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Old 07-01-2010, 02:30 PM   #91
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Originally Posted by NickSpalding View Post
Which is a concern I've been voicing about on various forums for some time.

I get shouted down by some who cite that good books will always rise to the top because of reviews, recommendations and access to samples, no matter how many e-books there are out there...I'm really not so sure though...
It obviously works for some... but not others. As usual, those who shout loudest get the most attention, but that has little to do with quality... just the persistence of one's personal fan club. It is a very haphazard and unreliable way to promote ebooks--not that any promotion is "reliable", but Google ads would probably be more likely to deliver sales.
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Old 07-01-2010, 07:09 PM   #92
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It obviously works for some... but not others. As usual, those who shout loudest get the most attention, but that has little to do with quality... just the persistence of one's personal fan club. It is a very haphazard and unreliable way to promote ebooks--not that any promotion is "reliable", but Google ads would probably be more likely to deliver sales.
I think there's something of a cap when it comes to potential customers / revenue when dabbling in indie publishing. As there's so many indie books now, the chances of breaking out beyond the few hundred people or so that frequent the various boards is very slim.

Indie publishing is fantastic if you just want to sell a few hundred, maybe thousand copies, get your book read by like minded individuals and receive constructive criticism.

Become a top selling author in the tens or hundreds of thousands and make a living doing it? .....er, not so much
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Old 07-01-2010, 07:39 PM   #93
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Originally Posted by NickSpalding View Post
Indie publishing is fantastic if you just want to sell a few hundred, maybe thousand copies, get your book read by like minded individuals and receive constructive criticism.

Become a top selling author in the tens or hundreds of thousands and make a living doing it? .....er, not so much
Which is why, if you are a serious author, you should also continue to submit your unpublished works to a few traditional channels.

- M.
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Old 07-01-2010, 08:03 PM   #94
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Which is why, if you are a serious author, you should also continue to submit your unpublished works to a few traditional channels.

- M.
Amen to that.
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Old 07-01-2010, 08:15 PM   #95
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I wish I could see sales of a few hundred of any one book! I generally get high dozens, total, of the sum of my 14 books per year. This year, however, I'm expecting less than 50 total sales at this rate. I'm not sure if that says more about my writing, my marketing skills, my choice of genre, or all of the above, but there you go.

As for traditional channels... after my original effort, and what few letters I got back saying: "We're not looking for anything new, don't bother to send"... I admit I don't have much faith in the traditional channels, unless of course I go out and either marry a Kardashian or murder someone, and get into the news...
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Old 07-01-2010, 08:27 PM   #96
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickSpalding View Post
Indie publishing is fantastic if you just want to sell a few hundred, maybe thousand copies, get your book read by like minded individuals and receive constructive criticism.

Become a top selling author in the tens or hundreds of thousands and make a living doing it? .....er, not so much
I'm not sure that it's any *harder* to become a top-selling author now, than it was 15 years ago. Indie publishing & ebooks don't seem to make it notably easier, but despite the huge avalanche of literary dreck that's swamping the internet, it also doesn't seem that *good* indie authors are having a rougher time breaking into mainstream publishing than they used to.

(So, yeah... if becoming a Big Name Author appeals to you, keep submitting to big publishing houses. Current trends indicate they *do* pay attention to authors who are making a living selling books without them, and consider that a sign of marketability rather than a sign of troublesome rebel attitude.)
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Old 07-01-2010, 08:44 PM   #97
Steven Lyle Jordan
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(So, yeah... if becoming a Big Name Author appeals to you, keep submitting to big publishing houses. Current trends indicate they *do* pay attention to authors who are making a living selling books without them, and consider that a sign of marketability rather than a sign of troublesome rebel attitude.)
Yeah? uh... forget what I just said! My sales are in the hundreds of thousands for the month... and it's only the first day of July! Whoo-hoo, I'm raking it in!

