A Brief Intermission, As We Have Some News….

You were probably expecting the next “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” post, today, but I haven’t been able to work on it much this week. That’ll have to be pushed to next week.

The REASON I haven’t been able to work on it, however, is pretty big news, and if you’re here for ‘self-publishing tutorials,’ some of the background information might still be informative.

I was hoping to be able to be able to talk about this news in specifics when it came out, but a change of plans means I need to wait before I can mention a few details. In the meantime, however, here’s what’s been going on the past couple weeks:

Thanks, I’m guessing, to the success of The Merrimack Event, I was approached by a literary agent (this is USUALLY the wrong way around; if you are going this route, you usually should be approaching the agent, instead; however, a quick investigation proved this agency was legitimate and well respected). This agent mostly works with already published authors (often independent authors, though not always) to sell subsidiary right — namely, audiobook and foreign translation rights.

Now, I have long WANTED to produce an audiobook format for my books, but the process for self-publishers is more daunting and\or expensive and\or time consuming than I’ve been able to manage:

First, I understand you need to turn your manuscript into a ‘script’ for the narrator (I’ve never done this before, and I’m not entirely sure what’s involved), and then you need to have your narrator read, record, and edit their recording at a high enough quality to work as an audiobook.  Actually, there’s more to it than that, but the details aren’t all that relevant.  Suffice it to say, each of those things take time.

Now, you can hire someone to do all this for you. I got an estimate for that a few years ago (even before In Treachery Forged was released). From a NON-Union voice performer (union would have cost double), it would have cost me about $1650. Yikes!  There’s also a profit-sharing model, however — you give up half of your profits, and the narrator will handle the script and editing for you.  Probably will do some marketing, too, since they earn money from it as well.  But nowadays most of the good, competent narrators will only do that if you have a good enough reputation that they can be sure they’ll earn money from it (which often means, they won’t do it at all).

Now, I still Had A Plan for getting an audiobook off the ground.  I wasn’t about to spend thousands of dollars for an experiment in audio, and I wasn’t thrilled with the profit sharing model, but I could still work things out.  My local library has a (free to use!) recording studio as part of their “MILL” (Makers In Loudoun Libraries) Program.  My mother, though retired, had many years of training as a vocalist, and was studying to do this.  I’ve been trying to teach myself sound editing using open-source Audacity freeware.

So an audiobook format was coming… but it would take time, and one thing I never seem to have enough of, nowadays, is time.  MAYBE, as an experiment, I could have gotten the tiny little “To the Rink of War” out some time over the course of the next year, but it would take me years to get even one book out, this way.

And along comes this agent, offering to try and get me an audiobook deal.  So, after a little hesitation (I am against the very concept of literary agents, and one of the big reasons I decided to self-publish was that it meant I wouldn’t have to work with one, so I had this “am I really thinking about working with an AGENT?” moment), I opened negotiations with an agent, intending to have them work out an audiobook deal for me.

Things we going slowly, but steadily.  I was going over their contract and had found a few things that needed changing — no deal-breakers, just a few elements that I (or rather, my cousin the Intellectual Property lawyer) felt needed more clarity.  The agent was agreeable to making the amendments, once their own lawyers had a chance to look over them, and I was waiting to hear back from them.  And then a Big-Name Audiobook Publisher contacted me directly, wanting to buy the rights to “The Merrimack Event.”

I considered seeing if the agent was still interested in my other books, or in negotiating the foreign-translation rights, but… well, again, I really didn’t want to deal with agents to begin with.  So I told the agency I didn’t need their services, and (*gulp*) started direct negotiations with the audiobook publisher.

I’ve… I think the correct way of putting it is “agreed to terms, in principle” with the publisher; I still have to go over or sign the actual contract (so things could still fall apart, but let’s hope not), so I’m not going to say who that publisher is, yet, but just getting this sort of interest feels like an accomplishment.

And if you think the work that I had already done setting up for future audiobook production has been wasted… well, this will only be a one book deal (their initial offer was for two books, but I kept it to one for now).  They haven’t (yet) asked for the rights to the Law of Swords books, nor for The Kitsune Stratagem.  If this works out, I might see if I can sell the audiobook rights for those other books to this publisher, too, but there are no guarantees; I Had a Plan, but now it’s a back-up plan.

And there’s still “To the Rink of War.”  That one I might still do by myself, some time over the next year or so, regardless of what happens with this publisher.  We’ll see.

Oh — an a couple smaller pieces of news.  Despite its success, there have been a number of complaints about the “then-than” issue in The Merrimack Event.  I scoured the text and found five instances where then-than were mixed up (I do know the rule, but 13 years ago I had real trouble with it).

