rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
I'm sorry I've been so absent, lately. I'm doing exams, and applying for an MA, and blahblahblah etc. I just wanted to share this, an article that reminds us that no matter what Amazon says all over the site, you cannot buy ebooks on Amazon. You buy a licence which allows you to read them.

I think authors should be aware of that, too, as well as buyers. I've had conversations with published authors who claim that having the ebook priced almost the same as the print book, or more, on Amazon, is fair, because what you're buying is the story, either way. But that's not the case: with a print book, you own it. You don't own a Kindle ebook.

(I say this as a Kindle owner who will -- up to a point -- buy books on the Amazon store if they're not readily available elsewhere.)
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
It's been a while since I posted about it, but I haven't forgotten about the "diversified fairytales" plan. I've been planning to lead this project, while involving a lot of discussion, so feel free to query any points in this post (or in the comments) and discuss them. Some of this has already been discussed with a couple of people, but it's still not certain.

For those of you who might be new to the project, this is the original post about it, and this is the original idea: to create an anthology made up of 'diversified' retellings, which bring to the fore stories, characters and issues that are typically ignored or deliberately excluded by tradition.

Here are some thoughts I've had on things we need to discuss. I apologise if this seems disorganised: I've never tried to do anything like before.

Things that would not be allowed:
-Fanfiction. It's a legal gray area, for one thing, and we're looking to publish it, so characters and worlds copyright to other people are out of bounds. (There could be some discussion of allowing derivative works based on out-of-copyright canons. If you want to do something like that, let me know before you start work and we'll try to puzzle out the legality of it and whether it fits within the scope of the project.)
-Erotica. While stories should not stigmatise sex, I think we want to make something accessible. Including sex is fine, but I'd say not higher than R-rated, and it should not be the entire point of the story.

Stories that would be allowed:
-Traditional fairytales. Examples: Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. Be wary of using anything Disney can claim is copyright, though.
-Myths. Examples: Cupid & Psyche, the Trojan war, the Mabinogion, etc.
-Legends. Examples: King Arthur, Robin Hood, etc.
-Fables. Example: Aesop's fables, etc.
-Original fairytales/myths/legends. Example: Neil Gaiman's Stardust. By this I mean anything that uses the tropes of fairytales (or myths/legends) to create a new story. If you want to write a creation myth for a hypothetical fantasy world, for example, that would be appropriate.

Basically, one of those stories we tell and retell. I'm going to collect a list of resources for where to get source texts for free online, so feel free to send me links to add.

Ways to diversify:
-Using myths/legends/folktales from traditions not well known in the West. (It may be well known in the country of origin, but it hasn't been taken up by the West.)
-Including characters of different races, or expanding their roles, in texts where they have been excluded deliberately or used as the generic 'heathens', etc.
-Including characters who do not fit into the normal gender roles given by the original stories, or expanding their roles. I don't want to include a gazillion stories that simply recast the traditional ones with flipped gender roles, but women are often given very unsatisfactory roles in these stories. I'm also talking about including transgendered and agendered characters, who have even less place in the traditional stories we tell.
-Including characters whose sexuality does not fit into the traditional roles. This would include homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, and also polyamorous relationships, and possibly also kink-positive ones (bearing in mind that we would want the focus to be on the relationship, not on sex).
-Including characters who have disabilities, whether inherited genetically or received during their lifetime. (E.g. a princess who was born unable to see, or a soldier who lost a leg, etc.)
-Including characters who are not neurotypical in positive roles. Villains can be mentally ill, in these stories, but it's rare for this to be treated with compassion or accuracy.

We're trying to make a collection where there is space for everyone to see something of themselves and their own experiences, in short. Rewrites that simply involve defence of the villainous characters, for example, are interesting, but not appropriate here. 'Dark' retellings are also not necessarily automatically relevant. Either of these could be relevant if coupled with other ways of diversification, of course. The list above is not exhaustive, and I'm happy to discuss adding other things to it -- I have my blindspots, and would appreciate anyone pointing out if I've left something important out.

