Archive for category Publishing

Why Your Book Isn’t Selling

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.22.38 AM

Original image courtesy of Juhan Sonin via Flickr Creative commons.

The writer’s worst nightmare. You researched, you wrote, you finished, and then published your book. You wait for the sales and……….*crickets*. This is something that can happen to any kind of author, traditional or nontraditional. We think we have a hit on our hands only to later be checking it for a pulse.

What happened? Why is the book just not selling?

The Market

Remaindered Titles

Remaindered Titles

In the not so distant past, there was only one way to get published and that was traditional publishing. Though many authors cheered when they were finally able to cast off the chains of New York, let’s at least respect that agents and editors might have known a thing or three about the book business.

Writers would often get vexed at the stack of rejection letters, believing they couldn’t actually write well. This was not always the case. Agents make their living off books they know will sell, which means they just don’t have the bandwidth left over to take on pro bono work. Yes, the book might be lovely, but they are agents, not charities.

A large part of their expertise is predicting market changes and trends. They look at what is already out, what is to be released, what is selling, what isn’t, what is saturated, etc.

This is where it can get tricky for writers. Yes, write what you love. We shouldn’t write for the market…but we have to write for the market.

*bangs head on wall*

Sometimes a book might not be selling simply because there are too many titles that are too similar. Readers just don’t want yet another sparkly vampire.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.02.13 AM

If you are traditionally published, this could still happen. Agents are making an educated guess and sometimes they miss the mark. For the self-published folks? If the book is good, just leave it alone and keep writing. The great part about the digital paradigm is the book can remain there indefinitely and when the trends change? So could the sales.

The Product

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.06.20 AM

Bad Pun Dog

I hate saying this, but sometimes it’s the book. Obviously this is more the case with indie and self-published books. The problem is that the market has just been inundated with amateur writing. I go into this in more detail in Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Writers, but here are the Spark Notes.

Bad Writing

No one wants to hear they are not ready. Worse still? No one wants to hear the words, “You just are not a good writer.” Too many newbies want to skip the unfun training and go right to the title, “Author.”

Sadly, the slush pile has been handed off to readers. I can’t count the number of times I have gotten pages for a contest win and absolutely slayed the writing, only to get an e-mail back that the book was already for sale.

Shoot…me…now.

Even more common is that the writing is not per se bad, it just isn’t anything remarkable. Folks these days have a lot of competition for their time and attention and they simply won’t devote 12-15 hours of undivided attention to a blasé book.

Bad (No) Editing

Our story might be the best thing since pumpkin spice lattes, but if it is rife with errors it won’t sell. Additionally, editing is not simply looking for typos. That is line-editing. A good content editor will be able to help you shape the overall flow of the novel.

When I edit I can tell writers if they are starting the book in the correct place. Are there scenes that need to be cut because they are bogging down the momentum? Are there redundant characters? Are there plot holes? Is the ending a knockout or a fizzle?

Great editing can take a book from mundane to magnificent.

Bad Cover

There really is no excuse for a bad cover these days. Technology has come a long way and many experts offer fabulous covers at affordable prices. I would love to say people don’t judge a book by its cover, but that is untrue. Of course we do.

One thing many new writers don’t appreciate is that when you hire an expert, you are gaining a lot more than that one skill. Yes a graphic artist knows how to use Photshop (or whatever) but they also have a knowledge of what sells. 

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 9.29.19 AM

For instance, I have seen authors post images of their new book cover and cringed. The cover itself was lovely, but we have to remember how we are selling. That book isn’t going to be on a shelf where a potential reader is seeing a full-sized version. Likely it will be on Amazon and that beautiful full-sized image, when shrunk to thumbnail size looks like a Rorschach ink blob.

Do you see a butterfly?

No, I see Satan eating kale chips.

If a writer tells me they can’t afford to hire an expert, my response is they cannot afford not to.

Boring Title

This goes along with a bad cover. New writers are notorious for titles that we have to read the book to “get” the title. NO. The title is the hook and we will move on to other writers who don’t make us think.

The Platform

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.11.45 AM

Discoverability is a nightmare. There is a lot of noise and part of our job description now entails branding. This is all writers.

