Rebel Tales: My War For The Midlist

What used to be assets

It wasn’t that long ago that science fiction and fantasy were genres supporting a lot of midlist careers. And if you say “What’s the midlist?” you’re not alone.

The midlist was where writers who’d never had a New York Times bestseller, but who created great stories regularly, lived. They weren’t household names. But they were full-time writers, they sold a lot of books, their backlist (their old books) stayed in print and earned them royalties twice a year, and their frontlist—their NEW books—brought them new readers who then found all the old stuff they’d written and bought that, too.

Backlist was the keystone upon which you built your career. Your older books kept making you money year after year after year, while you wrote new books and gained new readers and built a following. Your older books were your assets, and they paid off just as any good investment pays of.

And when I first got into the field, this was still what writers thought would happen.

Only publishers don’t keep backlist in print anymore.

So there are no midlist writers anymore, because if you don’t have big numbers on your first book, and bigger numbers on your second book, you don’t have a career.

Now frontlist is all that matters, backlist dies, and writing fiction for a living has become not building a career but playing the lottery.

There are a lot of reasons why this happens, I have gone into them at great (and contentious) length elsewhere, and WHY has ceased to be my issue. I have discovered that I cannot fix the problem from the inside.

So I’m attacking it from the outside.

What readers need

We know what readers need. Great stories. That’s a given. So to head off a lot of “but what about readers” arguments in response to this post, let me say right now that what I’m doing only works if there are great stories to put into print. I’m not on any mercy mission here, Princess. (Yes, a Darth Vader misquote.)

There will be no pity publishing, no “but I need to sell something because we’re broke” sales. If you’re a writer, work your ass off and turn yourself into a good writer. If your stories suck, I’m not going to buy them, because the people who pay you when you’re a writer are readers, and I’m not going to screw over readers. Period. Haven’t done it with my work, and I’m SURE not going to do it with yours.

With that said, however, we are not here to talk about readers. We are here to talk about writers, and the brutal state of publishing. The question NOBODY has asked (ever, as far as I can tell) is “What do writers need?”

What writers need

Now I’m writing from the perspective neither of a reader nor of a publisher, but from that of a writer—one who has written a helluva lot of novels, who has a huge backlist of good books—novels that have won rave reviews from reviewers and readers alike…and who has watched as the damn backlist I was supposed to have been able to build a career around has gone out of print one book at a time.

There are no every-six-month royalty checks to pay me while I write the next book. There is no buffer from closing on 20 years of professional work as a novelist. There is a treadmill of “write a book, write another book, watch the previous book go out of print, live on the the advance from the next book, and never gain any traction.”

The midlist is gone.

You want to know what writers need? Writers need a way to get paid every month for their backlist while they’re creating their newest book. They need to be able to build careers where the readers who find what they’ve written most recently can find everything they wrote before, still in print. They need to stop being publishing’s redshirts—replaceable, disposable, forgettable.

What writers need is someone to bring the midlist back—to bring back the place where you can gradually work your way to bestsellerdom (if that’s in you) by building an audience of loyal readers who look for and can find everything you wrote…and where, if you’re too offbeat to become a bestseller, you can still do what you love and get paid enough to live on while doing it.

Writers need someone who will print, distribute and promote their frontlist while keeping their backlist in print—and who will pay them regularly and reliably for every sale of every item they have in print—and not AFTER figuring profits, either.

You don’t need to have a publisher sit for six months on a book that has been finished, turned in, and accepted, while your payment works its way through accounting and your credit rating goes down the drain because you have no money. (Yes, I’m talking about myself. I have a deep, personal, bloody-mindedly determined stake in making Rebel Tales happen BECAUSE of that publisher, that six-month-delayed check, and the havoc it wreaked on my life.)

I found a way to keep my head above water by teaching other people how to write. It’s fun, I love it.

But there aren’t all that many other writers out there who have published more than 30 novels, who know the ropes, who have analyzed their own mistakes and success over the past 25 years, and who know how to teach what they’ve learned from that.

So what I’ve done isn’t a model that’s particularly repeatable for other writers.

Besides, if you want to write fiction for a living, there should be some way other than winning the Twilight lottery (horrible book) to make a living doing it.

What a writer who wants to do this for a living needs is:

  • A publisher dedicated to keeping his backlist in print, and to buying new frontlist from him, and to actively building his career…(and here’s where it gets tricky) a publisher who figures profits AFTER everyone has been paid on gross sales, not net, so that the writer starts seeing money the first month his work sells, and then gets paid again every month in which he has sales thereafter.
     
  • An editor who loves his work, is actively working to help him build a long-term career with that house, and who is not going to be told by the accounting department that she cannot buy his stories anymore because his first couple of stories sold slowly. Careers GROW slowly. If you plant an acorn and expect shade from your oak tree in one year, you’re an idiot. Writers are acorns, and the current state of publishing is idiotic.
     
  • A publishing platform that will allow the writer to connect with fans, other writers, and his editor, to promote his work, to gain visibility and credibility as he builds backlist while his publisher, editor, and fans ALSO promote his work…and that will allow him to get paid every freakin’ month out of gross sales (NOT NET) for every single sale of every single title.
     

And that’s where I come in

In one of my How To Think Sideways lessons, I tell my students when dealing with editors, agents, publishers, and the publishing industry as a whole to think before they pick a fight. To ask themselves, “Is this the hill I want to die on?”

Up to now, I’ve only gone to war once, and that was in the publication of Hawkspar. I took that hill, I didn’t die on it, and I figured that was it. I’d won my battle and considering how long I’d been writing before I hit that one, I figured I’d never need to fight another.

I was wrong.

Rebel Tales, and what it can mean to writers if I can make it work, is the hill I’m willing to die on—and considering the current unknown state of my health, I can’t pretend that’s entirely a metaphor. I don’t know how I am.

But even the possibility that I’m running out of time faster than I’d hope has forced to examine my priorities, and to decide where to put my time. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, I can’t plan based my future based on what life MAY do to me—I have to plan based on what it CAN. That means accepting the worst-case scenario as my start point and working from there.

