Monday, September 14, 2015

Crowdfunding campaigns for authors: is it OK?

You may or may not have heard about this recently. This brings up a very interesting question: is it OK for authors to seek money for daily needs?

Earlier this month Payne Hawthorne, a self-published author, opened up a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign with the intent to raise $12,000. Getting this amount would enable her to become a full-time writer instead of having to hold down a job, which cut down on her writing time. The overall total comes down to a grand a month. She's stated that although she's been getting fairly positive reviews on her work, she isn't getting paid enough per book for her to move to full-time writing.

Needless to say, she's received some criticism over her actions. She's responded with what some of us would likely call "Badly Behaving Author" actions, but I'm not really going to go into that all that much. You can read more about this at Jenny Trout's website, where she covers Hawthorne's rant. Yes, it is BBA territory and she ticks a lot of the "do not do this" boxes.

What concerns me most is whether or not it's OK for authors to seek additional funding from the general populace in this manner. Seeking funding isn't anything new and you can see various websites asking for funding like popular webcomic sites such as Something Positive, although these sites rarely ask for a set amount of funding. Most of the time they do not mention any specific amount and instead mention how it will be used, like towards paying the server costs or similar needs for their series. Sometimes they'll say that they will use it to lessen or eliminate their job hours, but few make it sound like an absolute necessity.

Most of the time when this is done these websites will utilize direct Paypal donations or they'll use something like Patreon, a website that's specifically geared towards things of this nature. Few use websites like GoFundMe or Kickstarter since those are usually oriented towards very specific goals. GoFundMe is typically associated with people who are seriously down on their luck and need funding for things like funeral arrangements, rescue animal care, hospital bills, and the like while Kickstarter is aimed towards completing a very specific project. It can be frivolous, but you need to clearly state what it is that you are working on and is not intended for vague goals such as gaining enough to live off of while you write.

I think that part of the consternation surrounding Hawthorne began with the outlet she chose, GoFundMe. Jenny Trout brings up a very good point in her blog in that she points out that nowhere in the GoFundMe page does Hawthorn give off the impression that she's a starving artist or is in a particularly bad situation outside of what most authors have to go through. Her funding page generally gives off the impression that she's putting out a lot of effort but that she isn't gaining enough in book and audiobook sales to make it worthwhile. Trout also brings up another valid point: most self-published and indie writers do not make audiobooks because they rarely make enough money to make it worthwhile. Eliminating the audiobooks would probably save Hawthorne quite a bit of money and time, likely enough time to allow her extra hours of writing time a week.

Much of the reaction towards Hawthorne's campaign has been fairly negative, especially after she posted a fairly nasty rant on Facebook. Many authors have criticized her for opening a campaign on GoFundMe as they themselves wouldn't think to do that. Some felt like it came across like Hawthorne was critical of her readers for not paying enough for her books and others see it as a form of entitlement, especially when some of them have continued to write without seeking donations. Author Rhiannon Mills points out in her blog that she's had some particularly tough times in her life, yet never sought out donations in order to make ends meet.

My personal reaction is that this is a tacky thing to do and one that comes across like a shortcut to success. There are multiple authors that worked full-time jobs and continued to write. Rob Thurman is an excellent example of this since she continued to work a job even as her books hit bestseller lists and could be found on the shelves of any Barnes & Nobles. I'm also concerned that if successful, Hawthorne could be cutting herself off from a lot of inspiration. The famous author Ann Patchett held several jobs in her early years and she's openly credited these jobs as inspiring multiple scenes in her work. Many of the scenes likely wouldn't have been written. I'm certain that a lot of other authors can back this statement up as well.

In the end there's no set rule that says that Hawthorne can't ask for money, enough to where she can stay at home. Again, I think it's tacky, but there's nothing that says she can't. I just think that if she was going to do this, that it would've been better for her to do this through a different funding website and to have phrased her request a little more differently. That she shouldn't have posted her Facebook rant goes without saying.

Further reading: 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Website Roundup!

I'm trying something a little bit new (no, not posting regularly again, that's too new!).

I figured that it'd be interesting to post some of the strange things I've read on various blogs and some websites around the Internet. Click on the title of the links to go to said article.

2015 Hugo Winners (Hugo Site)

I know, I know. Everyone's sick of the Hugos and more specifically, the Sad Puppies, who seem to be gung ho on making the world think that we're all sad sacks bemoaning diversity in science fiction. This may not be what they think they're doing, but it's kind of how a lot of their actions came across to a lot of non-science fiction readers... and all without it coming from the supposed SJWs, meaning that people are reading about this from various news sources and thinking that this is essentially what is at stake here. Seriously guys, STAHP. You're making everyone look bad here. I'm gratified to read that others are just as disgusted with them as I am, if this thread about the winners at SF Signal is any indication.

Anywho, this is a link to the Hugo winners.

