Thursday, September 19, 2013



Heaven Falls Hard Interview: Ether on Earth

Conducted by Anthony Servante

I listen to KPFK, Santa Barbara Radio, which plays experimental music, from Latino/World, Folk, HipHop, Jazz, to Goth. I heard Heaven Falls Hard on their World Music Hour, not as one would think, the Goth Hour. Sadly, I didn't catch the name of the band. Then on Nocturne: Dark & Dreamy Music, the music group on Facebook, I heard the band again. I rushed to Youtube and listened to all they had on the Goth sound of these amazing musicians. Then I approached them on their Facebook page and asked them if they'd like to talk to my readers about their group. They agreed.

So, now, I present Heaven Falls Hard




Purchase music here:





Contact:




The Interview:

 Anthony:
  1. How did the band come together? What were the commonalities that brought together the collaboration?
HFH: 
 Stacye: We met in the spring of 1993.  We were at an art show and someone from the group Randy was there with, knew someone from the people I was there with. We all ended up back at my apartment after the art show.  After looking at my record collection and finding out we liked some of the same bands, it came up in conversation that Randy was in a band, looking for a singer.   Could I sing? Did I want to try out?  I went to their band practice soon after that night and surprise!  I could sing, write lyrics and play keyboards.  And we have been playing together ever since.  
             Over the years we have continued to play together as Randy and I hear the same music in our heads. I think that is the main commonality. We both like real honest music. Neither of us try for any type of sound or fit into a genre: we both just play the music that we love.
   Oh and a deep love for alcohol. We also have that in common. I love to drink and sing, Randy loves to drink and hit the record button.  Works out great.

  Randy: Yeah, that’s pretty much how I remember it all starting as well.20 years later we’re still here doing what we do.


Boots & Angel photo. We have used this image for years on t-shirts, posters and most recently our twenty year retrospective” 20 Years of Tears”


Anthony: 
  1. How are the songwriting duties divided? Whose lyrics grace the songs?
HFH:
Stacye: We each write the music, though Randy more so than I.  I write the lyrics.  We don’t have one method for writing.  Sometimes Randy has recorded some music, sends it to me and I will write lyrics to it.  Sometimes I have a piano or string melody in my mind and I play it for him and he fills it out with drums and guitar. At times we will write together. Every once in a while the lyrics happen first.





   


Anthony:
  1. Eno once said that music is a place. What place do you intend for your listeners to visit when listening to the music?



HFH:
  Stacye: When writing the lyrics or the music, I do not have an intentional place in mind. I like for the listener to interpret the music in their own way.  Within our songs, I do hope the listener finds something they can relate to. 






Randy: I write what I am feeling at that moment,  it’s a musical journal of my life during that time. When writing, it’s to satisfy myself first but it is always nice when a listener can understand and relate to what they are hearing.


Anthony:  
  1. What are the major themes you strive for with your music?
HFH:
Stacye: Hmm.   I don’t think strive for themes really.  We don’t sit down and say ”Today, I am going to write a song about wanting to die just  to get some peace and quiet”. It just happens.  There are a few themes that   carry throughout each album just due to how we write but we do not focus on them .   Our music tells stories of soul crushing love, loss, eternal commitment, disillusionment,  death,  decay, failure, hopeless yearning ...   You know, everyday  type stuff. 

I do strive for an effect with the music. I want whoever is listening to feel like I do.  I recently read a review of our album Solace and I think the reviewer summed up our music so perfectly:  “…it feels like your heart is slowly being ripped out with each lamenting track.” http://www.gothicparadise.com/hfh.htm. That’s the effect that I am striving for. J 


Randy: The only theme that I strive for with our music is to stay true to myself when writing. It has to be real and hopefully by doing so, we will continue to release music that I am proud of for many years to come.











Anthony:
  1. Can you tell us about the influences from other artists that helps propel your sound?
HFH:
Stacye:        For me, I think I can trace it back to hearing This Mortal coil. The 4AD Compilation Lonely is an Eyesore came out in 1987.  I was 15.  It had Song to the Siren on it.  That introduced me to This Mortal Coil.   I had Drew from Unicorn Records in Portsmouth (The local indie record store that everyone got their music from. This was pre- internet days!) order It’ll End in Tears and Filigree and Shadow  for me.  On vinyl!!  When I heard them, I found the music that I had always wanted. I wanted to curl up in those albums and live there forever.   I think hearing those albums told me it was ok to make my own type of music.  There were others out there like me.  Every song did not need three guitars, bass and a drum solo. Sometimes a string line and voice is all a song needs. 
         And Dead Can Dance.  Or course. Some of our early music you can hear me trying to emulate her.  My singing voice is naturally deeper and full of volume and DCD was a wonderful role model for embracing that sound. After a few years, I found my own style and my own voice.
     Though those bands   were an influence to my early sound, I am my own voice, my own music now. They were just fantastic in helping me to realize that it is ok to be yourself and make music that doesn’t fit in with what everyone else is doing.




Randy: In my teens, drums were the initial instrument of my choice. I played in several local metal and punk bands over the course of those years. It wasn’t until one night in 89 that I was captured by a whole other beautiful genre of music.
  On that night, I had been invited by Valerie (who at that time I had no idea she’d become my future wife of 20 years & counting) and a group of friends to go and see The Cure In Orange on a one night showing at the local Naro Theatre. That night forever changed my life in two ways. One being the first unofficial date with the woman of my life and two, being introduced to music that completely moved me in a way that I’d never felt before. Soon after, I picked up the keyboard and started writing music of my own.
  Over the next few years that followed, I discovered many great artist that helped influence my music. Bands like The Cure(of course), Joy Division, Sisters ,Bauhaus ,Christian Death , early 4AD
(Dead Can Dance,Cocteau Twins , This Mortal Coil) , early Projekt (Black Tape For A Blue Girl , Lycia) , also the music of John Carpenter and Goblin just to name a few. It was always very important to me not to copy these artists, but to pull from them and create a unique sound of my own. That unique sound was completed upon that first practice with Stacye during the spring of 93.


Anthony: 
  1. Some bands rely on a psychedelic light show to enhance their music. How do you handle capturing your ethereal sound on stage?


HFH:
  Stacye: This question made us laugh! At most of the places we have played through the years, we were lucky to have lights! If we had a stage that we all could fit on and   decent sound it was good night.
Our shows are different than most bands as we are slower in tempo.  We aren’t a get up and dance band, though at times over the years we did have other members and could totally rock the house but mostly it was Randy and I and our sleeping pill tunes. Our outlook was always go up there play our music the best we could.  I have seem horrible bands with amazing stage shows and I have seen amazing bands with nothing but a flashlight lighting their equipment enough to work it for the show.   Yes, a lightshow can add to the experience but in the end, the music is what counts.






As for capturing our ethereal sound live, that can be challenging  when there is a  foosball tournament in the back  of the bar.  Drunks screaming “ I’mgonnakillyou”  when they lose a game, somehow  doesn’t  enhance our music at all.  We tried to have candles at shows but some venues didn’t like open flames near a crowd of drunk people. (My argument was that everyone is standing around with drinks, if something catches fire,  it  can be quickly doused.  Somehow, that was not convincing.)  Fog machines are awesome to  watch, but we had to nix those as they dried out my throat to where I could not sing. We rely upon our music to “set the mood”. That’s it.


 Anthony: 
  1. What are some of the bands you’d love to open for? And what bands should open for you?



HFH:
Bands we would like to open for…..Hmm…..  How about any band that can show up on time, bring fans, not get drunk and wreck the show, set up and take down their gear quickly,  pay us without us threatening them with bodily harm,  and can be cool and have a drink  with us after the show.

Bands we would like to open for us: any bands that can show up on time, bring fans, not get drunk and wreck the show, set up and take down their gear quickly and can be cool and have a drink with us after the show. Local knowledge of the best places to eat is a plus.

We have been playing for 20 years. At this point, who we open for or opens for us really doesn’t matter. As long as everyone has a good time and the night goes smoothly, we are happy. 

Stacye: I think my favorite bands in the past that we opened up for or had open for us, were the ones that were not of our genre. We have played with all kinds of bands: metal, uber-goth, electronic, industrial, etc. I loved playing those shows and having someone come up to us afterwards and say they came to see the other band, but loved us and would come to see us again. 



Randy: Well, my favorite shows of the past were the ones during the mid 90s till the year 2000 or so. The Virginia Goth/Darkwave scene was still up and coming. Bands like us, Bella Morte, Siddal, In Tenebris , Vehemence Realized , The Voilet Dawning , etc. would all play shows together on the regular. There was so much love and support amongst the bands. We were all fans of each other. Now days , it seems that a lot of the newer bands in the scene are all about competing to be the biggest rockstar , who’s got the most facebook likes and other shit like that. That’s not for me.




JDavid, Bella Morte, Siddal, Vehemence Realized and DJ’s at Twisters IN Richmond VA. Late 1990’s.Stacye is third in from the left, black dress and Randy is second row behind the blond Dj guy, 4th in from the left. Good times.





 Anthony:
  1. Can you talk about touring. What are your current plans? Can we expect a visit from HFH in LA soon? I’d love to see you guys in concert.
HFH:
 No touring plans at this time. Each of us has families with kids. Randy and his wife own their own business as does Stacye. Randy still has a son in school and Stacye’s daughter is young. Getting away for a ‘tour’ would be incredibly difficult. When we started out we didn’t have real jobs or families or mortages.  Piling all of our equipment into the cars and hitting the road was so much easier then. One day if either of us wins the lottery, we will get a couple of nice big tour busses and hit the road. 
  Touring used to be the way you got the word out about your band. Now, we have this fabulous thing: the internet. It spreads the word, and helps our music reach farther than we ever could by touring. We have fans all over the world, and even one or two in our own country. We are getting the word out about our music using this fantastic piece of modern wonderment: the computer





Anthony:
  1. What are you working on now? What can fans expect from HFH in the immediate future and long term?
HFH:

We just released an album our some of our favorite songs that we have done over the past 20 years.
It is free and has some great songs on it.

Currently we are doing the final work on a new album!  The Mercy Go Round. We started recording it a few years a go and finally finished it.

We plan to have it released this year. We are working on the song order, taking pictures and deciding which label to go with. We really want hard copies of this disc, not just the downloading option.

After that, maybe another album? We don’t have any set plans, just making music and seeing what happens.

Anthony:  
  1.  Can you give our readers a Top Ten List of songs both by you and others that you’d consider important to your career to date? And tell us a bit about each song.








HFH:
            Stacye

1. This Mortal Coil. Song to the Siren   

This is the song that introduced me to 4AD music and I still enjoy it today as much as the first time I heard it.


 2. Simon and Garfunkle - For Emily, whenever I may find her 

 I love the dreamy quality of this song.   I had all of Simon and Garfunkle on vinyl.


 3. Johnny Cash – The Caretaker    


     My dad was/is an old country fan and so when I was young, in the car, that’s what we listened to 8 tracks of Statler Brothers, Tom T Hall, Kenny Rogers, Mac Davis, etc. 1970’s country.  It might be where my love of a sad  ‘somebody done somebody wrong ’ song comes from.
     This song isn’t one most people have heard but it is one of my all time favorite songs.  “ Who’s gonna cry when old John dies?”   This song is a gorgeous example of voice and guitar in simple perfection.


4. Siouxie and the Banshees – Softly   


 For years, I would to listen to this song every night before I went to sleep.


5. Sisters Of Mercy - 1959  


I loved SOM and this song has always been one of my favorites. Piano and voice. Again, simple but so powerful.


 Stayce:
Our music:
6.  Colder - This is HFH summed up in about 3 minutes: the strings, the lyrics, the tone. 
We have done many versions of this song over the years and each one is always great. I loved it when we would play this live and people would sing along!



7. Frightened:  This song is on Solace and it is perfect HFH. Repetitive guitars and drum beat balance well with the vocals.





8. I died for you:  This is the first song we ever wrote together. It is on the Colder re-release. We didn’t realize it at the time, but these two lines summed up everything we would write about over the next 20 years. For my birthday last year, Randy made we wine glasses with some of our lyrics on them. One of the glasses has these lines on there. I love that glass.





That Glass.

 Empty and losing more,
everything slips away.
Nothing is left
at the end
of a miserable day.



