Emby Press: Big Sale & Rewards Program

Emby-Orange_clipped_rev_1-300x300Big news!

Emby Press is having a sale today for all their titles. This includes the works of Josh Reynolds, Thom Brannan and a recent anthology which includes the works of A.R. Aston, Jonathan Ward and yours truly. If you’re a Kindler, you can get several great titles for dirt cheap. And yeah, this includes Reynold’s awesome Royal Occultist series.

But that’s not all.

If you deliver two reviews on Amazon or Barnes & Noble of their releases, Emby Press will reward you with a free ebook of your choice.

There are some great new releases coming out shortly too, so if you get two books for these lowered prices, you can do the reviews and ask about the upcoming DoomsdayDark Monocle and Occult Detective Vol. II.

So check it out today. Because this sale won’t last forever! 

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Open Source Thinking: Author Pay Rates

The Good Fight

Super Hero Monster Hunter: The Good Fight from Emby Press is now available in print as well as for Kindle. Check it out for several amazing stories by yours truly and many other great authors! It’s the start of something big.

So in light of the post yesterday, I’ve been thinking some about how much we would be paying our authors for their work. But I’ve been thinking more and more about the slog to earn our stripes as a professional publishing company.

As I’ve noted before, being a professional author is harder than ever. And the joy and joke is that publishers need to pay off their starting cost debts and return to black on top of the need for authors to get paid. Granted, the debt isn’t much to surmount and people often supplement themselves with another career.

But let’s do some quick math here. E-books typically sell for either 35% or 70% royalties. Some may rush to point out the changes to Amazon’s royalties, but I would counter that it only applies to Kindle Unlimited and Lending Library. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the listed price is $5. Thus, at best we’re earning $3.50 and at worst, $1.75, and none of this includes printed royalties.

On the costs side, let’s focus strictly on what we’re paying the authors. In the past, the anthologies we’ve released have used pure profit sharing. This “nonprofit” (no entity keeps the money, just the creators) approach gave authors incentive to keep pushing the book after the release, and we had no real start up costs to worry about— we used the “free” ISBN from Amazon, and everything worked via a private contract rather than officially starting a company. There was no reason to preserve income because the project was never in the red.

This time around, we would have a minor debt to pay off and need additional capital to grow.

If you’re not willing to pay your authors what they’re worth, someone else will.

The usual approach for small press publishers is to compensate authors with token payments, exposure and a free copy of the book. Overall, not a bad package in lieu of professional pay for a fledgling writer. Let’s say that a publisher pays its authors $15 per a short story. A twelve story anthology costs $180 for the authors alone. And this doesn’t include cover art or editing (for which the business owners will probably be responsible.) If the sales are fifty-fifty on the 70% versus 35% royalty rates, that’s around $2.62 per sold copy.

That means to cover the authors alone, the book has to sell 69 copies. If you optimistically sell just 70% royalty stories, you can actually earn that cost back in 48 sold copies. If just the 35% rate, 103 copies.

So that is the most basic model. Lower the price of the book and you’ll have to increase sales. It also doesn’t cover the cost of the cover art, which one can technically do if they use a public domain image (possibly acceptable) or no cover (not recommended.)

Now here’s the secret about artists. The average price of cover art is roughly $500. This is a stiff price to beat in the sales, but there’s actually some economic flexibility if people don’t mind paying for the difference in time.

DenariusExplained, a professional artist might have a back list of interested clients willing to pay $500 or more around the clock during the best of times. But on occasion, there maybe a lull in the number of demanding jobs, during which time it makes sense for an artist to take a lesser paying job as long as there is a very distant deadline and a patient customer.

So if you go to an artist and ask them, “I have a limited budget for this, but I’m also in no rush. Can we work out a lesser rate with expected delivery in 9 months? I understand if higher priority jobs come along in the mean time.”

And chances are, you can probably work something out depending on the artist’s schedule and professional philosophy. It helps if the artist is interested in the work you’re doing, because their muse needs inspiration too. But if you go rushing to them, exclaiming that you need this image and you need it now, now, now… well, have five Franklins ready at the very least. Because exposure doesn’t fill the pantry.

Which brings us back to the original point. Yeah, cover art will add more to the cost although as I said, there maybe room for some flexibility on that. Yet here’s what I suspect a lot of small press companies face: costs (should) inevitably grow.

Why are they growing? Well, the biggest reason would be author pay rates. If you find a good author who is willing to work for $15 a pop, they’ll probably be ecstatic to be published for the very first time. After a few more stories, they’ll start to wonder if maybe they could earn a bit more, so they start searching. Are their short stories worth $25? Yes, so what about $50? Sometimes? Can they get 1 cent a word? 2 cents? Always hunting for that professional rate of 5 cents a word.

At a 5,000 words pay cap at 5 cents a word, that same twelve story anthology suddenly costs $3,000. Chances are, that cover artist cut you a deal before because you were a small company. But if the authors are earning that kind of money, then the artist will probably want the average professional rate of $500. That means a game of professional ball costs you a minimum of $3,500. And there are bound to be additional costs I haven’t factored into the equation.

