Following another spam comment clear-out, I came across this gem:
Money has no smell.
That was the whole comment. Nothing else. Well, okay then! Thank you for your random, spam commenter.
It pinged my awareness as a writer friend recently mentioned that communicable diseases have been on the decrease since the introduction of credit/debit cards. Physical money carries with it the germs and imprints of the people it touches. Now there’s a concept you can get hold of and run with. But is fragrance-free money the way the world is moving? Is this a good thing?
There’s a spark for you. Enjoy!
You may have heard about Amazon’s latest stride into the fiction publishing world: Amazon Kindle Worlds. This is the new service that allows writers to publish and receive royalties for fanfic written in the worlds of publishing houses that have signed up and given permission.
Wow, that sounds great! Fanfic writers can now get permission to publish and they get paid, too! How awesome is that?
Not as awesome as it sounds.
I’ve been watching the reactions to this subject for a few weeks now (while I waited to get some time to write this post up), and overall, the feeling I get about this is unsettled.
Terms of the Deal
Let’s start here and see what the Kindle Worlds page has to say about the deal you’re signing up to if you decide to publish your fanfic through this shiny new service.
The main draw of this service is the fact that you get paid for your fanfic, so let’s take a look at the money stuff:
- The rights holder gets royalties from your fanfic. This is fair enough; you’re using their intellectual property, so they should get a slice. How much they get is unstated. Note, however, that Amazon has signed up publishing houses, not writers; I have to question how much the authors of the original work will actually get out of this (if anything). That’s likely to depend on their particular deal with their publisher, but it’s worth being aware that you could be lining a publisher’s pockets, not your favourite author’s.
- Royalties are paid at the lower rate of 35%. This is the worst self-publishing/ebook royalty on the market (that I’m aware of), and you’re nailed into it here. No choice. This is a continuation of Amazon’s policy of pushing authors towards the 35% royalty rate.
- Worse: for short stories (5,000-10,000 words) are paid an even lower rate of 20%. The reason? Amazon’s credit card fees. Bullshit. They don’t buffer other small item prices for this reason and there’s no excuse for putting it on ebooks. I’m concerned about what this will mean for writers publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) – are they going to expand this new, crappier level of royalty to those books, too?
- No control over pricing. Amazon does it all for you. A good thing? That’s up to you, but I don’t like that they’re taking this control away from the author. This is seeming more and more like a traditional publishing deal, and not in a good way.
- Royalties are paid on net, not gross. That means you get a percentage of the profit on the ebook, not the sale price (so, after Amazon’s expenses have come off and potentially even the rights holder’s royalties too). There’s no clarity about exactly what they’re taking off before it gets to ‘net’. This is different to all others ebook deals that I’m aware of. Even traditional publishing deals give you a percentage of the ticket price, not the profit, because the publisher’s percentage is supposed to cover their costs.
So it’s not a great fiscal adventure. Amazon are pretty much reaming you as much as possible while presenting a passable deal. Okay. But something is better than nothing, right?
Let’s keep looking and see what else is going on here. Time to examine copyright stuff:
- You own the copyright to any original elements you put into your story. Characters, events, etc. (The copyright of the original work/world you’re writing in remains with the rights holder.) Seems fair enough on the surface. Except that you don’t get any choice about what happens to that copyright, nor any chance to capitalise on it.
- Amazon gets full, exclusive license to your story and all its elements for the life of the copyright. What does that mean? You cannot sell or use that copyright anywhere else. Ever. (The life of copyright is your lifetime + 70 years.) You can’t publish your story anywhere else, not even for free on your website. You can’t use any characters from that story in another story anywhere else (but you could use them in another story on Kindle Worlds). You can’t use them in a screenplay, or make pictures out of them (so fanart of your original character is a no-no). You see where this is going?
