie would probably say, it’s a sign.  I have to say I agree with her.

I also have to say, if being a self-published author is half as fun as being a traditionally published author, it’s going to be a heck of a fun ride!  Oh, I know, it’s a big change and one that will involve a lot of hard work, but it’s a change that has me excited and looking forward to what comes next.  Not a bad 56th birthday present, if I do say so myself!

Hilarious and depressing, not to mention incomprehensible–at least to me–article at Huffington Post.  Be sure and click on the “most obnoxious publishing stories of 2010” link in the last paragraph–if you dare.  Seriously, what can the publishers be thinking?

Oh wait, I know the answer to that…money, money, money.  Who cares if the writing sucks, as long as it sells.  Right?  Right!

On a happier note, topped 29K words on Sun Shadows today.  Woo-hoo!  I’m slowly getting back into the groove.  Biggest problem I’m having right now is ideas for the last book in the series keep popping into my head and I have to stop to jot them down.  Oh well, at least I’m writing and the MS flare-up is getting better with every day.

Also, only two weeks till opening day.  Yay, go Red Sox!  And good choice, Tito, for choosing Jon Lester to lead us off!

My 52 weeks of Writing Adventure task for this week was to clean up my blog–specifically my sidebar.  I hated that my book covers were all different sizes so I made myself play with the widgets and finally (!) figured it out.  Sidenote: can anybody tell me why I can’t get more than one “Image” widget to load in my sidebar?  Is it the theme I’m using?  Or is it that WordPress won’t allow more than one?  I almost drove myself crazy with that one and finally decided just to make the pictures of the covers all one size on my computer then load them in one “Text” widget.  It worked and they’re all the same size now–yippee and congratulations to me!

But the real congratulations go out to Linda Houle and Lisa Rene Smith of L&L Dreamspell.  Lisa and Linda are celebrating their third anniversary as a publisher and the release of their 100th book.  Yay for them!

Having experienced the demise of two publishers, one a little over a year old and the other less than a year, three years sounds like an eternity to me.  I love hearing news like that–not only for myself but for all the talented L&L Dreamspell authors, both fiction and non-fiction, that Linda and Lisa have taken under their wing.

Back when I was only published in e-books and there seemed to be publishers failing at least weekly, I remember reading on some of the blogs about the publishing red-flags that all authors should look out for when submitting their work.  One of the them was a publisher that claims they and their authors are all “one big happy family.”  I learned that one the hard way but I have to say L&L Dreamspell is the exception to that rule.  They’re a joy to work with, professional yet caring at the same time, and they do everything they can to make their authors feel as if each of us are a part of their “happy family.”

So, congratulations Linda and Lisa–here’s to many more years and many more books!

scratching your head over Harlequin’s new self-publishing imprint Harlequin Horizons?  I admit to a little bit of confusion–okay, make that a lot of confusion–about why they would do such a thing and the more I read, the more puzzled I became.

So, yeah, I went searching for answers and I have to tell you, this thing is all over the Internet.  Blogs everywhere are talking about it.  I’m surprised it hasn’t become one of the hot topics on Twitter.  Of course, since I’ve been busy with the edits on Storm Shadows, I haven’t been paying much attention to Twitter, so it very well could be the “Trending Topics” list.

Anyway, in my search for understanding–okay, okay, my inbred nosiness–I went looking for someone who could make sense of this for me…

and eureka!  I found a post on Jackie Kessler’s blog!  It’s long but Ms. Kessler breaks the whole sorry mess down for you and doesn’t pull any punches.  Believe me, you’re not going to find a better explanation than this one.

Thanks, Ms. Kessler!

I got up this morning feeling like someone had slammed my head into the Green Monster at Fenway–repeatedly.  Damned MS medicine affected me that way the last time I took it, and it looks like a case of “second verse, same as the first.”  I hate headaches and usually don’t suffer from them but this stuff is kicking my ass–or should I say head?–every time I take it.  Bah!  To say I feel like shit, would be putting it mildly.  I really needed a pick-me-up, and thanks to baseball and surprising news on the Cassie Edwards thing, I got it.

