March 10, 2014 / 7 Comments


Last night I was directed to a blog post that said self-publishers should not be allowed to call themselves authors.  Fighting words, I know.  It was a ham-fisted, blanket statement,  and I think it’s pretty tough to say something that broad without getting some deserved backlash.  Plus, in all fairness, the person who wrote it had a bunch of issues when it came to their own writing ability.  Then again, said writer wasn’t insisting on being called an author anywhere that I saw…
I found myself kind of agreeing with the general idea, though, if not the way it was delivered.  “Author” used to be a term that meant something.  It implied a degree of prestige, that someone had worked at their chosen art for years and been rewarded with a title.
Nowadays, though… no work needed.  I can just demand that title for doing well… anything.  Or nothing.

Take the Baboon Fart Story book.  If you’re not familiar with it, the story goes something like this.  Chuck Wendig made an offhand comment a while back that these days someone can just print the word “fart” 100,000 times, slap a picture of a baboon on the cover, and have it up on Amazon within the hour.  So, this being the internet, someone did just that.  Baboon Fart Story, clearly stating it was just the word “fart” repeated 100,000 times and referencing Wendig, was for sale on Amazon for about a day before someone at the company realized it was a mockery of their whole business plan and it was pulled for content reasons.  I think their official excuse was “a less than satisfactory reading experience.”

So, question for the floor… should the person who slapped Baboon Fart Storytogether be considered an author?  Has he or she earned that title with that book?  It was 100,000 words.  It even sold a couple dozen copies (some of the equally humorous reviews on Amazon were verified purchases).

Baboon Fart Story.  Author or not?

Now, let me spare some of you a bit of time.  I’m sure someone’s leaping down to the comments right now to explain that Baboon Fart was just a joke.  A not-very elaborate joke to illustrate a point.  Heck, it was really just an exercise in cut-and-paste.

To which I say, whoa!  Are we now putting definitions on what counts as a book?  On who gets to call themselves an author?

Of course we are.

As I’ve said many times over on my ranty blog, most of us know how to cook, but very few of us would consider ourselves chefs.  I make a fairly good almost-from-scratch pizza and decent stir-fried rice, but I’d never call myself a chef.  Someone would have to be arrogant as hell to insist we call them a chef because they poured orange juice and heated up waffles in the toaster.  Because we all understand that chef is a title which reflects a certain degree of experience and education past the commonly-known basics. 
Are there self-published writers who deserve to be called authors?  Absolutely and without question.  There are some phenomenally talented and practiced people who’ve chosen to go that route, and they’ve earned that title a hundred times over.  I’d argue the point with anyone who tried to say otherwise.
Does everyone who self-publishes immediately and automatically deserve the title of author?  No.  No, they do not.  Because being an author means something, and it’s more than “able to upload files.”  It implies someone doesn’t just have a base ability to write—or to cut and paste—but a certain level of experience and ability with words.  The exact definition is changing with some of these new paths, but it’s still there.  And it should be there. And we should all be happy it’s there and strive to earn it.

Because if anyone can call themselves an author for doing anything, then the word is meaningless.  

February 11, 2014

Kaiju Rising

            Last year I was approached about writing a giant monster story for a Kickstarter project.  To be honest, I had a few reservations.  One was that I’ve always sucked at writing anything on demand.  Two is that I’d just watched another Kickstarter book… well, not implode…  It crumbled at an alarming rate, let’s say.
            But I did have most of a World War II-era giant monster novella I’d wanted to do something with.  And Nick, one of the guys behind Kaiju Rising assured me it was going to be done responsibly so that donors would feel like they were getting their money’s worth.
            And so… here’s the monstrous (seriously, it’s huge) Kaiju Rising with my short story “The Banner of the Bent Cross.”  The ebook’s out now, paperback soon to follow.
January 20, 2014

First One’s Free…

Here’s a little sample of the Ex-Purgatory audiobook, read by Jay Snyder.

Pick up the whole thing over at…

January 3, 2014 / 1 Comment


Actual entrance to Random House
(not shown: snipers)
One term floating around the internet a lot these days is “the gatekeepers.”  On the off chance you’re not familiar with it, it’s a handy, catch-all term some folks use for editors and agents, both in publishing and sometimes in Hollywood, too.  The idea is that these are the people who decide if a writer’s work should be published or produced.  The gatekeepers either let me in the world of big publishers or keep me out.
Naturally, of course, my work is genius and should be published.  But for some reason or another—usually because they’re idiots—those gatekeepers won’t let me past the entrance.  I say this because it’s a key point when talking about this subject.  A huge percentage of people who use the term gatekeepers—the vast majority, I’d say—are people who aren’t being allowed through those gates. 
So, in a very real way, “gatekeepers” is being used as an insult.  A slur.  It’s like that old joke about the difference between a nymph and a slut.  A nymph sleeps with everyone, a slut sleeps with everyone… except you.  So what’s the difference between an editor and a gatekeeper…?
Here’s the thing no one likes to admit about those gatekeepers. 
They aren’t just keeping me out.  They’re also keeping out all those other people whose work is complete crap.  Dull stories, predictable plots, flat characters, poor spelling… we can all agree that those people should be kept out.  We don’t want to deal with their crap.  No one does.
Again, none of that applies to me, naturally.  My work, as I mentioned, is genius.  And deserves to be published.
Y’see, once I stop thinking about me and insulting them, it’s pretty clear that what the gatekeepers are doing is vetting material.  They’re weeding out all the stuff that’s dull or predictable or would take far too much work to become a sellable product (this is a business, after all).
Now, a lot of those same folks who slam the gatekeepers also say the market will decide if something’s any good or not.  If a million people want to put their epic sci-fi/horror/fantasy/steampunk trilogies on Kindle, power to them.  And on one level I’m okay with that and I agree with it.

However…  What I find ironic is that then they talk about how they’ll find their way through those thousands and thousands of dull, flat, poorly written manuscripts.  They’ll check to see Amazon ratings.  They’ll see what bloggers have to say.  They’ll see what has the best reviews.

In other words, they’ll let someone else vet the material for them.  Someone else can sift through all the crap so those readers only need to see the good stuff.  The things that deserve to make money.
Thing is, if people really wanted a completely fair and equal marketplace, one with absolutely no gatekeepers, there would be no reviews.  No ratings.  No word of mouth.  No one would be allowed to influence whether or not a book gets seen.  We’d all just pick titles at random and hope for the best. 
And let’s be honest–the best would be few and far between.  There’s a lot of awful material out there these days.  God-awful.  Probably three out of five, if I had to guess, because there are no restrictions or guidelines about who can reach the marketplace.  Maybe as high as four out of five.
I think we’re all glad when someone else is willing to take one for the team and weed those awful books out.  To vet the material for us.  To make sure some things get our attention and others don’t.
Thank goodness there are gatekeepers.