Posts Tagged traditional publishing

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!

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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?

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

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

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

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

Announcements:

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

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

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

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97 Comments

Three Tips for Finding the Perfect Publishing Path

Publishing can feel a little like THIS...

Publishing can feel a little like THIS…

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

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

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

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

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

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

HA! Mommy-Bot!

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

#1 There is NO Until Death Do Us Part

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2 Ignore Peer Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

#3 Be A Realistic Dreamer

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

Image with Twig the Fairy

Image with Twig the Fairy

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

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

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

Self-Discipline + Teachability + Tenacity + Talent= Success

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

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

Agendas will affect the dream.

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

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

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

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

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67 Comments

When it Comes to Success, Is It Hard Work or Luck?

My Cousin Cara and me...

My Cousin Cara and me…

I have ABSOLUTELY THE BEST FAMILY ON THE PLANET. Last night, I saw my Cousin Cara for the first time in eleven years. Though we spent most of our early childhood together, we’ve not been in the same orbit in over twenty-five years. Cara lives in Germany, and is here in Texas for a working visit.

What I found funny is how much we were alike (even our voices sound alike, which was a tad spooky). Our personalities are very similar, though Cara continued the sales/business trajectory while I followed my passion for writing. Why I mention this is that we both share a passion for debate, and Cara and I had a (fun) heated discussion last night about luck, talent and hard work.

I, of course, believe in hard work and mastery, but Cara pointed out that it was useless without luck. That a lot of lazy, undeserving and even untalented people enjoy huge success while other, more deserving can die in obscurity.

Now you see why we had a hell of a debate. There was no simple answer.

The Thing About Luck

Luck is useless if you can’t use it. Back in 1993 I made friends with a guy who wanted me to partner in his business, but I had to raise equal capital. Unskilled at how to do this and lacking any savings (was living hand-to-mouth throwing newspapers) I was unable to invest even though I knew he had something.

This man invented the pre-paid phone card. I think he has his own island now.

Kristen as Inventor

I’ve always had the mind of an inventor. When I was 8, I invented a machine that could paint fingernails. I was tired of my right hand looking like it had been attacked by a ferret wielding a nail polish brush.

I wanted a solution, so I designed The Finger Fixer and gave the schematics to one of the craftsmen in my parent’s wood-shop. And it worked. The machine could steady your non-dominant hand to be able to paint evenly and smoothly. Why did this not take off?

I was too distracted by my next business idea.

I started a “green” cleaning business fifteen years before it was “cool” to be environmentally friendly. Why did it fail? Again, I lacked the skills, capital and focus to stay the course.

February of 2000, I envisioned a business hand-painting wine-glasses and martini glasses and selling them to boutiques. I even had learned a bit by this point and put together a business plan. No one would back me because I lacked experience.

Every time I see these I want to CRY.

Every time I see these I want to CRY.

*head desk*

*head desk*

I’ve lost count of my inventions I didn’t know how to patent, that later were a huge deal. Business ideas I couldn’t bring to fruition due to lack of skill, lack of money, time whatever.

It was LUCK that I met the man who invented the pre-paid phone card, but I couldn’t take advantage of that luck. Thus, luck was worthless. On the other hand, with those other ideas like the cute glasses? I seriously could have used a little luck. I had some money, had a good plan, a lot of hard work…just didn’t have the fortune to connect with who I needed to take the idea to the next level.

Fortune Favors the Prepared

When it comes to writing and social media, I’ve had a bit of both. Being someone who can spot trends, I knew in 2003 that social media would be a game-changer for authors. I tinkered with how to build an author platform back when Gather was alive.

Then, in 2007, I spotted something else. I’d been to a couple writing conferences, and I already knew we were going to have a major paradigm shift. What I noticed and what seriously bothered me was that authors weren’t being taught the business of their business. 

The Big Six were tracking the same exact trajectory as Tower Records and Kodak, but authors were not being prepared for a world where they would have to become a brand before the book or they’d be invisible.

Every conference was loaded with craft classes and how to get a big NY agent so we writers would never have to worry our pretty little heads about any of that “business stuff.” Craft and agents were great, but writers were about to be dumped head-first into a Brave New World with no skills and no preparation.

This Time I Stayed the Course

When I approached agents about Facebook, I was told it was a fad. When I said it was possible for a novelist to become a brand before the first book, I was called a nut (and other very not-nice things).

But this time, I didn’t let up. Because of passion, I kept pressing. I also was fortunate Bob Mayer believed me and in me (that “luck” thing).

I looked at what I could do and I did it. Day after day. I could blog. I could read books and research so I could articulate my theories in a way that would make others see what I saw. I could do the writing. I could network. I could try then fail and fail some more and LEARN. I was back being a crazy inventor in my lab, only my lab was social media, and other writers were my guinea pigs….um, friends :D.

I did a LOT of the experimenting on myself, too. Note the warriorwriters in my URL. I did all the dumb stuff, so you don’t have to.

The World is NOT FLAT

My new book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is the culmination of the past six years of tinkering, several thousand pages of research, and a lot of making stuff go BOOM. It is proof that what I said in 2007 is real and can be done.