Who causes more destruction in superhero movies, heroes or villains? (Gizmodo)

This is the question of the ages. I remember reading a random anthropological thriller ala Indiana Jones and being aghast at the amount of carnage our heroes wrecked upon any given location they visited. I wish I could remember what series it was, since they ended up knocking over a lot of priceless statues in Rome or some similar location.

Learn to Build 20 iOS Games for $20 in The Mary Sue Store (The Mary Sue)

Dismayed at the lack of games featuring broody pieces of toast? Solve that problem yourself by making a game about broody pieces of toast. You could have the next Hatoful Boyfriend. Well, assuming that you're going to make it in one of the genres offered in the bundle.

Inside Disneyland’s Secret Club Reserved For Only the Elite (FoodBeast)

Another year, another look into Disney's Club 33. No, you don't want to know how much it costs. Yes, you'll probably look at the price anyway. How much is it? It's somewhere between "damn I'm poor" and "People pay that much for this?".

Singaporean cosplayer proves that cosplay doesn’t have to have an age limit【Photos】 (RocketNews24)

All you need to know is that this is one awesome lady. She cosplays at age 68 and looks great doing it, showing us all that mindset is a huge part of looking good in cosplay.

American English teacher in Japan takes a moment to remind student that anime is not real (RocketNews24)

Not real? Shut your mouth! Hakuya is mai husbando! Well, not really. Niro Sanjaya will always be my first anime/manga husbando, if I'm going to claim that for anyone. (Hush! I can like cheesy manga if I want!)

JK Rowling Plays Coy (Cuddlebuggery)

This is one of several pieces of news on the page, but come on. It's HARRY POTTER. ON STAGE. So you know that even if you're pretty over Harry Potter, you're still going to be salivating to see this and gobble up all the hints you can find. However I will suggest scrolling down to read about the... "interesting" sticker that a conservative public school in Arizona put on their science books. Yeah. The Harry Potter story might not be as interesting, but it's certainly better for your blood pressure.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Looks amazing: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Here's the second of some posts I'm stealing from SF Signal, but can you blame me? This book looks and sounds pretty badass.


Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

Doesn't that sound cool? It'll be out on September 22 through

Further reading:

Cheap reads: In Midnight's Silence by T. Frohock

If there's something I've learned over the years, it's that less is sometimes more. I like a nice weighty tome as much as the next person, but sometimes I love a nice brief read.

That's why I'm excited to try out In Midnight's Silence by T. Frohock.

SF Signal has given this a pretty good review and by all accounts it looks like the only negatives to it was that it was short (it's only 128 pages) and it left the reviewer wanting more. Neither of these are deal breakers for me.

I haven't read this yet but I'm fairly excited to get started - this is only 99 cents on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles, which is a really nice, cheap price. It's a good way to hook readers in (it worked for me), since I won't feel gypped over the book's length. Come on, how many of us have declined to purchase a novella or short story because we felt that its price posed too much of a risk?

In any case, this sounds like it'll be a good read. Here's the synopsis:

The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…

Born of an angel and a daimon, Diago Alvarez is a singular being in a country torn by a looming civil war and the spiritual struggle between the forces of angels and daimons. With allegiance to no one but his partner Miquel, he is content to simply live in Barcelona, caring only for the man he loves and the music he makes. Yet, neither side is satisfied to let him lead this domesticated life and, knowing they can't get to him directly, they do the one thing he's always feared.

They go after Miquel.

Now, in order to save his lover's life, he is forced by an angel to perform a gruesome task: feed a child to the daimon Moloch in exchange for a coin that will limit the extent of the world's next war. The mission is fraught with danger, the time he has to accomplish it is limited…and the child he is to sacrifice is the son Diago never knew existed.

A lyrical tale in a world of music and magic, T. Frohock's In Midnight's Silence shows the lengths a man will go to save the people he loves, and the sides he'll choose when the sidelines are no longer an option.

Further reading:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Indie Gems: AlterWorld by D. Rus

I'd come across this via a recommendation by a friend. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical for several reasons:

The first is that the book was self-published. You can find a lot of amazing things in the self-published world- WOOL is a great example of this since it was initially self-published and it's since developed a huge fan following. Scott Sigler's work is also something to point out. However we all have to be honest: for every one book that's extremely well done there's at least 3-4 that just weren't ready to be published.

The second is the obvious thing: if a friend recommends a book and you don't like it  then what do you say? Obviously my friend isn't going to subject me to a Klingon shunning ceremony but it can make for a little awkwardness if your friend is a particularly big fan - which he is. I think the average book fan's fear is that you'll read their favorite book and it'll be so awful that you can't even begin to understand why someone would like it.

Luckily this book is shaping up to be pretty darn good- so much so that I'm going to go ahead and give it a recommendation despite not finishing it because I think it needs to be in more people's hands.