Ah, frell...
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Old 07-01-2010, 09:33 PM   #98
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My point is that people are not paying for content with cable. They are paying for delivery of content. Different animal. (for pay channels are different)

For example, someone pay for internet access. They "pirate" some I.P. The fact they are paying for internet access is a different fee (like a cable fee) than for the I.P they are acquiring...
For the channels that you don't have to pay separately, the cable fee also includes payment of royalties for the contents as the cable company has to pay these. Only for special pay channels the royalty will be paid from the fee for these channels.

Now if the youth (or others) are used to this model (you pay a monthly fee for accessing the medium and you get all the content for free) then they may be tempted to apply the same model to the internet: you pay a monthly fee for using the medium and you get most of the content free. And maybe that will become the model of the future, who knows?

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Old 07-01-2010, 11:15 PM   #99
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My first reaction upon seeing this thread was to think a loud, "HELL, NO!" Followed quickly by a, "For God's sake Steve, don't give up!"

My reaction was primarily emotional, a "this is the way I'd LIKE things to be."

What follows, while I've tried to back up my assertions and opinions with examples, is still ultimately a case of wishful thinking, the way I'd like things to be. But I still believe and hope (and being a writer, pray) that I am right.

First, Steve, I can't urge you strongly enough to keep on writing.

Not because it will make you rich -- statistically, very few of us make much money on our books...although it only takes one modest hit to earn a nice chunk of change that can make one quite "comfortable."

But you should keep on writing because you ARE a writer. You write because you love to...but also because you need to. (At least that is my relationship to my writing.)

To give up is to give up a part of one's being, much as Ray Bradbury's famous tale about putting away his dinosaurs and Buck Rogers ray-guns because of getting teased by a classmate...and for the few days he put away these items, there was a hole in his soul. Finally, he pulled his dinosaurs and Ray Guns back out and held onto them proudly...and the world is a far better place for it.

For me, writing is not just what I do, but a big part of who I AM. I couldn't quit...no matter how frustrating it is to have to fit writing into the nooks and crannies of normal life commitments. My life is made better by writing and, when push comes to shove, to hell with what anyone else thinks (unless, of course, they like my stories, in which case their obvious brilliance illuminates the world).

It must be enough for me to write the stories I need to write and that touch my heart. (One of my own Outlaw Galaxy stories that is a work of love and if you get it, you get me: Here. Alone.

But money is nice, too.

Now, back to the main subject: Is now a horrible time to be a writer?

I think that's the wrong question.

The better question might be, "Has there ever been a good time to be a writer?"

And the answer to that is unquestionably, "No."

But I believe that now is a BETTER time to be a writer than ever before...I believe the future may be even better than now. Even with torrents and piracy and unlimited digital duplication at no cost and the "everything should be free" entitlement philosophy of many on the Net. It's still a better time to be a writer than the past.

Flash back to the bad old days. You had two options: 1) Sell to a mainstream publisher. 2) publish yourself and beat shoe leather, hand-selling books to readers and stores on a case-by-case basis. There was no internet option and that meant a lot of talented writers never sold and got forever lost in the cracks of the industry.

Most authors in the history of mankind were people who did something else to earn a living and wrote for love. A few earned some money on it.

Prior to the 20th Century, very few authors made decent royalties. Twain, Stowe...Franklin owned his own newspaper press and so made a living as a publisher/author. Most authors were either independently wealthy or worked a day job to support their writing habit. It's well-known that Dickens wrote his books first as serials in newspapers that were then collected into novels...but he was pirated to death in the US, where copyright laws were ignored...so he was ripped off by his contemporary equivalent of the torrents and file-sharing, the big bad pirate USA...but he still made a very nice living on his books.

Even at the height of the modern publishing industry, the vast majority of authors had to work a day job to support their families because book royalties were just a nice hobby income and writing was something you did on nights and weekends after your day job was done.

So the good old days weren't good, not by any stretch of the imagination...and not measurably different from the situation most authors face now.

But now...NOW could be a golden era.

Look at it this way: Prior to about 10 years ago, the only readers you reached were the few that could find one of the few thousand copies of your book that were published before those copies were shredded for returns. Most authors never found the readers who would dig them because there was no online Amazon to buy books from around the world and no way to find out about books that weren't available at your local library or bookstore. Purchasing decisions were based often on cover art...word of mouth was llimted and almost non-existent for small press run books where a community might have one or two copies if any at all. The world was very small for readers and very limited for authors.

