I did a survey of folks on my Writing Tips newsletter, many of whom have dropped out of regular readership.
Many of whom have a good reason for doing so.
The migraines don’t prevent me from working (most of the time) because I am tenacious and I’ll put up with a lot of pain before I give up. (This is, after all, how I got published in the first place.) This post, for example, is the sort of thing I can do with a migraine.
But the part of me that is creative crawls off in a hole and cries during migraines. Coming up with writing tips is big-C Creative. It does not play well with migraines. And when I’ve been feeling halfway decent, I’ve been working on stuff that pays the bills.
But I want to get back to doing cool things with the newsletter. So:
I asked the following four questions:
Where are you in your writing progress right now?
Answers I got:
- 598 (76.6%) said, “I’m working on creating my first work”
- 128 (16.4%) said, “I’ve finished projects, but I don’t know how to revise them”
- 46 (5.9%) said, “I’m self-publishing regularly, but would like to do it better”
- 8 (1%) said, “I’ve given up–I’ve moved on to other interests”
Receiving the following emails would help me reach my writing goals:
Answers I got (these were multiple choice, so totals are more than 100%):
- 956 said, “Writing tips once a month”
- 707 said, “Questions from readers that you answer once a month”
- 679 said, “Links to blog posts discussing aspects of writing that interest me (select preferred topics from SUBJECTS list)
- 490 said, “Notice of new writing articles on your site”
- 219 said, “Shop coupons”
The writing SUBJECTS I most need help with are:
Answers I got (these were multiple choice, so totals are more than 100%):
- 845 said, “Writing skills info: plotting, characterization, scene development, dialogue, worldbuilding, story structure and pacing, etc.”
- 627 said, “Advanced skills: career development, novel revision, series development and management, etc.”
- 619 said, “Functional skills: time management, motivation, scheduling writing time, developing project deadlines, etc.”
- 498 said, “Basic creative start-up info: how to get ideas, how to start stories, how to make myself write, etc.”
- 310 said, “Basic technical start-up info: software, hardware, document formatting, contact instruction such as how to write query letters, etc.”
- 88 said, “Something else” From this, I’ve received a bunch of new course requests, including a LOT on self-publishing, self-promoting, some advanced writing topics, some absolute beginner writing topics…. I’m putting the requests into an inspiration folder that I can pull from when I get ready to create new courses. As always, I’ll run ideas through here first to make sure enough people are interested to make it worth the investment in my time and effort. There are some GREAT ideas in there.
Do you resent me including information on my available novels and writing courses in your free emails?
- 1056 (99.5%) said, “No.”
- 5 (0.5%) said “Yes. (Please cancel your subscription. While I’m willing to offer free help to struggling writers, I can only do this if I get paid for the novels and courses I create. If you resent my inclusion of links to the work that allows me to help you, you don’t want my help. Unsubscribe instructions are below.)”
So far, about a hundred others however, most of whom did not fill out the survey, unsubscribed.
So what does this mean?
- First, it means that I have some wonderful folks on my list —and for those of you who sent good wishes on the migraines, thank you very much.
- Second, it means that I’m going to be getting back to work on adding new stuff to the writing tips list.
Folks in Year One on the list will get a new writing tip every week. Folks who have been with me for more than a year should start looking for one writing tip a month, plus one other cool content email—either a round-up of writers questions and answers, or a discussion of some aspect of writing or publishing I’m currently dealing with, or a link to a blog discussion here, or one of the other things folks would find useful.
- I’ll continue to include links to courses I offer that meet the needs students have noted above. Aside from new releases, which I’ll promote regularly for a week or two, the links will be attached to content emails, and they’ll just fly by, so if you see something you like, go after it when you see it.
- I’m going to be adding what I’m thinking of as Specific Task Classes to HowToThinkSideways.com.
These will be classes that use existing courses: Character Clinic, for example. You get Character Clinic separately, and then you do a Specific Task Class to create (as an example only) the Hero, Sidekick, Romantic Interest, and Villain for your next story.
