A blog about the hearths we come from and those we make for ourselves; the myths we create, both cultural and personal; and the stories I write about them.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

KU changes, or: for the love of the gods, please stop freaking out.

It's been almost three weeks since Kindle Direct Publishing announced it was changing the way it pays authors for borrows of their ebooks, and not quite a week since the new policy went into effect. You would think by now, people would have calmed down about it -- but you would be wrong.

I did a post for Indies Unlimited right after KDP emailed everybody to explain the change. My fellow minion RJ Crayton followed up with an IU post about how authors who don't like the new terms can opt out now, with no penalty. Since then, David Gaughran has weighed in, urging everyone not to panic. Hugh Howey blogged about it on day 2 of the new regime, urging everyone not to panic. I'm sure other author/bloggers have counseled caution and prudence and adoption of a wait-and-see attitude.

And yet, a whole lot of authors are losing their minds.

Here's what's happening: KDP sets aside a fund each month out of which it pays authors for borrows of their ebooks. Borrows happen two ways: Amazon Prime members get one free borrow per month; and people who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited can borrow as many books as they want for a flat $9.99 per month.

Under the old system (which is to say prior to this past Wednesday), KDP would pay on a borrow whenever a reader got to ten percent of the book. Unfortunately, that encouraged folks out to make a quick buck to "write" 10- or 20-page pamphlets, so that they would get paid for a borrow as soon as a reader opened the book. I think we can all agree that's unfair.

Under the new system (which has been in place only since Wednesday), author payments will no longer be based on the percentage of a book read; instead, they will be based on number of pages read. But that's not all:

    • Amazon has developed an arcane formula of calculating ebook pages that results in something called the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count, or KENPC. It is different than the number of pages that would be in a print edition of the same book. A print edition of The Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus would be about 840 pages, but its KENPC is 1553. A print edition of The Land Sea Sky Trilogy would be about 500 pages; its KENPC is 951.
    • The per-page payment will be calculated by the amount in the fund divided by all of the pages read during the whole month. And the only entity that can make an educated guess about how many pages of borrowed ebooks are read in an average month is Amazon, because it has heretofore not shared that information with anyone else. Presumably a few months down the road, we will have pages-read-per-month numbers to crunch to arrive at an educated guess about what the per-page payment will be. But even then, it will depend on the size of the fund, and KDP has not been giving out that information until a couple of weeks into the following month.
    • The bottom line is that this penny-per-printed page figure that's been floating around the intertubes is a guesstimate based on fuzzy math. Don't get your heart set on it.
Here's another thing: Just because your book has a KENPC of x, it doesn't mean your payment will be x times whatever the multiplier of the month is. You'll only be paid for the pages your readers have read. So this would be an excellent time to make sure your book's editing is good and the story moves along. Readers can bail on a book for any number of reasons, from real life complications to "it's not my cup of tea" to "this book is unreadable." The only one of those three you can control is the last one. Make sure your book doesn't suck.

If you're one of those authors who enrolled a bunch of short stories into KDP Select, or who released a novel chapter-by-chapter, I'd suggest it's time to rethink your strategy. Put your novel back together. Collect all of those short stories into an anthology.

And for the folks who put Wikipedia articles into ten-page "books" to make a quick killing on Amazon? I got nothin'. Sorry/not sorry.

My heartfelt thanks to those of you who have already downloaded Firebird's Snare. I'll be bumping the price up to $2.99 tomorrow, so if you haven't bought it yet, now would be an excellent time.

These moments of clear-eyed blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wedding bells in Michiana. #lovewins

In honor of last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, I am pleased to offer this vignette featuring some of the characters from Seasons of the Fool.

Allan Ajifo | CC 2.0 | christianbed.com
"Do I look all right, dear?" Thea emerged from the hallway into the living room of the tiny cottage, squeezing a pair of white gloves with both hands. She was resplendent in a skirt suit the color of beachgrass, her iron-gray hair swept back from her temples and fastened at the back of her head with a deep green clasp.

Elsie, in a matching suit of a delicate pink, broke into a smile. "You look wonderful, dear." Her hair, whiter than Thea's, was pulled back into a bun at the nape of her neck. She showed it off to Thea. "See the rosebuds? They were Randi's idea."

"So darling," said Thea. "That girl is going to be an artist for sure. Aren't we lucky to have such wonderful neighbors?"

For it was Randi's stepmother, Julia Morton Turner, who had insisted on planning the wedding. As soon as the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, Julia had been on their doorstep. "Do you two want to get married?" she had said, brandishing the day's copy of the Chicago Tribune with the news of the decision in big type across the top.

They did, of course. But neither of them ever thought they would live to see the day when they could do it without leaving home. "And anyway, a wedding isn't necessary," Elsie had told Julia. "We had one when we were handfasted, thirty-five years ago."

"Thirty-six," Thea corrected. "No, thirty-seven."

"But handfasting doesn't grant you any legal protection," Julia had said. "You're obviously committed to each other. Let's make it legal so there won't be any question." She threw up a hand as both Thea and Elsie opened their mouths to protest. "You're not going to talk me out of this, so don't even try. I'll plan the whole thing, and Dave and I will pay for everything. We can have the ceremony on the beach and the reception at our house. All you need to do is give me a guest list and show up."

"It's very kind of you to offer, Julia," said Thea. "But we couldn't possibly..."

"Please, Ms. Thea," Julia said. "Let me do this for you. For everything you two have done for us."

And that was that. Julia was true to her word -- Elsie gave her a very short guest list and picked a date in late September, and the younger woman did the rest. Today was the day.