An author can become a force before the book is even finished.

VINDICATION!

Why I Don’t Like Luck

Luck is a fickle friend. Also, I can’t teach you how to be lucky. I can teach you how to improve your odds that favor will shine your way, but other than that?

I had NO GOOD ANSWER for Cara.

Why?

Because my cousin likes watching me twitch.

Cara: What about “50 Shades of Grey?”

Me: *head desk*

Cara actually had some great points. She said there are people who work their tails off their entire lives and get nowhere. Others pop out one book and SHAZAM!!!! Success! A lot of untalented people who have done very little work are rewarded.

She was right. The man who invented air-conditioning died penniless because he didn’t have the LUCK to run across an investor who saw what he had. The man who created Superman handed away his idea for pennies, because he didn’t have the luck to meet a person who wouldn’t take advantage of him.

Cara *grumbles* was correct.

Luck IS Super Important for Success

Of course the only thing I had to say to Cara was, Bite me. Even if we look to….*sigh*….50 Shades of Grey? E.L. James still had to write the book. She had to put in work. The world has no use for a perfect half-finished book.

I know a lot of success is being in the right place at the right time in the right conditions. Hey, I want some luck too! Would LOVE some luck. Can I order some on eBay? In the meantime? Work keeps my mind off how much we DO need LUCK :D.

Cara’s motto: You don’t get what you work for, you get what you negotiate.

My motto: The harder I work, the luckier I get.

I see there is truth in both.

So what do you think? Is success about hard work or luck? Both? Which is more important? Do you have similar stories of hard work with no luck and luck with no way to use it?

I love hearing from you!

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

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

June’s WINNER!!! Patti Hawthorne. Please send 5000 word Word document to kristen at wana intl dot com. Or    a synopsis (no more than 1250 words) or query letter. Your choice.

BOOK WINNER: Rhett Bigler (I promised a copy of the e-book for one lucky commenter the day I first blogged about my new book to refresh y’all’s memories. Yes “y’all’s” is correct grammar in Texas).

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

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101 Comments

Celebrating Writer Independence & I Got to Be a Cyborg

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

This week Americans are celebrating Independence Day. What better time to release my new book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, right? Since, I’m a writer, I excel at self-delusion, so I can just pretend all those fireworks going off all week are for ME :D.

Aww, how THOUGHTFUL! You shouldn’t have. *clutches chest*

On Friday, we talked about The Democratization of Publishing and how brave colonists writers are forging it on their own without Mother England Publishing. And, right now? I’m sure there are some hurt feelings on the part of Mother Publishing. She’s cared for writers for over a century and now a handful of us rabble-rousers want to do our own thing and try new technologies on our own.

Thing is? Just like America and England eventually made up and became BFFs again, Mother Publishing will coexist with indies just fine (provided she reinvents in time, which I really hope she does). My loyalty is to writers, and, no matter which path you take—traditional or non-traditional—discoverability is a nightmare.

All writers who want to actually make money need a platform. Writers also need the publishing path that is best for their works and their personalities. I am just as supportive of NYC as self-publishing (though I have frustrations with both).

For me? I write social media books. My publishing path was chosen for me. With a lead-time of a YEAR in NYC? My new book wouldn’t have been out until it was obsolete. For the rest of you. Vive la Revolution! Now you have options. It is no longer a One-Size-Fits-All World.

Good News for NY Traditional Publishing

Indie publishing is a wonderful way for a new writer to build an audience and and learn the business side of the business. This is great for NY publishing in many ways. First, it helps mitigate Mother Publishing’s risk. Writers finally can build an audience before big money is invested getting that author into bookstores. Secondly, indie publishing trains up professionals. Mother Publishing can be more publisher than Mommy. Indies are also trying out a lot of new ideas and technologies and NY can wait and see what works. Why reinvent the wheel?

Good News for Writers

For a long time, it was a One-Size-Fits-All-World, and we saw the darn-near-extinction of certain types of writing. I recall an agent declaring, “Don’t send me a query for a poetry book. No one reads poetry.” And I thought, Um, I do. I read a lot of poetry but nothing modern. Why?

Hard to read it if no one publishes it.

We Can Be Creative with Books AND Business

Creative people are really great at…being creative. Shocking, right?

Independence from the paper paradigm has birthed a resurgence in short stories, serials, novellas, books of poetry, etc. We’ve seen new genres blossom when, in the old paradigm? They might have died (poetry) or never been born (Baby Boomer Romance). Many writers bring just as much creativity into business as they have in their writing. Daily I am astonished by the brilliance around me.

Why didn’t I think of THAT?

When I went to The Killion Group’s presentations in Crested Butte? I was…blown…away. They do covers for all types of authors (even traditional) and some of the marketing ideas? Genius. One thing they are doing is putting the first two chapters of the audio book in a QR code on the bookmark. Give a bookmark and a potential reader and listen to the first two chapters for free.

Yes, this falls under the category of Stuff I Wish I’d Thought Of.

When Jason Chatraw of Green E-Books formatted my new book? He added in relevant hyperlinks. When I talk about #MyWANA in the book? Those on a tablet can just click and join right there and see what I am talking about.