Or a class built around Plot Clinic that will help folks set up plots for related 2500-word short stories to sell as limited-run series.
For Specific Task Classes (I’ll come up with a better name, I promise), you bring your own textbook, but you’ll get worksheets, audio, demos, a work board for live interaction with other students. Not sure what else. My objective with these is to keep the price low.
Here’s the link to sign up for the newsletter, in case you didn’t know I offered it:
Oh, if you want to ask a writing question for the newsletter (these will ONLY be answered in the newsletter, and I’ll pick the best questions to answer every month), ask them at THIS link: http://novelwritingschool.com/support2/
I’ve had a migraine for the last three weeks.
While Tylenol has helped take the edge off for a little while, it has not gone away completely.
The pain was too bad to focus on the really cool, creative things I have to do in the final chapters of Create A World Clinic, so I’ve worked on less creative things.
Putting together and then running a live-online Motivation workshop. Putting up my How To Find Your Writing Discipline course in its original form on the new site.
And putting together a three-week class called How To Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck.
See, I wanted a new freebie for How To Think Sideways site, I asked Margaret if she had any ideas for something cool, and she said she’d love to have a course on writing better flash fiction. So I made one.
Started setting it up.
Sent out an email asking folks to let me know if they knew of any good websites and publishers who accept flash fiction, so the class graduates would have some places to submit their work.
And explained WHY I wanted this information.
The login and signup forms for the site were stampeded, the traffic on the signup form had so many people trying to sign up simultaneously that the SUBMIT buttons actually disappeared for many people trying to use them, people weren’t getting their confirmation emails… it was nuts.
And in the stampede for a class that won’t start until next Tuesday, I got only a tiny handful of recommendations for flash fiction sites and/or publishers.
So I’m asking here…know of any you’d recommend? I’d like to have as broad a spectrum as I can get.
I’ve been fixing up the How To Think Sideways website for the past couple weeks; reformatting, relinking and in a couple of cases revising old products from my shop to put on my new shop, and otherwise doing lots of Working Very Hard While Not Writing, which is what I have always done when I’ve hit a snag.
I hit the snag in World Clinic when I got to Part Two.
Part One, the critical core of worldbuilding for writers, flew. It was fun and glorious every day I worked on it.
But I got about ten pages into Part Two, which is how you actually use all the OTHER stuff, all the stuff people THINK is worldbuilding…
…and hit the “You’re doing it wrong,” wall.
I got my first inkling to day (while taking a shower, of course) of HOW I’m doing it wrong. So that’s good.
Still haven’t figured out how to do it right yet, though.
I’ll only lose about ten pages. But I’m going to have to let it sit a little longer until my Muse and I can get the whole do-it-right part ironed out.
In the meantime, navigation and the product line on How to Think Sideways will benefit.
After very difficult last two weeks, where I was overhauling the major part of the HowToThinkSideways.com site, it was sheer joy to get back to writing Create A World Clinic. And while I didn’t set the world on fire, I did get 802 words, and the first two sections of the Container Universe chapter done.
Also dressed up this place for spring.
Some stress-related health issues hit over the weekend. They’d be a problem if I let them be. I’m not going to. I’ve started taking better care of myself: I’m taking breaks, working fewer hours, exercising more, sleeping more.
I’ll still get everything done. Just not at the frenzied pace of previous years.
First, here is the substantive difference between a contract without live links to the appends, and one with: When you print off a PDF (at least, when you do it on a Mac—if Windows doesn’t do this, consider VERY carefully before you sign your document) the PDF notes the URL of the document on every page on the top right corner, and the date on the bottom of the page on the right-hand corner. And it paginates all the print pages of a document, so you can be sure nothing went missing.
It also preserves the live links within the body of each portion of the document. These are the elements you, the writer, need to have in hand to prove that what you think you signed is what you actually signed.
If you are called upon to testify about what you signed in court (and with any contract you sign, you must understand that this is both a real possibility and your worst-case scenario), you have the trail, in writing, with provably connected links that define every single term in the contract, the date on which you recorded each of theses appends, and their unique URLs, and all of these will match the URLs of the main document’s links.