If I only get one last battle, it’s going to be this one—to create a publishing house and a working model for other publishers that values writers and helps them build careers as part of its goal—and I’m starting the push to get it done now. I acknowledge there are no guarantees I can make it work.

But I’ve always been pretty good at picking my battles. I’ll only fight in self-defense, and mostly my philosophy is that the battle avoided is the battle won…but creating a publishing house designed to build rather than destroy careers is worth the fight.

I’ve been fighting behind the scenes for a while—this is not a “someday” fantasy for me.

Since I first made the announcement about Rebel Tales and bought the domain, I have invested thousands of dollars of my own money in developing the software that will ALLOW me to pay writers (and editors) monthly out of gross sales on every sale. As software goes, it’s a complicated bitch, and when you’re working with other people’s money, you want to be damn sure you get it right. So Margaret is being careful, and I am giving her the time she has to have to make the software perfect. This matters.

I’ll invest more to finish the software, more to integrate it into the publishing platform, more to make the website both pretty and functional (you will have noticed that right now it looks like crap) and a lot more once I start paying people.

NOTE FOR OTHER CAPITALISTS: If you want to invest thousands of dollars of your own money into something, and you don’t have thousands of dollars lying around, you have to invest a little at a time as you go—and the process takes longer. If what you’re investing in is complex, it can take a LOT longer.

Whether you make the investment or not comes down in the end to how much what you’re doing matters to you, and why you’re doing it—and how much you have to maintain control in order to make sure your goal doesn’t get subverted by partners or shareholders who would dilute what you’re doing.

 
I don’t anticipate seeing a profit from Rebel Tales for years, though I will get there (or my heirs will). I have bigger reasons than personal profit for doing this, though, and the biggest is to fix what’s broken in a field I love.

If I could pick my legacy, leaving behind a whole lot of writers who had built careers and were making a comfortable, reliable living writing fiction because of what I’d done would be it. Every nonfiction work I’ve done has been headed in that direction. This is simply the last critical piece of a very big puzzle.

To that end, I’m ready to start sifting through applications to find the people who want to fight this battle alongside me.

I’m starting by taking on editors

I’m looking for several really special people, and I’m asking for a lot out of the ones I’ll hire. You need to be as dedicated to the WHY of all this as I am. This isn’t going to be just any editing job, and you’re going to have to show me what you can do to get it.

When I’ve found people who make my inital cut, I’ll open up the query section of Rebel Tales (it’s already set up and waiting), and writers can start submitting queries to prospective editors.

But editors first.

NOTE:ALL PROSPECTIVE EDITOR POSITIONS HAVE BEEN FILLED.

We’re getting ready at this point to start accepting queries.

If you’re a prospective reader, writer, editor, site designer, artist, or someone else interested in getting involved in Rebel Tales, sign up for the Rebel Tales priority notification list. You’ll find the sign-up form in the righthand column on the site.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

79 comments… add one
  • Daniel Sapp Oct 23, 2010 @ 2:16

    I think I get it now Holly, your endeavor. I was a bit confused about what you were doing, but because you’ve been an inspiration to me, I believed for no other reason than your passion always comes through.

    I confess, I was even more confused about, well, what do you get out of this fight, really. I understand now.

    I sincerely hope Rebel Tales works for many reasons. What is both wonderful and frightening is that I think it will, and thatt puts the burden squarely back on my shoulders: I must write well, and if I don’t get my work published at Rebel Tales, it’s because I did not write well.

    I’ve always been an avid reader (don’t ask me about having to move my library)…I’m afraid that if I move again, my friends will rebel (no pun intended on your ezine name), and that at some estate sale, in the hopefully far future, they will find me pressed between pages of something obsucre but a great read (I can only hope).

    I am new to posting comments…I don’t know the etiquette. I don’t know what is apropos, so forgive me for the following:

    β€œNever quit! You may fail, you may fall, you may doubt and you will both love and hate and despise and admire, but remember, you may also win. Never turn against those who have been with you throughout, loved you, supported you in even the smallest things, never hurt others simply because they disagree, for these are your best advisors and often your secret friends, but leave that all behind if it keeps you from one simple thing: never quit.”

    ~nuf sed

  • Grace Oct 20, 2010 @ 12:43

    I write romance and fantasy, and I’ve been involved in the e-publishing world for romance for many years. That is absolutely your backlist! You can write short or long, whatever fits your story–no worries there. People like reading short when they read e-stories. The publishers charge by the length of the story. And when you put out a new story, if a reader falls in love with your work, they WILL buy your backlist. I know several romance writers who live on this model.

    Your e-zine is so exciting, Holly! I’m new to you and very excited by all of your content here. I wish I could remember how I got linked over here the first time a few weeks ago, but I don’t.

    Thanks for what you are doing! Hope I can participate as a writer, but if I don’t, I’ll be watching/reading, along with the rest of your fans.

  • Phoenix Blackdove Oct 14, 2010 @ 5:41

    Hiya Holly,
    You. Are. Amazing.

    Aside from being the only (yes, ONLY) author whose fiction has regularly reduced me to tears, the sheer amount of passion and drive that comes through in everything you write is incredible.

    Rebel Tales is one of the best things I’ve heard of in, well, forever. Nothing is more frustrating than FINALLY being able to afford things only to find out you can’t buy them anymore (yep, that ol’ refrain again….)

    I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but http://www.kickstarter.com may be a way for you to get a little more fiscal help for the Rebels. It’s basically a site for people who need a little help with their endeavours to ask complete strangers to donate a little cash to help them bring their dreams to life. If you decide to give it a go, there’s at least a few dollars headed your way from me πŸ™‚

    All the best for your dreams, and long live the midlist!
    Phoenix

  • Michelle Jul 17, 2010 @ 10:57

    Okay, so I’m planning on submitting to Rebel Tales, fantasy. In the guidelines it specifies that stories must have a “sense of wonder.” I’m not sure what this means. Does this EXclude fantasy stories set in worlds where magic is an established ability and skill?

    • Holly Lisle Oct 20, 2010 @ 13:18

      A sense of wonder is simply this. At some point in the story, you have to make up open our eyes and whisper, “WOW!”