I recently had a distraught writer contact me. The author was recently dropped by a well-known agent because the book simply wasn’t selling. Yet, I could tell with a quick google search what a big part of the problem was.

The author didn’t have platform/brand capable of driving sales. Simply puttering around on Facebook isn’t enough. That isn’t a brand.

My first royalty check would have covered dinner if no one super-sized anything. Why? My book came out before my platform could drive sales. Once my platform improved? My sales skyrocketed.

What does it say in front of every big author’s name? Best Selling Author. Not Best Writing Author.

The writing alone is not enough. Frankly, it never was. Before 2006, writers had a 93% failure rate. Most first books sold less than a thousand copies (even traditionally published books). Only one out of ten published authors ever saw a second book in print. Most were dropped.

In the old days, we just had no control over the brand and the platform. Now, we do. And authors want to complain that it is too hard. Yes, it is hard and there are many reasons this profession is not for everyone.

Less Marketing/More Writing

AHHHHHHH!

AHHHHHHH!

Traditional marketing does not sell books. Never has. For more on why, check out Why Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Sell Books. I have had to unfollow writers on Facebook who do nothing but promote one book over and over and over.

They tweet non-stop about their book.

They even dedicate their blogs to selling books (and that is never the direct objective of a blog).

They deluge us with newsletters we never signed up for and can’t figure out how to escape.

Thing is, we don’t care about you or your book. We didn’t want to see that crap in our feed, we sure aren’t going to subscribe to a blog/newsletter that is nothing but self-promotion.

Writers often become the equivalent of that sales clerk in the department store who ambushes us with perfume.

Here is the blunt truth. The odds of breaking out with our first book are about the same as being hijacked by a terrorist after we’ve been hit by lightning while holding a winning lottery ticket.

Most writers are not going to break out with one book. Or even two. An author might never break out, but the odds certainly improve the more titles we have. This was always true. It’s why you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a James Patterson title.

Marketing and building a platform/brand are two completely different activities. But writers believe they are the same. They aren’t. If you want to promote and market without a platform, I suggest piling money on the floor and setting it on fire. Same end result and you can get to the self-loathing and binge drinking far faster that way.

There are no shortcuts.

Obviously there are many many other factors to why a book might not be selling, but these are the top offenders. Good news is most of this, we can do something about. In fact, I have classes addressing most of these issues (listed below).

What are your thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Check out the other NEW classes below! Now including a log-line class! Can you tell me what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t SIGN UP.

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

Blogging for Authors  (August 26th)

This class will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.

I am here to help with that😉 .

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

Log-lines are crucial for understanding the most important detail, “WHAT is the story ABOUT?” If we can’t answer this question in a single sentence? Brain surgery with a spork will be easier than writing a synopsis. Pitching? Querying? A nightmare. Revisions will also take far longer and can be grossly ineffective.

As authors, we tend to think that EVERY detail is important or others won’t “get” our story. Not the case.

If we aren’t pitching an agent, the log-line is incredibly beneficial for staying on track with a novel or even diagnosing serious flaws within the story before we’ve written an 80,000 word disaster. Perhaps the protagonist has no goal or a weak goal. Maybe the antagonist needs to be stronger or the story problem clearer.

In this one-hour workshop, I will walk you through how to encapsulate even the most epic of tales into that dreadful “elevator pitch.” We will cover the components of a strong log-line and learn red flags telling us when we need to dig deeper. The last hour of class we will workshop log-lines.

The first ten signups will be used as examples that we will workshop in the second hour of class. So get your log-line fixed for FREE by signing up ASAP.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

 

, , , , , , , ,

62 Comments

Maybe It’s Time to Give Up

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Cristian Bortes

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Cristian Bortes

I’m a voracious reader and easily go through about two books a week. I recently finished a Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth and it’s a really excellent book, though I’d like to expand on her ideas today.

Though I loved the book, there’s one assertion she makes that I completely disagree with. Over all the studies conducted, she claims that one can never have too much grit. That those who are not seeing the success they want aren’t exhibiting enough tenacity…which is true, but then again?

NOT TRUE.