- Amazon or the original works owner can use your copyrighted material and you will get nothing for it. So if they pick up and use that shiny idea you had, you get a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling but not a cent of the money from those movie franchises, or book sales, or anything else they might choose to flog to the masses. Hell, if another fanfic writer likes your ideas, they can ‘build on them’ (read: use and abuse) however they like, and get crappy royalties through Kindle Worlds for them, too.
As publishing deals go, this sucks balls. This is the kind of deal that, for original works, everyone in the business would be telling you to RUN RABBIT RUN, and the fact that this is fanfic doesn’t change that in the slightest. John Birmingham said that pretty much (only with more words and some helpful examples of what this all means), and John Scalzi wrote an unsettling post about it, too. The OTW (Organisation for Transformative Works, who work largely in the fanfic space) had a similar reaction to this deal.
So, it’s a deal with crappy (no) rights attached and a pretty poor financial recompense offering. Not the best publishing deal.
But is that all that this program will do? No. This is the first time fanfiction has been legitimised in this way and there are many rumblings about the potential ripples it will cause.
Whoo-hoo, they said fanfiction is okay! We’re allowed to write it and make money from it! That’s a good thing, right?
Well, only if you write the kind of fanfic they’re looking for. Not too graphic, not pornographic, no cross-overs, and only written in the worlds they have licensed.
But what about the rest? There are fears that writers who choose not to publish through Kindle Worlds, or who want to continue to offer their work for free on mainstays of the fanfic world like fanfiction.net, will suddenly get cracked down on.
Fanfic has long fought to be allowed to exist without fears that the rights holders will object to their use and misuse of copyrighted material, and it seems that only in the last few years, free fanfic has been allowed to flourish relatively unmolested. It has become acceptable (as long as the fanficcer isn’t making money off it), or at least tolerated. The exceptions to this are increasingly few and far between.
Should Amazon choose to enforce its newfound ‘world’ licenses, they could crack down on free fanfic and start that fight all over again. They’d be completely within their rights to do this. This is not to say that they will, but it’s a distinct possibility (and considering how money-grabbing they appear to be, it wouldn’t surprise me or many other commenters on this subject; it is a common fear).
Of course, I suspect that would blow up in their face. They’d enrage the fanfic community and authors would turn away from the Kindle Worlds program in droves (at least, I hope they would!). But just because it’s stupid, doesn’t mean they won’t do it anyway.
In another vein, will the KW program reduce the amount of free fanfic available for readers, because writers are all going to go get paid for their writing? I doubt it, if only because of the restrictions on it. Fanfic is all about the freedom to do whatever the hell you want, and there will always be those who want to write outside the boundaries of the program. For example, the ‘no porn’ restriction will keep the slash in the unofficial venues where it currently exists. And I’m sure there are plenty of writers who just won’t want to go the KW way.
Also, I have to ask, is there a big market for people paying for fanfiction? How likely is it to pull readers away from free fanfic? (I’m not convinced that it’s entirely the same audience.) Are fanfic readers likely to pay the prices that Amazon is going to charge? These aren’t questions I can answer yet.
Authorised/Tie-in Fiction Impacts
Authorised books in licensed domains already exist; this part isn’t new. Some writers make their living writing tie-in novels in copyrighted worlds they don’t own, like Doctor Who, Star Wars, Warhammer, and so on. How will this affect them? Will this legitimised form of fanfic replace these authorised lines of novels?
I would like to doubt it, but it will depend on how the rights holders consider this new program. Could KW be a cheap, low-fuss way for them to get spin-off novels done? Yes. But the fanfic options are, by nature, not canon, not edited, and not vetted. Quality and content will vary widely. One would hope that the right holders of big chains like Star Trek, etc, would want more from their lines. But how likely are they to care that much? Would they just pick and choose the fanfic offerings they like and put on a stamp of a approval, and call it good?
John Scalzi sums it up perfectly: “If I were a pro writer who primarily worked in media tie-in markets, I would have some real concerns.” Yup, me too.
