Archive for the 'Joe’s Posts' Category

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
Podcasting Your Work

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, podcasting is a blanket term used to describe a collection of technologies for automatically distributing audio and video podcastprograms over the internet via a publish and subscribe model. Podcasting enables independent producers to create self-published, syndicated “radio shows,” and gives broadcast radio or television programs a new distribution method.

In the podcasting model, the publisher publishes a list of programs in a special format, known as a “feed”, on the web. A user who wants to see or hear the podcast subscribes to the feed in special “podcatching” software (a type of aggregator), which periodically checks the feed and automatically downloads new programs as they become available. Typically, the podcatching software also transfers the program to a desktop or portable media player.

Read the rest of this entry

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
The Coming Revolution?

Scenario One:

You’re out at the mail doing some shopping when you pass by the bookstore.  You don’t have time to go in and browse like you usually do, but you notice a poster for the latest novel from one of your favorite author’s right there in the display window.  While looking it over you see a Quick Response Code icon next to the words – “Get the first chapter free!”  You pull out your mobile phone, take a picture of the code, and within seconds the first chapter has been downloaded to your phone for reading at your leisure.

Scenario Two:

You’ve finished your shopping and are now catching the subway back uptown.  You pull out your mobile phone and begin reading the sample chapter you downloaded outside the bookstore display window.  The story is excellent and when you get to the end you’re hooked – you know you have to get this novel as soon as possible.  In fact, you wish you had it here with you now as you are still facing a forty-five minute subway ride back home.  Turns out you are in luck – there is a link to download the book right at the end of the sample chapter.  You follow the link to the website, purchase the book, and it automatically downloads to your phone.  Even better, you never had to pull out your credit card – the purchase price is added directly to your cell phone bill!

The above scenarios are just two ways digital publishing companies are taking advantage of current technologies and delivering content to readers in a variety of new and significant ways.  Statistics from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) show a steady increase in the sales and interest in ebooks for the first five months of this year.  Don’t take my word for it – see for yourself:

Jan – “E-books sales jumped up by 173.6 percent for the month ($8.8 million)

Feb – “E-books sales jumped up by 131.0 percent for the month ($6.7 million), reflecting an increase of 177.2 percent for the year.”

March – “E-books sales jumped up by 110.4 percent for the month ($10.0 million), reflecting an increase of 131.0 percent for the year.”

April – “E-books sales jumped up by 228.3 percent for the month ($12.1 million), reflecting an increase of 154.8 percent for the year”

May – “E-books sales jumped up by 196.6 percent for the month ($11.5 million), reflecting an increase of 166.7 percent for the year.”

Now granted, no one is selling as many ebooks as they are print books – far from it. But that’s not really the point.  What’s important here is the fact that this particular medium is finally beginning to pull itself out of the back of the closet and will more than likely continue to grow, becoming more and more important in the months to come.  Which begs the question – what are you doing in your career to take advantage of this growth?

Go back a month or two ago and I couldn’t have answered this question too well.  Sure, I’d put a couple of my backlist titles up for sale at the Amazon Kindle store but I wouldn’t call that a strategy.  It was more a token effort to say “See, I’m participating” than anything else.  But when a coaching client came to me asking what they could do to help themselves in this area, I realized it was time for me to get serious about it myself.

Over the next several months some of my works are going to be translated into multiple languages and sold via one of the largest telecom companies in the world.  They will be available in much the same way that I described above – from posters in bookstores, magazines, print media, you name.  Customers will be able to sample chapters right on the spot and can order the book directly from within those samples, making the process quick, easy, and painless.  More traditional ebook versions will also be made available, for those who wish to read them on the Kindle, the Sony Reader, or several other popular formats.

Recognizing that I was neglecting a vital part of my writing career, I did some research, made some inquiries, and decided to get my feet wet.  I wasn’t just observing – I was taking action.

