Category Archives: Publishing

Soldiering On: RIP Ursula K. Le Guin

“Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.” —Ursula K. Le GuinSeattle rose

It’s hard to express the sorrow you feel when a hero dies. Ursula K. LeGuin was one of those people for me, and it’s funny because I’d never really thought much about her until she won the National Book Award a few years ago and said four words I’ll never forget. “Books are not commodities.”

Oh yes, I thought. Writing is art. Writing shouldn’t be directed and commercialized. I’ve always felt that way. And yet, it is. Publishers hold the cards for the most part in the world of writing. Publishers decide what gets published based on what they think will sell—and too often in today’s world, publishers decide what gets written.

It’s a chilling thought that a handful of corporate conglomerates might decide what books you read, isn’t it? It sounds more like a dystopian fiction than reality. And yet…it does happen. I know of writers who long to write a particular story and go to their publishers with it and the publisher doesn’t like it. It won’t sell. How about writing this instead?

And an idea dies.

Maybe it won’t sell. It’s certainly been my experience as a self-published writer that very often my ideas don’t sell. They’re well written. I know I’m a good writer, and a lot of reviewers (not all, but a lot) agree. They’re well edited. I am meticulous about that. The formatting is not as professional as, well, a professionally published book, but my books are certainly neat and clean and readable. But whether it’s because the publishers are right and my ideas are not sellable or because I don’t have a publisher’s ability and know-how to market them, my books are most definitely not bestsellers.

The one thing I can take pride in, though, is that my books are my ideas, born of my dreams and written in my words. Without direction or influence from a dystopian corporate world. That’s what self-publishing has done for me and countless other writers who’ve gotten their words out there in spite of doubting corporate publishers.

Rest in peace, Ursula K. Le Guin. We heard you. And in the end, what more can a writer ask for?

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Filed under Publishing, Writing

Buy local: Support independent authors

Studies show that buying local is important to local economies, right? More of the money you spend returns to your own local economy. Did you know buying from an independent local author has the same benefits?

Authors published by large publishing companies get much less of the profits from sales of their books. Therefore, the majority of the money you spend on a bestseller in the bookstore goes national, not local. However, if you buy a book that is independently published or published by a small press, the author gets much more of their proceeds. Therefore, more of that money returns to your local economy, growing local businesses and

True, you may only be able to find independently published books at online retailers, meaning part of your money goes to support those retailers. However, this pales in comparison to the portion of money that goes to traditional publishers. The average traditionally published authors makes, on average, a ten percent royalty, but this is on net profit, so any discounts or overhead are taken out of the proceeds before the author gets a check. So an eight dollar book does not make the author eighty cents per book sold.

By contrast, independently published authors (read self-published here), can make up to a seventy percent royalty on a book. Usually independently published books sold in ebook format online are priced much lower than traditionally published ebooks (mine range from free to $2.99). Paperbacks can be more expensive because, at the moment, they are print-on-demand, which means there are no warehouses full of my books anywhere. I keep a few on hand for promotional purposes, but basically, if you order a physical copy of my book, somewhere a press fires up and prints it off.

It’s kind of cool to think of that.

In truth, though, you as a consumer have the chance to change the way books are made. You can go into a bookstore and suggest that they carry my books. The bookstore could then contact me and we could haggle out a price, which would result in me shipping them a few copies of my books, which would then share brick-and-mortar shelf space with traditionally published books. In most cases, larger chains are less likely to do this than the independent book stores which are, sadly, becoming fewer in number.

Consumers can change that, too.

So, buy local. Chances are good that no matter what subject matter or genre interests you, there’s a local author who’s got it covered. Please feel free to list your favorite independent author’s website in the comments.

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Filed under Publishing, self-publishing, traditional publishing, Writing

Plastic fiction: What happens when writers give up on soul

Three years ago, Ursula K. Le Guin gave an impassioned speech in which she basically implored writers to write what they wanted to write and not what the publishing industry told them to write. She asked that literature in all forms return to being considered an art form. “Books aren’t just commodities,” she said.

I’ve often wondered if I would sell out if someone offered me the opportunity to sign with a big publisher that would basically guarantee my book would be a bestseller with an awesome marketing plan and everything all taken care of—but I had to write a book the publisher wanted with the plot all spelled out for me. Would I do it? Would I sell out? Would I turn out a plastic fiction book with no soul and no art just to gain readers?

I can’t answer that question. I fear I might. It’d probably be easy enough to write if I didn’t have to come up with the plot myself. And I have a respectable backlist now. Surely I should consider that in the equation. If I gained lots of readers with my plastic fiction—readers who enjoyed my style of writing and who would then consume my other books—wouldn’t it be worth it? But then, too, I’d be feeding the plastic fiction industry that has taken over the publishing world and made it more difficult for writers to be the artists they are meant to be.

