State of the Writer, May 2011 edition

Posted in Business, Essalieyan, writing.

I’ve been absent, and mostly quiet. I noticed this year that I am almost always absent during the early months of the year, and usually for at least the last one; I’m not sure if this is in response to the less­ening of the sunlight, because I’ve never actu­ally valued sunlight all that much.

I have been working, though. I’ve just finished the last-but-one stage of Cast in Ruin, which is a review of the copy-edited manu­script; the last stage is the review of the Harle­quin version of page proofs, which shouldn’t be for a month or two. I’m working on final revi­sions of Skir­mish now. I also real­ized that the 50,000 words of Touch as it existed weren’t the right 50,000 words (the short version: at 50k words, I suddenly real­ized that the book as it’s written is written from the wrong view­point char­acter; the right view­point char­acter was not at all obvious to me until that point), and I’ve set them aside for now, to concen­trate on Cast in Peril (as it is now called). I submitted one new novella, Anne, to Russell Davis’ Courts of the Fey.

You’ll note, in that list, that new writing is not perhaps the order of the day. Or month. I wrote many, many pages of War, and jetti­soned them. I finally have a prologue, many, many pages later, that I’m happy with. The West novels gener­ally cause me grief at the very begin­ning because while I’m certain of char­ac­ters & place, I’m not always certain which is the right view­point – and some­times writing the begin­ning makes me realize that the certainty of char­ac­ters and place was perhaps misplaced. I’m looking, as I write, for the moment when the book snaps into focus and the words are absolutely the right begin­ning for the book. I now have the right begin­ning for the book.

Last, but not least, I’ve been figuring out the formats for epubs. Many of my short stories were written for antholo­gies that are no longer in print, and I’ve been consid­ering re-releasing them in kindle/ebook format. The research into this has reminded me of how little I wanted to be a publisher or an editor when I first started writing; there’s some need for each sepa­rate story – if they’re sold sepa­rately – to have an indi­vidual cover, and I lack, among other things, any artistic talent what­so­ever. There’s some excite­ment at the idea of putting these stories where people can actu­ally read them, though.

The books are trickier. A number of my writer friends are begin­ning to put their shorter and out-of-print works up at various ebook sites via Smash­words. Smash­words, however, requires that the publisher/author own all of the elec­tronic rights. And with the excep­tion of the short fiction, I don’t.

DAW owns the North Amer­ican rights to ebooks for all of my DAW titles, but the earlier paper books are lost in the backlog of all of their previous back­list, awaiting conver­sion. DAW does not own the rest of the world English rights, and I am strongly consid­ering making the back­list of at least the current three books avail­able on amazon​.co​.uk — but each book is the work of about two full-time weeks, because the manu­script formats I do have are absent any of the later copy-edits and proofing, and they would have to be checked against the book. I also, as mentioned above, don’t have anything approx­i­mating cover art, and as an artist, I’m a good writer.

For the Luna Sagara books, all ebook rights are owned by the publisher for all markets – I have no say at all in the timing or the produc­tion of their arrival in their various constituen­cies. Unlike every other short I’ve written, the Luna novella for Harvest Moon, is also entirely under the purview of HLQ for the dura­tion.

So at the moment I’m going over the short fiction, and I have a ques­tion: I was consid­ering put up a collec­tion – the one that would have been published by MeishaMerlin, had their doors remained open. That one contained all of the extant West-related shorts, as well as a few others. Someone pointed out that my readers are likely to have some of those stories, and it might make more sense to offer them sepa­rately.

Offering them sepa­rately would take more time, because of the afore­men­tioned neces­sary covers.

Any thoughts?

57 Responses to State of the Writer, May 2011 edition

  1. Lyssabits says:

    As someone who tracked down most of the West short stories in their orig­inal antholo­gies through used book sellers.. just release them all in one collec­tion. ;) Seri­ously, if it’s easier for you, and gets them out to readers more quickly, saving me a couple of bucks doesn’t really seem like enough incen­tive to make you do the extra work. Plus they’re in a different format, which some people would value all by itself. Says the girl who ALSO buys a paper copy and an e‑book copy of all the Cast novels. ;) I’m prob­ably weird though.

