Posts Tagged indie publishing

Writing—So Easy a Caveman Can Do It

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Recently a Facebook friend shared a post with me regarding Indie Musicians versus Indie Authors. It appears our culture has a fascination and reverence for the Indie Musician whereas Indie Authors face an immediate stigma. We authors have to continually prove ourselves, whereas musicians don’t (at least not in the same way). My friend seemed perplexed, but to me it’s very simple.

We’re not even going to address the flood of “bad” books. Many writers rush to publish before they’re ready, don’t secure proper editing, etc. But I feel the issue is deeper and it reflects one of the many challenges authors face and always will.

People give automatic respect to a musician because not everyone can play an instrument or sing. Simple. It’s clear that artist can do something many cannot.

As writers, we have an insidious enemy. People believe what we do is easy. If we are good writers, we make it look effortless. I recall being a kid watching the Olympics. The gymnasts made those handsprings look like nothing. Being four years old, I dove in…and broke my arm…twice (because I’m an overachiever that way).

The blunt truth is everyone has a story to tell. They do. Every life can be fascinating in the hands of a skilled author. Every idea can be masterful in the hands of a wordsmith. Ah, but the general public assumption is that the only thing standing between them and being J.K. Rowling is merely sitting down and finishing the story. Many believe that, because they’re literate and have command of their native language that they can do what we do.

Geiko Caveman.

Geiko Caveman.

Of course, this isn’t the case (as we know all too well). A trained author draws the reader into a world of magic where the audience doesn’t notice the wires and mirrors, only the floating woman. We blend plot arc and character arc to drive tension.

We must develop layered, dimensional “people” and blend in setting and world-building where it’s so integrated it’s probably unnoticed. In fact, if people do notice, likely that section needs edit. Great dialogue is a skill. Subtext, theme, and on and on.

Readers generally don’t appreciate how we’ve done this, they only know we’ve created this magic when they get lost in the book, when they can find no “good” place for a bookmark. This is one of the reasons I strongly caution novelists starting “writing blogs.”

Readers don’t care about structure, POV, word echoes, verb issues, or formatting unless we screw them up. Only other writers care about how we use our tools. Readers care about the finished product.

Why Do I Mention This?

Most of us will face mass opposition when making the decision to write for a living. People see so much writing all around them, they take it for granted.

Many years ago, I got my start as a technical writer and copy writer/editor. I remember an acquaintance making a snarky comment about how there was no money in writing and essentially it was all foolishness (he was a stock broker). I’d finally grown enough of a spine that I stood up to him.

Me: You watch movies and television I assume.

Jerk: Of course.

Me: And when you’re learning a software program, I assume you use the Help tools.

Jerk: Yes *strange face*

Me: And magazines? Articles? The news? I assume you enjoy those too.

Jerk: *getting quiet*

Me: Then there are commercials, textbooks and the Internet. I’d wager you use Google.

Jerk: What are you saying?

Me: Last I checked, the Internet involved a lot of words. No writing, and the Internet is just a super expensive picture book. And, perhaps I’m out of line, but I’d imagine someone wrote the screenplays to the shows and movies you enjoy. I can’t see Hollywood paying a hundred million dollars for actors to just “riff.” Someone wrote the instructions to put together your computer desk and wrote those textbooks you used to train you for your career. And I’d even go so far as to say someone wrote those novels you enjoy and the magazine and news articles you consume regularly. 

Jerk: *silence*

Humans have been so spoiled with writing for so many centuries, they frequently dismiss it. Centuries ago there was far more reverence for the writer, but this was in the days when most people were illiterate. Only a handful of special people had the time, money, education to write (or read).

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

The wonderful side of public education and widespread literacy is this means more readers. Yes, those early authors were legends, but most of us would cry if we had the same book sales. There was no such thing as selling millions of books.

Of course the dark side is that humans have a tendency to take things for granted. We all do it. We assume if we paid our bill, we’ll have power. If we call 911, someone will answer. If the roads are a mess, someone will repair them. And writing? Everyone can do that.

It’s easy.

Stand Firm to the Truth

We know what we do is anything but easy, but we must be vigilant against this widespread perception or it will lead to self-doubt, giving up, being hypercritical of our own work, or seeking to please everyone with our story.

Those of you who’ve followed this blog know I have a thing for little “sayings.” Often I put them on Post-It Notes to remind me. One of my go-to phrases is, If you cannot defeat them, distract them. 

I’ve been in writing groups where the writer took every last comment/criticism as if it were gospel. When we are new, most of us lack confidence. This can lead to the Book-By-Committee. We keep changing the plot, the characters, the dialogue because one person frowned (and we didn’t realize they merely had gas).

I’m 20,000 words into Book Two of a trilogy. I sent the first book out to trusted beta readers. Every beta reader loved the book…save one. Characters all the other readers enjoyed, the one beta despised. The main group loved the description, the human flaws, the layers of complex plot. The critical beta recommended tearing down and starting over.

Now, in “The Old Days” I would have ignored what nine people said to please ONE. I’d have cried and indulged in gratuitous self-pity and believed I could never write a novel. Woe is me. I’d have trashed the book and started over.

Now? Pfft. I have rhino skin. I’m beyond the point where I need hand-holding and ego-stroking (blogging will beat that out of you).

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Paul Hudson

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Paul Hudson

Are all this one beta’s comments bad or utterly misguided? Not at all. I took the detailed notes the beta gave and sent them to those who loved the book. I genuinely wanted the truth. “Hey, did you guys feel/see any of these things? Is a total rewrite something I should consider? I think many of the ‘problems’ can be fixed with a handful of sentences. But, if I need a complete tear-down, now is the time to tell me.”

I’ve written the Book-By-Committee and it is an ugly beast that pleases no one.