If you’re not willing to pay your authors what they’re worth, someone else will. If your readership base isn’t large enough to support higher rates, then your writers will start seeking a company who pays better and has a larger audience. If you’re not paying attention to the market, it’ll kick your ass.

A blog post I once read mentioned that large publishing companies seldom cultivate writers anymore. It took me less than a minute to realize why; major publishers really don’t need to, not when you have hundreds of small companies willing to gold pan for them. Even if the little guys don’t realize it until they back a winner who brings in the readers… and then gets poached.

It’s a ceiling that stops many small press companies. And something every publisher has to bust through to join the major leagues.

Spicing Prose, Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue III, Oh My…

Just a quick plug: Superhero Monster Hunter: The Good Fight from Emby Press has been released for Kindle (and is expected to be print a little later), which contains the origin tales for the forthcoming Outliers universe. Expect a more formal announcement with the upcoming catalog for the summer season.

Sutton_Hoo_helmet_reconstructedOn Monday the 15th of June, I wrapped up the last major edits for the novel. For this round, anyway…

The work still isn’t complete but I can count the number of hours it requires with one hand. A beta reader has been providing invaluable input and is only seven chapters from completing the entire book.

However I discovered a slight problem. I’ve been tracking ratios and numbers of superfluously applied words and realized that “glance,” “look,” “up”, “gaze” and “upon” were serious offenders, often being cited almost a hundred times. “Eyes” too. I’m a huge proponent of body language during dialogue, although I recognize that not everyone is attentive to subtle hints. The next time I juggle multiple characters, I’ll probably adjust the passages involving facial expressions and gestures to reflect how observant the POV character is of people.

I spent two hours last night undergoing a process I’ll call a “Thesaurus Spicing.” But it’s not enough to locate and replace every other use of those words; I also had to check if I repeated the same phrase on a page and decide how often I can tolerate their re-occurrence. Once every three to five pages was occasionally acceptable. Once every ten to fourteen pages is perfect. But spotting the word two or three times on the same page? Pass the paprika please.

With regard to ratios, I considered the difference between a short story and a novel. A short is, at maximum, 10,000 words but often stands at a range of 6,000 to 8,000. The novel’s size is something just over 80,000 words (and shy of 300 pages, just the right length.) So word recycling is a bigger deal in a book— one can’t allow the reader get bored! Even if the same word is used a full 100 times (which I’ve reduced to 40 to 50 now), that’s just .1% of the overall manuscript which really isn’t that bad. The problem then is really about the literary lumpiness.

The real problem of Thesaurus Spicing is when you accidentally place an alternate word or phrase that already appears nearby. So when you modify the manuscript, you have to double check any previous queried and updated passages. The only downside is that I’m going to need to quickly skim through the entire manuscript a final time before submitting the finished product to my waiting publishers.

The end of editing came at a strange time. I heard of not one but two highly wished for titles being announced; Shenmue III and the long coveted Final Fantasy VII remake. As if Fallout 4 and Doom 4 weren’t awesome enough.

final-fantasy-vii-remakeI’ve been cynical about the possibility of a remade Final Fantasy VII before, and according to some sources so were Square-Enix’s board. Yet as I mulled on the possibility, I realized that the game only needs two things to be acceptable.

The first is a good battle system since the ATB (Active Time Battle) mechanisms of yesteryear are a touch dated for the new generation. Still if they add a “classic” battle option with ATB instead of whatever nouveau system Square-Enix conjures, they can probably satisfy old school fans as well as the fresh ranks of players. If I recall correctly, Star Ocean II did something similar.

The other requirement is faith to the original story, including the weird quirks like the brothel in Midgar and some of the side quests. Unfortunately I think that’s the one request we won’t get. Final Fantasy VII has had a number of peripheral spin-offs and additions, like Advent Children and especially Crisis Core, which shoehorn new details into the original story. I doubt the canon will remain unscathed.

But with regard to Shenmue III, it’s just so awesome that KickStarter can bring to life that which otherwise would not be. What a time to be alive.

Spring 2015 Catalog

The small press publishing game is a very slow one. It’s easy to assume that last sentence is a complaint, but rather it’s insider knowledge of the challenges it takes to publish a good book.

msjWith multi-author anthologies, the biggest delays are obtaining rights, editing, and checking the changes against the authors’ permissions. Another time sink is the formatting, when one realizes the spacing between paragraphs and sentences is not uniform, or various word processors or fonts apply their own twist on the appearance of quotes and apostrophes. With electronic books, a relatively centered body of text is usually fine. But print has to account for the left-versus-right spaces between the pages themselves, lest words sink towards the spine.

I’ve been through the process enough to know.

Sorry, I’m digressing. But with good reason. I’ve been glancing over my bibliography and find it unfortunate that several of my tales have gone out of print with the closing of Cruentus Libri Press a year ago.

