Two And A Half Years Later — My Only Publisher Is the One Who Doesn’t Beat Me

[What follows below is a blast from the Past Post, He Beats Me But He’s My Publisher from 8-31-2011.  Posting it again was precipitated by this: The New Role of Gatekeepers by Joe Konrath.  My friend Amanda bloged on it yesterday at MGC.

I’ve made comments on the original article in square brackets.  However, it was impossible to say everything I want to say about it.

Overall, it’s frigging amazing how it held up.  Most of what is said below is still true.  At least for those entering traditional publishing.  However, I’m going to list some of the trends I’ve seen in the last two and a half years, both indie and traditional and indie changing traditional and traditional running around in circles like a chicken with its head cut off… er… I mean doing stupid things.

First, like when I quit my first agent, when I quit my last agent, and walked off on my own, I didn’t starve to death.  The last two years are the first time I’ve made a middle-class income.  (Even if the last year was terrible due to my health and I’ll probably pay for that in income this year, unless I make with the writing VERY FAST — hey, I’m trying.)  Is there a use for agents?  Perhaps.  But not as currently constituted.  I wouldn’t mind an agent for translations, but I don’t have that, and heck in my whole time with agents I sold ONE translation to Japan (which has gone to reprint, but I’ve no heard about buying anything else.)  About 20% of my income came from Indie and “Found money.”  However, in the last two months, my income on Amazon has increased exponentially, as I put more backlist novels out.  So, I’m not where I can live from it, but I can see it from here.

Which means, G-d forbid, should something happen to my publisher — like, should they get crushed by a giant alien ship or something and leave nothing standing and no one alive — I would have a bad half year, but my income would probably recover.  More importantly, people would STILL read my books.

Needless to say — or is it needed? — I will continue working for Baen as long as they want me.  This is because they treat me like a human being and when they make mistakes THEY ADMIT THEM.  (If you’ve never worked for anyone but Baen, you don’t know this is sort of like saying that the sky is poka dots with pink background.  And yet it’s true.)  Also they picked me up when no one else would and when traditional was the only game in town.  Picking up a newby author is one thing, picking up one someone else had burned was a gutsy and more importantly, humane act.  I owe them one of those debts you never pay back.  Never.  If they’d never picked me up chances are I wouldn’t have written for 11 years now.

I wish I could convince them to let me work outside contract, because I totally would be faster.  It’s a psychological kink. (And I finally understand the mechanism and could explain it, only it would take a whole post.) OTOH I understand their need for security.  I’ve decided I’m circumventing this, as soon as I finish the two books under contract (which are of course late — psychological kink) I’ll send them two books on spec, and that should stave off the contract a while longer, right?  (I’m thinking the fourth shifters and World War Dragon, which might be a one off, then the third of the Earth revolution, and then another Darkships at the beginning of next year if my health doesn’t crash and burn.) But humans are mortal, and in a time of rapid technological change, things could happen to Baen.  I prefer not to have my entire income rest on them.  You guys know my history.  I don’t like that my fate is out of my control. Also, I write in a million genres (that like the no-contract thing is a psychological kink.  THE SAME psychological kink, in fact.  Can’t explain without a whole new post, but trust me when I say without the occasional mystery or historical fantasy, the sf/f would stop cold. — it occurs to me to wonder if I should have offered Baen Witchfinder.  Since it’s in the world of the magical British Empire — well, the universe — and since I wrote it in public, I didn’t.  Um…) and some of them, like mysteries, or historical novel, or who knows, in the future, Romance, Baen won’t publish.

The other thing that has changed in two and a half years (has it really been that short) since I let go of the other publishers and said “I’ll keep the one that doesn’t drive me crazy” is that my hair isn’t falling down by the handful and I sleep nights.  I LIKE that.

The things that has changed the most  about traditional with indie publishing is that the push model isn’t dead but it’s ailing.  Right now, pre-orders on Amazon count for more than whether you are young and perky and went to college with the publisher.  This is a good thing! Some of us are making a spirited dig out of midlist hell, with mypublisher’s help.

The next thing that has changed markedly and not at my publisher is that those publishers who have become desperate now seem to be buying what I call “too stupid to know better.”  Also, they’re paying less, the contracts suck and often the publication is “digital only” — who wouldn’t want to sign up for that?

This is what I’ve learned to expect in the way of winning friends and influencing people, back in the days when:]

He Beats Me But He’s My Publisher — a blast from the past post from August 31 2011

First let me point out no one beats me. Not literally. For those of you who’ve read Athena (Darkship Thieves) this should not be an incredible surprise.

The title is denoting of the relationship existing in traditional publishing between the writer and the publishing house. It is also the sort of thing I heard many women say about their husbands in the village where I grew up. Portugal, like most countries whose cultures were strongly influenced by Islam, had a streak of wife-abuse running through the poorer or more culturally backward classes. Since in the village where I lived my dad was one of the very few white collar workers, this meant my mother and my grandmother were forever saving women who ran away from home when they were two steps from landing in the emergency room… Only to see them go back to their husbands because “He beats me but he’s my man.” Or “He beats me because I’m not good enough.” Or “He beats me because he loves me so much.” Or even “Whom should he beat but his own?”

Needless to say, the one thing my family told me, from – I think – before I could toddle (I could talk before I could walk. No. Don’t ask.) was “If your husband ever so much as slaps you, you leave. That day. And you don’t go back.”

Unfortunately my family never knew about publishers and the status of the mid-list author. So they couldn’t warn me.

I wasn’t going to talk about any of this. I wasn’t. I like at least one of my publishers immensely, and I do understand how their hands are tied. On the other hand the last few days have been very trying. First, is it my impression or are all the establishment’s blue eyed boys going out of their way to tell us how we’ll starve in the gutter without traditional publishing? They remind me of my first agent, who btw, ONLY made official the sale I had already made to the publisher, and who then told me I’d die in the gutter without her, when I fired her. (Yeah. That… didn’t work as she thought, curiously enough.)