But now, any author has the possibility of reaching readers around the world at virtually zero cost. Whether my or your readers are in small town Nebraska or frozen northern Alberta, parched interior Australia or London or LA or NY City or Africa, we can reach them online. It is not easy now, it's a lot of work to stand out from the crowd...but it was IMPOSSIBLE before.

Me? I'll take that .01% now over that 0% of just a few years ago.

And in the past, while an author needed to have an audience of 10,000 or 20,000 readers to sell the next book for a meager advance and almost no chance of royalties, now an author can get by with a much smaller audience.

I liken authorship now to baseball. With mainstream publishing, now you've got to hit a grand slam EVERY SINGLE TIME you get up to bat or your career is over. But as an indie author, you can get by with a series of singles and walks...and man, just one home run, just one, and you are set for life. I'll take that deal.

Now, how do authors do it?

1) Much as piracy is a huge annoyance, DRM sucks. Abandon faith all ye who cripple their books with DRM. It's a personal bias as a writer, but as a reader, I flat out refuse to buy DRM'd ebooks (cause I'm a Linux user, the Kindle software is simply not worth the hassle).

DRM crippling is useless since you can still do screen grabs or scan pbooks with only modest hassle...all it takes is one smart cow to get its nose under the fence...er, one dedicated scanner to scan and post a book on the torrents...and any form of DRM is rendered useless.

I just don't see the point of continuing with the charade...unless, of course, you work for a company that sells DRM "solutions" to gullible authors and frightened publishers.

I think making one's books available in as many common formats without DRM crippling, in as many channels as possible (on your own website, but also Smashwords, ITunes, Amazon, Kobo, etc.) is the only way forward.

2) Remember, ebooks are just a fraction of pbooks. While the technology has the potential to be a huge part of the industry in the (near) future, pbooks are still an important revenue stream...and because pbooks can go anywhere, read anywhere.

The majority of people still LIKE having a printed physical book and assign value to it that at this time they do not assign to ebooks.

But with Amazon, B&N, Abe Books and your own website, you can sell print books around the world, guaranteed without returns.

Use the ebooks to build the audience for the profitable pbooks.

I believe authors MUST find a way to make their books available as both ebooks and pbooks, whether the pbook solution is Lulu or Lightning Source, or going the route I am choosing, which is to buy a high-volume laser printer to print and bind on demand as ordered.

3) Ubiquity of cheap gadgets -- cheaper smart phones, cheap Linux tablets and netbooks, Negroponte's promise of a $100, then a $50 and maybe someday soon a $20 netbooks/flexible OLPC tablet...sure, it's all pie in the sky and the timeline is probably not entirely realistic, but I do think within 5 years, we will be able to buy $50-75 netbooks on plastic pegs right next to the cheap digital cameras at Rite-Aid.

Ebooks have a ton of potential because everyone will have an ebook friendly device with them almost all of the time within 3-5 years. So the "just one modest hit and I have a decent income" mindset seems much more feasible.

Ebooks can already hit decent numbers. Look at some of the download numbers on Wattpad and Scribd and Manybooks and Feedbooks...hundreds of thousands of downloads (granted, the stories are free and let's not even get into quality)...but the numbers show you can achieve fairly large numbers of readers, even as freebies, with the market as it stands NOW.

In the future, those numbers could add a zero or two...so conversion rates from free readers to buyers of just 1-2% can still yield some impressive sales numbers.

4) Making a buck...free promos lead to sales (crosses fingers).

Use Smashwords, Wattpad, Feedbooks, Manybooks, Scribd, LibraryThing and similar sites to promote downloads of free samplers -- short stories that introduce characters and situations that lead into your novels, something that is a complete story and stands on its own...but whets your appetite for more.

Get people hooked on your writing with freebie downloads, get lots of people to read them with these widely used websites, and try to get them interested enough to buy the books you are selling.

