Thursday, February 27, 2014

I ♥ Bookie Nookie Reviews Tours Sign Up! #Share & #Win $20 Amazon Gift Card! #ASMSG


Refer other bloggers & win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Here's how:
  • Win 1 point for each blogger who signs up and names YOUR BLOG as the referring blog!
  • Pimp this post and be sure to tell the blog you are referring to name YOUR BLOG as the referring blog when they sign up to receive I ♥ Bookie Nookie Reviews Tours updates!
  • Share this post on Facebook (for 3 points) - may I suggest adding something like:  "Tell them XYZ Blog referred you!" to the comments portion when you share.
  • If you have participated in past tours (bloggers & authors) comment about your experience with I ♥ Bookie Nookie Reviews Tours on this post (on the blog for 3 points) and on the Facebook post (for 3 points) here:  Facebook Post
  • Tweet about it and tag my handle in the tweet and I will re-tweet it for you! My handle is @BookieNookie
  • Forward the email to bloggers who may be interested in participating - be sure to tell them to name you as the referring blog when they sign up!
  • Any other creative post-pimping is welcome! :-)
When does the referral contest end?

Starts NOW and will end on Sunday, March 2nd.  
The person with the most referrals who sign up is the winner!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Is Print-First Publishing a Mistake in Today's World of Ebooks? #Pubtalk #ASMSG

Reading my morning emails, I noticed a message from Joel Friedlander, Breakthrough Technology Cuts Book Formatting Time in Half. This is an article about a software/service that will format both your print and ebook, together, and give you files for both. This article instantly struck me wrong.

Now, I have no idea if Joel's program handles everything I am about to discuss, but I doubt it.

In my author's group, ASMSG (Author's Social Media Support Group), I see a lot of Indie author-publishers who run a print-first publishing plan.  What I mean by that, they format and publish their POD book (Print On Demand) first, usually via Createspace, and then they download the Createspace digital files to use for ebook publishing to Kindle.

I believe this is a huge mistake.

 The format of the print novel file is not ideal for ebooks, either Kindle or epub or pdf. Ebooks should be formatted with a 'least common denominator' style of simplicity. 

Personally, I write my novels in a universal Smashwords/Kindle ebook format.  The simple formatting is already set into my styles on MS word. I know many people use something other than MS word, for writing, but the same ebook formatting rules apply no matter what program you use.

Ebooks need things that Print books don't:  

► Whereas print has margins and page breaks and page numbers, it also has a dead Table of Contents, 'TOC' dead being that there's no live hyperlinks. Its my humble opinion (and an opinion of most kindle gurus) that the TOC is mostly pointless for fiction ebooks, except for specially named chapters, or non-fiction where each chapter has a themed idea to present. Ebooks, if they need a TOC, must have special hyperlinked bookmarks (epub and pdf) or at the very least they need to use the auto-generated TOC functions of MS word (kindle).

► Kindle ebooks are smarter to move the TOC to the back matter, to maximize the front end sample for book sales. You want very little junk in the way of your book and the reader. Kindle only allows for a small percentage of sampling, and that sample must be enough to 'hook' the reader to go forward with a purchase. And, the ebook front matter needs a short blurb, so that readers who have downloaded the novel, can recall what this book was about (the ebook cover does not have any blurbs--not like the back cover of print).

► Ebooks have color images. They should have full color images of all backlist novels, with live hyperlinks customized for each retailer. Kindle hyperlinks for kindle ebooks, B&N for B&N, Smashwords for Smashwords, etc.. 

Color book cover, description, link to retailer, and review quotes
 Print novels have no  hyperlinks, and you must strip the color out of  your book cover images. If there is any color, Createspace and other POD companies will charge you full price for color interior (don't go there for novels--'how to' books, children's books--those are different).

Big, fat subscribe button for my email list--hyperlinked.

My cheesy grin and all the hyperlinks to my social media!

► Print back matter should have QR codes to give your readers the option of instantly ordering more of your backlist novels once they finish your book. Statistics prove the single best way to sell more books to a reader is to have access to all your novels in the back matter. Print novels need a bridge to the internet:

B&W book covers, with QR codes, descriptions, and review quotes.
► Print back matter and front matter is always going to be a different format and content from ebook front and back matter. Personally, I have separate word files for both back and front print matter, (that's the way I do it, but its not the only way, and it has issues with formatting that I learned to deal with). But, because of these differences, its really not wise to use a print formatted file for ebook, or vice versa.

Now, I am just an Indie author, busting my butt to navigate the labyrinth of digital publishing, but, I have seen that my own sales are about 99% ebook, and about 1% print. 

► I publish ebook first. Every single book I have ever published needed an update within the first week. Ebooks can be updated in a few mouseclicks, and the new Kindle file shows up hours later. Same with Nook (if you're direct). Smashwords takes up to 10 days to update.  But, print novels (via POD) can take weeks, because you must order another proof to see how the book looks in print. You can take your chances and approve the proof from the online file viewer in Createspace, but its a risk. You never really know what you have until the book is in hand.

In this author's humble opinion, publishing should be digital first, print later, after all the kinks and bugs are worked out, and the two should be individually-separately formatted, with specialized content for each format.

I am wary of 'all-in-one' solutions when it comes to print and ebook publishing.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

What happens in Mexico stays in Mexico #Interview via @am_sch #ASMSG

Back in September 2012, I met this crazy writer-blogger guy named AM Schultz. He had some very cool blog posts about writers and coffee, male writers trying to make their way in the very female world of Young Adult fiction, and other fuckery I just can't even recall.

Sadly, AM Schultz's wonderful blog has disappeared. But, I retained a piece of the dark magic, a smidgeon of AM Schultz insanity.

This is the very first interview I ever did, and it still ranks among one of my favorites (revamped):

AM: Ok, you wrote some stories, but let's start by hearing about the guy behind the keyboard. Five quick questions:

-Best road trip you've ever been on:  Several can qualify as “the best”.  They all have one thing in common, Mexico.  I lived on the border and in Mexico for several years.  I consider Mexico to be kinda like Vegas.  As long as you make it home, back across the border into the US, what happens in Mexico stays in Mexico. :)

-There's an alien in your shower eating a vanilla ice cream cone. You're holding a chocolate cone, and he wants it. What do you do?  Does it have to be a ‘He’?  I’d prefer my aliens in the shower to be female, like Captain Kirk with the green chick, or the other girl with six arms.  And if I’m in the shower with my sexy green female alien, we’d be doing all kinds of things with that ice cream, sharing it in all the ways that ice cream could possibly be shared in the shower.

-You're bowling. Perfect game. 300. Bill Cosby shows up and bowls a 310.  Do you cry foul?  Bowling with Bill Cosby next door, that would be pretty damn cool.  I’m sure I would be in awe, and probably not bowling at my best.  But when it comes to a showdown with ole Bill Cosby, nobody said it better than Eddie Murphy in his classic “Raw” stand-up comedy routine, “Tell Bill to have a coke and smile and shut the f**k up” :)

-Ain't no Party like a West Coast Party Don't Stop. Do you have proof that this isn't a true statement?  I would say the person who wrote that line has never been on an extended stay in Mexico.