But then yesterday, in the Baen bar, someone posted that he sent letters to WRITERS complaining about their publishers’ DRM policies and pricing for ebooks because, I don’t know, the Kool-Aid man is red? Oh, wait, no, it’s more nonsensical than that. Because and – clears throat – I am quoting: writers choose their publishers. I want them to choose publishers who don’t do these things.

And that pushed me over the top. Call it hormonal, all right? I’m getting to be the same age when my mom was more likely to take off with the cast iron frying pan to talk to one of the abusive husbands than she was to simply bandage the woman’s wounds.

So, to begin with, let me tell you right now that the chances of a mid-list author dictating terms to his/her publisher are about the same as those of a village working class woman finding a man who doesn’t beat her. She might get lucky. She MIGHT. But she can’t count on it. In fact, a village woman once told me “If you think you’ll find a man who doesn’t beat you–” (And let me say, yes I have.)

Heck, as some of you know I have a lot of friends who are bestsellers. The way the market is right now, the chance of a bestseller dictating terms to his publisher are close to nill as well – unless he’s one of those blockbuster bestsellers that defy all classification. In our field you can probably count those in the fingers of both hands and have some fingers left over. And unfortunately none of them are close enough friends for me to ask if they, too, are worried.

Now, let me describe to you how much power the typical author has. Let me tell you how traditional publishing works for the unconnected, the non-fashionable and the doomed.

First of all, it’s a buyer’s market. Since the mega mergers of the eighties, there are five overarching houses. There might be more imprints, but, at least when submitting through an agent, you can’t submit twice to the same house. (Well, at least not using any agent I’ve had.)

Second, for each slot available on the publishing schedule there are thousands upon thousands of submissions. Even assuming the vast majority of those are either horrible or “don’t fit” the publisher’s “needs” there have to be at least ten books that would fit the slot at any given time. [I’ve heard this is no longer true.  It’s all leaked through friends of friends and very hush hush, but it feels intuitively right and if it is how much those numbers have fallen shocked even me.  The one not following this trend is Baen, and as someone who works for them — DUH — In fact, their submissions might have gone up. — SAH 2014]

So, let’s say YOUR book takes the editor’s fancy. Or maybe they owed your agent a favor. Or maybe they liked the title better than the other ten. Who knows?

You’re a brand new author, and they pick you out of slush. Oooh. Oooh. You’re in the money now, right?

Um… maybe. But first let’s talk about the important considerations: how powerful is your agent? How much does he/she believe in you? And do you know anyone in a publishing house? If all those are negative, you have one more chance at the big money – are you a “sexy package”? Part of this is literal. Are you cute and young? Can they count on displaying you and having people tumble over themselves? Part is metaphorical – do you have a hard luck story? Do you have something interesting about you? Do you perhaps have a well-followed blog? Or are you a politically correct refugee? (When my first series tanked the publisher told me she would buy me again and “make me a bestseller” if I wrote an autobiography. I was thirty eight. I’d done nothing but get married, have kids and write three failed books. So… she wanted me to write about my childhood in Portugal and make it “sexy.” No, I didn’t. What, am I stupid? No. I respect my family and friends there too much. I want to sell my books, not my unremarkable self. Also there are other reasons which are none of their business. Or anyone else’s.)

Let’s suppose you’re either white-bread American and unconnected to the publishing industry in any way. (Or you’re not white American but are stupid or honorable enough not to let them make a big deal of your life or treat you as an oppressed minority.) Let’s also suppose you wasted your twenties trying to break in, and in your thirties you’re blousy, somewhat overweight, with two small children.

Ah, my dear, welcome to hell. Here’s your accordion.

Having looked at this, your editor “forecasts” your numbers. I have it on good authority this doesn’t involve the bones of sacrificed animals. What they do is go “White, American, unremarkable and not sexy.” And you get the standard beginner’s advance. It used to be the princely sum of five thousand dollars (what, you can’t live on that for a year? Foolish you. Appliance boxes are free, and there are some nice underpasses. You can write at the library.) It is now three thousand. [I have a friend — oh, heck, you can know Amanda Green, writing as Ellie Ferguson.  Wedding Bell Blues made 3 times that within a year of being out.  It’s still selling. — SAH 2014.]

Now the book and its advance pass on to the marketing department. Who… barely glance at it. To get back the money they invested in you, they don’t really need to do anything. No, look, I know what you’ve heard. They say that printing the average book costs 100k or some fantastical sum. But that’s because they’re charging to every book the same percentage of editor/publicist/secretary/etc salaries. (Many books at this level, if bought on proposal, never get READ in full. Except presumably by the copyeditor. That’s how much time you take of those salaries.)

Next, you get assigned to someone – probably someone’s secretary – who procures a cover for you. Usually you get a beginner artist (and some are darn good) but they might also use some form of out of copyright art – like my first three books. And then… and then you go to copyedit. And thence to the marketing department again.

I’ve been privileged to listen to a book reps spiel back before I was published, at my favorite independent bookstore, while I was waiting to ask the manager a question. Back then this was done with a huge catalog with covers, and one or two books in actual advance printing. First these came up. They were either bestsellers or those the publisher had slated as bestsellers. They got handed to the bookstore manager and the manager was told “Well, we have strong confidence in these books. You’ll want to take…” twenty of each, I think, at a minimum. Might have been fifty. It’s been a long time. Then came the books in “second slot” for that quarter. For these the rep had the covers. He’d hand them over, do a little song and dance, and say “you want to take” – five or ten of these. He’d tell you how the publisher was promoting these books this way or that, or how interesting the life story of the author was, or what have you.