Those live links and connections create ONE DOCUMENT.
Without them, standing in court, the other side’s lawyer can ask you, “How do you know the document you are holding in your hand refers to those terms, when your handful of unlinked documents are not even on the same website?”
And your answer will be? Anyone?
“I just assumed.”
At which point, you lose.
With the links, you present dated DOCUMENT A, with linked, paginated, and dated SUB-DOCUMENTS B, C, D, E etc, and you say, “Here is how these documents connect, so this entire collection, all bearing the same date and all linking back to DOCUMENT A, is what I signed.”
And the other side’s lawyer goes home from meeting with your lawyer, BEFORE there is a court case, because he doesn’t have a case.
Oh, but no big company would ever try to screw over a nice person like you? Ask yourself this…
Is there money in it for them if they do?
I worked as an RN for a large hospital corporation, but the place I worked was a small-town hospital, and I loved the folks I worked with (excluding the nursing administrator, who had NO hands-on experience in hospital nursing). Got along with my colleagues, got along with the docs. And I had years of experience in a tough job—I was weekend daytime charge nurse in a seven-bed ER that, on the weekends, was the Wild, Wild West.
I was at that time seven months pregnant with my second child. And I got kicked in the stomach by a combative drunk, and went into labor. Back in 1985, neonatal care was not as advanced as it is now, and there was very real chance that if I had my baby then, he would die. I called my OB, and he said, “Get home, lie on your side, drink water, it will probably be okay.” My husband came and got me, and I did that. Only it didn’t get better.
I ended up in our local hospital (not the one where I worked—ours had a better OB/GYN departement), on a mag sulfate drip, watching the regular contractions that just wouldn’t stop, listening as the woman in the delivery suite next to mine had her premature baby, and lost him. I can still hear her when she found out.
I was alone—the nurses had one emergency and I wasn’t it yet, and I was terrified. I didn’t lose my kid, though. It took a couple days to get the contractions to stop, but I eventually went home, still pregnant.
I spent the next two months on bed rest, taking medicine that routinely ran my heart rate up into the 120s. But my kid and I got through it. He was born on time, and as soon as I could I prepared to get back to work (because the emergency hospitalization and two months of not getting paid—I was a Baylor RN, no medical benefits—had killed our finances).
Only my job wasn’t there. It was supposed to have been held for me.
But the nursing administrator told me, quite happily, “Oh, you didn’t fill out an incident report, so we didn’t have to hold it.”
After I had been kicked in the stomach by the drunk, and WHILE I was in premature labor, lying on my side waiting for my husband to come get me, I did not fill out an incident report. None of my friends thought of it. The doc who kept popping in to check on me while my husband was on his way didn’t think of it. And I didn’t think of it.
The folks I worked with had seen it happen. The doctor. The nurses. They liked me. They wanted me back.
But the incident that put me into premature labor wasn’t on paper.
If it’s not on paper, it never happened.
So she had filled my slot with a much less experienced RN who was not working Baylor, saving the hospital quite a bit of money…and because I had not filled out an incident report, I had no documentation that being kicked in the stomach by that patient had started the contractions, I had no recourse.
My on-the-ground, real-world experience with contracts, agreements, and legalese goes far beyond that, both in nursing and in writing, but that was the point where I learned my lesson. Never assume that anyone but you is going to look out for YOU.
Never assume anything. If your livelihood is on the line, get everything that pertains to you in writing, make sure that every single bit of legalese is provably connected to every other single bit of legalese, keep your paper safe, make backups, and protect yourself.
The content is the same—only now you can see, read, and print off (use pdf, it works better) every single line, clause, and sub-sub clause that pertains to you.
DO print off and save every bit of it. Every page, every sub-page, every page that is marked as part of the agreement.
When these clauses are updated—any of them—B&N must let you know that to continue doing business with them, you will have to agree to the changes. When you get this notice, REVIEW THE CHANGES.