I recently picked up a piece of my early writing that was slayed by a well-meaning critique group. As a more mature writer and editor, I saw that they’d benevolently edited the life out of my work. They were injecting their genre, preferences, and voice onto my work. And I eagerly gobbled it down and rendered a solid piece of writing a soulless Frankenstein mess.

I used to be a pretty good novella.

I used to be a pretty good novella.

Critique and editing are critical, but we must handle with care. First, we need thick skin. Professionals should not have to be coddled and handheld. We can offer a thoughtful, articulated defense as to why we made certain decisions, but this is different from being defensive. One is the product of confidence and the other is the Goo of Doubt.

If all ten beta readers saw the same thing? Houston, we have a problem. One? I still should listen, but with care. If I don’t, I risk overworking a book trying to attain the unattainable—perfection.

I actually found it funny how this experience elucidated points I’ve been making lately. We can NEVER write a book everyone loves. We can’t. It was almost laughable looking at my edits. Lines of dialogue the others highlighted with “LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT!” were the same lines the critical beta advised I delete.

But, this is why we must stand firm and remain true. I could cry and go back and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and I will still have at least one person (likely more) who doesn’t like final product. This is why we must learn to keep pressing forward and ship.

Learn the Art of Discernment

Being a professional author cannot be a democracy where everyone has an equal vote (unless you just want to go crazy). In ways, we have to be more of a benevolent dictatorship. Learn to say, “I hear your concerns and I’ll take them under advisement.” Why? Because everyone has opinions and advice, but only we will live with the consequences.

Remember, If you cannot defeat them, distract them. Trying to write the book that all demographics will love is a fruitless endeavor. It’s a distraction which will lead to defeat. Keep writing. Failure isn’t bad, it’s the tuition we pay for success. Understand that the world can believe what we do is easy, but they have a right to be wrong. We know better. Choose which voices to listen to. Part of maturity is learning the art of discernment.

Be brave enough to hand your work to someone who might hate it. The one beta who didn’t like my book? Doesn’t read this genre, hates description and has vastly different preferences than I do for pleasure reading. I knew I’d get my literary @$$ handed to me when I passed it over. BUT, this beta picked up on things the others missed ;) .

Maybe I’m unwilling to completely burn the book to the ground and start over, but that doesn’t mean this beta didn’t point out areas that people who LOVE the genre missed. Areas that WILL make a far stronger book. Surrounding ourselves with yes-men doesn’t inspire growth. This is why rhino skin is SO valuable.

We can hand our work to someone we suspect will HATE it. But then we can sift through all the commentary and search for diamonds. If we’re too sensitive, we might miss that ONE comment that takes the book to a whole new level. Okay, this beta reader wanted to shoot 330 pages out of 331 in the face, BUT on Page 287? That’s a great point.

***And I am being hyperbolic. We should seek out those who will give our book the trial of fire, but we don’t have to hand it to people who will destroy our will to ever write again.***

Learn to select what applies and leave the rest on the table. Criticism, opinions and advice are like a giant buffet. We select what to put on our plate, then later we choose what we gobble down or throw away. This is true in writing and in life.

People might believe writers are all starving, broke deadbeats chain-smoking outside of coffee bars when they aren’t writing bad poetry. They have the right to be wrong. People can believe what we do is easy. Hey, it means we are doing our jobs well. Others will criticize, but we choose whether that drives us or distracts us.

And a BONUS FRIDAY FUNNY. Since we were talking about how humans naturally take so many things for granted, I hope you’ll take three minutes to reach out and help a person suffering with FWP:

What are your thoughts? Do you find that public perception that what we do is “easy” infects your attitude? Maybe it makes you insecure or overly self-critical? Have you struggled with critique, found yourself trying to please everyone? Did you make a mess out of your art? Have you learned discernment? Which voices to ignore? Are you brave enough to hand your book to someone you know will hate it in hope you can harvest that one good point? Or do you want to be a world-famous writer….so long as no one knows your real name and what you look like? :D

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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)

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World

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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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Author Beware—What to Look for in an Indie Publisher

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of geishaboy

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of geishaboy

On Wednesday, we talked about all the types of publishing paths and how the new paradigm is becoming increasingly flexible and author-friendly. There is no “right path” only a path that is right for you, which we will talk about in a moment.

To keep up with all the changes in The Digital Age, we created WANACon, which is a virtual conference and as close to the real thing one can get without a holo-deck. No travel, no hotel, from home, and all recordings are included so you can fit a writing conference to your schedule no matter where in the world you happen to live. Also you can listen to anything you miss or might need to revisit. Talk to agents, editors and professionals without ever stepping outside.

Over 20 presentations on craft, social media, platform-building, web design, cover design, and agents…delivered straight to YOU. No matter which publishing path you choose, WANACon has you covered—Traditional, Indie and Self-Publishing. Our Early Bird Special lasts through January 31st. Use the code EarlyBird for $30 off the $149. Sign up here.

Since WANA embraces publishing as a whole, we have USA Today best-selling authors, best-selling Indies and Self-Pubs. As I mentioned, WANACon has even recruited literary agents and editors to present and take pitches. We want the perfect fit for you.

Today, one of our presenters, PDMI Publishing is here to talk about the advantages of Indie Publishing and what to look for before you sign any contract (whether it is with them or another Indie Press).

I know PDMI is committed to writers. They’ve been very good to me and extremely supportive even though I’m not one of their authors and they make no money being kind to me. Even WANACon is almost 100% volunteer. It’s how we can keep the price affordable. Yet, PDMI is sending in an entire team to educate authors.

Take it away, Victoria!

****

Most of us go to work to pay the bills; if we get to enjoy our job, that’s a plus. If we’re passionate about what we do, that’s both unusual and remarkable. But should it be?