  • Stijn Hommes Jul 14, 2010 @ 4:13

    A couple of questions about Rebel Tales and signing up for an editor position:

    1) What are you supposed to put in the Subject box on the application?
    2) Are editors allowed to submit stories to other editors or would that be banned to avoid perceived favoritism?

    • Holly Lisle Jul 14, 2010 @ 12:36

      Answer 1: I left the subject box open to applicant interpretation. Some folks were creative, some stated just the facts, some left it blank. I read every application.

      Answer 2:If you’re an editor, you don’t get to be a writer for Rebel Tales. Editors cannot be competing for limited publishing space with the same folks whose careers they’re trying to help build and still maintain objectivity.

      Guess I should have mentioned that previously. Current editors have the option of bailing from the upcoming tryout if you were planning on writing for Rebel Tales too.

  • Kashmir Jul 13, 2010 @ 5:54

    As both a consumer and a fledgling sci-fi fantasy writer I’m behind you one hundred percent. What you are doing is amazing and long overdue. A thousand blessings on your endeavour.

  • Oriana Jul 10, 2010 @ 6:40

    Hi, I sent you an e-mail (I don’t know if it works or if you have the time to read it so, better safe than sorry!) and I’d like to do art for Rebel Tales. I have no actual experience drawing professionally but I think I make up for it with the fact that I’m cheap while most experienced artists are probably much more expensive. I’ve been told I’m really good and this is a great thing to be a part of so please contact me if you’re interested.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    Good luck and good bye.

    • Holly Lisle Jul 13, 2010 @ 11:33

      Once I get my editors settled and we have our stories picked out, we’ll be looking for artists. I have a specific concept for cover art for these (it hasn’t been done in print ANYWHERE, I’ve looked), and it fits our serialzine and seasons format perfectly.

      You’ll have to be able to draw people and perhaps aliens very, very well.

      Make sure you’re on the Rebel Tales notification list. As with editor applications, first call for artists will go out there, too.
      (List signup is in the right column on http://rebeltales.com )

  • Rabia Jul 9, 2010 @ 21:38

    Wow, Holly. You’re awesome. I love that you are passionate about good stories and the supporting the authors who write them.

    Thank you for also showing me how recently *my* tastes have run to chasing after the fresh and new. After reading this post, I’ve realized that I too (like the publishing industry) am looking for the latest debut author, the newest releases. I haven’t been supporting my favorite writers like I should.

    I wish you the best of success in your endeavors.

  • Leigh D'Ansey Jul 9, 2010 @ 16:34

    I so admire your passion and integrity. Your message has clarified some of my own thoughts as a writer who has been e-published for the first time this year. Writers, editors and others associated with Rebel Tales will be fortunate to have your level of commitment behind them. Best of luck and I’ll be following along with great interest.

  • Rick Jul 8, 2010 @ 16:42

    Elaine,

    If everyone who was passionate about achieving an impossible dream stopped to think about how impractical it was and how unlikely their odds were… what kind of world, exactly, do you imagine we’d live in?

    • Danzier Jul 9, 2010 @ 11:52

      Elaine,
      I’m not much good at eloquence, and I tend to use a hundred words where five will do. So: Check this out (it’s the aforementioned “elsewhere”) and you should have your questions answered. https://hollylisle.com/fm/Articles/feature3.html
      While you’re there, check the navigation bar on the left. The Feature Stories section has more answers for you.

      Meanwhile, Rick…Someone else said it better. Two someones, actually. (I agree with you, by the way. Caution is the better part of nonaction.)

      C3P0–“Sir, the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are approximately [over three million] to one!!”

      Han Solo–“Never tell me the odds.”
      (*geek points*)

      • Danzier Jul 9, 2010 @ 11:53

        Erm, that would be, “better than I can.”

  • Craig A. Eddy Jul 8, 2010 @ 15:21

    Elaine,

    I can’t speak for Holly, of course. But I can speak from my own experience. Why do it? The same reason people climb mountains: because it’s there. The same reason people with no education in AutoCAD go on to do “impossible” things with the software, including creating 3D drawings that show bosses why they shouldn’t do something a particular way: because it’s something one feels must be done. Holly has seen a need – one that not only affects her own life but the lives and finances of others (many of whom may be friends). “Because it’s there” has been the “battle cry” of a great many over-achievers. And Holly has proven that she is somewhere on that list of people.

    You can stop running now. Your question was good, and valid. But the answer may be something that, unless the bug has bitten you, you’ll never truly understand.

    Craig
    Tyche

  • Elaine Jul 8, 2010 @ 15:04

    Holly,
    Since I discovered you (thanks to Kris Cramer http://www.kriscramer.com/, no friend or relation, but she deserves a plug for getting me here), I devour your every word.

    However (beware that word, I suspect what follows will be deeply unpopular), what I don’t *really get is why you make life so hard for yourself. I mean, you can build yourself your own hill and kill yourself climbing up it. But why? What is it that you have to prove? Why, for example, is doing a bit of copywriting to supplement your income not an option? I’m supposing it isn’t about income, it’s about acknowledgement. But hey, Coca-Cola aren’t selling their stuff in those curvy glass bottles any more. Ford isn’t selling model whatever-it-wases any more. Why would/should it be different with books?

    Your stuff is fantastic. Stop worrying about your back catalogue. It is what it was. You are a natural born teacher. That’s where your future lies. Stick with it.

    [ stands well back and adopts the brace position. changes mind. now running away quickly… ]

    • WandersNowhere Jul 8, 2010 @ 19:44

      …whether I agree with this or not (and I’m undecided on that) kudos for having the balls to say it.

      You may be right, and Holly is a hell of a teacher. Though, I will say that the answer to ‘why should it be different with books?’ is ‘because Coke might not be sold in curvy glass bottles and Ford may not be making X model anymore, but they’re still filthy rich and raking just as much dough’.

      Which writers, if they don’t have a midlist and aren’t Stephanie Meyer, aren’t.

      I see Rebel Tales as an attempt to adapt to the changing environment rather than an attempt to flee back to the ‘good old days’. Particularly given its digital format. Writers really need SOMETHING, if the old setup isn’t there, some way of continuing to make a living out of our craft, otherwise…well, we don’t make a living, and we don’t write.