AND THEN, at the end, he’d say “You also can take these.” THAT, Mr. or Ms. Whitebread, is where you are. And if your cover is exceptionally pretty or the manager recently watched a movie that sounds somewhat like your book, they might take one or two.

At that point, you’re in the midlist zone. You’re also more than likely in the sales death spiral (no, I’m not going to explain that. This would run to ten pages. Google “Books and Death Spiral.”) After that, any book you sell, those numbers will be brought up. Can you escape the midlist, once you’ve been cast into it? I don’t know. One hears stories, but those are usually from before the computer number system. Perhaps, as with hell, you can swim out of it but I doubt it’s on a sea of tears of true repentance. More likely you’d have to marry a movie star, or perhaps run for president.

Note that SO FAR the writer has had exactly zero choice. Oh, he can chose NOT to sell his book and remain obscure forever. Does how good his book is influence anything? Well… it could. Supposing that word of mouth got going among readers. Except that, for all but one of my publishers (yes, you know which one) until very recently, it was one print run, one time, it sells out and the book is no longer available in any format. Too bad so sad. One of my publishers until the last two books made it a point of taking the books out of print at the year mark or when the book started earning royalties.

This meant the chances of your being discovered in back inventory were… you’re right. Zero. (I know through my fanmail a lot of people are NOW discovering my Shakespeare series which came out eleven years ago. I get no money for those, because they’re out of print and either used or remaindered. I don’t even get statements for them anymore. And there weren’t enough of them printed, so even if they all sold twenty times, my name recognition would be limited.)

In fact, if your book had been completely blank, or a compilation of nursery rhymes, it would have got exactly the same distribution and sales as it got with your words in it. You didn’t choose the cover. You didn’t choose the price. You didn’t choose the push. You didn’t choose the distribution.

More importantly and more than likely, the person who chose these things chose them NOT based on the book – which they might or might not have read – but on YOU and their perceived marketability of YOU. (And let me tell you, as a reader, that’s many shades of wrong.)

Most people don’t know your book even exists, and therefore they can’t ask for it. And if they do, they might get told it can’t be ordered.

And then… and then the fun starts. When the numbers are in, you’re told your numbers are only “midlist” and barely good enough (if you’re lucky) for them to buy the next one. And the next. They all get the exact same treatment. You might grow your fans, but it will be very slow. And even if you sign with a publisher who wishes they could do more for you, at that point the publisher is hamstrung by the numbers in the computer about your previous distribution.

You might (or might not) be asked to change your name again and again and again (one of my publishers has a fetish for this.)

And all along you’ll be told the fault for your lackluster sales is … yours. Yep. You wrote the book, and if it doesn’t sell, it’s ALWAYS your fault. No matter how demonstrably it ISN’T.

And under the old model, you swallowed and took it. You did what the village women did when I was a kid. You bandaged your worst wounds, and you made up stories. “I fell down the stairs.” “I bumped into bad sales figures in the night.” “I am so clumsy.” “It’s all my fault.” “They beat me because they love me.” And you crawled back. Because the alternative was unthinkable. The alternative was to never publish again.

And if you complained – if you so much as opened your mouth and said something along the lines as perhaps the crash of the books wasn’t ENTIRELY your fault (I’m not a conspiracy theorist, for instance, but I’m 100 % sure that the crash of my first book was exacerbated by coming out exactly one month after 9/11 and while I’ve done many weird things in my life I’m SURE I never committed any terrorist attacks. But those numbers were SOLELY my fault, as far as the industry was concerned) you got told how grateful you should be to the house for continuing to publish your worthless self, how each of your no-good books cost them 100k to get to the printing stage, and how they only did it out of the goodness of their hearts. And you had to swallow it, no matter how nonsensical it was.

THIS model. THIS MODEL is what the bright eyed harbingers of the establishment, the blue eyed boys of privilege want me to get maudlin about. Both as a reader and as a writer, let me say RIGHT NOW that I’m not going to.

No, I don’t know where the buck will stop in digital publishing. No, I don’t know what will emerge or what shape it will take. I do know just being able to say “It wasn’t my fault. I’m not the world’s best writer, but there’s something mighty weird with the system.” Or “I will not be grateful for hind teat” is good enough for me.

A biography of Marlowe claims that among his last words were “Just to tell the truth once, would be worth dying for.” This, it turns out, is also true when the result is the metaphorical death of a career. Particularly when there are alternatives.

No, I will not eat what’s put before me. No, I’m not the world’s most wonderful writer – every year I look at what I wrote the year before and cringe, so I know there’s room for improvement – but I KNOW I’m not a million times worse than J. K. Rowling. Sorry, that’s not just impossible. That’s obscene. I also know that until Pratchett got a new agent and editor, he was lost in mid-list hell in the US while a bestseller in the UK. His writing did not change. His marketing did.

Will I continue selling to big houses? Only if I like them. I write for a house I like, and there’s one other house I wouldn’t mind writing for.

As for the rest of them, they can go to hell. I’m going Indie.

144 responses to “Two And A Half Years Later — My Only Publisher Is the One Who Doesn’t Beat Me

  1. I’m planning on putting out my first novel some time this year, and it’s going to going straight past the publishing houses to Kindle.

    I have a few advantages for initial marketing (I won’t go into that here), but the book itself will be entirely my output. That’s daunting, to say the least. From plot to characters to the cover art, it’s going to be 100% my output. Which causes some sleepless nights.

    On the other hand, though, it’s nice to know I can completely bypass the layers and layers of people who could all say “no” to my book for trivial or personal or political reasons.

    The massive increase in per-copy royalties is a huge bonus, to boot. With the old model, if you sold 10,000 copies of a paperback, you’d get… well, you’d get to keep the advance, and hope for a lot more future sales in order to make some real money.

    Nowadays, 10,000 copies of a $4 Kindle book would be $27,000 or so. Not bad. And the books will never drop out of print, and don’t get remaindered.