Many Indie publishers are guided by the idea that, if we’re going to spend so much of our lives working, why shouldn’t it be a pleasant experience? Passion is paramount. From the owner to the newest trainee editor, a good Indie team loves what they do, and they’re committed to the authors in their care.

Indie houses are in the pioneer stages of development, and this sense of being in at the start of things gives their products a fresh edge and encourages imagination. This is what makes dealing with an independent publisher so special for an author.

The question is, how does an author find the right fit?  What can she hope for? What can she demand? At our press we look at three crucial areas of expertise, and we develop teams for each author based on her goals and the expertise required.

Step #1 Editing

This heart-wrenching but critical piece of any professional publication starts before the manuscript is submitted. First, an author needs to make sure – double sure – that her manuscript is in the best possible shape before it’s submitted. Check each press’s submission requirements and follow them closely. Indies are usually understaffed, so an author can lose a chance at getting an ideal fit simply because he/she failed to follow instructions.

Editing, a conversation between the author and her assigned editor, usually occurs at least twice.  Many times the editor is paid from royalties, so he has a vested interest in the book’s success. The author should find a mentor; a guide–someone that allows that special voice to shine but brings polish and professionalism to the text. The process can take 3-4 months to complete.

No editor will make a good team member if he’s continuously harassed about a manuscript.  On the other hand, the author should get an expected timeline for delivery and start checking if a deadline slips by. Find someone who can help you grow something other than gray hairs. 

Step #2 Artwork

Indies also give an author an opportunity to express her work in illustrations and cover art.  The author needs an illustrator that listens to her voice and happens to care what is actually in the book.  However, it’s also important to listen to the pro when it comes to marketability.  Remember, this is a team.

The Indie staff has a vested interest in the success of the book, so use their expertise. Indies might have several illustrators, and sometimes more than one will work on a book. The author should look for the partnership that makes her feel like part of the process, and not like a commodity.  But listen to the artist – you don’t want your book to get lost in the crowd, and a stan-out cover that pops can be critical for success.

Artwork doesn’t stop at the cover or with a few illustrations. Formatting style can be the difference between looking like the book came off a copy machine at the library or looking like a crafted work, designed by someone with a passion for detail. Not all Indies spend a lot of time here. While searching for a team, consider purchasing a published book from the potential press. Does the work look like it can compete in the commercial market, or does it look like it came off a mimeograph machine?

Step #3 Marketing

The last component that our team focuses on is marketing. Kristen is the ninja when it comes to author strategies for marketing author brands and their work. Yet, an author still needs a publisher that is willing to support all that hard work. Indies have very limited resources for adverting, and they tend to use them judiciously, but there are many things that an author should expect as a bare minimum. Again, in this world, it should be a team or the author needs to keep searching. Not all Indies are equal in this most critical step.

The author should expect help to secure several reviews in different venues. There should be an active program to submit manuscripts for awards.  At our press, the editorial department is responsible for selecting the book and the genre. Our authors can enter in more genres if they choose. We also help with special events, conventions, and signings.

Some Indies require their authors to have a webpage, some build them; still others offer training. In our case, we have a close-knit group that supports each other and shares ideas on how to get the book and the author in the public eye.  Sometimes our clubhouse looks like Romper Room, sometimes the War Room; but we have fun and support each other every step of the way.

Writing is a lonely occupation, but for those who connect with one of the growing number of small independent publishers, it can become a bit like joining a family. There is a true sense of coming home and knowing that for all the employees of the firm, your success will be felt as their success. It’s what they come to work for and what makes dealing with them so rewarding.

Who are we?

We are PDMI Publishing, LLC; a place where team is a way of life, not a cliché.  Our Marketing Team, Peter Wells and Daven Anderson, invite you to join the company at the Birmingham Public Library Authors Expo in Birmingham, AL on February 1, 2014.  The Expo runs from 9:00 AM to 3:00PM.  We’ll be taking Kristen with us!  Well, at least we’ll have her latest book, Rise of the Machines, on hand.  On February 2, some of our authors will be guests at 2nd & Charles in Hoover, AL for a book signing event from 1:00 to 3:00. You can also catch us at WANACon 2014!

Wherever you go, whatever you do with your career, stay true to yourself as your manuscript finds its way to market. Find a partner that helps you mold your thoughts into a professional and marketable piece of work. Here at PDMI, we’re happy to help you discover what path is best for you; this is where we “sculpt personal voices and visions into print.”

***

Thank you so much for your time. As a writer who was once Indie, I can attest these are all areas we must examine thoroughly before making any final decisions. It’s a lot of work writing books and building a platform. A publisher—ANY publisher—should make life easier. No press is perfect, but publishers can strive to always improve and innovate. My experience with Indie was very positive. I know there are many wonderful committed teams out there who love writers and love books.

What are your thoughts? The PDMI Team will be around to answer any questions and I look forward to seeing y’all at WANACon!

I LOVE hearing from you! Comments for guests get double points.

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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85 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

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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124 Comments

In the Age of Lightning Speed, How Can Writers Keep Up?

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

The Digital Age is moving at light speed and there is a new frontier WANA has set out to conquer—the writing conference. First, let me say there is no exact substitute for face-time, for an in-person conference. Yet, just because there isn’t a substitute, doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a supplement.

Publishing is transforming rapidly. Back in 2007, it didn’t matter if we could only make one, maybe two conferences a year. Publishing hadn’t changed all that much in a hundred years. Now?

Don’t…blink.

Facebook rearranges the digital furniture quarterly. Each social platform is constantly adding new features and removing old ones. Don’t get me started with algorithms. How do we use CreateSpace? How do we know what publishing option is best or even how to get started? Some of us don’t learn so well from books. We need face-time with good teachers and professionals who know what they’re doing because they’ve done it.

The Face of the Modern Writer…Times are a Changin’

Who is the modern writer? He looks a lot like the retiree on a fixed income, the mom juggling two jobs, or the Stay-At-Home Dad scrabbling for all the freelance work he can get so he has the joy of being with his children.