9. Stars in my Eyes- This one is on the new album due out this year. It is the first song we had written together in a while and it is my current favorite. It has voice harmonies, piano, strings and a steady funeral beat. (Upcoming. Look for it here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Heaven-Falls-Hard/47863712861).

10. Undone: This song is on Solace. It is very powerful and a great example of HFH.
(Listen to a bit of it here: http://www.last.fm/music/Heaven+Falls+Hard/Solace).


Randy:
I think that Stacye covered the HFH tracks, if I had to add one it would be Resurrection. Some important songs to me by others are:

1. The Cure – Faith ( Hands down my favorite album of all time)-





2. Dead Can Dance - Summoning Of The Muse –




3. Bauhaus – Mask –



4.  Joy Division – Atmosphere – Click here to watch video. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQSpJfpVHmg).


5.      Cocteau Twins – The Spangle Maker – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfmKe-xja8E





6.  Black Tape For A Blue Girl – The Rope (can’t find a link to the song, here’s another great track from Black Tape “Across A Thousand Blades” –




7. Goblin – Suspiria –




8. Christian Death – This Is Heresy (I love Rozz but this track introduced me to Christian Death, so Valor will always have my respect!) –





10.  John Carpenter – Any & Everything ( too much awesome music that has come from this man, there’s no way I can narrow it down to just one track…so here’s a little taste of the great JC…) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4YQfU5-SWg





Anthony: Thank you for that incredible list, and thank you for joining us here at the Darkness Blog. Anyone who likes the music scores of John Carpenter is cool with me. Ladies and Gentlemen, a huzzah for our guests today, Heaven Falls Hard.
.
HFH:

Thank you!

Cybernocturnalism V: What is a Writer Today? & What is a Reader Today?

By Anthony Servante



Anthony Servante



Participating authors:

  1. Jimmy Pudge: It is hard to separate the author from the art. If you can tell where Jimmy begins and where his books end, you’re far more clever than I. I often seek his opinion as a friend, but more so as a writer, because he speaks his mind, and any glimpse into that twisted brilliant mind of his is worth his cranial weigh in gold. As one of the original Cybernocks, I sought him out because he pulls no punches when he speaks on the matter of writing. 
  2. Lori R. Lopez: I have a book shelf devoted to Lori’s books. She is the ultimate wordsmith, playing with concepts and conceits from humor to horror. I can honestly call her my friend, and I trust her opinion on matters of writing. When I’m not reading her, I’m listening to the echo of her words. When she speaks on Cybernocturnalism, you should listen as well. 
  3. Julianne Snow: I just met Juli, and already I trust her instincts. She is eager to join important discussions on matters relating to writing and writers. If she were one of my students, I’d always be on the lookout for her next writing assignment or when she raised her hand to ask a question. Some students, as well as writers, stand out. She has for me.
  4. Geoff Brown: When I reviewed GN Braun’s Hammered: Memoir of an Addict (the Servante of Darkness Best Book of the Year 2012), I got to know the man on the inside of a bad habit and empathized with the man who lives life one day at a time, a rare trick in this technologically rapid age. I based my column, Horror and Addiction: The Damage Done, around his book, and it is one of the top ten pieces most read on the ole blog. A respected member of the writing community and someone I’m proud to call friend.
  5. Lisa Lane: Lisa is an old soul with a young heart. She is truly ageless. I knew when she agreed to participate in this discussion that I was in for an epic treat. Her frank perspective on the subject at hand is passionate and honest. She has an intuition for good writing, and as a critic, I look forward to her work, especially the new Finding Poe. I count myself lucky to call her friend.
  6. Hank Schwaeble: Without Hank, there wouldn’t be a Cybernocturnalism V. I dedicate this column to him. I have read him since his debut novel, Damnable, winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. I add him to the tail end of the Silver Age, as the Cyber Age makes its push into the Horror book market, alongside F. Paul Wilson, the late, great James Herbert, and Graham Masterton. On the matter of Cybernocturnalism, the chip on his shoulder is matched by his love for the craft of writing, and he isn't afraid to defend them. 

Introduction:

Why am I doing Cybernocturnalism part five so soon after part four, you ask? Well, recently there has been much criticism on the matter of writers on the internet, in forums from Facebook to Goodreads. At the core of this discussion is the trend of many e-authors to place the title “writer” or “author” by their name as if it were as much a part of their name as the title “mister” or “ms”. Print authors have responded by calling these e-writers authors manqué. Which returns us to the matter of Cybernocturnalism.

As you will recall, Cybernocturnalism is the overwhelming deluge of ebooks that have become available online over the past few years. It is getting harder and harder to pick through so many books and find the best of the lot because so many of these selections do not follow the same decorum found the paper book market (professional editing, book covers, marketing, etc., all provided by the paper publisher). For the ebook authors, we have two kinds: the ones who will pay free-lancers for these services and those who think their story is strong enough to attract readers without such services. We as readers have been waiting for years for the cream of ebooks to rise above the mediocre fare, but for every David Moody, there are literally hundreds of bad writers who put out product that is not even worth .99 cents.

I was asked to beta read a manuscript about child abuse that was so poorly written, that I could only suggest a rewrite. The author published the book in its poorly written form. This author has garnered many positive responses for the courageous publication of a tragic childhood of abuse. But surely these readers can see that this was a poorly written book, that a more powerful book lay inside those badly written pages had it been properly edited. Great praise for the book lent credence that it was a “great” book and further books followed. Based on the preview of each book (supplied by Amazon Kindle), I could see that the same bad style and grammar and logic was employed for the follow-up books. I believe we have reached a point where the majority of e-authors are putting out inferior product and friends and family are encouraging them by praising their work. This has created a chokehold on the market where the cream of the crop is bottlenecked. The sour bottom has become the moderately successful form, thanks to false praise.

And this illusory success has led many e-authors to attach the title “Writer” or “Author” to their names. Merely writing and publishing online has become the new standard for being acknowledged as a writer, or at least referring to oneself as such. Which begs the question: What then is a writer in today’s market of paper and online publishing?

I’ve invited six authors to discuss this question: Jimmy Pudge, Lori R. Lopez, Julianne Snow, Geoff Brown, Lisa Lane, and Hank Schwaeble, all distinguished writers in their field, but with varying backgrounds in paper and online book sales success. But I’ve also asked our participants to address another topic related to the question of the writer, and that is the question of the reader. New self-published authors often give their books away for free; although many do this as their sales wane, many authors do it to increase, nay, to spark dead sales. Readers snatch up these free books, creating an illusion that the books will be read, reviewed, and sales will be affected. What really happens? Well, some readers simply hoard as many free ebooks as possible. I did not anticipate this new type of reader when I first started this series, and to date, neither have any of its participants. We assumed that a more discerning reader would evolve from the Cybernocturnalist avalanche of ebooks, weeding out the bad books and causing the good books to rise to the top of the heap, so to speak. It hasn’t happened. Or has it? So, not only must we take a look at the writer of today, the reader of today must also be examined, again, so to speak.

I asked Billie Sue Mosiman to start things off by voicing her opinion on the reader and writer of today. She sets the tone for the interviews that follow with a verbal poke in your chest that'll take you aback and grab your attention, just like her novels. That is where we shall begin.



Billie Sue Mosiman



Biography:

Billie Sue Mosiman
, author of more than 50 books, I am a thriller, suspense, and horror novelist, a short fiction writer, and a lover of words. In a diary when I was thirteen years old I wrote, "I want to grow up to be a writer." It seems that was always my course. My books have been published since 1984 and two of them received an Edgar Award Nomination for best novel and a Bram Stoker Award Nomination for most superior novel. I have been a regular contributor to a myriad of anthologies and magazines, with more than 150 short stories published. My work has been in such diverse publications as Horror Show Magazine and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. I taught writing for Writer's Digest and for AOL online, and gave writing workshops locally in Texas. I was an assistant editor at a Houston literary magazine and co-edited several trade paperback anthologies with Martin Greenberg.

Recently I've sold short stories to the anthologies BETTER WEIRD edited by Paul F. Olson from Cemetery Dance, ALLEGORIES OF THE TAROT edited by Annetta Ribken, FRESH FEAR edited by William Cook, and SOMEONE WICKED edited by Weldon Burge. My latest suspense novel, THE GREY MATTER, will be published by Post Mortem Press by May 2014.

I was born in Alabama and live now in Texas on a small ranch.

My work has been predominately suspense thrillers, with my short fiction being more speculative. My latest novel is BANISHED, a dark fantasy horror novel involving fallen angels.

I love to read (especially on my Kindle), watch old movies, take photographs, and travel.

Because of my love of storytelling, I've been fortunate enough to make a lifelong investment in writing stories and novels.

News of my e-book publications can be found at: http://peculiarwriter.blogspot.com/
My Facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/billie.s.mosiman
Find me on Twitter @billiemosiman


Foreword by Billie Sue Mosiman:

Okay here's my take: "I didn't know there was an uproar about people putting Author or Writer before their names on Facebook. I don't know why there would be any argument. It's a free world. Put Pharmacist if you like. Or Cab Driver. Whatever. Worrying about what someone else puts before, after, or as his name seems a waste of time to me. Who do I think is a writer? Anyone who wishes to call herself one. Anyone who writes. Who do I think is an author? Anyone who publishes fiction. I called myself a writer before I ever sold a word because that's what I knew I was and it's what I did. I wrote. I don't like calling myself an author. That feels so past tense. 'She authored a book.' Writers write, they keep writing. Authors have already done it. I would let other people call me an author if they like. I call myself a writer. I like the word 'author' used as a verb. I author works because I write. As for others, if they call themselves writers that is all good and fine to me. I certainly did it and knew it before I ever proved it by publishing. I would hope people who write wouldn't be so sensitive or competitive that they would argue over such minute things. It just doesn't matter to me. What other people do is their business and I don't have a problem with it.

"I agree people hoard, maybe not meaning to. They see a book, especially a freebie, and think oh I'd like to read that. But the ereader fills up and also time is taken up with living, so much of it goes unread. It's not anyone's fault. It's the future smacking us in the face. It dilutes the market, all these books. We're getting many thousands of books "published" that of course never would have seen the light of day during the days of traditional publishing. We are realizing only now how the gatekeepers kept some kind of control on quality. Much of what's out there is dreck, unfortunately. Still, this creates this new book world and as writers we're here to deal with it. We can hope good work rises and poor work falls, but during this change there's no guarantee because we're all awash on the ocean in a tiny little lifeboat.”
********


The Interviews:



Jimmy Pudge


Biography:

Jimmy James "M.F." Pudge was born into this world on 6-9-1979 in a truck stop toilet at a TA Travel Center in the backwoods of South Georgia. An honest and conscientious man, Jimmy served several prison sentences because he refused to give in to the federal laws that impose independent spirits' rights to be entrepreneurs. An expert in the art of pruno, shank construction, and paper dart blow guns, Jimmy briefly served as a leader in his dorm room before being released early for good behavior.


Jimmy Pudge

1. Before we address the issue at hand, can you give us your qualifications to participate in this discussion?

I’ve been writing for 20 years. Over a dozen short stories have been selected for print or e-zines. One novella is now being considered for print by a small press. I’ve received hundreds of rejections from traditional markets. I began self-publishing in 2011 and have since seen thousands of my titles downloaded. I don’t know if this would qualify me or not. I guess it just depends on the individual’s standards.

2. I think that we can all agree that the standards for self-publishing these days do not follow the standards of a print publisher, that is, well-edited, grammatically sound, coherent, and proper use of diction, even for an idiom-based story, such as Crime Noir. I also think many books out there are good, so mathematically for every good book, there must be what, dozens, hundreds, thousands of bad books? How many “bad” books do you read on average before finding a good one?

I think self-publishing authors have different standards. Some actually hire professional editors who work for publishing houses. Others workshop their manuscripts. Some hire their writing icons to edit their scripts. Some just type a story and upload it to Amazon. It varies, much as it does in the publishing industry. I’ve read very poorly edited books from big houses, like Penguin. I’ve read horribly written stories from defunct presses like Dorchester’s Leisure lineup. To me, there’s truly no difference between the two as far as grammar is concerned. You’ll hear people bitching about self-published titles being poorly edited. But chances are they got these titles for free or paid a significantly less price than what they might have for a traditionally published book that is poorly edited.
I don’t know how many bad books I read before finding a good one. I guess it’s about even with the amount of traditionally published books I read as far as plot goes. As far as grammar goes, you tend to get more self-published books that are poorly edited, and this is because there are more self-published authors. Grammar-wise, traditional publishing may produce better scripts, story-wise, I’ll have to say self-published titles tend to break the norm, which is something I personally like. I’m sick of formulaic shit.