-Chicken Little: Meteorological Prognosticator, or Sniveling Little Turd?  Definitely the latter.  I’d go so far as to say he’s a Whiney-Puke Sniveling Little Turd.  Everybody knows the world’s gonna end in the next few months, what good does it do to whine about it?

Now for the real interview. 

AM: You've got a book out, "The Nightlife: New York," which is the first in what is expected to be a lengthy series. With there being 47 and a half trillion series-style fiction offerings on the market right now, why should readers give "Nightlife" a read?

ME: This novel is the introduction to these two main characters in the series, and they are not really all that similar to your garden variety vampires.  There’s no council of supernatural creatures or other such fantasy world junk, just these two unique characters trying to live without notice in a world of eternal night.  We soon learn that relationships with other people are impossible.  In New York City, surrounded by a population of 8.2 million, these two quietly slip in and out of the herds of human cattle, never making any real connections.  They have no one but each other to rely on when the nightlife gets out of hand (as it so often does).

Story elements include:  Vampires, strippers, escorts, domestic gangs, corrupt cops, pimps, all the classic elements of a shady metropolitan nightlife blended with two vampires.  There are underlying themes of romance throughout, but it’s not pure romance--more urban fantasy.  Their world is exactly the same as ours, but seen through the lenses of two vampires living in the gritty metropolitan nightlife.  Very intense action scenes, graphic violence, and a good dose of erotica.  

There are now 5 Nightlife Series novels, plus the Omnibus!

One of my pet peeves is this:  I don’t care for the “undead” premise that most urban fantasy uses.  These characters are very much alive physically, heartbeats and all, but they have physiologies that are very different in certain ways.

AM: Great stories begin with great characters. Tell us a little bit about the moving flesh sacks in Nightlife.

ME: It’s coincidental you use the term “flesh sacks”.  At one point in the novel, our protagonist Aaron, a newly changed vampire, begins to view people as bloated flesh sacks.  Being especially gifted individuals, the vampires perceive the human cattle around them as lethargic, weak, frail, overfed cattle.  Ripe for the taking.

The primary POV of the novel is told from Aaron Pilan’s perspective.  At age 22, moping through life doing pretty much nothing, no direction, Aaron finds himself suddenly thrust into this strange, intimate relationship with his new master Michelle.  He’s young, inexperienced, na├»ve, fresh, unspoiled by the corruption of the New York scene.  Michelle becomes his mentor, teaching him how to fit into her solitary, secretive existence.

Aaron is our padewon learner, this is his coming of age story.  He faces trials and tribulations.  This is only the beginning of his tale, the tip of the iceberg.  He is destined for far greater things, but in this novel we will know him as a boyish man simply trying to survive.  He struggles against these new predatory urges blossoming within his psyche.  He’s never really known true aggression, but he learns very fast.

Michelle is a mystery, we don’t even know her surname.  She’s French, fiesty, impatient, aggressive, yet very careful and considerate of her actions.  She has seen much death in her long life and has adopted strict rules of comportment to avoid causing further death.  She has little tolerance for abuse of humans, they are to be respected and left in peace.  She is a strict task master when it comes to teaching Aaron the ins and outs of feeding and slipping between the cracks of society.  She will not hesitate to kill him if he proves to be uncontrollable.  She has a dark and violent past history with her former master, and a heavy prejudice towards men who abuse women.  She absolutely will not stand for Aaron’s abuse of the women they feed from.

It’s quite a challenge for Aaron to keep up with Michelle, follow all her strict rules, and maintain his predatory instincts in check.

And he simply can't help but become utterly smitten with Michelle.  She’s everything he could ever want, a super model wonder woman.  But she sees him as boy who needs his hand held through life, a fairly emasculating scenario.

And then she puts him to work…as an escort in the sex trade…same as her.  That’s when it gets really interesting.

AM: If you had to compare your writing style to any contemporary author, who would you consider to be Luedkean?

ME: I am writing Urban Fantasy, and in that genre I consider Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Baker vampire hunter series to be the undisputed master.  There are some close runner ups, like JR Ward of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and Sunny an Asian author who wrote the Mona Lisa series.  If I had to compare the style I am attempting to emulate, I would say I target those two authors and several others.  I also greatly admire Dean Koontz.  I have enjoyed virtually every single one of Koontz's novels, but specifically the Odd Thomas series.  I love how the supernatural elements blend in slowly and seamlessly with the normal world.  He effortlessly paints a picture that’s oh-so-slightly different from reality.

There are a lot of authors out there right now redefining this genre, I am working towards that aim to add in a unique factor, a blending of elements that are distinctly my own.

AM: And speaking of which, is it "lewd-key," or "loud-kuh," or what? What are we looking at here, Scandinavian? Lifeline,bro! Hooked on Phonics didn't work for me.

ME: “Lewd-Key” would be the correct pronunciation.  It’s a German name, but I’m as American as it gets, bordering on Redneck.  The longer I stay in Texas the closer I get to Redneck status.

AM: As an author, you obviously want as many people as possible to purchase and read your books. It sounds like you've got elements that will appeal to a wide demographic: vampires, strippers, crime, urban setting, paranormality. Tell me, though: who should NOT read this book.

ME: This is not for children, 18 and over!  If you are offended by contemporary views of sexuality, erotica, or graphic violence, don’t bother reading the Nightlife Series.  I have Young Adult fiction that’s very toned down in those controversial areas.  That would be a better choice for a younger or more sensitive reader.  I write Adult Urban Fantasy for me, and YA Urban Fantasy for my own teenagers, who are greatly entertained by it.

My Young Adult novel, “The Shepherd”, would be far more appropriate for older teens. 

AM: Reviews, recommendations and shout-outs are the lifeblood of the modern independent author. Before you go, are there any other authors out there you want readers to check out before they pick up your book?

ME: Shane O'Neill is a wonderful new Indie carving out his niche in the world of epic-historic dark-horrific Dracula fiction. And Brian Patrick McKinley has a solid vampire fiction series reminiscent of a Chicago mobster-vampiric underworld, with a massive cast and scope like Game of Thrones.

For traditionally published books, my go to authors are Laurell K. Hamilton, JR Ward, Sunny, Dean Koontz, Christopher Moore, Stephen King, Anne Rice…. You’ll see all the greats I have enjoyed on my goodreads author page

I have so much work on my plate right now, most of my reading time is devoted to exchanging critiques with other authors.  They critique my manuscripts and I do the same for them.  Would you believe I am critiquing romance novels?  I have read more romance than I will ever admit to.