Cory Doctorow has mastered it. Scott Sigler has used podcasting his novels, others have serialized those novels, and gotten tens of thousands of unique readers. They have used these promotional tools to convert at least enough of these freebie readers into paying customers to sell pretty good quantities of books. Sigler on a recent podcast at TheCreativePenn.com talks about serializing his novels to get a publishing contract and get on the best-seller lists...but also, he was able to use his audience to PRE-sell a limited edition of The Rookie. He pre-sold over 1,000 copies, enough to pay for a 3,000 copy press run: A nice, deluxe hardcover with color plates, presumably retailing in the $25-30 range. The press run was entirely paid for by his most loyal fans, but now he has 2,000 copies that he can sell for a profit of $10-20 a book...which is a nice supplemental income.

5) Be honest.

Remind readers that you are a small, independent publisher and if they like your books, sales of other books, contributions to the tip jar, and telling their friends to get them to buy all REALLY MATTER.

Remind people that if they'd like to read more of your stuff, their financial support can make it happen, same as its important to patronize any business or artist whose work you like.

No patronage, it's back to the salt mines of working a day job and you write what you can in the time you have. Sorry gang.

Support the authors they enjoy and the author gets to spend a lot more time coming up with cool stories for them to enjoy.

You don't have to beg...but there's no shame in being honest and up-front about the social contract.

And ultimately, the people who don't pay don't matter, no matter how loud they squawk. It doesn't matter what the readers who don't pay want to see...you'll have no choice but to cater to the readers who vote with their pocketbooks. Remember, George R.R. Martin is not your...well, most of us know the rest.

6) Hitting the road.

The conventional wisdom for modern musicians is to use mp3s (often shared freely among listeners, to the chagrin of record labels) to promote sales of concert tickets, where the real money is made. (Which is a funny reversal since it seemed that in the 80s, the goal was to use concerts to promote sales of the album, where the real money was.)

But authors can't tour...or can't make money on it. No, not conventionally, not like a musician.

But I think there is an opportunity: Small venues like coffeehouses, restaurants, art gallery-type events, niche book stores -- have "Night with the Author Events." For restaurants and coffeehouses, it's not unlike having a folk musician, but it's a speaker instead -- they use you as a promotion to bring in foot traffic and sell the folks who wander in drinks and food, or they can even have a combo event with "Dinner with the Author."

The presentation is a standard author event -- a reading, open question and answer session...but most of all, befriend the audience. Be fun, be cool, be honest and show an interest in the folks who could easily become your most loyal fans. Just be a fun, decent guy to hang out with. (Harder for some folks than others, but just relax and have fun with it and enough people will go along with it to have some fun.)

At smaller establishments, getting just 20-30 attendees is good for the restaurant or coffee house since these places generally don't have huge capacity and they don't need to close off the whole place for the event.

You make money by 1) passing the hat/tip jar (if a "Free" event), 2) revenue from ticket sales (from the Dinner with the Author events; maybe there is a second ticket tier, for a higher price the attendee gets a limited edition hardcover of your novel, custom autographed by you), 3) autograph table and selling your products, whether they are books, ebooks on customed USB sticks, hats, T-shirts, whatever.

Promotion before the event is simple if the host is willing to work with you -- free fliers, promo chapters to hand out, publicity in local "Community events" listings online and in papers. Look for local groups interested in the genre, maybe connect with a few folks in the area on Facebook...all it takes is one local "fan" who can spread a little word for you to bring in people who aren't aware of you. Free events are obviously the way to go if you are not a well known author.

One thing I have found is that most authors don't really maximize the possible benefits of their in-store events. There are a few fliers posted in stores before the event, author shows up and sits behind a table and a stack of books. All but the most loyal fans are afraid to approach for few of being guilted into buying something and so authors generally look glum a couple of hours into the deal and so become even less approachable as time goes on.

Be committed to making signings not sales opportunities, but chances to meet interesting people and give them freebies to turn them into readers...hook them now, worry about converting them into sales next time you're in town.

Authors have a great promotional opportunity -- get a short, short story/flash printed up on a flier for stores to hand to every single customer who enters the store (or buys a specific genre if you are a genre author) for an entire month before the event.

