Posts Tagged Rise of Machines Kristen Lamb

Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors

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

When I began writing I was SO SURE agents would be fighting over my manuscript. Yeah. But after almost thirteen years in the industry, a lot of bloody noses, and even more lessons in humility, I hope that these tips will help you. Self-publishing is AWESOME, and it’s a better fit for certain personalities and even content (um, social media?), but we must be educated before we publish.

Mistake #1 Publishing Before We Are Ready

The problem with the ease of self-publishing is that it is, well, too easy. When we are new, frankly, most of us are too dumb to know what we don’t know. Just because we made As in English, does not automatically qualify us to write a work spanning 60,000-100,000 words. I cannot count how many writers I’ve met who refuse to read fiction, refuse to read craft books, and who only go to pitch agents when they attend conferences at the expense of attending the craft sessions.

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

I see a lot of new writers who believe their story is the exception, that the rules make for “formulaic” writing. No, rules are there for a reason, and, if the writing is too formulaic, it has more to do with execution than the rules.

Three-act structure has been around since Aristotle, and there is a lot of evidence in neuroscience that suggests that three-act structure is actually hard-wired into the human brain. Thus, when we deviate too far from three-act structure, it confuses and frustrates readers. Stories have clear beginnings, middles and ends. Without a clear story objective, it is impossible to generate dramatic tension, and what is left over is drama’s inbred cousin, melodrama. Yet, many writers start off writing a book without properly understanding the basic skeleton of story.

Writing fiction is therapeutic, but it isn’t therapy. Yes, characters should struggle with inner demons, but that does not a plot make. Struggling with weakness, inner demons, insecurity, addictions are all character arc, not plot arc. There should be a core story problem that we can articulate in ONE sentence. The plot arc should serve to drive the character arc. If the character does not grow and change she will fail, but it is the core story problem that drives this change. Without the problem, there is no crucible.

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

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

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

OUCH.

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

Mistake #2 Jumping in Before Understanding the Business Side to the Business

I see a lot of writers rushing into self-publishing without properly preparing to be a small business, yet that is exactly what we are. When we self-publish, we take on new roles and we need to understand them. We need to be willing to fork out money for proper editing, cover design and formatting.

One of the benefits to traditional publishing is they take on all the risk and do the editing, proofing, etc. When we go it alone, we need to prepare for some expenses and do our research. We can be told a million times to not judge a book by its cover, yet that is exactly what readers do. Additionally, we may need to look into becoming an LLC. We need to set up proper accounting procedures and withhold the correct amount of taxes, unemployment, state taxes and on and on.

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

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

Self-publishing is A LOT of work, especially if we are starting out this way. I know Bob Mayer and Joe Konrath lecture writers to do less social media and more writing. To an extent I agree, but here is the thing. These guys were branded traditional authors who could slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of their names when they decided to go it alone. If you can’t slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of your name, prepare for a ton of work.

Not only do we need to write good books, but we need to write prolifically. We also need to work our tails off on social media. If you study the successes of the Amanda Hockings and the H.P. Mallorys, they worked like dogs. They wrote a lot of books and also created momentum with social media and newsletters.

When we self-publish, we need a much larger platform because we don’t have New York in our corner. This is one of the reasons self-publishing isn’t for everyone. We need to look at how badly we want the dream, and then ask how many hours are we willing to work? What are we willing to sacrifice?

Mistake #4 Misusing FREE!

There are a lot of problems with giving books away for FREE! We shouldn’t be giving away our work unless it serves some kind of a strategic advantage. There are ways to effectively harness the power of FREE! but too few writers understand how to do this and they just end up giving away their art for no tangible gain. This goes with my above point of us needing to understand the business side of our business. When we do choose to give away stuff for FREE! it needs to serve longer-term business goals.

Mistake #5 Shopping One Book to DEATH

When Joe Konrath and Bob Mayer chastise writers to get off social media and get back to writing more books, they are giving fantastic advice. One of the BIGGEST problems I see with self-published writers is that they publish one book and then they focus every bit of energy on selling THAT book.

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

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

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

This is why it is critical to keep writing. Not only will writing more books make you a better writer, but once people discover they love your writing, they have a number of titles to purchase. Being able to offer multiple titles is how we make money at self-publishing. It also helps us maximize the whole FREE! tactic. Even I am putting my nose to the grindstone to come out with more books in the next six months. I don’t tell you guys to do anything that, I myself, am unwilling to do.

Remember Why We Do This

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

A little humor from the fabulous David Kazzle

http://youtu.be/c9fc-crEFDw

My own story…

http://youtu.be/OnAbPbuFohw

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

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of 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 Worldand get prepared for 2014!!!!

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366 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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