I think many of us have plenty of grit, we just have them with the wrong things. Successful people “give up” all the time. In fact, today we will talk about what we need to give up in order to gain.

We Need to Give Up On People

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 8.52.37 AM

This has been a brutal lesson I keep getting over and over, probably because I love people, love serving and helping. I really don’t like giving up on people. Far too many times I have held onto relationships to my own detriment. It’s why I loved this meme, particularly this line:

Life is not a group project.

Guess what? Our writing journey isn’t either. When I wrote my first novel, I thought it was perfect mainly because I was a newbie and a moron. I joined a writing group and quickly discovered how little I really knew. I worked and worked until my pages where the cleanest but then something strange happened.

Originally I had a slew of fellow writer friends. But week after week their writing didn’t improve. I was still nailing them for the same sloppiness. They refused to read craft books or go to conferences. Many would show week after week and yet they didn’t write anything. So I figured it was a failure in leadership so I killed myself to become president.

And I did.

Attendance only got worse. Many argued with the experts I brought in. A large portion of the group never showed with more writing on the WIP but trust me, they did plenty of writing…usually in the form of hate mail telling me everything I was doing wrong.

The more successful I became, the more skilled I grew, the more resentment I encountered. But still I persisted because I couldn’t give up on my “friends.” I tried harder, gave more….and was a mess.

I haven’t seen a single member of that group in five years. The reason? There’s a truth to the saying, “It’s lonely at the top.” The only successful writer birthed from that original writing group?

Me.

And I had to leave it to accomplish anything remarkable. If I’d stayed I would have withered on the vine.

The strange truth is they weren’t the problem.

I was.

The analogy that helped me the most was when I learned to think of my writing journey as climbing Mount Everest. In the beginning, climbers have huge teams of sherpas to get them to the base camp. At each new level of altitude, the party gets smaller and smaller and smaller and only a handful of people ever make it to the top. That isn’t a “bad” thing, it is just how climbing works. The teams of sherpas were never intended to summit.

I was trying to make my writing group into something it wasn’t. They were only meant to get me to base camp. They introduced me to the world of being a professional. They cleaned up my prose, but they didn’t have the skill set to offer me what I wanted. I was looking in the wrong place.

Of course they resented me. I was dragging them up the mountain! This was vexing them and wearing me out. All of us were miserable.

Few things can damage our success like hanging out with the wrong people.

Sometimes there is nothing per se wrong with the people around us except they have different goals. If my goal is to become an Olympic swimmer, then going to the gym and taking a water aerobics class is just a dumb plan that will never get me to the level I want.

I have no idea what your dreams are. Not every writer has the goal of becoming a legend. Some people just like to hang out and drink coffee and dabble. And truthfully? Nothing wrong with that…unless that doesn’t align with our goal.

We cannot become professionals while keeping the company of amateurs.

And I know some people probably winced at that, but hear me out. An amateur is not someone who is merely new. An amateur is a mindset. Amateurs know everything. They can’t take criticism. They believe in BS and glitter instead of good old fashioned hard work. Amateurs complain, procrastinate and blame everything and everyone but themselves.

Amateur: Well, NY is just publishing junk.

Professional: I need to write another book. A better book.

We Need to Give Up on Magical Thinking

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 8.34.36 AM

The problem with amateurs is they have magical thinking. Hey, I have been there so I am not judging. Magical thinking is believing our first draft/novel is perfect. It is believing if it isn’t perfect (or worse, if it is a total disaster) that we aren’t talented.

Magical thinking keeps us from moving on. So many writers keep editing and reworking that first novel instead of moving on. They are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic instead of appreciating that there’s a seriously steep learning curve to excellence. They are afraid to make a decision but in making no decision, that’s actually a decision.

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 8.01.27 AM

Magical thinking is believing there will be some perfect “time” to write when that is a myth. We have been meeting on WANATribe for sprints five days a week every week at 7:00 AM CST for the past ten months. We meet in the Main Room IM and sprint until lunch. I’ve been there virtually every day through two months of pneumonia, a dying grandmother, a dislocated knee and on and on.

Trust me, I didn’t always feel like sprinting, but I’ve learned to never underestimate the power of simply showing up.

