Archive for category Publishing

Social Media, Book Signings & Why Neither Directly Impact Overall Sales

Original image via Rosaura Ochoa via Flikr Creative Commons

Original image via Rosaura Ochoa via Flikr Creative Commons

One of my AWESOME on-line pals posted something troublesome on my Facebook page. Apparently there is a recent article in a major writing magazine that declares social media does not sell books and, in a nutshell, isn’t worth the effort. I’ll warn you guys ahead of time that I went hunting for the article—at the last remaining Barnes & Noble within a 25 mile radius of my home—and couldn’t find said article (and have asked Kim to get me the specific issue). But, since this type of commentary is prevalent enough in the blogosphere, I feel I can address the overall thesis accurately enough.

Social Media Was NEVER About Selling Books Directly—Who KNEW?

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

I’ve been saying this for about ten years, because the idea of using social circles for sales is NOT new. About ten years ago, I recognized that social media would soon be a vital tool for writers to be able to create a brand and a platform before the book was even finished. This would shift the power away from sole control of Big Publishing and give writers more freedom. But, I knew social media could not be used for direct sales successfully.

How?

When I was in college, every multi-level-marketing company in the known world tried to recruit me. I delivered papers and worked nights most of my college career. Needless to say, I was always on the lookout for a more flexible job that didn’t require lugging fifty pounds of paper up and down three flights of apartment stairs at four in the morning.

I’d answer Want Ads in the paper thinking I was being interviewed for a good-paying job where I could make my own hours. Inevitably it would be some MLM company selling water filters, diet pills, vitamins, prepaid legal services, or soap.

And if I sat through the presentation, they fed me. This meant I sat through most of them.

What always creeped me out was how these types of companies did business. First, “target” family and friends to buy said product (and hopefully either sign them up to sell with you or at least “spread the word” and give business referrals). Hmmmm. Sound familiar?

The business model wasn’t really about meeting people, connecting and actually liking them just because they were good people. There was an endgame…SELL STUFF (or manipulate others into helping you sell stuff).

Ick.

Hey, you go to the gym anyway. Strike up a conversation. Say nice things, then give the sucker friend target a FREE SAMPLE. People who work out need vitamins. That isn’t ookey AT ALL!

The Battle of the Experts

I recall being part of a panel in NYC three years ago and the other experts were all excited about applications that could tweet for authors “saving time” or even certain tools that could measure what days and times Twitter was most active and when people would be most likely to see our tweets. All I could think was:

1) Are these people tweeting or ovulating?

2) If everyone uses this same tool, then all they will do is crowd the feed and no one will see anything. Left long enough, these “Golden Hours” will shift so people can avoid the barrage of ME, ME, ME! MY BOOK!

The panel’s moderator (ironically) worked for the CIA and was tickled silly that there were all kinds of algorithms that could “predict human behaviors.” Of course, I made myself WAY popular when I said, “The only way to accurately predict human behavior is if we all have a chip in our heads and someone else has a joystick.”

Yes, I can be blunt. My mom is from New York. I blame it on her.

My assertion was that, if this was true, and we could accurately predict human behavior, then we wouldn’t be worrying about crime, war or terrorism and that these algorithms were a mirage that gave a false sense of us “being in control” of the uncontrollable.

Also, how would she still have a job at the CIA?

Oooh, But We Can MEASURE…um, NO

In the 90s and early 21st century most people weren’t on-line. Computers were still cost-prohibitive and Internet service was mind-bendingly slow (dial-up?) and expensive. Social media was in its infancy and only early adopters trusted buying on-line.

Companies could launch ads and measure click-throughs. How long did a visitor stay on a web site’s page? Did the visitor click the ad on the page? Did that ad then translate into a sale? Companies still do this. I’m pretty sure authors can do this, but why would we want to?

Could feel like THIS? Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

Could feel like THIS?
Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

Unlike Sephora, Gap or Walmart, most of us are a one-person operation. We don’t have a team of interns to do this stuff. We also don’t have a multi-million dollar corporate budget.

What IF an ad doesn’t work? How many of us have time and extra money to launch a new ad?

Also, there are SO many variables beyond our control. I’ve seen this with blogging. A holiday, time of year (kids getting out of school), a major world news event (Osama bin-Laden captured) can all affect traffic and click-throughs. To try and study our stats and juke them for advantage is a lot of time better used elsewhere (like writing more books).

Might I suggest one of these...

Might I suggest one of these…

Relationships are Key

Social media is social, meaning it’s about relationships. This means, 1) it will take time to build and 2) it cannot be outsourced 3) it cannot be automated.

Can you imagine trying to maintain relationships this way in the real world? Give your husband a call-in number:

For the location of clean socks, press 1. For a word of encouragement, press 2. For the item I need you to pick up from the store, press 3. For the real reason I haven’t talked to you since yesterday, please stay on the line and an operator will be with you shortly.

Your estimated call wait time is three days.

HINT: Anniversary.

Social media and author brands will sell books, just not directly and not in ways that can be measured looking at clicks and stats. Social media is essentially word-of-mouth which has been selling stuff books for centuries and no one can measure it. 

The Bottom Line

Since I don’t have the article (sorry), I am limited here. But I imagine that, aside from telling writers social media was a waste of time that doesn’t sell books, I assume there was no panacea offered to replace social media. If social media doesn’t sell books, then what does? Ads don’t. Never have. Promotions are time-consuming, expensive and have a dismal ROI (Return on Investment).

Also, if social media is so grossly ineffective, what explanation do we have for the MASSIVE power shift from BIG NYC publishing to indie and self-published authors now 1) making a reasonable second income 2) making a decent enough living to finally write full-time 3) nontraditional authors taking up an increasing portion of major bestseller lists like the New York Times and USA Today and 4) the major inflation of fiction writers now making six and seven figures?

All the ones I know of (and there are MANY) use social media to some extent. All of these authors would never have gained visibility, traction or sales without social media.How can we explain these trends without including social media as a variable?

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 1.17.53 PM

Notice I said social media as a variable. There is NO magic formula. Hard work, more books, good books and generating word of mouth (in part with a brand and on-line platform) is fundamental. Social media has been mistakenly touted as a formula to wealth and riches, but it isn’t. Neither is buying real estate using a proven program from an infomercial.

The Future

Bookstores are closing. Barnes & Noble is evaporating. Indie stores will have a resurgence, but they have limited space (and need to unless they want to go bankrupt like the megastores that tried to KILL them). THIS is the future of book sales. I saw this in the cosmetics section of my grocery store a few months ago. Insert a debit card and get a sample before you buy…

Why buy a WHOLE tube of lipstick when you can get a sample. LOSS prevention?

Why buy a WHOLE tube of lipstick when you can get a sample. Also, um LOSS prevention?

Oh, and these are popping up…

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.23.38 AM

Check your bank balance then BUY A BOOK!

For those who want a paper copy to hold...

For those who want a paper copy to hold…and get NACHOS!

These kiosks sound familiar. Reminds me of one of my posts from over two years ago. I wrote a lot of other blogs that said basically the same stuff, posts that are even older. But I’ve written over 800 blogs and I’m lazy and have to get back to writing books. And I am not alone in seeing this trend. I’m no great genius. Other people saw this coming.

Um, clearly since I can’t claim I invented any of these machines. Ok, I could, but I try to restrict lying to my fiction.

But, if THESE kiosks are down the pipeline, how can we reasonably come to the conclusion that social media is a total waste of time? Relying totally on social media is a waste of time, but I’ve been saying that for years. As authors, we are wise to think in terms of our careers. Think like a business, as in short-term and long-term. Platforms and careers need a wide base, deep roots, a community of support, time and a heck of a lot of sweat equity.

Also, there are effective ways to do social media and ways that make others want to stab us in the face (which was why I wrote Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World).WANA ways WORK but they take time. ROM has a step-by-step plan. Heck, don’t buy my book. Browse my blogs for free. I just care about your success.

The Future IS Bright for Writers

The future for authors is wonderful, but there is no Social Media Shake Weight. Sorry. I was bummed, too. But here’s the thing. The same articles that will discourage writers from social media because it doesn’t sell books aren’t also demanding we halt all book signings. Book signings are fun, they are social, and they’ve historically been a way to connect authors to an audience in a personal way.

Until social media they were the only way. 

But book signings were NEVER meant as a sole means to sell books. In fact, it was really never even the purpose of a signing. Rather it was connection with the author as a person.

Craftfest

Even if a writer has a line out the door, the most even a mega-author might sell is a thousand books. Let’s be generous. FIVE thousand books. A drop in the bucket if you’re Dan Brown. Is selling 5,000 books relevant when an author sells millions? When an author has to board a plane, stay in a hotel, sit in one spot signing for hours or even come up with a speech? And travel city to city to city for a month or more instead of writing?

Food for thought ;) .

We live in a wonderful time to be a writer. Yes, it’s work, but there are a lot of reasons why this job isn’t for everyone. Success in anything is about staying power, passion, and effective action (solid social media, building relationships, and writing MORE books and GOOD books).

What are your thoughts? Are too many authors banking too much on social media? Do you feel social media has been sold to writers as a get-rich-quick-scheme? Do you see other authors approaching social media in a way you know is going to burn them out? Do you know of any nontraditional authors who sold zillions of books yet didn’t use social media at all? What did they do?

…ALIENS.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

 

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104 Comments

Show Me the Money–What’s the Skinny on Author Earnings?

Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

My degree is in Political Science with an emphasis on Political Economy. To earn this degree, I had to study a lot of statistics *UGH* and to be blunt? I agree with Mark Twain, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” Surveys and statistics are a science: number of participants, number of questions, phrasing of the questions, nature of the sample group, geography, etc.

Yada, yada, yada.

But somewhere in the numbers is some truth, which is why I asked one of our WANA instructors, Jami Gold, to do this guest post for me (and yes, she will be presenting at WANACon).

Sure we love to write, but I assume all of us are asking the BIG questions: Is there MONEY in writing? How do we make a GOOD living as writers? Money seems to be the taboo and we don’t want to talk about it. Too gauche. But most of us would like to be paid for what we do, so time to dig into the uncomfortable stuff.

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

I’m going to add a caveat that will support what Jami is about to say. I want to approach this as respectfully as possible. But, if I hadn’t seen so much of these attitudes/behaviors, I wouldn’t bother mentioning them at all.

Many writers want to skip steps. It’s human nature to believe we are the exception. Been there, done that, myself. But? 99% of the time? We aren’t the exception at all. There are NO guarantees to any business, but there are some core principles that, when we ignore them? It’s a heck of a lot harder to succeed.

I travel to many, many conferences. I’ve written over 800 blogs and three books regarding blogging, social media, editing, covers, etc. and I’ve gotten to where I simply no longer argue. I’ve met writers who flat out refused to do social media, who refused to learn how to blog, who cut corners on cover design and interior design or who believed Aunt Lulu who taught English back in the 80s counted as an acceptable “editor.”