The Author Side
What does this mean to authors producing worlds that might tumble under KW’s banner? Well, I’d keep an eagle eye on your publishing contracts and exactly what rights you’re signing away. You may not get a choice in being part of the program if you hand those reins to a publisher. Previously, authors may not have worried too much, assuming that those particular rights would have been used for authorised tie-in-type material. Opening it up to fanfiction, however, is a different kettle of fish.
Should you be negotiating with your publisher on these grounds, specifically? Yes, if you care about it, and if not, for the fiscal side of things. It’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re looking at a publishing contract. If you’re not sure, get advice!
For those who already have contracts, you may be open to this program already. It’s probably worth checking with your agent/lawyer/publisher (again, at least for the fiscal issue, if you don’t care much about the fanfic itself).
And it’s not just traditional publishing that is affected. There’s also talk of this option being available through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which I’ve used to publish the Apocalypse Blog ebooks on Kindle/Amazon. I could license fanfic in the AB world! Yay?
Personally, this whole thing makes me uncomfortable. I don’t think I’d want to sign those particular rights away (even for tie-ins). I’m a bit jealous of my babies that way*. From what I’ve seen, I don’t want any part of KW, from either side of the deal. As nice as it might be to make a bit of money that way, I couldn’t in all conscience support such a program. Too many skeevy parts for my liking!
Over on the Web Fiction Guide forums, there has been an interesting discussion about most of these points, too, between writers of various types of web fiction. It seems that a lot of authors have a view about Kindle Worlds.
This is touching many people and I am concerned about many of its knock-on impacts. It seems to me that Amazon has made an unsettling move that could set the scene for more action in the e-publishing world that won’t be good for creators. It is part of a larger, disturbing pattern in Amazon’s shaping of the publishing of Kindle ebooks.
Back at the beginning of the year, Smashwords predicted that Amazon will be kicked out of the number-one ebook seller position. Increasingly, I hope that this is so, for the sake of authors everywhere. In the meantime, I will be watching the KW situation with curiosity, from way over here where it won’t touch me.
(*Note: This doesn’t reflect my attitude towards free fanfic; that’s another post entirely, but the short version is that I don’t object to it and would be flattered if someone did it in one of my worlds.)
You want to be a published author. That’s okay: there’s lots of us who share your dream. It’s good dream. Shiny.
So you start looking into your publishing options. You toss up the traditional vs self-publishing arguments. You look into self-publishing avenues and the latest advice for how to sell your book. You search for literary agents that deal with your genre and type of novel. You research the publishers that you could submit to. You scour the internet for publications that are looking for short stories just like yours.
Those things I just listed? They’re distractions.
Because you know what you need first? A finished story.
Sure, it’s easy to get side-tracked with the wealth of options available to you. Yes, it’s nice to get a ‘head start’ on the business of getting yourself published (whichever way you choose to do it). And there are plenty of blogs like this one full of advice and information about what you should think about when going about getting published. So much to read and consider, so many avenues to explore, like rabbit-holes in the arse of the publishing world…
Don’t let that get in the way of actually working on your story. That’s the sort of thing you worry about when you have a story worth frothing over publication. All of that reading and worrying and deciding and musing is for nothing if you never end up finishing that story in the first place.
Also, it’s not as productive as you might think. It’s a way of making procrastination seem like productivity; all you’re doing is putting off the real work: writing your story. Recognise it, name it, and kick that time-wasting sucker to the kerb.
Put all of that distracting shit aside. Focus on what you need to do to finish your story: write, edit, polish, research, edit some more. Produce that wonderful nugget that will one day grace a reader’s pages.
First you need a story. So sit down and write it.
While cleaning out the spam comments on my blog, I found this sparkling gem of a sentence:
Can someone computer the on the web traditional listing shield, just like Good friend Criminal.
[All completely sic. I couldn't make this up.]