3. Do you think cult status for writers on the net qualifies them as “writers” who’ve made their bones or are they anomalies? Compare such writers to paper writers who’ve only had one hit book and base their fame on that.

I don’t think readers are stupid. Any writer that develops a cult status does so because he/she is a writer many people are enjoying and discussing. People will not keep buying a writer’s work they dislike.

4. What are the intellectual criteria for calling oneself a writer?

In my opinion, there is no intellectual criteria. I think anyone who writes can label himself/herself a writer. The readers will decide whether that person is a good writer or a bad writer.

5. What criteria do you see being used by these so-called “writers”?

I’ve always looked at things from a money perspective. People who have been in print for years are seeing a cut in their paychecks because of all the self-published material entering the market.  These people want to keep making that bank. They become pretentious, talk down indie authors, shit on them, use their celebrity to influence readers in their genre that self-published books are shit and will harm good writers. This is complete bullshit. Some traditional writers are creating the illusion that their years of wisdom, insight, talent, etc…are essential to being a wonderful writer, but in many cases, they do not possess these qualities themselves.  Before e-books, thousands of books were being printed each year by presses, and only a select few writers were lucky enough to break through. This is the same scenario. The exact same. I don’t see anyone as a so-called writer. I just see established writers pissing on budding writers before they catch fire and make a name for themselves. There are bad writers and good writers. The readers are smart enough to know who they like and who they don’t.

6. David Moody found success via e-publishing. He wasn’t looking for it. It found him. Would you say that is true of most e-book authors, that they are seeking success on the online medium, and not to be “discovered” by print publishers?

I think self-published authors have different motives. Some are looking for the big e-book breakthrough. They enjoy the marketing side of self-publishing. Others want someone else to do a majority of the marketing. They dislike pushing their products. They may be seeking “discovery.” Either way, I think it’s cool. Just do your thing, have fun, and don’t be discouraged by a bunch or pretentious assholes.

7. More and more mainstream paper authors are turning to e-publishing as an extension of their success. Is this move driven by the authors, the publishers, or both. And is it about the money, or partaking of the new medium, not being left behind, so to speak?

Both. It’s about the money, whether the publisher makes the move or the author does. It’s also about not being left behind.

8. Let’s get to brass tacks. Does putting the word “author” before your name now make you a writer in this day and age, or is it just pretentious claptrap? If you feel it is legitimate, defend your position. I mean, many feel the reader decides who is a writer, not the writers themselves. What do you think?

Anyone who wants to be a writer can be a writer. The readers will decide if that person is good or bad at writing. I don’t ever want to discourage writers. It has been very beneficial for me.  If I believed what so many “professional” writers said about what makes a writer, I would never write. I don’t have a high school diploma, I work at a little over minimum wage, and I am by no means what many people would label a writer. Yet here I am, being asked to take part in this interview. If you want to write, write. Fuck the critics.

9. Give me a laundry list of material items that make you an author in today’s market.
(e.g., fancy car, good-looking mate, beach-front home, talent, an agent, you get it, right?).

I have life experience going for me. I spend a lot of time with the working class because I am the working class. I hear the speech of the lower class South Georgian because I am one. Everyone is interesting. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone can be an author. There is no laundry list. You write, you put it out there; you take the criticism with a smile on your face. That’s it.

10. It would seem an e-book author works with a team: editor, book cover artist, style consultant, and so on. Compare the paper author team to the e-book team. Who has the advantage now, and who will have it as software replaces the team members?

As far as cover design and editing goes, it really depends on money. Traditional presses have an edge. Now, if you have money and you self-publish, you can hire professional editors and cover designers, removing that edge.

11. I don’t sell many copies of my book EAST LOS, yet I get emails from Hollywood interested in making it into a movie, but they want to change too many things so I say no. The right offer will come. On the other hand, I get a lot of charlatans trying to scam me to invest money to make a movie of my book. I know too many Hollywood people fall for that crap. Do you think e-publishing has brought this sleazy element to the market or has it always been around since the paper only days? What other sleazy elements do you associate with e-books and/or paper?

I think sleaze is going to exist in any market, and it has existed in the traditional market and will mutate as new forms of publishing come about. Everyone’s hustling for that dollar. There are many sleazy elements in the market, whether it involves royalties, tricky contracts, marketing, etc…

12. There seems to be a built-in failure system for e-authors because of the sheer number. It reminds me of the crab metaphor. A fisherman keeps crabs in an open bucket, even though the crabs can climb out, because he knows that if all the crabs are attempting to climb out at once, they’ll keep pulling each other down, so that none of them can get out. With “authors” saturating social sites with ads and pleas for “friends” to buy their e-books, do we have a case of the crab metaphor at work here?

Before e-books, we had the same thing. Thousands of new authors were published annually. Only a couple of crabs emerged from the bucket.

13. Last question is not really a question. Here is where you stand on your soapbox and write that essay on the subject at hand. Be coherent. Be foul-mouthed. Be whatever you want, as long as it’s honest. So, get it off your chest. I’ll distract the referee.

I don’t consider myself an expert on this topic, but these are my thoughts from my 20 years of experience in this field. I think writers who become popular have the tendency to become pretentious. They see budding authors as a threat. They see new forms of writing as a threat. The same is true with publishers. They say mean shit to discourage readers from indie authors and cheap self-published e-books. It’s the circle of Capitalism. Here’s the thing, I don’t think indie authors and e-books are going away. I think readers are smarter than these people give them credit for.

14. Do you ebook hoard? Yes
Do you know of anyone who does? Yes
How will this affect the market? (I know that fewer reviews come out for freebies than for purchased ebooks.) What do you think?

It won’t affect the market. Becoming a discovered writer has always been about luck. You’ll either get really lucky or you’ll never sell many titles and your reviews may be few and far in-between. But this was true to writers before e-books came about. Many became published but only a few broke through. Chances are, the ones who do breakthrough have large amounts of money for marketing.  Marketing is an important factor in becoming a popular author. Talent does not sell books in many cases. Getting the name out is what does it.
********



Lori R. Lopez


Biography:

Lori R. Lopez wears many hats, literally and otherwise. She is an artist who designs her book covers and illustrates some of her tomes. As an author she writes poems, short stories, novels, songs, children's books and nonfiction as well as a quirky humorous-slash-serious column called "Poetic Reflections" at http://trilllogicinnoventions.com/category/category/poetic-reflections. She is a musician, actress and filmmaker.

She has been an animal-lover since small. A vegetarian, her work often contains themes of conservation and animal rights. Also, messages regarding the rights of children.

Her books include CHOCOLATE-COVERED EYES, AN ILL WIND BLOWS, THE FAIRY FLY for ages twelve through adult; THE MUDPUPPY and THE FOX TROT for children (and all ages); DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS, THE MACABRE MIND OF LORI R. LOPEZ, OUT-OF-MIND EXPERIENCES, and POETIC REFLECTIONS: KEEP THE HEART OF A CHILD. Her stories and verse appear in anthologies such as MIRAGES: TALES FROM AUTHORS OF THE MACABRE, MASTERS OF HORROR: DAMNED IF YOU DON'T, DARLINGS OF DECAY, I BELIEVE IN WEREWOLVES, SOUP OF SOULS, THIRSTY ARE THE DAMNED, and SCARE PACKAGE: 14 TALES OF TERROR. Fifteen of Lori's poems were published for an anthology titled IN DARKNESS WE PLAY (Triskaideka Books).


Lori R. Lopez

1. Before we address the issue at hand, can you give us your qualifications to participate in this discussion?

At the moment I am the author of eight print books and twenty-seven E-books (those numbers are about to change). I’ve been writing for decades, most of my life. Thanks to the Indie Revolution in publishing, my writing is finally being read instead of gathering dust on a shelf or sitting on my computer. I divide my time between releasing older material and writing new ideas, when I’m not doing artwork for the projects. I am very unknown, but I’m hoping to change that too.

2. I think that we can all agree that the standards for self-publishing these days do not follow the standards of a print publisher, that is, well-edited, grammatically sound, coherent, and proper use of diction, even for an idiom-based story, such as Crime Noir. I also think many books out there are good, so mathematically for every good book, there must be what, dozens, hundreds, thousands of bad books? How many “bad” books do you read on average before finding a good one?

Good and bad can, of course, be subjective. If I have time to read, I try to avoid bad or uninteresting books. Recommendations help but cannot always be trusted. I think it’s easy enough to recognize the average rotten apple from a brief bite. Some, of course, might seem good on the surface and turn out rotten to the core. Others might actually be good according to some and yet be hated by a percentage of readers who don’t like a certain style or genre or even outcome. This is not the fault of the writer, although it may be the result of marketing confusion or a misleading cover.
Unfortunately, a number of these readers are compelled to appoint themselves as judge, jury and executioner for the writer’s ability. They declare to the world that the book is no good with one or two stars while hurling extreme and exaggerated insults, even when it is merely a question of opinion. This is unfair (not to mention upsetting) for authors who did put significant time and effort into producing a work of merit. Reviews are increasingly important nowadays, with all of the competition and the varying degrees of quality, and this seems to encourage people to take potshots at authors whether good or bad; it doesn’t seem to matter.

3. Do you think cult status for writers on the net qualifies them as “writers” who’ve made their bones or are they anomalies? Compare such writers to paper writers who’ve only had one hit book and base their fame on that.

I think Cult Status is as good as any credentials, however temporary it might turn out to be. It means the readers have spoken. It means the writer has gained popularity. Readers have more voice, more power than ever to establish trends. They are also more divided, with more choices than ever. Cult Status may be short-lived. It might have very limited appeal. Because of the Internet, it is both more difficult due to sheer numbers and more possible to attain than ever before. We can roll our eyes and sneer at it, but sometimes a cult is here to stay. Didn’t Horror begin as a cult? Science Fiction? They can still be treated as such in Mainstream Fiction, just as there is still a good deal of gender bias regarding those genres.
If writers continue to maintain a cult status, and also continue to write, they are not the same as a one-book wonder who lacks the imagination or confidence or ambition to keep writing. Often it involves a work that stands out for whatever reason, not necessarily a good reason. Frankly, with all of the new authors and questionable writers publishing now, along with the diversity in genres and sub-genres springing up, odds are far worse to rise above the vast sea of published works and gain widespread attention. This was never an easy feat, but it could be done. These days, it remains possible to break out of the pack and become successful, possibly sensational. When it happens, as with any creative field, it is not always due to talent or uniqueness as much as good timing and luck. That hasn’t changed. Sometimes it is actually due to the right reasons.

4. What are the intellectual criteria for calling oneself a writer?

That title has never been so commonly used and overused. As with art, where anyone can be an “artist” with the digital tools available, it becomes a question of something deeper than mere “ability”. I think it requires genuine talent and vision, as well as practice and persistence. Anyone can practice, although many do not. Anyone can stubbornly persist. What sets literature apart from scribbling or the work of amateurs is the author’s voice and meaning, in my opinion; imagination, the creative spark; being able to tell a good, or even great, story.

5. What criteria do you see being used by these so-called “writers”?

Well, some of them think it is merely a matter of typing something, perhaps reading through it one time, slapping a cover together from images being used repeatedly by others, and cranking it out of the big self-publishing machine. This is not a real writer, yet they certainly believe they are. Many have no business writing as anything other than a hobby, and that is the most tragic part of the publishing revolution; they are polluting the market, which hurts both authors and readers alike. Many of them think writing is easy. True writers know it is not.
The flip-side of the revolution, as we know, is that many voices can now be heard that were silenced for years by a decreased willingness to take risks in the corporate world of publishing. I am one of those voices.

6. David Moody found success via e-publishing. He wasn’t looking for it. It found him. Would you say that is true of most e-book authors, that they are seeking success on the online medium, and not to be “discovered” by print publishers?