Other notes:
It's important to remember that this material comes with baggage. Often its deeply misogynistic, and that could even be unintentionally intensified in a rewrite. I'm happy to discuss plans with people, and I'm sure other participants in the project would volunteer to help as well. We as writers also carry our own prejudice, with everything we write, so please be aware of and sensitive to that.

When it comes to the length of these stories, I think they should all be somewhere between 200 and 5,000 words. Microfiction is welcome, as are longer short stories, but we're not going to go as far as accepting novellas!

Re: publishing: my thoughts are pretty much Smashwords, Lulu and the Kindle store, but people with other suggestions to add are very welcome to do so. The ebooks would be non-DRM, and if there is a fee for buying the book, it would be nominal. Personally, I'm inclined towards a nominal fee, and whatever profits we get being donated to charitable causes, but I'm not wedded to any idea yet. Again, discussion is welcome. What this comes down to is that I don't have money to pay you for your stories -- this is a one woman operation, here! Whatever happens, each person would have some space to talk about who they are, what other things they've written and where they can be found, things like that.

I haven't thought much about submission yet. I do want to warn you that I'm not going to automatically accept everything. I will probably ask for a couple of volunteers to read everything and help me decide, but we'll be limited based on how many submissions we get, the diversity of submissions, the quality of submissions, etc. Just because you're my friend will not be an automatic pass.

If you've already published such a story, as long as you still have the right to have it published elsewhere, it's welcome.

We will not only need authors, but someone to make a cover for the collection. I'd welcome volunteers, or we could wait and see whose work will be included and at that point club together to commission a cover...

I will also need help with understanding if there's any legalities I need to be aware of and deal with, anywhere in the process. I am a total newbie to doing this.

Right. Deep breath! I think this is ready to post. As I've said, remember that I intend everything to be up for discussion, and while I do see myself as the final decision maker, I will ask for advice and listen to other people's views.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
There's nothing new about writers complaining about "book pirates", this being only one of the many posts I've seen on it. The usual arguments are familiar, too, and I see no particular need to cover them myself -- a bit of googling should find you more of the debate, if you're interested.

Personally, I try to be mindful in my reading (see: [personal profile] holyschist's post on it, here). If I read a book in such a way that the author doesn't make any profit from it, and there are legal ways to do this (secondhand bookshops, borrowing from a friend, libraries, free copies given out online), I usually try to make sure that the author does profit as a result, provided I think the author is worth supporting (e.g. I would not buy a copy of a book full of racist ableist crap).

The way I do this is twofold: first of all, I talk about the book. I tell people that I loved it, or didn't, and discuss it with people. That happens, in fact, regardless of whether I liked the book or not.

For example, I read Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal, on the train this morning. I didn't really enjoy it: the debt to Jane Austen is more than she seems to acknowledge. All the characters, the whole situation, all of it is taken from bits and pieces of Austen's work, and then magic -- "glamour" -- is pasted on over the top. Her writing is competent enough, but without Austen's subtleties. I'd recommend as "beach reading", not as something serious that has depth. Regardless, Mary Robinette Kowal has that benefit from me, if nothing else: she's being talked about, and reaching more people.

Think of Tim O'Reilly's essay, available here, in which he states that, "Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy."

I have friends who would buy anything that has the vaguest link to Jane Austen. And they in turn will tell their friends, who feel the same way, so that from just my not terribly positive reaction to Kowal's work, there's a whole chain of potential sales.

Second of all, I buy a copy for someone else. For their birthday, for Christmas, or just because, whatever. In my case, the answer is usually "just because". That's pretty much the first point all over again, with the addition of my single purchase of the book for someone (which makes, what, 50p difference to the author's potential net profits?).

I have a lot of problems with the argument as it is so often framed. The accusation that "you don't work for free, so why should I?", for example. I didn't know they could read my mind -- wait, clearly they couldn't, since I do (so far at least) write for free. I might be a volunteer for a charity organisation. I might be the partner who stays at home to look after the children, in which case my hard work would almost certainly not be paid for.

