Friday, June 27, 2014

Surfing the Hybrid Wave of Publishing

Bestsellers have been migrating online since opened its virtual doors in 1995. Now ¾ of them are online, e-books and print combined. Two years ago Borders shut its doors. Mike Shatzkin of the Shatzkin Files tells me that Barnes & Noble continues to close stores as leases expire.

Our very own Chapters/Indigo in Canada is rapidly turning into a gift store. Mid-listed and lower listed authors are finding their print books returned to them (I know; I’m one of them). Further to that, I can also state that the digital version of my books—available in multi-formats including print, audio, e-book, and graphic novel—is selling at a ratio of at least 5 to 1 over any other format sold. Amazon recently revealed that Indie and small-press books account for half of the e-book sales in its most popular and bestselling genres. In a startling and controversial statistical report, Writer Hugh Howey determined that 92% of the top-100 best-selling books in the top-selling genres (based on Amazon sales) are e-books.

Despite the challenge on the use of statistics and data reporting in the Howey study, some of the overall trends he discussed (though the study may not have proven) are becoming obvious.

Over the past six years a mass migration into e-books has occurred—thanks to Kindle. We’ve had three years of great “hand-held delivery” of graphics—thanks to the iPad. Novels and non-fiction have blossomed over the Internet and into our cherished smart phones and other portable devices. It’s only time before consumers of illustrated books and children’s books embrace this market. One of my colleagues is counting on it. She has just completed an annotated version of an Edwardian illustrated guide to pets that is splendid with old plates and wonderful anecdotes. And it will be sold only as an e-book.

A bazillion ebook retailing models are sprouting to embrace the flourishing of individual expression and readers who use Kindle, Kobo, and other portable reading devices. For instance there’s Safari, 24symbols, Oyster, Scribd, Entitle, and Librify. Then there’s Amazon’s PRIME, a kind of “library” lending service for its subscribers. They also have Kindle Fire for kids.

The big publishers have shifted majorly to ebooks to improve their margins and profitability. Even literary agents are dabbling in the publishing business now (e.g., E-Reads, Diversion, Rosetta, Curtis Brown, Writer’s House).

This is all great news for the self-published author, who is increasingly relying on the ebook format and Internet distribution platform of social media to earn a living as a writer.

Of a surety, the number of self-published books that succeed is still a tiny fraction of the number of books published overall. However, this needs to be seen in the greater context: the number of successful books (as gauged by various measures of “bestselling-status”), no matter how published, has always been a crap shoot, with many books not enjoying the kind of success their authors would wish—or deserve. The number of books mid-listed and below has always been a very high percentage of the totality. As with most niche markets, publishing success and sales has followed and continues to follow a long tail, with the few earning a lot stretching its long tail to the many earning a little. “The number of people reading wasn’t enough to support the number of authors publishing traditionally,” author Hugh Howey points out in an article called “I See it Half-Full”. This, no matter how a book is published or by whom.

What does this mean to those of you just getting started and still choosing which route to follow?

Those of us in the industry have been hearing some interesting back and forths spanning from writers like John Green who passionately maintains that he would “never self-publish” and that there is an advantage to publishing the traditional route to others like Brenna Aubrey who turned down an auctioned offer from a Big Five publisher to self-publish with no regrets and to great success.

In an article entitled “the Third Way of Book Publishing”, successful self-published author Mathew Mather argues for a hybrid approach. In the article, he shares how he became a successfully published author without the help of any of the Big Five publishers and the results were incredible :

“By self-publishing and without any help from the Big Five, I’ve gathered nearly 200,000 readers in under two years. This was only possible because of the new platforms and outlets that became available to authors in the past few years. Without them, I wouldn’t be an author, or at least, not a ‘published author’. And, because of my self-publishing success, 20th Century Fox purchased the film rights to my second novel, CyberStorm.”

Mather suggests an alternative paradigm that mixes self-publishing with traditional publishing and involves the author’s rights. Mather says that “If a writer manages to get out a self-published book that is successful, they can separate out rights for: domestic US, Canada, UK, rest of world country by country, audio rights, film and TV rights and so on.” Mather himself kept self-publishing in the US domestic market (both print and electronic) and sold off rights for foreign markets through an agent or through larger traditional publishers.

Mather provides the example of Hugh Howey, who kept his electronic publishing rights while doing print deals with other publishers. I’ve done the same for several of my books. While I collect small royalties (12%) from my American Indie publishing house who has bought the rights to the print version of The Splintered Universe, I kept the rights to the e-book version, which I sell on Amazon KDP for a much higher royalty (70%). I make more per e-book despite its reduced retail price; and, as I mentioned above, I sell more e-books than print books, by about 5:1. Howey provides more interesting statistics for writers to consider.

This is an exciting time. The writing and publishing industry is experiencing a tidal wave of change. If you like waves and don’t mind getting a little wet, chances are you’ll enjoy an awesome ride. Publishing success now and in the future will not rely on any single model. It doesn’t matter if you use a longboard, gun, fish or bonzer. Just get up and surf the wave.

As with other facets of business and art that have been touched by the Internet, storytelling is currently experiencing a renaissance of individual expression that will involve many different ways to express, communicate and distribute “story”—some yet to be imagined.

Interesting Links:

Nina's Interview on EAC's Boldface 

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Orphan Black Clone Dance: Love the Water...

This wonderfully choreographed scene from the Season 2 finale of Orphan Black, demonstrates some of what is the very best in this scintillating and compelling Canadian science fiction thriller: character.

Tatiana Maslany is one person but when you see each of those women interacting--with each other and with Felix--you never for once think of them as the same person. Each "clone" is an obvious individual, in her nuances, facial expressions, speech and--yes--in her movements, which include how she dances.