This is yet another way indie publishing is actually helping NY. Not only is the new paradigm vetting authors and weeding out the uncommitted or unprofessional, but creative people are actually coming up with a lot of cool new ideas that can benefit traditional publishing (provided they’re open to listening).

Writers are No Longer Strangled By Genre

I know that sometimes it can be frustrating being part of a world that changes by the minute. In this fast-paced society, we can easily get overwhelmed. Yet, at the same time, since writers are now plugged into a social media community, we can interact regularly with fans. Not only does this help sell books, but it also means we can write other STUFF. 

In the olden days, if a writer changed genres, she needed a pen name so as not to confuse readers. Now? Unless you are writing two types of genres that conflict? (I.e. Children’s books and Erotica) you only need ONE NAME. The same platform that is supporting your Regency Romance can support your Mystery-Thriller.

This means we can be even more creative because how many thrillers can a writer write before losing the thrill? We complain that Such-And-Such’s books just aren’t as good as her first ones. Um? NO DUH. Talk about pressure!

“Write forty books. Oh and each one needs to be BETTER than the last one and about the same stuff.”

*Falls over and DIES*

Independence is Scary

Yes, it is terrifying going out on your own, but rewarding as well. I know I could very well fail, but I get to at least try *shrugs*. I hated the boring prototypical NF covers. My demographic is WRITERS and we are worse than bass fish. OOH SHINY! I wanted a cover that appealed to creative people and that stood out to the point that it almost looks misplaced. It’s a gamble, but in the end?

I GOT TO BE A CYBORG…and that’s all that counts anyway :D.

What do you like about the new paradigm? What scares you? Have you taken on roles you never thought you could do? Have you grown in ways you never thought you could?

I love hearing from you!

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

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

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

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

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49 Comments

The Democratization of Publishing—Independence is Scary

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of geishaboy

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of geishaboy 500

I’m looking over the final formatting for my new book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. The goal is to release it on July 4th for a number of reasons. My first book was called We Are Not Alone and then we have the whole Rise of the Machines thing goin’ on with the new book. What better day to release than Independence Day? Okay, May the Fourth might have been cooler, but the book wasn’t finished with editing at that point.

Yes, I am a sci-fi nerd :D.

Publishing has Been Democratized

Before the e-book/indie revolution, we writers relied on New York solely to grant us a career or not. We needed favor from the King traditional press to move forward. There was no other way unless we were willing to hand ten or twenty thousand dollars to a vanity press and hope we could duplicate The Grisham Effect.

Grisham Effect—Self-publish and sell books out of the back of our cars and hope to get NY’s attention. But note, this wasn’t true independence. It was investing a lot of money and time in hopes of gaining favor with NYC.

For well over a century, NY held total control over print, production, and distribution. Additionally, writers were at the mercy of the publishers’ sales forces. The sales force would look back at what had been selling in order to get an idea of what would sell in the future. 

Yeah, well we know this is an awesome post-apocalyptic book, but there are already too many on the market. NOPE.

Due to the business structure of legacy press, it was far harder to convince them to take risks (still is). They have overhead, pricey Manhattan rents, and employees to pay. Shareholders have expectations, too.

Not personal, just business. Still works that way.

Living with Mom and Dad

Going traditional reminds me a lot of living at home. It does have a lot of advantages. I lived with my grandparents during my teen years and the fridge was always full. I didn’t have to sit and pay bills or get a job and pray I made enough tip money to keep the lights on. Of course this security came with limited freedom.

I had a curfew. There were restrictions on how I could dress, where I could go, who I could hang out with, and how I spent my  limited “spending money.” But, it was safe, predictable, and did I mention safe?

Take Care of Me

When I landed a premium agent, I thought, “Score! NY will LOVE this book. Surely I won’t have to do the heavy lifting.” Then my proposal sat…and sat…and sat some more. I didn’t want to leave the traditional nest, but I wasn’t being granted access to the traditional world either.

I was in Limbo, and had to make a choice. Stay in the nest or fly.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Tim Simpson.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Tim Simpson.

Moving Out

Going alone is terrifying. When I finally made the decision to move out of my grandparents’ home, life became much scarier and utterly unpredictable. I had to do a lot of stuff to survive that I would never had to do had I stayed in the nest. I wouldn’t have had to throw newspapers all night long just to crawl into my 8:00 a.m. Political Science class.

Had I stayed at home, I wouldn’t have had to sleep on a mattress on the floor (left there by previous owners of the duplex I rented). I wouldn’t have had to shop at Goodwill for my clothes or hover around Dumpsters like a turkey buzzard looking for useful things people threw away.

***Note: NEVER take home anything made of CLOTH. The bugs will carry you away. Yes, learned this the hard way by taking home the Sofa of DOOM.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Lord Jim

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Lord Jim

Ah, but there was no going back, and failure had a far steeper price.

Leaving the Traditional Nest

Like many of you, I finally had to make a decision and move out. I wanted an agent and editor to be there for me, to do all that “business stuff.” After two years?

I was finally willing to give up security for freedom.

