At this time we (Barb and J.C.) wish to warn all readers following us here that we are shutting down this satellite site. While this has been fun experiment for the last year plus, it has become too much to manage multiple subsites.
If you wish continue following our news, please see NobleDead.org and the newly re-initialized BarbHendee.org. [If you are an independent author, you may even wish to visit our other site: NDAuthorServices.com.] There are many ways at the first two sites to keep up on our news. You can also contact us through those sites if you have need of a recommended method.
Thank you to all who have followed us this far via WordPress.com!
—J.C. (& Barb)
Everybody has already heard of Kindle Unlimited, so no need to bother with that one. Many are unaware that it is (1) not the only such service, (2) not the best deal for your money and/or (3) offers almost no professionally published books. It all depends on what you want, from professional authors and publishers, independent authors, those inbetween and (yes) whether you get to keep those ebooks.
Did that last point catch your attention? Unfortunately, the one I was thinking about is currently having problems, so more on this in a later installment.
Most professional authors have misgivings about such services; KU is at the bottom of their concern in this, for it offers the least number of works from pro-authors by a wide margin. Most pro publishers will not work with KU and likely never will for the most part.
Imagine the % of subscription reads paid to authors through publishers vs. a purchased book; take 10% or less of that for what passes through to the author. Often much less. Compared to what self-publishers earn, it is still better. Just the same, we’re talking about the other side now, and that means you, readers. And here’s the final catch:
If you have the money to spend, then you don’t have to pick just one service. The only limitations may be the type of reading device you use and whether or not there is a reading app(lication) available for it.
Some of these are not for adults but offer a great experience for kids! This time out, we’ll stick to those that might be lesser known or not already splogged everywhere. And we won’t try to cover all of the options in this first article.
- Devices: iPad, Kindle Fire, Android, plus web access
- Holdings: ebooks (Reading Rainbow, 450+), scholastic (Reading Rainbow), tv series (Reading Rainbow, all episodes)
- Limits: 5 ebooks at a time; monthly access unlimited
- Free Trial: 14 days
- Price: $9.99/month, $29.99/6 months, $49.99/year
The site is terrible; clunky, chunky, and needed info (price, etc.) is not revealed upfront. Even their “gift” giving option isn’t clear about cost. Its look might appeal to young-young readers as a way to get to the parents, but the little ones won’t be the ones to purchase.
Put all this aside and rough it out, if you have young ones in the K to 3rd Grade age groups. This one should not be passed up by anyone familiar with the exceptional Reading Rainbow series hosted by Levar Burton.
- Devices: iPad, Kindle, Android
- Holdings: ebooks (15K+, english/spanish), audiobooks
- Limits: ebooks unlimitied (?), audiobooks (unknown)
- Free Trial: 30 days
- Price: $4.99/month
DEAL MAKER! Another one for younger readers with broader age range (categorized) from pre-K to 12+. It is free for verified educators and librarians. This is better than Skybary for families with 1+ kids of varied ages. And you get upto 4 separate reader accounts with 1 subscription.
If you want your kids reading as well as zoning out in front of a video game, then you’ve got to try this. I will likely recommend it to my daughter as soon as my granddaughter is of age for some regular reading, and that’s not far ahead.
- Devices: nearly all!
- Holdings: ebooks (500K+, multilingual), audiobooks
- Limits: ebooks unlimitied, audiobooks (unknown)
- Free Trial: 30 days
- Price: $8.99/month
This is a promising service with a site designed properly. While it uses a common responsive design (7+ screens to reach the bottom on a HiRes notebook), at least it shows pertinent information at the top. You can search out authors and titles immediately without having to subscribe. This is the model that other ebook subscription sites should follow for readers interested in more than just fast-food fiction. Unfortunately, you won’t find our books on this system.
This is the one service we found so far that offers the option to keep some ebooks even after a subscription ends… supposedly. Unfortunately, between the time I first went to this site and now, the site is down. I will update you when I know more.
WARNING: As if this morning, Oyster would not function at all after loading in either Chromium or Firefox (with appropriate security active in both). Examination of the opening page’s underlying code shows an abysmal amount of encoded/inline fonts… and there is no telling what else might be in there. This out-dated approach to fonts in web design has been used in the past as a delivery system for malware/hackware. USE WITH CAUTION.
More subscription options for readers are pending as time permits around writing.
Coming January 2017, the first volume of…
Barb here. Okay, that title probably lays out the point of this blog post pretty clearly, but this is a complex topic.