There is so much potential and so little sense here, that I couldn’t resist. I think it is an awesome spark for a story.
Where will you take it? I’d love to hear about it. :) Go forth, write!
So, I’ve been sick a lot lately. I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing of it, and honestly, I’m tired of saying it.
I’m not well. I’m never well. Stupid chronic conditions. It has been worse over the past couple of months, and complicated by a nasty virus over the past couple of weeks, and it makes me want to whine and kick things (inanimate things, not living things – at least, that’s true when my frustration levels are low).
I’ve been putting things off. I’ve compromised just about everything in my life, taking time to try to get well. I’ve delayed Starwalker posts, taken time off my day job, postponed plans for other projects. Now, don’t get me wrong: I think this was the right thing to do, because health is important and without it I can’t do any of those things anyway. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not sick of it (ha ha, see what I did there?).
It’s time to get back into the swing of things. I’m only willing to put my life on hold for so long. I’m not fully over this virus yet, but if my work colleagues are anything to go by, the dregs of it are going to hang around for a couple of weeks yet. However, I’m well enough to start to do stuff again.
I’m back at work again, full time. I’m pushing myself to write the way I should be: every day on my morning and evening commutes. I managed to write this morning on the way to work, so I feel like I’m getting back on the horse.
Over the weekend, I cleaned my house. Tidied stuff up, got the bleach and the cleaning appliances out, and went nuts. It’s a testament to how off-the-ball I am that I had to split it over two days just to get it all done. (And this wasn’t doing everything on my own, either; I had family helping.) But it’s done. House is clean.
I also spent a few hours amid all that editing a 60-page business document, full of torturous legal-speak and obfuscating language that only marketing and business people with an incestuous relationship with a thesaurus can achieve. It also involved wrestling with Word’s styles, which is always an onerous task but one that I’m getting to be a dab hand at.
I got around to putting together the exercise bike I bought a couple of weeks ago while I was sicky, too. This is going to be my next attempt at putting some physical activity into my regular life, to try to drive the CFS back and generate some energy (I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but it can work!).
I feel like I’m shaking off this fugue I’ve been in lately. Things are moving again.
I have been talking with my artist friend who did the Starwalker graphics for me about the Apocalypse Blog ebook covers, and I’m really enthused about the ideas she came back with. Can’t wait to get that going. The ebooks are currently being edited, and hopefully I’ll be able to release new and improved editions of the content over the next few weeks. Add the covers, and then all I need to do is revamp the blurbs, and see if that helps the books sales at all.
I got started with planning for this year’s NaNoWriMo, and the amount of stuff waiting for us to do there means that my mental list is filling up. But unlike those times lately when it’s all been too much, the long to-do list is making me feel enthused about getting stuff done.
It’s a lot of little things, all swirling around at once. But that’s okay: I tend to operate better when I’m multi-tasking, and having many balls to juggle in the air at once never daunts me.
I can do this. I’m still snuffling and coughing, still trying to shake off this virus, and still struggling for energy. It’s going to be a slow ramp-up to my usual levels of operation. But it has started now. This is me, determined to stop whining and get on with things.
There might be some stumbles along the way, however, I think I’m heading in the right direction. Wish me luck!
It’s coming up to that time of year again: time to think about this year’s NaNoWriMo and all the fun stuff we want to do therein. It’s a bit early to be thinking about November, I hear you say? Never, I reply. When you are as ambitious about NaNo events as my co-MLs and I are, it’s never too early. If anything, I think I’ve been leaving things a bit late (I can’t believe it’s almost June already).
The Municipal Liaison sign-up-again forms were released yesterday. I wasted no time in filling it out and confirming that yes, I fully intend to be an ML again. And this year, it looks like I’ll have not only one, but two lovely people working alongside me in the ML role! I can’t tell you how grateful I am for them, and for all the Wrimos who offer their help and support as well. They allow me to go nuts with the stuff I want to do.
