Amazon, Hachette, Kindle Unlimi— Oh, Who Am I Kidding?
The internet writing community is all aflutter this summer about business clashes between Amazon and the publishing companies—specifically Hachette (the smallest of the ‘Big 5’ publishers). There is also the breaking news that Amazon has rolled out a subscription service for books called Kindle Unlimited. The announcement of KU intersects and influences the previous debate and sets off new discussions about how and why people do and should be able to read books, treatment of and compensation for authors, indie vs. traditional publishing, book pricing, price fixing, antitrust and monopolies, capitalism and fairness.
Like many writers, I have thoughts and opinions on these issues, and I wanted to share them with you. In summary, they consist of:
*Book Two of the Aurora Rising trilogy, for anyone who hasn’t read Starshine (Book One) and has no idea what I’m talking about.
Yep, that’s it. Now, you may be asking, “What does Vertigo have to do with indie publishing, book prices, market principles or any of those other things you mentioned?” Fair question. I’m sure I actually do have opinions on the legitimately important issues steaming up the internet, and at some point I may get around to expressing them. But for now they lie buried, along with everything else which previously took up space in my brain, beneath one thing:
It haunts my waking and my sleeping hours. I arise in the morning annoyed that the edits I made in my very few hours’ worth of dreams haven’t actually been implemented. I almost got in a car accident the other day because I was so caught up in figuring out how [this one thing] would tie directly into [this other thing] that I nearly ran a red light. (Kidding. Not really.) I neglected to call my mom for two weeks (sorry, Mom) because I was too busy writing/editing to do anything else. Want to have a conversation with me? It better be about Vertigo, because there’s a 99.999% chance it’s what’s on my mind at any given moment. I realize this isn’t fair to my conversation partners, but I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about it.
I posted the following on Facebook the other day:
For those of you who may not get the last line, “-.-“ is the universal symbol for ‘flat face’ in my house, and deployed when the spouse says something smart ass, biting, inappropriate and 100% accurate. Note: This is not a public declaration that Vertigo will be out earlier than December. It might be, but no way am I making that claim in July. Nope. No way. Not a chance.
But I AM excited about it. Tremendously, overwhelmingly, can hardly contain my enthusiasmly so. I know I’m a tease, and I’m sorry. Can’t help it. Know why?
My husband and I had a difficult couple of years recently. Several years ago he was laid off from his previous engineering job. I was bringing in money, but not enough. He worked at Walmart unloading trucks for six months rather than take unemployment (because that’s the kind of man he is) while he looked for a new job during the height of the recession. And he found one (because that’s the kind of man he is). A terrific engineering position. Yay, happy times were here again! (Except for the gradual but inevitable loss of ‘Walmart-truck-unloading muscles,’ which I do deeply miss....)
Five months after he started his new job, I was laid off mine. Just like that, we were back in the trenches once more. We remained in those trenches for another year and a half.
At any point my husband could have said, “You have to go get a real, actual job now,” but he didn’t. He didn’t because I was working on a little something called Starshine and the cheap food from Walmart and skipped lunches and all of the other little cutbacks were worth it—to both of us. For me, it was an obvious choice. But he did it because he believed in my book and my writing before anyone else did.
That’s why Starshine was dedicated to him.
Around the beginning of the year something happened which I didn’t know about. My husband didn’t tell me because I was hip-deep in editing Starshine with marked up pages (printed on both sides) strewn all around the house as I raced toward publication, and he chose to break a house and marriage rule and keep it from me.
We ran out of runway.
After a year and a half of pulling every trick and cutting back in every single way we could to the absolute minimum required to sustain the life of two people and two dogs, we had to start drawing out of savings to live month-to-month. Below is a snippet of our monthly budget; the red line is our savings:
I’ve cut the chart off at the publication date of Starshine. Before I published we had a long talk about expectations. I had researched extensively and knew my first book was unlikely to do very well (if it did anything at all), and I needed to get a second book out to have a prayer of bringing in any money.
Then the events of A Singular Day happened.
Then this happened to our budget:
You did this. My readers. Every single person out there who clicked the “Buy” button on Amazon or Nook or iTunes. The readers who left 5-star reviews and the readers who left 1-star reviews (both of you) and the readers who never left any reviews but maybe told a friend or two about the book.
And now, I get to write full time. We’re not rich. Starshine isn’t on the NY Times Bestseller list, and no one has called about movie rights yet (nor do I expect them to). Sales have slowed and will likely continue to do so until Vertigo is released, as is the natural course of such things. But I’ve quoted Lee Child on this blog before, and this time I’m going to quote his creation, Jack Reacher, who once said, “To have everything you need is the definition of affluence.”
We’re affluent now. Affluent enough to write Vertigo. Affluent enough to write Transcendence. If they do anywhere near as well as Starshine, affluent enough to write everything that comes after (and is already banging around in my head).
In short, my life now f***ing rocks. Because:
For all of these reasons, I’m going to give you a spoiler for Vertigo. I’m militant about spoilers—so much so my husband one time suggested I should put ‘Spoiler Alert’ at the beginning of one of my chapters. (I flat-faced him.) But this one is worth it.
This is the dedication page for Vertigo:
Thank you to each and every one of you. I worked as hard as I could to bring you Starshine, and I took one serious leap of faith to do so. Then you repaid me a thousand-fold by enabling me to write for a living.
To bring this around full circle, perhaps it’s more clear now why I can’t get worked up into a fury of righteous indignation over publishing company disputes, anti-Amazon crusades, subscription service controversies or antitrust suits.
So long as none of those things stop me from writing for a living and bringing that writing to readers, I’m good. They are the ones who funded me in a kind of reverse-Kickstarter (I believe we used to call it ‘retail’), and I don’t think they particularly care about any of that—therefore, I don’t.
As an aside, I tossed Starshine into Kindle Unlimited because with Amazon at the helm it stands a good chance of being successful, and I’m hoping I’ll draw in a few more readers I wouldn’t have reached otherwise. But honestly, all of the very important issues in the world just don’t matter so much to me right now, because:
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and…well, you probably guessed what I’m going to go work on.