News, commentary, and fiction by Barb Hendee, co-author of the Noble Dead saga (; author of the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and more.

The Writer's Corner: The Wandering Ways of Your Wages


moneymonster4Everyone talks about how the publishing industry is changing — and it is. Today, I am thinking about the flow of money, particularly where it flows, to whom, and in what order. Most professional novelists have an agent who is part of that flow.

Under the original model, agents handle all aspects of the business and financial side of things. It is written into the contract that 100% of all money earned from  the sale of a book will go directly to the agent. So, all advance and royalty checks are received by the agent, who then cashes these checks, keeps 15%, and sends the novelist his/her 85%.


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Saturday Morning Moment of Cuteness

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It's really been cold here in Oregon--like unseasonably cold.  Normally, we get a little weather in the low twenties in January and February, but not weeks and weeks of it on end.

JC and I have a wood stove insert out in the living room, and we've been living in that area of the house lately.

So have our cats.  The girls are nine months old now.  I can hardly believe it.  

A few days ago, I brought my computer out to "the warm area" to write while sitting on the couch, and this how I found them, on their favorite blankie.

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“Tales” and What’s to Come…

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HW5_Tales_Logo_128It has been a while since we did an update on “Tales from the world of the Noble Dead Saga.” Time for a little catch-up on this and a few other Noble Dead related topics. As previously mentioned before S3B2: The Dog in the Dark hit the shelves, we told our publisher we would not release any “tale” during the month before (and after) the release date of a new book in the saga. As we near the end of that window, here is what is coming…

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The Writer's Corner: Do Traditionally Published Writers Have More of an Edge than just Name Recognition?

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This post might get me some hate mail, but I feel the need to express some thoughts here.

I had a strange epiphany yesterday while doing a read-through of a 16,000 word story that I'd just finished.

Last spring, JC and I launched a self-published project called "Tales from the World of the Noble Dead."  We write stories between about 50 and 150 pages all set in the world of the Noble Dead Saga.


This project has been surprisingly successful.  One of the reasons for this is probably that JC and I do have some name recognition and a built-in fan base, and our website is now receiving about 12,000 hits a month (this has been steadily climbing).

But as I was completing the first draft of a new story yesterday, something important occurred to me.

I've been working with Roc Books for twelve years (since 2001).  Over the years, I've had three very good editors who all focused on slightly different elements of fiction during the editorial process. I've learned a great deal from all three of them, and they have made me a much better writer.

I am not some Prima Donna writer who thinks that solid gold fiction comes straight out of my bottom.  Creating something publishable takes work and revision.  My current editor always calls me on things when I've taken the easy way out or when I have not justified a plot point enough.

Yesterday, when I was going through my story, I had a pad and pen in my hand, and four times I stopped and thought, "Susan would never let me get away with that."  Then I jotted down notes regarding certain sections still needed more work.

I haven't always agreed with my editors, but they have always made me think, and they make me work harder, and with this Tales project (where JC and I are functioning as each other's editors), I want to make a story as solid as possible before he reads it.  Then I want the final product to be as professionally written as my novels being published by Roc.

As a result, I go through the stories and look at them through the eyes of my New York editor.  I really do believe that this would give any traditionally published writer an edge over a writer who has never worked with a professional editor.

This might be one more reason for fledgling writers to consider a traditional publisher before going indie.

Just a thought for today.

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Writing Spaces . . .

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I've always been envious of writers who can take their notebook computers and go to a coffee shop, order up a foamy latte, and then be able to actually sit there and write. To me, this image is so romantic--the fiction writer in hipster glasses pounding away in the coffee shop, able to shut out the world, and yet still be able to sit there in the middle of the world writing away.  I love to envision myself in this setting.

Tragically, my brain doesn't function that way.  I need to be able to mentally "vanish."  I need to absolutely forget my surroundings and step inside the story.  In order for me to do this, I need to work someplace that is so utterly familiar that I don't notice it.

 To this end, at present, there are only two places where I am able to write.

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Baby, it's cold outside

I've heard it said that the northwest is a good place for writers . . . as it rains all the time, and so they just stay indoors writing.  That isn't exactly true, as the summers and early falls here in Oregon are gorgeous.  But compared to Colorado, it rarely snows.  We're having a hard cold snap here this week though.  It's 22 degrees outside this morning, and it snowed last night.  JC and I have plenty of food and firewood, and we really are just going hole up here today and write.  Here's a shot of the tree in our front yard.  It's a winter wonderland out there.


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Book Release Week!

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Yesterday, JC and I drove to our nearest Barnes & Noble to sign some copies of the newly released hardcover of The Dog in the Dark.  For me, seeing the new book on the shelf never gets old (smiles).

While we were there,  I picked up a copy of the mass market edition of Between Their Worlds . . .