  2. Sascha says:

    Consid­ering the shenani­gans we’ve had to go through to get anthology copies of some of your short stories, I’ll take them any way I can get them that doesn’t require me to comb the internet for hours and finally order a book full of stories from an obscure used book­store in Peoria, IL (or some­thing) for $10.

    Just because I own the anthology containing the story about the Ospreys does not mean I will be miffed when I buy another anthology containing it. It will still be cheaper and less time consuming than tracking them all down sepa­rately on the Internet. AND they’ll be in my elec­tronic library which is an awesome bonus!

    And honestly, if it results in new stories being offered for sale, do what­ever works for you. I’ll buy them any way you present them.

  3. Andrea H. says:

    Having tracked down and read most, but not all, of the West shorts, I’d say that being able to buy all of them together would be awesome.

  4. One of the things I noticed with the short fiction, is that they all are partic­u­larly impor­tant to the story arc(s) found in the novels. The possible excep­tion to this are is ‘The Weapon’ and it is in-directly impor­tant in terms of fleshing out the story of Veralaan. Without spoiling, ‘The Black Ospreys’ provides infor­ma­tion post book 6 — ‘The Sun Sword’. And so on. To my mind I think that all of the shorter works are neces­sary for complete under­standing and enjoy­ment of the longer works. Clearly from my point of view, you need to get these scat­tered works into the hands of your readers [too late for me, I’ve got them all :) ] The ques­tion is how? As indi­vidual files? PDFs? Epubs? A single publi­ca­tion? For money? You’ve partially started down ‘a road’ in that ‘Echos’ is avail­able as a down­load. I think that you were correct with the comment about the MeishaMerlin solu­tion — good cover art and a single volume! Just out of curiosity, does there exist behind their ‘closed doors’ any digital text? Might save some work regard­less of which way you go. Regards single versus sepa­rate, I don’t think your readers will be too trou­bled. For them the text is impor­tant — although we all like good cover art!

  5. Nova says:

    As someone who also buys the paper copy AND the digital copy, I don’t really care how you publish the stories; like the others, I’ll buy them however you publish them. That said, I think having all the shorts in one single bundle would be the best as (again a repeat) I don’t have to hunt down each indi­vidual one, which I think most readers could prob­ably appre­ciate.

  6. ElizabethN says:

    I would buy either combined or sepa­rate stories. I’ve seen several authors release stories as both singles and in antholo­gies with pricing to match the length.

    If the MeishaMerlin release involves the least amount of clean-up, cover creation etc then defi­nitely go that route. Then think about releasing indi­vidual stories if desired.

  7. Aaron says:

    I agree with the previous state­ments and recom­mend publishing the West stories in one volume, ebook or other­wise. Those of us who’ve gone to the bother of collecting (in whole or part) the short stories from the antholo­gies are prob­ably the ones *least* likely to raise a fuss for having to buy a full trade paper­back or ebook. Also, you save new readers from having to sort out what-is-what from your exten­sive bibli­og­raphy and save your­self from the extant cost of trying to format them indi­vid­u­ally.

    Glad to hear you survived the holi­days intact :)

  8. Frédéricke says:

    Je suis une fan( et certaine­ment pas la seule) française des chroniques d’ Elantra. Les éditions Harle­quin ont arrété la publi­ca­tion de la série LUNA; donc depuis environ 2 ans, après CAST IN FURY, les aven­tures de Kaylin ne sont plus publiées en français ce qui est dommage pour les fans . J’espère que un autre éditeur prendra la relève pour que enfin nous puis­sions suivre la suite des aven­tures de Kaylin Neya…

  9. Carol Duffy says:

    Having also hunted down all of the antholo­gies, I would love to be able to have all of the West stories in one place. I also think it would be easier for new readers. Having said that, do what­ever is easiest for you :)

  10. Genna Warner says:

    I have to add my voice to the fray stating that how ever it is easier then please do it that way. I just want the short stories. :) I haven’t been able to track them down. I won’t buy used books over the internet because I don’t trust the sellers descrip­tion of the condi­tion of the book. I’m extremely picky about the condi­tion of used books. :) So one books, many books it doesn’t matter as long as I can purchase them new.