Okay, like every morning, the first thing I did was turn on my computer and while I waited for AOL to sluggishly come up–and what’s up with that anyway, AOL?–I watched the highlights of my favorite Boys of Summer, the Red Sox, winning.  Immediately after that, Sports Center had the highlights from my least favorite BoS. the Yankees, losing to my second favorite BoS, the Orioles.  It doesn’t get much better than that in my little baseball world.  Congrats to Big Papi for throwing off the slump he’d been in since the beginning of the season by hitting a grand slam–woo-hoo!  Almost, but not quite as good as Manny hitting two homeruns against the Yankees the other night.  495, Manny, only 5 more to go!

So, things were definitely looking brighter and when AOL finally came up, one of the first things I saw was the news that Signet and Cassie Edwards had parted ways.

Double woo-hoo!  Not only is that good news for writers and readers of all things romantic–unless you’re a Cassie Edwards fan, of course–it’s good news for the publishing world as a whole.  To have a major publisher step up to the plate, swing for the fences, and smash a homerun is…well, like watching Manny hit a moonshot!  Sorry, it’s that time of year for me, everything revolves around baseball!  Anyway, Signet, and its parent company, Penguin, after a long and tiring at-bat, finally hit it out of the park yesterday, breaking all ties with Ms. Edwards and her plagiaristic ways.

From the AP article, written by Hillel Italie:

“Signet has conducted an extensive review of all its Cassie Edwards novels and due to irreconcilable editorial differences, Ms. Edwards and Signet have mutually agreed to part ways,” the publisher said in a statement Friday.

“Cassie Edwards novels will no longer be published with Signet Books. All rights to Ms. Edwards’ previously published Signet books have reverted to the author.”

My first thought?  Will Dorchester and Kensington do the same?  We can only hope.  Maybe then I can stop haunting bookstores and the book aisles in grocery and department stores, looking for Cassie Edwards books and hiding any that I find.

The Smart Bitches, who uncovered this whole sordid mess, have reported on this, as has Dear Author, and I imagine many other romance and reader blogs out there in cyber-space.  Here’s the link to the AP article if you’d like to read the whole thing, and the link for SB/TB and DA.  Interesting and satisfying reading!

The thing is…as usual, some jerk’s already posted a couple of comments on the SB post, standing up for Ms. Edwards, telling us we don’t know the whole story and calling us “asses” for celebrating this.  The commenter, “SAM”, also informed us that we should keep our mouths shut and be careful what we post, because “you could be opening yourself up to one heck of a slander lawsuit.

<sigh>  Where do these people come from?  It galls me that there are still readers out there who believe Ms. Edwards did nothing wrong and we should all just shut up about the whole thing.

WTF?  In the first place, SAM, it’s as clear as crystal Ms. Edwards plagiarized and SB/TB did the right thing in bringing her plagiarism to light.  Read the PDF file on the SB site, if you don’t believe me.  Second, if you’re going to toss around the old “law suit” threat, I suggest you talk to a credible lawyer about just what constitutes “slander.”  And third, what gives you the right to tell us to quit gloating and call us “asses” for celebrating what we consider a win for our side?  That’s sort of like saying to Red Sox Nation, the team can celebrate winning the World Series, but you can’t.

Good thing you included not one, but two, “LMAO” in your last post, because, I gotta tell ya’, it’s going to take some serious laughter to get rid of that “ass” you’re making of yourself.

Three strikes, you idiot…in my world, that means you’re out. 

Edited to add:  On the Dear Author site, Nora Roberts was kind enough to post an address for the publisher if you’d like to write and express your admiration, approval, and/or thanks for doing the right thing.  Here it is:

Penguin/Signet
375 Hudson
New York, NY 10014

Drop ’em a line.  I imagine they’ve gotten their share of negative letters from readers and authors while this whole thing has been going on.  I’m betting they’d love to hear from us again–on a more positive note, of course! 