And I was excited to see that at the end of the new mass market, our publisher put in a "teaser" for The Mist-Torn Witches, and they included the prologue.  So . . . if you want a sneak peak at the The Mist-Torn Witches, just glance at the end of the mass market paperback for Between Their Worlds.

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Myth Busters: Marketing

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Myth Busters:  Anyone Can Market a Self-published E-Novel with Wild Success

 There are actually two myths I want to cover in this post, but the first one is short.  Here is one of the most common questions that hopeful new writers ask of the loudly vocal gurus touting the miracle of self-publishing: 

“If I am a totally unknown writer, how do I market my self-published e-novel?”

The answer these poor folks receive from the vocal gurus always makes me bang my head slowly on the desk. Here is the very helpful answer that is always given:

“Marketing?  You don’t need to worry about marketing.  Just write the best, most fabulous novel you can and put it out there. It will find an audience.”

Ugh. Horse poop.  Piles and piles of horse poop.

This answer is so absurd that it barely warrants a response.  If you are a completely unknown writer, no matter how fabulous your novel might be, how is anyone going to know it exists?  Any writer with two brain cells that can actually fire at the same time should be able to reason that much.

Moving on to the topic of marketing . . . There are a number of online sources that claim anyone can market a self-published e-novel with great success.  JC and I are in a “better than most” position as we have a pretty well established readership built up over the last decade plus. Our official website had 10,500 hits in the past thirty days and has been climbing steadily over the last 5 years.

JC markets the pants off of our “Tales from the World of the Noble Dead” over there, and he has built us an automated social networking system; everything we post on that site goes out to some twelve different social system satellite pages/sites that he has set up. This of course includes Facebook (#TheNobleDeadSaga) and Twitter (#NobleDeadOrg), as well as Google+, Squidoo, Pinterest, Delicious, and more. And all of those satellites are linked on our site along with automated share systems for visitors to help us out.

However . . . our entire marketing base consists of built-in Noble Dead fans. This has created both a driving force and some limitations on what we write for our indie titles.  We would LOVE to find a way to break out of marketing to only our built in-fans (even though we are extremely thankful to them).  So, lately, we’ve been doing a lot of research in this regard, but I’ve seen the same advice everywhere . . . and much of it offers a total avoidance of reality.

From this point on, I’m going to switch gears and approach this from the viewpoint of a brand new novelist with no fan base at all.  Here is the advice given over and over and over in every book and every online site I’ve read:

Anyone Can Market a Self-Published E-book with Wild Success!  Here’s How . . .

1) Create your own blog and begin building an email list from that blog.

2) Write "guest posts" on other people’s related blogs to tap into their existing audiences.  This will allow you to rapidly build a fan base.

3) Use the email list you’re constructing to begin marketing your book before it is even published.

4) Use social media like Facebook and Twitter to let everyone know about your self-published, e-book.

By following these steps, your book will have a built-in audience before it is even released!

Okay . . . this is Barb chatting again.  Can anyone point out a few problems with this glistening advice? 

Regarding #1:  First, if you are a complete unknown, how do you get people to visit your blog and express interest in signing up for your email list? 

Regarding #2: If you are a complete unknown (novelist), how do you convince others to let you write a guest post on their blog?

Now . . . I can see this working if you have knowledge or a skill that is a strong running thread in your novel.  For example, if you’re well versed in martial arts, and your novel contains a good deal of martial arts, you might know some folks running blogs on various martial art practices who would allow you to come in and talk about the novel (fiction) that you’ve written.  I don’t know if this will get you any sales, but you can see what I mean.  If you’ve included any skill (or knowledge) that you possess in your novel, you might be able to tap into #2 above.

But what if you’ve just written a basic dynamite fantasy novel—and you’re otherwise unpublished?  How do you convince people running blogs to let you be a guest?  I’m not sure.  I think it’s certainly possible (if you can come up with an angle), but it’s not as easy as these “how to” people seem to suggest.

#3 can be somewhat perilous, so do be careful.  At first, that list is probably going to consist of your Grandma Bea, your brother, Henry, three of your first cousins, and a few friends from high school.  

Most people don’t like spam.  It takes ten times as much work in the long run (according to J.C.) versus building a functional, automated social connections system off of that same blog. Any blog worth its weight should have an RSS feed that your readers can subscribe to, so they don’t need you loading up their inbox.

#4 though makes a good deal of sense, and it probably should be the first thing you do.  Work smarter, not harder, especially if your work isn’t quite yet making you enough money to pay for all that extra time in which you should be writing your next great novel.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  With this post, I am NOT discouraging anyone from self-publishing.  I’m rapidly becoming a huge fan of self-publishing.  I’m just asserting that marketing may be a tad more complicated and elusive than what you might be told going in . . . and please ignore any hogwash from the gurus telling you that you don’t need to worry about marketing at all.  Again . . . ugh.

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