Life is not going to stop to give us time to write and we need to give up on believing it will. Few writers have what it takes to maintain the operational tempo of a professional. I believe most of them fall behind simply because they are holding onto a magical belief that time can be found.

If I could only find the time.

Time is not laying around in the couch cushions like loose change. Professionals make time, we don’t “find” it which is probably why the initially large WANATribe sprinting group is down to about five people.

The Power of Giving Up—Are You On the Right Mountain?

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 9.59.21 AM

It’s hard to admit when we’ve latched onto the wrong people, goals, projects or dreams but failure is an amazing teacher. It’s foolish to keep chasing a mistake just because we’ve spent a lot of time (or money) making it.

We only have so much emotional bandwidth and if we don’t let go of bad relationships, there’s no room for good ones. If we don’t let go of the bad book (the learning curve) we never get to writing the next book, the better book. If we are in the wrong writing group, there’s no time for the right one.

Grit is one of the most valuable ingredients of success, but we always need to be asking the hard questions. If my goal is to climb Mount Everest and I realize I am actually ON Mount Shasta, then I’m not even on the correct continent! Sure I might summit, but…

It’s the wrong damn mountain.

And just so you guys know, you likely will always struggle with this. Right now I am having to cut loose family members I’ve always “been there” for because they insist on making dumb decisions. I can either rescue them (again) or realize my goals. I can’t do both and me thinking I can is…magical thinking😉 . I have to go through my goals again and make sure they still “fit”.

What are your thoughts? Is it time for you to give up? Maybe you have a bunch of drama queens in the family and you are rescuing instead of writing? Maybe some toxic friendships? Do you fall into magical thinking? That you will “find time”? What do you commit to “give up” today? By the way, feel free to join us at WANATribe for sprints! And you want a new level? Check out the classes I have coming up!

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Check out the other NEW classes below! 

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

Blogging for Authors  (August 26th) will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.

I am here to help with that😉 .

Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages August 12th

The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is 90 minutes long, 60 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.

Your First Five Pages Gold Level

This includes the webinar and a detailed critique your first five pages.

Your First Five Pages Platinum Level

This includes the webinar and a detailed critique of your first twenty pages.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

 

, , , , , , , , ,

97 Comments

Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish—Part 2

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

All righty, so last time in Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish we talked about a lot of myths that surround publishing in general and I promised to delve deeper into this subject. I hope, at the very least, y’all walked away with one core understanding about traditional publishing.

Traditional publishing measures one thing and one thing only…commercial viability.

Granted, this often means the author is professional and the writing is outstanding…but that’s isn’t always the case. Some works are published for the sole reason that they will sell a certain amount of copies (refer to Snookie’s memoir). Additionally some of the greatest works of our time are not coming to market (initially) through legacy presses (refer to The Martian).

But here’s the deal. While we certainly don’t have to be leggy-pressed to be “real” writers, self-publishing is no panacea.

The hard truth is there is a lot of junk being published. There are too many people who are so in love with the idea of calling themselves “published authors” that they take shortcuts, and I feel this is likely what irritates many professionals (especially since what this group lacks in skill and talent they tend to more than make up for in mass marketing).

But, the dangerous idea comes when we cut off our nose to spite our face.

We are SO scared that we are going to get lumped in with the folks who, frankly, should just increase processing speed by deleting Word off their hard drives, that we sit around believing we aren’t any good unless the Legacy Gods reach down from Olympus New York and give us their blessing.

NY is not going to give you (or me) a writing career. We have to hustle. Self-publishing actually has a lot of benefits not only for writers, but for traditional publishers as well.

Really, I Mean It

In my post The Ugly Truth About Publishing I explained how the consignment model worked and how mega-stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble obliterated the bookstore landscape. We discussed the terrible consequences writers have endured because of these companies’ greed.

Borders is now a memory and, trust me, Barnes and Noble isn’t far behind. They’re succumbing to the effects of their own avarice. Having a megastore on every corner was a sound business model…until everyone began shopping on-line.

If Barnes & Noble survives (which I highly doubt because, to date, they have not listened to my advice to SAVE them😛 ) they aren’t going to offer writers all that much of an advantage. These days, their stores are few and far between meaning there are fewer point-of-sales locations than ever.