I leave you with a quote from Mark Coker of, another man I greatly admire:  

“Pay attention to romance.  Study it.  Read it.  No other genre does a better job of getting inside the heads of readers, especially female readers.  Even if you write thrillers, mysteries, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy or even horror, your books will probably get better if you study romance.  Romance writers are among some of the finest storytellers of interpersonal relationships.  If you want your readers to care what happens next to your characters, study the masters.”
This was a revisited, revamped, version of my interview with AM Schultz, but, the original sense of the absurd remains. What happened to AM? Why did he shut down his wonderful blog? Who can say, but he's still floating through twitterverse, chatting it up:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Digital Book World Freaks Out at Hugh Howey's Accusations! #Pubtalk #DigitalPublishing #ASMSG

Freaked out Publisher Face,
which just so happens to look like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar...

Hugh Howey, author of the wildly popular bestselling 'Wool' series, blasted the world with jaw-dropping statistics on ebook sales vs. print, and Indie/Self-Pub stats: 

Via Hugh's new website, he revealed surprising statistics that demonstrate Indie/Self-Publishing is a massively growing trend, gaining in sales and market-share, and that a portion of Indie/Self-pub authors have been making more money than their counterparts in 'traditional-legacy' publishing.

(To get a complete picture, please visit Author Earnings, or JA Konrath's phenomenal blog post outlining the whole deal)

Now, the problem, Digital Book World, Bowker, and whole bunch of 'Industry Professionals' have staked their reputations by a completely different set of numbers. If you believe them, print sales are actually 70-75% and the rest is ebooks and audio-books.  And, if you believe them, Indies/Self-pubs and Amazon publishing book sales are not really eating up over 50% of the marketplace (the pros have it as a much lower percentage).  

Hugh Howey's numbers and well-defended conclusions have wrought CHAOS in the establishment. Digital Book World is repeatedly blowing up email newsletters filled with non-stop defensive arguments from Mike Shatzkin and Dana Beth Weinberg trying their damnedest to bring Hugh's data into question. 

Hmmm...The lady doth protest too much.

(check out Konrath as he blasts the 'industry professionals')

Email after email of denials and analysis of the analysis:

Setting the record straight, again, and again, and again...

Still trying hard to set the record straight....

In reading article after article of 'Industry Professionals' trying so hard to defend both their industry, and their sketchy data (skewed in their favor of course), a couple of things become clear through the quagmire of mud-flinging and accusations:

1)  Traditional Publishing does not yet understand that their business model is largely obsolete, and they are coasting on momentum, and the fallacy of belief that authors still need a publisher.

2)  Traditional Publishing has many proponents out in the media and industry. This myth that authors are better served by using a traditional publisher is still an entrenched ideal.  

But the foundation of this house of cards is starting to crumble, and the ugly truth has been exposed: 

We (Self-publishers) don't need you, Mr. Publisher. 

I don't need you, Mr. Publisher.

Why?  Because my books are sold worldwide, via Apple, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Allromanceebooks.comSmashwords, and even as an emagazine on  

I am already making money publishing my books, and I only have three of my seven novels in paperback, and I don't even have a single audiobook. 99% of my promos are happening in social media, with very little paid promotion.  I run rebelmouse social media hubs. I run tribes on Triberr. I run several facebook pages, twitter profiles, and my fingers are pretty deep into Goodreads (haven't messed with Shelfari yet).

I am one of the many new publishers, both an author, and a publisher, and a social media promotional consultant.

I am making money in ebooks. 

I have never written a single query letter, not one. I have never downloaded a query letter format or bought a course on how to write query letters or attended seminars on how to query agents and finagle submissions to publishers.  

I have never bothered.

I, Travis Luedke, am part of a new breed of authors, who have never wanted or cared to have a publisher.  The only thing publishers can offer me is bookstore print placement, and some foreign rights (subrights).  I don't want a publisher in control of my editing. I don't want a publisher in control of my metadata. I don't want a publisher screwing up my blurbs and cover art, and sponging off my 60-70% royalties. 

I have seen authors struggling with their publishers, struggling with garbage cover art and having zero control over pricing, price promotions, giveaways, freebies, and yet they are still expected to do what I do in social media, to gather fans, to promote their writings, their blog, their books, and still they give up the lion's share of the sales royalties to the publisher. For what?  What value do publisher's bring to the table?

If authors must do all this work to connect with fans and sell their books out in social media, then what do they need a publisher for?

Obviously, Traditional Publishing is still the primary route for an author to get their books on the shelves of nationwide bookstores. Indies/Self-pubs are all waiting for the day that changes, we are biding our time for the moment a service provider offers a straightforward route into that final distribution point. 

That is what's called a vacuum in the marketplace. How long before a service provider comes along to fill that vacuum and blast open bookstores to Indie/Self-pubs?  

Amazon has offered to allow bookstores to sell Kindles and products, a wholesale/affiliate kind of deal.  Lightning Source has some limited access to bookstores for Indies with a certain amount of clout.

Okay, I was rambling, forgive me. 

The point is HUGH HOWEY, or more specifically, his numbers. 

Hugh's numbers and pie charts and line graphs and all that fun stuff is a classic case of data proving what I have learned by experience. These numbers are not wrong, they are a statistical confirmation of what I already knew, but never had the data (or time) to articulate.


Monday, February 17, 2014

A new Emagazine is born! Awesome Indie reviews, articles, and freebies! #ASMSG

After beating my head against the wall with Wordpress for a day, only to have the damn website suspended, I went back to my old favorite, Blogger, and created an awesomesauce Emagazine.

Its robo-post madness.  30+ blogs, with RSS feeds autoposting into an emagazine of Epic proportions.

Did I mention it was Epic?

And the view is customizeable!

I haven't given up on Wordpress, but, at least I have something to show for my hours and hours of work.

Wordpress has a not-so-friendly TOS when it comes to auto-reblogging software. They forced me to self-host. So, I'll be bringing you some new stuff on my new self-hosted Wordpress blog/emagazine....eventually.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Are New York Publishers Still Relevant? (REBLOG) #PubTalk #ASMSG

Laugh at the Indie Math all you like, I'm laughing at the end of every month
when Amazon's direct deposit comes in.

Just today I found this awesome article from Huffington Post, courtesy of Digital Book World's daily email. Though I tend to get angry at DBW for some of their ridiculously slanted editorial postings, I always read their emails. Occasionally they post a gem like this:

Are New York Publishers Still Relevant?

Posted: Updated: 

For years New York publishers (also called legacy publishing or corporate publishing) were at the top of the publishing food chain. They decided which books were released and when. They created books that started pop-culture trends and, in a word, they ruled the world. But as we've evolved through the publishing mecca and other, viable options presented themselves, the issue of how to publish and whether the big New York publishers still control the industry is very debatable. Even bigger are the issues surrounding what, if any, value these publishers bring to the author. Great industry equalizers have been eBooks, eReaders and, of course, the often-hated and always mysterious Amazon.

