09 August 2014

I Emailed Hachette on Amazon's Behalf... Sort of

**Edited to add: It didn't take long (literally, just moments) after I sent the email for me to regret wasting the time of those I copied on the message for the sole purpose of saying "See, annoying, innit?" Please forgive my dumbassery on that point.**
I'm sure by now many of you have heard about the tasteless email Amazon sent out to KDP authors late Friday/early Saturday. I answered their call and emailed Hachette about the ongoing dispute, and I made sure to copy "Readers United" and a small handful of other people, too. Here's what I said:

Dear Mr. Pietsch:

I'm writing to you (and some others) today as a direct result of receiving Amazon's email propaganda in the early hours of the morning. I am appalled and annoyed at being dragged into an argument against my will, especially when the party doing the dragging is quite aware, and even acknowledges, that I'd rather be left out of it. But Amazon asked me to email you with my thoughts--actually, they wanted me to email you with their thoughts, and I decided I liked mine better--and so here we are. Let me make a few things clear before getting to my main points:

1. I am not published by Hachette or by any publisher.
2. I am self-published and my work is available on Amazon, among other places. Amazon is not my publisher. They are one of my retail partners, though "partner" probably isn't really the best word for it.
3. Hachette is a business. Amazon is a business. I am my own business. The first priority of any business is making money, or else they will no longer be in business.

That Amazon would ask me to plead their case to a publisher with which I have no relationship is laughable. As Heidi Cullinan puts it, there are Not Enough Memes in the World For My NO. That they would do it with such poorly written propaganda--and propaganda is truly the only word for it, as Matt Wallace explains--is laughable. Further, that they would do it under the guise of  doing what's best for "reading culture" is downright ludicrous. Because I have no stakes in the specific dispute between Hachette and Amazon, I have not read every last word reported on the issue. I have read a handful of posts about it from people I respect on both sides of the debate and mostly ignored it outside of that. One thing I am absolutely sure of, however, is that this is about money. Period. And that's okay, because as as I said, this is business. But for Amazon to go on about helping "book culture" as though readers are incapable of changing the market by making their decisions about how much to spend (or not spend) is disingenuous at best.

Mr. Pietsch, I may not agree 100% with your side of this dispute (I truly don't know to what extent I agree with any side) but I feel a bit of solidarity with you based on one glaring similarity we share: Amazon thinks you and I (and every KDP author to whom they sent their email) are idiots with our heads up our own asses, apparently. They must think so, if they believe an email full of buzzwords, emotionally-charged imagery, and one-sided spin is enough to get me to fight their fight. To do that, I'd need to ignore a whole lot of common sense.

This is where I'm supposed to implore you to "Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle" while ignoring the fact that by doing so Amazon obviously thinks it's okay to use me as leverage and put me in the middle of this so long as they come out on top.

Or perhaps I should remind you that "With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock," etc. while ignoring the fact that, although they're obviously referring to large print returns, they make it quite easy to return e-books, potentially to the detriment of the author when that feature is abused. If I'm going to remind you of this, then I should also ignore the fact that as a self-published author with Amazon I am already pigeon-holed into their pricing requirements with no means of negotiation and subject to their whim should they decide to pull my books for any reason they see fit.

Am I convincing you of Amazon's position yet? No? Here, let me keep trying.

It's important to note that Amazon thinks "books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive." I'll ignore the fact that people regularly pay more money for a mobile game than some e-books cost, and then they pay money again and again to buy more features within the game. Let's also ignore how actors are paid more per movie than I can hope to make in many, many years, and that movie tickets are expensive but people still choose to buy them. While we're at it, we should ignore all of the books being made into movies, because they obviously they were only made into movies because the books were too expensive and nobody bought them. And nobody in the history of the world has ever seen a movie adaptation first and then bought the book after, am I right? Movies and TV shows are never adapted into video games, free news sites obviously never post books reviews, and no author in the history of the Internet has promoted their books on Facebook because all of these things are supposed to be in competition with each other! The logical solution is to make all books as cheap as Amazon wants! Um, right?

I should wrap this up soon because I am obviously terrible at doing what Amazon tells me to do in their ridiculous emails. One last thing, though. The thing Amazon is ignoring, and hopes I'm ignoring, too, is choice.