The remaining stores resemble a department store more than a bookstore. They look like a Starbucks, a Hallmark, a Radio Shack, a Tower records, a Blockbuster and a Toys-R-Us had a baby…oh and there are some books, too.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 9.35.27 AM

It’s almost an ironic homage to all stores/industries first plundered by the megastore.

You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. 

Btw, that was WAY cooler before Amazon started doing it to them. Anyway…

This transition has a huge impact on all authors because bookstores no longer are the best place for discoverability. Gone are the days where most readers found what they wanted to read by browsing a bookstore. Amazon has done a stellar job of spoiling us and training us to rely on algorithms to help us choose.

People who bought this, also bought THIS.

This means the remaining points of distribution—Walmart, Costco, Sam’s, airport bookstores, drug stores and grocery stores—are the only common points of sale and they only carry a scarce fraction of available titles (and those are almost always established brands guaranteed to sell—you know, “real” writers😛 ).

The biggest advantage legacy press had was distribution, and in a world not yet shopping on-line? That used to be a big deal. Now?

For the first-time novelist or the novelist who’s yet to be a big brand? Not the big deal it used to be simply because shelf space is finite (and only for a short time) and brick-and-mortar stores are going under and the new brick-and-mortars are owned by The Borg Amazon.

The remaining stores (the few indie bookstores that survived) are generally very small, which means limited inventory. By the time we subtract the classics which will always be a staple and the mega-authors who are guaranteed to sell? *cough Stephen King* 

We don’t have a lot of space left for anyone else.

What Does This Mean?

Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons

In my opinion, the author career path is evolving. Traditional’s ability to distribute is still a pretty big deal, but due to market changes, NY can now be far smarter/surgical about how they choose. They need to be picky, especially now when shelf space is more limited than ever.

In the old days, a publisher took on a huge risk hoping a work would resonate with audiences and sell.

Now? They really don’t need to. They can simply look to what is doing well in the indie world then come in and help develop that work/author on the next level.

Try to go through an airport without seeing The Martian on a newsstand.

I feel this new trend also allows us to gain a greater diversity of works. Before we could get realtime feedback what audiences were loving, legacy presses were forced into a lot of guess work. They would spot a trend (Twilight) and then ride that trend until the sparkly vampire was beaten to death. Now? They can capitalize on what I am calling The Dark Horse Effect.

What is The Dark Horse Effect?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Pedro Ribiero Simoes

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Pedro Ribiero Simoes

The dark horse is the outlier no one saw coming. It’s the candidate or competitor about whom little is known but unexpectedly wins. Instead of NY trying to create lighting in a bottle, now they just have to catch it.

It is impossible for NY to capitalize on the dark horse author without self-publishing. Why? Because by definition a dark horse is no one anyone expects to win, and last I checked? NY wasn’t into that.

Self-published/indie authors have much more freedom to experiment with writing that would have been patently rejected ten years ago. I know I keep mentioning The Martian but it is a stellar example because it breaks all the rules.

Too Much Science

Self-published book and now a major motion picture. BOO-YAH!

Self-published book and now a major motion picture. BOO-YAH!

First of all, I’ve read the book and it is very science heavy. I could see an agent going cross-eyed and telling Weir to cut all the talk about chemistry, that audiences would be bored. Why? Because usually that is great advice.

But had Weir (in a parallel universe) sought after approval from the Legacy Gods, they very likely would have given advice that wrecked the exact reason this book is so awesome.

Content Published on a Blog is No Good for Publication

For years (and even today) we will hear agents say that any fiction we publish on our blog is no good and not worthy of publication. The Martian, however, shows this is not always the case.

Weir was originally a programmer who left AOL and decided to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a writer…but failed. He couldn’t get an agent, let alone a publisher. So he then left writing and returned to programming, but then decided he would still write his story and offer it on his personal blog where anyone could read it for free.

Initially, his story flopped, but he kept at it fine-tuning and doing more research while honing his writing skills.

It paid off. BIG.