(People involved in fandom almost invariably write for free, and often produce wonderful work which cannot legally be paid for. I haven't quite worked out how I want to work that into my argument, but it is on my mind. The idea that there is a moral imperative to pay an artist for their work is likely foreign to many people who are artists, whether they are popularly considered to be so or not.)

My final point is very anecdotal, and not directly related to books and publishing. The music service, Spotify, has been around for a couple of years now. It's a legal way to listen to whatever you want, apparently at no cost to you except viewing a few ads (unless, like me, you pay for a premium account). By this time, most of my friends and family have Spotify, and none of us do any kind of downloading of music, except perhaps where Spotify's catalogue of available music doesn't have what we want.

Spotify may have problems related to how much they pay the record labels and artists whose music they make accessible, but if we imagine it were a perfect system, I think it would cut down on a lot of the problems. One of the reasons people download music is because they want something specific, and they want it right now. Services like Spotify allow instant gratification, for little to no cost. It also allows people to try out new music, some of it old or obscure. Or, for another example, I'm not interested in Neil Young's music, generally, but I've had "War of Man" on repeat, entirely legally, since I was earwormed with it last week. The temptation of downloading it illegally would have been great, if this was ten years ago, when I would neither have wanted to buy the CD nor had a way to pay for a single song online (since I didn't have a credit or debit card).

I suspect that instant gratification is part of the attraction of ereading devices like the Kindle. When I have mine (Christmas!), I'll be able to download books instantly, wherever I am, thanks to 3G access to the Kindle store. They have many books available, many of them at very affordable/competitive prices.

As musicians have in the past, authors need to come to terms with the digital world. My first suggestion for that would be to make sure that your book is available worldwide as an ebook -- I've seen one artist decrying the illegal downloads of a scanned copy of her book as "unnecessary" when no official ebook was available -- and at a reasonable price.

There's a whole 'nother debate about what "a reasonable price" constitutes, which I don't have time to share my thoughts on, just now.

Day Twelve

Nov. 12th, 2010 11:43 pm
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Today, I mostly had to catch up on stuff I've been neglecting during my week off. But I finally did, and I've even written and gamed a bit, too. Got my wordcount for the day this evening: unlike previous years, I'm very much sticking to '1667 words and then stop', every day. I have too much else to do.

Anyway, my characters continue to be gloriously disobedient, and I think Vivienne and Ragnelle might be sisters -- and that might be a spoiler, but I don't know yet if it's going to be important. I don't think so.

Now I'm going to curl up with a book! I've been rediscovering the delights of reading on my iPod Touch, but tonight is actually a dead-tree book, as it happens. (They smell so nice!)
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
I'm really interested in "diversified fairytales", by which I mean retellings of traditional stories which give a place to characters not generally included (or not positively included). Examples of this would be my own Happy Ever Afters, which is a version of Sleeping Beauty in which a servant-girl kisses the princess, and Malinda Lo's Ash, which is an LGBT retelling of Cinderella. I'm sure there are other retold fairytales out there: Disney's The Princess and the Frog might count, given that the princess is a person of colour -- I haven't seen it, though. Other ideas might be to include characters with disabilities, non-neurotypical people, people who don't fit into the gender binary...

In any case, I'm really interested in seeing more of this kind of thing. I would love to put together some kind of anthology, perhaps as an ebook and as a 'print on demand' type thing. Problem is, I haven't the least idea of how to do it, and I don't have many people interested in submitting.

So, I turn to you, internet! Please, bring your friends. Retweet. Reblog. Pass it around. Pass the link to authors who would support such an endeavour, and might send me some help! Share what you know. Help me figure out how to do this. If you think you know exactly what to do, talk to me -- maybe we can do this together.