In a corporate culture that frowns on taking vacation (and is often stingier than Ebeneezer Scrooge with days off) how realistic is relying on a traditional conference? The economy is suffering and our money no longer goes as far.

Travel is now nothing short of a nightmare.

Arrive an hour and a half early. Get half-undressed. Wait for the TSA to swab snacks for bomb residue, and hope to GOD the plane doesn’t have mechanical issues because, with fewer planes in the air? We might not even make our destination.

Even if a conference is priced reasonably, air travel, parking, food, hotel, and time off work (and possibly babysitting) add up quickly. A $200 conference can become $1000 out-of-pocket quickly (or more).

Many writers have disabilities or health issues. Doesn’t mean they can’t write like the wind, but travel is a beating. I was once stranded in San Diego Airport for 15 hours with nothing to eat—made it home at almost SIX in the morning. Imagine if I was over 65 or in a wheelchair?

DELTA banned me from flying back in 2002 because I “was drunk” and stranded me in Atlanta. I wasn’t drunk, they’d checked the wrong bag, the one with my anti-convulsive medicine and then refused me access to my bag. I wasn’t drunk, I was having complex partial seizures (which slur your speech and affect balance). I’ve been a disabled person flying and it is NO picnic (and I boycotted DELTA for years over this).

I KID you NOT. They are checking my Vienna Sausages for bomb residue.

I KID you NOT. They are checking my Vienna Sausages for bomb residue.

Finding someone to take our kids for three to five days? A challenge even for the best of us. And though the conference is almost always an enjoyable experience, the travel alone can leave us feeling as if we’ve been tossed in a bag of hammers and shaken.

Thus, I started thinking about all the writers who were falling through the cracks, the ones in financial straits, the ones with physical or health limitations, the ones who were older, the writers who couldn’t easily get days off or find reliable childcare. Then what about the emerging markets in the UK, New Zealand, Australia? These countries have writers, but very few conferences. How realistic was it to expect someone to fly to the US from AUSTRALIA? Was it even necessary anymore?

In short? NO.

The Answer? WANACon

WANACon isn’t a glorified blog tour with a chat on Twitter. It isn’t a series of prerecorded classes. WANACon is the closest one can get to the REAL conference experience without leaving home. We had our first WANACon last February and it was AWESOME. I could make dinner and change diapers while listening to NYTBSAs teach me how to better my craft.

We had writers from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada, Arab Emirates, all over the continental US and all in ONE PLACE…making friends and learning :D.

I could ask questions and interact real-time. For anything I missed? Recordings were (are) provided. I could lie in bed eating dinner and enjoy a nice glass of wine while learning about publishing contracts.

In a word? HEAVEN.

We are holding another WANACon October 3-5. The 3rd will be an evening session with me to launch and we affectionately call it PAJAMACON. PAJAMACON is to familiarize you with the virtual classroom (which was designed to home-school children and is super easy) and make sure we can head off any tech issues before the start of the conference.

Then, the next two days? DUAL classrooms packed with the best of the best. NYTBSAs, USA Today Best-Selling Authors, award-winning authors, best-selling INDIE authors, top social media experts, e-book and web site experts, and even AMAZON will be there.  I kidnapped recruited the head of CreateSpace to present. Some are returning speakers with new content and some are brand new presenters.

The coolest thing about all of them? They are freely offering their time to help writers and reinvent the writing conference.

All from home and now BOTH DAYS for $119.00 (Early Bird Special). We will have the official schedule posted this week, because eventually you guys can choose to attend PAJAMACON with BOTH days or PAJAMACON with the day of your choice. Yet, with the special? It’s $20 more and you get PAJAMACON and both days, so why not enjoy a few less Frappucinos and enjoy a REAL conference, the ENTIRE conference, from HOME?

TSA pat-downs can be provided, but they work for tips :D.

Hope to see you guys there, and contest winner for my monthly drawing will be announced Friday.

For those who attended WANACon, share your experience. Are you guys excited about trying something new? A conference that comes to you? For an idea of how WANACon looks/operates, check out this blog from February.

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34 Comments

Authors of the Digital Age–What It Takes to Be a Real Author CEO

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 10.40.31 AM

Were you doing something? I’m bored. Can I help? I’m hungry.

I do a lot of reading of other blogs, particularly blogs that aren’t about writing. I think this keeps my information fresh. As many of you might know, financial blogger Steve Tobak is one of my favorites, and he regularly inspires my writing.

This past week he had a neat post What It Takes to Be a Real CEO, and there were so many of the principles that applied to being a Digital Age Author. We are now Author CEOs, no matter what path we take. So what does it take to be a REAL Author CEO?

Passion for Work

We must have a passion for writing and a willingness to work hard. To be blunt, being a professional writer is a lot of HARD work. Writers are CEO of a company of one, and many times our writing work is on top of a day job, family, children, and other responsibilities. Going pro isn’t all floating around on a unicorn cloud hanging out with the muse.

All professional authors have to read, learn the craft, make work count, finish the books, and be ruthless and relentless in our edits until the work is complete. We have to build a platform, promote, keep up with taxes, accounting, deductions, receipts, spending, write-offs, mailing lists, etc.

This means we need to get up earlier and stay up later than most people, and we will have to sacrifice a lot. This is why we need passion. Passion takes the sting out of sacrifice. While others are whining, we are working.

Relentless Pursuit of the Dream, Even When Others Think You’re Nuts

In the beginning, this is particularly important. No one will take you seriously. Accept it and sally forth. Brush the dust from your feet.

Others want us to fail, because if we succeed, then we are proof success is a choice. Others will resent us because they want to believe they aren’t in control of their futures. They want to keep their victim mentality because it’s safe and absolves them of personal responsibility for their own futures.