I’d say a lot of the E-book “authors” are looking for success, to get rich. Real writers are driven to write. For me, I place the art of writing first and foremost. Yes, I would like to be successful. But I’ve been writing a long time without it. I gave up trying to be “discovered” by print publishers when an editor held my book for a full year. For me it isn’t strictly about being accepted. I like having creative control. I was never willing to sacrifice that or change my style. My goal now is to be discovered directly by an audience for my work.
Maybe I didn’t try hard enough with publishers and producers. I was writing when I could, plus raising and homeschooling my sons. I did try at intervals with a variety of projects and generated interest from companies large and small, but there were always obstacles. The biggest: not having an agent. Finding an agent was as hard as getting accepted by a publisher. I had a Hollywood agent for a while and he didn’t do anything. I racked up a number of rejection letters over the years. Of course, I blatantly do things they say not to do like illustrating my own covers and being my own best editor. I break conventions and the Golden Rules of writing when I feel it’s necessary. I’m not suggesting that everyone should do as I do. I strongly advise against it. There is more than enough poorly written and edited material being cranked out of the machine. When I break a rule, it’s with knowledge and intent. It’s for a reason. Yet some might dismiss my style as amateurish because of this.
I once stated a fear that readers could become accustomed to the lack of proper editing in so many books these days. Unprofessional works may even become popular and surpass the quality titles. Perhaps they already are. If you consider the way people communicate in abbreviations, without punctuation and capitalization, without correct spelling online, this seems a very plausible scenario. A degree of standards is necessary; it’s vital, and it seems to be disappearing.

7. More and more mainstream paper authors are turning to e-publishing as an extension of their success. Is this move driven by the authors, the publishers, or both. And is it about the money, or partaking of the new medium, not being left behind so to speak?

Authors and publishers alike have been forced to embrace E-publishing. The question is, why wouldn’t they? If they don’t, they’re going to be left behind. I hope that it will never replace traditional printing on paper. But it is a rising tide, and they need to go with the flow to an extent in order to stay afloat. It would be foolish not to explore every resource available to promote their products.

8. Let’s get to brass tacks. Does putting the word “author” before your name now make you a writer in this day and age, or is it just pretentious claptrap? If you feel it is legitimate, defend your position. I mean, many feel the reader decides who is a writer, not the writers themselves. What do you think?

Readers are different. They don’t all like the same things. We cannot rely on their opinions alone, as important as they might be. It is up to each author to decide whether or not they are a writer by publishing their very best work. To give any less is unfair to the readers as well as to all writers. I considered myself a writer decades ago, back when my work was unread. It was no less valid. Without readers it existed, but I was not an author. Now I’m an author as well.

9. Give me a laundry list of material items that make you an author in today’s market. (e.g., fancy car, good-looking mate, beach-front home, talent, an agent, you get it, right?).

The only one of those examples that is necessary to be an author would be talent. Beyond that, knowing how to type. Knowing the mechanics of writing. Having imagination, ideas, and something to say. Possessing discipline and focus. That’s really about all for the writing phase. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

10. Will history be the final judge of whom and what is a writer? Who the hell are we to judge? Those are literal questions.

I think we live in an age where it seems to be redefining itself. And yet it isn’t. Time will tell, yes. I believe that. When I’m feeling down, I sometimes envision a future generation that will appreciate the way I write. But no entire generation will ever do that. As I said, readers are different. Right now, my readers are in the vast minority. I don’t know when that will change, yet I feel it is up to me to change it. I feel challenged to better my last work. I’m never satisfied. Who are we to judge? We are everyone right now. I consider myself the best judge of my own work, since only I can know if I accomplished my vision.

11. It would seem an e-book author works with a team: editor, book cover artist, style consultant, and so on. Compare the paper author team to the e-book team. Who has the advantage now, and who will have it as software replaces the team members?

Even though I do most of the tasks myself, I feel quite fortunate to work with a team. My sons are as creative as I am. They help with technical stuff like E-book formatting and computer issues. We are also doing projects together, such as book trailers and videos. We collaborate on music and more. I edit their writing. For those who work with cover artists, editors, proofreaders, beta readers, format technicians, they need to be careful to hire professionals. Otherwise, I’m sure the E-book author has more control in the process than traditional paper teams at big publishing companies. Take book covers. Authors are not considered experts and have little say in that department with a major publisher, from what I’ve heard. But who better to decide what represents their stories? As for software, I doubt that it can adequately replace team members.

12. I don’t sell many copies of my book EAST LOS, yet I get emails from Hollywood interested in making it into a movie, but they want to change too many things so I say no. The right offer will come. On the other hand, I get a lot of charlatans trying to scam me to invest money to make a movie of my book. I know too many Hollywood people fall for that crap. Do you think e-publishing has brought this sleazy element to the market or has it always been around since the paper only days? What other sleazy elements do you associate with e-books and/or paper?

There have always been those who wish to take advantage of a given situation. This is nothing new. I am leery of any offer that involves money, including promotion companies for books. In the old days, it was considered a scam if you had to pay an agent to read your submission or a publisher up-front to print it. There seem to be more and more companies springing up with services to help you “get published”. Vanity Presses are still around, charging exorbitant fees.
I encountered production companies interested in my work in the past. Some might not have been legitimate. Be careful what rights you surrender, and what points you sacrifice. But unscrupulous deals are everywhere these days, and you need to always be cautious. With the Internet, I think it is a rampant problem to have to promote yourself and your work in an atmosphere rife with the borrowing of creative ideas.

13. There seems to be a built-in failure system for e-authors because of the sheer number. It reminds me of the crab metaphor. A fisherman keeps crabs in an open bucket, even though the crabs can climb out, because he knows that if all the crabs are attempting to climb out at once, they’ll keep pulling each other down, so that none of them can get out. With “authors” saturating social sites with ads and pleas for “friends” to buy their e-books, do we have a case of the crab metaphor at work here?

Yes, it’s an apt metaphor. It does feel like that some days.

14. Here is where you stand on your soapbox and write that essay on the subject at hand. Be coherent. Be foul-mouthed. Be whatever you want, as long as it’s honest. So, get it off your chest. I’ll distract the referee.

I think a lot of new and not-so-new authors are waiting for that big break, be it luck or connections or talent-driven. They think it’s just around the corner. This much hasn’t changed. I know the feeling oh too well, having hoped for a break over a course of decades, trying this, trying that. At least now we can take the demon by the horns and make our own breaks. We feel less helpless. That is the bright side. The dark side is, there are too many of us. We’ve flooded a market that was already stagnating. Blame video games, social media, bad decisions by big publishers who closed the gate to only permit a trickle of new authors through the door. Now we have battered down the gate for good or bad, and we are all scrabbling for a foothold at the same time. Those who are better established, better known, have a definite advantage in this mad scrabble to compete for the precious time and attention of readers.
Another advantage goes to those who write fast, because we no longer have to wait a year or two for the slow gears of the publishing process to spit out our books. We can publish them as soon as they are edited and formatted, as soon as they have a cover. This, of course, contributes to works being cranked out that need more work. But it also enables the swift and prosaic to frequently churn out new releases. Publishing has become a fast-paced business. In addition to an abundance of new authors, there is a steady stream of titles being poured out. The trouble is, with all of the modern distractions competing for attention, the amount of readers may be diminishing rather than increasing with the growth of population.
I write pretty slowly yet have a backlist of projects piled up I’m attempting to get out. And E-books have enabled us to release individual short stories for ninety-nine cents. This, along with the sample pages available prior to making a purchase, allows readers to test the waters without paying for an entire book. But some authors sell novels and collections as cheaply or almost as cheaply as a story. Ridiculously low prices hurt the market as much as a constant stream of free titles.
I can shake my head and regret not sticking my foot in the gate years ago. Books that should be selling are not, and that makes me sad. It also makes me angry — at myself for all of the missed chances, the wasted time, the coulda-woulda-shouldas that may run through my head daily. Yet I made my decisions, my choices, and I’ll never regret putting my sons first. Maybe I could have done something back then and just didn’t try hard enough. Maybe it’s too late with all of the competition now. I wonder this often. Yet E-books have pumped fresh interest into reading, and for that we should be grateful. It seems to offer hope: Any day the elusive break might come.

15. Do you ebook hoard? Do you know of anyone who does? How will this affect the market? (I know that fewer reviews come out for freebies than for purchased ebooks.) What do you think?

I don’t E-book hoard. I have too little time to read as it is right now. I don’t even own an E-book reading device. I’ll always prefer print books, despite being a tree-hugger. Hoarding books probably isn’t good for the market either, especially if it’s freebies. Readers who filled their devices gratis are probably not going to leave reviews, or will leave cruel scathing ones to voice their indignation that a story or book they didn’t have to pay for was not to their liking. I’ve received some of that feedback, and it never fails to astonish me.
Fed in part by Amazon Select, the E-book Boom is currently bogged down in a morass of mud from a steady deluge of freebies. I am certain this contributed to a widespread slackening of sales. I have some titles that are always free. I tried a couple of the Amazon Select giveaways. Didn’t help. I tried releasing a novel at ninety-nine cents with Select for a limited time. Didn’t help either. I’m done with the Select Program. I recently connected my print books on Amazon to provide a free digital copy with every purchase. I’ve made print books available for Expanded Distribution, but that forced me to raise the prices.
None of us at any level really know what is going to happen next. Those of us who keep at it, treading water, pounding keys, will find out together. Sink or swim, I plan to write and publish and write some more.
********



Julianne Snow


Biography:

As the only girl growing up in a family with four children in the Canadian countryside, Julianne Snow needed some form of escape. Her choice was the imaginations of others which only fostered the vibrancy of her own. A voracious reader by the age of 7, she tackled the classics along with many others while her friends were reading Pascal's Sweet Valley High series or Stine's Goosebumps books. She devoured King, Koontz, Christopher Pike, Robin Cook, and Marion Zimmer Bradley along with many more.

Her literary loves have expanded to include the works of Ariana Franklin, James Rollins, Gregoire Maguire, Jonathan Mayberry, Jeffrey Deaver, Diana Gabaldon, and Kathy Reichs along with the myriad of talented independently published authors she has discovered and in some cases, befriended. The horror and forensic/crime thriller genres top her list of favorites, but she can never turn down a good science fiction, fantasy or mystery read. Julianne's first full-length foray into the publishing realm follows a group of friends as they attempt to survive their Days with the Undead.
http://www.amazon.com/Julianne-Snow/e/B007WH0MN4/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1379580970&sr=1-2-ent


Julianne Snow:

1.         Before we address the issue at hand, can you give us your qualifications to participate in this discussion?

As an author who has been published numerous times with small presses as well as one that has published free stories online for readers, I feel I have the benefit of those unique experiences to help qualify me. Oh and I classify myself as a writer so if that doesn’t qualify me for a conversation on writing, I don’t know what does…

2.         I think that we can all agree that the standards for self-publishing these days do not follow the standards of a print publisher, that is, well-edited, grammatically sound, coherent, and proper use of diction, even for an idiom-based story, such as Crime Noir. I also think many books out there are good, so mathematically for every good book, there must be what, dozens, hundreds, thousands of bad books. How many “bad” books do you read on average before finding a good one?

Perhaps it’s just me, but I am selective about the books I read. I go for stories that interest me and I will give new authors a chance, even I there are errors in the text. That being said, I have read many books that would fall under the umbrella of what you have termed a ‘bad book’ and quite a few of them have come from medium to large print publishers (dare I even say the big six?). Do I agree that the standards for self-publishing are lax? No. But I think there are some who feel they can pass of anything they can upload. But that begs yet another question – why do those books sell? Perhaps it stems from the fact that not every reader is going to enjoy a polished read. Maybe they get so wrapped up in the story, they overlook the mistakes. As writers, we’re trained to see those mistakes, but the average reader isn’t a writer.

3.         Do you think cult status for writers on the net qualifies them as “writers” who’ve made their bones or are they anomalies? Compare such writers to paper writers who’ve only had one hit book and base their fame on that.

I wonder if this situation is born of jealousy. Print authors don’t have the same autonomy that non-print authors have over their work. Generally, print authors are placed on a ‘produce or get cut loose’ contract that doesn’t give them much space to breathe. The beauty of not publishing a book with a press (whether it’s small or large) is that the author can tear it down if the reception for it is negative. They don’t need to worry about contracts or other nonsense. They can just make it go away. They’re able to try different markets and vary their genres if they want. If a writer has readers and can earn a real living from writing, I say that qualifies them to claim they’re a writer. Just because what they write may not measure up to literary standards, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have commercial appeal.