Last year was all about trying out this new ‘Writer’s Retreat’ thing and figuring out how to make it work. This year, we know what questions to ask and what we need, and I think we’re better equipped to make the Retreat even more of a success this time around.
A few months ago (before I started to get sick and had to focus on other things), the three of us MLs went up a mountain in search of a new Retreat venue. We found a truly stunning venue, with exactly the facilities we need and an inspiring milieu for transporting the stories from our heads onto the page. I can’t tell you how much I’d love to hold a Retreat up there.
Can you hear the ‘but’ coming? Because yes, there’s a but. And it is: but the price tag is a problem.
We have to be honest about the audience that we’re catering for here. NaNo crosses so many boundaries – social, economic, age, race, religion, species (well, maybe not species, but you never know who’s an alien these days) – but some things ring true for the majority, particularly for the majority of participants who get involved in events. There are a lot of people with little in the way of disposable income in that majority, for many reasons: they are students, unemployed, on benefits, or have hefty life overheads to deal with. This is just one of the things that we have to keep in mind when formulating a plan for this year’s Retreat.
We want the Retreat to be as open to our Wrimos as possible. This isn’t about being elitist or exclusionist: I want as many people as possible to feel that they can come (even if they don’t necessarily want to). And with all that in mind, we have to try to keep the cost of the Retreat as low as we can.
The mountain is beautiful, but it is pricey. My co-MLs and I have looked around at other similar mountain-bound facilities, and they all seem about the same in terms of cost.
The mountain resorts are not easy to get to, either. Another consideration that we have to keep in mind is that not all of our Wrimos drive; probably less than half. Ease of access is a necessity (or a potential headache for us MLs to sort out, and we don’t really need more of those if we can avoid it).
I really wanted to go up a mountain. But it looks like it’s not going to happen this year.
We have been looking around at many alternatives. The island was a hit last year and I’m quite happy to go back there, so we’ve investigated some options and come up with a venue that might work for us. There were a few glitches with the venue we used last year, and I’m all for trying new places to see if we can improve things, so it’s going to be a bit different.
At least we already know how to get everyone to the island; that’s a problem off our list.
Comparing it with the mountain venue, it’s about half the cost. You can see why we’re leaning towards the island at this point.
Nothing is set in stone just yet. My co-MLs and I are arranging a trip to the island next week to check out the new venue to see if it’s all it’s supposed to be, and maybe poke at some other options while we’re over there. The venues are booking up fast, so we’re going to have to make a decision fairly quickly.
The balls are rolling. The Writer’s Retreat is taking shape.
Curious about this new venue? Well, without giving too much away: it’s right on the beach, has a proper conference room for writing in, and enough accommodation to hold us all. I’ll give more details once we have them nailed down.
And what about other NaNo plans? I’m sure they’ll follow along soon. I’m starting to get my thoughts together and will be comparing them with those of my co-MLs in the near future. There are party bags to fill, write-ins to schedule, write-outs to coordinate, a Kick-off Party to plan… lots to do! Watch us go.
On a more personal note, I’ve also started to think about what I might write for this year’s NaNo challenge. No more trying to blitz through whatever web serial I’m writing at the time (as I’ve done for the past few years); this year, I’m going to do a more traditional (non-rebellious) NaNo and start something new. Will it be a novel? Maybe. Or it could be the start of a new web serial. I have a few irons in the mental fires, and I’m turning them over one by one to see which one is going to be chosen. I’ve started making notes on some of them.
As I shake off this recent bout of sickness, I’m looking forward to the next few months. To planning and preparing, and grabbing up all my lovely Wrimos so they come along for the ride. It’s time to get moving and shake it like I’ve got a purpose.
I can’t wait. How are your NaNo preparations coming?
Or, be awesome, don’t plagiarise
Creators put their work out into the world to share them with everyone. Some charge for it, some don’t. For some, it is a matter of course, a profession, or an act full of enthusiasm. For others, it’s an act of bravery, a moment of daring, or something done with a held breath and tightly-squeezed eyes.