Expect push-back.

Courage in the Face of Adversity

The new paradigm is changing and can be just as scary as the old one. Those who choose a traditional path know the odds of finding an agent and landing a publishing deal are not the best. Most writers who query will fail.

When it comes to a non-traditional path, we have to learn so many new things and wear frightening and unfamiliar hats. Again, the odds are better, but competition is staggering, discoverability is a growing nightmare, and the workload is daunting to even the best of us. But, we must have the courage to do what scares us if we want the dream.

Stickwithitness

There will be setbacks, and again, there is a lot of hard work ahead. When writers complain that all they want to do is write, I understand. I wish all I had to do is write books, too. Would be much easier. But that isn’t reality and we have a lot of other non-writing work that needs to be done every single day.

One foot in front of the other day after day. We must hold fast to the idea that days become weeks, weeks become months and months become years. We are what we do. Behaviors become habits, habits become character and character becomes destiny.

Willingness to Do Other Jobs that Aren’t Writing

The competition is steep. If we want to stand apart from the crowd, then we need to be willing to do what others won’t. We can’t have everything. This job involves sacrifice.

I’ve had one date night with my husband in a year and a half. Instead of a night on the town, we play XBox together for an hour each evening because it costs less time (I need) and money (we definitely need). I blog 5 days a week here, once a week for my city and once a week for SocialIn (29 major cities) all different content because I am sowing seeds for success.

I run a full-time family business, I tweet, I FB, I write books, teach, travel, speak, and write fiction as well. I give this job all I have, and it has a price. I work 14 hour days, 6 days a week, and I don’t get a lot of days off. I don’t watch a lot of television. I see a mall three times a year, and only when my shoes wear out so much they are no longer wearable. Don’t ask me about the laundry or my closets and yes, my Christmas tree is STILL up. Apparently after Valentines Day, Christmas Trees transform into Bogan Trees.

***Bogan is a word for “white trash” in Australia *waves to Cole Vassiliou* :D***

Stop standing there like a GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE and get me a BEER!

Stop standing there like a GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE and get me a BEER!

But all of it is worth it because I love my job and am willing to give up the extra stuff to do what I love.

Determinedness to Overcome Never-Ending Obstacles

New level, new devil. It will never get easier, only different. We grow in some areas, cheer 5 minutes then find ourselves tipped head-first again into alien territory. Goes with the job.

Last year, we had someone working for us who was very integral to our family business up and quit with no notice. We nearly lost the business and it cost months of doing double-duty and calling every favor I could to salvage and rebuild. I am better and stronger for it, and though it seriously sucked at the time, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Our job will always have obstacles, often BIGGER obstacles. Get used to it, expect it and train for it. It will toughen you for the next level.

The Ability to Make Smart High-Risk Decisions

As the paradigm shifts we have to be educated to make the best decision for our career. Yes, I am a fan of non-traditional publishing, but it fits what I write. I support all authors, no matter the path. I merely want it to be the path that’s best for YOU. Indies will all think traditional authors are taking a risk going with big publishing. Traditionals will generally feel indies are insane going it alone.

Again, it depends on preparation and the author. Publishing is now no longer a One Size Fits All Snuggie, but no path is a panacea, either. All decisions carry risk and we need to educate ourselves, be honest, and then DECIDE. Choose a path, then give it all you have.

What are your thoughts? Opinions? Experiences? What have you had to sacrifice to live the writing dream? Do you have friends and family who sabotage or give you a hard time? What kind of push-back have you been through? How did you triumph or are you still struggling?

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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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).

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 April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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86 Comments

Let Them Eat Cake—The Slow Death of The Old Paradigm Author

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Portrait of Marie Antoinette via Wikimedia Commons

Three days ago, The New York Times published a rather doomsday on-line article written by Scott Turow (current head of the Authors Guild), titled The Slow Death of the American Author . I must admit this is a great title, guaranteed to scare the pants off the best of us. In fact, I received so many frightened e-mails from writers who wanted me to address this article, that I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer my analysis of Turow’s assertions.

Turow is Absolutely Correct

There is a slow death of the American Author…of the Old Paradigm.

What Turow doesn’t appear to grasp is that technology, particularly communication technology exacts sweeping cultural change that cannot be reversed (short of war or global apocalypse). Most modern humans aren’t going to trade in their flatscreens and XBoxes for a “good old-fashioned story told by the fire.”

“Technological change is neither additive nor subtractive. It is ecological. One significant change generates total change.” (Postman, Technopoly, 18)

To Everything There is a Season…

The bard slowly disappeared with the invention of the printing press. Those who were good storytellers had to learn to write them and publish their stories if they hoped to make a living.

Storytellers who wanted to continue standing on corners reciting epic tales (as had been done for centuries) eventually came to the hard realization they’d been replaced by a paper book that could be read by a cozy fire. No more invitations to wealthy homes to tell tales (for pay).

Rich people were too busy reading novels.

If storytellers wanted to eat and pay the bills, they needed to pick up a pen and put it to paper. They had to change the way they’d always done business if they wanted to succeed survive.

The Death of an Era

The American Author, as Turow understands it, writes books, relies on an agent and publisher, and trusts to earn as many royalties as possible from as many sources as possible. FREE! is anathema and social media is too plebeian…and yes, these types of authors are slowly dying.

What Turow is failing to understand is that the fundamental job expectations of the writer has transformed in the Digital Age. This is one of the largest reasons I encourage authors to engage on social media, to blog and create a platform that regularly interacts with fans (and recruits new ones), and to learn the business of their business.

When we create a community on social media, not only will fans buy books full price but they will also be some of our fiercest watchdogs for piracy. I’ve had many author friends who discovered their pirated work from a fan and, subsequently, were able to take action to have the pirated work removed.