So here’s my question to you – what about you?  Are you taking advantage of the possibilities open to you in this area?  If not, why not?  What’s holding you back?  This is such a new area of opportunity that I’m intensely curious about what others writers are doing, so feel free to comment and share your views.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
Revising Your Work

Once you’ve gotten the first draft down on paper, its time for the hard work of revising your manuscript to begin.  To be certain that I cover all the bases and don’t miss something important, I’ve put together a mini sort of checklist that I regularly work from.  I thought I’d share some of the questions from that checklist with you today.  I’m presenting them in no particular order…

Revisions Checklist

  1. Is the first paragraph interesting and engaging?  Does it draw the reader in?
  2. Do the first few pages accurately portray the main character, the world the character inhabits, and the problem that the character is facing?
  3. Are all five senses utilized where and when its appropriate to do so?
  4. Does the setting of each scene add to its overall impact?  (In other words, am I avoiding generic locales that do nothing to move the story forward?)
  5. Does each and every scene move the story forward in some fashion?
  6. Are the characters’ motivations interesting, believable, and realistic?
  7. Does the dialogue flow smoothly?  Does it sound right when read aloud?
  8. Are there moments of rest between the moments of tension to give the reader a chance to relax from the high emotions of the story?
  9. Does each new moment of tension build on the one before it?  Are the stakes higher at each new level?
  10. Can the main characters simply walk away from the problem or is there something at risk, forcing them to continue pushing forward?
  11. Are all of the major storylines wrapped up appropriately?
  12. Are all of the minor storylines wrapped up appropriately?
  13. Is there an emotional pay-off at the end of the story?
  14. Is there resolution for each of the main characters at the end of the story?

What are some of the questions you ask yourself when starting the revision process?

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
And I Had Such High Hopes…

While doing some casual surfing the other day, I noticed that Tor UK was running a competition in partnership with to help some lucky winner get their first novel published.  Even better, I noted that while it had originally been open only to writers in the UK, the contest had now been opened to writers anywhere in the world.  The winner would receive a contract to publish their novel through Pan MacMillan Publishers Limited (Tor’s parent company) in 2010, schedule permitting.

MacMillan is an excellent company and the contest sounded pretty good – publication was with a major house with an excellent reputation, writers who’d had a full length novel published anywhere in the world were automatically excluded so that the competition wouldn’t be grossly tilted in one direction or another, and the genre was limited to fantasy or science fiction furthering shrinking the contestant pool.  Nor was a full manuscript required for entry – all you needed was a synopsis and sample chapters.

I was all set to blog about the contest and tell my coaching clients to hurry up and enter before the August 20th deadline, when I noted the following:

“For the purposes of this competition we will pay the winning author a 20% royalty on net receipts but there will be no advance (i.e. an advance payment against future sales). Our contract is non-negotiable and we acquire world rights, with rights revenue split 50/50. We also reserve the option to publish the author’s second novel.”

Wait just a minute, Pan MacMillan!  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger bait and switch routine in my entire life.  You entice the unpublished author with the idea that they will get their book published by a reputable house, but then you offer terms that are the equivalent of highway robbery?  Shame on you!

Let’s take them one at a time:

1)    Royalty but no advance? Frankly, that’s crap.  If the book is good enough to be published, the author should get something out of it besides the promise of possible royalties, particularly when how the book is marketed, promoted, and distributed is entirely out of their hands.

2)    Non-negotiable contract?  Come on, now.   There is no way on earth I would ever enter into a contract that is completely non-negotiable.  A contract is an agreement between two parties and should be written to fairly represent both sides.  Allowing one party to cite the terms and telling the other party to take a hike is ridiculous.  (And no, getting the book published is not a fair trade.  If the book is good enough to be published, it can probably sell elsewhere.  And with an advance, to boot!)

3)    World rights?  You aren’t willing to pay an advance, but you are snapping up 50% of the income the writer might make by selling the work in other territories?  Sorry, but that’s adding insult to injury.