During Digital Book World in New York, this topic was pretty heavily discussed. In fact, Dana Beth Weinberg presented on this very issue, why publishers should be worried about losing their author base. The Indie Math, as she calls it, would show that authors who have self-published could potentially earn more money than if they had published traditionally:

The real problem with this is that while publishers are aware of the options that authors have, they still do not feel that their existence is in jeopardy. Or, most of them don't. I have spoken with a lot of publishing colleagues who are in-house at publishers who completely get that the axis of power has shifted. The author now holds all the cards. Let's celebrate that for a moment because I remember when I was first in this industry and self-publishing (now renamed the ever-trendy indie publishing) was the little stepchild never invited to the table. If you self-published you were considered somewhat akin to a bottom-dweller. Sorry if that's harsh, but it's the truth. New York looked down at self-publishing, and I know this firsthand because I've always self-published and, frankly, I've been proud to jump on this trend. When I started my business some thirteen years ago, someone in publishing asked me why I'd even bother to spend time on the self-published book or promote the author of such a tome. My answer was always the same: don't judge what you don't know and even if you know it, don't judge. You never know where the great ideas will come from or the things, like print-on-demand or the initially poo-pooed Kindle e-Reader, that will change the world.

So, back to my original question: are the New York publishers still relevant? The answer is: "it depends" and often, just flat-out "no." I think it's time that we offered publishers a glimpse of the future, a future that is not all too far off and where they have to prove their relevance to authors. Everything that was once exclusive to a publisher has become much more accessible to authors. If you're trying to decide if you should wait for a publisher, perhaps it's time to reconsider that question altogether.

Let's have a look at where publishers have succeeded in the past and how that's changed:

Book Production: At some point during Digital Book World one of the speakers showed a survey that indicated that authors generally felt that publishers could do a better job of creating a marketable book than they could. They worried about things like editing, cover design and general market segmentation. Many authors still feel publishers can do a better job, but guess what? They can't. We work with a number of high quality self-published titles and, for most of them, I'd dare you to find something about them that screams self-published. These days, there is a font of information out there for authors who are willing to educate themselves enough. The competitive advantage is in the hands of the author who can go the distance with this and, if you do it on your own, you could end up making a lot more money.

Distribution & Bookstore Access: There was a time when only publishers could get you into a bookstore or airport store. That's simply not true anymore. You can get distribution, and you can get yourself into a bookstore, gift shop, or airport store.

The Ring of Fire: This is perhaps one area that scores an advantage for the publisher, and it's something I call the ring of fire. This is the process by which a book is filtered through the publisher's system and a process that really helps educate authors and gets them ready for the hardcore process that is publishing. During this process you'll have an editor requesting changes, you'll be tinkering and rewriting until they feel it's perfect enough for publication. It's hard and often humbling and it helps an author realize how tough it is out there, I mean really tough. With 3,500 books published every day in this country, be good or be gone, and remember: hope is not a marketing plan.

Media and Marketing: Most often authors feel like this is where publishers succeed, and for the authors who actually get some marketing for their book, this is probably true. I know a lot of very talented publicity people who work in-house and believe me when I say that they know their stuff. The problem is this: there isn't always an aggressive marketing and publicity budget assigned to each book. In almost 90% of the cases, authors have to do their own marketing.

Money: The all-important driver behind book publishing is the bigger question: "Will they make any money?" The challenge with this question is that no one knows, at least not with any certainty. Publishers (understandably) have become more risk averse, publishing titles by authors who have huge followings or who are celebrities. This becomes somewhat of a challenge for the rest of us, especially if you're considered a newbie, no-brand, non-following author - which is, candidly, most of us. Is the money really better on the other side? What about author advances and such? Well, as the link shows above, the advances may not bear out, given the higher sales percentage you can get self-publishing your book. And advances have also shrunk in recent years, which is, again, understandable. The caveat to this is that you can embrace the indie revolution, and forgo traditional but you have to think big time. Especially if you're a newbie. By "big time" I don't mean hoping for a movie deal, but rather holding your book up to a set of very high quality standards. So, that's the long answer. The short is answer is: yes, you can make as much money or more by self-publishing, but you have to do it right.

Cachet: The cachet of being published by a big house once was a big deal and I think that for many this still holds true. The media was sensitive to self-published books and often didn't feature them, not because they didn't want to or had a bias against them, but because they were, in a word: garbage. But now that the bar is being raised and authors are beginning to understand the expectation of the industry, this is changing. So that cachet isn't really having the publisher's name on the book, it's about having a book that looks like it came from a Simon & Schuster or Random House. Get the picture?

So in looking at all of the above, authors have to wonder why on earth they'd even go with a big house. Yes, why indeed? Now publishers, realizing that there is money to be made in self-publishing, are offering self-publishing as an extension of their brand and this creates even more confusion. Penguin bought Author Solutions but if you publish with Author Solutions it does not, in any way, make you a Penguin author. Problem is, many authors think that's the case. In fact, last week I got a book sent to me by an author who said he was published by Penguin. He wasn't. It was Author Solutions. When I attempted to explain this to him he became upset and thought I was selling him some misaligned bag of goods.

I get that buying Author Solutions was probably a great business decision for Penguin. But as we see more and more of this, the issue of publisher brands is going to get even murkier and hard to define. As they find ways to remain relevant, despite the fact that the earth is shifting beneath them (and often in the author's favor), it's becoming more and more difficult to survive.

Maybe instead of trying to find ways to expand their brand into self-publishing, these publishing houses should be looking at ways to keep their traditional arms more attractive to the author. One has to wonder if, at some point, savvy authors will weigh a potential contract against going it on their own for more profit and more creative license, and I think that this is a big point that publishers are missing.

The problem in the industry, and I would say that this is the biggest problem, is that so many still don't get it. Donald Maass wrote a piece for Writer Unboxed last week that illuminates this point with stunning clarity: the industry does not get it. They see this as a class issue (at some point in his piece Maass refers to the self-published group as "Freight class") ( It was infuriating and frightening at the same time. Frightening because despite this self-publishing revolution, no one wants publishers to go away. We do, however, want them to get it. The revolution has arrived, it's knocking on their door and no matter how long they decide to bury their heads in the sand or write blogs about the class distinction and other outdated notions, it is taking over and changing the way we see the industry.

People keep comparing publishing to the music industry, but I think that's wrong. Sure, there are similarities in that they both faced changes they weren't willing to deal with, but the issue of publishing goes much deeper than that. Technically, we're talking about an industry that, if it doesn't change, could face extinction. You can produce a book for a lot less than you can produce an album and with far fewer people. Elements of the music industry will never go away, but big players in publishing might and that's a shame.

When faced with a changing business model, you can either learn how to be a part of the publishing revolution - or step aside and let the revolution take over.

Follow Penny C. Sansevieri on Twitter:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Do Male Erotica Authors Encounter Discrimination? YES #Erotica #Pubtalk #ASMSG

When a male erotica author comes along
You must whip him!

I originally wrote this as a guest post for Author/Blogger Elizabeth Delana Rosa:

For purposes of this post, I have revamped the discussion:

The question today is do male authors of erotica encounter discrimination? 

The short answer: YES.

Here’s the long answer:

For most of my life I have been a fan of horror, macabre, paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi escapist fiction. I have enjoyed many an author in these genres, but some of my favorites would be Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and more recently Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, JR Ward, and Sunny.