Let Them Eat Cake

But I know authors of the old cloth who rail against technology. I’ve met too many of them. When I mention engaging on social media and talking to regular people, they curl their lips and sneer, “I don’t want to talk to anyone. I just want to write” (actual conversation).

Doesn’t that make you want to hand this person money?

We’re in a tough economy. Money and time are scarce. Yet, there exists this old literary aristocracy who cannot be bothered talking to us lowly proletariat (code for “readers”), because it might “steal time from their art.”

Here’s the thing. If we expect people to support us, give us money and time they don’t have, the very least we can do is talk to them and have a good attitude about it. 

Pirate Insurance

In the Digital Age, the best way to generate sales, decrease piracy, and translate FREE! into a sale is to be active on social media and engage. All this costs is some extra time and genuine friendliness. Yet, I find the authors who howl the most about the evils of FREE! and who are the most concerned about being ripped off are the same ones who grouse about  “having to actually talk to people.”

And if I hadn’t encountered this priggish attitude so many times, I wouldn’t bother mentioning it. Yet, this starchy thinking is not unusual among the Old Paradigm Author. They denounce social media, criticize e-books, and wail about the evils of Amazon.

Yet, strangely these authors never seem to question why the Publishing Monarchy hasn’t parted with more of the spoils. In this new age (where e-books cost so little to produce) why are so many of the traditional authors still the ones who are paid the last and the least?

Viva le Roi Vive le Revolution!

We are in a Revolution. In the Old Paradigm, the reality of life as a writer was nasty, brutish and often unfair. A small few enjoyed the fruits of being real writers. There was the small percentage of those whom the Publishing Monarchy granted titles and access to court (literary contracts), while the regular serfs in the field accepted their lot (“aspiring” writers who gave up and returned to the day job).

A handful of the writing majority worked tirelessly in hopes they, too, might earn invitation to join the upper crust of being “published.” Once the writer gained access, he could scrabble up the ranks list for a chance at earning his writing royalty title #1 New York Times Best Selling Author.

And these types of promotions into Publishing Aristocracy happened with enough regularity to keep the dream alive among the masses and prevent all-out revolution. Additionally, without a real invitation from court (a publishing contract), there was no other way to “make it” as a writer. Self-publishing was mocked as a false coat of arms and regarded with general disdain.

It’s a Contract, Not a Panacea

In the Old Paradigm, a publishing contract had the power to get a writer’s foot in the door, but was hardly a magic bullet for success. Only a very small handful of writers earned enough to quit the day job, and most of the wealth was held by a tiny top tier percentage. There was a weak and struggling author middle class, and the rest of us were literary serfs dreaming that one day we’d live like the author on the hill.

I don’t say this with any judgement. Before the Digital Age, there was only one way to make it. The New World had yet to be discovered…

The Winds of Change

Then with the advent of social media, e-books, and other digital tools, suddenly the entrenched power structure could no longer keep tight control of the industry. We writers no longer had to rely on favor granted by the Publishing Aristocracy, because they no longer held sole keys to the kingdom (publishing and distribution).

The Digital Age has created a robust bourgeoise of writers who are a hybrid of artist and innovative, hard-working entrepreneur. This new bourgeoise embrace FREE! and harness it to power future sales. This new breed of author is as creative in business as she is in her novels, and she works the crowds like she’s our near and dear friend (not pouting like a debutante required to do community service).

As Mike Masnik from Tech Crunch states in his blog Author’s Guild’s Scott Turow: The Supreme Court, E-Books, Libraries and Amazon are All Destroying Authors:

If you’re an author earning nothing at all, then you’ve got bigger problems than technology. It probably means you’re mired in obscurity and no one knows who the hell you are.

On top of that, it means you’ve done nothing at all to connect with your fans. Because we’ve seen authors who actively encourage the piracy of their books, but who also work to connect with their fans, and have seen their sales go way up, because those fans want to support the authors.

The new Digital Age Author understands that blogging and tweeting are hard, but they also appreciate that these are the very activities that the amatuer is too lazy to do and what the old aristocracy is too good to do.

The Author of the Digital Age refuses to accept the 93% failure rate of the “good old days” and he boards the rickety boats and sets sail for the New World, knowing that while it is full of danger, blistering work, and uncertainty, there is also vast treasure to be discovered.

The Age of the Author

People are reading more now than ever in human history. They are craving and consuming information at unprecedented rates, and it is an amazing time to be a writer. But the old business model is crumbling. As mentioned in Nathan Bransford’s blog, In the Future, Will Everyone Be a Publisher?, big publishing is atomizing.

The power structure is caving. The parties are no longer as lavish, and the court doesn’t dress nearly as nicely as they did in the publishing heyday. BUT, for the first time,  authors (especially fiction authors) are making a really good living doing what they love—WRITING.

While Turow wails that authors are dying, he seems to be forgetting about Barry Eisler who famously turned down a half million dollar deal with his publisher to go on his own. Turow is also apparently unaware of the many successful self-published authors who’ve translated successful e-book sales into favorable print deals with traditional houses. He looks all too unaware of the astonishing success of publishers who’ve passed up the old business model and innovated to keep pace with a new culture.

An Age of Freedom

These days authors no longer have to accept whatever deal NY offers. If the author doesn’t like the terms, she can partner with the emerging digitally savvy publishers who “act more like partners than gatekeepers” (Masnik).

The Bottom Line

It all boils down to this. The world has changed. There is a new paradigm and it’s birthing a very new type of reader who has very different expectations. This, in turn, has altered our job requirements if we hope to be successful.

Yes, it is more work, but the odds of success are far higher. The Old World had 172,000 books published in a year and 160,000 of those sold less than 1,000 copies (per Book Expo of America stats 2006—pre-e-book explosion and social media saturation).