From the fluid "water" moves of Cosima to Sarah's lithe animal power to Alison's uptight staccato steps and finally to Helena's unbridled abandon...

Kudos to Tatiana Maslany. She is a very accomplished actor. And so fun to watch!

Google "Orphan Black Clone Dance" and enjoy the dance! 

Great music by Adham Shaikh, Juno and Emmy Award-nominated musician from Nelson, British Columia.
Adham Shaikh
Called "Water Prayer" this dub hip hop tune is an inspired prayer to celebrate water. Released from Universal Frequencies in June 14, 2010, it was featured at the Water woman festival in Vilcabamba, Equador in 2012.

An admitted interstellar traveller, specializing in global sounds of bass, fusing dance culture with ancestors vibrations, Adham's music transcends time and place. A mix of styles and forms from ambient to progressive, glitch hop to trip hop, klezmer to raga's, a bit of dub n breaks to blend it all together with tribal beats to get the feet moving. And, yes, those feet wanna move--even Cosima's!

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jumpstarting Your Creativity Workshop

Zohra, Ivy and Peta-Gaye chumming in the Sultan's tent...
Last Saturday I facilitated a workshop called “Jumpstarting Your Creativity” in Mississauga organized by poet and publisher of In Our Words Inc. Cheryl Antao-Xavier. Cheryl and husband Allan had kindly offered their back patio as the venue and hosted the workshop as part of a wonderful “High Tea”. I entered the large netted gazebo—filled with antique chairs and a table of fresh fruit, samosas, canapés and cheeses—feeling like I’d stepped into a Sultan’s tent.

Cheryl brought together an impressively
Ceilidh, Bala and Shalini enjoying the food and drink
diverse and talented group of local writers—published and unpublished—who represented a wide range in writing genre, theme, style and cultural background.

Vicki Bismilla
Dr. Vicki Bismilla, born in South Africa into a family dedicated to the anti-apartheid movement, had recently launched her book Forbidden/Verboten with IOWI and is currently working on another work with a similar theme.

Ben Antao, who wrote for The Globe and Mail, has published
Ben Antao
several memoirs (e.g., Images of Goa and Goa,A Rediscovery) on his early life and experiences in his native Goa as well as several novels and short stories.

Peta-Gaye Nash is a short story writer who published a collection of short stories entitled 'I too Hear the Drums' and four children’s books through IOWI. She is currently working on a creative non-fiction short collection about her native Jamaica. 

Zohra Zoberi recently published her collection of poems True Colours with IOWI. A self-professed “citizen of the world”, she is currently working on a memoir of her adventurous journeys around the world. Jasmine Sawant and Shalini are writing contemporary and historical fiction based on political intrigue, culture and family, and calamitous events in Mumbai.

Jasmine and Mostafa discuss dreams...
Mostafa Dini, who just completed a five-volume series on neuroscience and brain function, is writing a book on dreams.

Konrad Brinck is writing a humorous slice-of-life short story collection; Ceilidh Barrett writes science fiction (my genre) short stories; Ivy Reiss, who coordinates the Oakville Literary Café, and Bala Menon, published author and publisher of Tamarind Tree Books Inc. are writing literary fiction in the short and long form. Mike Ghatine's book 'Secrets of Driving and Automobile Care' is being published by IOWI in print and ebook form. He is creating a collection of non-fiction anecdotes, philosophical meditations and sage advice on driving a truck in Ontario’s rural back country. A kind of “Zen of Truck Maintenance” book that intrigues me greatly. His wife Flanda shared that she was hoping to write a history book on her Babylonian culture. Cheryl Antao-Xavier has published two collections of poetry and will shortly release her first children's book based on the theme of integration and acceptance. 

I was impressed by the great range in creative pursuit and the depth of talent represented by these accomplished authors.
The Sultan's Tent before the crowd...

I helped myself to Cheryl’s exquisite samosas, other dishes and dark chocolate Petite Ecoliers before embarking. Then I asked each author to introduce his or her current work-in-progress. I prompted them into places where they were having issues and we just worked through them: whether it was storyboarding, plot, beginning and ending, finding the muse, doing research, defining "truth" or achieving historical vs. personal accuracy, organizing non-fiction hierarchy, defining character arc, or revealing mirrored protagonist vs. antagonist plotlines ... etc. we delved deeply. I brought my flip charts and we triaged each work and everyone braved my indecipherable scrawl with generous smiles.

Cheryl Antao-Xavier
The feedback from participants has been heartwarming!

Cheryl said to me:  “Your new middle name is PowerHouse Triager!” 

Marinella Antao said: I had a great time at the presentation on Saturday. I was not expecting to participate, but it was so interesting that I couldn’t stop myself. It really cheered me up and inspired and energized me to pursue my hobbies.

Thanks again, Marinella

Mike and Flanda Ghatine wrote: I would like to thank you for inviting us, it was very educational for us. Hope we'll have more workshops.

Vicki Bismilla wrote: Thank you Nina and thank you to all of you. Each of you taught me something!! Vicki

Konrad and Jackie Brinck: Thank you, Cheryl and Allan, for putting this workshop together and for the hospitality and the delicious food. I had a great time and learned quite a few things. Konrad

Zohra Zoberi wrote: Thank you so much for yesterday. Nina was terrific.

Ivy Reiss wrote:

Dear Cheryl and Nina,

Thanks so much for an inspiring and insightful evening! It was fun and in-depth, and I think it really channeled many people into recognizing the directions they wanted to take with their writing. It also helped me pinpoint where I am in regards to my plot and structure approaches as well, which was very helpful.

Thanks again for inviting me. And a special thank you to Cheryl for opening up her home, and making the environment so welcoming and comfortable (as usual!).

Best wishes,


Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit for more about her writing.