Whatever the motives or feelings that accompany art into the public sphere, I think I speak for the majority of artists when I say that the least they expect is to be acknowledged as the owner of the piece.
Plagiarism is theft. When you plagiarise, you take ownership of something that isn’t yours and pass it off as your own. You take credit for it, you rob the legitimate author of their work and reputation, and you leave an artist who feels violated and wronged in your wake.
Plagiarism has real consequences: it ends careers, gets people expelled from school, and can even lead to court proceedings. It destroys reputations and livelihoods. It’s lying, and fraud, and unacceptable in every circle I can think of.
Whichever way you slice it, plagiarism is a shitty thing to do.
Lately, this came up in writer-type circles that touch the periphery of my awareness. I came across a link, clicked through and read… and then read and clicked and read and kept reading, with a growing sense of anger and frustration.
I won’t recount the whole tale, but here’s the short version: a series of stories posted on a blog by Lilith Saintcrow were plagiarised on Daily Kos (a diary/blog site with a large community); Skyla Dawn Cameron spotted and reported it; a huge furore erupted; the culprit ‘apologised’ (more later on why that is in quote-marks) and removed most of the plagiarised material (but not all of it); and Kos admins banned her from the site. If you want the full tale (and evidence), click through to the links above.
This is a good example of why plagiarism isn’t good for anyone involved. When something like this is reported, there’s an immediate backlash against those who make the crime public. People naturally want to support their friend, who would never do such an awful thing. In this case, the Kos community rose up to defend their friend and gave Lilith a hard time. Later, when the evidence was circulated, they realised that their trust and loyalty had been violated and (largely) moved to support the wronged writer.
Lilith and her supporters had to fight to be heard and believed, and it’s a rare person who enjoys a situation like that, no matter which side they’re on. I have respect for those who stand by their beliefs and fight their corner, and for those involved who were mature enough to change their stance when the truth became apparent.
Let’s be clear: there’s no doubt that there was plagiarism at work here. The culprit’s posts were clearly copies of Lilith’s with the character names and a few words changed. It was blatant and deliberate.
Doing something like this is an insult to everyone involved. It’s lying to everyone who reads it by making them believe it’s your work when it’s not, and abusing the trust of those who call you a friend. It’s an offence to the real creator, who spent time and energy and love in making this thing that you’re so cavalier about passing off as your own. It damages and sours everything it touches.
Let’s face it: you’re incredibly unlikely to get away with plagiarism, particularly on the internet. You are going to get caught. Between search engines like Google and web archives, it’s very easy to find and prove. I know writers who set up Google alerts for phrases in their work to pick up someone misappropriating their material (and have been tempted to do so myself; one day I’ll get around to setting that up). There’s even a website set up specifically to help artists protect themselves and act upon plagiarism. Not to mention that the internet is a pretty small place and word of mouth will bite you in the ass if you’re trying to hide something.
So, if you’re caught, what should you do? Remove the offending material at least, yes. Immediately, in full, and permanently. Apologise to the (rightful) author, and deal with whatever fallout comes your way. And never do it again.
In the Saintcrow debacle, I’ve seen two attempts at apologising, and they don’t count as apologies. These two missives are nothing but lists of excuses about how the plagiarism wasn’t her fault: it was inadvertant, caused by her children, second or third or fourth hand, or accidental. What? No, I’m sorry: you don’t produce verbatim text by accident. You don’t try to hide behind your children (I can’t articulate how low that particular move is). You don’t make excuses. You accept that you’ve done wrong and you apologise for it. At the very least, don’t insult the intelligence of everyone involved by assuming that they’re going to swallow yet more bullshit and lies (as if the plagiarism itself wasn’t bad enough).