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

I’ve blogged since 2008 how important it is to have a platform, yet to this day, I get e-mails from writers who have a book coming out in a month and they want to know how to build a platform in time to promote *head desk*. I’ve argued with writers about using monikers, book spam, automation, outsourcing social media, force-adding people to Facebook groups, how hiring an SEO “gurus” will not improve sales, to keep writing and stop non-stop promoting ONE book, and on and on….and *sigh* on.

Every time I blog about three-act structure, POV or the importance of studying craft, there will always be commenters who point out exceptions and that they don’t want to be bound by “formulas.” I’ve painstakingly edited for writers who then turned around and ignored everything I recommended they change to improve the book (reader experience). Later, they had no idea why sales were dismal.

Hmmm, looks legit.

Hmmm, looks legit.

can tell you that the authors who treat writing as a business and who seek education and mentoring are making a heck of a lot more than $1000 a year. I’ve seen it. I’ve witnessed many writers who were willing to do all it took to make a good living writing and boy they are. Hugh Howey, Teresa Ragan, H.P. Mallory, and Saffina Deforges (three of these four I know personally and all fabulous). I have many more examples but this post is long enough.

I mention these author examples because these folks didn’t begin with a long traditional backlist or NYT Best-Selling Author in front of their names. In fact, Saffina used WANA methods to skyrocket from the bottom of the pile to selling 40,000 books in one month alone. She and her writing partner broke numerous records with their work.

So, I hope you guys will see that all of these writers are doing the very things Jami is about to discuss. Due to the nature of my job and what I see daily, I feel this is a far more accurate analysis.

Going to let Jami take it from here….

Original image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin

Original image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin

The publishing world has been abuzz with the results of the 2014 Digital Book World (DBW) and Writer’s Digest Author Survey. Headlines scream “Most authors make less than $1000 a year.”  Numbers taken out of context claim that 80% of the 9000+ respondents earn $1000 or less.

Eh. Yes and no.

Yes, the DBW/Writer’s Digest survey polled 9,210 or so writers. However, don’t let that big number impress you so much that you assume this survey data is uber-accurate. More than 65% of those respondents are “aspiring” and haven’t published anything yet.

The DBW/Writer’s Digest Survey Results

According to The Guardian, the remaining respondents broke down to “18% self-published, 8% traditionally-published and 6% saying they were pursuing hybrid careers.” Okay, so that leaves around 3000 respondents who have been published in some way, shape, or form.

But wait, a full 20% of both the self-published and the traditionally published respondents said they’ve made $0. Ditto with 5% of the hybrid authors. And yes, that means literally zero dollars, as the next income band goes from $1 to $999.

I find that result odd. Does that mean zero income from book sales? Or zero income after expenses?

I don’t know, but it does make me suspect the question wording and/or the respondent base was a bit hinky. Maybe those authors are planning on self-publishing, or maybe they have a traditionally published book that hasn’t been released yet. Or maybe the DBW/Writer’s Digest respondent base doesn’t reflect professional published authors.

Many have criticized the survey because it was run by Writer’s Digest, who’s been known to recommend vanity publishers to those interested in self-publishing. If the respondents were from the vanity publishing arena, then yes, I could see their income being zero (or negative).

Brenda Hiatt’s Survey Results

Anyone who has studied the industry knows that one book alone isn’t going to cut it. Professional authors, those that treat their writing as a career, focus on building a backlist. If we have 3-6 books out, it doesn’t take much income from each to break $1000.

A look at Brenda Hiatt’s amazing site “Show Me the Money” lists the advance, royalty rates, and earn out for various romance and YA traditional publishers. The vast majority of earn out amounts on her site are over $1000, so even if an author publishes only one book a year, they’d still beat that DBW figure. And Brenda’s gathered data from almost 2700 traditionally published titles.

Now, that’s not to say her respondents are rolling in the dough. The average advance or earn out probably works out to around $10K, with some as low as $200.

My point is that I don’t quite trust DBW’s results. But I’m not going to pay nearly $300 for the full report to analyze how the heck they came up with their numbers. The results strike me as “link bait” in their attempt to sell copies of their report.

Beverley Kendall’s Survey Results

We all know some self-published books are crap. I’ve seen them. I’ve talked to their authors. And they plain don’t care. They’re in it for the quick buck, or they believe they’re geniuses who don’t need editing.

That’s why I was far more interested in the results of Beverley Kendall’s survey of self-published/hybrid authors. Some self-publishers obtain professional-level editing and covers, and that group should be more comparable to traditionally published authors. Beverley asked the questions that really matter rather than lumping all self-published authors together.

She analyzed results from her 822 self-published respondents, and 65% of her respondents had no previous traditional or epublishing deals to improve their name recognition. Keep that in mind for these results. (And I highly recommend checking out her 29 page, free report of her analysis at the link above. Fantastic information!)

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of dfbphotos

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of dfbphotos


How Off-Base Is the DBW Survey?

First thing I note (page 4), 48.05% earned over $10,000 in 2013. Even with no traditional publishing name recognition, 46.04% of self-published-only authors earned over $10K. Hmm, that’s quite different from the 5% for self-published-only authors earning those numbers in the DBW report.

The second thing I note (page 10) is that backlist really matters. While 80% of respondents with 1-3 books for sale make $10K or less, that figure drops quickly with additional books. About 50% of respondents make more than $10K when they have 4-7 self-published books available, and 20% make more than $50K. At 12-20 books available, over 50% of respondents are making 50K or more, and 30% are over $100K.

How Much Does Professionalism Matter?

Now let’s look at those numbers for professional, self-published authors—that is, those who use a professional editor and cover artist (page 13). Of those who didn’t use a professional editor (Beverley’s definition: “with a publishing background”), 40.23% earned more than $10K. In contrast, of those who did use a professional editor, 50.82% earned more than $10K.

Similarly, of those who didn’t use a professional cover artist (her definition: “graphic artist or professional designer”), 39.21% earned more than 10K. In contrast, of those who did use a professional cover artist, 52.55% earned more than $10K.

In short, professionalism matters. And the percentage differences between professional editing and professional cover design aren’t much, so they both seem to be important. However, a professional cover has a slight edge over editing if you’re dealing with limited funds.

Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons


Is Beverley Kendall’s Survey the Anomaly?

Brenda Hiatt’s “Show Me the Money” page surveys self-published authors too. For 2012, her respondents averaged 10 titles each (that backlist mentioned above) and averaged $137K. The median, which discounts outliers better, was still $51K.

Those figures match Beverley’s 2013 results for authors with similarly large backlists. So I think it’s safe to say that for those authors who approach self-publishing as a career (build a backlist, use professional editors and cover artists, etc.), making more than $1K a year is the norm.

All that said, it’s also important to keep an eye on craft and not just think about backlist. In Beverley Kendall’s report, almost 40% of authors with 60+ self-published releases(!) make less than $10K because they’re skipping professional editing or book covers in their single-minded focus on release numbers.

Lessons Learned: How to Maximize Chances for Success

Beverley Kendall’s report is a gold mine for those on either path. Her results show what works for maximizing income, but many of the tips are also no-cost ways we can reach more readers:

  • Write a series
  • Make a series-related short story, novella, or the first novel free
  • Include excerpts of other stories, especially at the back of the freebie
  • Price novel-length books in the $2.99-$4.99 sweet spot
  • Build a backlist of quality stories
  • Don’t expect success overnight—think in years

On Beverley’s Facebook page, she shared a few more survey tidbits. This one is very enlightening on what it takes to make more money:

“Of authors who earned over $50,000 in 2013

95.93% have 4 or more books up for sale
93.91 % have been self-publishing for more than 1 (one) year.”

Remember those years I mentioned? Time and backlist, everyone, time and backlist. *smile*

On this post and this post, Beverley illuminates the value of series and freebies:

  • For authors over $50K:
    • 96.93% of their bestselling books were part of a series
    • 68% offered one or more books in the series as a freebie
  • For authors over $500K:
    • 100% of their bestselling books were part of a series
    • 88.24% offered one or more books in the series as a freebie
  • For authors between $0-$10K:
    • 25.60% have not written a series
    • 32.53% offered one or more books in their series free
    • 41.87% do not offer a freebie from their series

However, not every author should offer a freebie. This is where a long-term strategy comes into play. We can lose money and potential readers if we don’t have other stories available, as shown by this post:

“After downloading and reading a free digital book by an author, 88.54% of readers have gone on to purchase other books by that author.”

Only a few of her insights on how to maximize our chances for success apply more to authors willing to invest or write to the market:

  • Use professional-level editing and book covers
    • Beverley notes one reason why those from a traditional publishing background make more money: “22.69% MORE authors who were originally traditionally published had their books edited by someone with a publishing background than authors who had never been published before.”
  • Choose the “right” category/genre (note: this often involves chasing trends(*), so your mileage may vary)
    • * New Adult Romance: 43.48% earned more than $50K
    • Mystery/Thriller: 30.77% earned more than $50K
    • * Erotic Romance: 28.57% earned more than 50K
    • SciFi/Fantasy: 19.15% earned more than $50K
    • Non-fiction: 10.34% earned more than $50K

Finally, after I pestered her for more insights, Beverley did another analysis for what the statistics would be when an author did everything “right.” Of the 121 respondents who:

  • Have been self-publishing for more than 1 year
  • Wrote a series
  • Put one or more of their books free
  • Have 4 or more self-published books available
  • Price their work between $2.99-$7.99
  • Acquire professional editing and book covers

The stats revealed that 81.82% earn over $10K and 57.04% earn more than $50K. Click through to this link to see the full breakdown.

Beverley’s report is invaluable for showing what works. Lumping all self-published authors together (the serious and the non-serious) dilutes the lessons we can learn from those doing it with a plan for success. As Beverley said in her follow-up post:

“So does it matter really if 80% of self-published authors don’t make more than $1000 in a year if you intend to emulate the 20% who are doing it right and making a very comfortable living doing it?”

And now I’m burnt on numbers for a while, but I hope this has been educational and enlightening. *reassembles brain*

****

THANK YOU, Jami!

COOL CONTEST. So, WANACon is this coming weekend. PajamaCon is FREE (Thursday Evening) and gives you a chance to make sure your computer is set up properly if you choose to join us for the conference. If not? Still a fun time and a chance to learn. SIGN UP for WANACon HERE. Also, AGENT PITCHES are available. You can SIGN UP HERE.

Since my goal is to see you guys succeed, I am offering three BIG prizes for WANACon Attendees. Grand Prize is The Book/Brand Combo. I will personally consult to either assist in plotting a new book or fixing one that doesn’t work. I will also consult you personally on your brand and give you a plan for SEO, content, everything. Book Prize is I work with you to plot or fix a book. Branding Prize is I personally consult you on your brand, teach you about SEO and lay out a plan.