A couple years ago, I decided it was time to take my love of escapist fiction to the next level and I started writing novels. I write primarily paranormal thriller, with a splash of erotic romance (sometimes more than a splash). Genre-wise my novels can be shelved as urban-fantasy, paranormal romance, fantasy, horror, thriller, erotica, vampire romance, or just plain ole romance.

At certain points in my writing I jumped the gap from steamy romance into burning hot erotica. I never really considered the obstacles I might encounter writing this kind of material as a man. I always knew my target audience would be female readers of the paranormal-fantasy genres, but I also write for men (for me). My work is gritty, visceral, with roller-coaster thriller intensity, and yet the sensual nature of the main characters is ever-present.

In writing this style of fiction, I found it necessary to work with erotic romance authors as critique partners. I needed female authors who can write-edit scorching sex scenes, to keep me on the right track. The ladies never hesitated to give me the smack-down when my sex scenes were not hot enough. The first thing they taught me was that writing sex is all about the emotional-sexual tensions between the characters. The sex is meaningless if no one cares about these people, about their lives, their motivations, and the connection they have must be real, tangible.

I learned to write sex scenes that make it uncomfortable to sit in my chair any longer. 

My critique partners are wonderful writers and friends, and I couldn’t do it without them. Unfortunately, I also write intense scenes of graphic violence that the lovely ladies can hardly stomach.

Clueless to the problem I was facing, I encountered my first real exposure to this prejudice against male authors of erotica when the ladies of Erotic Enchants at Goodreads were bantering about me (and my books). 

The subtle undertones were unmistakable. 

Most women prefer their smut written by women, understandably. Of course, they don’t all admit that. No one likes to think they are prejudiced. But then I noticed it in my reviews. Women often didn’t know what to expect when they read my work. They had never read this kind of novel written by a man. Some used my gender as an excuse to bash me, but, other women were pleasantly surprised.

Here’s a taste of some choice review quotes from women:

“Travis Luedke writes like a woman… and I mean that in the most complimentary way! If you have followed my reviews, then you know I have historically steered clear of male erotic or romance authors, but over the past year, I have become less discriminating and given more books written by men a shot…”
 “I feel that Mr. Luedke went down a completely different path, albeit the same story background, and reached way, way down deep in his soul and became one with his ‘female side’…”
“At times I felt it was blatantly obvious that the female main character was written by a man with all her brutally honest thoughts, but it also works, after all, she’s a hooker who was sold by her Colombian father into the trade.You’d certainly have to man up a bit in that case. The male perspective also comes into the limelight during the sex scenes. If you are looking for fluffy vanilla erotica here then you’d better walk away.”
“I went into this book with trepidation due to the fact that I only and have only ever read paranormal (vampire/werewolves and so on) books written by female authors … Although well written with a good story/plot line, I still thought that all those I’ve read – written by women, provided me with just that little bit more oomph in certain story lines and explanations.”
 Writing women well does you no good if you do not remember that we are the ones who buy the majority of Urban Fiction.

“Nightlife: New York is a paranormal romance unlike I’ve ever read and it took me a little while to pinpoint why. Surprisingly, I think it is the fact that it was written by a man. It changed the feel and focus of the romance. There was a realism to the main character, Aaron’s, thoughts and actions that I can only imagine was born of the male author’s innate ability to relate to the emotions of a male character. This multidimensionalism is often lacking in other PNR. They regularly focus almost exclusively on the man’s alpha qualities, to the exclusion of all others. And while I enjoy these novels it was nice to come across a PNR hero who had a little more depth to him.”
 Most romance and erotica is written by women and for women. This has the harder edge of a mans point of view that does not apologize for its grittiness and instead revels in it.

Suffice it to say, I am now fully aware of this invisible barrier against men writing erotica. But I choose to see an opportunity to do something other men havent.  So, I am taking a running leap at that barrier. Regardless of how many times I get smacked in the face for my audacity, I am going to keep pushing past the discrimination.

I’m trail blazing.  :)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Literary Agent Donald Maass Is Eaten Alive by Self-publishing Sharks #Asshat #ASMSG

A good self-pub buddy of mine sent this blog post to me today, and I loved it so much, I had to syndicate it for y'all. I call it:

(has a CNN sound to it)

Here's the link to the original post by JA Konrath with added coments from Barry Eisler:

Fisking Donald Maass

Ah, class warfare. The royals vs. the peasants. The bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat. The establishment vs. the revolutionaries. The haves vs. the have-nots.
The gatekeepers spouting bullshit vs. the new breed of writers calling them on their bullshit.
I present literary agent Donald Maass from Writer Unboxed, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, currently $9.99 on Kindle and ranked at #25,065. 
Thank you, Mr. Maass, for posting your BS publicly so I may dissect it, line by line, exposing it for the utter crap that it is. Then after I wrote my responses, I asked Barry Eisler for his take.
Here's Donald... 
Donald: This month in keeping with our look inside publishing, I’m departing from my usual craft advice to give you my view of the new state of the industry.
I don’t see the new shape of things as many do: the twilight of the dinosaurs, the old-thinking Big Five print publishers staggering, falling to their knees and heading for extinction as they’re overwhelmed by a nimble army of small, warm-blooded mammals whose claws are the sharp, smart, flexible tools of electronic publishing.
Joe: I understand why you don't see the new shape of things, Donald. Neither did those in the travel industry. Or the music industry. Or the film camera industry. Or the network TV industry. 
Isn't is interesting how these billion dollar industries, when confronted with Expedia and Orbitz and Priceline (sorry Travel Agents)  and iTunes and Napster (sorry Record Company Executives) and digital photography (sorry Kodak and Polaroid) and cable TV, Netflix, and YouTube (sorry ABC, NBC, and CBS) also felt they had nothing to fear, until their market share evaporated before their eyes?
Within the past few years, one of the two major book chains disappeared, the Big 6 became the Big 5, the DOJ brought suit against many of the companies you regularly do business with (and the AAR stupidly defended), and ebooks have gone from idea to the increasingly preferable way readers buy media thanks to a new company that revolutionized the way books are sold.
But you don't have to see the new shape of things. You don't have to see the thousands of authors making more money than they ever could in the antiquated, archaic system you're attempting to defend. It isn't necessary for you, Donald, to recognize change. Change happens anyway.
Donald: It’s true that I’m a gatekeeper, a longtime member (to my surprise) of the industry establishment. But I am no worshiper of the old ways. Traditional publishing always was cost-heavy and inefficient. It’s a wonder that it worked. But the new electronic “paradigm” is not the glorious revolution that true believers would like it to be.
Joe: Well, you're right that it worked for publishers, and agents, and a few authors lucky enough to become bestsellers.
But for those countless midlist authors stuck with unconscionable contracts because they had no choice, and the multitude of authors kept out of the industry by gatekeepers such as yourself, it didn't work. It actually sucked wheelbarrows full of ass.
Your industry fucked the majority of writers it provided services for. And that same industry was built on the sweat, tears, toil, and blood of those very writers it exploited.
Have you actually ever listened to your clients' complaints? (Hint: Your clients are supposed to be the writers you represent. You know, the ones you sell your How To books to, giving them hope that they might someday, if they're lucky enough, follow the gatekeeper rules and get a shitty contract. You know the ones. They're theherd you describe below.)
I've never been a true believer in anything. I like data, and numbers, and facts, and persuasive arguments. I like experiments. I like logic. 
I like making money from my hard work.
And I've found that self-publishing gives me the opportunity to make more money than I ever did within the gatekeeping system. 
And I'm not the only one who knows this. Because others have data, numbers, facts, logic, experiments, and persuasive arguments to support them.
But why start listening to authors? They have their place. They're a lower caste, and only a few are appointed by the holy order of gatekeepers to take their place at the Publishing Industry Table, where they can make 8% royalty on mass market paperbacks. 
Donald: What’s happened instead is an evolution of the publishing world into a new class system, and like any class system it has winners, losers and opportunities. It’s a system that, if not recognized for what it is, will trap frustrated writers in a pit far more hopeless than the one they yearned to escape. Let’s start with a couple of cold-eyed realities.

