Hey — Free Books!

As people may or may not know, every time someone clicks on one of my Amazon links to buy a book (or anything else from Amazon), I get a small percentage back as Amazon gift credit.  This is why I usually list book titles like so: The Mermaid’s Madness [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy].

For a while now, I’ve used that credit to buy and give away books.  Thanks to everyone who’s clicked on those links over the past month or two, it’s time to hand out some more.

This time, I’m going to offer three signed copies of either Goblin Quest and The Stepsister Scheme.  If you’ve been thinking about trying one of my series but haven’t felt like shelling out $8, here’s your chance.  Or, if you already own the books but want an autographed copy, that’s okay too!  (But if you win a book you already own, I’d ask that you give your old copy to someone else who might appreciate it.)

To enter, just comment on this entry stating which of the two books you’d prefer and why.  Are you Team Goblin or Team Princess?  One entry per person, and anonymous commenters, please make sure I have some way to reach you.

I’ll pick three winners either over the weekend or early next week.


I wanted to thank everyone for the great comments and discussions from last week’s posts — even the people who disagreed with me 😉  Based on your comments, I wanted to follow up on a few things.

Booksignings: I’m annoyed at myself.  Rereading what I wrote, I looked at a number of factors, including the financial, the sneezers, and so on, but I completely omitted one of the other reasons I do these events — to connect with my readers.  Eight people made the effort to come out to Nicola’s Books to see me and get me to sign their books, and I came back and wrote about how sometimes booksignings don’t feel like they’re worth it.

I feel like an ass on this one.  I love getting to meet and talk to my readers. I’m grateful to everyone who took the time out of their night to drive out and see me.  The other factors I discussed are important too, and I still need to figure out how to prioritize my own time and energy, but I apologize for ignoring this part of the booksigning experience, and for any hurt feelings that may have resulted from that.

Publishing Lottery: I wanted to address something that came up in a handful of the comments.  When I say every “successful” author I’ve met worked her or his ass off to reach that point, that does not mean:

  1. Working hard guarantees or entitles you to success as an author.
  2. If you have not succeeded, you are either lazy or you suck.

I don’t believe I ever said or implied either of these things, but they came up here and elsewhere, and I thought them worth responding to.

Every successful author works hard =/= everyone who works hard will succeed.  A lot of the people I’ve seen who stayed with it and committed to improving did eventually break in, but there are no guarantees … except, perhaps, that if you don’t do the work, it’s nigh impossible to build that career.

I’d also say that most of the time, books and stories are rejected because they’re not good enough.  (See Ann Leckie’s post for the potential traps in “good enough.”)  This doesn’t mean that good books are never rejected.  Goblin Quest [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy] was rejected more than 30 times.  Not because it was a bad book (I hope).  Not because I was unlucky.  But because it takes time, research, and work to get a book to an editor who loves it.

Are there good books that never find a home?  Of course.  Good books get rejected.  So do an awful lot of bad books.  The thing is, when I was first starting out, I couldn’t tell the difference.  I believed, like so many new writers, that my stuff was good.  Like so many new writers, I was wrong.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t believe in yourself.  You have to — otherwise, where do you get the confidence to submit your work?  But don’t let overconfidence turn you into that guy.  And always work on making the next story even better.

Happy Holidays!

I was hoping to be able to share the artwork for Red Hood’s Revenge as a Christmas treat, but the final cover isn’t ready yet.  However, I can probably get away with sharing this new icon I made today 🙂

I had been worried about switching cover artists in mid-series.  I was scared the characters wouldn’t be recognizable.  You tell me — is this Snow, or is this Snow?

I’ll probably be scarce for the next few days, doing the Christmas thing with my family.  All the best to everyone who’s celebrating, and here’s to a wonderful 2010.

The Publishing Lottery and Other Insults

Dear Anonymous Commenter,

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post about Self-Publishing Myths.  While the poor grammar and spelling were annoying, (something you might want to work on as you self-publish that second book), I was struck by this part of your comment:

“Lets be realistic- how many people get published through traditional publishers? When people used to ask me if i was published i would ask them if they had won american idol.
Its not about talent, its about pitching, luck, who you know and the stars aligned!”