4.         What are the intellectual criteria for calling oneself a writer?

I think the only thing you really need is the ability to tell a good story. The craft of writing is something that every author should continue to learn as they practice. Even those ‘paper’ writers had to start somewhere.

5.         What criteria do you see being used by these so-called “writers”?

I wouldn’t characterize them as so-called writers. Writers write and just because one author says what another writes is somehow lesser, doesn’t mean it truly is. What qualifies one author to pass judgment over another’s work? Perhaps they have not had the same benefits of the critical author, the same level of mentorship.

6.         David Moody found success via e-publishing. He wasn’t looking for it. It found him. Would you say that is true of most e-book authors, that they are seeking success on the online medium, and not to be “discovered”?

Isn’t gaining online success the same as being discovered? New readers are finding you and devouring your work. That is discovery in the strictest sense of the word. The face of publishing is changing so rapidly and those who had dreams to write, but who never thought they could break into the world, are finding success. It doesn’t even have to be success on a grand scheme. It’s all in how they define it for themselves.

7.         More and more mainstream paper authors are turning to e-publishing as an extension of their success. Is this move driven by the authors, the publishers, or both. And is it about the money, or partaking of the new medium, not being left behind so to speak?

I think the move is driven by the market. If you cannot sell to a dying market, but another has opened up, you’d be a fool to not take advantage of it. Writers write to be read. It’s that simple. Some of them have enjoyed success to the point that they earn vast amounts of money from selling what they write but if you’re in the business to get rich, it will fail you. No one can anticipate the market and what will be popular a year from now. Sure, there will be genres that never die out, but everything is cyclical. It ebbs and it flows with where the interests of the readers lie.

8.         Let’s get to brass tacks. Does putting the word “author” before your name now make you a writer in this day and age, or is it just pretentious claptrap? If you feel it is legitimate, defend your position. I mean, many feel the reader decides who is a writer, not the writers themselves. What do you think?

I truly believe I am the only person who can define me. I call myself an author because that is how I identify myself. My identity is not tied up in the identity of others. I don’t care if other people identify themselves as authors because it takes nothing away from me. Those who are not committed to their craft are eventually going to give up and that’s okay. Writing is not easy and it takes discipline. Not everyone can slave away over words for hours a day and do it just for the love of it.

9.         Give me a laundry list of material items that make you an author in today’s market. (e.g., fancy car, good-looking mate, beach-front home, talent, an agent, you get it, right?).

Seriously? The only material objects that make me an author in today’s market are the books that sit on the shelves of my readers or the bytes of data that are stored on their eReaders. Would I like the fancy cars, the beach front property, and the rest of it – sure. But again, those things don’t contribute to how you feel about yourself in your soul.

10.       Will history be the final judge of whom and what is a writer? Who the hell are we to judge? Those are literal questions.

Judgment is such an ugly word – who are we to decide? As individuals we connect to things differently. Sure we have common experiences that allow us to connect more deeply with others, but art (and by art I mean all creative outlets) is purely subjective. Why do we allow others to define what we like? Why are we always surfing on the next biggest fad? Is popularity the only hallmark of accomplishment? Hell no. There are many artists in different mediums who haven’t found commercial success but they live their lives in the happiest of ways. There is no substitute for doing what you love. None.

11.       It would seem an e-book author works with a team: editor, book cover artist, style consultant, and so on. Compare the paper author team to the e-book team. Who has the advantage now, and who will have it as software replaces the team members?

One doesn’t have an advantage over the other, except in terms of experience and flexibility. Someone who has been in the publishing world for many years may have a greater amount of insight, but are they lacking the ability to recognize the benefit of change? Who’s to say? If you can change with the trends, you’ll be okay. But if you remain stagnant and only think what used to work will continue to work, you’ve sold yourself too short.

12.       I don’t sell many copies of my book EAST LOS, yet I get emails from Hollywood interested in making it into a movie, but they want to change too many things so I say no. The right offer will come. On the other hand, I get a lot of charlatans trying to scam me to invest money to make a movie of my book. I know too many Hollywood people fall for that crap. Do you think e-publishing has brought this sleazy element to the market or has it always been around since the paper only days? What other sleazy elements do you associate with e-books and/or paper?

I think sleazy elements will always be a part of any creative industry. Some may fall prey to them, but the more that we educate each other through mentorship and community, the better off we will all be. Congrats on the Hollywood offers by the way, and good on you for not sacrificing the vision of your art.
13.       There seems to be a built-in failure system for e-authors because of the sheer number. It reminds me of the crab metaphor. A fisherman keeps crabs in an open bucket, even though the crabs can climb out, because he knows that if all the crabs are attempting to climb out at once, they’ll each other down, so that none of them can get out. With “authors” saturating social sites with ads and pleas for “friends” to buy their e-books, do we have a case of the crab metaphor at work here?

I think people are becoming blind to the constant bombardment from the same people over and over again. But then again, if I see something I haven’t seen before, I’m more likely to take notice of it since it’s fresh. I rarely promote my own work since I find it’s something I’m shy about doing (talking about how great my work is), but I do sell copies of my books so what I’m doing can’t be all wrong. I will say however that I get super annoyed when other authors use more popular books and movies to sell what they have to offer. Let your work stand on its own and be judged for its own merit. Don’t compare it to a famous work because you will always draw comparisons that might not be favourable for your work in the end.

14.       Last question is not really a question. Here is where you stand on your soapbox and write that essay on the subject at hand. Be coherent. Be foul-mouthed. Be whatever you want, as long as it’s honest. So, get it off your chest. I’ll distract the referee.

When Anthony sent me this questionnaire, I was unaware of the uproar over authors who self-publish calling themselves authors. Seriously people, who are they hurting? Are they stealing money out of your pocket? Oh, is that the problem? Competition? It’s got to be.
My debut novel is in a genre that has been saturated with the works of others over the past few years. Does that bother me? Not at all. The more the merrier, in fact. You might wonder why I welcome competition, but the truth of the matter is I love the genre myself. I love to read it and I love to discover talent that was unknown to me before the moment I picked up their book.
More competition can actually keep things fresh in some ways. Authors need to really think of new ways to revive the tired tropes (and believe me, they do exist in every genre), and create characters that readers can truly connect with outside of the words. There are many self-published authors who are able to explore radical ideas that keep the genre fresh more so than those who are tied into contracts that state they must write a saleable book.
Recently I was the fly on the wall to a discussion on a major Award winner’s Facebook feed where they were lamenting the fact they couldn’t write what they actually wanted to write. That they couldn’t follow their own writing interests or an idea that niggled at them to be written at every turn because their publisher had deemed it a non-profitable idea. It was sad to see that someone who had ‘made it’ by the standards of having won an award for their work, couldn’t follow the white rabbit down the hole.
Then I started to think about how I would react in the same situation. Would I spend countless sleepless nights trying to birth the characters and scenes within my head? Or would I give up and follow the edicts of the gravy train? I can’t even give you an answer since I don’t know what I would do.
I do know, however, that I enjoy the freedom of working on the projects I choose to write. I like being Julianne Snow, author, and deciding the mark I’ll leave on the world of literature. It may not be the mark of what many want to read, but that doesn’t matter to me. I write for myself and I’m happy to have fans that come along on the journey with me.

15. Do you ebook hoard? Do you know of anyone who does? How will this affect the market? (I know that fewer reviews come out for freebies than for purchased ebooks.) What do you think?"

I do not eBook hoard, but I do know some that do. I think free books will ultimately harm the market. I realize it’s a great way for an author to get their name out there or for the author of a series to garner interest in it. In the end, if you give it away free once, readers will expect you to give it away for free the next time too. Besides why undervalue all of your hard work? If you want to entice readers, reduce the price of your book. Readers who pay for your book are more likely to want to read it. As for the number of unread books on my Kindle, I have a total of 5 and I paid for each and every one of them. Once I’m done with those, I’ll take a look at my wish list and add to my collection.
********




Geoff Brown (aka: G.N. Braun)


Biography:

G.N. Braun was raised in Melbourne's gritty Western Suburbs. He is a trained nurse, and holds a Cert. IV in Professional Writing and Editing. He is currently studying for a Dip. Arts (Professional Writing and Editing). He writes fiction untied to any genre, and is the author of 'Boneyard Smack', 'Bubba wants YOU', 'Insurrection' (all available as free downloads from Legumeman Books) and 'Santa Akbar!' (published in Festive Fear: Global Edition, out through Tasmaniac Publications in Australia). He has a short story--'Autumn as Metaphor'--in the charity anthology Horror For Good, as well as numerous articles published in newspapers. He is the current president of the Australian Horror Writers Association, as well as the past director of the Australian Shadows Awards. His memoir, Hammered, was released in early 2012 by Legumeman Books. He is the owner of Cohesion Editing and Proofreading.


Geoff Brown

1.         Before we address the issue at hand, can you give us your qualifications to participate in this discussion?

I am a traditionally-published author. I am the president of the Australian Horror Writers Association, and an avid researcher into self and traditional publishing.
I also run an editing service (Cohesion Editing and Proofreading), through which I sometimes advise clients on the ins-and-outs of both sides of publishing. Finally, I started my own publishing business (Cohesion Press) two months ago. We released our first book on August 30. Our first print book will be SNAFU, an anthology of military horror featuring some of the biggest names in that genre.

2.         I think that we can all agree that the standards for self-publishing these days do not follow the standards of a print publisher, that is, well-edited, grammatically sound, coherent, and proper use of diction, even for an idiom-based story, such as Crime Noir. I also think many books out there are good, so mathematically for every good book, there must be what, dozens, hundreds, thousands of bad books? How many “bad” books do you read on average before finding a good one?

I tend to buy things on Kindle to support friends, and things recommended by friends. I buy a lot, and read a lot. I think the average ‘bad’ to ‘good’ book ratio is about 99 (bad) to 1 (good). In that 99 are books that would have potential if properly edited and proofread.

3.         Do you think cult status for writers on the net qualifies them as “writers” who’ve made their bones or are they anomalies? Compare such writers to paper writers who’ve only had one hit book and base their fame on that.

I think that if writers have a big enough fan base, then they can call themselves authors, no matter if self- or traditionally-published. That said, there are bad writers and good writers across all levels of popularity.

4.         What are the intellectual criteria for calling oneself a writer?

One must write to call oneself a writer. That is all. I see a distinction between being a writer and being an author. A writer writes, whereas an author is read by others. An author is published. An author sells books. There are good and bad within both titles.

5.         What criteria do you see being used by these so-called “writers”?

I see people publishing (self-publishing) a book and then changing their social media profiles to ‘Author – John Doe’. Then they spend the rest of their lives telling people to buy their books.

6.         David Moody found success via e-publishing. He wasn’t looking for it. It found him. Would you say that is true of most e-book authors, that they are seeking success on the online medium, and not to be “discovered” by print publishers?

I think that most, if not all, e-book authors are looking to become the next David Moody or Amanda Hocking. Success, fame, and fortune.

7.         More and more mainstream paper authors are turning to e-publishing as an extension of their success. Is this move driven by the authors, the publishers, or both. And is it about the money, or partaking of the new medium, not being left behind so to speak?

It’s likely about embracing the new technology, as well as turning their own personal brand names into sales points that take out the middle man. I know of well-published authors that are moving to self-publishing to ensure they get a great part of the income from their books.

8.         Let’s get to brass tacks. Does putting the word “author” before your name now make you a writer in this day and age, or is it just pretentious claptrap? If you feel it is legitimate, defend your position. I mean, many feel the reader decides who is a writer, not the writers themselves. What do you think?

It is purely pretentious claptrap. I see the Facebook profiles and websites of people who title themselves ‘authors’ and I think ‘if you really were an author, you wouldn’t need to do that.’

9.         Give me a laundry list of material items that make you an author in today’s market. (e.g., fancy car, good-looking mate, beach-front home, talent, an agent, you get it, right?).

Readers and book sales. Other than that, nothing makes anyone an author.

10.       Will history be the final judge of whom and what is a writer? Who the hell are we to judge? Those are literal questions.

The only judge of whom and what is a writer will be readers. That is all. BUT, just because someone has a wide fanbase, that alone does not make them a GOOD author.