Well, at least he’s recognizing that there’s a class system at work, even if he’s not able to see, or admit, who up until now have really been the lords and who have really been the serfs. I’m not sure this is progress.
Joe: It isn't.
Donald: First, e-books have not hurt the print publishers but rather have helped them. Especially in the recent recession, low-cost/high-margin e-books have been a bright spot. They’ve kept publishers profitable even as brick-and-mortar book retailing has shrunk and consumers have grown cautious. With the mass-market paperback pricing itself nearly out of existence, low-priced e-books have arrived (with help from the Department of Justice) to keep value-conscious readers reading. Of course, the difficult and expensive business of selling print books must still be faced but at least there’s some gravy to make the task tasty.
Joe: Indeed, ebooks have helped publishers. Even after the lame ass attempts at high prices and windowing and collusion.
Do you actually understand why ebooks have helped publishers, Donald?
Hint: Because publishers screwed the writers. Where were you when the lock-step 25% ebook royalties crept into author contracts? Are you currently fighting for better ebook royalties on behalf of your clients? Did you read my post ridiculing David Gernert for saying stupid things like you're currently saying?
Are authors an unlimited resource, like oil (ha!) to exploit for you and your industry? You continue to sell them books on how to succeed. You continue to do deals with the Big 5. It's easy to see what your agenda is.
My agenda? All of the information I provide, I give away for free. This blog is a public service to my peers. I don't take 15% for helping them. And I don't charge $9.99 for a Kindle book. Like your ebook Writing the Breakout Novel. Now, I may be missing something, but I don't see any breakout novels available on Amazon written by Donald Maass. But I'm sure your advice is good, even if you didn't take it yourself. After all, you've been so persuasive so far...
Donald: Second, the self-publishing movement has been a boon to the print industry. Far from being threatened, print publishers instead are now gratefully relieved of the money-losing burden of the mid-list. Like giant banks that have discovered that banking is boring and the real money is in gambling, big publishers are now free to focus on the high-risk/high-reward game of finding the next Twilight, Hunger GamesGame of Thrones or Fifty Shades of Grey.
Joe: Wow. Just wow.

Barry: He’s comparing legacy publishing behavior to the banking behavior that nearly destroyed the global economy? And he just described thousands of authors as a “burden” of which publishers are now “gratefully relieved.” Leaving aside the nomenclature, where will these authors go once their publishers have relieved themselves on — sorry, of — them?  Why doesn’t Maass want midlist authors to have options?
Joe: How many clients do you have, Donald? They're all huge bestsellers, right?
Wait... they're not? Do you actually represent (gasp!) some unwashed midlist writers?
Good to see you're in their corner, fighting on their behalf, rather than siding with the relieved publishers who no longer have to give your clients contracts.
Donald: Better still, because some authors are now—voluntarily!—willing to bear the expense and undertake the effort of building an audience by themselves, print publishers have the luxury of culling the prize cattle from the herd.

Barry: One unfortunate metaphor might be an accident.  Three begins to seem revealing
Joe: Ah, yes. All the dumb cattle, waiting to be culled from the herd.
I love this analogy because it perfectly encapsulates the unbelievable disdain you have for the writers that you parasitically leech off of to make your living. 
Of course, we all know the fortunately culled cattle get to retire to a long life of luxury and happiness.
Oh... wait. They're actually slaughtered, butchered, and eaten.
This is such an appropriate thing for you to say, and you are completely clueless why.
Donald: Even print-only distribution deals with a handful of successful e-published authors are terrific: easy pickings and effortless profit. Most authors are still knocking at the gate, too, since after all seventy percent of trade book sales are of print editions. In many ways these are good times for print publishers.
Joe: Have you spoken to those who got print-only deals, Donald?
I have. I've corresponded with many.
Here's an email I just got, name omitted to protect the victim.
"What I wanted to email you about, though, was how shitty this legacy publisher has been to me. I turned down a $1.5 million offer for my next books and became persona non grata. They stopped supporting the print version of the book they bought, just fulfilling orders by popular demand from bookstores, which still resulted in 1,000+ sales a week. They resent me, and they hope the book dies. It won't, because readers are demanding copies. I know another indie who did a major deal with them who can't wait for the contract to expire. These are evil fucks."
Donald, how can you actually believe that writers will continue to be culled? We talk to each other. We read each others' contracts. We know how much we can earn on our own.
And more and more of us believe the publishers you work for are, indeed, evil fucks.
You don't see the shape of things? Are you sitting in a corner with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears yelling "Neener neener neener!" so you don't see or hear what the rest of us do? 
Donald: Third, the self-publishing movement has produced gold-rush hysteria in the writing community. While not exactly a mass delusion, questionable beliefs have been widely accepted. True believers sneer at doubters. 
Joe: Great points. Can you show me?
Show me the mass delusion. I go to Kindleboards and see a lot of level-headed writers making money. Where are you looking?
Show me the questionable beliefs. Find something, anything, questionable that I've said. Or anything said by Barry Eisler, Courtney Milan, David Gaughran, Kris Rusch, Bob Mayer, or Dean Wesley Smith,.
Ebooks aren't a gold rush. I dispelled this years ago.
Gold is finite. Ebooks are forever.
Donald: So what is the real truth? High success at self-publishing has happened only for a few who have mastered the demanding business of online marketing. A larger, but still small, number of authors have achieved a modest replacement income from self-publishing. Growth from there will be hard for them, however, because wide print distribution still is needed. (Seventy percent of trade book sales are of print books, remember?)