I spent way too much time thinking about your words, trying to find a response that would capture the true depth of my feelings.  I came up with the following:

Bite me.

To elaborate, you wander over to the blog of an author who’s published five books with a commercial publisher and proceed to explain that talent and skill and work have nothing to do with it; I just got lucky and knew the right people.  Because the right people will happily risk their careers to publish their friends’ books, even if those books suck.  Is that the line of pseudologic you’re following here?

From what I’ve seen, this sort of nonsense usually comes from one of two scenarios:

  1. You drank the Kool-Aid from one of the scammier vanity presses and bought into their crap about “traditional publishers” being run by evil overlords who live only to crush the souls from peppy young writers like yourself.
  2. You submitted a few times, got rejected, and decided to take your toys and go home.

You go on to say, “My books are good, as im sure a million unpublished books out there are.”  Right.  Much like everyone who tries out for American Idol is sure their singing is good, and that they deserve a major record deal. 

Because it’s so easy.  Because anyone can sit down and crank out a great story.  Heck, my cat hocked his breakfast onto the keyboard last week and produced a dandy little flash piece about zombie squids.  Everyone’s wonderful and brilliant, and it’s just a lottery as the Publishing Gods roll their d1,000,000 to see which of those worthy candidates shall be chosen.

Most of the people who get rejected from American Idol are sent home because they suck.  The ones who make it to those final rounds are the ones who’ve worked their asses off to learn how to sing.  Writing is the same way.  It takes time and a lot of work.  No magic fairy is going to blow sparkly story dust up your butt and transform you into the next J. K. Rowling.

I understand if you’re frustrated.  I know it can be discouraging trying to break in as a writer.  I’ve been there, and so has every other commercial author you so casually dismiss as “lucky.”

You chose to go the self-publishing route.  Maybe because your unique creative vision was too special for the New York publishers.  Maybe you really are as good as you think you are, and the entire publishing industry was just too blind to see it.  Maybe not.  I don’t know, and I don’t particularly care.  I wish you all the best, and I hope you’re happy with your choice.  But if not–if you’re going the passive-aggressive “publishing is mean and out to get me” route to console yourself–could you please at least keep it to the privacy of your own blog?


Are Booksignings Worth It?

Booksignings were always part of my mythic dream of the Published Author.  I couldn’t wait to have my own flyer in the bookstore window, to be sitting there with a stack of my books.  A friend even bought me a fancy pen to use at my first signing.

January, 2005.  That's my 'PLEASE buy my book' face.One of my earliest booksignings was for the Five Star edition of Goblin Quest [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy].  Considering I was pushing a $25.99 hardcover by an unknown author, it went pretty well.  Much better than the one a month  later at B&N, when I sat there for two hours without selling a single copy.

Last week I drove out to Ann Arbor for an event at Nicola’s Books.  These days I’m better known, with five books in print, all available for the more reasonable price of $7.99.

Eight people showed up.  They bought a lot of books, which was great (gotta love Christmas shopping), and I enjoyed hanging out and chatting.  But as I was driving the 60 miles back home, I found myself wondering if it was worth it.

I sold maybe 20 books at that signing.  At $0.48 per book, that’s just under ten bucks.  That doesn’t even cover gas.  Even my best events, the book launch parties I do at the local Schulers, don’t have much financial payback compared to the time and work the booksellers and I put into them.

But it’s important to look at the long term.  I’ve built up a wonderful relationship with the folks at Schulers, and as a result, they stock more of my books than any other store.  I do really well there, in large part because they hand-sell my work.  At Nicola’s last week, I left about twenty signed books which will go back on the shelf.  So even if the signing doesn’t go well, you’re building relationships with booksellers and leaving signed stock that will continue to move after you’ve left.

There’s also the “sneezer” factor.  Tobias Buckell describes sneezers as the ones who get excited about a product early on and talk about it to their friends and family.  Person X might buy a single book, but if they enjoy meeting you and like the book, they’re more likely to go out and spray that enthusiasm all over the place.  I can think of individuals who have sold dozens of my books through word-of-mouth recommendations.