  11. technomom says:

    I’m right there with the others — please publish the entire collec­tion. I would certainly purchase it, as I think many of your fans would. Better more stories than less!

  12. Christine says:

    I also would prefer having all the short stories in one book. I would prefer it in paper rather than e‑format since I don’t have an e‑reader though…
    I’ve only been able to find the anthology with “Warlord” in it and some of the others I read from the library’s copy so I know how hard it is to find them. So this news is really great for me!
    Thanks Michelle!

  13. Ann Kopchik says:

    As someone who hasn’t chased down all the collec­tions with your West shorts, but was starting to think about doing just that:

    I would buy the sepa­rate versions, but I’d vastly prefer all of them together.

    On a completely different topic: Will you be coming down to Conflu­ence this year?

  14. Viviana says:

    I’m all for putting the short fiction in one collec­tion. When other writers have put out full collec­tions of their short fiction, I have always purchased them, even if I have some of the stories in the orig­inal compi­la­tions.

    If nothing else, it saves me from having to remember which story was in what book ;-)

  15. I just real­ized that there is one problem with publishing them as a single work. Total length would only be 305 pages! Much, much to short. :) Would need new and really good (long) intro­duc­tions!!

  16. MaryW says:

    Put me with the majority of the comments — if 1 book is the least work for you, then it would be wonderful. But you can self publish in formats accept­able to both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. as well as other ebook retailers. I do like the idea of a good cover but your work is more inter­esting than the cover. In the last month both Ilona Andrews and Sharon Lee have made some of their titles or Point of View avail­able this way. Of the publishers whose websites I frequent, Baen allows the reader the most freedom in down­loading books in the multiple formats that the reader may want and they are still avail­able at Amazon et al. Not having an ereader until recently, they were down­loaded in rtf. Then Amazon and other retailers offered soft­ware for elec­tronic devices, so they were down­loaded again. Now, with an ereader I can down­load again in the format the the ereader uses. But I will take your stories anyway that I can get them. Chasing out of print books can get very expen­sive as can ordering books from other coun­tries.

    I also agree with Hugh Shannon Myers: a good, long intro­duc­tion would be a great addi­tion.

  17. Kez says:

    With eBooks it is remark­ably easy once you have the format­ting to offer the books indi­vid­u­ally or as a collec­tion. Or even to offer them indi­vid­u­ally with the option to buy the whole collec­tion (being multiple files) at once. Depending on what format you want to release the ebooks in predom­i­nately there are a number of open source programmes which make the format­ting a lot easier.

    As for cover art perhaps you could run a fan art compe­ti­tion? I’ve seen it done with a lot of the lesser known authors that I read and the artists get the pres­tige of having their artwork attached to a story which they love and also free publicity in that their works are distrib­uted with the book. A distri­b­u­tion channel which they may other­wise have not been able to achieve.

  18. Estara says:

    If you know Sharon Lee, you might ask for her expe­ri­ences there, she’s just been releasing Liaden chap­books in Kindle-format the last month or two (she’s rolanni on LJ). She uses the old chap­book covers and they aren’t all that pretty either.

    If you went with single stories I could see you picking or commis­sioning an emblem (some­thing simple in black and white?) for the Sun Sword world (like the Liaden series has the Dragon and Tree) and putting that on each single story as a cover and then have a strong font for the name and to estab­lish corpo­rate iden­tity.

    Re: format­ting — there are people who offer to do that for authors, but it would be costly.

    Re: A painted cover — I have no idea what they cost, but have you seen Andrea K. Höst’s covers for her self-published books? I can recom­mend The Cham­pion of the Rose, by the way.

  19. Re: format­ting – there are people who offer to do that for authors, but it would be costly.

    At this point, it’s not the format­ting that’s the stum­bling block — it’s the line-edit­ing/­copy-edit­ing/proofing that the printed books have under­gone. In the future, when I’m reviewing copy-edits and page proofs, I’ll enter the changes in the elec­tronic versions I have, so they’ll be completely up to date.