Eventually, word of the story spread and readers started requesting an e-version (the PDF was too hard to download) so Weir uploaded it into Kindle and sold it for .99. Within a few months The Martian rocketed to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list and an agent contacted him.

Soon, Random House called and wanted to make it into a hardcover. Within days, Hollywood called and asked for movie rights. Weir scored a book deal and a movie deal in the same week.

Crowd-Sourcing is Bad

I would imagine that many within Legacy Land would have broken out in hives at the thought of a book being written using crowd-sourcing. But that is precisely why The Martian ended up being so successful.

According to Business Insider:

“Chemists actually pointed out some problems in early drafts,” Weir said. He was able to go back and correct some of the chemistry that’s crucial for Watney’s survival.

Fans of the work were eager to be part of the collaborative process, even if it simply meant helping out with the facts. The writer of that Guardian article blasting self-publishing was adamant that “real” writers possess the decency to make mistakes in private.

But Weir wasn’t afraid to get it wrong in public…and it paid off BIG TIME.

Not everyone has the rhino skin to be corrected publicly, but if we do? We grow up way faster.

Breaking Making the Rules

What all this means is that a work that breaks all the “rules” for what NY might have been looking for in a query letter goes out the window the second they are able to see what readers really want…in sales figures.

NY didn’t have to guess that a science-heavy-crowd-sourced-geek-fest previously offered for free “might” be a winner. They could see it for themselves.

What happens to "rules" when a work is profitable.

What happens to Legacy Press “Rules” when a work is profitable.

I’m also happy Weir didn’t care about being a “real” writer.

As much as self-publishing gets flack, it’s allowing legacy publishers to reap high profits in a world where that’s harder and harder to do. It’s removing much of the guess work out of what readers like and want which helps NY’s bottom line.

It’s also freeing up writers to do what we do best…get creative. We can experiment. Try new things. Adjust, adapt, grow and mature instead of slaving away on one draft for a decade hoping someone in NY will notice.

Additionally, successes like Weir’s prove that a writer can create a platform of hardcore fans before the work is ever published. The single greatest reason authors fail to ever make a living is they can’t escape the gravitational pull of The Black Hole of Obscurity. Now? We can.

The Martian wasn’t released into a vacuum (*bada bump snare*), rather Weir created a core group of die hard fans using…his blog. There was no high-priced marketing campaign or promotion (which doesn’t work as well as writers believe). Rather, it began as a small grassroots fandom that grew roots and spread exploded.

No ads, no algorithmic alchemy, no giveaways, no contests, no relentless blog tours, no slaving away on social media instead of writing. Hmmm. Wonder if he read my book Rise of the Machines? 😛 #heywhynot

Suffice all this to say that this notion that we are only a “real” writer if we publish a certain way is ridiculous. But, we find what fits for us and our work. We try things, we get creative and who knows?

We might just be the next dark horse😉 .

Are you ready for a perfect storm?

What are your thoughts? Personally, I love this new renaissance and it always thrills me to see how creative you guys can be. I’m also a helpless pawn on Amazon—the crack-meth-heroin dealer of books. I am now listening to three audiobooks, reading one novel and another novella on my Kindle. Yes, I am ADD but I do finish😛 #donotjudgeme

I am also completely spoiled that when I find an author I love? I can buy that writer’s entire backlist…probably far too easily.

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

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

March’s WINNER: DK WALKER! Please send your 5000 word WORD document (New Times Roman and one-inch margins double-spaced) to kristen at wana intl dot com and CONGRATULATIONS!

Before we go, I want to give you a heads up especially if you are thinking on attending a conference.

I’m holding my ever-popular Your Story in a Sentence class. Can you tell what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t? There might be a huge plot problem. This also helps if you are ever going to query or pitch an agent. The first ten signups get their log-line shredded by MOI for FREE.

Also speaking of FREE, I’d like to mention again the new class I am offering!

How and WHY are we using FREE!?