  2. The psychological abuse is far, far worse than the physical. You’re left doubting everything, wondering “Is it me? What did I do wrong?”

    As for Indie publishing, I’m very grateful for you and the others who lent me the support of advice when I decided to go that way. It’s too soon to tell, but the second book is doing quite well. Now, if the third one bears up…

  3. “Let’s suppose you’re either white-bread American and unconnected to the publishing industry in any way … Let’s also suppose you wasted your twenties trying to break in, and in your thirties you’re blousy, somewhat overweight, with two small children. Ah, my dear, welcome to hell. Here’s your accordion.”

    Yep – if you don’t have any connections, haven’t become notorious in some public way, Big Publishing is not much interested in you, unless you are very, very, very lucky … A nice contract with a fat advance is so not gonna happen. I’ve been told there are only about two hundred writers in the US of A these days who make a living entirely from writing books.
    I think I spent all of a year trying to get an agent interested in my first book, and then my second, and since they were historical fiction anyway, Baen wouldn’t have been an option for me. The nice thing was that I had already published sample chapters of the first book on my blog, and the readers loved it. I ran a fund-raiser to get together enough to publish it through one of the POD houses, and never looked back.

    • Re: authorearnings.com, there would appear to be many more people than 200 making a living wage off Amazon alone. Of course, the vast majority of them are indies.

      • Shhhh. Don’t scare the agents and Big 5. They make such a mess when you startle them.

      • Yes, but making a living wage and earning their living entirely from writing are two different things. After all you took that contract job for a couple weeks last August, and you were selling stuff you made at the Craft show just last week. Obviously you aren’t making your ENTIRE living from writing.

    • You actually don’t want to make your living entirely through writing. Income diversification is your friend. Even if you’re making a million a year in writing, consider adding paid public speaking gigs, memorabilia sales, and other ancillary income streams that can help carry you through a dry spell where the muse, she is taking off for some me time.

      • Oh, I have some other streams (besides the military pension.) I have direct sales, a couple of clients that I do editing and transcriptions for and then there is the Tiny Bidness. (I am presently buying out my partner, who started a little subsidy publishing business 35 years ago. She wants to retire, has no children, and none of her family are interested in the business, which has a good local reputation.) Hey, if you can’t get a job – work in your own business!

      • One thing to remember about writing for a living: every copyright is a separate income stream. And each can be licensed over and over again. Sell German rights, French rights, UK rights, audiobook rights, television options, film options, etc.

  4. I couldn’t agree more. I entered the self-published (I prefer the term ‘author-published’) field in May last year. In just 7½ months I published 2 novels and a memoir, and made enough to place me solidly in the upper levels of mid-list territory from a ‘traditional publishing’ perspective. I published the third novel in my SF series last week, and based on its performance so far it’s probably going to sell over 2,000 copies in its first month on the market. God willing, I’ll be putting out at least two more books this year.

    Would a traditional publisher have allowed me that sort of access to the market, and that much control over my own destiny? Would my royalties have approached even a fraction of what I’ve been able to make by doing everything myself? Yeah, right!

    The only publisher I’ll consider submitting to in future is Baen, and that’s because I know (from Sarah, and Larry Correia, and other friends) that they treat their authors like human beings. The others . . . not so much.

  5. For what its worth –

    I prefer not to have my entire income rest on them.

    I’m most of the way through “Antifragility” (apparently by the guy who wrote “Black Swan”)

    It, like your quote, talks about options. It also echoes why decentralized systems (most ecologies, the internet) are so survivable. It’s not just redundancy – it’s having choices.

    It also comes up in game playing – Eric Raymond has an interesting article on how choosing the path that gives you the most options in Power Grid and other board games is a way to more consistently win.

  6. For what these electrons cost, here is my guess as to the future. The “Big 5” will become the big 0.5, and a few of the Indie publishers will become the new “market.” I have two books in near completion process, 3 cookbooks for “single/handicapped/disabled” in Que, and a bunch of reference books in various stages. All will be under some form of FBN Group publishing. I believe that groups of Indie Authors will “band” together, to do the job the “Big” publishers should, but can’t/wont. Each contributing 1-2% of their income from books published by that group, to pay for real marketing, and services. Co-Op’s aren’t just for food producers.

  7. Christopher M. Chupik

    Don’t worry, I’m sure SFWA will address this vital issue . . . right after they take on white cismale heteronormative privilege, that is.

  8. I realized the other day that though I read at least a couple of books a week I have not cracked open a dead tree in over two years. Everything is either Kindle or computer screen. And I’m in my 60s so it’s not just a new age thing.
    My two first order filters are: is it from Baen? and is it something new from an author I’ve come to respect? Means I will miss works by some upcoming new artists unless word of mouth calls them to my attention, but OTOH cuts way back on books started then thrown against the wall in disgust. Which when read on the Kindle is a really bad thing.
    My thoughts on most traditional publishers is the same as I have on wife beaters: die you scurvy dogs, die! You’ve made your beds which rightly will become the funeral biers you so richly deserve.
    Strikes me that with indie your success depends on three separate factors: First, you must write a well crafted and interesting story, duh. Second, it needs to be properly edited for grammar, spelling, and continuity. Third, it must in some way catch the eye of the casual browser, your potential new reader. Assuming 1 & 2 you should already have a loyal reader base (or will develop one) so your effort here is to grow that base, which is where cover art comes into play. The problem being that creative, meticulous and visual are seldom talents that reside in the same head, so I do see a valid and growing need for farming out those last to reliable practitioners.

    Lastly, praise for Sarah for her ongoing efforts to brief so many budding authors on the nuts and bolts of how this all works. A great example IMHO of paying it forward.

    • Well, if you’ve got the words handled, perhaps you could find an Awesome Artist that takes commissions and talk to her.