I have friends published by Hachette and its imprints that have been caught in the middle of this nasty fight. I have friends published by other big publishers who have been treated poorly, and others who've been treated like rock stars. I have self-published friends who have been hurt by Amazon's policies and past actions, and others who have made six or seven figures since self-publishing, largely with Amazon. There are so many choices about how and when and where and why to publish these days, and there is no one golden path. Authors have a choice, and as Amazon is so quick to point out, we are not all united. Why they took that to mean we would all fight their fight still escapes me, but that's neither here nor there at this point.

Hachette has choices. Amazon has choices. Is there an amenable compromise to be had here? I be there is, but I also bet one or both parties are unwilling to compromise on a lot of things. Which means there's also the choice to sever the business relationship, as unpleasant as that may be.

As a self-publisher, I have the choice to sell my book where and for the price I want. I choose, currently, to include Amazon in my sales plan. Despite the fact that they give preferential treatment to pretty much everyone else--in the name of "book culture," I'm sure. Despite the fact that in addition to taking a slice of my profits they want me to grant them exclusivity before I can take advantage of their Kindle Unlimited program. That is, unless they handpick me from the unwashed masses or I'm published by a big publisher whose books are priced higher than mine. So much for that "cheaper is better" thing, right? Despite their many shortcomings, I sell my books there. It's a business choice.

Readers have a choice of where to purchase e-books. They have the choice to either pay what is asked, or not. If they choose not, that's a clear signal to a publisher or a retailer that they need to do something differently or risk going out of business. Consumers have a long history of speaking with their wallets without Amazon or anyone else forcing the issue.

Amazon had a choice, and it chose to treat me and others like idiots by sending an email full of out-of-context quotes and cherry-picked statistics in the hopes that we will defend their position in this negotiation, despite the fact that we don't even have the ability to negotiate with Amazon on our own behalf as author-publishers. That was a poor choice on their part. I have to agree with Chuck Wending when he says, in quite possibly the tamest language I've ever seen him use, "I think it's tacky." To say the least. And it has me looking long and hard at my choice to sell on Amazon, which is probably not the reaction they had hoped for.

Mr. Pietsch, I hope Hachette and Amazon can come to a decision that is beneficial for both businesses and for the authors involved. What that decision is, though, is up to you and Amazon. I have no part of it. I hope that I haven't wasted too much of your time today. That goes for everyone who was copied on this message, too. You may not have cared, you may have wished to be left out of it, and you may not have wanted to spend your time reading just another writer's opinions of something in which they have no stakes. But Amazon didn't let that stop them from dragging me along for the ride, and if there's anything I gleaned from their email, it's that they obviously know what is best. Have a wonderful day.


J. Lea Lopez

Needless to say, the whole thing is making feel a little something like this....

17 June 2014

Maybe When I'm 30

I started another blog a while back to talk about being childfree, but I haven't updated it in quite a while and decided there's no reason I can't share all my thoughts right here. So over the next few weeks I'll be re-posting some of the things I originally posted there. This post was originally from last year, just as I turned 30.

Maybe when I’m 30

That’s what I used to say when people asked me about having kids. I always thought that I’d have kids at some point because I figured I’d want to at some point. No one ever tells you it’s perfectly fine to neither want nor have kids. They spend most of their time, in fact, telling you the exact opposite.

You’ll change your mind… One day you’ll have kids… You’re too young to know yet…

Whenever anyone asked what my plans for kids were, I certainly did know that they were not in my near future. I just didn’t have that urge. But I swallowed what they were feeding me and was convinced that one day I’d wake up and realize Oh my god, I’m ready. I want to be a mom! So in high school, and college, and after college when I got married, whenever anyone asked about kids, I told them maybe we’d start trying when I was 30. That seemed like a good age. I figured we’d be financially established by then, but it wasn’t so late in life that I’d be risking health issues for either myself or a potential baby.

Well, yesterday I turned 30. (Edit: Actually, now I'm 31!)

A few years ago I started getting a little anxious about that number. Not because it means I’m getting older, like many people seem to assume. Hell, I’m excited to be 30 years old! I feel like this will be a great year for me. No, the reason I started looking at 30 a bit sideways when I was still in my 20s was because there were still so many goals I hadn’t reached and that seemed like they would be ten times more difficult if I suddenly had children to care for. I’d been saying maybe when I’m 30 for so long, but I was starting to think I should start saying maybe when I’m 35. That wasn’t too late, right?

