The thing about self publishing!

GASP! And hang on to your bloomers. I might accidentally GO THERE!. I don't tend to know where I'm going to go when I sit down to lay out my thoughts on a topic, and many a time things have gone off the rails....this could be one of those times.

I'm opinionated.....NAH! ya don't say! I am. I've very opinionated. And I have no filter. None. Unless I realize before I say something that it might be the wrong thing and then I bite my tongue or move the hell away from the topic....or if I just sit there staring at you like you've lost your damn mind...I'm pretty much drilling holes through my tongue with my incredibly sharp teeth. I had many moments like that at GRL. WTF moments so WTFie that there were no thoughts just sputters.....many times I just sat there with huge eyes and sore tongue and yeah.....so I'm opinionated but I know when to keep my mouth shut. I don't talk about things that would hurt someone. I don't intentionally discuss anything about anyone and their choices. I quietly clean up messes that have been left for me to clean up. I move on. I control my shit and mind my own business. Unless I'm pissed and then that no filter thing happens and that's why most of this blog is missing. Years of no filter. Things that are no longer relevant and shouldn't be out there. Old books. Old discussions.....whatever.

So the topic for today is self publishing and why I do it.

Why now? After all this time? Why just jump in and announce to the world WHY!

Well there was this blog article today you see, and it pissed me off you see, and I realized that I've been sitting on so much pissed offedness lately that I just want to get things off my chest once and for all. So this agent wrote this playground piece about all us indie bullies need to stop starting shit...cuz like the great J said in Men in Black, if you don't start nothin there won't be nothin......anyway.... blog post is HERE if you want to read it. And if you do please read the comments. The discussion is largely civil.

Now I'm not going to rehash this agent's thoughts on the subject. And I'm going to try to keep my thoughts on the nice side. But I'd like to talk about why I self publish. I'd like to talk about the pros and the cons. I'd like to talk about being the lone person in a sea of publisher owned people at conferences. I'd just like to spout for the sake of spouting.

When I first jumped into the self publishing waters it was a complete accident. If you were around three years ago you know that I had my first well second bad experience with a publisher. But Ellora's Cave and my other pen name are not the topic here. I was with a very small press because I actually didn't want a larger press like Ellora's Cave after the first really bad experience...so maybe it really is all Ellora's Cave's fault.....anyway, the publisher at the time that I submitted my books seemed to be a full service publisher. Their books were on the various other sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It was expected that mine would be as well. Remember that this was 2011 and Kindle had just changed the world of publishing. In 2011 publishers went from being the place where you made most of your sales to being the last place you made any sales. That has not changed in the last three years. In fact it's gotten worse. But that's for later.

As I was saying I was with a publisher who contracted In From the Cold and The 51st Thursday and provided a couple of covers...which were actually nice covers...one book had a great editor...the other not so much....let's just say that half of Cold was deleted and re-written by the editor and when I complained I was told to suck it up or they'd postpone my book indefinitely. I sucked it up. But I refused to allow her changes to happen. I rejected most of her edits. I mean seriously, I'm an easy person to edit. I will pretty much do exactly what is asked of me. I have rewritten, deleted, written entire chapters. Changed names....whatever. I have done it. But the one thing I will not tolerate from an editor is deleting entire paragraphs and rewriting. Ask me to rewrite if it's necessary do not ever rewrite my words.....I have a distinctive voice. Many people try to change my voice. Many try to copy it. I will not change my voice to fit some creative writing class definition of voice. That's why it's called voice. It's unique. Everyone has a different voice. Words are unique. There are words I'd never use in a million years. I'd NEVER use the word MEMBER when describing a penis...and that's what she did, she edited out and wrote in MEMBER.....what the fuck people no. I have messed up time lines and research and I have a bad habit of not using commas because I speak just like I type....no commas. Sorry. I fix what I'm told to fix. I don't complain about fixing..........anyway again....that publisher chose not to list the two books beyond their website and I chose to take my rights back after only a few months. Neither book sold anything. I was paid for exactly 22 copies each.

But because I chose to break the contract very early I was forced to hold those books for 90 days before I could do anything with them. And in those 90 days I couldn't find anyone to take two previously published books. No matter how little exposure they received. So I let myself be dragged kicking and screaming into self publishing them.