EVERYONE who attends automatically gets ten entries. Encourage a friend to sign up and you earn 25 additional entries and the friend who signs up gets 15. Just make sure to tell us who referred you. WANA is committed to helping you realize your dream.

Author Jami Gold

Author Jami Gold

After discovering a chemical compound that makes chocolate even more awesome, Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in making her sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas.

Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Find Jami at her blogTwitterFacebookPinterestLinkedIn, and Goodreads.

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163 Comments

Why Now is the Best Time to be a Writer

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir...

Johnny Cat as Evil Editor…

Those of you who follow my blog know that optimism IS my super-power. Yes, The Digital Age can be daunting. We are entering uncharted territories and often we have to learn by trial and error. One of my peeves is when “statistics” compare earnings or “success” of traditional authors with self-published and indie authors.

Traditional has had generations to shape and mold a business model, whereas the new forms of publishing are still in their infancies. But, I promise you those babies are gonna grow up FAST and boy will they have an appetite.

Just to throw my in two cents; one of the LARGEST blessings of social media is we have unprecedented access to experts. Need to know about guns, law enforcement procedures, geography, whatever? SOMEONE is happy to give the answer. I had a writer friend in Europe who wanted to set part of her book in Texas, and I directed her to my Facebook pictures for ideas about what the terrain really looked like. I was also available for any questions regarding culture, food, dress, and dialogue.

Recently, I finished a novel based off a real cartel, but for safety reasons, the cartel name HAD to be fictionalized. The former DEA agent I’ve been working with advised to change the name lest I end up with my head in a bucket.

Since NOT ending up with my head in a bucket is at the TOP of my daily priority list, I needed a cool-sounding cartel name. But *sigh* I was stymied. I went to Facebook and asked my community, and, not only did I get the coolest cartel name EVER, but I had lists of wonderful suggestions for future books. I was able to tap into outside creative reserves and WHAT a time-saver. My FB community came up with ideas WAY better than I ever could have.

Today, I have a generous guest post from Jessica Baverstock to give her reasons why this is the BEST time in history to be a writer.

Take it away, Jessica!

***

All industries go through periods of change. The writing industry is no different. When faced with changes, it’s common to wonder what’s going to happen to the familiar way of doing things. The writing life can be a hard slog some days. With the rise of self-publishing, getting our work into the world and noticed can seem even more daunting.

We’re told that publishers are not taking chances on new manuscripts, that people are reading less and that self-published authors are flooding the online shelves. The term ‘book-saturated market’ makes the situation sound dire. But the truth of the matter is that now is the best time to be a writer. I can think of at least 5 reasons why.

Community

Writing is no longer a solitary endeavor. The advent of technology has connected all our little writing desks from around the world into an incredible online support network. The MyWANA community is a sterling example of this, as we’ve seen just recently. It’s not uncommon for writers to provide emotional, and at times even financial, support to their fellow scribes from the other side of the globe. Just pause for a moment and consider how spoilt we all are.

Another upside to community is the generosity of knowledge. Rather than having to struggle through the haze of writing inexperience, we have fellow authors who freely share the blueprints of how they reached their level of success. Whatever our question, whatever our problem, there’s someone ready to lend a helping hand and encourage us to keep going.

WANAs at play at Huntington Beach...

WANAs at play at Huntington Beach…

Common Goals

More people than ever before are sending their writing out into the world. At times we may view this as a negative but the reality is our fellow writers’ successes are a boon for us all. Why? Because when a reader experiences a compelling read, a book they enjoyed and savoured, that reader is left wanting more books.

As a community, our job is to entice readers into the literary world and convince them that books are just as immersive as other forms of media. We’re not competing against each other, we’re competing against TV and other distractions. Therefore, the more writers we have working towards this common goal the better! Look around you and see all the wonderful books being released. Join the cause and make your book the best read possible.

New Methods to Get Our Writing Out There

New mediums are opening up for sharing our writing. E-books are making short stories and novellas more popular. We no longer need to worry about reaching a certain length for print. Instead, we’ve been given the freedom to choose the best length for our story.

Smartphones and tablets mean far more people are listening to audio recordings.  Audio books and podcasts are becoming easier to produce which increases the potential for new readers – or should we say ‘listeners’? Some writers are even turning their books into aps or experimenting in other ways. What a creative wonderland we live in today.

Meet the Readers of the Future. These kids EAT books, but not in paper ;)

Meet the Readers of the Future. These kids EAT books, but not in paper ;)

Online forums and webinars provide writers with the ability to connect with readers wherever they may be found on the globe. The opportunities are limited only by our imagination and determination.

Ergonomics

Thanks to the technology we have around us today, the actual act of writing couldn’t be easier. I personally would be permanently crippled with repetitive strain injury in my wrist were it not for my ergonomically friendly keyboard. Other writers may have great difficulty writing with pen, but through typing or even voice-recognition software their words have finally found the page.

And think how easy it is to edit a manuscript without having to write or type it out completely afresh each time we want to change a typo. Gone are the days when you could tell a writer by the ink stains on their hands. The next generation of writers might not even know what a ‘writer’s callus’ looks like.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

Online Research

While the Internet is likely the single biggest writing distraction ever invented, it’s also the most incredible tool for research. Think of all the information that’s literally at our fingertips now. With a quick search we can pull up details and images that could have taken us months or even years to find in the past.

It puts us in contact with people who can answer our questions and provides us everything from recent weather to historical fashion and even ancient recipes. Photographs, videos, audio recordings and virtual maps give us almost instant access to just about every piece of sensory information needed to bring our characters and worlds to life. I don’t know about you, but I for one am ecstatic to be a writer right now! New opportunities are opening up all the time for us as a community to explore together.

Those are my five reasons as to why now is the best time to be a writer. What are yours? Do you have new technologies that make being a writer easier and more efficient? Are you excited about multimedia and all the creative ways to deliver stories? Do you enjoy audio books? Are you thrilled that forms of writing that were almost rendered extinct (poetry, short stories, novellas, etc.) are now making a big comeback?

***

Thanks, Jessica! I love the new paradigm and thanks for reminding us how richly blessed we really are.

We LOVE hearing from you! And comments for guests count DOUBLE!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 9.28.33 AMJessica Baverstock blogs at Creativity’s Workshop where her creativity writes in purple text. Her latest e-book Creativity on Demand covers how writers can access their creativity whenever and wherever they need inspiration.

Announcements:

WANACon is a virtual writing conference loaded with top-tier industry professionals—authors, agents, editors and best-selling authors. Right now we have an Early Bird Special. Sign Up Here.

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

Also, TOMORROW, I have a new class, Many Roads to Rome—Which Publishing Path is Best?Use WANA15 for 15% off.

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97 Comments

Three Tips for Finding the Perfect Publishing Path

Publishing can feel a little like THIS...

Publishing can feel a little like THIS…

We writers live in interesting times. The same digital tsunami that toppled Tower Records and collapsed Kodak has now consumed the world of publishing. The world we knew five years ago is gone. Traditional is reinventing, indie publishers are growing and self-publishing now can be a viable part of any author’s long-term career plan. This is one of the main reasons WANA has never taken sides and embraces publishing as a whole.

Granted, some authors may find a singular path that fits all their needs, but a majority of us will mix it up and venture on a hybrid path. Traditional houses are encouraging writers to self-publish prequels, short stories, or even stories involving supporting characters to keep the fan fires burning between books.

Indie houses are helping established authors breathe new life into backlists and new authors get a start under the care of professionals. Self-publishing is a fantastic way to begin and hone the skills required to be successful long-term (solid work ethic, business skills, social media, and thick skin). Sell enough books? Agents and editors will seek you out.

I began indie published, then switched to self-published because 1) I write about publishing so I wanted to experience the process of all paths and 2) my topic is time-sensitive 3) *hangs head* I’m a teensy tiny bit of a control freak. I LOVE being able to oversee artistic elements that, before, were out of my hands.

Yes, I wanted to be a cyborg. I have few goals in life, but being a cyborg was up there. I doubt NY would have permitted me to be a cyborg. They wouldn’t let me have a light saber either. Can we say deal-breaker?

Rise of the Machines Human Authors in a Digital World, social media authors, Kristen Lamb, WANA, Rise of the Machines

HA! Mommy-Bot!

Finding the perfect fit is a process and we will outgrow some choices. But, hopefully these tips can serve as guideposts to keep you on track ;).

#1 There is NO Until Death Do Us Part

We are not married to any publishing path. We will grow, our content will evolve and we might even have to completely change direction (like me deciding to self-publish). Writing is an art, but it’s also a business. Blind loyalty is not required.

Just because we change direction doesn’t mean that is set in stone either. Certain works, personalities and even what’s going on in our personal lives can affect which publishing path is the best fit.

Life can change on a dime. So can dreams and goals. We might be rocking self-publishing and then life tosses us in a Vita-Mix and we no longer have the focus and energy to maintain doing everything. Or, maybe you’ll begin being traditionally published then discover you want to write faster than the publisher’s schedule permits.

For instance, I’ve been approached to co-author a successful thriller series (short works). But, my 100,000 word mystery-thriller? Either I will self-publish or see if an agent thinks a traditional deal is better. I already reached my goal of being a cyborg, so “lack of cover art control” is less of a deal-breaker these days. I also am (blessedly) a lot busier. Thus, a slow path that would have driven me bonkers four years ago is looking a lot more appealing.

We live in a wonderful time where the works we create can find the perfect partnership and so can we. For the first time in history, publishing can be tailored to our works, needs and lives.

The new paradigm can be frightening, but the cool news is it is far more flexible.

#2 Ignore Peer Pressure

I speak at conferences and meet all kinds of authors. Writers who’ve found a great path are often the best evangelists, but there is no One-Size-Fits-All in publishing. Our friends and colleagues can offer advice, connections and guidance, but we have to be strong enough to do what we believe is best for our careers.

It was hard for me to step away to self-publish. I had NY agent friends who assured me that I could get a NYC traditional deal and implored me to reconsider. But, I’d already spent over two years sitting on Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. I needed to move on.

Though everything in me wanted to be a Random-Penguin, I knew it wasn’t right for this book. It was terrifying stepping out alone. Others might mean well, but we have to make our own decisions because only we will face the consequences (or reap the rewards).

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

#3 Be A Realistic Dreamer

We all hear the stories of the “overnight successes,” but those are the outliers. I encourage all of you to dream. Dream BIG while you’re at it. Ignore the naysayers, because they’re mostly jealous chickens. It takes guts to do what we do. There is no magic marketing plan, no algorithmic alchemy guaranteed to catapult us to fame and fortune. This is a business. Writers (books) fill intellectual or emotional needs. 

Image with Twig the Fairy

Image with Twig the Fairy

There is no rhyme or reason to what sells or what might become popular because we live in an ever-shifting world filled with people who have free-will. We never know what genre/story will speak to an audience, which is why we should simply write what we are called to write. There are a lot of components we simply cannot control.