Of late, I’ve heard some rather “loud” voices in the industry telling new/hopeful writers that not only do they not need an agent to be successful, but that an agent will actually be damaging to their careers.
In one online discussion, I recently (stupidly) jumped in to say, “Well, of course if someone is self-publishing, he or she doesn’t need an agent, but if a novelist wants to be traditionally published, an agent is necessary. How can a writer get a manuscript on the desk of a New York editor without an agent?”
I was instantly—and quite vehemently—told that I was “wrong,” and that no writer requires an agent to get a manuscript on the desk of a New York editor… and that unagented writers sell novels to New York editors all the time.
I bowed out of this discussion quickly, but I did worry that a lot of new/hopeful writers were listening to what I considered very poor advice.
Arguments Against Going with an Agent
These three issues are commonly discussed:
1. Issue: An agent has too much voice in what gets written and doesn’t get written… and what gets shopped and what doesn’t get shopped to publishers.
Response: Yes. This is certainly something to consider. I have a friend who wrote up a proposal for a project that crossed a few boundaries on the “disturbing” level, and her long-time agent said, “I can’t sell this in the current market, and I don’t feel comfortable submitting it.”
Ouch. What do you do when your agent won’t send out a project? This does happen. But… I don’t think it’s common, and I’ve never personally had it happen, and I’m beginning to realize that in some cases, I should have listened to my agent. J.C. and I are with John Silbersack at the Trident Media Group. John is a very experienced agent who handles the Dune estate for the Herbert family.
Recently, I decided to try my hand at a romance novel. John told me, “Either do Regency or contemporary. At present, very little else is selling.”
I didn’t want to do Regency or contemporary (smiles), so I wrote a Victorian romance. The book is a lot of fun. John read it. He liked it. He was happy to submit it all over New York, but he told me to be prepared because he’d probably have trouble selling it due to the setting. That was last November and… so far, no one has made an offer (even though a number of editors have liked the book). Several have said, “She’s good, but this setting isn’t selling right now. Can you get her to write contemporary?”
So, our agents may limit us, but I think for the most part, they just offer advice. Most agents will shop our projects even when those projects are not the most marketable.
2. Issue: Agents work for the publishing industry, not for the writer.
Response: This kind of statement makes me bang my head against the desk slowly. Of course agents work for/with the publishing industry. But… of course they also work for/with the writer. The writer works for/with publishing industry. The publisher needs the writer.
In traditional publishing, this is a three-way symbiotic relationship.
I am familiar with an agent who hates the publishing industry, who views it as one great mass of evil whose only goal is to cheat writers of their last dime. As a result, this agent does not make many deals.
As writers, if we’re going to pay our rent and buy groceries, we need an agent who is at least willing to go into negotiations. Of course our agent must look out for us first and foremost (and the editors know this), but you are much better off with an agent who is trusted and respected by editors in the publishing industry. You might even be able to make a living.
3) Issue: Are you really going to trust a complete stranger with your money?
Response: This is another somewhat misleading statement. One does hear horror stories now and then, and a few of these have become legend.
But in reality, a literary agency is a business like any other business.
Any writer with sense will research an agency before he or she signs on. There are a number of well-established literary agencies with solid reputations. Most of the established agencies have accounting departments. Checks flow from the publisher to the agency’s accounting department. The accounting department cuts a check for 15% to the agent who negotiated the deal and 85% to the writer.
If a writer is uncomfortable with this arrangement, he or she can simply set up separate accounting. This is what we did.
In all our book contracts, our agent arranges for the publisher to send 85% of monies earned directly to us and for 15% to be sent to the agent. This is becoming a common practice.
Why You Might Need an Agent
1. Negotiating Contracts
Now here, instead of an agent, you can go with an IP (intellectual property) attorney and just pay a one-time fee. I know a few writers who have done this and had a good experience.
Again, JC and I are with John Silbersack at Trident Media, and our agency is always on the lookout for new “clauses” that are suddenly slipped into contracts. Sometimes even innocuous-sounding clauses can have long-term impact. Trident Media has its own legal department, and we are more comfortable using the combination of our experienced agent and the Trident legal team when it comes to negotiating a contract.
Note: No matter who negotiates the contract, it is up to you to read every word, ask questions, and make sure you understand each clause before you sign it. Remember your grandfather’s advice and never sign a document before you’ve read it.
2. Inside connections
For me, this is becoming increasingly important. With the changes in the publishing industry, and the mergers, and the vanishing imprints, even people who are very connected are having difficulty keeping up.
I think it would be challenging for a new writer to try and submit an unsolicited manuscript in the current market, because just figuring out “where” to send it and to “whom” to send it has become tenuous.