My concerns over the age at which to have my first child were superficial at best. It was a distraction from the real reason I was wary about reaching the maybe when I’m 30 deadline. The truth was that I just didn’t want kids. I still hadn’t had any urge or desire to have a child. Whenever I thought of my future – where I’d be or what I’d be doing – kids never factored into my daydreams and desires.

But… I couldn’t say that… could I? It seemed so strange. So foreign. As I mentioned before, we’re all indoctrinated with the message that we will all be parents one day, and it will be glorious, and hard, and rewarding, and frustrating, and miraculous, and fulfilling, all at the same time!

No one tells you that you can choose not to have kids.

When I first realized that I didn’t want kids, period, I couldn’t even assert myself fully. It was all I don’t think I want kids… Maybe I’ll want them in the far-off future, who knows? But I doubt it… Who knows, who knows… Because I was afraid of the reactions I would get. I mean, doesn’t everyone want kids? How weird was I for not wanting what everyone else wanted?

It’s taken a few years, but it finally doesn’t feel weird to say it. I’m not having kids.

Okay, I lied, it’s still weird. I still struggle with worrying what people will say or how they’ll look at me when I say firmly, “I am not having children.” But even though I worry about that, I’ll still tell them.

No kids for me. Not even when I’m 30.

23 May 2014

Anniversary Time! A New Ebook Cover and New Price

One year ago today, my first novel went live on Amazon. It has been a year of learning, growth, and (I won't lie) some WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING???? moments. I think taking the plunge and self-publishing has magnified certain aspects of my personality that I can never be sure whether they're good or bad. Like my stubbornness about what I like and don't like, my perfectionist tendencies, my occasional (okay, so maybe it's chronic) indecisiveness, and my "If you want it done right, do it yourself" attitude. In my life in general, those things have definitely shaped my decisions and produced some wonderful (if occasionally stressful and slow-burning) results. But they're results I've been happy with. The same is true so far for my publishing journey.

I think there are likely things I could do differently that might result in more sales or faster results. But I'm unwilling (so far) to compromise on how and why I do things. I figure if I'm going to self-publish, where I have complete control, then I'm going to do it exactly how I want to do it, no exceptions. I'm happy with where it's taken me so far. To celebrate one year of publishing, I've given Sorry's Not Enough a face lift with a new ebook cover, which I created myself (see above re: perfectionism and DIY attitude) and I've also dropped the price from $3.99 all the way down to $0.99! The sale lasts through June 1, 2014 only, so get it while you can! It may never see this price point again. Links are below. (My free short story collection, Consenting Adults, also has a new cover courtesy of my friend and fellow author Cali MacKay.)

Thank you to everyone who has helped me along on my journey so far. I hope you'll follow along as I continue forward.... :-)

Amazon US    Amazon UK    Nook 
Kobo    iTunes    Smashwords

22 May 2014

For the Love of David Tennant and Real-Life Heroes

On Monday I shared this photo across a few of my social media outlets. If you know anything about me, you know how much I love David Tennant. Not just because he's hot, but because he played one of my favorite heroes of all time, Doctor Who. When I saw this picture, I didn't look too closely at it. I just swooned, pretty much. Then a friend on Twitter burst my bubble when she said she was pretty sure it was photoshopped. I was super bummed! But when I looked more closely I realized she was right. My first instinct was that it was David Tennant's head shopped onto Tom Cruise's body from Top Gun. But I couldn't find a photo of Tom Cruise in the same stance and clothing. So I kept looking.

I'm not sure what it was that made me keep digging through the depths of the Internet, but I spent just about half a day scouring images. I was determined to find the original. Finally, with the help of TinEye, I found the original image. I was not at all prepared for what I found out, either.

Let me introduce you to Major Michael Donnelly, United States Air Force veteran. Donnelly was a Connecticut native who served 15 years as a fighter pilot, including service during Operation Desert Storm. He retired in 1996 after being diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. He then spent many years doing work as an advocate for his fellow Gulf War veterans and wrote a book, Falcon's Cry: A Desert Storm Memoir, published in 1998. Donnelly lost his battle with ALS in 2005. His home town of South Windsor, CT created a land reserve and award in his honor.

