Author Archives: Greg R. Fishbone

From the Island of Misfit Books, Episode 2

My prior Mixed-Up blog entry introduced the Island of Misfit Books, populated by works that find themselves in publishing limbo: unsalable manuscripts; series books abandoned by their publisher; and other books with no traditional route to readers who would love them.

For the sake of those books, I’ve been gathering information about self-publishing and sharing with other authors who find themselves in a similar position.

So far we have learned that:

  • Self-publishing is now called indie publishing because, like indie music and indie film, indie publishing sees itself as an underground movement. Whatever you do, don’t call it “vanity” publishing;
  • Self-publishing has become more common and less stigmatized than in the past;
  • Because of trends and market forces, traditional publishers are less willing or able to support midlist authors as they did in the past, and are putting more resources into short-lived blockbuster titles;
  • Authors with hybrid careers, publishing both traditionally and independently, are becoming more common;
  • For indie publishers, the rise of ebooks and print-on-demand technologies have eliminated the need for large print runs and warehousing expenses;
  • Online retailers have automated the ordering and fulfillment process;
  • Websites and social media have made powerful marketing tools inexpensively available to authors; and
  • An independent marketplace for many of the services provided by traditional publishers—editorial, proofreading, design, layout, marketing, and publicity—have made it possible for indie books to be as polished and professional as traditionally published books.

Or in other words, for authors who believe strongly enough in their work, the Island of Misfit Books has a sleek fleet of escape boats.

One recent inspirational example of a middle grade escapee from the Island is…

The Sweet Spot by Stacy Barnett Mozer

When thirteen-year-old Sam Barrette’s baseball coach tells her that her attitude is holding her back, she wants to hit him in the head with a line drive. Why shouldn’t she have an attitude? As the only girl playing in the 13U league, she’s had to listen to boys and people in the stands screaming things like, “Go play softball!” all season just because she’s a girl. Her coach barely lets her play even though she’s one of the best hitters on the team.

All stakes now rest on Sam’s performance at baseball training camp. But the moment she arrives, miscommunication sets the week up for potential disaster. Placed at the bottom with the weaker players, she will have to work her way up to A League, not just to show Coach that she can be the best team player possible, but to prove to herself that she can hold a bat with the All-Star boys.

The Sweet Spot

The Sweet Spot

Mixed-Up Files author Stacy Barnett Mozer says:

Self-publishing The Sweet Spot was not an easy decision. I went the traditional route first. The book had an agent, spent a year in revision, got feedback from editors, went through more revision, but it didn’t sell. My agent suggested putting it in the drawer. I spent over a year working on other projects, but my heart was still in this book so I took out the editor feedback again and spent another two years revising it. I could have sent it back out there but the idea of taking control of the process became too enticing. It was the right decision for me and this book to do it myself.

What I have liked about self-publishing is that it has been up to me to get the book out there, to make sales, and to champion my work and since I have access to all of my sales, I can tell within a few hours whether something I tried worked. And getting the book out there hasn’t been completely my doing either. Every time someone has posted about my book on Facebook or written a review on Amazon, I have seen a bump in sales. It has not been easy, but at this point over a hundred kids all over the country are reading my book. That wouldn’t have happened if it had stayed in my drawer.

More details on Stacy’s decision and experiences can be found here and here.

Inspired by Stacy’s success, I’m building my own escape raft for…

Galaxy Games, Book 2 by Greg R. Fishbone

Galaxy Games, Book 1: The Challengers was the story of Tyler Sato, who turned eleven and got a star named in his honor…

which turned out to be a doomsday asteroid…

which then turned out to be an alien spaceship!

Tyler found himself at the center of the most important event in human history, and only his last-second victory over an alien challenger could secure Earth’s invitation to the greatest sports tournament in the galaxy.

I thought it’s a great story, but I also wrote it, so I’m biased. But my agent thought it was a good story, my editor thought it was a good story, my publisher thought it was a good story, and that it would make money. A whole bunch of talented folks helped turn it into an actual book, and I was very grateful to have them on my team. Readers thought it was a good story too, or at least the ones I’ve heard from. It’s just a shame there weren’t enough of them to maintain an ongoing series.

And that’s how GG#2 ended up on The Island of Misfit Books.