      • I’ve found a ton of great potential cover art on deviantart, reached out to the artists… and never heard from them. Is there anyone there who’d be willing to do commissions? And any idea how much they’d charge?

        • I do cover design, and some art (style is not one-size-fits all, so no promises). Ping me at cedarlila at gmail dot com with what you’re looking for. For Huns, special pricing.

        • I pointed to VV because I know she will do commissions, but no idea what drawing would cost.

        • My friend Jeff Brimley (who I believe I’ve mentioned before) is a world-class painter. He did the cover art for Dan Willis’s The Flux Engine. I don’t know what his rates are like, but if you like his work, I can put you in touch with him.

        • I had good luck with my one foray onto Elance.com.

        • Just a quick note on this. I spoke a few minutes ago to a really great cover designer who mentioned that he had gotten the artwork on the book I was looking at from DA. I passed along your experience and asked his suggestion. I don’t know if it applies to you, but he mentioned that you shouldn’t use the DA mail if you can help it – find other contact info for them, such as their own website if they have one, and contact them that way. Apparently a lot of artists miss messages sent through DA because the interface kind of sucks. Hope that’s useful to you; I’m off to the next panel.

      • I just had the thought: IS there an artist’s directory of folk willing to do commission covers? It seems to be yet another one of those Useful Things to have up and around…

    • I still get my cookbooks in dead tree. But then, dead tree is far more… uncaring… about flour, salt, splashed of liquid, and spatters of oil.

      That, and the ones I use most often start getting crossed out and commentary like I’m grading papers.

      • Yea – I have done cookbook both kindle and dead tree– I like dead tree better —

        • School workbooks are better in dead tree. Have you tried to measure an angle on a computer screen? If I were home I’d print it.

        • My e-cookbook is my laptop. It’s useful. I really don’t have a preference.

        • *looks at the very large bookshelf of cookbooks to my right, matched with a same-height bookshelf full of cooking magazines*

          Regards digital recipes, I actually try them out first, and any corrections made are added to the recipe in a Libreoffice Write document, and when I’ve perfected it, it’ll be printed, and put in a display slipcase and put in folder. Custom-made cookbook, as it were…

          Planning chicken wellingtons with mushrooms, and marinating the chicken thigh fillets in olive oil, salt and pepper.

          • I made chicken in red sauce last night (made my own brown sugar) over mashed potatoes. 😉

          • Crockpots are awesome.

            I’ve got what I HOPE will be good– lined the bottom of the crockpot with “country style ribs” (inexpensive cut from the rib end of a loin), lined the edges with bacon, cover that with the sliced mushrooms on sale yesterday, put the stalks of the also on sale broccoli on that, added a glob of garlic and a spoon of lemon pepper, and I’ll put more broccoli on it about an hour before dinner.

            Should be a rather good couple of meals, for less than ten dollars. (two adults, three kids under 5)

            • Oh, lord – I have the vast collection of cookbooks too. It’s embarrassing, since each of them has maybe two or three good recipes in them that I’ve actually used. The most used ones are on two shelves closer to the kitchen; they have six or seven recipes in them, used regularly. We’ve started a three-ring binder with an assortment of print-outs in them, under page protectors… those are the ones that we use most, now.

              • In fairness, I have a rather large bookmark folder of recipes – witness the earlier link to zucchinni cornbread casserole – but they are slightly more awkward. (The laptop being kept well out of splash range, it involves a lot of walking back and forth, muttering amounts. Oh, for a kitchen with an island!)

                Most cookbooks of mine also fall into the one-to-three recipe range, or the for-this-occasion range, but sometimes I just like to read a cookbook. And some have good ideas I turn into better ones. And there are two that have lots of good ones – Dana Carpender’s 1001 Low-Carb Recipe has a lot of good ones, and “More make it fast, cook it slow” tends to the soupy and sweet (I can tell she has small children who want sweeter dishes), so if I reduce liquid and cut the sugar from every recipe, it turns out pretty consistently tasty.

                • I love reading cookbooks as well – and there’s finally a couple of Filipino cookbooks that are also nice to read right along with having good recipes – 7000 Islands and Memories of Philippine Kitchens. Interestingly enough the books were written by Filipinos who’d migrated or by people of Filipino descent.

                  Other fun cookbooks to read as well as use, in my opinion, are The Little House cookbook, and A Feast of Ice and Fire.

            • Mmm… sounds good. I’m going to be using mine for something a little less fancy – chicken vegetable soup – tonight.

              • Eating it now– should’ve put the springs of broccoli on top when it all started, but sprinkled everything in a dish with cheddar, and oh….

                Can’t wait to deal with the leftovers tomorrow, I’ll put half down, mix the rest with cheddar (probably shredded, I got some on sale for cheaper than our blocks) and put that on top of the base, then add more cheese on that. Maybe a light layer of bread crumbs to prevent cheese-skin, the kids have issue biting through it.

            • One day… ONE DAY… I’ll use that crockpot my inlaws got me.

              I’ve simply never gotten around to it

              • Crockpots are awesome, you can fill them up in the morning and go do whatever you need to do that day, and have a hot meal ready when you get home. Usually they aren’t TOO time sensitive, so if you are gone a couple hours longer than planned, well the meat just has a little more time to tenderize.

  9. This article creates a large temptation to write a book with a so-so story, then a real whopper of a tale for “author’s backstory” (you know the type – born poor; mistreated by parents, teachers, and students; went into the military and came out with PTSD; was homeless for a while; etc. Maybe wrote the book sitting under bridges.) to see if they would eat it up, and later come out and admit the backstory was all made up, just to get the publisher to push the book.

    • lol what do you mean made-up? If you take out the PTSD and homeless, you have my back story.