If society is in great political upheaval, the last thing they might want to read is a dystopian. But? Things settle down and it might be the next big thing. Demand is often influenced by societal factors, the economy, current events, or even flukes. This is why it’s critical to ignore all that noise and focus on the areas we can control: platform, craft, publishing, etc. Focus on the business of our business and keep writing.

I’m not particularly worried about competition. Books are not so cost-prohibitive readers can’t buy more than one. Yet, aside from this, most people will give up. Long-term success as a writer (or anything) is a formula:

Self-Discipline + Teachability + Tenacity + Talent= Success

Talent alone is useless without the other components. I’ve met many talented writers who will never succeed because they don’t finish anything. I’ve met tenacious authors who work their fingers to the bone, but aren’t teachable. They believe more advertising will increase sales, when the tough truth is they need to focus on craft. Or, perhaps the first book is fantastic, but many writers stop there and spend every bit of energy on marketing ONE book.

This new paradigm will weed out those who are writing for the wrong reasons. Whenever we decide to become writers, we need to inspect our motives. Are we writing because we LOVE to write? Would we still do it if we never made money? Do we have something to prove?

Agendas will affect the dream.

We are entrepreneurs. I’ve met small business owners who went bankrupt because they went into business so they could work when they wanted to. Problem was, they never worked. We need to always review why we are here, why we have THIS dream, and make sure it’s driven by motives that can withstand heat, pressure and time. Can we maintain discipline and enthusiasm during The Lean Years?

I want all of you to live the dream and love your work. We have to spend most of our lives working anyway, so why shouldn’t it be fun? Something we are passionate about? This is why we need to make certain we are educated enough to make sound career decisions. Few things can make us more miserable than being trapped on the wrong path (been there). This is why I am offering  new class Many Roads to Rome—Which Publishing Path is Best? January 25th (which is a Saturday). Use WANA15 for 15% off.

What are your thoughts? Have you been confused about all the options? Tempted by peer pressure? Have you found a wonderful fit? Why does it suit you? Have you had to change your path/plans? Why? What drove your decision?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

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67 Comments

Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Born to Be Victims? Can It Be Changed?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

One of the reasons I am SO HAPPY you guys take the time to comment and share your thoughts is your insights often highlight areas I might not have thought to address.  A commenter Mr. Dandylion replied to my publishing predictions for 2014 with darker thoughts, which included this phrase:

“A new author will commit suicide after a sustained online bullying campaign, most likely stemming from Goodreads; it will cause major headlines and public anger.”

Those words hit home and made me think. Granted, as a writer, I’ve experienced my share of trolls and (gratefully) only two LOONIES. But I have too many author friends (including NYTBSAs) who’ve been victimized by flash mobs of cyber-bullies. I’ve also had blogger friends who wrote on very innocent topics randomly victimized by gangs of trolls for seemingly no reason.

Oddly, when I tried to research bullying and bullying resources for yesterday’s post, I was taken aback at how most of the tips were for kids, teens and parents. The problem is that (as MANY commenters shared yesterday) bullies don’t go away. They grow older and often more vicious.

Often these creeps are on-line, in church, in critique groups, clubs and in the workplace. After six years in Rotary, I left because of bullies. They had stolen all my joy for public service…so I took my passion for helps elsewhere.

Their "future boss." Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Their “future boss.” Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Another commenter, Lloyd Lofthousel was thoughtful enough to share this link in the comments; a NY Times article about the study of aggression and how the actual makeup of the brains of aggressive teens is vastly different from those of non-aggressive teens. Aggressive teens demonstrated heightened activity in the pleasure centers of the brain when shown images/films of acts of violence and cruelty (images that would have repulsed the rest of us).

Granted, this is a very small study but it, again gave me food for thought. This study made me think of a recent article in Discover by Dan Hurley; Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes (which I highly recommend you read in full).

Is DNA REALLY at Fault?

Before we go too far, I am not in the camp of “Blame DNA or Blame Mom.” We are humans not holly bushes and we have the power of choice. But neuroscience and genetics might offer insights and tools for how we as a culture can feed the good and starve the bad, so to speak.

According to the article, Moshe Szyf, a molecular biologist and geneticist at McGill University in Montreal and Michael Meaney, a McGill neurobiologist married their theories and work and pioneered a new area of study, which came to be known as epigenics.

These two scientists posited that nature and nurture were highly integrated and also that humans might carry genetic memory through generations. I confess I am no scientist and this is a Spark’s Notes for discussion, but it is fascinating. As a blog, this IS immensely reductive, so forgive me. But the theory is interesting for debate.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Andrea Laurel

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Andrea Laurel

According to this new research, we all have DNA (duh), but what Szyf and McGill noticed was our spools of DNA required something “extra” to activate certain genes. One of these extra elements is the methyl group, which, “works like a placeholder in a cookbook, attaching to the DNA within each cell to select only those recipes — er, genes — necessary for that particular cell’s proteins. Because methyl groups are attached to the genes, residing beside but separate from the double-helix DNA code, the field was dubbed epigenetics, from the prefix epi (Greek for over, outer, above).” Discover, Hurley

In English, right?

Originally, epigenetic changes were assumed to happen only during fetal development. But Szyf and McGill wanted to probe further. Could grandad’s experience as a POW during Vietnam affect a grandson’s DNA?

“According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories.” Discover, Hurley 

Of course, what was really interesting about this article is it gives us good reasons to believe we aren’t at the mercy of DNA or methyl groups. Methylation apparently can be changed. Just like a diet of fried Twinkies can activate cancer genes, growing up in a stressful, neglectful household can similarly activate traits for suicide, depression, aggression, etc. by methylating those parts of the DNA.

This, I feel, is how we can see either generational traits continue or cease. In my own experience, I grew up in a Jerry Springer household. Fighting, yelling, abuse was the norm. I remember visiting friends’ houses and being blown away that there wasn’t non-stop crackling tension and arguing.

Thus, when I grew up to become a parent, I made it a point to maintain peace and consistency.

Whereas I was a high-strung, neurotic, fearful child, who suffered night terrors and sleep issues for years, The Spawn is happy, calm, gentle and can sleep anywhere. Yet, as parents, we have ZERO tolerance for people who want to infuse stress and chaos into our lives. This has meant terminating old friendships and even avoiding contact with certain family members.

Is Our Society Birthing Bullies by Tolerating and Ignoring Them?

I probably love watching Discovery ID more than is healthy (hey, I AM a writer). But one common theme does emerge when studying criminals and, specifically, serial rapists and killers. They often begin small. If they aren’t caught or properly counseled/punished early in the cycle, they grow increasingly emboldened.

This lack of consequences fuels a growing narcissism that “they can get away with anything” (generally until they are finally apprehended or grow bored and turn themselves in so they can write books from prison and be rewarded for being psychos).

BTK Killer Dennis Rader. Image via Wikimedia.

BTK Killer Dennis Rader. Image via Wikimedia.

I feel when we don’t stand up to bullies, when we give children advice like “ignore them and they will go away” this feeds the rush bullies so enjoy (and crave). The rush then only bathes the DNA in more of these methyl groups because the bully has been able to create chaos and upset and get away with it.

***NOTE: I feel we aren’t teaching children how to properly ignore bullies. We need to guide children how to remain peaceful, happy and continue life, not hide in a library and stop participating in school out of terror. This only FEEDS more intense bullying.***

I am making this arm-chair assertion based off the article, but according to this research, those who have a proclivity for violence—when subjected to (or allowed to create) stressful, chaotic and aggressive atmospheres—only get worse. The negative environment increases the methyl bath that continues to activate certain negative genetic traits.

To extend the logic, when major blogs allow trolls to rant and throw furniture in the comments without censure, it’s gasoline on the fire of what’s fueling them to begin with. When bullies can make someone retreat from the Internet, stop blogging, hide, they WIN…and grow even MORE emboldened and continue searching out even more targets to terrorize to feed the rush.

When the office bully can attack someone at the copy machine and not be fired? This emboldens the bully and, like any addiction, it generally requires larger doses for the same high.

I think this is why ignoring trolls in the comments, deleting them and refusing to feed them does often work. They aren’t getting the desired response that gives them the dopamine rush of “winning.” It’s also why I believe they disappear when faced with a wall of loving, caring people who support the victim. Their positive energy disrupts the chaos and fear the bully craves.

It is also why arguing or fighting with an on-line bully generates the opposite effect—it makes trolls CRAZIER, because we’ve chosen the wrong form of confrontation. When we “fight back” we give them the negativity they need.

Not all confrontation has to be aggressive ;).

The Counterpoint—Can Victims Be Healed?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Ben Swing.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Ben Swing.

Methy groups (according to the research) don’t only affect those who are aggressive. Methylation can also activate depression, anxiety, codependency, etc. Often dysfunctional families are made up of aggressors and victims (I know that was my case growing up).

For every family bully, there are passive members dancing around trying to appease The Great Volcano from erupting. Clean the house a certain way, don’t have an opinion, be invisible and cater to every need Mt. Volcano has and he/she won’t blow.

Which is crap, btw, and for another blog.

Yet, one of the interesting observations I’ve made as the WANA Mama is that many shy, frightened, even victimized writers have found tremendous healing by being part of a large group that focuses on love, support and service. They’ve become brave enough to blog, to post, to write, to publish, to *gasp* have FUN because there is a different kind of family offering a very different type of energy.

WANAs at play at Huntington Beach...

WANAs at play at Huntington Beach…

When authors have life beating them up? They have a safe place. When an author’s family, spouse or friends are being cruel or critical? They can come to us. When a troll mob is on the attack? The WANAs can step in and diffuse the hate. Darkness can’t help but retreat when faced with light. Love is more powerful than fear.

What Can We DO?

Regarding this discussion on neuroscience, I believe we can change behaviors. Deny the hateful the chaos they seek and provide the love and tranquility for those who need it. Changes in environment can make the aggressive more empathetic and the cowed more confident.

But how?

Rethink Cyberspace

I feel there are many areas of life where certain behaviors are simply NOT tolerated. As I mentioned on Facebook yesterday, Amazon, Goodreads, Huffington, Yahoo, etc. are on-line, but they ARE places of business—not a free-for-all-forum where anything is permitted.

Amazon sells, well…everything. But major blogs count on ads to thrive and grow. If people grow fearful or weary of trolls? They’ll move on to blogs where they aren’t afraid to comment. This means the site will have lower hits and no one will want to advertise…and then the site goes away.

We all have rights. But my RIGHT to swing my fist STOPS where your nose begins.

I have the right to complain. I DO NOT have the right to scream, yell, shout obscenities, and stalk and abuse the staff. If I went to a restaurant, I have the right to complain about the food or the service. But, if I screamed obscenities and attacked everyone in range verbally, do you guys think the manager would say, “Oh just ignore her”? NO. He’d toss me out on my butt and call the cops if I refused to behave or leave.