I didn’t want to have to wear all hats and be all things. Ah, but what we want and what we get in life are two different things. Not only did I have to leave the traditional nest, I had to leave the indie publisher nest.

I left because I wanted to try self-publishing, and I also knew I wouldn’t get the creative control I wanted, thus couldn’t fully spread my wings and crash to the ground and die try new ideas.

Image via WANA Commons, courtesy of Melissa Bowersock

Image via WANA Commons, courtesy of Melissa Bowersock

Author Independence

Here in America, we will be celebrating Independence Day. Americans believed they could create something different, something better. Meanwhile England was all like, “A government of the people, by the people and for the people? Are you HIGH? We protect you from wild Indians and send you supplies. We keep order.”

Writers are now facing the same shift.

Despite the scary wilderness ahead and the idea writers would 1) have to do a lot of stuff ourselves and 2) have no long-established body of support (Mother England Publishing) and 3) try things never done before in human history? We’re doing it.

The Indie movement is creating a paradigm that’s “Of the reader, for the reader and by the reader.” If we succeed, it’s because we did something right. We earned attention and loyalty from readers. Granted, the scary part is that we can just as easily get skewered by readers.

It’s the risk we take.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Peter Dutton

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Peter Dutton

Yet, by breaking free, we have a chance to explore and test new ideas and combine or even create new genres. We can fail, learn from that failure and try again. We are part of a creative revolution and, like any revolution, not all of it’s pretty. But, some of it, in the end, is GLORIOUS.

So to all authors brave enough to go indie press or even go it alone? Hats off to you. And even those authors who are publishing traditionally? You are part of the revolution as well: social media, blogging and even hybridizing (self-publishing in between books to keep fans excited). It is a great time to be a writer, so Happy Independence to all of you.

Vive la Revolution!

For the indies out there, have you enjoyed your freedom? What’s been scary? Have you failed but learned a vital lesson? What are your concerns? Advice? Suggestions? Did you ever take home a Sofa of Doom? What crazy stuff did you have to do when you were first on your own?

Now get back to writing :D.

I love hearing from you!

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

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World will be out (God-willing) July 4th. I will let y’all know when it’s ready for sale and I am updating/rewriting the other two ;) .

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

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67 Comments

Steve Jobs and 5 Tips for Being a Successful Author

Image via segagman Flikr Creative Commons

Image via segagman Flikr Creative Commons

Yesterday, one of our WANA International instructors, Amy Shojai, wrote about the importance of reinvention, and I strongly recommend her class this Saturday (which is recorded if you can’t make the time). Use code: OWFI for $25 off. As authors, we are in a new paradigm that changes faster than we can keep up with it, thus Apple seemed to be a natural segue into the topic of reinvention and excellence.

Yes, Steve Jobs was known as a lot of things, including a tyrant and egomaniac. Yet, no matter how we feel about the man, Jobs remains the poster child for reinvention, and I found some quotes that make great lessons for all of us writers.

Granted, I was inspired by another blog. Last month, I ran across a fantastic post by Tiffany Reisz Wisdom for Writers from Steve Jobs which I strongly recommend you read as well.

Tip #1—Dare to Be Different

One of the major reasons a lot of other computer companies failed is that they tried to take on Microsoft, by being just like Microsoft. Instead of being brave enough to be different, they were imitators.

Imitators are not interesting.

In a world that has an increasingly shorter attention span, we must stand apart from the crowd. As writers, we are artists thus we have the power to create art in our work, not just some tired copy of something else. Be different. Be excellent. Put in that extra effort to stand apart from everything else.

“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.”~Steve Jobs

Lack of flexibility is one of the current weaknesses in the traditional publishing paradigm. Because this is a business with a lot of overhead (beholden to shareholders), frequently, publishers will look to books they believe they can sell, which is code for “something like the last big thing that sold.” This doesn’t mean these publishers are putting out bad books, but it does mean that their business model limits the boundaries of creativity and innovation.

For those of you who decide to take a non-traditional route, you have more freedom and flexibility to be daring. Daring is exactly what we need to be to stand apart, versus being just another brick in the wall.

Ask yourself, Why me? Why my book? Why would anyone choose my book over another? And if it’s just because of price, prizes or freebies? TRY HARDER.

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 10.03.48 AM

One of my all-time favorite Demotivationals.

Tip #2—Dare to Be Excellent

Learn the craft. Read. Learn this as an art form. If you choose to self-publish, find beta readers who can give honest feedback and let you know if your book is ready. One of the biggest mistakes self-published authors make is that they publish too soon. Invest in good editing and a knockout cover. If you blog (and I recommend you do) be excellent. This is a sample of your voice, of you. In a world of cheap Taiwanese imitations, people long for excellence.

When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through. ~Steve Jobs

Ask yourself, Have I done all I can to make this work as good as it can be?

Tip #3—Keep it Simple

New writers often try to reinvent plot as we know it. Three-act structure works. It’s worked for thousands of years. The greatest stories of all time can be summed up in a sentence. Simplicity leads to complexity, where as complicated leads to confusion. Great stories are very basic. There are no new plots. I could hand ten writers a great idea for a story and we’d end up with ten totally different novels. It is all in execution.