The book is the first entry in the Play to Live series by D. Rus, AlterWorld. The author lives in Russia (presumably) and this was initially published in Russian but was translated into English and self-published on Amazon.

I'm really stumped as to why this isn't more well known and my only guess is that this isn't really being talked up that much. The first book is only $3 on Amazon and so far I highly recommend it.

The book is what is being called RPGlit and it's extremely similar to stuff like Sword Art Online. However the bigger difference is while the SAO characters are unwillingly kept in their online world, people in Play to Live are completely willing- most are choosing to live in their online world because their bodies in the offline world are severely disabled or they're facing a terminal illness.

In any case, I recommend it. Here's the cover, a link to where to purchase the work, and the synopsis for the first entry in the series:

A new pandemic - the perma effect - has taken over Earth of the near future. Whenever you play your favorite online game, beware: your mind might merge with the virtual world and dump its comatose host. Woe be to those stuck forever in Tetris! And still they're the lucky ones compared to those burning alive eternally within the scorched hulls of tank simulators. 

But some unfortunates - the handicapped and the terminally ill, shell-shocked army vets, wronged crime victims and other society misfits - choose to flee real life willingly, escaping to the limitless world of online sword and sorcery MMORPGs. 

Once a seasoned gamer and now a terminal cancer patient, Max grasps at this final chance to preserve his life and identity. So he goes for it - goes for the promise of immortality shared with a few trusty friends and the woman he loves. Together they roam the roads of AlterWorld and sample its agony and ecstasy born of absolute freedom.

You can purchase this in the following places:

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Author Behaving Awesomely: Joe Basara

With all of the authors behaving badly, I thought I'd highlight an author that responded very well to what was ultimately not a positive review.

The book in question was Cypress Lake and it was written by Joe Basara.

It ended up not floating my boat (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) and I left a rather lukewarm review. Joe was incredibly understanding about what I wrote and he admitted that he knew that the book wouldn't have an exceedingly wide appeal. I know that my biggest issue was that it was a bit slow and as someone who didn't grow up in the era I just didn't get some of the references and topics. (A co-worker of mine had read the book and loved it, so that's proof that the book has merit.)

He was so wonderful about everything that I've remembered his name years down the road and I'd even written about him back in 2012. I'm a little sad to see that he hasn't published anything since 2012, when he released Sale Day at C Mart and Fred's Golden Years.

I'm not sure what he's up to now (a Google search doesn't bring up much), but I hope that he's doing well.

In the meantime I'd recommend that you check out his books and keep this in mind: impressions, both good and bad, leave lasting memories. In the case of Joe Basara, it's a good one.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Authors Behaving Badly: Dylan Saccoccio

Hi everyone! Today's author behaving badly is Dylan Saccoccio, the author of The Boy and the Peddler of Death.

Looks pretty cool, right? I admit that it's something that I'd probably pick up if I came across it in a bookstore or in my Amazon storefront. It also bills itself as a mixture of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, which makes it even better. 

This is what drew in the Goodreads user Cait, who eagerly purchased the book... and didn't like it. This happens, so all Cait did was post an extremely brief one paragraph, one star review on Goodreads where she just says that she didn't like it. 

Hours after Cait posted the review, Saccoccio responded. And boy did he respond. 

I don't think I've seen an author meltdown this severe since Candace Sams started threatening to call the FBI over negative reviews for her book Electra Galaxy's Mr Interstellar Feller (later republished as Galaxy Man through Smashwords).

What did Saccoccio say? It's more like what didn't he say. His reaction to Cait's review was so over the top that I'd almost say that this was some sort of Andy Kaufman-esque troll-style performance art where he published a book and eagerly waited for the inevitable negative reviews to roll in so he could start his true work. 

Yes, it's that crazy. 

The initial comments have been removed but you can see the interaction here. Saccoccio accused Cait of being deliberately nasty and said that her one negative review was going to legit ruin his career, as in every possible reader is going to read this review and decline to purchase the book. He also called another commentator "Ba'al" and spouted more commentary to the point where things got truly surreal- and that's just in the first page of comments. 

I don't think I could sum up the gist of his comments any better than the following statement written by Saccoccio himself:

"I'm not embarrassed at all. And all of you who are taking Cait S's side, what you're doing in the bigger picture is waging war on the consciousness of humanity. The end. If this interaction prevents you from reading my work, it's okay. I'm not offended. I don't want your money, nor do I want you having a bad experience by reading my books. What bothers me is when people that operated at a low level of consciousness defame the work of people that are trying to help humanity, and no one helps humanity better than artists."

I really can't tell if he's serious or if this someone trying to troll book readers. There are interviews like this one that are in the same vein as Saccoccio's comments on Goodreads, so this might be the guy's honest personality. There's more evidence to suggest that this guy is just stuck in some Shia Labeouf level of idiocy than him being an Andy Kaufman. 

Either way, if this guy was trying to get attention then he got it.