The contract you will NOW be signing is, however, complete. I am not a lawyer, I cannot advise you whether or not is is a good deal or a bad deal FOR YOU. But all the pieces are now there for you to read.
In its complete form, when I can sign a document that contains all its clauses, it is only a bit worse than the Amazon contract FOR ME.
If I am given the option to support multiple platforms and fight to keep open multiple markets where I can offer my work, I will do so.
By making sure all the terms in the contract were actually IN the contract, Barnes & Noble has made it possible for me to continue to support multiple markets. I do this based on my personal set of priorities, which include doing everything I can to prevent monopolies in markets that affect my livelihood. On all sites other than my own, that is my first priority. Keep markets open and in competition with each other.
Are the contracts great with B&N and Amazon and Kobo great? No. You are dealing with megacorporations and armies of lawyers, and when you play, the game is always rigged in favor of the house. This goes for commercial publishers, too.
But having gone over the WHOLE contract, I’ll continue to keep my work on Barnes & Noble. And Kobo. And Amazon.
Always with the understanding that I can and will pull my work from ANY of those venues if the contract terms turn against me.
This is from the April 3, 2013 Nook Press Terms and Conditions:
And trust me, you are going to want to read this bad boy yourself.
But I’ll comment here. My highlights of my excerpts of their text are bold, my personal comments are indented italic.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not a lawyer. I am a writer who reads the damned contract, and over the last 22 years, I’ve developed some skill in spotting bad clauses. But I would LOVE to have a lawyer’s take on this.
I’ve skipped a lot of minor evil, and am taking you straight to the bits about the money.
A. List Prices. When you submit your eBook to us, you will provide a list price for your eBook in one or more currencies in accordance with the then current procedures listed in the Service Polices for list price submission (“List Price”). You will adjust the List Price as required to ensure that, at all times that the eBook is available for sale through NOOK Press, the List Price does not exceed the maximum list price or go below the minimum list price permitted in our Pricing and Payment Terms.
Okay. So far, this is within reason, though no link exists to let you see what current “List Price” is, or how you determine where your work will fit in their policy.
We will use commercially reasonable efforts to effect any change in List Price you provide to us within twenty (20) days following the date on which you submit it. We may provide other requirements for List Prices in the Service Policies which your eBooks must meet in order to be accepted and remain on NOOK Press, in addition to the requirements provided in the Pricing and Payment Terms. The List Price you provide will be exclusive of any applicable value added, goods and services or similar taxes (“VAT”). If we display a List Price to customers, we may add applicable VAT to the List Price you provide to determine the List Price that we display. If we offer your eBook for sale in a different currency than a currency in which you set your List Price (“Sale Currency”), we may convert the List Price to the Sale Currency at an exchange rate we determine. We may periodically update the converted List Price in order to reflect current exchange rates. If we convert your List Price to another Sale Currency, the converted List Price in the Sale Currency will be your List Price with respect to the offer and sale of your eBook in the Sale Currency for all purposes under this Agreement. For example, your Royalties (as defined below) will be calculated based on the converted List Price in the Sale Currency.
Do note that they don’t say they’ll change their price. They use legalese, and say they’ll “try.” This clause supports the one with big bad teeth further down. Beyond that “we’ll try to change your price” bit, though, nothing outside the bounds of the acceptable here, either. They gotta charge tax for places that collect them, they’re going to add the tax to the price rather than taking it out of your end. That’s how taxes work.
B. Customer Prices. We have sole and complete discretion to set the Retail Price at which your eBooks are sold to the customer. We or our third party retailers, partners or contractors are solely responsible for processing payments, payment collection, requests for refunds and related customer service.
This, however, is Bastion of Evil #1. When a retailer discounts a commercially published print book, the retailer has paid for that book, and any losses he takes for discounting the product will be HIS. When a retailer discounts an ebook, he is not taking a small loss to move product, because he has paid NOTHING to have that book in his inventory. (If you’re screaming about website maintenance and setting up ebook delivery systems, knock it off. When you own a business, building your damn website is a Cost of Doing Business, it’s deductible, and you already have to do that to sell the rest of the products you offer. Ask me how I know.)