Do some kind of charity fundraiser or event for a good cause to get local publicity -- I'm a big pet person, so my first choice would be to do something for a local animal shelter -- a coloring contest for the kids based on a scene from my juvenile sci-fi books.

There are LOTS of opportunities to generate tons of advance publicity, create goodwill, make the event something "meaningful" for everyone there...and still generate sales.

Have similar freebie short story handouts for your author event -- this opens the door for you to engage foot traffic at the store -- "Hey, I'm an author, here's one of my stories, check it out, I hope you like it." It's a free sample without the guilt/social contract of "buy something for the distraught author trapped behind a stack of books."

The free sample is a great way to engage strangers, to get their interest and if you are at all friendly and approachable, a way to turn them into readers and fans...and if nothing else, a way to meet some really neat people.

I'm also a big believer in the free sample, as opposed to say a bookmark or card, because the short story sample says to the person, "This is what I do." It is a great way to show the actual product they are going to get if they buy your book...whereas a bookmark can be really pretty, but often doesn't really let you know if you're likely to enjoy the book.

7) Serialization.

Sure, lots of people complain that they hate serialized stories.

But I'll let this article speak for itself: The Future of Publishing.

The fact of the matter is that all of us read stories serially, a chapter or two at a time during breaks in our busy day. Serials are perfect for commutes. I think this format will see a big comeback.

So, in "short" , no, there's never been a good time to be an author...but the future sure could be GREAT!
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Old 07-01-2010, 11:39 PM   #100
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For the channels that you don't have to pay separately, the cable fee also includes payment of royalties for the contents as the cable company has to pay these. Only for special pay channels the royalty will be paid from the fee for these channels.

Now if the youth (or others) are used to this model (you pay a monthly fee for accessing the medium and you get all the content for free) then they may be tempted to apply the same model to the internet: you pay a monthly fee for using the medium and you get most of the content free. And maybe that will become the model of the future, who knows?
No true in the US. The channels usually have to pay the cable companies a small fee per subscriber to be carried. They get their money out of advertizing, just like broadcast TV.

And the youth of the US do apply the same model to the internet...
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Old 07-01-2010, 11:53 PM   #101
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Originally Posted by BillSmithBooks View Post

Prior to the 20th Century, very few authors made decent royalties. Twain, Stowe...Franklin owned his own newspaper press and so made a living as a publisher/author. Most authors were either independently wealthy or worked a day job to support their writing habit. It's well-known that Dickens wrote his books first as serials in newspapers that were then collected into novels...but he was pirated to death in the US, where copyright laws were ignored...so he was ripped off by his contemporary equivalent of the torrents and file-sharing, the big bad pirate USA...but he still made a very nice living on his books.
I don't know that pirate is a fair word the copyrights weren't ignored, foreign copyrights didn't apply in the US until 1891 and even then it still required registration in the US on or before the date of publication.
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Old 07-02-2010, 03:22 AM   #102
starrigger
Jeffrey A. Carver
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Well said, BillSmith.

Steve, here's the thing (responding not to the whole discussion but to your own situation as you've described it). If you hope to generate more sales from the ebooks, then you probably have to work at publicizing your stuff in many more places than just this forum. And what others have said about placing your books in as many outlets as possible. It's not just enough to have it on your website, it needs to be where people will stumble across it.

Keep working at improving your craft. I'm not making any judgment at all about your writing; I haven't read your novels. But the fact that you haven't sold to traditional publishers might mean that there are some aspects of the craft that you haven't fully mastered yet, and that's why your books didn't sell. I'm not saying that's the case, just that it could be. Are you involved in any sort of workshop situation where you can get good, constructive criticism of your work? If not, that's a good thing to do. I've been part of a workshop for thirty years, and I can't imagine sending anything out without improving it through that process first. Consider attending one of the SF workshops such as Odyssey or Clarion. If you were in the Boston area, I'd invite you to my own.