And if I gathered all my hateful friends to mob-attack the restaurant, would I be allowed to continue with this behavior? NO. I’d be sitting with my jerk friends in jail.

Take Charge of Our Blogs—Moderation is Paramount

I think as bloggers, we can be diligent to not allow abuse on our blogs. I guest-posted for a big author one time and a commenter was just INSANE and going for my throat…and the author allowed it because of “freedom of speech.” I never blogged there again.

Big blogs like Huffington, etc. need to increase moderation and have a Code of Conduct for commenting AND STICK TO IT. People can disagree, but they cannot act in any way that would land them a ticket or in JAIL if this was in person. If these blogs don’t take moderation more seriously, businesses won’t want to advertise there because the clientele (readers/commenters) has been sacred off.

Strength in Loving Community

Those of us who want to enjoy the Internet need to find a community of friends and support. WANA is of course an option, but there are surely others. Start your own. Be the light ;).

Positive Confrontation

Boundaries are crucial for any healthy relationship. Refuse to tolerate hateful comments on social media. I delete people who are offensive or out of control. I then politely message them and tell them I am happy to leave their comment if they can rephrase respectfully. If they refuse to stop peeing on the digital furniture? I report and block them or unfriend.

Be Professional

We cannot please everyone. Art is very subjective. We can never write a book everyone loves. Bad reviews happen, and, as professionals, we need to put on our Big Writer Pants. We cannot endure, let alone succeed in this business if we have the skin of a grape.

Yes, writers need to feel safe to publish, but reviewers also need to feel safe to review. Just because they don’t like a book doesn’t automatically make them a bully or troll. If we get too many bad (but thoughtful and respectful) reviews? We might have jumped the gun and published too soon. Maybe we need to pull the book and rerelease with better editing. Or try again.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mark Roy.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mark Roy.

I know as an editor I’ve had writers go NUTS because I didn’t say every word was unicorn glitter. This is a profession not a playpen. When I was a neophyte, I got a lot of bloody noses in critique (but they were right). Honest feedback is what helped me get rhino-skin and become a better writer. It happens. We grow.

We can’t grow if we aren’t open to critique. Also, there comes a point when we have to brush things off. People have the right to an opinion (and they aren’t always correct). We don’t have to listen to and follow every opinion or we will end up with crappy books-by-committee.

So what are your thoughts? I don’t think we are at the mercy of nature or nurture. I believe we still have choice. But do you think we can change the future, no matter our genetic predispositions? Do you think we as a society or greater community could help drive that positive change? That maybe we could deflate bullies and rehabilitate the abused? What are for thoughts on nature-nurture? Were you from a crazy family too and yet managed to break free with your own kids? I like to think we can change the world, but blind optimism is my superpower :D…

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

Will announce December’s winners Monday. I have a lot to go through. Good problem :D.

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

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146 Comments

Consolidation, Nooble & Agents Who CARE—What’s Ahead for 2014 in Publishing

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.

I promised yesterday, I’d offer up some predictions for publishing in 2014. I don’t know if these are “predictions” or “suggestions” but I am, at heart, an eternal optimist. As I’ve said many, many times, this is a WONDERFUL time to be a writer. It’s a Golden Age of Publishing if we’re willing to embrace the new. Yes, there are challenges. I might be an optimist, but I’m not a moron (okay, that time I accidentally drove to Missouri doesn’t count).

There are new perils ahead, ones we won’t know about until we step both feet in them. In ways, writers are The Lewis and Clark Expedition Literary Edition unfolding in 0s and 1s. This part of why I implored yesterday for writers to be involved in their social media communities. This new paradigm is awesome, but predators abound.

Sadly, there will be more wanna-be publishers, more bad books, more phony reviews, more bullying, more competition, and discoverability will only get tougher…exponentially. But, the flip-side is that writers are making more money, novelists can finally make a living, moth-balled novels are seeing new life and creating new fans, and unique and creative genres are being born. Additionally, forms of writing nearly rendered extinct (poetry, novellas, etc.) have been given new life and authors have a lot more choices and control. We trade one set of problems for new advantages (and…yes…new troubles).

Like the dot-com burst of the 90s, this paradigm will eventually find its way. New gatekeepers will emerge and the market will stabilize…until the next revolution. But until that time…

First, Consolidation is King

Back in The Olden Olden Days, humans went to the butcher for meat, the baker for bread, the smithy for nails, and the tailor for clothes. Then Super Walmart was invented (okay grocery stores then supermarkets might have “paved the way” *rolls eyes*). As humans became more pressed for time, consolidation became vital for competitive edge. Now, we don’t have to trek to the liquor store for the New Year’s Eve champagne when we can simply pick it up at the supermarket with the very last fattening food we’re eating EVER….

….okay, until February.

Consolidation is everywhere. Gaming systems no longer just play games. Try ordering a movie on your 1986 Atari. Want to post on Facebook or peruse You Tube? A Nintendo 64 probably won’t do the trick. In 1990, if we said, “Wow, I need to take Christmas pictures. Let me get my phone!” Men in white coats would show up uninvited and take us away for a “vacation.”

Want to take pictures with your PHONE? Might we suggest one of these...

Want to take pictures with your PHONE? Might we suggest one of these…

Gaming consoles (XBox) now stream video, allow us to access movies, Amazon, social media, and even shop. Phones are no longer just phones. They play music, manage bank accounts, surf the web, take pictures and video, and entertain toddlers (um, Angry Birds?). We can even run a business remotely using various applications. Try that on THIS.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Robert Huffstutter.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Robert Huffstutter.

Aside from calling people and generating a seething hatred for those unfortunate souls with too many 0s in their phone numbers? THIS bad boy (above) was good for calling people and letting them call US…and maybe braining a burglar or dazing a Florida cockroach long enough to shoot it with a GUN.

These days, more and more people rely on smart phones and tablets for everything. 

Why do I mention this? Because the future of physical bookstores relies on partnering with other types of retailers. Um, consolidation?

The closest Barnes & Noble to me is in the heart of the BUSIEST FREAKING MALL in DFW, Texas. I am simply not that motivated. What if indie bookstores or Barnes & Noble took the path of Starbucks? Tuck that sucker (a mini-version) in a Target, supermarket or a Costco. I NEED food. Books? Eh, shop on-line. Stick them TOGETHER and lure me with the SHINY. I am SO THERE!

Much like I can buy wine at my local Krogers, why can’t I have a choice of more than a handful of books on one aisle? Make life easier. Gas is expensive and I don’t OWN CLONING TECHNOLOGY, BUT MY LAUNDRY DOES.

*left eye twitches*

This dovetails into my first prediction.

Prediction #1—Kiosks and Microstores Will Gain Traction

Blockbuster is dead. Alas, Red Box remains.

The trade paperback is fairly standard, so digital kiosks are a great alternative. Make the Espresso technology a lot like Red Box. A touch-screen panel to peruse recommended books then pay for either a) a download or b) a rental (limited e-book that expires—integrating the library into this business plan) or c) a printed book (with a coupon for 15% off a latte or grocery purchase over $50, of course).

A “rental”? Yup. Wouldn’t that be great for those books we were forced assigned to read in high school and college? And, if we “rent” the book, this can count towards the purchase of the book if we do want to actually keep and reread Moby Dick. Win-win.

If Best Buy will do this, why not B&N?

If Best Buy will do this, why not B&N?

Microstore? YES.

Think of the small stores in airports. I’d much rather have a small store with an educated and well-read staff to help guide what to read than to throw chance to the wind on-line. Microstores can still stock the most popular paperbacks/hardbacks/collections, but then they can guide consumers what to load on their new devices (and maybe even help) or print on the Espresso machine.

The largest consumer group is the Baby Boomers. An educated bookseller could not only guide what to read, but also demonstrate how to upload books to the new device. Maybe even load some freebies for great customer service? *wink, wink*

These booksellers can act as gatekeepers to help modern consumers avoid the digital slush pile. Indies, self-pub and traditional would be on a level playing field. Good books would be recommended by staff members who READ and who are PASSIONATE about BOOKS. Pay the book salespeople a flat commission. Who cares if they recommend James Patterson or Joe Schmoe Patterson? They sold a book and if they want customers to return and offer more commission? They’ll probably want to recommend good books.

Prediction #2—Booksellers Cultivate a Culture of Reviewers

Microstores can also encourage reviews in a way authors can’t. I’d love to offer sweet prizes for reviewing my book, but it’s just too…what’s the term? Creepy. Sure, I want reviews as much as the next author, but it’s a fine line that can get writers in ethical trouble. A microstore wouldn’t have this issue. They could actually cultivate a culture of reviewers.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Micro Indie Booksellers could offer incentives to the best reviewers who write ACTUAL reviews (no matter what book it happens to be, thus removing problem of favoritism). If people act like trolls or play sock puppet? Doesn’t count. The more the customers review, the better (educated) reviews they post? The more bonuses they receive. Booksellers can reward consumers for being active and ethical citizens of the reading culture.

This helps the microstore, the bigger retail outlet (who rents space and partners with discounts), the consumer struggling to save time and who needs guidance, and it helps authors get REAL reviews. Not this, pay us to read your stuff and say something nice nonsense. It’s a positive way to combat bullying and encourage thoughtful, genuine reviews.

Prediction #3—The Boutique Boom

We already touched on this when we discussed micro-trends, but part of why Big Publishing is hemorrhaging is because small is the new big (thanks, Seth Godin). Big Publishing makes most of its profits off the mega-trend, but mega-trends are dying. Amazon has grown exponentially because it harnesses the momentum of millions of micro-trends. Authors don’t have to reach millions of people to make a good profit/living (if one takes away the needless waste of the old paradigm). Publishers don’t either ;).

Prediction #4—Strong Indie Houses Will Replace Big Publishing

Granted, we live in a time when everyone can be an author and everyone can be a publisher, but this business is tough. It requires capital, business savvy, organization, innovation and raw tenacity. This means a lot of indie publishers won’t last, and the ones that do will add increasing value. Because these new publishers are innovative, lean, offer higher royalties, and aren’t married to massive Manhattan overhead and paper, they’ll eventually replace NY publishing (and we hope they’ll learn from The Big Six’s mistakes).

When one considers the current business trajectory? Bookstores, libraries and foreign markets are becoming increasingly friendly to indies. They have to in order to survive. Loyalty to NY only goes so far when one is facing extinction. What will NY do when indies can do everything they can and offer lower prices to consumers and higher pay for authors?

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Robert Ellsworth Tyler

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Robert Ellsworth Tyler

Prediction #5—AP Reviewers Will Be Forced to Take ALL Authors Seriously or Perish

As is stands, it’s almost impossible for a self-published author to score an AP (Associated Press) review. Yet, when we’re now in a time when non-traditional authors are matching or outselling traditional authors? How long can the AP remain silent about the books people are reading? If they don’t dive in? Book bloggers will happily replace them, and maybe they should. The press was never meant to solely be a mouthpiece for conglomerates.