Welcome to the New World of Publishing

The New World, however, is ripe ground for the author-entrepreneur. Fiction authors are now making enough to write full time. Many are making six and seven figures, a pay grade once relegated to only a handful of the upper crust.

BUT, there is a cost.

In this New World there are few existing structures and many of the rules have yet to be written. We are setting foot on wild shores with no blacksmith or stables. No established farms or existing housing. We are responsible for building it. 

The authors of the old model can learn from the passionate and generous indie entrepreneurs. Publishing houses can innovate. IT IS A GREAT TIME TO BE IN PUBLISHING. Yes, we all have new roles and more work, but the good news is…WE ARE NOT ALONE.

To end with a little laugh, some Mel Brooks…

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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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).

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 April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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161 Comments

Successful Author Presence—Do You Have It?

Image via Flikr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller

Image via Flikr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller

I read a lot of blogs, namely because I believe the best writers are 1) perpetual students, and 2) are stronger when they read a lot, particularly in other areas that might not be their genre or even directly related to writing.

One of my favorite bloggers (as some of you may already know) is successful CEO and leader in Silicon Valley, Steve Tobak. He had a really interesting post this week called Leadership Presence–Do You Have It?, which inspired me to write today’s post.

Successful Author Presence—Do You Have It?

All of us (writers) balance this fine line of complete narcissism, and profound insecurity/self-loathing. We have to believe that our ideas, opinions, stories are something others want to pay money to read in order to be successful. Yet, we are constantly plagued with self-doubt. Chronic doubt is possibly a built-in mechanism to bring balance to The Force.

Just my POV.

The Narcissist

If a writer is too full of what he believes he knows, he won’t grow and eventually will stall and burn out. That or his hubris eventually will just drive others away. This type of writer can’t forge strong relationships because everything is a competition. Eventually others just say, Okay, sure. You’re better than us. Bye.

In the current paradigm, we need a team more than ever. Also, likability didn’t matter fifteen years ago, yet now? Likability is getting to be a bigger and bigger deal. Readers will eventually just gravitate to writers who know how to tweet without putting others down.

The Emotional Vampire

On the other side, a writer who needs constant props and ego-stroking eventually wears out those around her. She can’t grow and mature either because she’s in the business for the wrong reasons. We writers should be here to teach/inform (NF) or entertain (NF/fiction), not to use our audience as emotional hostages.

The Author With “The Right Stuff”

Yet, there are those writers who have a “presence.” It’s a tough thing to explain. But, I think Steve’s list might help me try:

They’re Not Born with It

Talent is highly overrated. Character matters in this business. It’s why I dedicate so much time to talking about the writer as a human being. Without self-discipline, drive, humility and a certain work ethic, a writer won’t make it long-term.

The writer with successful author presence generally comes from a background that’s already fired out a lot of character impurities. Whether it’s a tough childhood, bad marriage, law school, or time as a police officer, this writer has a different je ne sais quoi that stands out.

Being Right A Lot

This writer is open to listening to a lot of people and processing a lot of information quickly. Rather than taking shortcuts, this writer knows where to funnel energy. If she makes a mistake, she readjusts and doesn’t waste time moaning over making a poor choice. She throws herself into the work knowing that, if we make enough wrong decisions, we grow enough to start making a lot of RIGHT decisions.

Hey, I’ve done literally EVERYTHING wrong. But I’m still here ;).

Knowing Your Stuff Cold

There are a lot of ways to train to be a good author, but great authors must read. The authors with presence study everything. Either they inhale craft books or they devour fiction. They watch movies and series, then break stories down to see what’s working, what isn’t and how to duplicate the magic.

Every time I meet a writer who says, “Well I want to be a best-selling author, but I don’t like to read.”

Yeah. Next.

The author with presence understands the basics of his craft and practices to perfection. As Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Confidence

Confidence is often birthed from hard work. One of the reasons I am a HUGE fan of writers blogging is it helps to build confidence. Confidence isn’t BS bravado, rather it’s a mindset that any problem can be solved if broken down into enough pieces.

When I used to run critique groups, I had too many writers who just wanted ego stroking, to be told every word/sentence/idea was a rainbow nugget of gold. If I tried to point out the problems, these types of writers would fly into a hissy-fit-rage.

Yeah, that would be NO confidence.

On the other hand, I’ve also been blessed enough to work with writers like Piper Bayard, who had enough confidence in themselves to take the criticism and then ask the tough questions. “How do I make it better?” “What do you need to me do/read?”

Writers like this have enough confidence to not be derailed every time they get feedback that doesn’t tell them they’re a unicorn-kitten-hug.

Piper now has a multi-book deal with a traditional publisher, btw :).

Thinking a Few Steps Ahead

Writers with presence regard writing as a career. They think strategically and long-term. These writers (even before they finish their first books) aren’t viewing publishing like a literary scratch-off ticket. They’re already planning the next book, the series, the next series, and which publisher(s)/publishing options might be the best fit, etc.

Too many writers have desperation coming off them in waves. Why? They have ONE book and market it TO DEATH. They aren’t playing Career Chess; they’re playing Publishing Tiddly Winks.

Adversity

Frequently, these writers are survivors. There is a reason we see a lot of lawyers, doctors and former military people become best-selling authors. These writers embrace pain and harness it for advantage.

Believing You’re Special

As we talked about in this week’s Boxing Series, there is a lot of resistance in this profession. The world will never be short of people who will call you a talentless hack/poseur/fake/amateur/nut.

It’s The Resistance.

The Resistance is made up of two types of people. Those too chicken $#!& to follow their own dreams, or those so full of themselves they can’t bear to share the spotlight. Both types of people build themselves up by putting others down.

Expect it.

The writer with presence holds fast to the internal knowledge she or he IS SPECIAL. She tunes out the haters and presses on. No matter the push-back, this writer has a calling and this calling is intimately tethered to the internal belief that she has something the world wants to read/hear/learn.