At the time I had one Mercy book published. I think it sold around a hundred copies from January to November of that year. Also at the same time Wicked Game came out in September and Behind Iron Lace came out on October 31. I self published In From the Cold on November 11, 2011. I was a nobody. I had no name. I'd failed with one pen name. I was failing with a second pen name. I had no choices and I was disillusioned. Lots of weird happened after that. Good weird and bad weird. Wicked Game struggled the first six weeks it was out. It did okay. Nothing major. Behind Iron Lace came out and about the same time I put Cold out both of those books took off. I don't know what happened. I never did know what happened. Both books were selling on Amazon in the top one hundred contemporary romance charts. Lace was on the Gay top one hundred. It went to number one briefly but got comfortable in the number 5 spot and decided to stay there until February of 2012. Cold didn't do as well as those two...I mean it's pretty damned graphic and not all that feel good....and I fucking carved a man alive in that book.....but it did pretty damned good as far as I was concerned. It was a decent first attempt at this publishing thing. The problem was, I was broke. I wasn't working to stay home with my baby, who wasn't a baby by then but I wasn't ready to give up writing to go back to work. And my husband had lost his job. We were borrowing Peter to pay Paul in those few months. I had two books selling like fucking hotcakes and we were just trying to get through to my first royalty checks. DH got a new job in January. But we were still deep in dept and just trying not to lose our house and end up living in our van.

So you see, when my first books took off I really had nothing to do with it. I couldn't be happy about it. I was floored. And hoping and wistful. And got fucked all around......but before I go there let's talk about The 51st Thursday. In January I got my first self publishing money for Cold. It wasn't much. But it was more than anything I'd get from either of my publishers at the time. Both of the publishers paid quarterly and neither book was out early enough to give me any December money. Four days for Wicked Game. I think that last check in 2011 was for five hundred dollars. One book and four days of another book. I got nothing from Silver until February. And then it was a couple hundred dollars?????????????? For a book that had sold a fuck ton of books and was still in the gay top ten 90 days out. So In from the Cold with it's piddling first month of sales paid in January was nearly double what those two checks were. It was $1,200 and that was from November 11 to the 30th. That book allowed me to self publish The 51st Thursday without borrowing money. And I paid back what I borrowed for Cold.

I didn't expect 51 to come out and hit number one on the gay charts. I didn't expect it to stay there for several days. Close to two weeks actually. But that's what it did. Because I released it at the end of January I wouldn't see any money for it until April.

Okay so let's change up just a bit here and go back to Behind Iron Lace. The publisher told me when I asked why the first check was so low, that they wouldn't pay off site sales until the following quarter and not to worry....uh yeah...red flags were flying. The second quarter of 2012 I did receive a payment from Silver with Amazon money. I received a whopping $2000. And really, if I didn't know any better....In April I received twice that for two books for only one month's sales. Silver paid me for three months....the three months that book was selling below the #100 ranking on Amazon. I never sold below that with either Cold or 51. Neither of those books sold half as well as Lace. And each month since that January I've made at least a thousand dollars from my self published books. Most months considerably more.

After I placed a third book with each publisher the differences became clear. One publisher paid 60% the other only 35%. I would get checks from the 35% publisher, that were triple what the 60% publisher was paying me. I had three books with each publisher that were running fairly similar sales numbers from what I could tell by studying the markets. I received a $9,000 check from the 35% publisher and a $1000 from the 60% publisher....numbers weren't adding up....while over on the self published side I made $10,000 in those same three months for two books, priced considerably less, but with a 70% royalty rate. I'm not a math whiz by any stretch of the imagination but as 2012 wore on and one publisher stopped paying me anything because he was stealing it all and my two then three and four self published books were far out selling the publisher published books in money in my pocket......well there you go....math whiz or not self publishing was starting to make perfect sense....as well as cents.

But I wanted to stay with an epublisher or epublishers because I thought it made me more legitimate I guess. Self publishing even now has a stigma attached and I'll get to that in a moment.

I wanted to stay with a company that I thought would get me better...well whatever....