Prediction #6—Social Norms Will Trump Market Norms

Freebies, give-aways, contests, algorithms, coupons, are fine, but alone? Invisible. Writers must be engaged personally and create community or it’s Career Roulette. We (consumers) don’t want any more deluge of free stuff. We are drowning in FREE. We don’t want more newsletters crapping up our In-Box. We don’t want link spam.

We want connection.

The 18th-20th century world was actually a historical anomaly. The factory model, the TV-Industrial Complex, the World of Big Business and Bigger Gatekeepers is GONE. We’ve returned to our human roots. We want to laugh, talk, klatsche, and we gravitate to who we know and like. We humans are returning to our tribal roots.

Algorithms will be harder to manipulate, reviews tougher to fake, and promotions will grow increasingly invisible, especially as new emerging markets add even more competition to the din.

Prediction #7—Age of the Artist

Multimedia is the future. Books eventually have to be more than books (much like phones became more than phones). Consumers will gravitate to e-books with sound, music, images, quick reference, video, similar reading suggestions, etc. Artists working together will thrive. E-books can create communities where fans can become friends, talk, argue, and hang out.

Musicians? Make friends with writers and offer short music selections. Photographers and graphic artists? Writers need cover art and internal images. Videographers? Writers need book trailers that don’t suck. Also, short video clips can enhance the reading experience. Heck, team up and put together music videos for a book. Get creative!

We are ARTISTS. This means we cannot be automated or replaced by robots. ENJOY!

No, I am not saying paper will go away. It won’t. But when I bought an IPad for business, it was soon abducted by a two-and-a-half-year-old and I haven’t seen it since. The Spawn reads. A LOT. But he reads off the IPad, because he loves interacting.

Prediction #8—A New Breed of Reader

I mention the IPad, then quickly hear the cry of the, “But you’ll damage their BRAINS” crowd. Uh huh. Just like those record players paired with books damaged me when I was four. The interactive experience has always been there. In cave times, it was around a fire listening to a storyteller/bard. Later, book clubs, records, tapes, blah, blah, blah. Interactivity has always been there, only today, it’s been heightened to new levels.

And when I was that nerdy teen reading a paper book ALONE, what I would have given for a crowd of likeminded teens all over the world who shared my love for Dragonlance books and my passion for The Pawn of Prophesy. I love how detractors decry that technology makes people less able to socialize, because I was SO SOCIAL with my stack of paper books hiding in a corner of the lunchroom praying no one would notice me.

The new paradigm has finally accomplished what Big Publishing couldn’t. It’s made reading COOL and this trend will continue to grow.

Prediction #9—Barnes & Noble Needs a Sugar Daddy Bail-Out

Barnes & Noble has been on the downward spiral for a while. What I find funny is people feel sorry for them. Remember the 90s when they all-but-demolished the indie bookstore in Darwinian fashion? Seems like karma is coming back to bite, Blockbuster-Style. B&N is facing serious comeuppance now that the bully has met with someone capable of bloodying their nose. If they do survive, they’ll have to marry well. My bet is on two major suitors.

Suitor #1? Microsoft. And I am not alone in this assessment. Microsoft operating systems still dominate tablets, personal computers, and smart phones, so the Nook can be easily integrated into the operating systems of all Microsoft devices. Microsoft would take over the e-books and B&N would survive. Yes, Microsoft has dated dabbled, but never offered a ring.

Or perhaps, one day we will tell our grandchildren of grand two-story buildings with coffee shops inside and “business hours.”

In my day we had to get in a car and drive and find PARKING and look on actual SHELVES for a book *waves cane*.

Suitor #2? GOOGLE.

Apple’s relentless innovation has slowed since the death of Steve Jobs, and Android is taking them on. The Google-Android partnership has Apple on its toes in regards to automobile iOS systems. It’s the Siri-Google Smackdown! While Apple is fighting on that front, Microsoft could take a chunk out of iBooks with a B&N bailout (and give Amazon some competition at the same time).

Or, if we want to go for the most interesting Bailout-Marriage, why not Google Books? A SEARCH ENGINE marrying a BOOKSTORE? If Google can partner with Android, B&N isn’t exactly as wild of a partnership as it might sound. If Google-Android does win the Computerized Car Business, cars are now big into downloading entertainment. AUTOTAINMENT. Want to listen to an audio book on the commute? Want to synch your reading device while stuck in traffic or on a long road trip (not while driving, please)? Want to download a new book for the kids fighting in the back seat?

Nooble…

Um, Goo-Barnes…

Um…Boogle….

NOBLE GOOGLE is HERE!

Hmm, Noble Google. Kinda catchy :D. Though Nooble is cute.

Prediction #10—Agents Will Have to Innovate, Too

Agents. Yeah. I recall the days when conferences would pay big bucks for agents to attend…and then the agents refused to talk to authors. I can personally attest to enduring the brunt of daring to talk to those who’d come down from Mt. Olympus NYC to talk to me, a lowly mortal…writer. *shivers* They sneered that we made a typo in a query, yet couldn’t be bothered to even spell our names correctly in a rejection letter (been there). Agents tweeted lines out of queries as jokes. They laughed and mocked writers on-line worse than a den of high school Mean Girls, but now?

Wait.

Writers still have a job.

REVELATION! Agents need writers. Whouda’ thunk? Now, make no mistake, I think agents are awesome. We are wise to have a good agent. Many agents are tireless champions who should be paid better, but the old paradigm birthed a lot of prima donnas who forgot who paid their wages.

Some of the BEST people I know are agents. Laurie McLean (of Forward Literary) is not only a FABULOUS agent, but a marvelous human being and my friend. BUT, Laurie is there for WRITERS. She’s a warrior for good writers and great books, and there are many agents like her. In the new paradigm? Agents like these will thrive and they SHOULD.

Authors need allies and agents can help even the self-pubbed or indie author. Laurie is extremely forward-thinking and always has been. When I first taught social media in 2008? She was the only agent out of TEN who attended. She’s AMAZING at planning author careers. She can tell you when to self-pub (if it’s right for you/your work), then guide you to the best indie or traditional house (and deal) and then take your work as far as it can and should go.

She’s always on the lookout for the perfect path for each writer and every work (Red Sofa Literary, established by Dawn Frederick, is another fab choice). These folks do what agents should do! Agents like Laurie, Dawn and their teams will thrive and the others? Well, let’s hope they can learn and innovate ;).

What are your thoughts? Do my predictions make you happy or break out in hives? What do YOU see in the future? HOW do you do it? Because I had to drink three packs of Red Bull to see the future. What would you LIKE to see coming down the pipeline?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). Comments for guests get extra POINTS!

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

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A Look Back at the Evolution of Publishing, Predictions That Came True & What This Means for YOU

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Ah, a New Year is before us. What is the future of publishing? What lies ahead for writers? Will Snooki have another baby? After consulting my team of advisors, those being the voices in my head, I’ll toss my predictions in the ring tomorrow. Granted, much of what I predicted last year has come to pass. A lot of it, I think still will happen but I have a history of being so far ahead of the game, people think I’m bonkers (ok, I am).

Note to Self: Perhaps wearing tinfoil hat impairs professional credibility.

Before I give any predictions for 2014, I figured it might be fun to take a quick look at the past nine years before we finish out my decade of Publishing Prognostication and Social Media Soothsaying. More fun than cleaning the house, right?

I’ve been very blessed to be right more times than I was wrong. I’d love to claim superpowers, but most of this is just doing what writers do—paying attention, using empathy, extending logic. Also, we are wise to seek out people smarter than we are. I know I do. I listened to bloggers, other experts, commenters and even self-professed non-readers, and they should have a lion’s share of credit.

This record of predictions is not an OOH, TOLD YOU SO! LOOK HOW AWSOME I AM! *OUCH I got a cramp patting myself on the back!* as much as it’s a poignant illustration how being present and engaged can give all of us tremendous advantages. When we try to automate the future or run our careers by remote, we lose predictive powers and become reactive instead of proactive. Our digital community is very wise if we are humble enough to participate, ask questions and then listen when they answer.

Thus, this 9-year list is to demonstrate that often, when we dare to be different, we will be criticized (often brutally), but our hearts, intuition and community can be pretty accurate guides if we stay the course ;)…

Nine-Year Record of Predictions:

Screen Shot 2012-05-04 at 11.05.40 AM

Big Six? Magic Eight Ball Says…

From 2004-2007, I predicted there would be a time when novelists could use social media to build a platform before the first book was even finished, and that this platform would eventually be a viable bargaining tool with publishers.

NUTSO. Burn her! She’s a witch!

I ignored the agents and writers who laughed at me and kept plodding away on Gather, then later MySpace and Facebook. I began using Twitter in 2008 because I felt this was a platform that would eventually change the way the world interacted. I hung out with all 20 other members on Twitter and waited, biding my time.

I also predicted that the same Digital Tsunami that leveled Tower Records would take out Kodak and then The Big Six.

Madness!

In 2008, I predicted that there would soon be a time that an author without a sound social media platform would be at a major professional disadvantage. Writers of The Digital Age had to have BOTH good books AND a sound platform. Good books alone were NOT ENOUGH.

What is she SMOKING?

If you peruse my archives, you will see many “sweet and thoughtful” comments by agents and authors regarding how I was an imbecile and writers only needed to write a good book. I was regularly informed I possessed the intellect of a brain-damaged monkey with a Valium addiction. Ouch. Agents (and writers) blogged left and right about staying off social media and focusing only on writing good books. Many indie author gurus preached the same.

I just said we needed both good books and social media.

I just said we needed both good books and social media.

By 2011, agents stopped leaving hate comments on my blog, likely because they were too busy googling authors to see if they had a viable social platform. Major NYC agencies began refusing queries if a fiction author couldn’t demonstrate he/she had a sound platform. Today? Most have changed their tune and come to accept that Digital Age Authors have to be balanced to succeed—good books, good business, authentic social media.

In 2009, I encouraged The Big Six to embrace e-books, because that year some of the first affordable and user-friendly devices hit the market and I really wanted the Big Six to enjoy a Golden Era again. Sure theses gadgets were still in the Early Adopter part of the bell curve, but I noticed the price of smart phones, tablets, e-readers and data packages was steadily dropping at roughly the same time. To me, this was a clear indication that e-books would eventually edge over into the fat part of the bell curve and become entrenched. Smart phones and tablets would soon be mainstream and people would be searching for content and entertainment.

Actual Agent Quote: E-Books will be statistically meaningless. Like everyone thought audio books would end paper, e-books are a fluke and people will always want paper books.

*head desk*

I suppose this is one of the reasons why we no longer have a Big Six. *shrugs*

By 2010, I predicted that authors couldn’t rely on price alone. Cheap books would only hold power so long before it devolved into a race to the bottom of who could give away the most stuff for nothing. The “shiny” of .99 books and FREE! would dull once everyone was doing it. Also, consumers would get frustrated downloading books rife with errors, formatting issues and bad writing.