      • Although we were homeless in a few stretches (lived in family’s back bedroom) especially the first two years of my illness. ummmm PTSD for disease 😉

        • I’ve been told often enough I should try to write stories based on things I’ve been hearing from my family over the years, as well as stories from well, my life as the daughter of a diplomat at the end of several eras – the end of the Marcos dictatorship, the end of the Cold War, and so on. If I were, I’d write about my parents’ hometowns when they were children, embellished so that they’re ‘based’ off the people and places of the time. The stories I hear about them are really a glimpse into an era gone by.

          And every time I hear about the sheer amount of mischief that my mother and father got into I tell them they had very well behaved children, because we didn’t get into that sort of mischief.

            • It’s true! It never would have crossed my mind to sneak snacks into the classroom, or drop plates to test gravity as a child! Or put tadpoles into the kitchen’s water urn! Or the classic ‘try to dig to the other side of the world’ and have some unwitting sap fall into the hole.

              Part of me wonders if we missed out, because dangit, yes, we got into fights, but… we weren’t naughty imps, you know?

              • Yea – probably missed out. Play today is watching TV or some other type of electronic equipment. Play then was imagination. We made mud pies and then served them to the other kids who really did take a taste lol

                • I’m now pouting about the lack of trouble we caused! POUTING I SAY! Though, with us, we did go out and play, and I regret that you can’t just toss the kids out to entertain themselves these days, the way we did, to bicycle to the playground a few blocks away and play with the neighborhood kids. Foxfier and MaryCatelli are familiar with my blogposts lamenting that. We were free range kids, but my parents beat us hollow in that department. Dad was ‘swim out into the harbor and to the buoys’ and wander in the mountains free range.

                  (actually, I’m also wondering how my parents managed the whole raising behaved kids part!)

                  • Oh dear– before I became the de facto housekeeper (at 13), we would wander our area with Shetland ponies. My mother would honk the horn when it was time for dinner. If we didn’t come, we didn’t get dinner. Those were the good days— from 13-18 my life was very different and it was much harder… I have talked about it here a few times.

                  • All I will say as I think my parents went nuts–

              • Thank you, Ms. Drow; your comment about the hole led me to rereading this little tidbit from one of the funniest raconteurs I’ve ever read. Methinks you might appreciate it. I’m just grateful that there aren’t any fauna like that here in the Rockies for the minions to catch.

          • In all seriousness, Shadowdancer, if you write the book as a story collection/memoir, I bet it would sell pretty well. There’s a large sub-niche of “autobiography vignettes,” like the one by a former nurse who lived and worked on an island in the Hebrides that I just finished.

            • Do you think so? I mean, these wouldn’t be researched very well – at best I’d be plumbing my mother for memories, and she’s back in The Old Country, as it were, and a bit like the Little House On The Prairie series of books in that I’d have to alter names and consolidate people into composite characters, and such.

              And unlike the Little House series, there’d be stories where certain things are Accepted As Part of Everyday – superstitions, local monsters and faeries and ghost stories and such. Filipinos are odd like that (in fact, such beliefs persist to this day and are accepted by plenty.)

              • One of my first books was a collection of essays about my disease, which was my best seller for two years. It’s not selling much now– but a lot of people who had my disease really liked it– niche selling at its finest.

                • I’ve been chewing on it anyway, thinking of writing the memory-stories, even if they didn’t sell. They’d be something of a heirloom perhaps, to my children and grandchildren.

                  • People like memory stories– There are a lot of people who are rootless and are looking for something to latch onto–

                    • Thank you so much for the encouragement. I will likely start after this book I’m helping with /co-author on is out. I’ve always been a bit hesitant because, well, tales of mananangal and kulam are common in these stories, as are the ‘disappear for days but person who vanished says s/he’s been gone only a few hours’. I’d thought about separating them, but they’re… part of the culture and the people. I dunno; I’ll probably just write it out for now, story by story, and worry about ‘book’ later.

                    • This is the right crowd. I know that I am intrigued already. I wouldn’t separate them–

                    • I’ve been thinking myself that perhaps I should get together with my brother and sister and gather up all my dad’s stories and try putting them together into something. His story would probably be interesting to some people. The actual stories he told would have to be fleshed out quite a bit. I tried writing a few of them down and they come up as pretty short as far as word count goes.

                    • I know what you mean– storytelling is sometimes different than writing the stories down.

                    • Half-asleep, a title for a story came to me; Jewelry for Second Daughters. I’ll have to ask my mother for the story again though, as there are particulars of it which are fuzzy. But I’m rather fuzzy headed at the moment due to sleepiness finally kicking in. At nearly 5:30 am.

                    • I like the title–

                    • My dad did that for my Grandfather’s stories about growing up in Southern Washington before WWI. If someone doesn’t write the stories down they are lost forever.

                    • True– Just the difference between myself and my brothers– a lot of stories have been lost. Either they never heard them or my family kept them isolated from the grandparents so didn’t know them. I find it sad.

                    • Bob: If someone doesn’t write the stories down they are lost forever.

                      This is the main reason why I originally started to want to write them down to begin with.

              • I would read it 🙂

          • Do it!

            Patrick McManus made a lot of money doing that with his own childhood!

      • For me, it would be all false. All my problems stem from 1) My lack of drive, 2) My inherent shyness with women, 3) My oversensitive nature prior to graduating high school, and 4) My giant difficulty in dealing with confrontations

        When I was in school, I was almost embarrassed by the difference between my friends’ parents and my own, because I felt bad for my friends having to deal with their parents. I was raised in a comfortable middle-class home, never really wanted for anything that wasn’t stupidly unreasonable (and didn’t worry about that stuff anyway), then promptly screwed up college, married the wrong woman, and have spent the rest of my life barely scraping by. But again, it’s all my own fault.

        • Really – its the now that is important– the past mistakes are that–past. 😉 Sometimes in my case the problems end up teaching me valuable lessons– I think what I gained in having a chronic illness that happened suddenly was to learn empathy… and to learn what it felt like to be dependent. It is hard to go from independent to dependent– I mean really hard.