    • Holly Lisle Jul 9, 2010 @ 0:17

      Learning to teach was as much of a challenge for me as learning to write. As much as learning to be a publisher will be. There are no natural-born ANYthings. It’s all hard work, and a lot of it.

      And, as noted above, since this is actually costing me money, I’m not doing it for the money (short-term, anyway).

      I love to write fiction, and I love the books I wrote. I told stories that mattered, and the fact that they are mostly gone now breaks my heart.

      And I know that I’m not alone…that most writers who sell discover their careers erased not because they weren’t good enough, but because the current publishing model is to chase the quick buck to maximize stockholder returns.

      So I could ignore my own losses and content myself with teaching.

      But then I’d be sending these wonderful new writers who are learning from me out into the same hostile terrain I’d faced, and damn near everyone who sold would be gone after three books.

      I’m in a position to fight that.

      So should I keep sending lambs to the slaughter? Or should I become the sheep with a machine gun who gives the lambs a fighting chance.

      I’m not going to quit teaching. Teaching is what is giving me the opportunity to fight.

      I’m not going to quit writing, either. Writing is my wings, and I’m not going to cut them off because people think it’s time for me to do something else.

      But I am going to take my best shot at creating writer-friendly publishing, too. It matters.

      You get one life, and I’m going to do what I love with mine.

  • Brian Jul 8, 2010 @ 14:27

    Holly, ever since I found your website, I have been hooked on the joy of writing. I have been down the write, revise, copy edit, query process and it can be a very brutal one for a new writer. I love that you teach what you know and I can’t wait to see Rebel Tales take off.
    More than that, I can’t wait to see some new authors take off in an exciting time where manuscripts are coming alive on electronic readers.

    Long live the midlist.

  • Greg Jul 8, 2010 @ 10:32

    Holly
    It’s great to know someone is fighting this fight for fledgling writers like myself, who fear learning a craft and then finding there’s no way for it to bear even meagre monetary fruit. So I’m in and will help where I can, but with my limited experience of websites, design and editing, my contribution will be limited to words! I have a couple of projects which are YA fantasy which I hope to submit when the guidelines are finalised. I’d be happy to contribute non-story written content if you needed it, eg articles, etc.
    Thanks again
    Greg

  • Khalilah Jul 8, 2010 @ 8:25

    Hi,

    I have just started writing, I am doing childrens books. My question is,will you be branching off into the caribbean anytime soon? I am in Jamaica and there is a limited amount of publishers for the children books.

    • Holly Lisle Jul 8, 2010 @ 23:58

      I won’t be doing children’s books. Those are probably going to be the last books to require print publication, after everything else has gone electronic.

  • kylee Jul 8, 2010 @ 2:21

    having been a fan of yours for years I am excited about Rebel Tales as both a reader and Writer. So thank you for all your years of giving us wonderful tales and advice. you are one of my biggest inspirations.

  • Rick Jul 7, 2010 @ 23:13

    I am so in awe of you. Always have been! And, I suspect, will continue to be so for quite some time.

    I am very much looking forward to this new venture. I’ll be looking for updates faithfully.

  • Laura Kolar Jul 7, 2010 @ 22:51

    Holly,

    At 32 I just recently discovered how much I enjoy reading and writing and can’t agree with you more that the publising world does not consider the reader or writer when deciding what to print. I am eager for Rebel Tales to get off the ground and would love to help in any way I can.

    I hope you are feeling better soon and that you will be able to see this through to fruition.

    Laura

  • WandersNowhere Jul 7, 2010 @ 21:02

    Holly,

    Others have beaten me (eloquently, might I add) to the sentiments I wish to express about this project. You’ve spoken to a fear I share – a fear of pouring so much of myself into my books, fighting to get them published, and then watching the creatures of our dreams and imaginations vanish from the shelves…and not into readers’ collections.

    Money isn’t the only thing at stake for us, is it?

    So I’ll speak plainly – I want in. I want to help you. This IS a hill worth dying on, and as a reader, email correspondant, and student of your courses, I’ve built a lot of respect for you that I am willing to make a stand for.

    While I would LOVE to be an editor, fantasy is my thing and all the fantasy spots are taken. I wouldn’t mind supernatural or suspense, but I don’t feel qualified for sci-fi. However, working as a full time teacher while writing my own projects doesn’t really allow me to commit as much as it deserves. So at this stage, I won’t waste your time by applying, but once I get out of Japan (looking at April), if there are still positions open, you may get an application from me.

    What I -can- do, and do immediately, is write. I don’t think my novel is suitable for Rebel Tales, because it’s too damn long and wasn’t written with the RT guidelines in mind – though it matches about 98% of them. What I can do is write something new, a story that matters to me, but conforms to the guidelines. I have (like we all have) a few million ideas floating around in my head that can be easily adapted, and I’d look at the break from my series as a challenge.

    So, Holly, when you’re up and running and ready for writers, especially if you need a specific genre that I know I can work with, let me know, and I’ll get to work. And when it’s done, I’ll submit it according to your process and by your guidelines, like everyone else. I ask no special treatment and expect none.

    Count me in, Gandalf.

    • Holly Lisle Jul 8, 2010 @ 23:55

      Write fast. I intend to start taking queries before the end of the month.

      I’m delighted to have you onboard.

  • Renate Pohl Jul 7, 2010 @ 20:08

    Well done, Holly! I believe creating a personal legacy is the most important thing one can aim for in this era of the couch. You’ve got the guts to put yours out there, and it is very, very exciting. I expect this will be an inspiration to many, to model their own desired systems of work. Get writing and reading, folks! And take a moment to question your own (active) reason for being, while you’re at it. Hmmmm…

    • Holly Lisle Jul 8, 2010 @ 23:49

      While I’m investing in the development of the software for my own use, Margaret will maintain copyright on it and will be able to sell and install the payment backend for others who would like to use the same or a similar model for their publications.

      I want my legacy to be a whole lot of new full-time midlist novelists writing great stories. I don’t think for a minute that I’ll be publishing all of them–and if I can get this to go, and if I have time, I’d like to help other would-be publishers get started, too.