But for every well-organized, “successful” signing, there are others where you and your rapidly-wilting ego sit at a table for two hours while a total of four people wander by, only to have a bored staff member later comment, “Saturdays are usually slow for us.”  (Leaving one to wonder why the store invited you to come out on a Saturday.)  Or the store that ordered only a handful of books that sold out before I arrived.  Or the one where the CRM  doing the event was fired the week before, and they had no books and no record I was even supposed to be there.  (Always call ahead to confirm!)

Basically, the magic is gone.  I’ll continue to do signings, particularly my book launches at Schulers.  I’ll happily do autographing sessions at conventions.  But I’m not going to call every bookstore in a 100-mile radius trying to schedule events, and I’m not going to feel like a failed author if I don’t have at least ten booksignings set up for every new book.  It just doesn’t feel like the best use of my time and energy.

What do you think?  As authors, readers, and booksellers, are signings worth it?

Thank You

Just got back from delivering books to the liaison for our local domestic violence shelter.  This is the fourth year I’ve collected books to be given out for the holidays, and once again I’m blown away by everyone’s generosity.  There was a lot of good SF/F in there, as well as Seuss, an anime collection, some YA, mystery, romance … it’s a wonderful mix of books, and will mean an awful lot to the families who receive them.

The only downside, of course, is that now I want to read them all.  So many books … guess I know what to ask Santa for this year!

All total, we ended up with about 75 80 books (five more showed up from Deborah Blake and Laura Anne Gilman the day after I took that photo).  Most of the books in the picture above were signed and sent by the authors.  Others were purchased new and donated.  My deepest thanks to everyone who contributed:

Diabetes Details 6: The Basics

• Book signing tonight at 7:00 at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.  I’m sacrificing a tribble to the weather gods for a blizzard-free signing this time!

• This is why I shouldn’t be allowed to play with Photoshop.  I end up making LJ icons and escalating the plotbunny wars.  (Help yourself to the icon, if you’re interested.)


I realized that after five diabetes posts, I had yet to talk about the basics of the disease.  Remember I’m not a doctor — everything that follows is based on my personal experiences and understanding.

For you non-diabetics out there, it works like so.  You eat food.  Your body breaks the food down into, among other things, glucose in your blood.  Your pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin that allows you to use that glucose for energy and keeps the glucose in your blood at a normal, healthy level (around 100 mg/dl).

There are two types of diabetes (three if you include gestational).  Type two is the most common.  Your body makes too little insulin, or else your cells aren’t able to use it efficiently.  A lower-carb diet can help, as do exercise and weight loss (your body might not produce enough insulin for 250 pounds, but could have enough for 175). There are meds that improve insulin absorption.   In some cases, you also inject insulin to supplement what your body makes.

I’ve got type one diabetes, which means my pancreas is a lazy bastard that quit producing insulin altogether.  Stupid pancreas.  For me, the treatment is black and white: I either take insulin or else my blood sugar rises until I go into a coma and die.  Type one is known as juvenile diabetes, giving folks the false impression that I got it as a child.  (I was 24 when I was diagnosed. My blood sugar was over 600 mg/dl.)

I started with injections, taking a long-acting insulin shot to manage my baseline needs and short-acting insulin at meals.  Because of the way I eat and live, I was taking 6 or 7 shots a day to keep things under control.  So I switched to an insulin pump, which gives me a baseline insulin rate throughout the day and allows me to give myself more at the press of a button.

When I eat, I guesstimate the amount of glucose I’ll be getting from that meal and take insulin to match.  I check my blood sugar levels about two hours after each meal.  Too high, I take more insulin.  Too low, I snack.  (If you see me acting drunk and confused, shove some carbs my way.)

What this means, among other things, is I can eat whatever the heck I want, as long as I take the insulin to cover it. I get cranky when people tell me what I can and can’t eat.  Yes, I had a donut yesterday.  I also took more insulin and checked my blood sugar an extra time.