          • I can imagine that about losing independence. I know what it felt like for the single day that I couldn’t get out of bed because I hurt my back, and I can only imagine being helpless for an extended period of time.

    • I seem to recall several major book deals in the not so distant past where that was actually the case. Did not appear to turn out well, though I seriously doubt the disingenuous authors were ever compelled to return their earnings. Vaguely remember one such involving Oprah.

      • Oh, heck, Uncle Lar – there are a number of major books and authors whose real lives and what they represented to be their real lives were nothing alike! I just dug a post out from my archives about it, and re-posed it here – http://www.celiahayes.com/archives/2078
        James Frey, Lillian Hellman, Grey Owl, Ern Malley … have fun! Anyone among the Huns recall the best-seller “Naked Came the Stranger?”

    • It’s been done. Google Rigoberta Menchu, which is what they wanted me to “write like.”

  10. Oh – on a different note: Have you done a post on what is entailed in creating your own publishing brand (as you have with Goldport Press and NRP)? I remember seeing a comment in the past couple of days about using a name that sounds professional, and not “John Doe Press”, but is there anything more than registering an LLC involved?

  11. Talking of wife beating …
    My great grandparents were rag poor dirt farmers and laborers in Illinois back before the Great Depression. They lived in a shot-gun sort of a place with no indoor plumbing. Every Friday the husband would spent a good chunk of what he’d earned getting drunk, then he’d come home and beat his wife. Big Granny (she was a big boned woman about 6′ tall) had enough of it one Friday night, so after getting smacked around and dear hubby passed out in his bed, she got out her sewing kit and spent the next hour or more sewing the sheet he was sleeping under to the mattress. When she was done she got one of her big caste iron skillets – we still have most of them, a family heirloom – and beat the living crap out of him.

    Pride kept him from telling the doctor what had really happened to him. He probably had some idea of the truth, but the man kept his mouth shut and just stitched up the broken skin then sent my grand-dad home. Big Granny said he never raised a hand to her again. I miss her.

    • That must be a common story — I heard the same thing from my husband’s Aunt Beady about a cousin, though it’s not clear if this was my husband’s cousin or Aunt Beady’s, as AB was really the adopted next door neighbour.

      In a similar vein, she told the story — as having happened recently to a dear old school chum — of the little adventure had by said DOSC working in a 7-11 or something all alone one afternoon. DOSC as well as AB had ripened to dear little old lady status, though it must be admitted that AB was decidedly feisty, and told her stories with perhaps a good deal more zest than ought to be displayed for this particular tale. Dear old school chum was, as I said, working alone at the 7-11 one afternoon when a gentleman came up to the counter and laid thereupon a can of soup and his masculinity. DOSC was so flustered by the unexpected sight — did I mention that unlike Aunt Beady she had never married? — that she snatched up the can and whacked it firmly upon the other item. One can only imagine, as I do each time I recall this story in memory of Aunt Beady, the planarium-like result, as our hero promptly and naturally fainted dead away.

      The kindly policeman who came to take him off to vistas new said, as he bundled the moaning lump of unhappiness into the back seat of the police car, “Next time, son, buy a loaf of bread.”

  12. For the record, WordPress is cacked for me. So if you’re waiting for me to approve a comment, I’m not being mean, it’s not letting me do it.

  13. So… she wanted me to write about my childhood in Portugal and make it “sexy.”

    *looks at it sideways*
    Not so much “sexy,” but “appealing to your target audience”– you’re kind of doing that, here.

    Guess we chalk it up to “yet another thing that would make sense if it was done correctly” for the big 5.

    • That’s what she meant by Sexy. “Like Rigoberta Menchu” — so I came home looked it up, sent back an email saying “Not only no, but hell no” and THEN sent her a proposal for musketeer mysteries.

  14. That’s one of the really awesome things about now. If my day job implodes I can try to do something creative, and unless the farms burn, I probably won’t starve, and may be able to do something awesome.

    There’s a pile of youtube covers on my playlist right now. None of them have huge hitcounts, but many of them are nice, and you never know what is out there until you try.

  15. Has it been 2 1/2 years? I think this is the first post of yours that I read (I came here from Passive Guy, I think), and was hooked and have been reading ever since. I remember – that’s when self-pubbing seemed so new and strange and frightening. Now it’s the only obvious choice (for me, at least until Baen decides to do a YA fantasy imprint, because, much as I love Baen books, I don’t write them).

    But it wasn’t just the publishing stuff that drew me – I love your stories of growing up in Portugal. And the political – boy do I need that, particularly in those months leading up to the 2012 elections. As you’ve said recently, we need to know we are not alone. And we need to hear the arguments made – we hear the left wing ones so much, we forget how to answer back. I think you (and from you, I found Instapundit and PJ Media), that is one of the things that kept me sane these past few years (relatively speaking ^_^)

    I haven’t commented in a while (personal stuff – if you ever do a post on dealing with a mentally ill relative, boy will I be able to contribute!), but I’ve been lurking. I’ve been thinking of ways to join in again (we’re blocked at work now, but I may have found a workable alternative) – and re-blogging this post feels significant. Maybe it’s time. I’ve missed this group terribly.

    Congrats on getting your backlist out, and the increase in income. As the Hugh Howey graphs are showing, a much bigger percentage adds up, even when the pie is smaller. Thanks for these blogs. And no, I don’t mind that you can’t do original blogs as often – I don’t know how you’ve managed to do these daily blogs all this time. The repeats and guest blogs are welcome. May your health improve this year, may you publish much, and may your pie grow.

    • My mother was hideously bipolar when I was living with her, and refused to take medicine. As with the political stuff, after a while you wonder if it’s your fault. I wont write a post about it, because I … I love mom, and I even understand why she didn’t want meds — though I wish she’d taken them. You have my sympathy though. I know how awful it can be.
      My health seems to be getting better, and the prospect of writing SOMETHING is no longer hideous. let’s hope this continues. Progress is slow, though. I think I got myself VERY burned out.