I resisted the self-publishing route for a long time after the series cancellation because I didn’t want to be a publisher. I’ve already done that once, and I hated it. Back in the 1990s, I published Mythic Heroes magazine, working long hours with tight deadlines. I read submissions, purchased stories, commissioned artwork, managed an editorial staff, put layouts together, took out advertisements, dealt with a printing company, a shipping company, warehouses, and distributors, handled returns, and acted as corporate attorney, accountant, and IT department.

There was so much grunt work that I didn’t have any time left for actually writing anything, which was why I’d started the magazine in the first place.

But today, an ebook can be put together with HTML, which is like a second language to me. And now you’re telling me that I no longer have to front for a print-run and fill my garage with boxes?  Sold!

2015 is not 1995. It’s a brave new world, with fewer excuses than ever for a good book to remain cooped up on an island, on a USB drive, or in a desk drawer.

Which is why I am pleased to announce, officially, that by this time next year you will be able to hold a copy of Galaxy Games, Book 2 in your hands!

Or loaded into your favorite device, which would also be located in or near your hands. Either way, Tyler Sato’s next adventure will be in close proximity to your fingers very soon.

In Book 2, we will discover the high personal cost of Tyler’s victory, and the new danger that will emerge as the Earth team ventures into the galaxy for the very first time. The story world will expand, the stakes will be raised, mysteries will be revealed, and new characters will be introduced.

Website Reveal

There are several places you can go to keep up with Galaxy Games news. The Mixed-Up Files blog, of course, but also galaxygam.es, where a new series website is coming together. It’s an early beta, so your feedback and comments are welcome.

And since I won’t have a traditional publishing house behind this second book, I would love to have you on Team Tyler as we launch this boat off the shores of the Island.

Greg R. Fishbone is the author of galactic fiction for young readers.

From the Island of Misfit Books, Episode One

Remember the Island of Misfit Toys from that animated holiday special on TV? This was a community of sentient toys who predated Pixar, and who had all been exiled together as factory rejects because of a variety of defects. For example, one was a Jack-in-the-box named Charlie, which really shouldn’t have been a disqualification, given the state of the “in-a-box” toy category.

Who's in a box?

…and not a Jack in the bunch!

There was also a bird that swam instead of flying, which again, isn’t necessarily a defect.

Swim, you misfits!

Swim, you marvelous misfits, swim!

But in the special, some toy factory gatekeeper had decided that these toys–along with a spotted elephant, an ostrich-riding cowboy, a train with square wheels, and others–were unfit for general release. Their punishment for existing was a life-sentence on an isolated prison island from which there was no escape. Ominously enough, the fate of the factory workers who created them was never shown.

Meanwhile, out in the world, a group of kids were horribly sad because all their toys were too realistic and practical for creative play. Or because they had no toys at all, and adjusted their expectations downward accordingly. Or something. Fortunately for everyone, by the end of the special, a deer with a filament on his face and a tiny dentist were able to prove the gatekeepers wrong and unite the toys with the children who needed them.

I like to imagine that there’s another island off the coast of this one called the Island of Misfit Books, which is entirely populated by unsalable manuscripts. These are books that have been rejected by every editor in the business, and can’t be published no matter how many times they are revised, rewritten, or polished. Maybe the subject matter is too esoteric. Maybe conventional wisdom says there are already too many dystopian/wizard/vampire books on the shelves. Maybe nobody wants the fourth book in a trilogy.

Many authors are sitting on novels we strongly believe in, even if the rest of the publishing world thinks of these books as polka-dotted elephants. We love our misfit books, and we just know there are readers who would also love them, if only a flying reindeer could deliver them into the right hands.

People have been asking me about the second book in my Galaxy Games series. The first book has a base of fans, who are an awesome bunch by the way, but someone decided there were too few fans to support a sequel, and no other publisher has been interested in starting a series with Book Two. It’s a shame because I think GG#2 is better than GG#1 in many ways–the action is bigger, the stakes are higher, the plot is tighter, and the characters really come into their own. But you’ll have to take my word for it, because poor GG#2 has been sitting on the shore of the Island of Misfit Books, looking mournfully out into the mist.