The plain hard truth is, I've never had a publisher, even a great publisher, do anything to market my books outside of send them to review sites. All promotion fell to me with each and every book that I published. With a publisher or without a publisher.

I didn't want to shell out money for editing and covers and formatting and such.....because finding really good anything in the indie world is damned hard....but we'll get to that later. The problem is, you're stuck with covers that you may not like. And revolving editors. Some who know what they're doing, others who don't. And then there's the hurry up and wait. And wait and wait and wait for them to get around to edits. Sometimes, and it's happened at every publisher I've been with, you end up doing edits less than a month before the book is scheduled for release. IF you have a release date scheduled ahead of time. I've only had one publisher had a set release date scheduled at the time of contract. And wait times are getting longer every year. More people are being published. More books are coming out. Stuff.

After Silver ripped me off for hell I don't even know, I can guesstimate between 10 and 25 thousand dollars, I lost the ability to trust numbers and money. I know what sales should look like. I know what the books are listed for. I can figure that most sales came from Amazon and estimate that 70% and then the 60 or 35% royalty cut coming to me after that. I can look at my self pubbed books and wonder why those books sell so many more copies....cheap books sell....cheap cheap cheap......and I can see that I'm making more money from a $3 book than I am from a $6 book. And I have control. I don't have to worry about another Silver. I don't have to worry about another Cobblestone Press or another Ellora's Cave. I don't have  books with a publisher that I will never get back.

It's not even about the publishers anymore. It's about control. I have control. I don't have deadlines. I don't have to fight for a publishing slot. I don't have to delete a chapter because it made an editor uncomfortable. I can write what I want. I have say in my covers. I can publish the books when I want. I pay my editors, cover artists, whoevers, one time and walk away. I don't have to split my royalties with an agent. I don't get what's left after everyone else got their share first. I like being in control.

But with control comes responsibility. I've made serious mistakes. There is a whole world of people out there who want to play games with authors. I've trusted people I shouldn't have. I've paid the price in dollars and hurt feelings. I've learned never to work with close friends. Because you most likely won't be close friends after.

I suspect that's more on me than anything else. I tend to expect people to do what I pay them for and I tend to hold them to the time they say they'll do it in. I'm a business. I pay cash. Stuff.

I've had a book banned for content. I've had to fire people. I hate firing people. I hate it. It's business. And business and pleasure do not mix.

But I've never ever forced my opinions on anyone. I will answer any question and try to help anyone when asked. I will suggest cover artists and editors. I will steer people who are interested. Unlike that agent said in that article, I honor everyone's feelings about what's right for them in the publishing game. Yet I have people write me and tell me that they will not buy me until I'm with a reputable publisher.....because the editors I freelance from those same publishers somehow aren't as good as when they are with that publisher (sarcasm voice). I've chosen the path that fits me best and.....


Long story short. It's about control and money. It's about not having to fight a publisher to get paid. It's about not having to fight to get the rights to my books back. It's about failing or succeeding on my own terms.

That's why I self publish, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health....

Peace,

Mercy

Cover Change announcement

When in the course of the lovely world of publishing issues arise. In this case a profound insane wild hair to enter the RWA Rita awards for the first time in the however many damned years I've bounced around with them. And if you didn't know RWA requires all submissions to be in paperback form. Not electronic, because that would be too easy. To enter this I must send five hard copies of all books that I plan to enter. I have entered Shift in Time and Crazy from the Heat. I am still playing with the idea of Shot Through the Heart. The only other book I have that's eligible is Offside Chance, but I'm going with the idea that it's not a stand alone and would probably be confusing to the judges.

The problem here is that I have a cover that can't be easily made into a print wrap cover. I'd hoped to be able to manage something but alas, twas not to be. Options were limited to don't enter and don't bother putting the book in print. Or create a fresh cover for print........except I like things that match....strange I know.

So because I have delusions of grandeur....Crazy from the Heat has a new cover. Or it will in the next day or two when I can find a moment to format and change out files on Amazon.  But that's all it has. Just a new cover.

Artist is Reece Notley. I hope you like it.


Let's Talk about Sex: And what we're doing wrong.

I was going to write a GRL related wrap up post tonight. I had grand intentions of just fan girling all over the place. I met so many people this year. And in my opinion this was the best of the three GRLs I've been to. I really want the organizers to know that I had a blast.