Making Money with FREE! As a bonus for this class, my friend Jack Patterson who’s so far sold over 150,000 books to come and teach us how to ROCK the newsletter. This is in excess of two hours of training and the recording (as always) comes with purchase.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

, , , , , , , , ,

69 Comments

Pay the Writer Part 2—Blood Diamonds & Fair Trade Fiction

Image courtesy of Hoard Lake on Flickr Commons

Image courtesy of Hoard Lake on Flickr Commons

You aren’t famous until someone famous calls you an idiot😛 . As I was finishing up Monday’s post about how to support writers with reviews, I found out I’d hit the big time. Thus I went over and checked out the counter to my scandalous assertion that writers should be paid.

Aaaand, yeah. Still not wavering in my opinion.

Also think my critics have missed the point. Instead of protecting the old ways that well, for lack of a better term… suck and don’t benefit writers (or readers, publishers or even bookstores)—how about we start doing things differently?

GASP!

So long as we protect sacred cows because that’s what we have always done? Nothing changes. But agents and editors and authors and pundits will all have fun blogging that I hate used bookstores (untrue) and how all of us should be grateful for the system as it is.

Sure.

As for me? I may not change things, but I will break my neck trying😛 .

First, this bugged me.

Please Stop Assuming All Customers are Broke

Image via GrandmaLow WANA Commons

Image via GrandmaLow WANA Commons

Here’s the deal. I get that there are readers who’d be homeless if they bought books full price and new. I happen to be one of them. This is why I have an Audible membership, Kindle Unlimited and I love digital. Also, I never once stated to buy all books new. I said if you liked an author to do him or her a solid and strive to buy something new.

Yes, there is the avid reader who can’t buy every book new. There is also the dead broke reader. I’ve been that reader too. I kid you not, I was so poor when I became a writer I lived off Vienna sausages, generic saltines and ketchup packets from Wendy’s…so I could use that extra cash for the bargain rack at Half Price Books.

*fist bump*

To this day, if I walk in the house and the lights are off? I panic and wonder if my power has been shut off. So yeah. I totally get being that broke.

But that isn’t everyone.

And we live in a world of abundance and if people can afford an iPhone 6 they sure as hell can afford a digital copy of your next book if they loved the used copy. Because if our entire customer base is living in a refrigerator box, then we all just need to go get retail jobs and stop trying to make money.

Look around. Plenty of people live in nice homes and drive nice cars and carry nice handbags. They can shell out $10 for a book so stop being insulting.

Consumers with Conscience

Some of my critics said I was “reader shaming.” Fine. You are welcome to your opinion.

I disagree.

I feel most people don’t know how our industry works and how would they? Most of US are confused how it works since it changes every frigging month. Publishing barely changed for over a 100 years and now it looks almost nothing like it did 6 years ago.

Hell, we work here and half the time have to look up how we’re paid. Oh! But the average consumer! I guess she should just get that through osmosis.

My critics have pointed out that people are going to do what people are going to do.

The War on Piracy didn’t work! The War on Drugs didn’t work! You are an idiot for trying to fight it! Here get my books from THIS piracy site! Here!

Oh-kay…

*backs away*

All right. But those were policies of control. No one is suggesting federal laws making it illegal to go to Half Price Books or make people buy new. I am only asking we as writers educate our consumers because educated consumers change the market all the time.

Sometimes this has to do with the product itself. For instance a BPA-free water bottle is going to be way more expensive than a regular water bottle. But, because of education, consumers learned that paying more for a water bottle was in their favor if they didn’t want to end up with cancer. Education.

Commenters railed on the Passive Voice repost of my blog about paying more just so workers could be paid? What idiot would do that?

In fact my loudest critic in his comment section went for my throat using my own background in jewelry sales.

Did you go to a customer and say, “Here, pay $10,000 for this diamond instead of $6,000 so the miners get paid more money?” Huh? Huh? Did you? DID YOU? How did that work out on the sales floor, Kristen?

Actually, funny he should use that example. I once had a customer who was incensed at our diamond prices. He’d found a much higher quality diamond from another source for a fraction of the cost and demanded to know why we were charging more and ripping him off.

The reason?

When I looked at the “other source.” There was no guarantee that other diamond wasn’t a blood diamond.

Yes, in jewelry we do educate customers they’re paying more in part to ensure their diamonds weren’t mined by slaves and used to fund military warlords.

Education can guide consumers to pay more for a water bottle (product) and a diamond (conscience).