So when a retailer discounts your ebook and you don’t sell enough extra copies to make up the difference, he is giving you an arbitrary pay cut. When he raises your set price and cuts your sellthrough to the point that you’re only selling a few copies, again the loss of sales is exclusively yours. He loses NOTHING because he paid nothing to begin with. Anything he does, no matter how much it hurts the sale of your book or you personally, is free to him.
But the retailer wants to make as much money as possible, so he would never do this, right?
What is Barnes & Noble? It’s a brick-and-mortar chain with a non-stellar online presence. It has a massive, vested interest in keeping print books at the top of the reading food chain, just as commercial publishers do. Commercial publishers have moved the price of ebooks upward to be the same as or higher than their mass market or trade paper versions. Why? For the publicly stated purpose of SLOWING DOWN EBOOK SALES.
Is it possible that Barnes & Noble, hoping to keep its stores open, might work to make the ebooks in its product line less appealing?
Okay, at this point, I know I sound a bit paranoid—but they do state that, no matter what you suggest for your price, they have no obligation whatsoever to honor it. Keep that in mind as we move forward. And remember, ANY legally binding clauses in contracts do not exist just for funsies.
Beyond that, this is the pricing clause, and there’s nothing in here at all about minimum or maximum prices. Not a word.
Anyway, now we get to “your royalties, as defined below.”
A. Royalty. If you are not in breach of any of your obligations under this Agreement, for each eBook sold to a customer through NOOK Press, Barnes & Noble will pay you the applicable “Royalty” defined and set forth in the Pricing and Payment Terms, net of refunds, chargebacks, bad debt and any applicable taxes charged to a customer or applied with respect to sales to a customer (including without limitation any VAT or sales taxes).
Okay. So you’re to get a royalty, after everything else has been subtracted out. Payment terms are next, where you’ll find out what your royalty is. Read this next bit twice. Better yet, print it off, and read it three times.
B. Payment Terms. Barnes & Noble will pay or cause to be paid your Royalties on sales of your eBook approximately sixty (60) days following the end of the calendar month during which it is sold. At the time of payment, we will make available to you an online report detailing sales of eBooks and corresponding Royalties. All payments will be made via electronic transfer payments or other method we designate in the Service Policies in the Sale Currency or other payment currency we provide for in the Service Policies. If we give you the option to change your payment currency and you select that option using our then-current procedures, unless otherwise noted the change will be effective on the first day of the calendar month following the calendar month in which you make the change. If we pay you in a currency other than the Sale Currency, we will convert the Royalties due from the Sale Currency to the payment currency at an exchange rate we determine, which will be inclusive of all fees and charges for the conversion. We may require you to register in your account a valid bank account for receiving EFT payments that is in compliance with the then-current Service Policies, in which case we will not be obligated to make payments of Royalties to you unless you do so. We are entitled to accrue and withhold payments until the total amount due is at least Ten U.S. Dollars ($10) or for payments in other currencies, at least those amounts we set forth in the Service Policies. You may not maintain any action or proceeding against us in respect of any statement unless you commence that action or suit within six (6) months after the date the statement is rendered. Any such action or proceeding shall be limited to a determination of the amount of monies, if any, payable by us to you for the accounting periods in question, and your sole remedy shall be the recovery of those monies with no interest thereon. If we pay you a Royalty on a sale and later issue a refund, return, or credit for such sale, we may offset the amount of the Royalty previously paid for the sale against future Royalties, or require you to remit that amount to us. Negative balances can occur when the value of all refunds of your eBook during a given payment period exceeds that value of orders for your eBook. If you have a negative balance on your payment date, the negative balance may be offset from future Royalty payments to you. If a third party asserts that you did not have all rights required to make your eBook available on NOOK Press, or if we believe that you may be in breach of your representations and warranties in this Agreement, we will be entitled to hold all Royalties due until we determine that the validity of the third party claim, that you were not in breach or have fully remedied your breach, as applicable. Upon termination of this Agreement, we may withhold all Royalties due for a period of three (3) months from the date they would otherwise be payable in order to ensure our ability to offset any refunds or other offsets we are entitled to take against the Royalties.