Same with social media. WANA methods are simple. Be kind. Be focused. Be consistent. Be authentic. Add value. Be part of a community. Serve others first. That’s it. And yes, I have written a new book, but everything I teach can be summed up in those seven sentences. Algorithms and fancy marketing plans can quickly overrun the most important part of what we do—write books/create art.

That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. ~Steve Jobs

Ask yourself, Could I tell what my book is about in less than three sentences?

Okay, now make it ONE.

Tip #4—Love What You Do

Writers have more opportunity to succeed than ever before. For the first time, we are seeing novelists make six and seven figures. But, if you look at all the successful authors (traditional and non-traditional), they work their tails off. And, the funny thing is, it rarely feels like work. Why? To really do well in this business we have to LOVE IT.

Yet, there is a hard truth about love.

Love is not all kitten hugs and rainbow kisses. Love is work. Love has good days and bad days. Love requires sacrifice. It requires boundaries. It requires prioritization. It demands toughness and tenderness all in the same space. Whether it is our marriage, our family, our kids or our craft, love is not all a glittery unicorn hug.

I speak at a lot of conferences, and I generally can tell the writers who will succeed versus the ones who won’t. One type of writer wants to make hard cash. He loves money more than craft. He attends all the social media classes and marketing classes that promise to maximize his book sales. Sales, sales, charts, algorithms, outsourcing, programs! Yay!

The other writer? She believes writing is floating around with the muse being inspired all day. She is in love with a romantic vision of being a writer…not the craft or business of writing. She doesn’t need social media. “A good book alone will sell itself.”

Uh huh.

Take a gut check and make sure you love writing. If we seek to do this writing thing professionally, then there is a lot of changing diapers writing, staying up cleaning puke out of the carpet revisions, taking the kid to school every day blogging, toy box explosions social media.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. ~Steve Jobs

Ask yourself, Am I willing to do the unfun stuff, too? 

Tip #5—Embrace Failure

We didn’t learn to ride bikes by hopping on one day and pedaling away perfectly. Most of us fell…a lot. We all had our fair share of skinned knees and elbows before we looked like we knew what we were doing. Writing is the same.

If you aren’t failing then you aren’t doing anything interesting. Failure teaches us more than success ever will. Our greatest successes often will be birthed from the ashes of many doomed attempts.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. ~Steve Jobs

Ask yourself, Am I open to learning? Do I view failure as a tombstone or a stepping stone? 

What are your thoughts? What struggles have you faced in the new paradigm? Have you had to learn to set boundaries? How did you do it? What are some of the tips and tricks you’d like to share?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of May, 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 May I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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63 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

The Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors

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

Happy Monday! Okay, last week, upon my return from Thrillerfest, we explored what I felt were the 5 top mistakes that are killing traditional publishing. Then, on Friday, we talked about how self-publishing can help writers as a whole, even traditional writers. It is a wonderful time to be a writer, but I want to make myself crystal clear.

This business is hard work. There are no shortcuts.

I Don’t Take Sides

I feel that traditional publishing has a lot to offer the industry. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t spend so much time and effort challenging them to innovate to remain competitive. Self-publishing is not a panacea, and, since I spent last week focusing on the traditional end of the industry, today we are going to talk about the top five mistakes I feel are killing self-publishing authors.

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 60-100,000 words. I cannot count how many writers I have 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.

This is part of the reason I created WANA International. Writers need business instruction. In the fall we will be bringing on more and more business classes for writers.

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 they power of FREE! but too few writers understand how to do this and they just end up giving away their art for no tangible gain. 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…

My own story…

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

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So 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 will now have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

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

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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224 Comments

How Self-Publishing has Helped All Writers–Welcome to the Revolution

Author Kristen Lamb, social media writers, author platform, WANA, We Are Not Alone

Yes, I have more books in my car if you need.

Writing is a very different gig. In most jobs, we don’t need years of external validation to prove what we “really” are. We don’t have to save so many lives before we are a “real” doctor” or close so many mortgages before we are a “real” banker. But with writing? With the arts? We struggle. When are we “really real”?

For the answer to this question, I advise, Don’t Eat the Butt!

A lot of us want that traditional publishing stamp of approval, but there are a lot of recent red flags in the industry that demonstrate this might not be the best path for those of us who want a long-term career. Traditional publishing is also very slow, and there are huge gaps they cannot fill. For instance, technology.

When I was at Thrillerfest, one of the old guard teaching a class announced that, “Self-publishing was only good if you were a breast-feeding truck-driver who wanted to write a book for breast-feeding truck-drivers.” I have zero clue what is meant by that statement, but the comment speaks volumes, and highlights a problem in the industry.

Writers, for some reason, seem to be at the bottom of the food chain. We are the ones who produce the product, yet we are the last to get paid and seem to be treated the worst. It seems any 24 year old with a degree from NYU can hang up a shingle and call herself a literary agent and suddenly she is “real.” Author Joe Konrath has talked about this problem at length on his blog, which I highly recommend.