      • That would be rough, both for your mom and for you, growing up with that. As if you didn’t have enough trouble. But yeah, I do understand about the meds, particularly thirty years ago.

        With me, it’s my sister, and it’s paranoid schizophrenia – which, if you’re going to be schizophrenic, is a good one to have. It hits guys in their teen years most often – when they’re still minors and their parents can get them into treatment. With women, it’s more in the mid 30s. (Both are very hormonal times and I can’t help but wonder if there’s a connection. They’re lumping schizophrenia and bi-polar in the DMS now, and connecting both to ADD, too. And schizophrenia at least points to environmental factors over genetic – my risk only goes from 1% to 10% having an affected sibling. Schizophrenia is another one of those conditions that’s been seriously on the rise since the 70s, like obesity, cancer, diabetes, thyroid problems, etc.)

        We’ve been very lucky, so far – it took years to be able to get her into treatment even when we knew she was completely delusional, but we had the right set of circumstances hit a year ago and, with the help of some upset neighbors, were able to get her arrested. We were lucky – we had an understanding judge and sympathetic lawyers on both sides and she was sent to a pretty decent psych hospital (we could have drawn one of those nutty civil rights lawyer who’ll fight to keep someone from getting medicated). She’s been on Haldol since last summer, and there’s a really good halfway house kind of program she’s at now, and there’s every reason to believe she’ll be able to live on her own again, with supports like a therapist and family involvement (even when she was fully delusional, she could still take care of her house and live on a budget). It’s been night and day. The only drawback is that she’s spacey from the meds, but we’re hoping the dose can be decreased after a year. So, while it’s been a rough year, it’s been completely worth it.

        • From younger son, who has taken up studying brain chemistry, partially because he’s fascinated, and partially trying to search out medicines our doctor may not know about that will help his ADD as well as possibly help out some of his other difficulties, he tells me that schizophrenia and ADD are biochemically related, in that one is a result of lower Serotonin levels in the brain, and one is a result of higher. I think schizophrenia is the one with higher levels.

          There are also, apparently, multiple types of receptors, and the various drugs may work on one or more of them.

          • We should put your younger son in touch with my older son who reads neurochemistry journals for fun.

          • I’d like to hear from both your sons. My sister has been ADD and dyslexic all her life. She’s also had a lot of other precursor risks for schizophrenia, too – including trauma in her toddler years, and even being born in the spring. (And, frankly, the Eastern left wing women’s college degree in her late 20s didn’t help either – all the victimhood preaching plays right into paranoia.)

            Another biochemical theory is nutritional. Before the drugs came out, a number of doctors claimed to be getting very good results for a number of conditions with large doses of niacin, and thought that the conditions might be a form of pellagra. Also bromine, which is in food and the general environment, has been linked to schizophrenic symptoms.

            • There’s no doubt that we don’t know all the ways to manage either of the problems, nor exactly what causes them from a standpoint of determining what triggers, in what order (if it matters) stimulate them. Right now, we just know that modifying the production and/or reabsorption of certain chemicals, or promoting or blocking the receptors, will bring their mental activity back within the parameters we call, “normal”.

              Many people promote dietary treatments for ADD. I don’t know how effective they are, but I know that most of the diets I have seen are too restrictive for me to work with at home. I’m also told that several natural chemicals in foods or drinks (stereotypical example: caffeine) will produce the changes that the drugs do, but not as effectively, so large quantities are needed.

              • Yes, my sister says that a classic way to diagnose ADD is if stimulants calm you down. And schizophrenics do a lot of self-medicating with caffeine and cigarettes – my sister says she sees a lot of that at the co-op she’s at right now. (Interestingly, niacin is apparently close chemically to nicotine).

            • Interesting about niacin– certain people with certain markers (HDL and LDL close to being the same) are put on niacin to help cholesterol levels (make the hdl levels higher than the ldl levels) plus help with blood pressure. Found this out through my doctors because I am willing to try things that are not drug-related. Yes, niacin works to bring my blood pressure lower– but it doesn’t work for everyone–

    • Baen at one time (80’s-90’s, I think) published a bunch of Mercedes Lackey books that while perhaps not specifically labeled YA were definitely YA fantasy. The only YA I can think of them publishing lately though has been the Treecat books.

      • Ah, elves and car racing. Despite Misty’s tendency to get preachy, I loved that series for the sheer silly fun of it. I’m not sure if Wen Spencer’s Eight Million Gods would fit into YA or New Adult – Nikki is old enough to fit in the NA protagonist, but it lacks the angsty-emo-drama that genre seems to be accumulating and harks back to the sheer silly YA fun.

        • I think that could go either way, looking at the essence of the thing. My best understanding of what makes a YA is that the protagonists are not adults. There are subordinate bits, like the villains often are adults, the romance angles, a certain darkness, etc. And while Nikki is most definitely physically an adult, her naïveté and stunted emotional growth put her firmly in that category. Another vital (acc. the “industry,” for whatever that’s worth) is that the adult power figures are incapable – for whatever reason – of solving the primary conflicts.

        • “I a knock-off Baptist preacher– WITH A DEMONICLY INFUSED FLAG POLE!!!!”

          Eye-rolling then, and now I just laugh at her.

          • I don’t think that was one of the books I was thinking of, but I’m pretty sure I recognize it.

            Who would know for sure though, she had a spell (possibly still going through it, haven’t read anything new by her) where that line would fit in a lot of her books.

        • I worked for a hobby stock-car racer for a while. Learned more about dirt track racing than I’d ever planned to. Yes, pilots who race cars for fun are a special breed of nuts. Especially on cheaters’ night. 🙂 Never saw any elves, though.