Welcome to Author Provocateur Podcasts

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Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy my author interviews, novel samples, and creative writing tips. 

To celebrate the Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Weekend 2018which takes place on the weekend for Friday through Sunday, April 27—29, 2018—I interviewed some of the 50+ authors who will be attending.

THESE INTERVIEWS WILL LAUNCH SOON.

Each author has such wonderful insights on what inspires them to write—and you'll certainly enjoy what they say about their latest novels and their writing process.

Josie Brown

 

 

 

Why Authors Choose to Self-Publish

AR-305239320

Most authors walk a financial tightrope. 

Hey, don't take my word for it. In a September 2015 an article on a recent Authors Guild survey of its members' incomes,  Publishers Weekly put it this way:

 

Authors Guild Survey quote

Yikes.

Thank goodness for self-publishing. It saved my career, and those of many other authors I know.

Even with four novels (one optioned for television) and two-nonfiction books published traditionally, as early as 2010 I'd dipped my toe into the choppy waves of self-publishing. My subsequent success with it is why I now self-publish exclusively.

Whereas self-publishing has grown by leaps and bounds in the past ten years, ours wasn't the first generation to discover its financial rewards. Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Marcel Proust, and Walt Whitman self-published their books. Misery loves great company indeed.

But before self-publishing became a financially viable option for the current generation of writers, traditional publishing—that is to say, print books, primarily by one of the Big Five New York publishing houses—was the only venue for the sale and distribution of books. Even ten years ago, the thing authors love to do most—write novels—was not possible without running an unwieldy gauntlet that put their manuscripts in front of any literary agency that might deem the book sellable to a publisher, and any publishing house editor who might actually like it enough to purchase it. 

Besides editing, printing, and distributing a book, part of the publisher's job is also to promote it. For doing so  the publisher holds on to anywhere from 80-92 percent of the book's retail price.

(Yep, some authors get only an 8 percent royalty. Worse yet, royalties are paid twice yearly, and they are only paid if their books "earn out"—that is, return any advance paid, which may not happen for years if at all, what with the other variables tied to this equation, including book returns, of which there are no cut-offs; and perhaps the payback of advances of other books as well.)

Sadly, in traditional publishing, marketing is the last consideration—never the first—when purchasing a book from an author. Compared to other products as a whole—and entertainment products in particular, including films, music, magazines, and video games—it gets a negligible budget, if any at all.

Steve Hamilton Publishers WeeklyDon't take my word for it.  In this article regarding the breakup between bestselling thriller writer Steve Hamilton and his former publishing house, St. Martin's Press, Publishers Weekly outs its industry's dirty little secret: there is no there, there:

 A book can be beautifully written, have scintillating dialogue and a page-turning plot. But without the adequate marketing and promotion that puts it in front of a targeted audience, a book is as dead as a beached whale. 

At this point in time, most Authors Guild members are traditionally published. Coupled with the Hamilton/SMP breakup, the Authors Guild survey certainly makes an excellent case for the guild to reconsider what it must do to protect its members. For example, the guild—along with literary agents and intellectual property attorneys—should insist that any publishing contract contain clauses that:

(a) Succinctly spell out a yearly quantitative financial base for the book, with instant reversion to the author if not met. Right now, most publishing contracts hold onto rights forever, under the assumption that digital distribution means that a book never goes out of print.

(b) Outline an advertising budget, tied to an actual, very specific media plan for the marketing of the book—at least for the first full year in print—and allow for immediate reversion of rights if there is no follow-through.

Is it any wonder that hybrid authors—that is to say, those authors who have been published traditionally, but then, like me, elected to publish their books independently of a publishing house—are a growing breed? Of course not. Like everyone else, authors have to eat. They have to pay rents and mortgages. They raise children, and pay for health insurance, taxes, and all the other expenses that come with being self-employed.

I personally know many hybrid authors. Under the traditional publishing model, their advances and sales shrunk along with the demise of both chain bookstores, and the winnowing of independent brick-and-mortar bookstores in the most recent recession. Several of these authors were at the brink of financial disaster (homes soon to be repossessed, couch-surfing, near bankruptcy) when they made the decision to walk away from traditional publishing contracts. After doing so, they rolled up their shirtsleeves and did what they had to do to self-publish: write good books; have their books professionally edited and digitally converted; distribute their books—primarily as eBooks.

The successful one know they must also promote their books.

The good news for their readers: the books are priced lower than their offerings still distributed by their traditional publishers. 

The great news for these authors: now that they retain 70 percent of the book's retail price, they are making a sustainable living for themselves and their families.

Some are doing better than that, having already sold millions of books since starting this journey. Sylvia DayBarbara Freethy, Stephanie Bond,  Bella Andre, and Kate Perry are perfect examples of hybrid authors who took advantage of the changing bookselling marketplace to not just survive, but to thrive. And whereas Ms. Day, Ms. Andre and Ms. Bond still have one foot in traditional publishing, Ms. Freethy and Ms. Perry are in total control of every facet of their books' design, distribution and promotion. 