Yet, even after two #1 best-selling books, I still cannot get Barnes & Noble to shelve my books, because I am not a “real” writer. B&N literally has turned customers away trying to order my books in the store and they will only sell my books on-line. My books are returnable, so there shouldn’t be a problem, yet conference after conference I have to lug in a suitcase of my books because B&N won’t stock them, even though my books almost always sell out.

*shrugs* More money for me. And I am supposed to feel sorry for booksellers who are suffering. Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

I was even invited to speak at a conference and then, after my classes, they refused let me sell my books inside with the other authors. I had to go out into 112 degree heat to sell social media books in the parking lot because I wasn’t a “real” writer.

So I can appreciate the feeling of wanting and needing validation.

What I love about the new paradigm is that it seems to be finally earning writers the respect they should have had all along. I know back when I was querying, I felt agents were gods who stepped down from Mt. Olympus to see if they could find a champion among the unwashed masses. I so wanted to prove I was the one who could bring home the golden fleece best-selling numbers.

I recall typing my queries, hands shaking. One time, I was so nervous I misspelled “query” in the header of the e-mail and was instantly rejected. Though agents have demanded perfection and professionalism from me, I have received rejection letters with typos, my name misspelled and even the wrong name. I have received form-letters and sticky notes. We aren’t supposed to send a mass-query, yet I have received many a mass-rejection.

And I am not here to gripe about how I am being mistreated, because I really don’t care about anyone’s behavior other than my own. But this does raise an important point.

As the industry shifts and writers gain more power, will the industry as a whole benefit?

As more and more self-published and indie authors start earning a really good living, will we still get those “self-publishing is only for freaks” comments? As writers band together and blog and build platforms capable of driving sales, we become more powerful. Will this then force agents and editors to behave better?

Are we part of the women’s writer’s liberation movement?

I have been to conferences where agents didn’t want to take pitches or would walk off in the middle of a writer talking. I know I had an agent I finally had to fire because she just never returned e-mails. Finally, after six months without a peep I assumed my agent was dead or had been abducted by aliens. But I posit this question.

Would an agent stand for a writer who didn’t return an e-mail for six months?

As a social media person, I’ve witnessed agents tweeting lines from rejected queries, openly making fun of writers. Yet, when they google a writer to represent, what do they demand? Professional behavior. What if we were tweeting and making fun of literary agents?

Make no mistake, I feel we as writers need to come up higher as professionals and set the example. Frankly, as NYTBSA Bob Mayer has stated, “Writers are in the entertainment business.” Yes we are artists (entertainment), but we are also in business. It is incumbent upon us to know our craft. We cannot assume that command of our native tongue qualifies us to be best-selling authors, and we also need to understand our industry and business.

And here is where I feel self-publishing has greatly benefitted writer-kind.

I feel that self-publishing, oddly enough, has been a massive benefit to all writers. Why?

It has forced writers to understand the business side of the business.

I feel it has helped many writers embrace this business side of the equation and step up their game as professionals. Writers who are pursuing or even considering going it alone suddenly take social media and platform-building far more seriously. There is something transformative about finishing the story, then digging in to create the product. Many self-published authors understand the new publishing paradigm better than the Big Six editors, and I feel this is a real advantage.

Many of us have learned about web sites, accounting, formatting, and even cover design. The new publishing paradigm is constantly changing and forcing us to learn, grow, adapt, change, and ship.

The new paradigm forces writers to ship.

If you read Seth Godin’s Linchpin (which I highly recommend), he says one of the marks of a true artist is real artists ship. We let go. We sell the painting, burn the CD or publish the book and then move on to the next. Saturday Night Live happens no matter what. Good or bad, they ship.

One of the biggest problems I have seen with writers is they keep working and reworking and reworking the first book. In the new paradigm? They publish. If it is a super stinker they pull it and pray people forget. If it’s so-so, they leave it, but best of all, if they are smart, they move on and write more books. One of the largest barriers to becoming a successful writer is trying to be a perfect writer. The new paradigm gives new writers a way to ship so they can move forward and write more books and better books. 

It has encouraged writers to become empowered by building a platform.

Also, since there have been some real successes from the indie and self-pub fronts, it has forced traditional authors to realize how social media can give them control of their careers. As traditional authors build viable platforms, they suddenly have options. Many are realizing that NY is no longer the only road to Rome and they have the power to walk away (Barry Eisler).

Social media and self-publishing has given authors bargaining power and, with that, respect.

True story. A friend of mine couldn’t get an agent to even listen to a pitch (and the same agent had been a real toad to me). My friend self-published and was doing really well. Next conference? This agent wanted to represent him. Suddenly thought his books were awesome and brilliant. My friend comes to me and says, “There is no way I can go traditional. I make way too much money.” Then he asks me, “You think I should e-mail him a rejection letter?”

The story makes me chuckle, but it is just proof of what I have been saying all along. It is a WONDERFUL time to be a writer.

Writers are no longer satisfied with being publishing fodder. We are stepping up and demanding the respect we are owed. Now? Agents. We are googling you. We are watching what you are tweeting and we are reading your blogs. We are not expecting anything from you that you aren’t expecting of us—professionalism and respect.