But between those stories and the expiration of publishing rights for The Black Winds Whispers, I now have a flash piece, three short stories and a novelette for republishing. Material enough to cobble together a low cost, personal anthology.

The central theme of this potential anthology is horror, but the sub-genres are more eclectic. I have a mystery and detective piece that takes place in London during the 70s. I have a World War I story between France and Germany, a psychological-medical tale, and the short, “The Child of Iron” which seemed a favorite amongst the beta readers. A fine mix of various forms of horror.

GuardiansWhile this is a very good start, I feel the need to provide a little more to make a satisfactory book. I’ve been glancing through my old drafts for any works I could dust off and improve. There is a World War II horror tale that certainly has promise.

I also realized that the rights to Welcome to Hell have ended. Which means that my horror western “The Rusted Star” can now be used. That makes for six pieces. I think that’s a solid measure.

There are also quite a few dark fantasy pieces (including one with Cthulu mythos in the Indus Valley civilization), but I feel that fantasy would be a theme-breaker for this anthology. Everything else is either current or historical, so I’d rather reserve those fantasy works for something else. I’ll see what I can find.

I’ve already contacted Manuel about a book cover and plan to take some time to review the old work throughout next month.

Because the majority of the manuscripts are finished and have been edited once, I think it’s reasonable I can have the entire thing complete and available by Halloween of this year. In the mean time, my faithful readers, here are a few other titles to check out.

“Favours the Prepared” from the Fox Pocket: Guardians.

To the outside world, Marissa is a reclusive shut in, remaining in her apartment and never showing her face. In truth, she is awaiting visitors.

The Good Fight“Sins and Dust” from Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2015.

A historical-horror tale of genuine mad science that takes place during the Dust Bowl storms of the 30s. A gut wrenching look into the emotional toll of the Great Depression, and the desperate lengths we would go to for our loved ones.

“The Beast in the Beauty” from The Good Fight.

Coming soon from Emby Press is our (yes, our!) biggest and best tale yet. Sara is a high school student with a bright future. But her graduation plans are dashed when she discovers that someone she knows has broken into her school and violently slain several people. But the truth changes the course of her life forever… and launches her into a war behind the scenes, taking place in the same universe as Jonathan Ward’s “The Falcon” and A.R. Aston’s “For a Fistful of Diamonds” which both are in this anthology.

The Good Fight is the prologue to Outliers, a superhero epic quarterly series we’re developing with a few other authors. So don’t miss it!

Injuries Journal Part II

Spinal Cord Study

Artwork by Will o’ the Wisp.

There was good news yesterday.

At 6:30 pm, I started feeling pain in my neck, the first serious spike of the entire day. That was a long stretch without feeling discomfort. I had taken two aspirin that morning and four ibuprofen in two sets of two throughout the day. No Tiger Balm and limited use of the heating pad and ice packs. No carpal tunnel in my hands and only a bit of dis-coordination in my foot. That’s a great sign because normally I feel that discomfort around 2 pm.

I regretted skipping lunch though. Come noon I just wasn’t hungry, so I snacked on a few pretzel sticks that went down fine enough. For dinner there was a casserole of chicken, broccoli, cheese and brown rice. Great news there too in that I only needed to swallow tea every three or four bites to ward off the brain freeze. Another improvement.

This morning was rough however. And I don’t know whether it was adverse sleeping conditions or just the extreme cold outside, as it was briefly less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I felt pretty fatigued in my limbs, particularly my legs. There was an ache in my neck and shoulders but that went away with walking. I had a tough time swallowing the dry bread sample at Pete’s Coffee, and I felt a twinge of pain in my heart, probably from muscles being pulled there. But just a dash of the heating pad and I feel fine now.

A little later, I noticed some asymmetry in my right soleus (part of the calf), above the ankle but below the gastrocnemius. I realized the muscle was quite sore, and when I checked the less swollen opposite muscle, it too ached of soft muscle pain. I believe that my fatigue is actually being caused by stress from my neck throughout my entire body, which might explain why my physique has increasingly looked buff despite my lack of even looking at the gym. Some muscle relaxant on it has allowed my legs to recover from the exhaustion.

A friend of mine who usually prefers to remain nameless recommended something called epsom salts, a compound of magnesium and sulfur that has considerable muscle relaxing properties in the bath. It’s also very cheap, and available at our local Target and Walmart stores (for my foreign readers, Target and Walmart are the big budget department stores in this country.) I will try to obtain some soon for both current and later problems.

However, I truly suspect that the cold is masking the symptoms of my condition behind the effects of the chill. I think I’ll hold off on the doctor until next week (unless of course the problem goes away by then.)

In other news… I finished the first draft of my novel.

It was a stretch, I admit. That last chapter always taking just a bit a longer than I anticipate. I ended up not accomplishing everything I intended to that day, but finishing a novel is certainly nothing to complain about. I’m going to be taking a few days break from it while I work on a few other submissions, including a Black Library submission piece my friend wants me to take a look at and an edited manuscript from Emby Press that I need to review and approve. I also have a novel pitch I need to wrap up and submit very shortly.