*****

Thanks to Anon76 for letting me know another reader at DA put up some email addresses to go with the snail mail address supplied by Ms. Roberts.  Here they are:

David Shanks, CEO, Penguin-Putnam, Inc.
david.shanks@us.penguingroup.com

Susan Peterson Kennedy, President, Penguin-Putnam, Inc.
susan.kennedy@us.penguingroup.com

Also Jane at DA put up another post this morning which encapsulates all that’s happened with the Cassie Edwards thing to this point.  It includes a copy of her letter to Signet and a contest she’s running in honor of Signet’s standing up and doing the right thing.  The prizes are five Fictionwise gift certificates for recent NAL/Signet releases to be given away to readers–check it out!  All you have to do is leave a comment and tell her your favorite NAL/Signet author.  Easy enough, right?  And who knows, you may be one of the winners!

I went back on the MS medicine this morning and just like last time, it’s kicking my butt.  So, I apologize in advance if this entry is a little garbled, but I wanted to get the word out there on another publisher behaving badly, this one a “self-publishing print on demand publisher.”  I got a comment this morning on my blog from an author who is published with Pagefree.  I’d never heard of them, so I went and checked them out at Piers Anthony, and sure enough, there’ve been complaints.  Same thing at Preditors and Editors and there’s an interesting page on both sites for people who’ve published with this publisher.  Apparently, the authors of some of their books aren’t happy and they’re not keeping silent about it.

<sigh one!>  Looks like unscrupulous behavior isn’t limited only to the world of e-publishing.  You can find her comment on yesterday’s post, “Another kick in the guts from e-publishers.”

In other news, the Deborah Anne MacGillivray thing is still front and center and the more I read about this woman, the more sickening it is.  I mean, come on, having a group of people whose only task seems to be getting negative reviews deleted from Amazon is bad enough, but the emails this woman’s putting out are hideous.  She is, of course, in denial about the whole thing and is busily deleting the emails and anything else she can find that make her look bad, but thankfully, some bloggers who are more computer literate than I am know how to find that kind of stuff.  I’ve heard it said that elephants never forget, but I’m thinking we may need to change that to the Internet never forgets.  Anyway, there’s another thread going on at Dear Author which makes for very interesting–and a little frightening!–reading.

<sigh two!>

The thing is…Ms. MacGillivray–or DAM as they’re calling her on these threads and isn’t that just the perfect name for her?–has always been a very active and vocal member of one of the romance author groups I belong to.  Since all this started happening, she’s been conspicuously silent…except to send through a couple of messages about what’s going on with Amazon, one of them with a petition for people to sign protesting what Amazon is doing.

WTF?  She’s had her cake and scarfed it down at Amazon for quite a while, and now she’s biting the hand that feeds her.

Now, I don’t know Ms. MacGillivray and never read anything by her, but really, WTF is she thinking?  Judging by what she’s accused of doing on Amazon, the way she seems to be actively trying to get them to stop their bullying of publishers, plus the fact that she’s been lying to RWA about her status as a publisher, not to mention, her typo-ridden, grammar-challenged emails, I have to say this woman is definitely not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.  Possibly the nuttiest acorn on the oak, but DAM–pun intended, see, I told you it was a good name!–can she make herself appear any more foolish?

<sigh three!>  And, I’m out!

Writing is a tough business these days.  Bad enough that we pour our sweat and blood into a manuscript, but now we have to contend with the deadly Auth/Ed/Pub-Stupiditis virus which has infected the publishing industry and seems to be growing at a rapid pace.  The symptoms are many and varied, but for a lot of us, they include a sharp rise in blood pressure, nausea, and an inexplicable urge to pound your head against the nearest hard surface.

Not sure where or when it started–perhaps as long ago as the Janet Dailey plagiarism case or maybe with James Frey and his infamous memoir that wasn’t really a memoir.  Recently we’ve had the Cassie Edwards thing to make us beat our heads against a wall and now, in the past week we’ve had two–count ’em, two!–more cases of Auth/Ed/Pub-Stupiditis, real head-bangers that have me  wishing for a motorcycle helmet, a large bottle of Tylenol Extra-Strength, and a fifth of Jack Daniels to wash it down.