Another hybrid author who made the leap to indie publishing and never looked back was thriller novelist Barry Eisler. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview him for the International Thriller Writers Organization's e-zine, "The Big Thrill." Some of what Barry says regarding the advantages of self-publishing versus traditional publishing can be found in the article linked here.

However, some of our Q&A was cut. Since the questions are relevant to this post's topic, I've included them here:

JB: If there were one (or two, or three) things you could change about the publishing industry and the novelist’s role within it, what would it be?

BE: The first thing I’d like to change is the popular perception that organizations like the Authors Guild and Authors United primarily represent authors rather than establishment publishers. I have no problem with organizations advocating for publisher interests, but the dishonest way in which the AG and AU go about their publishing industry advocacy misleads a lot of authors. I could go on at length about this topic and in fact I have—so for anyone who wants to better understand the real agenda and function of these “author” organizations, I’d recommend starting with this article I wrote for Techdirt, Authors Guilded, United, and Representing…Not Authors.

JB: But isn’t it true that the AG speaks out on various topics of concern to authors, like unconscionable contract terms?

BE: Hah, the AG going after publishers is like Hillary Clinton going after Wall Street. I’ve had a lot to say about this, including thecomments I wrote in response to this post at The Passive Voice.For anyone who’s curious, just search for my name and you’ll find the comments, the gist of which is, when the AG wants to accomplish something, it names names and litigates; when it wants authors to think it’s trying to accomplish something but in fact isn’t (or, more accurately, when what it’s trying to accomplish is maintenance of the publishing status quo), it talks.

When the AG talks, it’s a head fake. The body language is what to look for in determining the organization’s actual allegiances and priorities.

Another thing I’d like to change is the generally abysmal level of legacy publisher performance in what at least in theory are legacy publisher core competencies. Whether it’s cover design, the bio, or fundamental principles of marketing, legacy publishers are content with a level of mediocrity that would be an embarrassment in any other industry. I’ve seen little ability within legacy publishing companies to distill principles from fact patterns (particularly patterns involving failures) and then apply those principles in new circumstances. Institutional memory and the transmission of institutional knowledge and experience are notably weak in the culture of the Big Five. My guess is that the weakness is a byproduct of insularity and complacency brought on by a lack of competition.

JB: Agreed. Having spent fifteen years in advertising before becoming a novelist, I was abhorred as to what passed for “marketing and promotion.

BE: I'd also like to increase awareness of the danger a publishing monopoly represents to the interests of authors and readers. No, I’m not talking about Amazon; “Amazon is a Monopoly!” is a canard and a bogeyman. I’m talking about the real, longstanding monopoly in publishing (or call is a quasi-monopoly, or a cartel), which is the insular, incestuous New York Big Five. An important clue about the nature of the organization is right there in the name, no? See also the Seven Sisters

Okay, another thing (and then I’ll stop because I could go on about this stuff forever): I’d like to see more choices for authors; new means by which authors can reach a mass market of readers; and greater diversity in titles and lower prices for readers.

Wait, that last set of wishes is already happening, courtesy of self-publishing and Amazon publishing—the first real competition the Big Five has ever seen, and a boon to the health of the whole publishing ecosystem.

Hybrid author success stories are now numerous. As author advocate Jane Friedman's wonderful blog points out,  Claire Cook, Harry Bingham, and William Kowalski are just a few other examples of hybrid authors who made the leap and never looked back.

Products are created from a perceived need. Industries are created by providing sales and distribution venues for products.

But sometimes how the product is distributed changes also how the product is purchased by its consumers. 

Books—in whatever form they take—will always be needed. They entertain, they provoke thought, they provide knowledge.

In publishing, books are the products. Still, how books are distributed and sold doesn't change how they are made: by authors with the perseverance to write a good story, and then do what they can to find readers who will fall in love with it. 

 

Like Mr. Kowalski, Ms. Cook, and Mr. Bingham, I love what I do. Now that 2015 has come to an end, I now know that all my hard work toward creation and release of the my latest four books and a novella (The Housewife Assassin's Garden of Deadly Delights, The Housewife Assassin's Tips for Weddings, Weapons, and Warfare, The Housewife Assassin's Husband Hunting Hints, Totlandia Book 5, and Gone with the Body) was worth it.

It is confirmed by my bookstore royalties. More importantly, it is substantiated by the many kind comments received from my supportive readers. 

Thank you, readers, for taking a chance on me, loving my characters, and chatting up my books with others who they felt might enjoy them, too. 

Here's to a wonderful new year filled with more great stories from your favorite authors.

—Josie

 

Martin and I found this antique musical Santa snow globe at an old curiosity shoppe.