11.       It would seem an e-book author works with a team: editor, book cover artist, style consultant, and so on. Compare the paper author team to the e-book team. Who has the advantage now, and who will have it as software replaces the team members.

At the moment, all books, print and ebook, need the creative input of a number of team members. At the moment, the only advantage ebook writers have is ease of distribution and the fact that there are no more gatekeepers for self-publishers.
Some writers choose to take on all the aspects of publishing themselves: cover art, editing, layout etc. This works against them. All writers need professional editing, layout and cover art. Very, very few, if any, have all of the skills required to a level that they can do a professional job of every part of their book prior to release.

12.       I don’t sell many copies of my book EAST LOS, yet I get emails from Hollywood interested in making it into a movie, but they want to change too many things so I say no. The right offer will come. On the other hand, I get a lot of charlatans trying to scam me to invest money to make a movie of my book. I know too many Hollywood people fall for that crap. Do you think e-publishing has brought this sleazy element to the market or has it always been around since the paper only days? What other sleazy elements do you associate with e-books and/or paper?

It’s always been around. The worst I see is the vanity publishers, who want to make the author pay for every part of production yet still only pay the author a small royalty. One of my pet hates.

13.       There seems to be a built-in failure system for e-authors because of the sheer number. It reminds me of the crab metaphor. A fisherman keeps crabs in an open bucket, even though the crabs can climb out, because he knows that if all the crabs are attempting to climb out at once, they’ll keep pulling each other down, so that none of them can get out. With “authors” saturating social sites with ads and pleas for “friends” to buy their e-books, do we have a case of the crab metaphor at work here?

Amongst the self-publishers, maybe, but I think that there is room in that metaphor for the readers standing outside the bucket and throwing lifelines to some of the craps. The better the writing, the more lines get thrown. Cream rises.

14.       Last question is not really a question. Here is where you stand on your soapbox and write that essay on the subject at hand. Be coherent. Be foul-mouthed. Be whatever you want, as long as it’s honest. So, get it off your chest. I’ll distract the referee.

Too many writers today finish a first draft of a novel, throw together some bad cover art in Microsoft Paint, use Word for layout, and then upload to Amazon and/or Smashwords to ‘publish’ their ‘masterpiece.’ Then, they expect the sales to soar, and for all in the literary world to bow down to their magnificence.
This rarely, if ever, happens.
Do the hard yards. Spend time putting your work aside and then go back and read it with a fresh eye. Go over it once more after another few months. Send it off to beta readers. Proofread it.
THEN, spend some money getting it professionally edited. Spend money on proper cover art, not something you threw together in Microsoft Paint. Pay for professional layout.
For God’s sake, TAKE SOME PRIDE IN YOUR WORK, and have some faith that money spent will come back threefold.

15.       Do you ebook hoard? Do you know of anyone who does?

Yes I do, and everyone I know with an e-reader does the same. You never know when you might need those books.

16.       How will this affect the market? (I know that fewer reviews come out for freebies than for purchased ebooks.)

It may slow down the purchase (and the rise to the top) of the truly great reads.




Lisa Lane

Biography:

Leigh M. Lane has been writing for over twenty years. She has ten published novels and twelve published short stories divided among different genre-specific pseudonyms. She is married to editor Thomas B. Lane, Jr. and currently resides in the beautiful mountains of western Montana. Her traditional Gothic horror novel, FINDING POE, was a finalist in the 2013 EPIC Awards in horror.
Her other novels include THE HIDDEN VALLEY HORROR, inspired by Barker, Bradbury, and King; WORLD-MART, a tribute to Orwell, Serling, and Vonnegut; and the allegorical tale, MYTHS OF GODS.
For more information about Leigh M. Lane and her writing, visit her website at http://www.cerebralwriter.com. You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLeighMLane and Twitter at @LeighMLane.

Lisa Lane:

1. Before we address the issue at hand, can you give us your qualifications to participate in this discussion?

Of the thirteen novels I’ve completed, I have six published through small press, one of which was featured nationwide on the Home Shopping Network. I also have four independent titles, one of which was a 2013 EPIC finalist in horror. I’m married to a professional editor who, although specializing in academic and journalistic work, is adept in editing—both for content and grammar/punctuation—both long and short fiction.

2. I think that we can all agree that the standards for self-publishing these days do not follow the standards of a print publisher, that is, well-edited, grammatically sound, coherent, and proper use of diction, even for an idiom-based story, such as Crime Noir. I also think many books out there are good, so mathematically for every good book, there must be what, dozens, hundreds, thousands of bad books? How many “bad” books do you read on average before finding a good one?

I’ve been lucky in the ratio of “good” v. “bad” self-published works that have found their way onto my Kindle. I would say that for every terrible book I’ve read, there have been two or three good ones to balance it out. This is not to say I believe there are more readable than unreadable self-pubs out there, only that I’ve been fortunate so far in the titles and authors I’ve chosen to read. With that said, the majority of them, even the good ones, tend to be riddled with grammatical issues.

3. Do you think cult status for writers on the net qualifies them as “writers” who’ve made their bones or are they anomalies? Compare such writers to paper writers who’ve only had one hit book and base their fame on that.

The whole monster that is social networking has created a phenomenon very similar to the status and weight carried by schoolyard cliques, one that offers little long-term benefit to those who find themselves among the “popular kids.” While a select few are true artists who have, at least in my mind, proven themselves in the craft, many depend on popularity alone—popularity on an interpersonal level rather than a professional one—to drive their sales. Many of these people have gotten far too ahead of themselves, closing their minds to valid criticism offered by more experienced peers, and this only holds them back from any real potential they might unlock with a little humility and a respectable level of effort. One-hit wonders are no different. They deprive themselves the necessary means to grow because they’re too caught up in what will eventually prove to be a fleeting moment.

4. What are the intellectual criteria for calling oneself a writer?

At the most basic level, anyone who writes is a writer. Unfortunately, there is a big difference between a writer and an accomplished writer. An accomplished writer understands story structure, grammar, theme, foreshadowing, misdirection, and how to manipulate language in a way that allows a given work to function with depth and literary integrity. Just about anyone can write a novel; few can write a novel that is entertaining, cohesive, meaningful, and artful. Few people write with purpose, and far too many write with more hubris than a passion for the art.

5. What criteria do you see being used by these so-called “writers”?

I see many self-proclaimed writers who seem to think simply finishing a single novel is a mark of excellence. They don’t understand that they’re on the bottom rung of a tall ladder of ability and accomplishment. These people also feel that self-publishing their self-assessed masterpieces qualifies them as “authors.” That word gets thrown around quite a bit these days. Everyone’s an author. While there are some self-published writers who deserve the title, most really do not. Many among the latter validate themselves by the numbers of reviews they’re able to accrue, despite the fact that most of them come from friends and family carrying personal biases, willing to overlook the true merits of their works in the name of friendship and camaraderie.

6. David Moody found success via e-publishing. He wasn’t looking for it. It found him. Would you say that is true of most e-book authors, that they are seeking success on the online medium, and not to be “discovered” by print publishers?

I think there’s a moderate split between the two. While many self-published authors have made a conscious decision to shift from traditional to Indie, be it through disillusionment with the Big Six or the prospect of keeping a greater percentage of their royalties, there are just as many e-book authors who desire to grow in the opposite direction. It all depends upon their personal definitions of success.

7. More and more mainstream paper authors are turning to e-publishing as an extension of their success. Is this move driven by the authors, the publishers, or both? And is it about the money, or partaking of the new medium, not being left behind so to speak?

Most people have realized by this point that e-publishing is a necessary component for those wishing to make their work available to the widest possible audience. Authors and publishers alike understand this, being just as motivated by the bottom line as they are by the need to keep up with the changes technology has had on their readerships. To alienate those who have made a complete shift from paper to e-books is to cut off an entire group of readers. This has repercussions on both an author’s potential popularity and his or her overall earned royalties.

8. Let’s get to brass tacks. Does putting the word “author” before your name now make you a writer in this day and age, or is it just pretentious claptrap? If you feel it is legitimate, defend your position. I mean, many feel the reader decides who is a writer, not the writers themselves. What do you think?

It’s a little of both. Like I said, everyone throws around the word “author” these days. Realistically, an author makes money from his or her work. On a more idealistic scale, having a bona fide readership qualifies one as an author, but so might having multiple, well-written published works regardless of whether those works have a respectable following. Let’s face it, there’s a certain level of pretentiousness simply in being an artist of any kind; it’s pretentious to assume to have written something the readers will love, and it’s pretentious to assume any title or role should along with that. However, just because it may be a little pretentious doesn’t mean it is entirely without merit.
9. Give me a laundry list of material items that make you an author in today’s market. (e.g., fancy car, good-looking mate, beach-front home, talent, an agent, you get it, right?).

In the words of Stephen King, “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” While he didn’t specifically add, “I consider you to be a writer,” I think the implication is there. I don’t gauge my success on the amount of material items I have (I’m just not a material girl) but can say I have paid the light bill with a royalty check.

10. Will history be the final judge of whom and what is a writer? Who the hell are we to judge? Those are literal questions.

History will definitely be the final judge. Popular works come and go, but greatness stands the test of time. We all have the right to judge others by our own personal rubrics, but we must do so with the knowledge in mind that taste is subjective and our individual judgments can only hold so much weight.

11. It would seem an e-book author works with a team: editor, book cover artist, style consultant, and so on. Compare the paper author team to the e-book team. Who has the advantage now, and who will have it as software replaces the team members?

Ideally, there is no difference between a team working together on an electronic or a paperback book. Everyone needs an editor, a cover artist, a typesetter, etc. While many self-published authors attempt to wear every one of these hats personally, it’s usually to their detriment. Publishers do currently have the advantage, as they have the money to hire qualified people to fulfill each job with professionalism and accuracy. I do not feel that these positions, or at least most of them, can be replaced by software. One cannot replace an editor with a program, no matter how good the program might be. A program cannot appreciate cadence, stylistic quirks, or grammatical rules broken in the right ways. A program cannot feel the soul of a given text, and without soul, a book is just words.

12. I don’t sell many copies of my book EAST LOS, yet I get emails from Hollywood interested in making it into a movie, but they want to change too many things so I say no. The right offer will come. On the other hand, I get a lot of charlatans trying to scam me to invest money to make a movie of my book. I know too many Hollywood people fall for that crap. Do you think e-publishing has brought this sleazy element to the market or has it always been around since the paper only days? What other sleazy elements do you associate with e-books and/or paper?

The vultures are nothing new, although they have found a lovely new market in e-publishing. I’ve seen a growing number of scammers entering the PR market. While PR is a necessary component to selling books, there are far too many fly-by-night “companies” that do nothing for the authors they solicit and are happy to take ridiculous sums of money for it. Another biggie is the onslaught of self-proclaimed “editors” who, in all reality, know no more about grammar and plot structure than the authors hiring them. Of course, the sleaziest element is the ongoing barrage of sock puppets leaving their smelly mark throughout online sites like Amazon and Goodreads. The level of dishonesty there is downright sickening. This doesn’t occur merely among authors seeking slews of good reviews from family and peers; what is downright abhorrent is the number of people who feel the need to slay their competition with unwarranted negative reviews and, worse yet, take their personal gripes out on a person’s book(s). This adds a dangerous element to authors agreeing to mutual book reviews, either by creating a fear of being honest on one’s part or the devastating repercussions for following through with said honesty.

13. There seems to be a built-in failure system for e-authors because of the sheer number. It reminds me of the crab metaphor. A fisherman keeps crabs in an open bucket, even though the crabs can climb out, because he knows that if all the crabs are attempting to climb out at once, they’ll keep pulling each other down, so that none of them can get out. With “authors” saturating social sites with ads and pleas for “friends” to buy their e-books, do we have a case of the crab metaphor at work here?

We certainly do, especially given the vast disparity in quality (which makes those who have been unfortunate enough to have experienced the weakest quality e-books less likely to take a chance on others). The market is saturated, and it becomes more so each month. With so many titles in competition with one another, finding ways to stand out can be nearly impossible. Last year, when a good number of Indies still enjoyed decent success through e-publishing, many people predicted a burst in the market’s growing bubble. They definitely called it.

14. I believe there's a phenomenon called free ebook hoarding. I mentioned it in the first Cybernocturnalism interviews. Do you ebook hoard? Do you know of anyone who does? How will this affect the market? (I know that fewer reviews come out for freebies than for purchased ebooks.) What do you think?