It is a wonderful time to be a writer. No matter what road writers now choose to take, traditional, self-pub or indie, I feel writers will finally enjoy the success and the esteem they deserve.

Welcome to the revolution!

So what are your thoughts? Opinions? Are you happy that writers now have more options? Do you feel overwhelmed? Excited? For those of you who have gone indie or self-published, what are the greatest lessons you have learned?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So 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 will now have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

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

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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115 Comments

Big Six Publishing is Dead–Welcome the Massive Three

The Reader of the Digital Age–Trust me, he won’t miss paper.

Ah, the times they have changed. The year was 1983 and life was good. Summers filled with trampolines, swimming pools and evening walks to the snow cone stand. Cartoons were only on Saturdays, and if we stayed up too late playing Bloody Mary and toilet-papering the neighbor’s trees and overslept, we were out of luck for another week.

Music stores were a rare treat, a place to spend birthday money or blow our allowance, and a Fox Photo Hut graced virtually every grocery store parking lot. My mother would always turn in the film and then the car would break down and we’d run out of money. No one knows how many of my brother’s baby photos were lost.

What did they DO with all those pictures people couldn’t afford to pick up?

Who would have thought that one day, everyone would walk around typing messages on a phone? Or taking and then sending pictures with that phone?  Who would have believed that a computer company would be a larger distributer of music than Tower Records? That car stereos would stream tunes from satellites floating above the Earth’s atmosphere? No more cassette tapes. Who could have envisioned a day that Kodak would be a memory and a home telephone an anachronism?

It is an amazing time, and I can say that Star Trek fans did envision a lot of these changes. Yet, even when we see it coming, it is very surreal to see it actually here. As an avid Trekkie, I do like to think of myself as a Futurist, so today we are going to indulge my future vision.

The Big Six have a new problem…Microsoft.

Yes, it does look like Microsoft is what is going to save Barnes & Noble’s tails. From this article by Felix Salmon on WIRED:

Barnes & Noble has sold a 17.6% stake in its digital and college businesses to Microsoft, for $300 million — a deal which values B&N’s remaining 82.4% stake at $1.4 billion. And while the $300 million is staying in the new joint venture and therefore not available to help the bookstore chain with cashflow issues, the news does mean that Barnes & Noble won’t need to constantly find enormous amounts of money to keep up in the arms race with Amazon. That’s largely Microsoft’s job, now.

So why is this a problem for the Big Six?

The same reason that Apple (a computer company) was a problem for Tower Records, that Sprint (a cell phone company) spelled death for Kodak and that Amazon (an on-line distributor of everything from camping equipment to push-up bras) gave Border’s its mortal blow.

The Big Six are dead. Welcome the Massive Three. More on this in a moment…

The past ten years have been nothing but market Darwinism. The slower species who refused to adapt to the new climate after the comet strike (birth of the Internet coupled with an affordable personal computer) are now being devoured by the faster, hungrier and more agile creatures.

Notice Tower Records, how it defended how music-lovers, “would always want CDs and music stores.” Instead of realizing it was in the “music business” not the CD business, it stood there, dumb and immobile…..*munch* then the Appleosaurus Rex ate it whole.

Then Kodak stood looking at the shiny black hole that was its business plan. It put both feet in and got stuck. Sprint flew out of the sky and took chunk after chunk while the Kodak beast cried foul. “People will always want film pictures!” it wailed as it bled.

All the Kodak beast had to do was grab the digital stick, but it was too stuck. Soon the other digital predators smelled blood and the parsed the Kodak beast until it finally died in a pool of red.

Now we come to the book distributors and publishers. “People will always want paper!” they cry, even as they can smell Border’s bloated, dead storefronts rotting in the sun.

I think the metaphor is clear.

Amazon took out Borders and gave Barnes & Noble a nice flesh wound. The Amazonasaurus also took a nice chunk out of the Big Six. B&N and the Big Six need to ask the hard question.

Will people really always want paper? Did they really always want records and CDs? No. Did they really always want film? No. The view from the cave is nothing but a graveyard of former giants, bleached bones from the rulers of an age that has passed.

Adapt or die is the message. Ah, but the Big Six could have a problem.

See Barnes & Noble has proven it can scrabble with the best of them and even get in some sucker punches below the belt. They had no problem devouring the indie bookstore when it suited them to claw their way to the top of the food chain. Now that it has partnered with Microsoft, should the Big Six be worried?

My opinion? YES.

Barnes and Noble likes being an apex predator. It got a taste for being on top in the 90s, and, make no mistake, it longs to revive the glory days.

Who can blame them?

If I were the Big Six, I would worry big time. Why? Because, the only disposable part of this relationship is…the publishing houses.

I have to say, my hat is off to B&N. That company has moxie. I’ve blogged a number of times how the Big Six should have revisited its relationship with B&N. Once books went digital and e-book sales took off, propping up a paper distributor was just a bad plan.

In my blog Bracing for Impact–The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm I said there was really no reason that the Big Six couldn’t sell directly to the consumer and just distribute the books themselves. I advised that they make the move and go digital. For paper? Focus on POD technology, the consignment model was too inefficient.