Together, the women walked to the beach. When they reached the top of the staircase to the sand, Julia started a recording of Wagner's "Bridal Chorus." And by the time they reached the makeshift altar, they were both crying so hard that they could hardly recite their vows. But they did. And when they left the beach, Elsie Weber and Thea Dahl had become Elsie and Thea Weber-Dahl.

All through the reception, they beamed at their dear friends and family. "I never thought I would see this day," Elsie said over and over.

"Nor did I, dear," Thea said. "Isn't it wonderful?"

More wonderful news: At last, Firebird's Snare is coming this week! I'm aiming for an official release date of July 1st, but keep an eye out for my newsletter with the final word. And thanks, everybody, for your patience.

These moments of bloggy bliss have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The signs say....

Sometimes you just need to trust your gut.

I didn't get the job in Denver. Actually, there were three jobs available at our Denver office, and I didn't get any of them. I don't want to go into too much detail here, but I will tell you that I found out for sure last Monday, after I had already arrived for my third stint of helping out. Since April, two other secretaries from the DC office and I had been tag-teaming out there, helping to get the office up and running while permanent secretaries were hired. I was the only one of the three of us who applied for one of the permanent gigs.

My gut had been telling me for weeks that I wasn't going to be chosen. I pretty much knew the score when I learned they were interviewing candidates from outside the firm. But I kept listening to my manager, and the attorneys out there, who were telling me that I was doing a terrific job and no final decision had been made -- so "just keep doing what you're doing."

Back when I was in radio, I heard a story -- which may be an urban legend -- about a radio station general manager who'd had one of his disc jockeys quit on him. For whatever reason, the GM didn't hire a permanent replacement right away. What he did instead was put out an ad. And when a reasonably qualified candidate showed up, he offered the guy an on-air audition. I forget how long he would let the "candidate" work -- maybe a day, maybe a week -- but then he'd let the guy go, claiming it wasn't working out. Then he'd bring in the next interested candidate and give him an on-air audition, and then not hire him, either. I forget how long it supposedly went on, but it was several weeks, at least. Now, I don't mean to say that my situation is completely analogous to that of those auditioning DJs. But I will say that I sympathize.

Speaking of signs: Even as late as Monday night, after I'd gotten the news, I was getting glowing responses from my divination tools of choice: "It's done! You succeeded!" Succeeded at what, I have yet to figure out. The only thing I can think of is that something big must have changed between my first week out there and this past week. Maybe I've dodged a bullet. Who knows?

Anyway, our Denver office is continuing to grow, and so I may still end up transferring out there at some point down the road. Just not right now. Right now, I'm going to go back to my job here in DC -- both the day job and the writing job. Dragon's Web didn't really get the sendoff it deserved, thanks to my dithering over Denver, and Firebird's Snare is on deck for release, oh, probably later this week. I'll send out a newsletter when it's ready to go. And you can expect some promotional stuff tied into that, as soon as I can figure out what it is. If you're not on my mailing list, now would be an excellent time to remedy that. Just click here to sign up. Thanks!

Today is the summer solstice -- the longest day of the year. It's considered in the US to be the first day of summer, even though it's been pretty steamy here in DC (and it's been hot in Denver, too) for the past several weeks. On this day, Neopagans observe Litha, one of the eight sabbats, even though historical evidence for ancient pagan celebrations of the day is thin. Still, people back then enjoyed summer the same way we do now: getting outdoors, swimming, enjoying summer fruits and vegetables, and sitting around an evening bonfire.

I hope you've had an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the day -- maybe with your dad. Happy Father's Day and blessed Litha!

These moments of gut-punched blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why I am a feminist.

A day late this week, sorry. I spent most of yesterday traveling and was too tired to write a post when I got to my hotel.

So this week's topic is feminism, and I will say right upfront that I am a feminist from way back. I remember being told in my first radio job that the reason I wasn't given the morning drive news shift permanently was because nobody wanted to hear a woman's voice on the radio in the morning. It sounds ludicrous today, but keep in mind that morning drive (5am to 10am) gets the most listeners, and the disc jockeys who work that shift usually get the best pay. Keeping women out of that daypart sounds like a good way to make sure men get paid more than women, doesn't it?

This comes up because of a post I saw shared on Facebook. The post apparently came originally from Tumblr, so this is third-hand already, and unsourced (the Tumblr post supposedly disappeared). But the short version of the story is that a teenage girl got into a fight with a boy who groped her in the school cafeteria. A bunch of boys made comments about her dress (which was fairly modest, although it showed some cleavage); she yelled at them; one offered to hug her in apology, and then groped her; a shouting match ensued, during which the boundary-challenged hugger employed the usual unsavory epithets; he raised his hand as if to slap her, and she punched him in the nose. Only then did school security move in. They took her to the office -- where she was told she should have just shaken off the comments. It wasn't until a female teacher got involved that the school administration agreed to call the police and report the boy for groping her.

I saw this post not long after my younger daughter told us about an interesting conversation she'd had with a co-worker. The man had complimented her on wearing hose with a skirt, and went on to bemoan the way some girls dress -- because they're "asking for it". She went on to explain to him what was wrong with his attitude (you go, Amy!).

My daughter's response, and the teenaged girl's response, dovetail with mine: Why is it the woman's job to dress modestly in order to keep the man's behavior in line? Why isn't it his job to police his own behavior?

There's been a fair bit of talk lately about rape culture, and the term came up in both of the incidents I cited above. I know there's a faction in America that hates the term. The word "feminism" gets a bad rap these days, too. But think about it: who objects most to those terms? Isn't it the same people who think women should behave so that men don't have to?

These moments of feminist blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.