    But there’s a reason we’re gener­ally given 7 – 14 days to review copy-edits and page proofs — and even given that time, we’re always going to miss some­thing.

    The versions I have are post edito­rial requested revi­sions, but prior to any small line-edits, copy-edits and proof-reading, and that’s the stage that’s going to take all of the time on my end.

    That and finding cover art. I may try to .pdf the final and use Lulu or another pod service for people who really want a printed book, but that also changes the cover needs.

  20. DeDe says:

    LOL — Is it wrong that there’s a tiny part of me (where the evil snick­ering resides) that wants to see what cover art you’d come up with? I can loan you a box of crayons. :-) I’m with the others — what­ev­er’s easiest for you.

  21. Aaron says:

    Can you not use OCR tech­nology to scan in published in-print copies and then massage the format to text that an e‑book coverter would recog­nize? That would seem to be easier than making line-by-line compar­isons between your draft versions and the printed word.

    The only problem I can foresee is OCR’s quirk­i­ness with quota­tion marks, but I have little expe­ri­ence in the area.

  22. I’m hardly an expert, but having done a bit of OCRing…

    You’d have to compare the OCR output with the in-print copy anyway, since the process will intro­duce errors. (misread letters, etc.) At that point, you might as well compare the draft copy with the published version, rather than spending the time to OCR. There may end up being less errors (or less down­right goofy errors, like fi’s becoming h’s for example) than with OCR-produced text, and you bypass the time spent OCRing the printed version.

  23. Mary Allen says:

    Michelle,

    I just want it done as soon as possible — am tired of re-reading your work to get my fix and have only been able to find three of the short stories. S L Viehl has a blog for writers Paper­back writer that deals a lot with doing cover art and putting stuff out. It might help. I am getting an elec­tronic reader for my birthday so either would work for me but I really like holding a book. I love every­thing you write just wish it was faster.

  24. I just real­ized that there is one problem with publishing them as a single work. Total length would only be 305 pages! Much, much to short. :) Would need new and really good (long) intro­duc­tions!!

    I laughed out loud at that while drinking coffee. I also virtu­ally threw the nearest non-fatally heavy item in your direc­tion.

    And Ann Kopchik is absolutely correct — it’s the proofing of the OCR’d text vs. the proofing of the text as it is; they’ll take about the same amount of time. If I had no elec­tronic version at all (I have none of the Sundered books in any format anymore), OCR would be neces­sary.

    I am now looking into cover art, even minimal cover art, and the possi­bility of PoD printing through some­thing like Lulu for people who don’t have ebook readers and might want phys­ical text.

  25. All non-fatally heavy items accepted as long as they are books! Unlike some I know, I actu­ally have a few (very few) partially empty shelves :) Would have to be signed though…

  26. Michael says:

    Ooh, I kind of feel ashamed as a fan for not real­ising there were short stories as well…

    A “collected” volume would be great as I haven’t read any of them, and it doesn’t sound like those who have have any huge objec­tions. Please please please make it avail­able on Amazon​.co​.uk as well though — is there a reason all the West books aren’t avail­able over here? (I like my dead tree copies, but Kindle reading is just so much more conve­nient).

  27. Rosemarie Parker says:

    I like the one collec­tion option myself. I’d buy it just so I can file it under the right author, unlike the various antholo­gies in which the stories have already appeared. Someone mentioned Sharon Lee’s chap­books. My expe­ri­ence with them suggests that the compi­la­tion volume is prefer­able, even with some dupli­ca­tion. You can’t price indi­vidual stories low enough that a reader doesn’t feel a wee bit miffed at finally buying a compi­la­tion (mostly repeat but with 1 – 2 stories found nowhere else) at only a couple dollars more than one single. Makes sense when you think of the processing, but if the stories are all avail­able at close to the same time, please put out one volume, even in a “plain brown paper” cover (what­ever that would be elec­tron­i­cally). Looking forward to it!