Not sure you know what I mean by plastic fiction? Oh yes, you do. It’s especially prevalent in my chosen genre at the moment. For a while it was vampire romances (which has now morphed to include werewolves and shapeshifters and lots of other paranormals). I’m not saying these are all bad. I’ve even read a few that are exceptionally good. But those can be hard to find. And then there’s the fifty-shades phenomenon that is reflected in everything from content (way more explicit than just a few years ago) to covers (haven’t you noticed the trend to monochromatic still life since Christian Grey’s silk tie?).

I think the surge in independent publishing has been a reaction to writers trying to avoid the plastic fiction publishing industry. I’m proud to be a part of that surge. I love what I write, and I love publishing my little bits of art. They aren’t the highest quality—maybe they’re made of aluminum instead of gold or silver—but they aren’t plastic, either. I know this because they come from my heart and contain bits of my soul.

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Filed under Publishing, romance, self-publishing, traditional publishing, Writing

When you don’t want lemonade.

So today I got a second rejection on my romantic fantasy novel, Out of Time. It’s the first book in a planned trilogy. I had hoped to return to the world of traditional publishing for these books, but I’m starting to think it might not happen.

No, that’s not bitterness.

It’s resignation.

So when I’d written my polite note of thanks to the sweet editor who took the time to write my rejection (complete with a compliment on my writing and style), I started thinking about what to do with the lemons I’d been handed.

And I’ve never been much for making lemonade.


When life hands you a slightly spotty lemon, create a still life on your bookshelf with it.

Labyrinth II continues…

Sarah woke in the darkness and her very first thought was for Davey. She sat up, an afghan sliding from her shoulders as she did so. Voices in the hall warned her and she lay back quickly. A moment later, the door opened and someone looked in.

“She’s still out.”

“You think she’s okay, though?”

Her husband and her father. She felt guilty about deceiving them, but she couldn’t really help it. She had to get to the Labyrinth. She had to find Toby and force him to return her son. That wouldn’t happen if she couldn’t get out of the house, though.

“She’s fine, son. You were right to call me.” The tone of worry in her father’s voice almost made Sarah flinch, but then the door shut and their voices grew fainter.

She sat up again, looking for her backpack. There it was, on the chair. She slipped out of the bed, found her boots and a light jacket, and tucked everything under her arm, ready to leave.

“You think all the preparations in your world can prepare you for another stint in mine, Sarah?” His voice slid from the mirror in a silvery shard.

She turned slowly, knowing she’d meet those mismatched eyes in the mirror, the ones that saw into her very soul, the only ones that could still see the frightened but determined fourteen-year-old girl she’d once been. The one who’d lost Toby in the first place because she’d been too self-involved and thoughtless to believe her own actions had consequences.

By that token, Davey’s disappearance could be traced directly back to her.

“Jareth.” She took a deep breath. “Tell Toby I’m coming for him. He can’t take my son and get away with it.”

“You once said that about a stuffed bear, if I remember correctly.” He tented his fingers below his chin in the reflection, grinning a lopsided grin at her. “You had second thoughts about that, I think.”

“Well, it won’t happen now.” She turned to the bedroom door.

“You won’t get there that way, Sarah.” He laughed. “But I can help you.”

“Why would you help me?” She gave the mirror a scornful look over her shoulder.

He shrugged. “Maybe because I enjoy the game as much as you.” His grin faded. “Or maybe because your brother has pissed me off and it’s time to teach him a lesson.”

Sarah did a double-take, hearing the sincere irritation in his voice. She turned all the way around and gave him her full attention. “I’m listening.”


Filed under book, Publishing, Writing

Dear Amazon: I am one of your writers.

Dear Amazon,

I am one of your writers. One of your writers who truly believed up until yesterday that your Kindle Select Program would eventually prove to be a winning game for me. I have written and published seven books using your Kindle Select Program. I’ve taken advantage of the promotion system you had in place of rollback deals and free days for my Kindle books. Because of this, my self-published e-books were available exclusively on a Kindle platform, in spite of the fact that I know people who own Nooks. When I gave away e-readers, it was always a Kindle.

Yesterday, to my sorrow, I lost faith in you, not because I think your program is a bad one, but because you made a move that I believe takes advantage of writers like me. Writers who are trying to get our words out to the public. Writers who believe we have something to say, even if we don’t always have the patience and forbearance to deal with the traditional publishing system. Writers with talent and passion for their work.