  • Jessica McLaren Jul 7, 2010 @ 20:05

    Hey, i think this is a wonderful idea, i hope you succeed, because alot of books that i read as a kid, i wanted to find and buy for my kids someday, is impossible, they are all out of print and it sucks.
    As a writer who is trying to write a book, but hasnt succeeded yet, i think its awesome what your doing.
    HAKUNA MATATA and all that πŸ™‚

  • Joan E. Jul 7, 2010 @ 19:53

    Bravo, Holly!

    As a former owner of an independent bookstore for many years, I wholeheartedly support you and this endeavor. I wish my editing skills were up to your high level of expertise as I would delight in being involved. In the meanwhile, I will root from the sidelines and buy your e-books! This is an outstanding idea and if anyone can succeed, you will!

  • Kaitlyn R. Miller Jul 7, 2010 @ 19:38

    Holly,

    I’m feeling a bit less eloquent than most other people who’ve commented. Besides, they’ve said it all already, so I’ll just say this: You’re awesome.

    This is heartfelt, and coming from a currently unpublished author. Thank you for all that you have done, are doing, and will do in the future.

  • Felicia Beasley Jul 7, 2010 @ 19:15

    Hi Holly. I’m having some issues with my application for an editor position. I applied yesterday and it seems that my application has disappeared. I received an automated message this morning that there was a reply to my ticket, but after logging on to the site, I couldn’t find anything about viewing tickets or my application. I tried different computers, different web browsers and emptying my cache. I’m not sure if anyone else is having this issue but I wanted to bring it to your attention just in case.

    Thank you.

    • Holly Lisle Jul 8, 2010 @ 23:41

      Email me. I’m using software that is new to me, and I inadvertently deleted five messages before I found my error.

  • Christina Stiles Jul 7, 2010 @ 17:44

    Holly, this sounds like a great endeavor! Best wishes on getting this going.

  • Vi Brown Jul 7, 2010 @ 16:47

    Your plan for Rebel Tales is an enormous undertaking but I have no doubt that your experience and commitment will make it a success.
    You have 4 categories – Fantasy, Science Fiction, Paranormal and Suspense. These are very popular categories. I see you have excluded the “dark” genre which seems to have many followers these days. In my opinion, this exclusion is a positive move!
    I do have a suggestion for another category but am almost reluctant to state it. However, it is a category generally excluded by most writing sites and relegated to the fringe areas of writing. Nevertheless, it is also a category that could potentially include a substantial following.
    I’m speaking of a ‘Spiritual’ category – not religion, not new age but concepts related to biblical living in both fiction and non-fiction. Perhaps it needs a new name to shed many preconceived notions.
    I am currently writing a book with a working title “What If — this is NOT all there is!” This is a category that interests me and to which I could contribute.
    If you wish to check my site callvibrown.tripod.com, you will find that I’m not one dimensional. I have many other writing interests but feel that I could really be effective in this area. From your point of view, it could broaden the scope of Rebel Tales to include a segement of writers and readers that have to seek a specialized niche that is not often frequented by the general public.
    I will leave that thought with you.

    • Holly Lisle Jul 8, 2010 @ 23:37

      I’m not Christian (or a member of any religion) and while I am a fervent supporter of the First Amendment, personally I am anti-religion. Many reasons for this, all of which I have discussed at length elsewhere on this site.

      I would be decidedly the wrong person to publish spiritual works.

      • Dean Kutzler Jul 9, 2010 @ 8:06

        I fully respect and support your integrity and forth righteousness in your spiritual standing. I too, am in similar standing, beside your beliefs. And I commend your openness regarding fact be known.

        I look forward to submitting some stories in future gains for both of us.

        Thank you for pursuing your dream, so that would-be writers have a viable platform to pursue and make reality, their own.

      • Vi Brown Jul 9, 2010 @ 12:29

        I checked your site more carefully and can now see why you keep your distance from religion. I’m also anti-religion but I am a Christian. It is from this position that I made my suggestion for the ‘spiritual’ category. However, I understand your decision. I continue to wish you much success.

  • Diana Brandt Jul 7, 2010 @ 16:34

    I love this concept! I can’t say any more than this is a writer/ reader dream. I’m always in despair when I can’t find backlisted work.
    I hope this really takes off for you and I’m going to go read the editor requirements!

  • Margo Jul 7, 2010 @ 16:16

    Holly,
    Is it possible that the page with the editor applications is having a problem or is undergoing an update? I wanted to take a look at the application, but I can’t seem to find it. Editor Application [0]?

    • Kate Gold Jul 7, 2010 @ 23:49

      I’m glad you posted this, since I’ve been having the same problem. I hope it’s a case of us just being too quick on the draw.

    • Holly Lisle Jul 8, 2010 @ 23:31

      No, it’s working fine. As of a minute ago, I have 143 applications in there.

      You have to create an account and log in in order to apply.

  • Lora Jul 7, 2010 @ 15:56

    Dear Holly,
    I want to thank you and express my deep appreciation for what you are doing. I am not a writer nor an editor. I am simply a book lover with a huge jones for a good story told well. (Though after a glass or two of wine I will admit to wanting a second career as a fantasy writer.) I believe human scale has been lost in the shadow of giant corporate publishing and simple greed.
    I used to own a bakery and still teach people how to bake from scratch. Now days folks eat so much processed food they have no idea what real food tastes like anymore. They are rapturous when they taste an honest slice of cake. That is my metaphor for good stories. There is no expiration date on a good recipe and there never should be for a good story.
    How will hungry readers know that “Greenwillow” or “Conan” is out there unless someone like you is there to show them/us the good stuff? How will anyone know what the good stuff is if there is no stability or permanence for books or writers?
    Holly, you are smart and gutsy and beautifully loud. I really admire those qualities in a person. Thanks for putting yourself out there.

    • Holly Lisle Jul 13, 2010 @ 11:21

      Hi, Lora,

      There’s no such thing as “simply” a book lover. Without you and a whole lot of folks like you, there’s no point in doing ANY of this.

      You have any reader friends you could point here? πŸ˜€

      And THANK you for being here.