Just like no one is born with talent, none of us are born a “Writer with Presence,” but we can learn to be that writer. Just set down the ego, roll up the sleeves and WORK HARD.

What are your thoughts or opinions? What would you add to the list? What are your experiences? Have you dealt with the narcissists or even the emotional vampires? The jealous, the immature? Have you been that person and had an A-HA! moment?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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).

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 March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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101 Comments

Enemies of The Art Part 9–Not Failing Enough

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The Wright Brothers. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

You want to know my favorite part about the new publishing paradigm? It allows us to fail. I know you might think I’m crazy, but failure is the most vital ingredient to success. When I was researching for my new book, I studied the Wright Brothers and this is a story I feel every writer needs to hear.

The Wright brothers were not engineers and held no fancy degrees. They actually got their start in the bicycle business. At the turn of the century, bicycles were all the rage, but a lot of the designs were flat out dangerous. The bikes were difficult for the rider to control and accidents were frequently fatal.

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“Ordinary” Bicycle from late 1800s. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Wright brothers were determined to build a bicycle that was safer and easier to maneuver and maintain control, and after many attempts, they were successful. In fact, the bicycle design used today? We can thank the Wright brothers for that.

At the time, there was another race going on. Man wanted to take flight. Most people believed that the fancy Ivy League engineers would be the first in flight. These scientists were educated and had state-of-the-art equipment and laboratories. They also had loads of cash from government and private funding.

The problem, however, was two-fold. First, the “smart” folks of the day envisioned navigating the medium of air to be the same as navigating water. They designed machines that were sturdy, stable and bulky (patterned off ships). The problem was that all of these designs never could get off the ground, so it was impossible to gather data to make necessary changes.

The Wright brothers were inspired with the idea of creating a machine that could fly, but it was their experience making bicycles that offered them a very different perspective. When it came to bicycles, they’d learned that focusing on a sturdy build ended in crashes. Instead, they sought to design in ways that allowed the rider to rapidly use shifts in body weight and balance to maintain control. They believed that airplanes needed to be the same.

The problem? They needed a way to test the theory.

The brothers decided to risk it all and take their operation to Kittyhawk, North Carolina because of the large areas of sand dunes. They believed, contrary to “expert” opinion, that a “flying machine” needed to be light so that it could actually get into the air. They knew they were in for a lot of crashes, but they also understood those crashes were vital to success.

Every time they launched a new prototype, they could gather important information as to why the airplane failed to remain in the air. Eventually, their design won out and that’s why they’re credited with inventing the airplane.

Their theories had been correct.

Lighter construction was better and emphasis on pilot control and maneuverability was paramount. No one believed these underdogs would win the race to control the air, but no one counted on their tenacity, their ability to ignore the “experts” and their positive relationship with failure.

We can learn a lot from them. In the old paradigm, writers wrote and failed in private. Since we were lucky to have one book out a year, we didn’t have a lot of opportunities to launch our prototypes and see what worked. We had to rely on “experts” to determine what readers wanted. Still do.

The new paradigm has a lot in common with the medium of air. There are unseen updrafts, weather changes, and the wind shifts direction constantly. Indie authors, in many respects, have similar advantages to the Wright brothers. We can change, adapt and try new things. Is a cover working? No. Change it. Is the book too long? Try cutting it into smaller books and see what happens.

We can write more books and if the first one fails, we can read the reviews and know exactly what to change. We can write more books and better books until we eventually take flight.

Traditional authors don’t have an insider’s view of the market. They see the sales reports only a couple times a year and have no control over any changes. If people don’t like the formatting or there are errors in the text, the book can’t be changed. The cover is all but set in stone.

And this isn’t to bash traditional publishing. Rather, it is to show you guys that failure is necessary. Many writers who go traditional are no longer in a situation of sink or swim. If it works out?

Great!

But if it doesn’t, you can take to the sand dunes of Amazon and see what works and what flops. If you are persistent, committed and open to learning, then the only reason for complete failure is giving up.

We now have a way of launching our prototypes (books) into the market, maneuvering (maybe going with KDP select for a time), and changing (swapping book covers or pulling a book for major rewrite).

This is one of the reasons I am such a fan of writers blogging. It allows us to get our voice out there and see what connects. What falls flat? When I first started blogging, I was insecure. I took a lot of advice from the “experts.” Thus my writing was more rigid, academic and less emotionally accessible.

Then I embraced my ability to write humor. People started subscribing with greater frequency, but I’d gotten so fascinated with my own comedic schtick, that people frequently didn’t catch when I was just joking.

I once wrote a post making fun of Facebook. Feeling pressure from the new Google +, Facebook had decided to New and Improve and added feeds in the sidebar to look like Twitter. They also allowed people the option to “subscribe” (again, knocking off Twitter’s “follow”). I jokingly named this move Twit+. I fielded e-mails for weeks from writers in a panic because they didn’t know how to use Twit+.

Note to Self: Reign in the stand-up comedy.

The lesson in all of this? I failed. A lot. I could try new things. What happened if I posted once a week? Three times? Five times? What length was best? What tone? By trying and failing, I was able to adjust and change.

Too many writers want a thousand hits a day in the first month of blogging. They want the first book to be a mega-best-seller, and to do this, they beat us all half to death with marketing.

STOP!

If you aren’t to the level of success you want, go do some more failing. It’s good for you :D.

What are your thoughts? Are you warming up to the idea of failing? Are you excited or terrified of the new paradigm? Why?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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).

PajamaCon Winners were announced via e-mail, so no need to do it here.

February’s Winner for My Blog Contest is: Yolanda Renee. Please send your 5000 word Word document to kristen at wana intl dot com. Or your query (one page) or synopsis) max 5 pages (1000 words).

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 March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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65 Comments

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