By changing your policy of paying Kindle Select authors by the download to paying them by the number of pages read, you devalued my work. You said my work is worth less than traditionally published authors. You said you have lost faith in me.

My work is worth as much as any traditionally published book out there, whether it be a bestseller or a struggling indie book. I already charge less for my e-books, and when they’re borrowed through the Kindle Select Program, I get a fraction of my already small profits. But I guarantee you, I put as much work into my romances as any Harlequin or Kensington author out there, and I insist that that work be respected.

With regret, I have stopped the automatic re-enrollment of my books in your Select program. By the end of the summer, I will be free to seek other platforms to publish my books on, and if your new policy is still in effect, I will do so. I imagine I won’t be the only one, either. Any smart self-published author out there will also look elsewhere if they want the world to know they respect themselves and the writing process.


Michelle Garren Flye


Filed under Publishing

Self-published and proud of it: Stop squelching the new voices.

There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt. — Audre Lorde

I’m really trying not to get angry now. If you want to know why, go read this article: Are Self-Pubbed Authors Killing the Publishing Industry? I actually read the article yesterday and let it sit for a day so I could be sure after cooling off that I didn’t see her point, but after reading it again this morning, I realized I’m still hot. So here I go on my soapbox.

Seriously? KILLING the industry? You want to know what’s killing the industry? Look a little deeper. Look at the agents who don’t want to take a chance on cross-genre works and new names. And the editors who won’t even look at a new author unless they’re represented by an agent. The publishing industry has become so intertwined, it’s almost impossible to get anything published the traditional route unless you’re grandfathered in.

Of course, there are exceptions. Everybody knows J.K. Rowling’s slush pile acceptance story. But that was more than fifteen years ago. More recently, of course, there was the Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (what’s with the British authors with initials thing?) breakthrough, but let’s please remember that that started out as fanfiction, and was originally published online. So I’m not certain you can claim Ms. James went the traditional route at all.

I have self-published a book. I’m considering self-publishing more. And the reason I’m doing it is because I’m a writer, and I have every intention of continuing to write and be published, whether I have to do it myself or not. And to promote my books, I will do web tours and give away Kindles and Nooks, even if “Traditionally published authors aren’t stooping to these tactics.” Traditionally published authors don’t have to. Their publishers take care of publicity for them.

I have said before and will say again that the way for new authors to get their words out there is to go through small e-publishers. With that route, you get the benefit of a professional editor (believe me, it helps). However, I also know there are books that even indie publishers aren’t going to consider. And for those, Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing will continue to be desirable routes for writers. And if we want to sell our words for 99 cents, then traditional publishers need to suck it up and stop complaining. Buyer beware. If you pay 99 cents for a book, you might not enjoy it. It probably hasn’t been professionally edited. It may have typos and formatting errors.

On the other hand, it might be brilliant. It might be a new voice with something to say that you might enjoy hearing. At any rate, it cost less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, so what do you have to lose?

If you’d like to try my 99 cent self-published 5-star on Amazon book, here’s a link: Weeds and Flowers. And my self-designed cover, which I am very proud of:


Filed under Publishing, Weeds and Flowers, Writing

Vanishing literature or just disappearing ink?

I recently read an article about a book with disappearing ink. You can read about it here: “The Book That Can’t Wait”. I’ve pondered this concept for the past week, and I have to admit I understand why the publisher’s first print run sold out.

Let’s face it. I’m already writing less-than-permanent novels, as are many writers. I have no illusions about my creations, and I’m not sure many other writers should, either. If I look at the shelves of my library, I see my favorite authors. Anne McCaffrey, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling… I have some signed books from friends. I have a lot of poetry and folklore, some mythology, a few reference books. In short, I have sought my most permanent way of preserving the books I really care about.

My Kindle and Nook and iPad are a different story. They’re cluttered with anything that catches my fancy or needs to be read to keep up with my chosen genre. My books are on these devices. And you know what I’ve come to terms with?

One good EMP will wipe them all out.

When I first heard about The Book That Can’t Wait, I thought, “Oh my God, here I am fighting to get my books published, longing to have them in print, and these authors let a publisher put their stories into a book with vanishing ink? What’s wrong with them?” Now I sort of see their sacrifice as a show of solidarity with the rest of the changing publishing world.

So what’s the point? This is my take on it. If you think of the great post apocalyptic movies, a lot of them show a library somewhere. A library of printed books that are all that’s left of the literature of the world before. What books from today’s market will inhabit those shelves when so much of the “printed” word is electronic?

Or maybe the lesson is this: Read your e-books now. Who knows what will be left when the last Kindle is gone?


Filed under E-Reading, Publishing, Thoughts, Writing