Barry: Needed for what? This is the same argument Gottlieb made. These guys really seem to need to believe they’re necessities.
Joe: High success at self-publishing has happened only for a few?
As opposed to legacy publishing, right? Which is why every client you have is a #1 NYT Bestseller, and every author pubbed by legacy is rich.
A modest replacement income? How about actual money for the first time ever? Bill-paying money. Life-changing money. Full-time writing money.
I made $1 million last year, with no paper distribution. Why do these myths persist that writers need to be in print?
Perhaps so you can sell more How To books?
Perhaps so you can cull a few from the herd and make a killing while the others you rep get butchered?
Donald: As for the rest…well, the position of the vast majority of self-publishing authors is no better than it ever was, though probably there are fewer cartons of books in their garages. Consultancy to self-publishers is a new job category, however, and that has to be good for the nation’s employment stats.
Joe: You're apparently confusing vanity publishing with self-publishing.
Vanity is when you pay a disreputable service to print copies of your books, sell them at a high cost with terrible covers and editing, and let them keep the rights while receiving terrible royalties.
The only difference between predatory vanity publishing and Big 5 publishing is the author gets hurt a little more with vanity. Sort of like being beaten with a whip instead of beaten with a rod. 
Self-publishing is where authors keep their rights, control price, and get 70% royalties (instead of the 12.5% you get the majority of your authors). There's no beating involved. 
Did I clarify that for you?
Donald: Fourth, as I said, a new class system has arisen. Here’s how it breaks down:
Joe: Because the one thing this world needs is another way to divide classes of people based on subjective, prejudicial nonsense. 
Barry: Okay, let’s short-circuit this.  Leave aside Maass's obsession with dividing authors into classes, and his inability to see the real class distinction he is part of and supports: publishers and agents as royalty; writers as peasants. The real problem is with the analogy itself. Because when it comes to freight/coach/first, all that matters is whether you have the money to buy a ticket. But publishing is a lottery, not a sure-fire ticket you can buy if you just have enough money. Also, while there’s no reason to prefer coach to first class other than price, there are lots of reasons many authors seem to prefer self-publishing to legacy publishing — some because they’re making more money self-publishing, and others because they prefer the flexibility, control, and time-to-market. Something odd has to be going on in your mind if you miss differences this obvious and come up with analogies this incoherent.
Donald: Freight Class
Self-published authors and electronic micro-presses must haul themselves. While the means of production are easy and low-cost, the methods of marketing are costly either in terms of cash or time. Success is rare. The pleasure of being in control is offset by the frustration of “discoverability”.
Joe: I must interrupt the bullshit to point out, for the nth time, that this is EXACTLY THE SAME WITH LEGACY PUBLISHERS.
Success is always rare. That's why so few authors become bestsellers. And the frustration of discoverability is worse on a bookstore shelf when you have one book spine-out in section. At least on Amazon every author has their own page and can compete on an even playing field.
Donald: Online retailers are whimsical and ludicrously over-stocked, both barrier and open door. Lists, blogs, social sites and the like are plentiful but of only spotty help. Trusted filtering of self-published books may arise (watch the recent sale of Bookish to Zola, two recommendation sites started by—gasp!—publishers and agents) but don’t hold your breath. The real problem is that fiction at this level has trouble appealing widely to readers. It can sell when priced at $2.99, sometimes a bit more, often less.
Joe: There are over 100,000 books in a Barnes and Noble. Is that not ludicrously overstocked?
Donald, is it easier to search for books online using a mouse, or walk through aisles of paper books hoping they stock something that appeals to you?
Are you aware of the filtering systems known as customer reviews, bestseller lists, and also-boughts, that Amazon utilizes extremely well? 
As for appealing widely to readers... well, my sales increased by 800% when I got my rights back from my legacy publishers. And I work a lot less promoting now than I did when I was published by them.
Donald: Why? Let’s look at what characterizes Freight Class fiction. While the Kindle bookstore can be an incubator of innovative fiction, for the most part it is an ocean of genre imitations if not amateurish writing. Freight Class novels generally take few risks. Too often they rely on character stereotypes, heavy-handed plots, purple and obvious emotions, and messages and themes that are time-worn. Justice must be done. Love conquers all. Good vs. evil. Freight Class fiction can be easy to skim. Literary flourishes are few, cliffhangers are many. Genre conventions are rigidly honored. Characters are not motivated from within, for the most part, but instead are pushed into action by external plot circumstances.
Joe: First, I congratulate you on reading tens of thousands of self-pubbed genre novels to arrive at this conclusion. Kudos on being an objective arbitrator of quality. 
Second, anyone who has ever bought a legacy paperback they didn't like probably believes that those books relied on character stereotypes, heavy-handed plots, purple and obvious emotions, and messages that are time-worn. Which is why many bestselling legacy books have lower customer ratings than bestselling self-pubbed titles.
But what do readers know, with their subjective tastes? They aren't self-appointed gatekeepers like you are.
Donald: Coach Class
Here we find decently-written literary fiction and nicely-crafted commercial fiction that achieves print publication but sells best at trade-paperback level ($14.99 or so), or discounted in e-book form. Coach Class novelists support each other yet find it difficult to gain a foothold with the public. So-called “marketing” by their publishers is disappointing and, truthfully, can only do so much. Traditional tours (when they happen) accomplish little, front of store incentives are costly, and online marketing sometimes seems to consist of the hope that Amazon will do a price promotion. Coach Class authors, however, are professionally edited and get goodies like nice covers, ARC’s, and plenty of blurbs. Plus, their books are in bookstores, a big boost in visibility.

Barry: So far, Maass’s thinking exhibits two primary, and pretty obvious, flaws: one, he talks about the ideal of legacy publishing as though it were the widespread reality; two, he discusses challenges in self-publishing as though they don’t exist at least equally in the legacy world. In fairness, he’s not unusual in this regard.
Joe: Dammit, where will the herd of self-pubbed authors get nice covers, review copies, blurbs, and professional editing?
Oh yeah, we can outsource it. And we don't have to give the extra 57.5% ebook royalties to the publisher, forever, when they could be one-time sunk costs.  
But perhaps I'm being unfair. Perhaps I'm the only writer who ever got bad covers, zero blurbs, and lousy editing from my publishers. 
Am I? All you authors reading this, feel free to chime in.
Donald: What characterizes Coach Class fiction? Readable pages, appealing characters, clever premises, attention-grabbing plot hooks, a display of craft and art, emotional engagement, and themes that “resonate”…which is to say, that stir readers without greatly challenging them. Coach class fiction is less easy to skim. While characters can be motivated from within, their inner journeys can feel somewhat painless. Readers are “engaged” but don’t always feel deeply moved. Coach Class fiction sometimes borrows secondary characters from history or classics, retells other stories, or stretches into series that can become thin. Genre conventions may be borrowed or blended but essentially they are not violated. Coach Class is a moderately comfortable place to be, though one can feel stuck in one’s seat. Economy shocks can hurt.

