Fiction Friday: 8 Things Writers Forget When Writing Fight Scenes

Lisa Voisin

eight

Recently, I attended VCON, a science fiction and fantasy conference in Surrey (part of Metro Vancouver) and attended a session called “Writing About Fighting.” The panel consisted of writers and experts who were disciplined in multiple martial arts, including authors Lorna Suzuki and T.G. Shepherd, and Devon Boorman, the swordmaster of Academie Duello in Vancouver. (I lost my program, so if you remember who else was there, please leave it in the comments, below)

For me, this talk was so fascinating, it was worth the cost of admission to VCON. In fact, I spent days thinking about the topics discussed and tried to incorporate them into The Watcher Saga. These are just a few of them as I remember it.

Eight Things Writers Forget About Fight Scenes:

1. It’s not about the technical details

First of all, if you’re not technical and don’t know the details of fighting, you…

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Insightful Thoughts Re: Kindle Unlimited

Writers, This post is well worth the read.  Enjoy!

Kindle Unlimited: Will it Affect You?

kindle-unlimitedThe New York Times claims self-published authors are unhappy about Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited pro­gram, which uses an “all you can eat” model sim­i­lar to the one used by Netflix and Spotify. For $9.99 a month, Kindle Unlimited offers access to 700,000 self-published and tra­di­tion­ally pub­lished books. Publishers who par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram earn less money in exchange for access to Amazon’s sub­scriber community.

But the prob­lem is not Amazon. More often than not, the prob­lem is unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions. Kindle Unlimited is a non-issue for most self-publishers.

Kindle Unlimited: Publishers are Opting In.

Nobody forces any­one to buy from Amazon (or sell through them). The world could boy­cott Amazon and shut it down, but they won’t because Amazon makes it cheap and con­ve­nient for con­sumers to find and access every­thing from eBooks to LED trailer lights. If you feel like your pub­lish­ing busi­ness is a second-class cit­i­zen on Amazon, you’re right. The cus­tomer is the one rid­ing up front in a big leather seat. Amazon has built an empire by offer­ing value to cus­tomers—and they know if you opt out, a small army of peo­ple with stuff to sell will be happy to fill the tiny void left by your depar­ture. This doesn’t make Amazon mean or unfair; it makes them smart busi­ness­men. As cap­i­tal­ists, they’re fol­low­ing the money—and they’re exploit­ing the power vested in them by the mar­ket­place to change the pub­lish­ing ecosys­tem to favor their busi­ness. Love it? Hate it? Those aren’t rel­e­vant questions.

Selling Books? Really?

For most small pub­lish­ers, books are a hor­ren­dous retail prod­uct. How much money do you make from a book sale? Probably some­where between $2 and $10. Self-publishers who fail to sell books in vol­ume rarely earn enough rev­enue to recoup their pub­lish­ing costs. And for­get about get­ting paid for those writ­ing and research hours. Sure, there’s always a bell going off some­where in the casino that keeps the rest of the room pop­ping quar­ters and pulling handles—some pub­lish­ers get lucky or clever—but the major­ity of self-publishers sell fewer than 100 books.

Given that big pub­lish­ers keep the prices of eBooks arti­fi­cially high (they’d sell mil­lions of $2 eBooks, but I sus­pect their $20 printed com­ple­ments wouldn’t look very appeal­ing to con­sumers), small pub­lish­ers have exploited the low pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion costs to flood the mar­ket with $1–$3 eBooks. But with the seller skim­ming 30%–70% off of low prices, the retail profit mar­gin remains thin, even with pro­duc­tion costs near zero. Most self-publishers cross their fin­gers, hope read­ers will dis­cover them, and send their mes­sages in bot­tles out into the seas of publishing.

If you opt in to Kindle Unlimited and toss your books in that pool, how much will this really affect your bot­tom line? If you’re one of the minor­ity who sells books in vol­ume, you will see a dif­fer­ence. But if your aver­age book sale returns less than a cup of cof­fee (as is usu­ally the case) and you sell 100 books per year, profit oppor­tu­ni­ties lie out­side the book­selling environment.

Of the authors I work with, the ones who profit from book sales are the ones who sell books at work­shops and keynote speeches. One sold 1000 books at a sin­gle event, sign­ing books and accept­ing cash at the back of the room, but most of us don’t have access to stadium-sized audi­ences. We pub­lish because we want to share our sto­ries and ideas, even if that costs more money than it makes. The rest of my clients don’t worry about book prof­its. They trade on the cred­i­bil­ity that comes with lit­er­ally being the one who “wrote the book on the sub­ject.” For them, a book is a rela­tion­ship builder.

Relationship Marketing

In gen­eral terms, a sales trans­ac­tion is the result of a rela­tion­ship between a buyer and a seller. That rela­tion­ship may be as sim­ple and indi­rect as a con­sumer read­ing a label on a pack­age, decid­ing to trust the peo­ple behind the prod­uct, and buy­ing it. Or it might involve months of nego­ti­a­tion between a sales/support team and an acqui­si­tions depart­ment. In either case, the exchange of money is pred­i­cated upon a con­sumer mak­ing the deci­sion to trust the seller—to enter into a relationship.