(I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little scared by the idea of leading such a project. Be gentle with me.)
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
It's really weird, starting a new blog, with a new identity. And it's very weird to be embarking on this sort of project. I'm not good with the legal small print. I'm not particularly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of publishing. I don't have my finger on the pulse of the literary world. All I know is what I want to write, and how I want to present it to people. The idea of running around trying to sell my work frustrates me -- I've grown up writing for an audience of friends and acquaintances who gave me instantaneous feedback. I've always been in touch with my audience, such as it was.

Well, I don't know how well that's going to translate to this project. Maybe I'll have to jack it in and go into traditional publishing. Maybe I'll never be able to earn a living like this. But I have to try this first.

The idea to self-publish more or less came from Cory Doctorow and Amanda Palmer. Cory Doctorow, for example, offers all his work online. For free. In a multitude of formats. Here's something he says in his commentary on the download page for his book, Makers:

So you own this ebook. The license agreement (see below), is from Creative Commons and it gives you even more rights than you get to a regular book. Every word of it is a gift, not a confiscation. Enjoy.
What do I want from you in return? Read the book. Tell your friends. Review it on Amazon or at your local bookseller. Bring it to your bookclub. Assign it to your students (older students, please -- that sex scene is a scorcher) (now I've got your attention, don't I?).

And yes. This is what I want. I don't know if I'll have print copies available, so my situation is different to his, but his ideas? Oh, yes. The day I read that, I said to my partner: "When I grow up, I want to be as cool as Cory Doctorow."

He's just that cool.

Amanda Palmer suggests a new model for the relationship between artist and audience. For example, from her blog entry Why I Am Not Afraid To Take Your Money:

artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.
artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.
artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks.

That blog might've been the first glimmer of the idea for this project of mine. Seeing the community [community profile] crowdfunding also sparked something.

Like Amanda Palmer, I don't promise I'm going to get this stuff right. But I want to try it. This is a new model for artists of all kinds, and I want to be part of making it work. Or finding out that it doesn't work, and we need to go back to the drawing board. I want to have a frank and open relationship with potential readers, without getting het up about digital copies of my work flying around. I want to write as I've always written, only for a larger audience, who know that everything is happening just as I want it to happen. Nothing is going to happen to my work that I haven't okayed and done to it myself.

I want to know that people are enjoying my work. The most wonderful thing to happen to me would be getting some readers who will download my work for free (or a very low fee), and read it, and then come by and drop £2 in my metaphorical tip jar, and leave me a message saying I made them laugh, or cry, or squeal like a little kid.

Of course, I just read this blog, which I'm pretty sure is saying don't do it. For example:

I’m talking about the blogs and twitter-feeds that may be partly social, but which pollute the social ether with self-promotion and book marketing.

Yes, right up front: I am trying to market my work through social media. I don't have a twitter yet, but I might. I might also get a GoodReads account. I'm going to try not to be obnoxious about it, but yep: here I am, polluting the social ether. I might get the balance wrong -- scratch that. I will get it wrong. (Catherynne M. Valente's post, a rebuttal of that one, is worth reading for the point on the ratio for this. You can find it here.)

Here's the plan, such as it is. So far, I know that I want to use paypal as a kind of tip jar, as I've already kind of mentioned, and that I want to release ebooks for little or no cost. I think Smashwords is probably going to be my vendor of choice. I'm also considering Lulu to offer print-on-demand dead tree copies of my work. I need to read through the various terms and conditions, of course.

I am not going to remind you of this in every single post I make. But, this is my first post, so, if you like what I'm saying, if you like what I'm writing, there's a donate button in my profile, here. You could also help by promoting my project. Or, if you're good with graphics, and you'd be willing to work for little/no pay, then you could help by working with me on a book cover. To get into the Premium Catalog on Smashwords, a cover image is required, if I remember rightly.

Next entry, I think I'm going to talk about what I'm actually working on. But, if there's something else you want to hear about -- at any time -- drop a comment, or email me (rhian.crockett[at]gmail[dot]com), and just let me know.

I'm also thinking about something I can offer, for free, that will kickstart this little project. Stay tuned?

(I need an icon. And a better layout. I'll get right on that, too.)


rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Rhian Crockett

August 2013



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