What if that's not the problem? Or what if your next book is the one that might put you over the top? Don't forget that Dune was rejected something like 40 times before it found a publisher. And The Hunt for Red October was published first by a naval institute press because all the regular publishers turned it down, until they saw what a success it was. Don't believe for a minute that publishers aren't looking for new writers, because that's absolutely untrue. New writers are their lifeblood, and editors love to brag about new finds. That said, it is hard (but not impossible) to sell without an agent. And finding an agent can be as big a challenge as finding a publisher. But that's always been true.

Bottom line? If fiction writing's really in your blood, then don't give up. I know how discouraging it can be. But I also know how rewarding it can be (not in money terms, necessarily) when you break through and find an audience.
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Old 07-02-2010, 09:39 AM   #103
NickSpalding
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Don't believe for a minute that publishers aren't looking for new writers, because that's absolutely untrue. New writers are their lifeblood, and editors love to brag about new finds. That said, it is hard (but not impossible) to sell without an agent. And finding an agent can be as big a challenge as finding a publisher. But that's always been true.
.
I'm very glad this seems to be the prevailing attitude in this thread. I'm getting a little sick of reading threads elsewhere where indie authors spend their time bashing agents and publishers and the 'traditional' model, as if there's some vast conspiracy to deny new authors the chance to become published in favour of only lining the pockets of existing authors.

What a load of rubbish. Agents and publishers want to work with anyone they think can line their pockets, new or old.

The fact is that most indie stuff just isn't good enough to get published, so no agent or publisher will want to take it on.
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Old 07-02-2010, 10:32 AM   #104
Steven Lyle Jordan
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I'm not worthy!!

I'm not worthy!!


There have been some great responses to this thread... I'm very glad I asked the question, and it's gratifying to hear the support, not just for me, but for all writers. Many of the posts have left me with some things to think about, and some things to work on, and have bolstered me against the occasional feeling of writing for nothing, or expecting too much of what is understandably a difficult craft, with very little history of turning out well for most of its practitioners.

Based on the responses to this thread, I would have to agree that, while writing these days may not be all roses and lollipops... it could be a lot worse. And despite the problems and uncertainties of the market, there's no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater... baby'll be just fine.
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Old 07-02-2010, 11:32 AM   #105
Vintage Season
Pulps and dime novels...
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Are you involved in any sort of workshop situation where you can get good, constructive criticism of your work? If not, that's a good thing to do. I've been part of a workshop for thirty years, and I can't imagine sending anything out without improving it through that process first. Consider attending one of the SF workshops such as Odyssey or Clarion. If you were in the Boston area, I'd invite you to my own.
Steve, Jeffrey has offered an approach that several of us should have suggested earlier: Get involved with other writers, preferably in your own chosen genre, who can give you honest, constructive criticism.

Why the stipulation about "chosen genre"? If you can find a local group of writers, it is always nice to get face-to-face responses... but it is much better if those responses come from someone who at least shares your frame of literary reference. One of the science fiction writers I know has been involved with her local writers' group for several years, but she found it difficult to get meaningful feedback because there were only two other science fiction writers in the group. Of those, one seldom came; the other almost never came.

Since your chosen genre is science fiction, I should mention The Friday Challenge, an online group in which I—and also the author mentioned in the previous paragraph—participate. The site is hosted by an actual, published author named Bruce Bethke... the fellow who first coined the term "cyberpunk," and who is credited as the first to use "spam" as an epithet for unwanted e-mail, in his novel Headcrash.

Drop by. Maybe join in a competition. If you have a piece for which you would like uncompromising, critical, honest feedback, ask for it in the weekly "Open Mic Saturday" threads.

We will be friendly... but we will also be honest. If we see specific flaws, they will be pointed out. If we see unobtrusive suggestions for how to improve, we will offer them. If we see excellence, we are liable to offer unblushing praise.

The same invitation is extended to every other writer who reads these words.

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Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
Based on the responses to this thread, I would have to agree that, while writing these days may not be all roses and lollipops... it could be a lot worse. And despite the problems and uncertainties of the market, there's no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater... baby'll be just fine.
... and that is the realization we were hoping for all along.

- M.
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