But instead of name dropping my way through a long boring post that I've pretty much already yakked to death over on Facebook I want to write about one of the two topics that was on a loop this whole week. One. Not the other. I wouldn't touch that topic with a live octopus secured to the end of a ten foot pole. Don't ask I won't tell. Anyway....we as female authors of gay sex are getting it wrong.

Okay.

I'm not even upset about it. Because for the most part it's true. Why yes, most of the sex you read is not realistic. Some of it is down right wrong. Some of it is hilarious.

Now before I go on I'm going to do this. I'm taking the "gay" part out of this. I'm not going to talk about GAY sex. I'm going to talk about genderless sex and body parts all humans share. Anal sex. Gay, straight...hopefully human in origin because really I don't want to know otherwise.

I'm not a gay man. I'm not a straight man. I'm not a man at all. I don't want to be a man. I don't have penis envy. I don't think men are better than women. I don't think women are better than men. Cold hard fact is this. I am a straight woman who has been in a monogamous relationship for twenty-six years. And if you've ever tried to keep a relationship going for even twenty-six days, weeks or months, imagine what it's like to be with one person for that many years. Sex has not always been easy. Small children. Illness. The years I worked day shift and he worked night shift. Sex in a busy household is....yeah...anyway, point is you have one person to experiment with and things get stuck in places other than intended sometimes accidentally. Other times on purpose. Sometimes anal happens. And strangely sometimes it's preferred. Ahhh, yeah TMI...but...the myth that women don't like it and that straight men don't have it are just that, myths. Does that mean I understand the gay experience and know all there is to know about it? Absolutely not. That's why research and asking questions of, gasp, genuine gay dudes comes in handy. Having a gay best friend who is willing to tell me anything I want to know...and so much that I really don't want to know...has been an eye opening experience.

I'm not going to say that I get it right. That I KNOW and am an EXPERT. Because I'm not. I'm not gay or male or single. I've never even dated anyone other than the man I married when I was 19. I have a singular experience....well 26 years of singular experiences. In every way possible short of whips and cuffs and leather and a swing in the corner....because children happened. And neither of us have that kink. We agreed on a threesome once. Problem is we both had different ideas as to the gender of the third....so it never happened.

So that brings me to the point of all of this. The reality of gay or anal sex versus gay or anal sex in fiction.

I think the most important part of this discussion is this. I write gay erotic romance. And yes I've made some "errors" along the way. I put errors in quotes for a reason. But again I write gay erotic romance. I do not write gay literature. Gay literature is in my definition of the genre, limited to the gay experience. Written by men for the most part. With topics that depict the culture, hardships, triumphs, you name it. I don't write that. I can't write that. It's not my truth to tell.

What I do write is MM erotic romance. Which is generally accepted as romance written by straight women for straight women featuring gay male protagonists. It's fantasy with roots in fan fiction and the Yaoi books. What I do not write in this is fan fiction and I've never even laid eyes on a Yaoi so when I began writing MM I was completely unaware that there was a set of rules that the fandom had laid down long before. I was not aware that I was breaking pretty much all of those rules when I wrote my first four books. I soon learned the hard way that I had crossed so many lines.

My background is MF romance. Or het as we call it. I learned my craft by reading and writing romantic fiction published by the big New York houses in the 90s and the 00s. I learned to craft a story based on requirements by those publishing houses. I learned that the reality of sex is not what publishers will publish. The reality of sex isn't romantic. It's dirty. I don't mean as in filth that you hide under the bed and pretend you're offended by in public. I don't mean dirty as in spank bank material. I mean it's bodily fluids and farts and queefs and shit and piss and stench and disease. It's dirty. Period. And that's not sexy.

Back then there was a laundry list of things you did not write about. I'm sure there is now. Golden showers. Scat play. Felching. Anal was frowned upon back then. No anal in het. Good girls did not do that. And all het rom heroines were so good they were PollyAnna....on a trip to Dallas (if you get that reference you're a sick twisted person, friend me on FB you might like me)......anyway, that's how it was and probably still is. Condoms were used. Or if you did not use condoms you had to have "the talk". You know "the talk", I'm clean, I swear I haven't banged any hookers or joined in any hazing over at the frat house after an all nighter with bongs beers porn and no little sisters in sight.