  • Andrea B. Jul 7, 2010 @ 15:54

    What you’re planning sounds great. If I were an english native speaker I would apply for an editor job. I regret very much that I’m not.

  • Rachel Bicha Jul 7, 2010 @ 15:00

    I’ve always wished publishers would listen to readers. I mean really listen–talk to them, invite feedback, all of it. Readers should be able to tell them enough with the certain kind of book and more of something else or like you said–keep the backlist in print so I can find this author’s old books. (I bought a book once that looked interesting, only it was the second in a series, and I didn’t know that when I bought it. I still haven’t found the first book. It ticked me off that I couldn’t read the series starting from the beginning and so had the choice of not reading it at all or starting in the middle.) You’d think with the Internet and social media and so on, that they’d be engaging with readers and having a real dialogue with them, but precious few publishers are even trying to do anything of the sort. And the few that do use social media seem to be using it just to try to sell you books, as if social media’s just a new form of commercial.

    • Holly Lisle Jul 13, 2010 @ 11:23

      Hi, Rachel,

      One of the things I’ve been working on from the beginning is making sure readers have input, that every author and every editor has a direct line to the folks reading what he or she has put out there.

      And I have some cool things planned for readers to help them get more of the stories they want from the writers whose work they love the most.

      I promise we’ll all be listening.

    • Heather Allen Jul 15, 2010 @ 12:11

      I couldn’t agree more with what is being said! I am an aspiring writer and have been intuned with Holly’s site and classes online. Holly you are an amazing writer and putting all of your experince and teachings out there for those of us, it’s inspirational. I have learned quite a bit in the last couple of years. I currently am in the medical profession, but my love for writing and reading anything and everything I can get my hands on only increases my knowledge and love of writing.

      I am not computer savy as some of your other posts have also stated, but I believe that going the ebook direction is the right direction. Regardless of what others may think, regular people in this fast paced world don’t find the time to sit down to read or sit down for anyother reason for that matter. They need on the go entertainment. Mobile sitmulation if you will. Everything is held in the palm of their hands. Instant gradification to say the least.

      I’m 37 this year, I’m still slightly old school when it comes to computers, cell phones, ipods-mp3’s, and yes-books! I still to this day find nothing better than sitting down to read an amazing book. I even get excitied looking forward to my favorite writers next new release, while collecting the old ones. But a little secret about me, when I sit down the first thing I do when I open any book is smell the pages. Crazy huh? I love to go to the library and open the old books just to get into the “other realm”, stepping through the portal to a “different dimension”. It’s like the smell of a book and it’s contents can take you anywhere. I enjoy watching my own children sit down to read a good book. They need to step away sometimes from all the “technology” that can be stimulating in the wrong ways for children. So yes, I like to set examples for my children. But I also believe that reading whether from a book or computer form is inspiring, claming, relaxing, and removes the reader for a period of time from the world they live in. This being said, reading is healthy and helps to exercise the mind.

      I am thoughly moved by your determination, and in hope that maybe someday I may have acheived the status to be able to join you on your quest. I send you fond hopes and strenght on your journey to leaving your mark of elation on the past, current, and future writers of this world.

  • Joyce Sully Jul 7, 2010 @ 14:58

    Jesus, Holly, I got goosebumps reading this. If ever there was a person with enough passion to make this dream reality, this post leaves no question that you are the one. I’ll add my voice to the others saying, hell yes, I’ll take that hill with you.

    I’m young and I’m just starting out as a writer and while I can’t know, any more than you do, how much time I really have, I can think and hope that I’m signing on for a career that will last me through many decades. But it’s got to mean something. I don’t want to come out the other side of life and say all I did was run down my clock.

    The death of the backlist, the scrounging for used books, the inability to do much of anything to support writers I love, has been my only reality. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend my life just pushing out one book after another, knowing that in a year or two, each one will have fallen silent and out of the reach of anyone who could love it. I want a voice that lasts.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your work and I’ve benefited from your courses and I’ve been inspired and changed by the philosophy of writing you offer. Once again, you’ve made a tool available to bring me closer to a life I can respect. For me, that will be your legacy, Holly. You proposed the rebellious notion that what benefits you can benefit me and that what benefits the publisher can–should–benefit the writer as well. We’re not at odds. We’re all on this hill together.

  • Damon Shaw Jul 7, 2010 @ 14:36

    Ebooks. That’s really my only comment. They allow instant backlists. I think you will have to factor ebooks into your plans in a major, major way. Good luck with such a fantastic idea.

  • Draig Jul 7, 2010 @ 13:54

    I love your fight. I love the fact that you use ebooks (and other digital platforms) to do so, though I am curious about a couple of details on this.
    I recently had a discussion with people about piracy and while writing my point of view on it I didn’t know that the backlist I was counting on didn’t actually exist any more. I thought it still did.

    I think you are really fighting the good fight here. I would love to help out on this but feel like at this point in life (as a 21 year old non-native writer) I won’t have a lot to offer. I hope I will be able to help you out in any way in the future.
    Good luck and may your dream come true.

    Draig

    • Holly Lisle Jul 7, 2010 @ 14:10

      Well, I’m going to need a whole lot of writers and a whole lot of stories, too. Might as well get paid for helping out. πŸ˜€

  • Jessic@ Jul 7, 2010 @ 13:37

    Wow! You are such an incredible inspiration, Holly. Your dream is so beautiful to me.

    I have often wondered why more people can’t seem to make a living at writing. It just doesn’t make sense that pouring your heart and soul into something that you love so much it keeps you alive is not enough. For someone who spends every waking hour of their life writing and studying to improve their craft and then has to sit back and watch as the Twilight ‘phenomenon’ sweeps the nation… It makes me sick and sad for all the talented people out there who aren’t even selling their stories, let alone getting millions for their first attempt at writing with no desire to write professionally or any previous work at the craft.

    I wish the world could have more people like you in it, but I guess that’s what makes you that much more special. I fully support what you are trying to do and admire your dedication to better the future of writing as a profession. I will continue to work on my own stories and hopefully be able to have something to submit once you have opened the submissions area of Rebel Tales.

    I wish you the best of luck in this. I truly hope that all your hard work pays off and a different attitude creeps in to the rest of the publishing industry as well.