I’m guilty of this, although I do have to say I only collect e-books I genuinely want to read. The big problem is there are so many of them—and they just keep coming. I already have over 300 books on my Kindle, and yet I continue to add to my collection. I would say 2/3 of the e-books I own came as freebies, an admission I’m not too proud of. I stopped giving away my books last year after seeing no long-term increase in sales. I also received a handful of reviews written by people who had no business reading my books. These people, most of whom belong to the YA demographic, would never have paid to read my dark, gritty, disturbing prose and only added my books because they were free; many of them have qualified their reviews with disclaimers saying just that. There is also a breed of e-book hoarder that feels it necessary to punish self-pubs simply for having the audacity to bypass the gatekeepers. These people obsessively collect self-published freebies for the sole purpose of lowering their ratings.
As far as the effect free e-book hoarding has on the market, it’s not good. Many readers have decided they shouldn’t have to pay for any of their e-books, at least those written by no-name Indies, and this has resulted in diminished sales across the board. What was once a useful marketing tool has become the bane of the independent publisher.
15. Last question is not really a question. Here is where you stand on your soapbox and write that essay on the subject at hand. Be coherent. Be foul-mouthed. Be whatever you want, as long as it’s honest. So, get it off your chest. I’ll distract the referee.

In a world where anyone can publish a book regardless of experience, skill, and level of talent, the definitions of “writer” and “author” have grown increasingly fuzzy. Self-published “authors” have become a dime a dozen, creating an ever-growing flood of Indie books. While there exists some opportunity for those able to ride the flood’s often unforgiving waves, most people struggle to keep their heads above water. This has resulted in a counterculture of sorts within the Indie community, one that is as corrupt as it is productive.
As an author who has been published both in the paying market and through my own independent imprint, I have had the opportunity to participate in the Indie community with a moderate level of experience. I’ve been fortunate enough to network with some exceptional talent, but I’ve also encountered novices who cannot see how ill-prepared for publication they actually are. A side effect of this finding oneself getting caught up in the messy web of mutual promotion and book reviews. It’s not a problem when scratching the back of an accomplished author; however, when you add an unseasoned writer to the mix, the situation can get downright nasty.
I will be the first to admit I’m a literary snob. Poor grammar drives me batty. Plot holes, structural problems, and issues with verb tense and mood frustrate me to no end. I also, it would seem, happen to be far too honest for my own good. I used to post peer reviews no matter how unflattering they were, but quickly found it to be a quick way to isolate myself from the cliques these peers belonged to within the Indie community. I learned that, when most people asked for reviews, they were asking specifically for glowing ones.
For the sake of not becoming completely ostracized, I decided I would withhold negative reviews and only share those for books I genuinely deemed four- and five-star quality. This included books with so many grammatical errors that I felt it a challenge to my integrity to review without also including heavy critique. For those I opted not to review but felt exhibited obvious talent, I opted to write a private letter explaining my reservations and offering honest feedback. Some authors have expressed genuine appreciation for my honesty while others have responded with venomous spite. Regardless, this continues to be my personal approach to peer review.
Recently, I read a novelette written by a relatively new author, a story that opened with great promise but had an increasing number of issues the further I read. Given this author’s temperament, I’d intended to withhold a review and say nothing about it. Unfortunately, this person had seen a status update from Goodreads and announced publicly that a review from me was forthcoming. Not wanting any issues resulting from my silence, I sent a private note to the author and explained why I would not be reviewing the work. I also offered to send a critique listing the specific issues I’d seen in the story’s structure and a list of typos and grammatical errors. The author was not interested in receiving a critique but did ask for the list of errors.
I learned that this individual began to complain behind my back to shared friends and peers, telling them I was a cruel and ruthless person. I had injected unnecessary drama into this person’s life. I had thrown a massive blow to this person’s self-esteem. Curious to see if I had been the first to have anything negative to say about the story, I checked its reviews on Amazon. To my surprise, there was only a single one-star review, with over twenty four- and five-star reviews. For the most part, these reviews came from known peers. While it’s very possible that my assessment of this work was way off, it is my impression that the reviews had more to do with the author having many friends than having a work deserving of the reviews it received.
It’s no secret that this kind of practice occurs. Many authors trade glowing reviews without a second thought about the long-term repercussions. Unfortunately, it’s harmful in more than one way. First, it misleads potential readers, and those readers learn to distrust the review system. More importantly, by withholding honest critique from those in need of it, they are depriving their less experienced peers with the opportunity to grow. In my experience, an author’s ego seems to diminish a little more with each book he or she writes. First-time authors don’t want critique; they want praise and only praise. They want to be told how brilliant they are. Critique is “cruel” and creates “drama.” They assemble sock puppet shows to even the score with their perceived adversaries. Conversely, those who are more experienced understand the importance of honest feedback because they have humbled over the years. They’ve had the chance to look back on their first novels and see just how awful they were—an opportunity to see just how much they’ve grown as writers.
This only happens with honesty, however. Honesty legitimizes the good reviews. It gives readers faith in the system—and with that faith, the willingness to take chances on new Indie books that look promising. It helps authors, novice and experienced alike, slowly creep toward their potential. I’m not sure how we can put the integrity back into the process, especially when the big publishers are every bit as guilty of cheating their way to good sales. There might not be a solution, but I refuse to be a part of the problem. Moreover, I know I’m not alone.
********



Hank Schwaeble


Biography: 

Hank Schwaeble
is a thriller writer and attorney in Houston, Texas. His debut novel, DAMNABLE (Berkley/Jove 2009) won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. His second novel, DIABOLICAL (Berkley/Jove 2011) is being released on June 28th.

A graduate of the University of Florida and Vanderbilt Law School, Hank is also a former Air Force officer and special agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. He was a distinguished graduate from the Air Force Special Investigations Academy, graduated first in his class from the Defense Language Institute's Japanese Language Course, and was an editor of the law review at Vanderbilt where he won four American Jurisprudence Awards.

Hank is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers Association. In addition to reading and writing, Hank enjoys keeping in shape and playing guitar. He is currently working on his next novel.


Hank Schwaeble

1. Before we address the issue at hand, can you give us your qualifications to participate in this discussion?

If by qualifications you mean my publishing credentials, in addition to a number of short stories I'm the author of two novels, Damnable (Berkley/Jove 2009) and Diabolical (Berkley/Jove 2011) with my third, The Angel of the Abyss, currently scheduled for release in June of 2014.  I'm a two-time Bram Stoker Award winner and a World Fantasy Award nominee.



2. I think that we can all agree that the standards for self-publishing these days do not follow the standards of a print publisher, that is, well-edited, grammatically sound, coherent, and proper use of diction, even for an idiom-based story, such as Crime Noir. I also think many books out there are good, so mathematically for every good book, there must be what, dozens, hundreds, thousands of bad books? How many “bad” books do you read on average before finding a good one?

I think the premise of that question is a little off.  It's not that the “standards” for self-publishing don't follow those of print publishers, it's that self-publishing by its very nature doesn't have any standards at all.  Anyone can self-publish anything they write, or pretend to write.  There's no gatekeeper involved, no barrier to entry into the market other than what it costs to format a work.  This is the result of a technological evolution, obviously, that allows for more direct distribution to consumers, by-passing publishers.  The bulk of what used to be called “vanity” publishing is now being called self-publishing.  But there were barriers to vanity publishing, like steep costs and lack of meaningful distribution, that kept it far more on the fringe.  The term self-publishing started to replace terms that used the word “vanity” when print-on-demand became affordable and the internet provided a way for such books to be readily available, thereby at least theoretically allowing it a chance at capturing an audience.  The ebook surge took it all to the next level by creating a new, significant market scheme.

It was hard for people to avoid the vanity-press stigma in the past when they were paying a company (not a printer, mind you, but an actual press) to  publish their book, rather than the other way around.  But Amazon and the Kindle have changed all that, because the ability for authors to market books through the internet to the public via Amazon makes a lot of sense for writers with established fan bases or platforms.  Anyone can do that, however, so you have a lot of writers piggybacking on the trend and demanding that self-publishing be viewed as equally legitimate to traditional publishing.  The problem with that is, while it's definitely legitimate for some, it's a mere vanity exercise for others.  Since most writers, traditional or self-published, don't make a whole lot of money doing it, the prestige factor takes on a larger role in the equation, and a lot of people who consider themselves writers crave acceptance by their chosen peer group.  Writers are, by and large, needy people to begin with.  The ability to call themselves authors at social gatherings without anyone questioning the legitimacy of the claim is something many who've bypassed the traditional publishing route long for.  It's human nature.

I don't read a lot of “bad” books for every good one I find, simply because I'm a bit of a snob.  I'm very picky about what I read, since getting through a book is a significant investment in time.  I read a sample before I buy if it's by an author I've not already grown to trust.  Of course, that requires an investment in time itself.  The age of the internet and ebooks have made it very easy to buy books, but very hard to shop for them.

3. Do you think cult status for writers on the net qualifies them as “writers” who’ve made their bones or are they anomalies? Compare such writers to paper writers who’ve only had one hit book and base their fame on that.

I'm not sure what you mean by “on the net.”  If you mean, writers who've sold a lot of self-published ebooks through internet promotion, I don't see why they are any less legitimate than any other author.  If they're selling books, they're doing something right.  But 99.9% of the writers who self-publish don't sell enough books to pay for the electricity they used in powering their laptops while they wrote them. but it's starting to be considered rude (or, perhaps more accurately, many are demanding that it be considered rude) to point that out in public.

I'm not sure the term “paper writer” is applicable to anyone writing today, but if you're talking historically, anyone who's had a “hit book” has accomplished something admirable.  No matter what the mode of printing is/was, a hit is a hit is a hit.  Harper Lee never wrote anything after To Kill A Mockingbird.  I don't think that makes her book an anomaly. Just a stand-alone.


4. What are the intellectual criteria for calling oneself a writer?

I'm not sure there are any intellectual criteria.  The only criterion I can think of is that someone write as a matter of disciplined routine, which is less an intellectual measure than a practical one.  I would, however, say there is a distinction between being considered a writer by others, which I would assert requires being published in some traditional sense, and being considered an aspiring writer, which is a perfectly respectable status that seems to be shunned by many it would apply to in favor of a change of the traditional definition to include self-publishing in all forms.


5. What criteria do you see being used by these so-called “writers”?

As a threshold matter, I would object to setting that kind of tone.  I've been accused of being mean-spirited on the issue for using far less condescending language.  The problem it creates is that it distracts from a meaningful discussion about what standard the community should apply in a changing publishing environment and shifts it to one focusing on people's feelings.  The irony of that is, it's people's feelings that are driving the attempts at overly broadening categories until they have no real meaning anymore.  So, people's feelings are what created the question, and the question is a touchy one to discuss because of people's feelings.

Many of the people I believe you're referring to have not had success in getting published through traditional channels.  As is a common reaction, such people tend to foster a belief that the “game is rigged” against them.  When you get enough of those people in the mix—and the pervasive presence of computers and the rise of the internet has spawned a huge number of would-be writers who would never have gotten around to actually writing anything in bygone eras—those people will invariably see it as a public service to delegitimize the system they think is unfair.  It's not that they don't have a point.  There's nothing magically fair about publishing.  It's inherently subjective, driven by incomprehensible variables that seem to change with the wind, and the money that is available at the top tends to flow to either “safe” ventures with wildly popular authors or to works by celebrities that have no literary merit.  JK Rowling's novel under a pseudonym can sell less than a thousand copies and be on the fast track to the remainder bin, then suddenly soar to the top of the bestseller list when it leaks that she's the author.  It's hard to have confidence in the cream rising to the top when it seems to depend on the brand name of the cream.

But the focus many of these people have on the unfairness is misplaced.  With few exceptions, it's unfair to everyone.  I think a lot of aspiring writers—a critical mass, unfortunately—have allowed the unfairness to become the basis for a rationalization exempting them from having to deal with the same risks of rejection and impenetrability the vast majority of us have always had to and will continue to have to deal with.  As I stated earlier, this argument is less about quantifiable issues like money than it is about ego-driven ones like prestige.


6. David Moody found success via e-publishing. He wasn’t looking for it. It found him. Would you say that is true of most e-book authors, that they are seeking success on the online medium, and not to be “discovered” by print publishers?