Barry: I dunno. Some of this sounds like what Shakespeare did. Secondary characters from history and all that.
Joe: And this class of fiction is written by... wait for it...
The same herd of authors who write ALL fiction in all of Maass's so-called classes.
Donald, every writer worth their salt realizes the benefits of a good editor. But we can find good editors on our own, and pay them hourly instead of forever. And it is writers who write the books, not editors. Show me a single editor who worked more on a book than the writer did, to warrant their huge royalty cut.
But you're already in a hole, so why stop digging?
Donald: First Class
The cream class gets a double shot of extended life in bookstores, both in hardcover and later in paper. Their books can sell well at $25 and live long in trade paper. For First Class authors, success looks effortless. Goodies accrue easily. Recognition is instant and wide. Sub-rights sell. Awards happen. Insulated from economy shocks, authors of this class never seem to worry about the industry. In interviews they talk only about their art and process. They mentor. Lines are long at BEA booth signings and readers are fiercely loyal.

Barry: It’s weird how he consistently talks about the price books sell for, not how much authors make from them.  Which I imagine is how publishers look at the world. Telling, that.
Joe: I had multiple printings. Then got my rights back, and made a shitload more money on my own.
If my "extended life in bookstores" continued much longer, I'd still be poor and depressed.
For every author mentored by the Big 5, thousands are bent over and abused. I had a longer signing line at BEA than James Patterson. It was flattering. I would have preferred his income. But, alas, I wasn't first class.

Barry: Yes, again, these guys never want to talk about the system’s losers. The whole thing is designed to hold out the winners as somehow the norm.
Donald: Why all that seemingly-effortless success? First Class fiction is characterized by memorable characters, unique premises, story worlds instantly real, plots that grip even when slow, gorgeous writing, and themes that surprise, challenge and change us. Not only do we read every word, First Class writing makes us whistle in admiration. Characters are not only likeable and self-aware, but also follow a singular destiny. First class novels shake our way of thinking, challenging us to see the world in new ways. They confidently break rules, may transport us to unlikely cultures and times, teach us things we knew little about, and always feel utterly unique. Each novel creates its own genre. First Class fiction is imitated but never matched. Its authors are revered and for good reasons.
Joe: Let us look at all the first class fiction currently on the NYT Bestseller List, and marvel at how it can be imitated but never matched.
Then let's come back to real life and understand that massive distribution is the reason for much bestseller success. 
I never got to compete with bestselling authors, because I never had their distribution.
Guess what happened when the playing field was leveled? Hint: I owe more in 2013 taxes than I made in five years of legacy royalties.
Donald: So, in which class are you? To which class do you aspire? Here’s the thing: In the real world, one’s class can be a prison. Politics plays in. The upper class can use its money to buy itself tax advantages, legal wizardry and gated communities that keep the rest out. Other classes stick together and stick with what they know. Revolution is rare, costs blood and doesn’t happen where minimal comforts are available.
In the world of publishing, though, it’s not like that. Authorship is a true meritocracy. (Sorry, it is.)
Joe: No, it isn't. Not even close. 
It's luck and visibility. It's hard work. Talent can play a part, but I know plenty of talented authors who got screwed, and plenty of authors with dubious talent who climbed to stardom. Apparently you haven't. But I bet if you opened your eyes, you'd see a few.

Barry: In a true meritocracy, luck would not be a factor. He’s describing what he wants to believe, not what remotely actually exists — not just in publishing, but anywhere in the world. I’d be curious to hear him name another “true meritocracy.” He can’t. There’s no such thing. Certainly not in publishing. In fact, he is now describing what is essentially a lottery as a meritocracy. This is a fascinating — and deeply dishonest — sales pitch: “Come one, come all, if you’re talented and work hard, you are guaranteed success!”

I don’t think he’s a deliberate huckster. I think he really believes these things, presumably because he badly wants to.
Donald: In publishing there is social mobility. As an author you can change your class, though of course it’s not always easy to do so. It takes education, time and effort. It means seeing yourself differently, having courage and violating the norms and expectations of your community. (One of the most common laments I hear is, “I got published…and lost a lot of my friends.”)

Barry: Think maybe he’s been reading too much Ayn Rand?

Also, have you ever heard of someone lamenting how he lost his friends when he got published? I haven’t. But maybe I hang out with the wrong class of cattle.
Joe: One of the most common laments I hear is, "How do I get my rights back?" 
Donald: Do things look different inside publishing today? Yes and no. There’s innovation all over the place but also for authors a picture more challenging than ever. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Inequality is vast. But change doesn’t require billionaire money buying elections. You don’t need a phony revolution. You can change your class by yourself, right at home, one keystroke at a time.

Barry: Sounds increasingly like the one percent blowing smoke at everyone else. “Yes, you plebes are worse off than ever and getting poorer every day, but why would anyone want to change a system where every now and then a miserably poor person gets to become one of the super wealthy first cream class?”

I’m not saying there are no winners — huge winners — in legacy publishing. I’m saying it’s dishonest (or, more charitably, delusional) to talk about the winners and not to talk about the losers. Or to otherwise pretend the winners are remotely the norm.
Joe: I've noticed some of the rich aren't getting as rich, and many are making more money than they ever did.
This isn't a phony revolution. This is an actual change of power. That power is going to where it should; to the people writing the goddamn words that support the entire industry.
Writers need a way to get their work in front of readers. In the past we had to go through gatekeepers like you.
Not anymore. Thankfully.
Donald: I’ve exaggerated the above for effect, obviously, but in a lot of ways that’s how the industry looks to me now. How does it look to you?
Joe: Honestly? It looks to me like you have an unearned sense of entitlement, and that you're frightened for your future so you spout nonsense to cover up for your obvious insecurity. You're deluded, or lying, or evil. But you aren't making sense.

Barry: Well, it looks at least in part populated by navel-gazing stuffed-shirt MOTU wannabes pontificating a slick line of bullshit to the underclass they’re concerned is starting to develop an unwelcome understanding of how the system really works, along with the tools to walk away from it — the underclass of which they pose as champions. Since you ask.
Joe: As a literary agent, you have an opportunity to help authors. Helping them doesn't mean selling them How To books. It doesn't mean genuflecting before the legacy industry that made you rich.
It means taking a hard look at what is actually happening, and acting accordingly.
You aren't doing either. You're spreading bullshit. And shame on you for it. I haven't read your How To books, Donald. But are you sure they don't belong in the fiction section? Because if they're anything like this nonsense I can't imagine them being helpful.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, way back in the 1990s when I was getting rejections for my writing, I did get one from the Donald Maass Lit Agency. Here it is:

So perhaps my overly harsh attitude is simply resentment toward the fact that Mr. Maass never culled me from the herd because I wasn't First Class, even though the book he rejected went on to earn me over $100,000.

But what really irks me is that this rejection letter hawks his book The Career Novelist

Maybe it's just me, but using SASEs as a way to advertise your How To book to authors you rejected seems, well, yucky. I wonder how many authors bought it, then wrote him back leading with, "I read your book, Mr. Maass, and followed it to the letter." How many of those authors went on to become career novelists?

As I said, I've always known publishing is a lottery. The harder you work, and the more you learn, the luckier you may get. Authorship isn't a meritocracy. But what do I know? I'm just a small, warm blooded mammal with sharp claws, grateful I have fur because it is getting awfully cold since that meteor hit.