Hmmm, looks legit.

Hmmm, looks legit.

I postulated that eventually readers would pay more for something they might actually read. I advised writers to use .99 and FREE! promotions only of those tactics served a long-term advantage. For instance, offer the first book of a series for free or .99 to encourage sales.

Still do.

Amazon permitted this deluge of cheap books because it was putting the hurt on The Big Six. I  theorized that once Amazon no longer considered Big Publishing a threat, it would reign in the freebies and the initial advantages offered to authors willing to hand away books. From 2012 to 2013, I noted the price of e-books highlighted on Amazon rise from .99-$2.99 to roughly $4.99 to $6.99, demonstrating Amazon’s strategy was paying off (this was right about the same time This Big Six became The Less-Big 5 and teetered on becoming The Spiffy Four). This was also when authors started seeing changes in how FREE sales were being ranked/weighted by Amazon.

In 2011, recommended that major publishers rethink pricing for the e-book. Charging the same price for an e-book as a hardback was bad business that would come back to bite them and only fuel the indie momentum they were trying to stanch. Agency pricing would put them in the crosshairs of the DOJ (which it did). Also, this ridiculous pricing was bound to drive the mid-list authors into abandoning the traditional ship and becoming indies.

Though I’d love to claim Nostradamus-like-powers, this isn’t rocket science. A best-selling author can only get so many ticked off one-star reviews for an overpriced $24 e-book before rethinking if the publisher is really making sound business decisions for that author’s present and future career.

This same year, I also railed against automation (and, frankly, always have). I knew that, as more regular people started using Twitter, they’d soon be able to spot bots and would come to resent and ignore them. I warned writers against these “time-saving” devices. My sentiment? It doesn’t take but a few moments to hop on social media and type a sentence.

We are WRITERS. 

I caught a LOT of heat over my attitude regarding automation and multiple accounts.

Then, The Boston Marathon Bombing tragically demonstrated the point I’d been trying to make for almost five years. Even well-crafted pre-programmed tweets are still SPAM. Our world changes on a dime and instantly. Many authors ended up in hot water because, “Buy my book, now FREE!” posted in the midst of a tragedy. And the time spent undoing the damage to the author brand probably exceeded that time “saved” by automating tweets.

YUM.

YUM….or not.

In 2011 and 2012, I warned against algorithmic alchemy. Amazon, Google, etc. knows when someone is abusing algorithms for any advantage. This is why they employ teams of computer experts who are tasked with changing algorithms any time certain users start gaining a manipulative advantage. Juking numbers only works short-term. There are better and longer-lasting uses of our time. Amazon now limits tags and penalizes abusers.

In 2013 I predicted a flood of mid-list authors would cut loyalty with NY and choose indie or hybrid paths. This is actually becoming more and more standard practice over the past year. CJ Lyons is one of many traditional authors who’s decided to add indie publishing into her career plan. When I spoke at Thrillerfest in NYC this past July, the CEO of AMAZON Publishing was the keynote. The hard line dividing writers finally began to crumble this past year.

I will post my predictions for 2014 tomorrow, but what I hope you take away from today’s post is:

If we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.

The truly successful are never too smart or too talented or too important to listen to others. 

Heat can burn us or forge us. If we dare to go against the majority, expect pushback. Often it’s a sign we’re onto something ;).

Never fear being wrong. It’s the only way to figure out what’s right.

We really can’t predict the future, only create it. So let’s create something AMAZING!

WE ARE NOT ALONE!

What are your thoughts? Have you been ridiculed but kept pressing? What are some mistakes you made, but what did you learn? I know I’ve made plenty and they taught me way more than success. What were some trends you spotted and maybe people thought you were nuts?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). Comments for guests get extra POINTS!

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

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Thrillerfest, The Publishing Apocalypse & Why Is There Cause to Celebrate?

My first signing at Craftfest. Um, never mind there are no books. I TRIED!

My first signing as a Craftfest presenter. Um, never mind there are no books. I TRIED!

Thrillerfest is a phenomenal conference packed full of experts and even heroes. It’s also a unique conference in that it takes place in NYC, right in the heart of traditional publishing. One of my major goals for WANA has been to serve writers—ALL writers. Publishing has been a One Size Fits All model for generations, and a lot of great writing has been collateral damage.

In fact, the paper-driven paradigm had driven many forms of writing to the brink of extinction—short stories, novellas, poetry, serials, pulp fiction, epic fiction, etc—simply because these types of works were a bad investment for a business that must turn a profit in order to survive and keep investing in new authors.

WANA LOVES ALL WRITERS

WANA has always made it a point to never make authors feel they needed to choose sides. Traditional is a better fit for some authors and indie isn’t for everyone. Self-publishing is far from a panacea. Each one has strengths and weaknesses and I explore that in Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World.

The key to building the perfect platform for your career is to make an honest assessment of which publishing path fits your personality, your work and your needs. WANA is not a Social Media Snuggie.

I’m a huge fan of the new paradigm, namely because we are seeing an explosion of creativity. New genres are being birthed and old forms are being resurrected. I’ve spent many, many blogs imploring NY to realize that self-publishing and indie publishing do not have to be enemies. Yet, last year I was excruciatingly frustrated when I returned from Thrillerfest.

Some people felt I was being mean in that post, but when you love something you sometimes need to be tough. Last year, when few seemed to be acknowledging the pink elephant (Amazon) in the room and some comments about self-publishing were utterly inappropriate, I was annoyed at the lack of foresight.

And, when I kept hearing mantras like, “E-books are a fad” “People love bookstores” and “Readers will always want paper”?

I wanted to scream.

Borders was already dead and gone and Barnes & Noble had been experiencing major losses. If things didn’t change? Authors would be hurt the most because (at the time), I believed leadership wasn’t looking ahead. They were too busy protecting what had always been.

I felt like Jerry MacGuire:

Help me, help you!

Thrillerfest 2013---Kind of a scary welcome. My blog wasn't THAT bad.

Thrillerfest 2013—Kind of a scary welcome. My blog wasn’t THAT bad.

“If You’re Not at the Table, It Means You’re on the Menu”

I read the above quote out of John C. Maxwell’s latest book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. It really spoke to me and helped me realize the root of my frustration with traditional publishers over the past few years. They’ve consistently refused to sit at the table of the new paradigm and that meant they were on the menu (placing its authors on the menu as well).

The Publishing Apocalypse

A federal judge recently ruled that Apple illegally conspired with five of the six biggest publishers to inflate prices in the emerging e-book market. Apple will be disciplined and the big publishers are certain to take a hit as well, though actual damages have yet to be ruled.

While the big publishers remain insistent they’ve done nothing wrong, it seems unlikely they will take on the Department of Justice a second time. This means Amazon is poised and ready to absorb even more of the book market.

William Lynch, CEO of Barnes&Noble resigned early this month after devastating earning reports made it clear that Barnes & Noble was losing the battle to Amazon. Their Nook had failed to keep pace with other devices like the Kindle Fire and the iPad, despite B&N’s partnering with Microsoft.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Aaron Charlton

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Aaron Charlton

According to the New York Times article by David Streitfeld, E-Book Ruling Gives Amazon and Advantage, “The verdict in the Apple case might have been a foregone conclusion, telegraphed by the judge herself, but it emphatically underlined how the traditional players in the book business have been upended. Only Amazon, led by Mr. Bezos, seems to have a plan. He is executing it with a skill that infuriates his competitors and rewards his stockholders.”

Barnes & Noble, upon Lynch’s departure, appointed Michael P. Huseby former CFO to CEO. Additionally, according to another recent article by Julie Bosman in the New York Times Chief Leaves Barnes & Noble After Losses on E-Readers“Max J. Roberts, the chief executive of the college division, will report to Mr. Huseby, while Mr. Huseby and Mitchell S. Klipper, the chief executive for the retail stores, will report to Leonard Riggio, the company’s chairman.”

These decisions hint that this is a likely a step toward “separating the digital and retail divisions, as the company has indicated it might do. Barnes & Noble has been in talks over a potential sale of its digital assets, as well as its 675 bookstores.”

What Does This Mean?

All of this points to an ominous sign that the bookstores likely will be broken up, which is why I’ve been adamant that writers (and traditional publishers) stop relying so much on the brick-and-mortar-model, since it was clear from history (Tower Records & Kodak) that these retailers would likely experience record contraction or go away altogether.

(I doubt bookstores will disappear completely just reinvent as I mentioned in this post last year The WANA Plan to Save Bookstores & Revive Publishing).

This has been another reason I have been passionate in my crusade to educate writers how to create an author brand on-line using blogging and social media. If the bookstores go away or shrink to the point of inconsequence, our only lifeline for success is the Internet.

Historically, bookstores have been the main hub where readers discover authors. That has completely changed. If we fail to appreciate this, we plan to fail.

After All of This, Why Was Thrillerfest So Encouraging? Welcome to the “Lifting of the Veil”

Rather than bringing in a big publisher to talk about favorite books and ignore the consumer landscape, ITW (International Thriller Writers) recruited Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content and Kindle Direct Publishing to speak. They also invited Createspace to be an active part of the conference and allowed ME to teach blogging at Craftfest, which shows they are looking to the future (or that they need better security :D).

Grandinetti’s speech left me in tears.

FINALLY!

Grandinetti spoke about how it is a brilliant time to be a writer and how traditional and non-traditional don’t have to be adversaries (Sound familiar?). By using the new tools available, authors (even traditional authors) can keep fires burning with fans in between books and help big publishers reinvent and become more profitable.

Authors are now free to write serials, shorts, prequels and maybe even try new genres. Authors can stretch as artists after being in a severely restrictive business model for so many generations. We now are seeing the emergence of the hybrid-author, just as indie giants like NYTBSA Bob Mayer predicted years ago.

(And a major reason WANA never chose sides. I always believed one day they might work together).

I nearly passed out when mega-author-legend David Morrell asked for help understanding how to improve his metadata and when Anne Rice spoke about her love for Facebook. The energy this year was completely different. Rather than attending a wake, it was like attending a baby shower. The excitement for the future was palpable and it was a joy and it was an honor to witness this.

*and the choir sings*

Yes, an apocalypse can mean destruction—destruction of outdated operations, old thinking, ineffective models—but like a forest fire, an apocalypse also opens room for something new and vibrant and even stronger to emerge.

The fact that the biggest authors in the business were now looking at new ways of doing things? *happy dance* Finally, everyone agrees that stories and information, authors and readers are more important than keeping the status quo. YAY!

We are in scary but wonderful times and no matter which path you choose to take, please know two things:

1. ALL authors need an on-line platform.

2. It is the best time in HUMAN HISTORY to be a writer.

I knew NY had it in them. And, though the judgement against Apple and the major publishers does have a dark side (namely that competition keeps markets healthy), we can at least rejoice in this awakening and hope this leads to improved business creativity. Hey, NYC can learn a lot from writers :D.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel encouraged? Overwhelmed?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

Also, Remember there is a class on Antagonists THIS Friday (recorded if you can’t make it). Use WANA15 for 15% off.