Are you following me so far?

In the last sixteen years since I started researching romance publishing very little has changed in that regard. You will still find a list of things on a publishers website that they will not publish. Condom use is still very much a requirement or the talk is still expected if you choose not to use them.

You can't write reality. Because reality is dirty.

But as a writer and a story teller there's so much about real life that we don't write. We, well, I don't write about bathroom visits. I don't write about people brushing their teeth. Or shaving their pits or pubes. I don't write about people going to the toilet. I don't. It's implied or inferred or whatever word works best. We shower, we practice basic hygiene. We dress we go out and do that part of the story that matters. Unless you want your characters to shave each other or shower together...or teeth brushing as foreplay...whatever....those things MUST BE PART OF THE STORY or you're just adding in unneeded words for  no reason.

Okay, you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about and why it matters and what any of this has to do with sex....teeth brushing is sexy sexy fun I tell you........and the reality of gay sex that we as female writers are getting wrong.


Soooo let's talk reality. Let's start with condoms.

Fact: I hate condoms. I loathe them. I'm allergic to them. I hate writing about them. I just hate them. But if I choose not to use condoms in gay sex scenes I get slammed for being irresponsible and promoting and glamorizing unsafe sex.

Fact: Gay men don't use condoms...unless they do.

Lube....well, lube isn't always absolutely one hundred percent necessary even for non self lubricating males....as my friend said "if it ain't spit, it ain't love". I tend to think I really don't want anyone spitting in my ass but then I'm self lubricating in other parts so I've never really thought much about that. But again....yeah those pesky rules I never knew existed that still exist. Lube must always be used. Always. Because...well, because.

Scissor fingers.........oh my God. Prep scenes turn me off so so much. Lube, one finger stretch, two fingers stretch, scissor scissor........no....just no. From personal experience I don't want any fingers up my ass. I'm sorry I don't. It's not comfortable. There are finger nails involved and it's not necessary to stretch it unless you're going to drive a Honda up there or something. Even a virgin asshole will open around the blunt penis head if time and care is taken. Does it hurt? Sometimes. Not all the time. Going slowly to allow each sphincter a chance to relax and open is all that's absolutely required. Unless finger play is enjoyed, then have at it.....Reference...my friend was horrified the first time he read a scissor finger scene...he was quite vocal. Look at it this way, it expands enough to pass whatever comes from the inside out, it'll expand the opposite way as well....lord love you if you're passing small Hondas....you might want to get that checked.

And uh....well....cleanliness. We don't talk about cleanliness. Going back to that personal hygiene being implied part up there. No I'm not going to write about enema usage. I'm not. I don't want to read about it. Yes it's part of sex. I suppose it's a personal choice. I haven't ever taken a poll of the gay men that I know to see if they do or don't....and uh...yeah, so to put this in perspective from the female side of the story....I'm never going to write a het romance that features the heroine douching before a big date just in case she gets lucky that night. It's a thing. It's part of that thing that nobody wants to read about. It's not sexy and implied or inferred or....yeah, bodily functions and smells and who hasn't farted during sex, or for a female queeffed (pussy fart)....it's all not part of the fantasy. And it's fantasy that people are buying. Not how to prepare for sex 101. I want to read the hot and heavy not the stinky and juicy.

And for the love of all that's holy stop saying LAVED for licked. To lave means to wash. I read that as he washed his dick...with his tongue....or her tongue....and I'm wondering if I wandered into some really bad cat shifter porn run amok.

If I am completely off base with anything I've written then comment. Open the channels of discussion. Who knows, maybe the writers of the rules are the ones who're right and I'm a complete idiot with the wrong kind of gay friends....but not about that Laved part...just stop please for the love of....somebody go back to the 80s and thump the first person to use that word in the freakin forehead and tell her to step away from the thesaurus.

The moral of this story, when in doubt ask someone for advice. And if scissor fingers really is a thing, then we've been doing it wrong for nearly three decades....unless it's only man ass that needs scissoring.

As opinionated as ever.

Yours truly,

Mercy