That’s it, Bob. That is the WHOLE ENTIRE DAMNED payments clause, and nowhere in this agreement that you must sign is there one word about what your royalty will be. The old agreement had it in there, nice and plain. Here? Well…this is what we call “signing a blank check” and THIS is why I keep saying READ THE DAMN CONTRACT.
Throw in the fact that B&N reserves the right to change your cover art without warning and with no redress possible from you (hey, you signed the contract), that you are required to make 100% of your book available for free to anyone reading on a Nook in one of their stores (no time limits or restrictions are mentioned, and if it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t exist,) and what you have here is the single worst contract I have ever seen in my life. And I’ve seen some real stinkers.
So will I be transferring my existing list of books from the existing PubIt program.
No. I’ll be pulling everything down from Barnes & Noble before their cutoff date.
I have now had to spam a couple of comments. This blog has rules for commenters. READ THEM if you don’t already know them. I don’t mind if you disagree with me, but if you do, BACK IT UP WITH FACTS. Snarky asides with no useful information, and personal attacks on me or the other commenters will get you marked as a spammer.
ADDED APRIL 11:
It comes down to this: If you read the clauses that are not appended to the contract, it is somewhat worse than Amazon’s contract. Not a lot. Just somewhat.
I have a file cabinet full of contracts, however, and all of them INCLUDE ALL THE PARTS of the contract right IN the contract. You can read the whole twenty-plus page agreement, and it is set in stone. The terms are the terms, printed out there right in front of you. You read them, and then you sign them, and both you and your publisher are bound by them. No part of them can be changed without you rereading and re-signing the whole thing.
The Amazon contract is a one-piece beast. Every time they change the terms, you have to read through and re-sign the whole thing. THIS IS A GOOD THING.
The Nook Press contract is like a publisher who left all the parts of the agreement that protect you in his other pants.
Sure, he has them, and you can take his word for it that he’s looking out for your interests too. But if you cannot read those clauses right in your contract, and they do not exist in the copy of the contract you print out, you are ONLY signing what’s contained on the piece of paper in your hand. Contract evil does not necessarily arise out of bad intent or a genuine attempt to defraud. Sometimes it just arises out of stupidity.
Neither option, however, makes a great recommendation for Barnes & Noble or Nook Press as a promising business partner in the future.
I recommend stuff on YouTube almost never.
After I looped and replayed this for the seventh time today, however, I realized I couldn’t keep it to myself.
Now, the book itself is not done, and remembering that I initially estimated that I’d be able to bring it in at 30,000 words, and sitting right at the doorstep of that number with Dot World, Line World, and Toothpaste World complete, I face the reality that I am going to have to squeeze like hell to fit what’s left into the 17,000 or so words remaining to bring it in at 45,000.
I’ve been doing demos. Religiously. Demos take up space, but they make processes learnable.
What remains to squeeze into the last section of the book? Oh, nothing much. Except:
- Container Worlds
- Knowable Worlds
- Infinite Worlds
- Language and Culture Whens and Whys (since I already wrote whole books for these, this section will be short, at least)
- Progress Tracking and Continuity
- Time-and-Space Lines
- Debugging Your Work
That look like a lot to you? Looks like a lot to me. And I’ve gotta include the demos.
So. Roughly 850 words today. Moving on to other necessities.
I think it’s funny that the best analogy I could find for the third stage of SANE worldbuilding was a tube of toothpaste.
I’ll do the final exercises and worksheet in that section tomorrow, and then I move on to all the things writers generally associate with worldbuilding (and either adore or scorn), and when you use those elements, if you use them at all: drawing maps, making artifacts, creating languages and cultures, and so on, are IF items, and you can frequently do without any of them.
Shocked? I know, when I finally figured out the WHY of worldbuilding, that I was.
Anyway, got 1236 words today. And I’m having a wonderful time putting together the demos and walkthroughs for the process I use now.