Head-banger #1 –  “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years” by Misha Defonseca (real name, Monique De Wael).  This one’s been around for a while, was published internationally and even made into a movie in France.  Turns out, the whole story is a complete and total fake, a fantasy according to Ms. Defonseca, who was outed this past week.  She did, at least, have the grace to admit she was wrong and apologize.

Head-banger #2 – “Love and Consequences” by Margaret B. Jones (real name, Margaret Seltzer) about growing up a half-white, half-Native American foster child in South-Central Los Angeles.  Not a word of which was true.  She too, was outed this past week, in part by her sister–and, oh, the mind boggles at the family feud that one’s going to spark.  Ms. Jones/Seltzer admitted the book was a total fabrication and offered up the excuse of doing it to give a voice to people who aren’t usually heard.

So, my question for the publishers and editors is what the hell were you thinking?  I mean, that first one alone would’ve had my radar pinging like mad.  Come on now, a young girl survives for four years in the woods during the Holocaust by living with a pack of wild wolves who adopted her and kept her safe?

*eyes rolling madly as head connects with wall again* 

And for the authors, did you really think you would get away with it?  Are you that insulated in your own little world that you forgot about the Internet and all those search engines out there just begging for some computer whiz-kid to come along and Google your name?

*deep breath*  At least it’s not plagiarism.  

The thing is…like with the Cassie Edwards thing and the fact that her books are still being offered for sale, I don’t know who to be more pissed with on this one; the authors for trying to dupe their readers or the editors/publishers for being blinded by all those dollar signs flashing in front of their eyes.

That one’s a toss-up, but the thing that really ticks me off is the thought of all those struggling writers out there–myself included–who would do just about anything to make it as an author…

except lie, cheat and steal.  I’d say we need to re-think our priorities, but I’m not willing to sacrifice self-respect for a few dollars.  And God knows, if anyone out there wants my fifteen minutes of fame, I’ll gladly give it to you.  I don’t really want it, I just want to write my stories and maybe, maybe make a few pennies to drop in my piggy bank…I’m saving up for that bottle of Jack Daniels!

I have a feeling I’m going to need it before this is over.

Yesterday, my editor sent me a PDF file of my upcoming book, Snow Shadows.  It’s not the finished product, we still have a lot of work to do, but the end is coming closer.  I’ve been reading through it this morning and making a few changes, all the while trying to figure out exactly how to describe this feeling running through me…

And failing miserably.  I’m a writer, I should be able to come up with the words to describe it…but I just can’t.  Not that the words aren’t there, they are, in fact they’re tumbling through my mind.  Words like ecstatic, overjoyed, euphoric, gleeful, thrilled, over the moon, and on and on and on.  But none of them expresses how I really feel.

How do you describe the feeling that comes with attaining your wildest dream?  I don’t know, but I know I’ll keep searching, because that’s what I do.  I play with words, shuffle them around in my head, write them down, and try to arrange them in the perfect sequence to express my feelings or the feelings of my characters.

But this time, I’m, well, speechless.

The thing is…this isn’t my first book and I shouldn’t be so utterly dumbfounded.  I’ve had two e-books published and yes, I was delighted when I was offered the contracts for them, and even more thrilled when I downloaded them and saw my words in cyber-print for the first time.  But this book…this book will not only be released as an e-book, this book will also be in print, a first for me.  Which is, I expect, why I’m so overwhelmed. 

And I’m sure the first time I hold this book, this child of my imagination, in my hands, there’s going to be a whole truckload of other feelings for me to try to describe.

The thing that keeps running through my head today is a line from one of my favorite songs by John Mellencamp, Just Like You:

I’m living in my head
Too much life in my veins
Forgetting all of the time
We’re always in motion with angels…

Indeed.  That pretty much describes my life right now.  So, maybe I need to take a break from editing and trying to describe my feelings and move on to thanking some of those earth-bound angels who are always with me.

Like those emotions running rampant through me, my life is overflowing with angels at the moment.

angel-thank-you.gif