I am pleased to see that no-one appears to accept the culprit’s apologies as anything other than excuses and a pathetic attempt to wheedle out of the situation (check the comments on the apology links for the overwhelming sentiments). Because that is just appalling behaviour.
Honestly, the whole subject makes me feel sick. I dread the day when I find someone has done something like this with my work (I’m not saying it’s likely or anything, but it’s a fear that I have). I suspect that it would sour my feelings for the work, knowing it had been abused (from the looks of it, this was Lilith’s response, too). I’d probably also want to blast it out to the world that hey, this is mine, it belongs to me, that’s my name on it because I wrote it, and it’s mine all mine.
I really can’t fathom why someone would want to plagiarise something. Why would they throw their own reputation away like that? Destroy their own credibility with everyone that touches it? And for what? Riding on the back of someone else’s glory? How would that feel good? Don’t they realise that no-one will respect them or their work again? That everything they’ve ever written will be in question?
I really don’t understand the motivations behind something like this. As someone who values honesty highly, it offends me on every level, and makes me so sad.
So I’ll stop here and just say: don’t. It doesn’t do anyone any good.
I talked recently about what I can do to revive the flagging sales of the Apocalypse Blog ebooks. (Well, not so recently, but I’ve been sick and now I’m trying to get back on the horse, so to speak. So bear with me.)
One part of the revamp of the ebooks is to get them re-edited and tidied up. I didn’t do a great job with it for the first book and it shows. This is a work in progress.
The next part on my list is to look hard at the covers. Now, I love my Apocalypse Blog covers (check the links under ‘My Books’ on the right to get to the books in stores). I have them printed out and laminated, and one day I’ll get around to sticking them to my wall. But I have to be realistic, and they could be better. There are things that could be improved.
I like that they’re a matched set, but I wonder if that’s not a little dull? What would you think, as a reader and buyer of books? Also, the writing isn’t read very easily in the thumbnails displayed in ebook stores.
And maybe it’s time for a change, something fresh.
So I’ve been looking around at other book covers to see what’s out there in the post-apocalyptic realm. Trying to see what’s attractive and what might make them good covers.
Here are a few that I found:
They are each very different, and appealing in their own way. In no particular order, some thoughts:
- I like the simple, striking look of The Patient Z Files cover. There’s no doubt that it’s a zombie book and it is just beautiful to boot. Also just as effective as a thumbnail. This is a great example of a good cover, I think.
- The bleakness of the Dahmer Flu image is very fitting for a post-apocalyptic book, and I like the figure that looks just a bit… wrong.
- Refuge looks startlingly similar to the existing Apocalypse Blog covers. This is proof that the current covers aren’t a mile away from where they should be, but the clarity of Refuge’s text and the readability in a thumbnail are worth noting here.
- What I like about the Zombie Apocalypse cover is that it’s so different to everything else. Simple, gorgeous, and weirdly hopeful, which is not what you’d expect from this genre.
Lots of ideas and potential there. But what should I go for in this revamp of the covers? Do I make them another recoloured set, or each one different? I’d like them to be a matched set in one way or another, and my pockets are not deep enough to pay for reams of new artwork.
I would like the covers to reflect the different stages of the story. The crumbling world of Book 1, when Faith and her group are stumbling through the ruins and finding out just how bad things have become; the menace of the sickness and the shambling dead of Book 2; the determination of Book 3 when the group tries to forge a new life in the rubble and the acid.
I’ve always said that I didn’t want Faith’s face on the covers (or in any other graphics for AB). I want her to stay the voice in the reader’s head, so it’s shots from behind for her, or silhouettes (I like silhouettes). I adore the silhouette with the laptop on the current covers – it is exactly Faith. But I’m also open to options.
These are the thoughts in my head so far. I want something that will grab readers browsing through an online store by the eyeballs and make them click through to the book’s page. So what do you think?
What do you think I should put on the covers?