We can’t count on Rudolph to save the day, but there’s still hope. Apparently there’s this thing called “elf-publishing,” run by Santa’s factory workers in the off-season from an outpost in the Amazon. Or something like that. I’m still in the very early stages of research, but it’s a very promising lead.

At the moment, all I have is a misfit manuscript, an Internet connection, and a dream. Will that be enough to get this book off the island and into your hands? I will keep you informed of my progress.

Greg R. Fishbone is the author of The Penguins of Doom and the Galaxy Games series of middle grade sports and science fiction books, past and future. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and the Web.

Celebrate Fair Use Week 2015

‘Kiss me, Harry,’ Ginny begged.

Harry pushed her away from him with a fist made of self-determination and Bessemered steel. His jaw was as strong and as powerful as a quarry that employs 200 men. ‘How can I kiss you,’ he said, ‘when you lack the ability to celebrate yourself as the highest culmination of your own values?’

‘I don’t care about any of that,” Ginny said. “I just want to feel your lips on mine. Please.’

Harry shook his head, like a proud animal, or the stock market. ‘I could kiss your lips,’ he said, ‘but I cannot kiss your self-esteem.’

–Ayn Rand’s version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as envisioned by Mallory Ortberg.

The doctrine of fair use touches upon several of the hats that I wear: as a creator of copywritten works, as a consumer of entertainment media, as a library patron, and in my work as a web designer who is frequently charged with finding, adapting, and licensing images for client sites.

As an attorney, I’ve had clients on both sides of cease and desist letters–one who was asked to take a book off the shelf because of superficial resemblance to another work, and another whose artwork was commercialized without permission, credit, or compensation.

As an author, I’ve written parodies of pop culture into my stories. I’ve also seen my own characters borrowed by others. It’s painful to see the “children of my mind” written as bad caricatures, and painful in a different way to see them written brilliantly in situations I wish I’d thought of myself.

As a forum participant, I’ve seen people who believe, mistakenly, that the doctrine of fair use allows them to take any creative expression from any source and use it however they choose.

In short, I’ve seen fair use, up close and personal, from a variety of angles, and it’s still just a big fuzzy blob of ambiguous, conflicting, and ever-changing precedent. If you’re confused by fair use, you’re in good company. And if you’re not confused, you’re delusional.

To bring much-needed attention to this topic, February 23rd through 27th of this year has been designated as Fair Use Week, as coordinated by the Association of Research Libraries.

You can follow @FairUseWeek and use #FairUseWeek2015 on Twitter. You can read the Fair Use Week blog on Tumblr. You can participate in any number of panels and events, including a free webcast on the topic.

But to really celebrate Fair Use Week to the fullest extent, I suggest finding some bit of intellectual property that you admire the heck out of and using it. Fairly. Respectfully. Harmlessly. Cleverly. And preferably to the enjoyment and enrichment of your audience.

My contribution to Fair Use Week is a work of Star Trek fanfiction on a website called Skrawl. The thing I like about this site is that once a story starts, it belongs fully to the community. Anyone can write a chapter that they propose as a continuation, and anyone can vote on which of the submitted chapters will become part of the final community-sourced story.

Or you can celebrate the week by taking a moment to recognize the fair uses of intellectual property that you already take advantage of every day.

  • When you find yourself humming a song off the radio, that’s fair use.
  • When you take a selfie with identifiable works of architecture in the background, that’s fair use.
  • When you DVR a TV show to watch at a later time, that’s fair use.
  • When you take notes in the margins of a book, that’s fair use.
  • When you discuss the events of Super Bowl XLIX without the express written consent of the NFL, that’s fair use.
  • When you photocopy your mom’s old recipe for sweet and sour meatballs, that’s fair use.
  • When you hit the retweet button, that’s fair use.
  • And when you use your computer to display the words of a blog entry about fair use, that’s fair use too.

Without this common sense exception carved out of copyright law, we’d likely be dodging C&D letters and subpoenas all day, every day. Thanks, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story!

The use of Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story and his 1841 four-factor fair use guidelines to illustrate fair use is an example of fair use.

This unauthorized adaptation of a Harvard Library Office of Scholarly Communication graphic of a Ralph Lieberman photograph of a William Wetmore Story sculpture of Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story and his 1841 four-factor fair use guidelines paired with an allusion to a World War II era US Army recruitment slogan is an unnecessarily complicated example of fair use.