Hmmm, a fan of this blog sent the link to that post to the CEO of B&N. Curiouser and curiouser…

I LOVE NY publishing. I have consistently tried to help them. With the model I proposed, New York would never again have wasted money on books that didn’t sell. They could have ruled the Digital Age well. The Big Six would have only sold books that, well…sold. And in my model, they could have partnered with Barnes & Noble and done it together.

Ah, but B&N has a new friend, and you know the saying, “Two is company and three is a crowd.”

Some see Microsoft’s investment as a good thing for publishing. Finally, Amazon is going to get a run for its money. Not only does the Nook now have the backing of the Windows giant, but now consumers don’t need to buy an e-reader to have one.

Now an e-reader will be built into every Microsoft operating system. Kindles and Nooks will eventually be for only the die-hard fans, because readers won’t really need them (kind of like cameras were replaced by our cell phones).

Amazon has been able to gain market share by capitalizing on its Kindle. Ah, but that was before the Microsoftisaurus decided it wanted to get into the publishing business, and, Barnes and Noble, being the crafty survivor, made a big new friend a bad new digital world. Microsoft is investing because it just makes sense.

Amazon shouldn’t be the only one reporting record gains each quarter. While the Microsoft-B&N deal is serious bad juju for Amazon, I think they will weather just fine. Amazon is the very definition of “adaptable.”

I have consistently wondered why New York didn’t grab hold of e-publishing. Why couldn’t the Big Six open digital divisions? Why didn’t they seek out Microsoft? Why couldn’t Random House have a self-publishing division that allowed authors to upload e-books for sale (um, like B&N’s PubIt). Then they could vet out authors, and only “officially” represent those authors who’d met a certain standard (X amount of sales).

I know this new world seems very strange, but it seems as if computer companies are destined to rule the Digital Age, which I suppose only makes sense. It has a bit of poetry to it if one thinks about it.

The Big Six, in my opinion, are in big trouble, because they really are no longer…necessary. This doesn’t make me at all happy to predict. I’ve tried and tried and tried to help, but to no avail. The Big Six might remain for a few more years, but frankly, what advantage do they hold? What do they really have to offer other that a crap load of overhead?

Sure they have a love for the written word that the new giants don’t possess, but then again, Kodak held an unrivaled passion for photography and that didn’t save them from the iPhone.

No matter what way I look at it, I can’t see how the Big Six can remain relevant. The Windows has closed, pardon the pun.

Literary agents and editors have home mortgages to pay, and they’ll go where the money is (and NY is hemorrhaging cash). No one can fault them for wanting to eat and be able to put braces on their kids’ teeth. Cover design? I think Microsoft can handle finding a graphic designer or two.

Oh, and then Microsoft doesn’t have to build in stratospheric Manhattan rents and horrific costs of shipping paper into the book price.

NY once had a sole lock on distribution. Well, that went away. Then, they were the Gatekeepers who offered us the promise of a certain quality (just ignore the Snookie book deal).

Yet, indie has really changed. Some of the best books are coming out of this movement. Additionally, some of NY’s best talent has defected (Bob Mayer, Joe Konrath, and Barry Eisler to name a few) and more are bound to follow. Authors are getting tired of the depressing odds of success in the traditional paradigm, and instead of NY offering its authors a bold new plan for the future (like partnering with Microsoft FIRST), it comes up with brilliant gems like “agency pricing.”

Oh, and then there is the new talent, the fresh ranks. Unpublished writers are seeing their friends self-publish and make thousands of dollars a month and that is very appealing. Logic dictates that some of the best writers who work the hardest and who are the most professional might just try it alone first.

Writers now don’t have to keep querying and hope for gatekeeper approval. We can go to the reader and try our luck there. We might not make enough to live off at first, but, frankly, the slush pile doesn’t give us gas money.

*waves to Amazon*

What I don’t understand is that these companies don’t seem to grasp that the nostalgia card only plays so far. Microsoft understands what the Big Six doesn’t. People won’t always want paper. They want to push a button and a have a book delivered quickly and cheaply from outer space.

In a world where gas is $5 a gallon, why would we want to fight traffic across town to go to a physical bookstore? In a world where we can have hot yummy pizza delivered to our doors in 30 minutes, why would we wait a week for a book in the mail?

Really.

So what do I see? Instead of Big Six, we now have the Massive Three–Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. Amazon likely will open physical bookstores (probably in old Borders storefronts). And Microsoft will just use B&N to sell paper and maybe some Nooks. Yes, paper will always be around, it just won’t be the lion’s share like it used to be.

And writers? We are artists and they will always need us to produce the content. We have to adapt as well and this is why I have dedicated the last few years of my life training writers for the Digital Age. It is a WONDERFUL time to be a writer.

Welcome to the future. Beam me up, Scotty!

Okay, so what are your thoughts? Does someone see what advantage the Big Six still holds? How can they pull out of this tail-spin? Do you think I am wrong about the Massive Three? Is this a good thing for writers? Is this bad for writers?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of May, 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note–Will announce the winner Friday. Thanks :D .

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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249 Comments

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