    Jess

  • MKL Jul 7, 2010 @ 13:23

    A question about books going out of print:

    If your publisher is no longer printing your book, can you start printing it again through something like lulu? Or does the publisher still own the rights, even though they’re not printing any more?

    • Holly Lisle Jul 7, 2010 @ 14:09

      In my case, most of my rights have now reverted. I’m considering what I want to do with those books now.

      • chris Jul 7, 2010 @ 20:37

        Holly,

        I know that you have some of your Baen books on Baen’s websubscription/ ebooks page. How successful is that? I believe they are now taking books from non-Baen publishers if you own rights.

        • Holly Lisle Jul 13, 2010 @ 11:19

          I have two free books up at Baen. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t have anything there that’s generating revenue for anyone.

  • Karen L. MacLeod Jul 7, 2010 @ 12:56

    I heard of your site through Kathy Frost. We are on a writers and editors list together. Unfortunately, it seems the midlist has disappeared. I certainly share your frustration, so eloquently put.

    I’d very much like to join you as one of your REBEL TALES editors. I do a total edit, from punctuation to grammar, to continuity, line by line.

    I have over thirty years of experience. Details are on my website, including the titles and awards of many books with which I have been associated.

    Please contact me if you are interested in taking me on staff.

    Best wishes with your all endeavors.

    Sincerely, Karen L. MacLeod
    KLM Editorial Services

  • Jeff Newcomb Jul 7, 2010 @ 12:49

    Holly, I love your passion for the craft that drips from every syllable you write. If anyone can keep the dream alive, it is you, M’Lady.

    I’m worried that eBooks will do a better job of accomplishing what you want to do. I loathe electronic ink, but as a sci-fi reader and writer, I can see the proverbial writing on the wall. Authors can Kindle-ize their own out of print novels, list them for $4.99, and sell them forever (if they have the rights), or take the time to convert their prose into “mobisodes” for reading on mobile devices.

    When I read your rant, I could’t help remembering Danny DeVito’s passionate stockholder’s speech in Other People’s Money. “I’m sure the last buggy whip manufacturer made the best damned buggy whip in the world….” The feelgood ending of that movie is good advice: Don’t hold on to the past for too long. Visualize the future and innovate tomorrow, or today will pass you by.

    • Holly Lisle Jul 7, 2010 @ 13:13

      This is going to be e-print. I’m going to need folks who can format manuscripts into E-pub, Kindle, Nook, PDF and other e-reader formats. The only way I could hope to afford to do this and to pay for it myself is to avoid all warehousing and printing costs.

      As it is, what I’m doing is expensive. If I had to carry the weight of paper books, I don’t have the funds to make it happen. Authors do, however, retain all rights except world serial e-zine. So they’re free to sell their work to print publications, too.

      • chris Jul 7, 2010 @ 20:16

        I think you missed the point of Jeff’s post. He suggested that with e-publishing, it becomes cost effective for publishers to maintain a backlist. Writers may no longer have a print backlist, but they probably will have an e-version. This doesn’t mean Rebel Tales isn’t a good idea, just that you should base your model not on the recent past but to a future where e-versions of most books will be available at a reasonable price.

        • Danzier Jul 7, 2010 @ 21:20

          Replying to Chris: Holly’s post says she’s going for an all-electronic publication, with versions for all sorts of devices. I don’t think she missed his point at all; I think she’s been aiming there and Jeff is worried that authors will not take advantage of the publishing service she’s offering.

          Quoting Jeff: “Authors can Kindle-ize their own out of print novels, list them for $4.99, and sell them forever (if they have the rights), or take the time to convert their prose into ‘mobisodes’ for reading on mobile devices.” Um, I’m a writer. I’m not a computer person. I don’t want to be a computer person. I think Holly’s looking for computer people to do their computer things (which would “Kindle-ize” our books) as part of the publishing service she’s offering, thus leaving the writers free to write and not program. I respect your experience, and if you can spend the time to put your works on the web, go for it. But I can’t.

          • Kevin McLaughlin Jul 8, 2010 @ 2:51

            Actually, I think there’s a possible market there as well. You’re right – many writers are book people, not computer people, and the amount of work needed to “kindelize” and otherwise set up a book for eprint is not small. Add to that the marketing becoming available for ebooks, and I see the possibility of a totally online book publisher existing – working through existing dealers like B&N and Amazon – to take novels from authors, get them in eprint, and then publicize them to get more sales.

            That’s a little different from what Holly is proposing, however. I get the feeling Rebel Tales is designed to get work published, out there for sale, and then keep it there in the same venue for as long as possible. This creates a consistency and continuity that is very appealing for many readers.

            There’s another angle to this as well. Throughout its history, SF&F lit has had short fiction or serialized fiction at its heart. Magazines publishing short works have been the launchpad for hundreds of writers in these genres. And even today, the advice new writers often get from oldtimers is “publish short works, then build to novels”.

            The trouble is, the printed magazine is dying. Not just for SF&F, but pretty much across the board, print magazine sales are down. Content is moving online instead. For many types of magazine, this is a big change but not critical. But for SF&F lit, this is a change that is shaking the genre at its foundation, and so far no one has made a successful bid at an online version of the dying SF&F magazines.

            Rebel Tales might just be the one that accomplishes this.

      • Hitch Jul 21, 2010 @ 14:35

        Holly wrote: “This is going to be e-print. I’m going to need folks who can format manuscripts into E-pub, Kindle, Nook, PDF and other e-reader formats. The only way I could hope to afford to do this and to pay for it myself is to avoid all warehousing and printing costs.”

        I do this professionally. To do it well–not the Smashwords model, but to craft well-done, readable ebooks–takes a little time for each book, but it is absolutely, positively the way to create midlist and backlist. That’s always my pitch to prospective clients. Once a solid epub is created, it is not hard to convert that into Amazon-compatible, iEverything-compatible, etc., books. This IS the future of the backlist. Holly–you know how to find me!! – Hitch

  • Craig A. Eddy Jul 7, 2010 @ 12:45

    I can understand your frustration with the “no back list” situation. Many long years ago (well . . . all right, 50 years ago) I read a Science Fiction short story. At 14 I didn’t have funds to be able to purchase very many books, so it was years later that I went looking for a copy of that short story, but the book it was in was out of print. I didn’t get a chance to get that story for 50 years. Part of the reason it took so long was that that the publisher sat on it. He/she refused to let the author have the rights back, and also refused to release it to print again. BTW, the author died before the rights were finally returned to the heirs so it could be printed by another publishing company.