Our agent is well connected, and even he’s had trouble with this. Just last month, he sent my Victorian romance to a long-time editor at Berkley, and by the time it reached her desk, her position had been “eliminated.”
3. Getting your manuscript in front of a New York editor.
This last item is the “thesis” of my blog post.
Is it possible to somehow get a manuscript on the desk of a New York editor without an agent? In theory, yes. I don’t have to look any farther than myself.
In 2001, I got a little novel called Dhampir through the slushpile (without an agent) and onto the desk of an editor at Ace/Roc. She read it and made an offer.
However, keep in mind this was 2001, and the publishing industry was different fifteen years ago. Some of the imprints were acquiring a lot of books. Borders and B&N were doing well, and mass-market paperbacks were booming.
Also, by 2001, I had sold one novel (for a professional advance) to a small publisher, and I had a long list of professional short story sales. My cover letter and my writing credentials somehow got me out of the slush pile. I honestly don’t know if these would have cut any mustard in the current climate.
Last week, I decided to do some research. At this point in my career, I am pretty well connected, and I am acquainted with a number of New York editors. I did a verbal survey to see if any of them read unsolicited, unagented manuscripts. All of the answers were the same. Here is a quote from one editor at an imprint of Penguin Random House that sums up the responses:
“It is rare for editors to even see unagented manuscripts. Neither of the senior editors here look at them, and I occasionally look at them. I’m guessing I read 10-15 agented manuscripts for every non-agented one. Basically non-agented manuscripts are just classified as slush so would go into that category. In the last 5 years we’ve only had one author that we acquired without an agent, and he came from the slush pile. He now has an agent.”
So… if you want to go traditional, think a bit on this quote. Everyone is responsible for his or her own writing career. Think carefully, think critically, and no matter what you hear, make these choices yourself.
J.C. and I rarely put up posts of a personal nature. We tend to be private people. And yet, it’s been quite a year for us both personally and professionally.
Last year, at this time, we were living in a three-bedroom house in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. We’d lived there for eight years and remodeled the interior and turned the entire backyard area into a small fruit orchard and veggie garden. Around the end of 2014, we were still living as full time writers, but the publishing industry began shifting rapidly after Border’s closed. Then our publisher, Penguin-Putnam, merged with Random House, and Random House began to downsize many of Penguin’s imprints, including ours. Many writers like ourselves began earning less and less money from our work.
It soon became clear to J.C. and me that we would need to make some serious changes. For one, we’d both need to find other sources of income to supplement our writing. I decided to go back to teaching college. However, I could not do this while living out in the middle of the Willamette Valley. Last July, we sold our house and moved up into a townhouse south of Portland. We do like the townhouse, but it has been a big change for us all. Our gray kitty, Ashes, adjusted fairly well, but our black kitty, Cinders (our wild girl) has had some trouble. She misses her big back yard with big trees to climb, and the tiny one [above] in our patio area pales in comparison.
I do have a nice office nook in the new place. This is just off our bedroom. J.C. writes and works at our dining room table with Ashes beside him at times.
Last July, our editor of eight years was “downsized,” and we were assigned a new editor. Two months ago, that editor’s position was “eliminated,” and we were reassigned again. As I said, the industry is shifting.
Through all of this, we have continued writing to bring you new stories. We finished the Noble Dead Saga, which was a bittersweet experience as this series has been such a huge part of our lives for a decade and a half. However, we had been contracted to begin a new series called The Dead Seekers, set on the eastern continent of the world of the Noble Dead Saga. We will have much more news on this as soon as the public links go up at Amazon and B&N. We’ve seen the cover, and it’s gorgeous.
I have a new Mist-Torn book released today: To Kill a Kettle Witch So… it’s been quite a year of change for us, but we forge ahead and will share news of our upcoming works soon. Thank you, readers for being readers and for loving books.
About 24 hours to the release of TO KILL A KETTLE WITCH, available in ebook and massmarket paperback. The fourth episode in The Mist-Torn Witches series by Barb Hendee. Set in the same world as (but separate in story/characters from) The Noble Dead Saga and the coming first book of The Dead Seekers (Jan. 2017).
Coming May 3rd but available for Pre-Order…
TO KILL A KETTLE WITCH
by Barb Hendee
Massmarket Paperback & eBook
We won’t spoil too much more for you in this pre-notice, but you can learn more in the “Novels” section at NobleDead.org, including links to purchase points. So? What are you waiting for?
More to come at the release dates nears!