Why Do I Always Think THIS Summer Will Be Different?

Every summer, I over-promise and under-deliver. At least when it comes to producing word count.

The kids are at home almost all day, every day. The company I work for has a huge conference sometime between late August and late September every year (this year, it’s late September), and I am heavily involved in the development and delivery of many breakout sessions. This means I have more to do in less time (remember those children who are at home?) than usual. By the time I finish what I have do for the day job most days, I’m simply spent. I don’t have the will or the mental capacity to sit down and write, too.

You would think I would know by now that writing even an average of 500 words per day is just not going to happen, especially not from July through September, and yet I somehow manage to tell myself every year that this is the year that will be different. I was so sure that it wouldn’t be a problem this summer that I promised to have The Lesson Plan written by mid-September for a late October release. How close am I to achieving that goal? Um, about the same as I was when I made the promise back in June (before school got out). Oh, I’ve added word count, but it’s taken me almost a month to add the last thousand words.

Now, the kids will all be back in school this coming week, which is something that usually helps, but I’m not sure that’s going to be the case any more. My oldest started high school, and I’ve discovered that dropping him off and picking him up is a minimum 30 minute round-trip. The middle school my daughter goes to has cut the bus stop near our house, which means having her ride the bus to and from school is no longer an option. My youngest son’s schedule hasn’t changed, but the bottom line is that I now have three morning drops and three afternoon pickups to contend with. I think I can consolidate picking up the high schooler and the middle schooler, but none of the other times coincide closely enough to kill two birds with one stone. I’m sure we’ll all get used to this, but I know I’m going to be spending more time playing chauffer than I did when the older two were in middle school and rode the bus both ways. /sigh

Anyway, I’m still hoping to meet that late October release target, but at this point, it’s probably going to be a close thing.

Have I learned anything? Yes. Next summer, I won’t think things will be different.

Unveiling a New Look for an Old Book

Carnally Ever After was the first manuscript I ever had accepted for publication. I originally wrote it on a dare of sorts from the delightful Ann Aguirre. The story was targeted at Ellora’s Cave for their Naughty Nuptials call back in 2007, but they passed on it. Several months later, Cobblestone Press offered for it and I gladly took up that offer.

Now, four years later, I’ve reclaimed the rights to the story. Although I’m waiting for all the third party retailers to pull the book from their sites, I’m planning to re-release it as soon as they do. In addition to the original text of Carnally Ever After, the new version will include a bonus epilogue that I wrote a couple of years ago and the first three chapters of The Lesson Plan.

It also has a gorgeous new cover designed by Kimberly Killion at Hot Damn Designs that I’ve been dying to unveil since she first sent it to me months ago. So here it is at last in all its sexy glory:

Is You Is or Is You Ain’t a Publisher

Before I launch into today’s post, a few quick words. I have been on vacation for almost two weeks. Although I got back early Monday, I’ve been playing catch-up in all aspects of my life (family, household, day job) and thus haven’t had much time for the writerly side. So, hi, here I am, and I’m glad to be back.

Among the things that apparently erupted while I was gone was a brouhaha over whether or not The Knight Agency is establishing a digital publishing arm. (See here for what I think is a comprehensive run-down of the story, albeit from the perspective a one author.) Courtney Milan also posted her thoughts on the question of agents becoming publishers and the potential ethical issues that raises.

I bring these things up not because I’m going to launch into a rant on the reasons I think agents shouldn’t become publishers (I’ve already been there and done that), but because I think it’s important that we define what a publisher actually is. Only when we determine what makes an entity a “publisher” can we decide whether or not any particular agent/agency has actually become one.

Now, maybe you are going to want to argue with my definition, and that’s fine, because I think there are a lot of disagreements over what a publisher is or isn’t (e.g., are “vanity” publishing companies like AuthorHouse “publishers”?), but the bottom line for me when it comes to deciding who “publishes” a book is simple–it’s whoever the retailer/distributor pays first when a copy of the book is sold.

In the case of traditional print publishing, the publishing house is first in line. It then distributes the author’s percentage either to the author (if unagented) or to the agent, who takes his/her 15% off the top and passes the remainder on to the author. The same holds true of digital small presses–they get paid first when copies of the book are sold, then pass the author’s percentage on either through the agent or directly. And when you are self-published, YOU get the money from the retailer/distributor; that’s what makes YOU the publisher.

So, when it comes to whether agents/agencies are publishers or not, the question is–are they first in line? If they are uploading the book to the distributors themselves and in charge of managing the account, and they are the ones who get paid when the distributor cuts the checks/EFT entries each month, then as far as I’m concerned, they are the publisher. It doesn’t matter whether they’re taking a smaller cut of the proceeds than other publishers would. It doesn’t matter that they would have been “before the author” in line if the book had been sold by another publisher. The bottom line is that they have control of the account with and are first in line for payment from the distributor, and that makes them the publisher. But if the author is first in line and pays the agent a cut for services rendered, then the author is the publisher.

I have no idea what The Knight Agency means by “assisted self-publishing.” But if they are not going to be in charge of the accounts and will be paid their cut by the publisher (in this case, also the author), then I have no problems whatsoever with their claims that they aren’t opening a digital publishing arm. Whether or not the services they are offering are worth 15% is entirely up to the authors they contract with to decide.

But if what an agency does when it “assists” an author to self-publish is to open an account with Amazon and the like and upload the books (with full control of pricing, cover art, book formatting, etc.) and then receive payment from Amazon, passing on the author’s percentage after taking its cut, then I say the agency is a publisher and is, in fact, not assisting the author to “self-publish” because in no way, shape, or form does this arrangement resemble the author acting as his or her own publisher.

Agree? Disagree? Tell me about it! (Said in my worst Brooklyn accent.)