I made these corrections in the print edition before sending it out, but I hadn’t updated the e-book because I anticipated more corrections being needed.  I kept asking people to help me find specific examples of this error, because it sounds like a more serious problem than just the five instances I found, but so far I haven’t heard of any from anyone on the specifics.  So I finally uploaded the corrected file today.  It may take a couple days for Amazon to approve the files (the old file is still available for sale), but if the then-than issue REALLY bothers you, you may want to wait a few days before then collecting the update.  (This is such a minor correction you’ll probably have to do this manually, even if you have it set for automatic updates; see here for instructions)

Oh, one last thing:  I’ll be experimenting with a couple new plug-ins for this blog this week.  I’ve had spambots hitting the comment sections of all of my posts by the hundred, lately (which is why I have to approve your comments, if you’ve ever tried to comment on this blog, before. That’s been the only defense I’ve found which actually works); I’ve already downloaded and installed one plug-in that claims it will handle that problem non-intrusively, and it works so far, but I’m still testing it.  We’ll see if I need to try another one.

While I’m fussing around with the plug-ins, I might as well look to correct some of the other problems I’ve had with this blog.  For example, the button I used to have that allowed me to “justify” the text vanished, and that’s something I might actually need for my next post.  If possible, I’ll also look for some way to disable the horrid auto-hyphenation my theme insists I use.  Hopefully things will work the first time, but starting Tuesday there may be occasional (brief) outages as I try things out.

Next week, hopefully, I’ll have the next part of the “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” series, which will be a short story (or at least a fragment of a short story) that will be the “before” example to demonstrate editing techniques on.  And maybe I’ll be following up on some of today’s news… if things reach the point that I can safely mention the NAME of that audiobook publisher.

4 thoughts on “A Brief Intermission, As We Have Some News….”

  1. I’m a newcomer to you website, I loved your book the Merrimack, I was wondering if there’s a time frame for the next books in the series lol not just the 2nd book only! I think an audio books is great, I would get it too.

    1. Thank you! Based on past experiences, I’m not even going to try to put an actual timeline together for the publication of my books. The best I’ll do is say what order books are coming in, and even that has changed in the past month or so since I last put together such a list. I could take a stab on how long it takes to write each book, but I’ve found that different books require different amounts of time to produce (cover art, editing, book design, etc.) after the completion of the first draft. I had one book that was ready to go six weeks after I finished writing it, another took about a year and a half, and The Merrimack Event took several years before both the editing and cover the art were complete. Sorry I can’t give you a better answer than that.

  2. I was looking on your blog for any information on the release of Law of Swords book 3. I have been looking forward to it for sometime

    1. As you can see from this list, I am hoping to complete the next Law of Swords book as my next major work. Currently, it is being written, and it is… uh, maybe half-finished? Maybe more? (I’m off outline, which makes it hard to judge). I don’t think it will be TOO much longer before the manuscript is complete (I hope to have it done before I make my guest appearance at Marscon 2018, which is mid-January), but I’m not sure how long it will take to get the editing and the cover art completed after that.

      There are some potential distractions, however:

      I may (probably will) release a couple more minor works before the next Law of Swords book.

      If you’ve been checking out this blog, recently, you’ve probably been seeing me talk about a project called “This Book Cannot Make Any Money.” This is a small collection of unfinished tales, poetry, and one experimental short-short, compiled so that I can run a blog series demonstrating the self-publishing project when you have a budget of $0 (and also to test a possible substitute\replacement for my printing service, but that’s incidental). However, the only time I am working on it is during times when I cannot work on the next Law of Swords book (or, when that draft is done, whichever book is my next main book to release). This one SHOULDN’T cause any problems for the Law of Swords at all.

      Of more concern is the “Fennec Fox Press House Style and Formatting Guide.” A house style guide is there to instruct the editor which grammatical standards the publisher wishes to uphold (blending aspects that the publisher favors of the various grammatical style guides that are out there — the Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Stylebook, and Merriam-Webster’s Guide to Punctuation and Style are the three biggies in the US). There is a serious concern that both the editor and the cover artist for “The Law of Swords” will need to be replaced, going forward; my editor is swamped and my cover artist is considering leaving the art world and will not take on any new projects. The cover art is no major concern (I already know and have worked with several other artists; I just hope to find one who can match the artistic style of the old covers), but the same can’t be said about the editor. My old editor is familiar with my house style (he has, in fact, helped develop it), but if I bring in a new editor (as seems likely) I will need to complete the style guide first. The good news is that a partial version is done; the bad news is that it is in pieces; it will need to be spliced together, the sources cited, and then it will need to be formatted so that someone OTHER than me can understand it. Not a huge deal (I expect it to be about ten to fifteen pages long, at least in its initial iteration), but it’s just one more distraction for me to handle.

      Finally, there is the audiobook deal mentioned in this very blog entry. While this audiobook deal saves me a lot of time in some ways, I will need to work to the producer’s schedule for it. I’m likely to have to set whatever I’m working on aside for a few days when they contact me about (for example) approving the narrator for the audiobook.

      Probably not the answer you were hoping for, but the good news is (as I’ve already mentioned) that the next book in the series is being worked on right now. My GOAL is to have it ready by Ravencon (in April), but since — at this stage — I don’t even know who the editor or cover artist will be, much less how fast they work, I can’t make any promises.

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