Considering I found very few places online where the original image of Donnelly shows up, I'm not sure how someone came to find it in order to shop David Tennant's head onto it. But they did. I wasn't sure how to feel about the fact that someone had taken the image of this man who selflessly served his country and made him unrecognizable to serve their own David Tennant obsession. But they did. And my love of David Tennant brought the photo to my attention this week, which in turn led to my discovery of the life of Major Michael Donnelly. And now you know a little bit of his story, too.

Life is funny sometimes.

31 March 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I was tagged by two wonderful writing friends, SK Keogh and Precy Larkins, to participate in a blog tour where authors answer a few questions about their writing process and what they're working on. SK Keogh writes historical fiction. You should check out her Jack Mallory Chronicles, of which two books are published and a third is on the way. Read more about her writing process here. Precy Larkins is a Young Adult author and you can read all about her writing process here. Now, on to the questions!

1. What am I working on?

Well that's a heck of a question. As a self published author, I'm never just working on the next book. Writing-wise, I'm currently working on a women's fiction manuscript tentatively titled Confessions of a Non-Believer. In this story, Bree is a young woman dealing with the emotional fallout after the sudden death of her fiance. She faces the daunting task of keeping her life and sanity together while facing a crisis of faith--or non-faith, as it were--and acknowledging the growing attraction to her would-be brother-in-law.

Additionally, I have the start of a contemporary romance on paper and fighting for brain space. This one is untitled, but it's in an introverted love story that I was inspired to write because I think the quiet soul is super sexy and underrepresented.

In terms of marketing, I'm working on some new cover concepts for Sorry's Not Enough. The book will be one year old at the end of May and I'll be revealing a fresh new cover and it will be hugely discounted for a short time as well! My short story collection, Consenting Adults will get a new cover to celebrate also. I've already decided on that and will reveal it soon. (Check out my Facebook page to stay updated on when that happens or to give me feedback on the things you love/hate to see on book covers)

2. How does my work from others in its genre?

That's a difficult one to answer. Based on feedback I've gotten from readers and what I see in my own writing, I would have to say the degree of realism. But in a good way. We want to get lost in stories and characters, so sometimes being too true to life can be boring or dull. I think my realism is the opposite. My characters are flawed, sometimes awkward, emotional, sometimes uncertain, sometimes very certain about something only to discover they were wrong. I think they can really touch on elements of the human experience that speak to us all. I've also been told I write great, natural dialogue.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because I love it. That's the simple answer. The more complicated answer is that emotion and drama make me feel connected and alive, even when they're sad ones if a character is going through something bad. Maybe it's because I am, in my own reality, a fairly even-keeled person who goes with the flow and doesn't express extreme emotions very often. So I like to live it out in fiction. People fascinate me, which is why my stories are character-driven. The vulnerability (and, of course, sexiness) of what happens between two characters in the bedroom, is beautiful and presents a great opportunity to explore more of the emotional things I like in fiction, which is why I never shy away from sex in my stories when it makes sense.

4. How does your writing process work?

I'm a slow drafter. I do all of my first drafts by hand, in notebooks. It involves a lot of staring at the page or off into space as I decide the next word, the next sentence. There's also lots of daydreaming and working through potential scenarios while in the shower and before falling asleep at night. It can take me quite a while to get that first draft written. I'll type up large sections of it when I get stuck or feel uninspired, to put myself back into the story. And as I type, I do some minor edits. So the typed draft is a little more polished than the written one. So far, I've been very lucky that my first drafts are often pretty clean and I don't usually have to spend months ripping it apart and putting it back together again. With the exception of my first novel, but we won't talk about that! Then it's off to some trusted readers for feedback.

I'm supposed to tag others to participate, but if you've read any of my other meme or blog hop type posts, you know I often decline to do so. Mostly to spare myself the awkwardness of asking others and fearing they'll feel obligated because they're my friends even though they don't want to. What can I say? I like to avoid even the potential for conflict or awkwardness. Guess that's why I write it instead. If you feel inclined to share your process, then consider yourself tagged! Tell folks I inspired you to blog about it, and tag some others to participate the week after you do yours. Or don't. Whatever. You're a grown adult. You can decide. :-)