    What you are proposing (and doing) will benefit both the authors and the readers, and i salute you for that. What you’re trying to do will not be easy. I know I’m preaching to the choir on that, but you’ll be up against the traditional publishing companies, the “this is the way you do it” attitude of authors, themselves, the store-fronts that have never heard of your company and therefore are unwilling to take a chance on stocking your books, and the readers that won’t know where to look to find new material to read. There are answers to all those problems, of course, but that doesn’t mean the answers will be easy or quickly achieved. Just as with your health, I wish you the best with this endeavor. I might even have considered applying for one of your editor (or other) positions but at this time I have no idea whether or not I’ll even be able to see to read after mid-August (cataract surgery). So, all I can do is with you the best and hope you win this fight. Both you and the readers will benefit if you do.

  • Helenee Jul 7, 2010 @ 12:45

    About a year ago I was diagnosed with MS.
    Fortunately, it’s a very mild case and I don’t even have to take drugs, which is terrific, because I have been beat and depressed for quite many years and the last thing I wanted was something to interfere with my “revival” process.

    But, why am I saying this?

    While my foot went numb every now and then and I still didn’t know what was happening to me (with the slooow greek public health security system it did take a couple of weeks before I could run the tests and check the results with a doctor) I imagined it could be all sorts of things — even that I was about to have a stroke and be left paralyzed or die. As an ex-nurse, perhaps you will find it silly — but, at the time, it was not at all a matter of laughs to me. I was just 37 years old. I had a teenager daughter and I hadn’t accomplished much of what I really wanted from and for myself.

    Then, I learned the truth. And from that moment, something clicked in me. And I said to myself, Girl, it is Now — or Never. Everything you want to do, get started doing it. Everything you’re not willing to put up with, don’t take it anymore. NOW — because you only live once and you don’t know how much longer you will be up on your feet and going; and you want to have a good remainder of life; and you want to have a sense of fulfilment every single morning you wake up and until that final breath you’re going to take and until that final conscious moment you’re going to experience.

    So, here I am, living by this vocation (am I using the right word here?) and making the most of every day, in big ways and in small, unnoticeable ones — unnoticeable to all, perhaps, but to me.
    That’s one of the reasons your post here moved me to tears.
    The other reason is your boundless love for writing and your determination to see your vision for it and for its adherents incarnated.

    Wishing you the best in everything.

  • Danzier Jul 7, 2010 @ 12:08

    Hi Holly.

    There’s no easy way to say this. This is the first time I’ve really understood what Rebel Tales was about. Now that I see it, it’s not something I can ignore or dismiss as a “someday” fantasy. You’ve stated your intent; you’ve explained your reasons; and you’ve declared Independence.

    The battle standard you’re raising is one that I am willing to fight under. If I have to fight it as nothing more than an unpublished writer, so be it. I am inexperienced, unpolished, and greener than grass in springtime. I don’t know what I can do, or even if I can do anything at all. But I’ve come to the same conclusions about fights worth fighting, and I’ve looked in despair on the publishing industry and what its guns can do to my dreams. I’m not interested in sacrificing what I love to the gears of a broken industry. So if you’re going to stand on this hill, you’re not going to stand alone.

    I will work, and I will become good enough to get to the hill, so I can stand there too.

    Liz Schroeder

    • Kristen Jul 7, 2010 @ 13:43

      Liz: I have to agree with you; this is the first real time I’ve gotten a glimpse at what Rebel Tales is all about. I’m incredibly excited by this new information and really feel like this is a good cause.

      I hope we both make it up that hill. It will be a rough, but rewarding, trek.

    • maureen Jul 20, 2010 @ 8:16

      Liz and Holly–
      Meet you at the hill…..

  • Maryn Langer Jul 7, 2010 @ 12:03

    BRAVO!!! I’ve been a fan of yours for a number of years and you have made a huge impact on my writing life. My friend and I just got sick on the big publishers who no longer publish our books and reissue their big authors’ bad ones. We have started Living Oracles for the very same reasons you are beginning your publishing company. We have found disgusted authors, new authors and authors with lots of midlist books they now own the copyrights on. It’s a great ride, let me tell you. Go, Girl!!! Maryn

    • Megs - Scattered Bits Jul 7, 2010 @ 12:05

      I can’t open your website, Maryn. Is it non IE friendly?

    • Elaine Jul 8, 2010 @ 14:33

      works fine in firefox. i just tried it.

      • Megs - Scattered Bits Jul 9, 2010 @ 17:57

        Thanks. I’ll try it out there.

  • Megs - Scattered Bits Jul 7, 2010 @ 12:03

    Just as a note of agreement from a reader’s perspective: A reader needs to be able to buy a book they read in a library four or five years ago. I think it’s crazy that you can’t buy books anymore unless they’re classics, reprinted, or only a year or two old. Now that I FINALLY have a book-buying budget, it’s painful to find out how hard it is to get the books I’ve wanted for forever.

    From a writer’s perspective: I wish more people had your vision and that I was qualified enough to be one of your editors. I think I’ll wait and keep improving my writing skills though. This is one of the publications I’m trying to get myself strong enough to be able to submit to.

    • Tabitha Belshaw Oct 20, 2010 @ 22:58

      I agree totally sweetie, I have been looking for years for a book recently only to be told it is no longer in print. It is horrible to think I’ll never get to read that book again, considering I read it in my teens and am now in my thirties, my memory not being what it used to my memories of it are sadly fading. I have stumbled upon a book mark however that says (find out of print books) but that is proving hardr than I thought. If I have any luck with it I’ll be sure to post it here.
      However again I agree, the out of print book market sux. That is why I love what Holly is trying to do she is a true pioneer for the writing and reading world…thanks Holly

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