4)    Option on the next book?  Tell me, Pan MacMillan – does that option get exercised under the same contract terms?  Or does the author then gain the right to a fair agreement, with an advance and a better subsidiary rights rate?  At what point do you start acting as if the writer is someone you actually care about treating properly?

As you’ve no doubt guessed, I wouldn’t enter this contest to save my life.  What you are getting just isn’t worth what you are giving up.  There is a difference between being published and being published well – do not settle for the former at the expense of the later.

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 by Joe Nassise
On the Death (and Birth) of a Character

I’ve never been shy about killing off a character or two.  Heck, in my debut novel Riverwatch, four of the six major characters are dead by the end of the book.  In the Templar Chronicles, secondary characters could only perish quicker if they were wearing red shirts a la Star Trek.  Life is hard and I think fiction should echo life in all its difficulties, including death, and that means a character occasionally must be slaughtered gloriously…ahem…I mean, reluctantly allowed to perish.

After having finished the first draft of a new work not too long ago, I sent it off to my agent to get his thoughts.  Of all the various issues we discussed, the one that stuck in my mind the most was his comment that it was too bad that So-and-So had perished, as the character was both unique and interesting despite being a minor player.  Neither of us felt that rewriting that section of the manuscript was worth all the trouble, however, and so we left it as is and sent the book out on offer.

Fast forward a few months.  The project has now sold and I’m discussing the changes my editor would like to see in the final manuscript.  Almost the first words out of the editor’s mouth are “You have to find some way to let So-and-So survive.  So-and-So is way too interesting a character not to have in the next book as well as this one.”

What makes this amusing to me is that So-and-So almost didn’t make it into the book at all.  The very first draft had a different character serving a similar role, but it just wasn’t working out properly and so the second draft excised the character all together.  That worked out every less than the first go around, so I grabbed this character idea I’d had sitting around for years that I’d been unable to do anything with previously and tossed it in instead.  To my surprise, it fit, and fit well, and lo and behold So-and-So suddenly had a place in the book.

Now I was being told that this minor character that almost never existed in the first place really needed to survive.  Not only that, but I had to work the character into the next book as well.  Apparently characters really do take on a life of their own sometimes!

(Don’t get me wrong – I really love this character.  I wouldn’t have held on to the bare bones of their design for so long if I didn’t.  I just never expected them to get up and take on a life of their own, stubbornly refusing to die when I wanted them to and then enlisting the help of my agent and editor to ensure that I couldn’t kill them off.  Ungrateful little pain in the…. <grin>)

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
The Making of Candice Crow


While at Comic-Con a few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Sean O’Reilly, the CEO and founder of Arcana Comics.   Arcana is not only the largest comics publisher in Canada, but also works in other mediums, including video games, short-form animation and live action shorts, toys, merchandise and the like.   At the time I was shopping the rights to turn my Templar Chronicles trilogy into a comic series and while that project just didn’t seem right for Arcana, it gave Sean and I the chance to get a feel for each other’s work and to form a basis for doing some work together in the future.  Several months later, when he needed a writer for a new comic series he was envisioning, he gave me a call.

Candice Crow, a five issue comic mini-series about a young woman who discovers she has some rather unusual powers (and limitations) was born.  candiceteaser

Sean already had a basic idea, as well as an artist attached to the project.  He needed someone to flesh it out and write the scripts for the five issues.  After talking it over a bit, I signed on and worked on the series as time permitted in between novel projects.  It took a while, but eventually all five scripts were written and were passed on to the artist.  At that point, there was nothing more for me to do but sit back and wait.

Recently, I was able to see the fruits of my labors.  Completed copies of each issue – drawn, inked, colored, and lettered – were sent to me for review before they went off to the printer.  The series won’t be officially released until the Fall, but I was excited with what the team as a whole had come up with.  For the first time I’d been involved in a project that I couldn’t just sit down and handle all on my own and I found the experience artistically satisfying, to say the least.

