Ribbons of Death
by Edita A. Petrick
When a horribly scarred man knocks on the door of Stella Hunter’s ramshackle cottage in upstate Montana, she lets him in. What’s there to lose? The book critics killed her chances to warn the world about myths and legends behind the myths and legends.
But once the man pushes a book smudged with bloody fingerprints across the table, Stella sees a glimmer of hope. She may yet repair her academic reputation. She may re-establish her credibility within the scientific community and she may vindicate her ‘peace-taker’ theory. She may also be murdered by anyone standing next to her if her theory is correct.
“A female mask.” He nodded.
“A man wearing a female mask. The Roman actors used them, the stage actors used them in Shakespearean times; so did Chinese performers. The old Egyptians wore masks not only for stage performances but to battle, or during exhibition combat in a palace.”
“So you’re saying that a female mask will protect you against the Peacetaker’s power?” He must have sounded more disbelieving than he meant to because she rose, braced her hands on her hips and glared at him.
“We’re dealing with a curse damning humanity for all eternity spun by a mythological demon. It produces a male child born during the night of the Blue Moon. When the child reaches adulthood, his power is activated with an amulet and as he walks amongst men, he devours peace, leaving them howling with murderous frenzy like primeval beasts. Which parts of what I’ve just said doesn’t sound rational enough to you such that you can’t believe the controller is a man wearing a female mask?”
“Well, what if it’s cloudy during that particular night of the Blue Moon and the actual moon can’t be seen? Would ancient folks have known then it was a night of the Blue Moon? I’m just trying to play the Devil’s Advocate.”
“An excellent point. We’ll gloss over it. Not because it poses challenge for me, but because we have, once again, a more important puzzle to baffle us,” she said with such candor that he raised both hands to show her he was capitulating.
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Self-Publishing – Hardest Decision/Easily Made
In addition to at least 10 new titles that I have at home, sitting in various folders in my laptop, I decided to rescue my older titles from publisher’s dusty shelves. I’ve arrived at the crossroads where I want to part ways with most if not all of my publishers. The main reason for this difficult decision is that I’ve come to believe that a publisher should run the publishing business and support his/her stable of writers. A publisher, regardless in what medium, should not also be a writer. I think that’s a serious conflict of interest. In the last ten years, quite a few electronic publishers came to be as a result of writers coming together and creating a vehicle with primary purpose of producing and promoting their own works. To make ends meet and to support their electronic expenses, they began taking on ‘outside’ writers because this kind of enterprise really runs on number of writers producing even greater number of works, all of which earn the individual writer very little and the pseudo-publisher quite a lot because a steady trickle of income from many faucets can build quite a large mountain of wealth.
Today, the e-publisher does very little to support his writers. Other than format the Word document to mobi or epub, assign an ISBN, pick a free stock image and convince the writer that it’s a custom-cover, and request Amazon to post the book, the e-publisher provides no other appreciable service for the writer. He spends zero time on promoting his writers’ works. The writer is expected to do all the marketing and promotion – free and paid. He is expected to find new markets and explore the old existing ones – then share these with the publisher through participation in publisher’s in-house group. The author is expected to have a marketing plan that will “push” his work to the forefront of Amazon’s reading audience and once again is told to “promote” his publisher. This endearing post script really means to promote publisher’s written works because that’s what the writer does with each mention of the publisher’s name. In short, nothing that defines today’s e-publisher is ‘traditional’ and yet when it comes to the division of royalties, the e-publisher is quick to defer to the established traditions— 7% of net (net presumably is what the publisher clears from a sale of a trade-paperback but the actual figure is never known to the writer) royalties on print books. The 60% or 65% off e-books is even more criminal.
I sat down and made a list of things I had to do if I went the self-published route and then assigned cost to each of those items. There are authors out there who will tell you that you should not set out to self-publish unless you have $1,500 in your pocket and are well aware that you may never recoup that amount from the sale of your books. I beg to disagree – with both sentiments. Kindle, Nook and e-pub formatting costs these days do not run over $100 and that is for all three formats. Additional pdf format for reviews runs to about $20.00. There are many graphic design websites that offer pre-made cover art and most if not all of it is head-and-shoulders above any cover art that your publisher slapped on your work. So, budget another $100 for a pre-made cover art for an e-book and you can actually stop there. If you are going e-book route only (you can always go paper later on, as well as other formats), Amazon will assign ASIN number to your book which means you don’t need an ISBN number. If you feel like the book should have an ISBN, a block of 10-ISBN numbers is $250 and that’s a good deal. But essentially you can place your Kindle format book on Amazon for less than $200, with a very good, professional looking cover and professionally formatted for Kindle. Now, I firmly believe that the author should run his book through a copy-editor one last time and pay for it. You may have edited-down your book until your fingers bleed but $200 will get you a quick read-and-copy-edit from a freelance editor and it’s money well spent. The e-publishers will try to convince you that they spend hundreds of dollars on ‘producing’ your e-book. In reality, it’s a pitiful fraction of what the book’s placement will cost you if you paid for cover art and formatting. And usually they recoup all their expenditure on producing your book in the first two months your book is out. I’m not talking here stellar sales. I’m talking trickle of sales that every author with a dozen friends and just as many relatives will realize in his first two months of sales. That leaves 2.9 years of unfair royalties-splitting for the publisher. A friend of mine, another author, put it for me in perspective. He said, “Look at it this way. Say your e-book is priced at $6 on Amazon. The publisher will get 70% of its sale which is $4.2 and this is what your publisher will tell you is his “Net.” You will get 40% of that ‘Net’ as your royalties. Rounded up it is $1.70. In other words, your publisher is getting 2.5-times the amount you are without doing a stich of work on your behalf, or spending a penny to help you promote. Keep doing the math and see how long it’ll make sense to you.”
I’m budgeting $500 for each book I’m going to place on Amazon as self-published. Whether I recoup that investment or not, it will be money well spent because it will save me a ton of aggravation such as I experienced just the other day. I had a free download day and promoted my book vigorously through paid and free advertising and across many sites and blogs. It was a lot of work. I blew my promo budget. It was exhausting but in the end, my book ended #4 in Free Kindle Store for suspense which means there was a ton of downloads. I wanted to know how many. After all, I spent my own promo cash to achieve these results so I believe I was entitled to know the book’s performance. Apparently not. Kindle Direct Program informed me that since it was the publisher who enrolled my book, only publisher was entitled to know these results. I approached the publisher, expecting at least some information on my promo campaign.
Instead, I got a blatant lie. We don’t get the breakdown of downloads. Really? I thought. Considering that Amazon KDP gives each independent (self-published) author who enrolled his work in the program a clear breakdown of all the downloads that occurred on the free day, a publisher who enrolled a book would be given the same service – if not more. And suddenly, I knew just in which direction I should move from the crossroads.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
By profession, I’m an engineer and ten years ago, I left a corporate job to concentrate on writing. It was perhaps the scariest thing I’ve done. Of course, there were other considerations at the time, life, kids, economy and my mother who was battling cancer. I wrote as means of staying grounded because I had to hold it together. There was no one else to pitch in. There wasn’t a single moment that I didn’t have doubts about whether what I was doing was the right thing or not, but doubts come and go, while the need to write goes on forever. Since 2005 I’ve published 5 books and this year alone I have 6 new ones coming out. I live in Toronto with my family and our two pets – wheaten terriers. And whenever I’m tempted to look back, and start second-guessing my past decisions, I sit behind the computer and start another book. At least for me, that’s a cure-all.