I get a lot of spam on my various websites, in the form of comments full of links, nonsense, and fake praise. Some of them make no attempt to seem like a legitimate post, more concerned with getting the links up on my pages. Others sound perfectly sensible until you realise what they’re commenting on and know that they haven’t read it at all.
In the middle, there are the wordvomit comments. These almost seem like sensible comments until you read them: while you might know all of the words in the comment, they make no sense whatsoever. It’s like an auto-translator or a thesaurus twitched and threw up.
Some of these wordvomit comments are so funny that I feel the need to share them, like this gem: “big switching point that have a real wood cedar plank upon it along with the point that you can cigarette lighter in material?”
A writer friend of mine suggested that these would make great writing sparks. Well, I suppose it’s a use for the nonsense I have to wade through regularly to get to the real comments. I came across this today and thought it was weird enough to produce something interesting:
Big gloomy eyes staring alibi from a photo frame.
So there you go: one spark from the wealth of wordvomit in my spam folder. Have at it!
If you don’t like a writer’s choices, respect them
The beauty of the internet means that, as writers, we can more easily interact with our readers. The ugly side of the internet is that, as writers, our readers can more easily tell us exactly what they think.
I love my readers very much, and I love hearing from them. I encourage feedback and I take it on board… but I make no promises about addressing it. Because it’s my story to tell and I have to make my own choices about how to make it the best story that I can. I am grateful that I have never received abusive feedback and dread the day that I do. That sort of thing hurts.
Recently in the wide world of writing, this subject took a particularly awful turn when someone leaked the ending to Charlaine Harris’s last Sookie Stackhouse book. The end of a popular series is always going to be a hot topic with fans, and the reaction to the ending has been loud, obnoxious, and objectionable. The abuse being hurled about is disgusting, and has even descended into personal threats against the author. Seriously, fans? Threats? It’s a fucking story.
It is natural that some fans will be upset with decisions made about a story, because there’s no way to please everyone (if there was, a whole lot of fanfiction wouldn’t exist, would it?). People are going to form opinions about how they think the story should go, who should end up with whom, and where it should all end up (Jacob vs Edward, anyone? Yes, I made a Twilight reference. Yes, you may shoot me now.).
But abusing the author because she didn’t write the ending you wanted is not okay. Yes, you’ve invested time and emotional energy into the story. Yes, you care deeply about it. Yes, you’ve even spent money on it. We understand that. But the author is the one who has created this gift for you. She has put the time and love into crafting the story you enjoy so much. And at the end of the day, it is her story to tell, not yours. She doesn’t owe you anything.
So if you don’t like it? Tough. You’re entitled to your opinion, and you’re entitled to express it. But you’re not entitled to make demands that an author change her work just because you don’t like it. You’re not entitled to abuse her, and you’re certainly not justified in making threats against her.
Go write fanfiction if you feel that strongly about it. Write your own ending. Write your own awesome, bestselling series that ends exactly the way you want it to (if only it was that easy), and then see how many fans agree with your choices.
At the very least, have a little respect for someone else’s work.
I talk a lot on this blog about readers, expectations, and being aware of the impact that your choices and work as a writer can have. But I don’t dictate what I think writers should choose to do. I believe that people should understand the impacts of their actions and make their own choices, in life and in writing. If someone chooses to do something stupid, or wrong, or objectionable, I’ll say so, but it’s still their choice to do it. Does it make their writing suck? In my opinion, yes. Does that mean I’ll read more of their work? Probably not. Does that mean they should change it? That’s completely up to them.
Neil Gaiman put it far more succinctly than me when responding to a reader’s question about George R.R. Martin’s obligation to them: “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.” (The rest of the post is pretty awesome, too.)
Reader entitlement does not exist. It’s a unicorn dancing on the rainbows in certain readers’ minds. Let’s leave it where it belongs and let writers do what they do best: write stories to share with the world.
Edit: Changed the strapline. It really wasn’t what I was going for in the end.