  28. Emily says:

    I’ve got several of them in indi­vidual books, but honestly, offer it however is easiest for you and gets it to us quickest. :) There are still a couple that I haven’t been able to get, and I certainly don’t mind having found the random collec­tions — I’ve found authors I like very much that way.

    And I’m waiting breath­lessly for Ruin and Skir­mish — I very much love both the West and Sagara books, and unfor­tu­nately read alto­gether way to fast for my authors, budget or library to keep up with…

  29. David Youngs says:

    I saw this week an anthology by Robin Hobb and her other name: two sections, one for each. And some worry about whether it would work.
    Maybe you could put it out like an Ace Double.

  30. Theresa says:

    I would love to get all your short stories in one collec­tion. Espe­cially if I can get it for my Kindle. On a side note, I am currently unem­ployed, so if you need someone to make changes to your elec­tronic files send them my way.

  31. Heather says:

    Looking for a copy of a book that is no longer printed can be a pain. But that is when old copys can be sold acording to their worth. Imagine if e‑books can be brought back and purchase acording to the demand of the consumer.
    When ask the quies­tion of how I sean short stores have been publish and sold a couple of ideas come to mind.
    1. An Author can put the story on e‑book for $0.00 to what the story is worth. Some readers need to purches their books on their e‑books readers. For the simple reson of they do not have the space, or the resores to get the product. This alows the fans to pick their reading materal with out the strace of will this store carry the book. Or with stores that they have alread or do not want. You could also say it save trees that alow as to breath.
    Though e‑books are ever­mantal you will have fans that like too sit down to a paper back book and relaxed.
    2. An Auther can work with a Publisher and other Authors too publish short stores that have simaler topics.
    Some­times fans miss out on the story becouse they do not know the title of the book that the short store is in.
    3. An Author can puts many short stories together in a book. Some times fans like seval sories togeather in one book so they can save space. The books they have may be appraise or get rid of.

    You can find example on some of the Author web site.
    Like:
    http://​www​.ilona​-andrews​.com/
    http://​www​.tamora​-pierce​.com/

  32. A “collected” volume would be great as I haven’t read any of them, and it doesn’t sound like those who have have any huge objec­tions. Please please please make it avail­able on Amazon​.co​.uk as well though – is there a reason all the West books aren’t avail­able over here? (I like my dead tree copies, but Kindle reading is just so much more conve­nient).

    Because of the way book distri­b­u­tion works, authors sell rights to publishers by terri­tory. For the DAW books, the rights sold for the Hunter books were world English — which means they could sell those books in the UK for the kindle (I thought I had kept those rights, but clearly my memory is suspect). HOWEVER, at the moment none of the first eight books are avail­able elec­tron­i­cally anywhere.

    The latter three, the House War books, were done as ebooks. Those books, however, DAW bought North Amer­i­cans for. So there is no UK kindle version of those books because there is no UK publisher.

    One of the things I hope to do is to make them avail­able for UK kindle (and world English in general, although I’m pretty sure Amazon doesn’t have an Australian pres­ence).

    So the West-related short stories will be avail­able anywhere.

  33. Oh, and Michael — for some reason your first post hit the spam filter here. I don’t get noti­fied when a message is clas­si­fied as spam; I will get a noti­fi­ca­tion if a message is sent to moder­a­tion queue. The moder­a­tion queue is auto­matic, and I think it gener­ally happens if there are links within the post, but as I’m sitting at the computer writing, I’ll approve things fairly quickly.

    But yours was delayed because it was in the spam folder. I honestly don’t know why.

  34. Hilda says:

    I have been away from computers for over two weeks and… WOW. Of course I’m dying to get all the short stories in one book. This time, however, it may be easier, once the work starts, I think, to have both the written version and the e version avail­able together. I may be wrong because both versions seem to be diffi­cult to complete together. Do it as best for you and we will all be happy.
    Would it be possible to have each story related to partic­ular novels in the series? Really, I can’t even imagine where do you get the time to do every­thing we know you are doing. Are the days where you live longer than 24 hours?

  35. Hilda says:

    About the cover. I know we all like those amazing covers, but if this is rush and diffi­cult… what about on your own hand­writing:

    TO MY FANS
    SHORT STORIES
    BY

    MICHELLE SAGARA-WEST

  36. Roger says:

    It would be great if all your short stories are in one bundle.