I do adjust my diet somewhat to keep things manageable.  For example, I switched to diet pop because diet has zero carbs, meaning I can drink it without worrying about taking insulin.  On the other hand, when I was first diagnosed, I did extensive “research” to figure out exactly how much insulin I needed to cover a hot fudge sundae (2.5 to 3 units of regular insulin plus 1 unit of long-acting). So when you ask what I’m allowed to eat, the answer is anything I want, so long as I’m keeping the disease under control.

I was going to get into the consequences when the disease gets out of control, but this is getting long, so I think I’ll save that for next time.

I’m very open about all this, so feel free to ask questions.  You can also click the “diabetes” tag if you want to read any of my earlier posts about the disease.

Guest Post at GFTW

Welcome to all of the new people who’ve started reading over the past weeks/months.  Please feel free to say hi and introduce yourselves!  Or not, if you prefer.  It’s all good.

Today I’m going to point folks to the guest blog post I did at Grasping for the Wind.  From time to time, readers will ask me where they should go to buy an author’s books.  Does it really matter if you buy from Amazon or the local independent?  Click over to GftW for my response.

And just because I haven’t done it in a while, have another LEGO pic.  Many of you should recognize Crow and Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater.  These were built by Christopher Doyle at Reasonably Clever, which is a fun little site and worth checking out.  Click the pic for the step-by-step on the ‘bots.

Girly Books

From time to time, I get an e-mail or a comment from male readers who enjoyed my goblin books, but are hesitant to pick up Stepsister Scheme or Mermaid’s Madness because they look like they’re for girls.

My reaction to this is all over the place.  The goblin books went over well with younger boys, and I can understand why a teenage boy might be hesitant to walk around with a book that has three women surrounded by swirling pastels on the cover.  I also think it sucks that we’re still raising boys to think it’s shameful to be caught reading something “feminine,” but having been a teenage male myself, I can understand that reluctance.

I like the cover for Mermaid better, less because we lost the pastels, and more because I think it’s just a great image.  But I still get the questions.  This is obviously a book about three girls, so doesn’t that mean it’s written for girls?  (Much as Name of the Wind was written for red-haired boys, and the Zombie Raccoons anthology was written for decaying scavengers.)

I’ve said in multiple interviews that I wrote Stepsister for my daughter, in response to the Disney/Barbie princess infestation we went through at the house.  So in a way, these books are written for girls.  Or at least for one girl.  Which means … what, exactly?  I don’t even know what a “girly book” is.  I assume it’s shorthand along the lines of:

Boy Books = Action/Adventure; Girl Books = Romance
Boy Books = Plot/Idea-centric; Girl Books = Character-centric
Boy Books = Explody things on the cover; Girl Books = Chicks and pastels

There’s value in being able to find the kind of books you want.  If you’re into character-oriented fiction, you want to be able to discover those books in the store.  You don’t want to buy a book, take it home, and discover that what you thought was an action-packed vampire adventure is actually a 400-page relationship angst-fest.  I get that.  But trying to classify those preferences by gender, with all of the stereotyping and judgement that goes with that?  It doesn’t work for me.

Josh Jasper wrote a piece over at Genreville about genre shame, and about being male and reading romance novels.  “Why should I be ashamed of reading something fun when women aren’t?  The answer is that I’m afraid of being judged by people I don’t know, whose opinions don’t really matter, about something they have no real business judging me over.  Social conditioning is strange and stupid.”

When you ask me if Mermaid and Stepsister are girly books, the answer is that I don’t even know what that means.  I don’t want to know.  I can’t tell you whether or not you’ll like the books, but I can try to give you an idea what they’re about and let you make your own decision.  In a nutshell, the princess series is about:

Fighting and magic and family and fairies and revenge and unrequited love and requited love and hairy trolls and sailing and a three-legged cat and flying horses and wolves and drunk pixies and sewer goblins and enchanted swords and mermaids and friendship and ghosts and strong women and not-so-strong women and also some men and birds and rats and lots of ass-kicking.

It’s bad enough we still try to force people into fairly rigid gender roles.  Do we really have to do it to books too?

Jim C. Hines