I don't think too many split those kinds of hairs.  I think most anyone who writes a book wants that book to be well-received and to become as successful as possible.  There are exceptions to everything, but you have to go by what applies in the vast, vast majority of instances.  If people didn't want their books to make money, they would just give them away and keep giving them away no matter how popular they became.  Print publishing simply allows for a broader market than epublishing alone, and vice-versa.


More and more mainstream paper authors are turning to e-publishing as an extension of their success. Is this move driven by the authors, the publishers, or both. And is it about the money, or partaking of the new medium, not being left behnd so to speak?

We need to be precise in our language here.  When you say “mainstream paper authors are turning to e-publishing,” are you talking about self-publishing?  I have to assume so, because there aren't any authors I'm aware of who haven't dived headfirst into the epublishing world, in the sense that they don't allow their books to be formatted for the Kindle, Nook or Kobo-type ereaders.  The last hold-out of any note I remember was John Grisham, and he relented years ago.  Ebooks are not some fad.  They are here to stay, and the only real questions remaining about them have to do with what kind of market share will they ultimately end up with compared to physical books.  It's hard to say what the saturation point is going to be.

But on the topic of traditionally published authors turning to self-publishing, the incentives appear to be rather clear.  If an author has a fan base, he or she can offer a self-published ebook for a significantly lower price that will provide them a per unit return that will meet or even exceed the royalty rate paid by a publishing house.  The lower price-point can itself attract more readers willing to spend just a few dollars to try out a new author, so the potential is there for that book to make an author even more money than he or she would have made the traditional route even heavily discounted compared to the cover price of a physical book.

With an author's backlist, where the rights have reverted due to the book being out of print, this is a no-brainer.  With new titles, the calculation isn't so easy.  The potential is there, sure, but there are always trade-offs.  No bookstore presence.  No physical books to sign (the kind of thing that helps sustain a fanbase and establish loyalty).  No marketing efforts beyond what the author is willing to do.  It makes sense for some, no doubt, but still for most authors, the traditional route is a better bet, if they can find someone willing to publish their work.  It's more prestigious for a reason.


7. Let’s get to brass tacks. Does putting the word “author” before your name now make you a writer in this day and age, or is it just pretentious claptrap? If you feel it is legitimate, defend your position. I mean, many feel the reader decides who is a writer, not the writers themselves. What do you think?


That certainly seems to be what some people are pushing for, the ability to self-designate and not have the assertion questioned.  But, frankly, I don't care what someone calls himself.  If someone wants to think of himself or herself as a writer and use the moniker, it's a free country.  What I do care about, however, is the concomitant insistence that everyone else has to also abide by that designation.  That the rest of us have to adjust our definitions and standards to accommodate other people's sensitivities and self-image.  There is an noticeable push by people who are self-publishing to saddle traditional publishing with terms that suggest it's old and stale and passe', painting themselves as “modern authors” in touch with the times and embracing the new model of publishing.  Some of the more aggressive among them go so far as to attack people who disagree.  Sorry, no.  The fact is, the vast, vast, vast majority of self-published authors are only that because no publisher was willing to buy anything they'd written.  For every one good writer who's navigated the ebook wave to success, there are hundreds if not thousands who don't make a dime and who no one would publish traditionally.  Yet those people seem to be the ones who, mirabile dictu, scream the loudest about the days of traditional publishing being numbered.  In many ways, it's the revenge of the slush pile.

8. Give me a laundry list of material items that make you an author in today’s market. (e.g., fancy car, good-looking mate, beach-front home, talent, an agent, you get it, right?).

Well, if a good-looking mate were the standard, I wouldn't just be an author, I'd be a friggin' literary giant.  But seriously, there's no “material” component that makes someone an author.  I would say all that matters is a having a commitment to the craft, with either a publishing credit of some sort or a circulation of self-published work(s) beyond friends and family.  Again, I should reiterate that there's nothing wrong with being an aspiring writer.  Every writer was at one point.  Honestly, that's still what I consider myself to be, and will continue to see it that way until I fulfill all, or at least most, of my writing goals.  It used to be that in order to be considered an author, you had to 1) write a book, and 2) find someone willing to pay you to publish it.  A lot of people want to do away with that second requirement.  To me, that's tantamount to doing away with the concept of an “aspiring writer” altogether.  If someone is successful self-publishing, that's a form of earning it.  But I'm not sure we're doing anything but assuaging fragile egos by acting like everyone who writes something is an author.  We're certainly not helping the profession.

9. Will history be the final judge of whom and what is a writer? Who the hell are we to judge? Those are literal questions.

History is the final judge of everything on this Earthly plane.  It's the only thing still around after everyone else involved is gone.

It's not a matter of whether we have a right to “judge.”  It's a matter of what results when opinions are free to circulate in a marketplace of ideas.  Some author asserting that he or she doesn't think self-published writers are “real authors” is doing nothing more than submitting a conclusion for consideration.  What should bother people is not someone doing that,  nor someone voicing a countervailing opinion, but someone or a group of someones who is trying to quash debate by invoking a trump card of “feelings” or otherwise attempting to declare the discussion out of bounds.



10. It would seem an e-book author works with a team: editor, book cover artist, style consultant, and so on. Compare the paper author team to the e-book team. Who has the advantage now, and who will have it as software replaces the team members.

If you remove transaction costs from the equation (granted, that's an awfully big “if”), then there's no question in my mind that a traditional publisher has an advantage.  That's their business, and assembling professionals, in-house or out, is their job.  An e-book “team,” assuming we're talking about the self-published author, would have to be assembled by the author, or by a contractor hired by the author.  Even if you don't consider the relative costs to the author, it requires a lot of time and information to put together a team that will do a book justice.

Will software replace the traditional “team”?  I doubt it.  It will allow self-published books to look better, but I would expect traditional publishers will stay ahead of the curve in providing a more professional product.  Ebook readers are going to become more and more sophisticated, so I would venture that will mean ebook formatting will, too.


11. I don’t sell many copies of my book EAST LOS, yet I get emails from Hollywood interested in making it into a movie, but they want to change too many things so I say no. The right offer will come. On the other hand, I get a lot of charlatans trying to scam me to invest money to make a movie of my book. I know too many Hollywood people fall for that crap. Do you think e-publishing has brought this sleazy element to the market or has it always been around since the paper only days? What other sleazy elements do you associate with e-books and/or paper?

I can't say with any authority, but I don't think epublishing did anything to change the landscape except to allow for opportunities for direct solicitations to authors.  The stories of what horrible things producers have done with books and to authors are legion.  The attitude has always been something like, you're selling us a car, and we can do any damn thing to it, paint it any damn color, make any damn modification we want.  The fact the people who've contacted you have been upfront about wanting to make changes makes them models of ethical virtue, compared to some stories I've heard.


12. There seems to be a built-in failure system for e-authors because of the sheer number. It reminds me of the crab metaphor. A fisherman keeps crabs in an open bucket, even though the crabs can climb out, because he knows that if all the crabs are attempting to climb out at once, they’ll keep pulling each other down, so that none of them can get out. With “authors” saturating social sites with ads and pleas for “friends” to buy their e-books, do we have a case of the crab metaphor at work here?


The problem with that metaphor is, it implies others are pulling authors down.  I don't think it's like that.  The buzzword in the industry is “discoverability.”  There are hundreds of thousands of ebooks published every year.  It doesn't matter how many social sites or friends you might have.  Even if you had them all to yourself, you're talking about a drop in the bucket compared to the number of sales it takes to make a book successful.  We'd like to think that there's a natural geometric progression that a good book would experience, with one person liking it and telling two friends, and so on, and so on, but it really doesn't work that way.  I think you have to reach a critical mass of market saturation before you can count on that.  Why?  Because recommendations aren't epidemiological.  Each social circle will eventually close out in a loop.  Not everyone heeds a recommendation, and not every recommendation is heeded.  I'm sure if someone did the math, there would be a minimally optimal amount of circulation necessary before that kind of thing could become a driving engine.  Have some people done it?  Of course.  But exceptions tend not to provide formulas for others to emulate.

13. Last question is not really a question. Here is where you stand on your soapbox and write that essay on the subject at hand. Be coherent. Be foul-mouthed. Be whatever you want, as long as it’s honest. So, get it off your chest. I’ll distract the referee.


Self-published authors craving respect aren't the only ones subject to the foibles that accompany human nature.  There is just as big a tendency among many traditionally published authors to deride the commercial success that tends to elude them, blaming, at various times, the publishing industry, “corporatism,” video games, diminishing attention spans, capitalism, an unsophisticated public with declining readership, publishers' low-brow tastes in choosing what to promote, etc.  Many writers can be vicious in their savaging of successful authors, if those authors didn't succeed in an approved way.  In my experience, nowhere does this tendency seem to be more pronounced than in the horror community.  Most of these discussions take place out of the public's view, but they do take place.  It's as if many of us—and I have to include myself because I'm as much a member of that community as anyone else and probably not without culpability—accept that there is horror “royalty,” and below that a descending hierarchy determined by anything other than commercial success, and woe be unto anyone who attempts to ascend to the royal heights without the imprimatur of the community.  It's tribal and self-defeating and we need to get past it.  It's not that none of the complaints commonly voiced has any merit.  There is always, or at least usually, a kernel of truth to them.  But just as it's the dose that make the poison, it's the proportion that makes the argument.  If one top-selling author has made such an impact that an entire marketing division of a major publishing house is devoted to her, the fact you don't like her writing is not proof that the industry is a joke, nor is it proof that the general public is stupid.  I think we as writers should spend more time figuring out what ultra-successful writers are doing right than trying to point out why their success is somehow illegitimate or evidence of a lack of true standards being applied due to what we perceive as  examples of them doing it “wrong.”


BONUS QUESTION:  14. Do you ebook hoard? Do you know of anyone who does? How will this affect the market? (I know that fewer reviews come out for freebies than for purchased ebooks.) What do you think?


If by “ebook hoard” you mean do I download books just because they're free so I'll have them, the answer is no.  And I can't say I know anyone who does.

But that does relate to an issue my wife and I were discussing just the other day.  Ebooks have changed my buying pattern significantly.  It used to be I would stop by Barnes & Noble once every couple of weeks or so and leave with a pile of books.  Probably four to six, on average.  Many of them I would never actually read, because I'd become more interested in something else that just came out or that I heard about or found on my next trip.  Now, it's totally different.

With my Kindle, I only buy one book at a time, and most of the time I check the sample first to make sure it's something that interests me.  This means that many, many books I'd probably have bought before now get sampled and reshelved, figuratively speaking.  It also means that the cycle of a book's shelflife is different for me from a marketing perspective.  Whereas before I would buy a small stack every couple of weeks, now it's one book every week or so.  I rarely buy books I don't read, and I also buy fewer books for each marketing cycle.  In other words, the constant availability of books means I only buy one at a time, and I'm sure that means I'm not buying some I would have bought when I used to pick them up in stacks.  I have no idea what that means for the market, but it has to mean something.  I still go to bookstores, by the way, just not nearly as often as I used to.
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Summary:

We've heard some stern opinions and some polite debate. Jimmy Pudge defended his position with blunt and direct language--no need for subtleties here. Lori R. Lopez analyzed the role of writer and reader today by using herself as an example. Julianne Snow wondered at the hubbub of the subject and showed dismay at the materialistic side of writing. Geoff Brown was succinct in his answers and even edited the questions to suit his talented eye for perfection, but his short answers spoke volumes. Lisa Lane delivered a personal and professional look at the world of e-publishing today and supplied some examples of faux writers in a market that encourages short-cuts to that elusive fame. Hank Schwaeble questioned and clarified the questions I asked, at once a part of the interview and a commentator on the subject matter; he took control in order to reach those writers and readers who might confuse my queries with his assertions, a trait not uncommon to Socratic teaching. But ultimately, authors and readers, there is a revolution going on in the Cyber market today and we should not confuse it with evolution. Whether you're a participant in the volleys or a bystander watching the action, you are involved, for no one will be left unaffected when the dust of the Cybernocturnalistic conflict settles. 

Thank you again, authors, for your participation today. And thank you, readers, for joining us as well. I encourage you to join the after-discussion in the comments section as this is a matter that should not fade away. Till next we meet, all things in moderation--especially free e-books. :)