Christmas Snow Globe 2015

At the time it was a splurge for us—thirty dollars—but how could we resist? Turns out the shop owner had just polished its brass base that very morning before putting it in the shop window. "I knew it would go quickly," he said, chuckling. The shop is gone now. Still, I'm sure he'd be happy to know it's given us many years of joy. Every time I hear its version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," I have to smile.

—Josie

My guess is that she’s reading Pride and Prejudice…

Keira-knightly-as-elizabeth-bennett

 

Or maybe "The Housewife Assassin's Handbook."

I'll go with the latter.

–Josie

From "Pride and Prejudice, the Musical"

Music and Lyrics by Rita Abrams; Libretto by Josie Brown

The song: 

Bingley_2#3: IT IS A TRUTH (Complete Song)
(Sung by Bingley, Darcy and Caroline)

 Darcy and Bingley banter about the pressures on single men–particularly wealthy single men–to marry.  But while Darcy is disgusted by it, Bingley's attitude is more benign–perhaps because he is already in the throes of enchantment with one of the local beauties, Jane Bennet.

 

_________________________________

 

 


HA1 Handbook 768x1024

THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
978-0-9740214-0-9

FREE! 
ORDER NOW,  from

Amazon.com (US)  / Amazon.UK 
Also in all Amazon countries!

BN.com (99 cents)

Apple iTunes Bookstore  / Apple iTunes Bookstore (UK) 
In all iTunes countries!

KoboBooks

 

 

John Singer Sargent painting: “Zuleika”. The farce — and artifice — of beauty.

Sargent_John_Singer_Zuleika

Gorgeous, wouldn't you say? It was painted by the 19th Century famous portraitist,  John Singer Sargent. His abstracts were always of friends– usually other artists, such as himself. I wonder if that was because he felt his clients demanded something more meticulous, whereas perhaps these were painted on the fly? His version of toting a camera was to relax with easel, canvas and paints, be it oils or watercolors.

This one is entitled "Zuleika," was completed in 1907, and hangs in the Brooklyn Museum. The name is a genus of moth. It is also Persian in origin, meaning "fair, brilliant, lovely." 

She certainly looks that way, here.

Who was she? The wife of a friend, perhaps? There are a series of poems based on a character by that name. Turns out Sargent was friends with humorist Max Beerbohm, who was working on a contemporary novel by that title, about a woman by that name whose beauty was so great that her merely stepping off a train to visit her grandfather in Oxford caused men to obsess over her — to the point of committing mass suicide.

This Sargent painting and Beerbohm's novel might have been the very first product cross-promotion — multi-platforming in its earliest form. 

More than likely, it was Sargent's way of jibing Beerbohm — payback for the latter's caricutures of the revered painter.

Notice the subject's eyebrows are  just one wave of black paint. Sargent's downward point-of-view is filled with realistic shadowing. The grass is a riot of green, blue and yellow hues which play tricks on the mind: we envision individual blades of grass, and dappled sunlight.

I love that he caught her reading. Is  Proust? Dickens? Baudliere? Possibly The Works of Max Beerbohm.

 Art is fun, and can be funny, too,

— Josie

 


HA-Vacation-to-Die-For-Final

My latest novel is

The Housewife Assassin's
Vacation to Die For

Now out, in

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

 Amazon.ca

Pick up the first book in The Housewife Assassin series, for free!

 

Join me at Pitchfest!

Leo and Carey Great Gatsby

Hey, if it happened to F. Scott Fitzgerald, it can happen to you.

One of America's most celebrated authors died penniless, his greatest opus, The Great Gatsby, nearly forgotten…

Except by Hollywood.

Since his death, his book,  has been adapted for the screen an extraordinary five times.

It's also been an opera, a ballet, a musical, a straight play, and get this: two video games.

 Can you increase the odds that your book will find its way onto the silver screen?

Is a novel an alternative route to get your screenplay into the hands of producers?

The answer to both these questions is a resounding yes. To find out how, join me in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 1, 2013, where I'll giving a workshop with the incomparably divine Laurie Scheer at Pitchfest called, "Adapting your Screenplay as a Book" .

Details are below.

It'll be worth it,

— Josie

 

Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan
in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby 

Adapting Your Screenplay as a Book
4:30pm – 6:00pm – Academy Five
with Josie Brown & Laurie Scheer
So, you’ve pitched your screenplay and a few agents have said, “I could sell that idea if it were a novel.” Know that you’re not alone. So, what should you do? Josie Brown, best-selling novelist and Laurie Scheer, d-girl extraordinaire and publishing mentor, guide you through a workshop presentation that includes in-class exercises, tangible examples, and an extensive Q&A segment to help you determine how your screenplay will look as a book. With the majority of studio projects being produced from existing properties and franchises (books, comics, games, apps, etc.), adapting your screenplay into book form is an option many screenwriters have found success doing—and many others are considering it. Before you begin the process of writing prose vs. script, there are a few elements you need to know.

 
Click here to register for Pitchfest 

Click below to see a trailer from the movie, THE GREAT GATSBY