So with this year’s Comic-con just around the corner, I thought I’d share the first few pages of Candice Crow Issue One with you all.  (Concept by Sean O’Reilly, Script by Joe Nassise, Artwork by Angel Angelov)




Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 by Joe Nassise
Must Have Contract Clauses

I’ve spent the last four weeks negotiating a new three book contract for my Hunt Chronicles trilogy.  Publishing contracts are usually long, convoluted, and written in legalese, making them a pain in the neck to wade through but wade through them you must.  In order to help me make sure I’ve covered all the major bases, I have a short little checklist of clauses that must be in every contract that I sign.  I thought I’d take my column today to share that list of clauses with you.  They are by no means the only clauses that will be in a contract, but represent rather the baseline minimum that I’m looking for in the document. In no particular order, these are…

Description clause: This section of the contract spells out just what it is you are selling to the publisher.  It can be very detailed (including things such as an attached synopsis or chapter outline) or it can be rather vague, with just a working title and a short description of the work.  For instance, the description for my novel HERETIC simply stated “a contemporary horror novel based on the legend of the Knights Templar.

Delivery and Acceptance clause: This section of the contract spells out what is being delivered and when.  It should state how long the manuscript needs to be and the date on which is is due.  Sometimes it will also define just what procedures are necessary for the publisher’s acceptance of the manuscript.

Grant of Rights clause: The grant of rights defines what geographical territories are covered by the contract.  For U.S. contracts, this will typically be English language rights in a given territory (say, North American rights) or world rights.  This is a particularly important part of all of my contracts as I write original novels for publishers in multiple countries and need to be certain that I don’t give up rights that can earn me additional income down the line.

Subsidiary Rights clause: Subsidiary rights are any rights in addition to the print rights defined in the Grant of Rights clause.  These can include print rights in other languages and territories, electronic/digital rights, audio rights, film and theatrical rights and the like.   Remember that every set of rights you retain and later sell to another publisher can earn you additional income and so you want to be careful about including too many of these in the primary grant of rights.  If you do release subsidiary rights to the primary publisher, any sales made on your behalf will then credit against your advance, however.

Advance clause: What I like to call the “show me the money” clause, the advance clause stipulates how much you will be paid for the work in question as well as the schedule on which that money will be paid.  Typically, an advance is broken into multiple payments – an example would be 1/3 when the contract is signed, 1/3 when it the manuscript is delivered and accepted, and 1/3 on publication.

Royalties clause: The royalties clause defines the royalty percentage based upon type of publication (hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback) and the number of copies sold.  Most publishers will pay royalties on a sliding scale – the more copies have been sold, the higher the royalty percentage.  For instance, my very first contract with Simon & Schuster had a royalty percentage based on the first 150,000 mass market copies sold and a different percentage for everything over that.  Rates for hardcover and trade paperback publication were included, but never came into play.  This clause should also spell out when royalty statements and checks will be issued.

Out-of-Print/Termination clause: This clause is an extremely important one as it defines just when the rights to the work revert back into your control.  With the advent of electronic publishing and print-on-demand publishing, it is technically possible to keep a work “in-print” indefinitely, so care should be taken to be certain that a specific definition is included herein.

Duty to Publish clause: The duty to publish clause basically outlines just how long the publisher has to put the work into print and what happens if they fail to do so.

There are quite a few other clauses that you will see in a contract – option clauses, clauses that govern how and when you can examine the publisher’s books, copyright clauses, correction of proof clauses, indemnity clauses, etc – but those noted above are the ones that I focus in on first when looking at a contract for the first time, particularly since they are the type of clauses that can make or break a deal for me.

(And for the curious among you, The Hunt Chronicles – EYES TO SEE, HANDS TO HEAL and A SOUL TO LOSE – will be published in hardcover by Tor beginning next year.)