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Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome—Writers of the Digital Age

Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Okay, what now? (Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi).

Tomorrow I leave for NYC to speak at CraftFest then attend Thrillerfest. This conference (for me) is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. I’ve always held a deep love for NY (and still do). This is one of the challenges I’ve faced when it comes to being a social media expert for authors.

My goal is to connect each author with the publishing path that is best for that artist. 

In the meantime, I also strive to help NY innovate. Amazon is great, but healthy competition is best for all of us in the end. Monopolies are only good for said owner of the monopoly. As I said in Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World, “NY brings balance to The Force.” Any help I can offer to help them raise their game? I’m here.

Thriving in the Digital Age

One of my all-time favorite movies is Heartbreak RidgeIt’s a movie about a drill instructor who has to take command of a spoiled  recon platoon with a bad attitude. Part of how Gunny Highway whips these bad boys into shape is by constantly changing the rules so they have to learn to be predictive, to think three steps ahead and anticipate changes.

The best line in the movie?

Improvise, adapt and overcome! ~Gunny Highway

Know The Territory

My mission is to give you guys a plan that is within context of the shifting paradigm. One of the keys to being successful is to understand the market territory and how best we fit into that territory so we can accomplish our objectives. It’s how we improvise and adapt (then overcome).

For instance, the ancient Greeks ruled the seas. The Romans? They were better fighting on land. When Greeks knew they needed to resolve a conflict or retake a territory, they worked very hard to bring the battle onto the water. Mainly because they ROCKED on water…and also it was far harder to have a party boat on land :D.

The Internet has a wealth of information to help us understand where we fit. The smart writer gets educated and knows where she maneuvers best. I hope NYC will grow more comfortable innovating for the Digital World because that’s where a lot of the “battle” is now taking place. Can they adopt techniques that can help them maneuver this new territory with the same ease?

One of the reasons Rome remained an EMPIRE for a few thousand years is they learned to assimilate the tactics and tools of their adversaries. When the Spanish kicked their tails with the Gladuis Hispaniensis (the Gladius)? The Romans became MASTERS at forging and wielding that sword. They didn’t keep running into battle with the same sword that lost them the battle in the first place, because “Well, we have always used that sword.”

They adapted and changed to accommodate new and superior technology to gain the advantage. Writers and publishers who can learn and grow and harness new technologies are the ones who will dominate the field.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Not everyone has the ability to be an entrepreneur. Self-publishing and indie publishing are not a panacea. Are you ready to learn to be a publisher? Are you willing to learn the business side of the business? Are you okay with failing? A lot?

I wish I could tell you I’ve never made any bone-headed decisions, but I have. More than I care to admit, in fact. But, I am grateful I did some stuff wrong because failure is a great teacher. Failing SUCKS, but it will teach you to improvise and adapt.

No matter which path you choose, failure will be there. That’s okay. Learn from it. Harness it. Grow stronger. OVERCOME.

It’s a Great Time to Be a Writer

This is the beauty of the new paradigm. We now have choices. Some of you are natural entrepreneurs. Every time I get around RWA people I feel like a babe who knows NOTHING. So many of their authors not only have an unparalleled work ethic, but the sheer business-savvy they possess leaves me speechless.

….and I’m Kristen Lamb. NOT an easy feat :D.

Yes, I self-published. It was the best option for my personality and content. Yet? My dear friend Susan Spann negotiated a three-book traditional deal for her (Shinobi Mystery Series) Claws of the Cat. Why?

First, her books are awesome, but secondly, she has a law practice. She didn’t have the time or energy to do all the stuff a publisher does. For her, traditional was an ideal fit. This goes back to knowing strengths and weaknesses and what terrain we feel we can be strong.

Are you better fighting writing on solid land traditional or out at sea non-traditional? This is why I never offer a One Size Fits All Platform for writers.

WANA supports all types of writers and all types of publishing. The cool thing about books? They are not so cost-prohibitive that people won’t buy more than ONE. Thus, we really aren’t each other’s competition, and that places us in a unique position to work together to improve the terrain all around.

Traditional publishing brings over a century of gatekeeper experience and the indies are forging ahead and innovating in the digital world. We are wise to look to each other and learn. The traditionals can help us improve the overall quality of our product, but the indies can help us reach more readers faster and better. Indies are great at streamlining and innovating.

The good news is we are living in an amazing time to be writers (and publishers).

What are your thoughts? Do you like that writers finally have a career path? Do you like being an entrepreneur? Have you enjoyed being traditionally published? What do you think we can learn from each other?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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Freedom isn’t Free—5 Common Tactical Errors in Self-Publishing

Checking reviews...

Checking reviews…

This business is hard work. There are no shortcuts. I recently self-published my new book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World (and it’s on sale for $7.04 to celebrate Independence Day). Yet, for the record, I had 1) sound business reasons for doing this (NY is too slow to publish anything about technology and I wanted creative control) and 2) I have at least a million and a half words under my belt just in blogs. Granted, I’m new to the whole self-publishing thing. I’ll share as I learn.

It’s great to have independence, but alas, Freedom isn’t free. We need a sound strategy or we can end up toast.

For the Record, I’m Switzerland

When it comes to publishing, I don’t take sides. I feel traditional publishing has a lot to offer. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t spend so much time and effort challenging them to innovate to remain competitive. Indie is not for everyone. A lot has to do with 1) what we are writing 2) our personality 3) our goals. I support writers no matter which path you decide fits your needs.

Self-publishing is not a panacea. Today we are going to talk about the top five tactical errors I feel are killing self-publishing authors.

Tactical Error #1 Publishing Too Soon

The problem with the ease of self-publishing is that it is, well, too easy. When we are new, frankly, most of us are too dumb to know what we don’t know. Just because we made As in English, does not automatically qualify us to write a work spanning 60-100,000 words.

The Spawn's First Novel, "akjehsubfuirewagh6r5" now available on Kindle.

The Spawn’s First Novel, “akjehsubfuirewagh6r5″ now available on Kindle.

Too many new writers do not properly understand the antagonist. They don’t grasp three-act structure, and most don’t have any idea what I mean when I mention POV, Jungian archetypes, or the phrase, “scene and sequel.”

I have some affordable upcoming classes for most of that, btw (Check Here). Use Wana15 for a 15% discount on any of my craft classes. I see a lot of new writers who believe their story is the exception, that the rules make for “formulaic” writing. No, rules are there for a reason, and, if the writing is too formulaic, it has more to do with execution than the rules.

Three-act structure has been around since Aristotle, and there is a lot of evidence in neuroscience that suggests that three-act structure is actually hard-wired into the human brain. Thus, when we deviate too far from three-act structure, it confuses and frustrates readers.

Stories have clear beginnings, middles and ends.

Yes, we are artists, but we need to understand the fundamentals. I played clarinet for years, and yes it was an art. But this didn’t excuse me from having to learn to read music, the finger positions and proper embouchure (the way to position the mouth to play).

The better we are at the basics, the better we know the rules, the more we become true artists.

I’ve received contest winners whose first pages were filled with newbie errors. Yet, when I sent them my critique filled with pages of corrections, I would then receive a reply telling me that the book had already been self-published.

OUCH.

Signs of problems in your novel.

Signs of problems in your novel.

Sometimes there are reasons we are being rejected and we need to take a hard look and be honest. Self-publishing is suffering a stigma from too many writers publishing before they’re ready. If you really want to self-publish, I’m here to support you and cheer you all the way, but remember, we have to write better than the traditional authors.

Tactical Error #2 No Prepared Platform

The day we decide to do this writing thing for real is the day we need to start creating a platform and brand. Even traditional authors goof this up. I cannot count how many times I get a message saying, “Hey, I have a book coming out next month. I need to do social media. Can you help?”

Seriously? O_o

I’m Kristen Lamb, not Harry Potter.

Tactical Error #3 Believing that, “If We Write it They Will Come”

There are a lot of writers who mistakenly believe that self-publishing is an easier and faster way to fame and success. Yeah, um no. And those magic beans are really just beans. Sorry. I was bummed, too.

Self-publishing is A LOT of work, especially if we are starting out this way. I know Bob Mayer and Joe Konrath lecture writers to do less social media and more writing. To an extent I agree, but here is the thing. These guys were branded traditional authors who could slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of their names when they decided to go it alone.

If you can’t slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of your name and upload a NY vetted backlist longer than your arm? Prepare for a ton of work.

Tactical Error #4 Misusing FREE!

There are a lot of problems with giving books away for FREE! We shouldn’t be giving away our work unless it serves some kind of a strategic advantage. There are ways to effectively harness they power of FREE! but too few writers understand how to do this and they just end up giving away their art for no tangible gain.

Tactical Error #5 Shopping One Book to DEATH

One of the BIGGEST problems I see with self-published writers is that they publish one book and then they focus every bit of energy on selling THAT book.

They fill up #MyWANA and all the writing hashtags with link spam promoting their books. They keep futzing with the cover, the web site, the promotions. They do blog tours until they drop, and they do everything except what is going to help that book sell a ton of copies…write more books.

Here’s the thing. Self-publishing, in many ways, just allows us to accelerate the career path of the author. Even in traditional publishing, it usually takes about three books to gain traction. In traditional publishing, this takes three years because we are dealing with a publisher’s schedule.

In self-publishing, we can make our own schedule, but it still takes THREE BOOKS MINIMUM. I know there are exceptions, but most self-published successes hit at about book three. The ability to offer multiple titles is a huge part of why John Locke became successful.

This is why it is critical to keep writing. Not only will writing more books make you a better writer, but once people discover they love your writing, they have a number of titles to purchase. Being able to offer multiple titles is how we make money at self-publishing. It also helps us maximize the whole FREE! tactic.

Yesterday, I bought six books (1,500 pages) of research. I just published my latest book five days ago…and I’m starting on my next book. Goal is to have the first draft completed by August. I don’t tell you guys to do anything that, I myself, am unwilling to do.

Remember Why We Do This

Self-publishing is a wonderful alternative. Just because we self-publish doesn’t mean we cannot publish other ways, too. I feel the author of the future will actually be a hybrid author, and I do believe that the ability to self-publish is challenging all of us to come up higher. We are striving to be better writers, to be better entrepreneurs, to get better at organization and time-management and to write more books and better books. If we can learn from these mistakes and grow, then the future is ours for the taking.

A little humor…

My own story…

What have been some of your challenges with self-publishing? In what areas is it forcing you to grow? Have you had to outsource? What sacrifices have you made? Tell us your story!

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. 

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Right now, I am flattened with a cold or flu or something that just makes me want to crawl off into a dark place and die, so I will announce last month’s winners sometime this week.

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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