Smart sell­ers con­sider the costs in time and money required to ini­ti­ate a rela­tion­ship with a buyer. How much time, effort, and money will you invest to earn $5–$10? If (hypo­thet­i­cally) it takes 15 min­utes to talk to a prospec­tive reader one-on-one, and that results in a sale half the time, your hourly return is $7.50. Spend an hour read­ing to an audi­ence of 25 peo­ple and assume 10 of them will buy a book when you’re done. Your return is $75. But how many of these audi­ences can you assem­ble? It’s clearly more effi­cient to build rela­tion­ships with many prospec­tive read­ers at once, but until your audi­ence exceeds 100 peo­ple, the returns aren’t very grat­i­fy­ing. And how many hours and dol­lars will it take you to prep for your hour behind the lectern? What if you spend $350 on books to sell at your read­ing event and then it rains that day and nobody shows up? If you expect 100 par­tic­i­pants, you’ll want to bring at least 50 books. Larger busi­nesses require more up-front cap­i­tal so you can invest in inven­tory. Risk increases with audi­ence size.

As an author, if I ini­ti­ate a rela­tion­ship with a reader that results in a book sale, I earn $5. As a book designer, if I ini­ti­ate a rela­tion­ship with a reader that results in $3000 worth of design, type­set­ting, and coach­ing work, my effi­ciency increases 6oo times. Personally, I would find it grat­i­fy­ing if you read my books, but pro­fes­sion­ally, I want you to see my books and want yours to look and func­tion like mine. I want you to see my eBooks and pur­chase the soft­ware I devel­oped that empow­ers you to make your own. As an author, I’m an artist who wants to share my work, but as a pub­lisher, I want to derive income from books. Selling them—at least for me—seems the least effec­tive way to accom­plish that goal.

Writing, Publishing, and Kindle Unlimited

As a writer, I think of myself as a lit­er­ary artist. I love shar­ing my sto­ries, and I love help­ing oth­ers share theirs. The art of writ­ing well, of trans­mut­ing thoughts and ideas into ink squig­gles on paper fas­ci­nates me. As a book designer, I under­stand how font choice and page lay­out and other aes­thetic fac­tors empower read­ers to decode those ink squig­gles into some­thing greater than the data on the page. As with most artists, I want to share my work. Paying the bills with it wouldn’t be such a ter­ri­ble thing, but art is not dri­ven by prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions. Art is about per­sonal expres­sion. Art seeks an audience.

As a pub­lisher, I think about “shal­low” things like rela­tion­ship costs, mar­ket­ing effi­ciency, profit per unit, and how I can make money. Bookselling fell off my radar a long time ago. My books (and this blog) attempt to demon­strate relationship-worthiness—knowledge, expe­ri­ence, capa­bil­ity, taste, and perspective—offerings that pro­vide value to clients and profit to my pub­lish­ing business.

Whether Kindle Unlimited is a god­send or a rip-off can only be assessed in the con­text of where your pub­lish­ing inter­ests lie on the spec­trum between art and busi­ness. We all want to share our work with mil­lions of read­ers, and hope to earn a few coins in the process. But with­out a solid strat­egy and a real­is­tic bud­get with which to imple­ment it, many indie writ­ers will find it valu­able to use Kindle Unlimited to put their work in front of a larger audience—even it if it costs them a big slice of a tiny pie.

If you’re wear­ing your pub­lish­ing busi­ness hat, you’re most likely sell­ing books in vol­ume by appeal­ing to niche audi­ences, speak­ing to groups, or using your writ­ing cre­den­tials to attract big­ger oppor­tu­ni­ties. If you’re sell­ing books well on your own at prices you’ve set your­self, you’re prob­a­bly best off hold­ing your course. If your model involves cast­ing as wide a net as pos­si­ble using your book as oppor­tu­nity bait, Kindle Unlimited might be an excel­lent value.

Kindle Unlimited is an oppor­tu­nity for some writ­ers and a deal killer for oth­ers. Publishing is a tough busi­ness either way. You’ll find excel­lent dis­cus­sions of the program’s prac­ti­cal pros and cons, but the real dan­ger lies in allow­ing such dis­cus­sions to obscure the big­ger picture.

The great­est pit­fall for indie pub­lish­ers is not Amazon or their lat­est eBook dis­tri­b­u­tion strat­egy. The stum­bling block is wish­ful think­ing that pro­motes con­flat­ing the inter­ests of art (writ­ing) with those of busi­ness (pub­lish­ing). Is your book an art book (fic­tion, for exam­ple) designed to enter­tain and inspire, or a prac­ti­cal prod­uct (like a book on pro­gram­ming or invest­ing)? Is your audi­ence easy to iden­tify and reach (peo­ple who col­lect acoustic gui­tars all hang out on a few web­sites) or more neb­u­lous and gen­eral (peo­ple who enjoy nov­els; where do they hang out?)? Do you have a strat­egy and a bud­get, or do you have “a good book and lots of pas­sion?” With a clear busi­ness plan, the impact of Kindle Unlimited on your book busi­ness will be easy to assess. Without one, think about big­ger things first.