    Is War the fifth book in the HOUSE WAR sequence?

  37. AT says:

    I am a big fan of making collected works avail­able in E format and would love all the West short Stories.

  38. Ruby says:

    Random ques­tion, Michelle. Is there any chance of your sun sword series being released into ebook formats? My paper­backs are getting worn out and I would love to have an ebook format to carry around.

  39. Aaron says:

    Ruby — from what I under­stand, it’s not a matter of will­ing­ness; it’s a matter of resources. DAW is still rela­tively small oper­a­tion and they’re trying to prior­i­tize their backlog of books that don’t exist in an easily config­urable digital format. Which means they have to scan and/or tran­scribe the texts by hand.

  40. Edward says:

    Ah and there I was going to mention the Steve Miller / Sharon Lee shift to Baen’s Epub­lishing after all those trou­bles as well, but I see someone beat me to it. Although it does kind of amuse me about how deathly they used to be against elec­tronic copies due to the idea of piracy, and now it’s been embraced under the way Baen handles it.

    With short stories I think the anthology collec­tion would work better then indi­vid­u­ally. Of course depending on just how many of the short stories are around, if they’re only elec­tronic versions they could be paired up or such depending on themes of the stories. Heh, or even put up one or two of them on your website to really tempt the fans into chasing the rest down…

  41. Sara says:

    Hello there! I was actu­ally hoping that the Sunsword series would be avail­able ont he Kindle as well? Clearly not a priority, you have so much going on, but any plans to go there? Thanks so much-

  42. Aaron says:

    Sara — I think we would all love Sun Sword in an e‑book format. But as stated above, it’s not a matter of desire as much as it is an issue of resources. You’d be better served by politely contacting DAW publishing group and let your interest be known, since they hold both the rights and the staff dedi­cated to converting those texts to e‑books.

  43. Leanne says:

    I have a sugges­tion for both the art and the proofing: fans.

    You have a LARGE and active fan base, and I suspect you’ve got at least a couple people out there doing fan art that could be used for covers. Make a contest out of it and send signed copies of some­thing to the winners. (Or, offer a thou­sand-word (or what­ever) ‘deleted or omitted scene’ of the artist’s choosing as a reward, or some­thing like that.)

    As for e‑reader format­ting… I suspect you could get enough volun­teers to cover proofing the short (“short”) stories against the books. I’d be willing to do a short story, for example; I’ve published non-fiction of my own so I’m used to working with randomly edited files. You would need to share the elec­tronic copies you have with your copy-edit-enterers, but you know enough of the people on the Yahoo list to be able to trust a good number of them.

    And ditto on the requests above that some of the other deleted scenes that you’ve shared peri­od­i­cally with the Yahoo list be included in any short story anthology you put out. :-)

  44. Should we expect to see you at your first panel this year?

    I cannot think how I missed this the first time (I came back to see how many people had specif­i­cally asked for a print version of the collec­tion of West stories). I will have to have at least one to hit you with.

  45. When you’re done beating me with it would you mind signing it for me?

    :D

    Absolutely. I don’t consider myself entirely respon­sible for anything I might actu­ally write in it (except my signa­ture), since I feel I have Been Provoked.

  46. Michael says:

    Well, if the past is any indi­cator, you should prob­ably add a few blank pages to the front of the book then…

  47. H.Renee says:

    You could have a contest for cover art, with the best entry being a cover to X short story or collec­tion and maybe a free copy. I mean, if you own the rights, that’s allowed as far as I can tell. Write up a contract of some sort for the person and go. I, for one, would be so delighted to have my artwork on a book cover that I would be happy just to see it.

    Just remember to TinyEye or other­wise search and be sure the graphic isn’t stolen. Maybe a contest where they have to mail you the orig­inal to your PO Box or some­thing. :)

  48. Barry Mossman says:

    I love the Elantra series but I do have a tiny quibble.Our heroine never takes a bath or puts on clean clothes,always picks ’em up off the floor

Leave a Reply