Fair Trade and Social Responsibility

Our consumers have a lot of power. No I don’t feel anyone owes me anything I haven’t earned. Never said that. I said I am tired of people acting like I should be grateful for “exposure” en lieu of being paid and if I say anything I’m a whiny jerk.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writers asking for the sale. All people can do is say….no.

When I was in sales, the single largest reason most salespeople failed to make a sale? Never asked for it.

Simple.

But what are people saying to writers?

It is okay to have “exposure”…just don’t ask for the sale. Just be happy being exposed.

Huh? WTH? NO!

What good is a used bookstore for exposure if I then don’t tell people, Hey, if you find a book of mine there and you really love it, please buy my next one NEW? It’s how I get PAID.

OMG! How could you? You broke the cardinal rule of being a writer!

I will starve eating exposure sandwiches, okay? Thank you OATMEAL for this. Check out his comic on it.

And this notion that our books are SO expensive. Really?

I took a look at some really common items I buy all the time. Now, consumers buy these for two reasons. First, superior quality. Secondly, it supports the workers, the industries, the resources and the environment. I feel it’s a huge fallacy to believe all consumers only want more and cheap.

Many of us will do just fine with less and are just fine paying more.

Fair Trade Tea

Hubby’s favorite tea. We work to buy as much as we can organic, non-GMO and fair trade. We might not eat out as much. I cut a lot of coupons. Hubby picks on me that I can make a penny scream. But I spend my money on good quality products and industries I support.

Zhena’s Gypsy Tea promotes social responsibility in its business model.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.16.40 AM

Fair Trade Coffee

I got this for my mother for her birthday because she is big into organic and loves coffee. BUY HERE. Purchases support coffee farmers of Nicaragua.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.11.07 AM

THIS I am drinking as I write this because I’m too lazy to brew my own coffee and yes it’s yummy and buy some!

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.05.39 AM

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.09.48 AM

Hubby’s FAVORITE! Fair Trade CHOCOLATE

Not only is the chocolate a far superior quality, we prefer to spend our consumer dollars supporting what we believe in. We don’t want cheap crappy chocolate because we can have more of it. We want THIS and yes it does cost much more but we think it’s worth it. BUY Zola.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.13.46 AM

We love this brand of chocolate the best (even though it is usually $3.99 per bar on sale). A percentage goes to wildlife and rainforest preservation as an added bonus to being fair trade.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.08.52 AM

Support chocolate addiction, workers AND critters!

Madecasse is another company we buy from. LOVE their story of what they are doing in Africa to change the economy. Such a wealthy nation should not be so poor. The only reason it is is because of the way business has historically been done.

Sound familiar?

Just because something has always been doesn’t mean it has to always be.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.12.38 AM

I began buying Fair Trade years ago and as more people are doing it, the choices are expanding and prices are coming down from being ridiculous.  But what if people like me hadn’t been willing to pay $7 for a bar of chocolate?

Additionally, what if these companies used the same arguments as all my critics?

People on a limited income won’t be able to afford COFFEE. We can’t possibly do anything differently. That is consumer shaming!

No, if you’re on a limited income, buy the cheap stuff. If and when you can? Splurge and get the Fair Trade stuff and do the coffee workers a solid.

And if enough people buy Fair Trade? Maybe the major players will change their business models. It does happen. And money talks way louder than legislation. Hershey’s just announced its plan to become 100% Fair Trade.

The thing is, no not every person who buys coffee or chocolate or tea or bananas will buy from these companies. But just because everyone won’t buy from them, does it then mean it shouldn’t be an option at all? What if no one ever asked for the sale?

Hey, will you spend $7 to support a cocoa farmer in Madagascar?

*shrugs* Sure. Why not?

And if lunatics like me hadn’t been willing to buy Fair Trade…would Hershey’s have seen the need to change? Maybe. Odds are they wanted to make money and rock on!

Thus, if we can create a market for fair trade chocolate and fair trade coffee—both arguably items that people can live without and that do have far cheaper substitutes—then why is it such a stretch to believe readers can’t and won’t pay more for a book if we take the position of education and social responsibility?

Look, we’ve tried the other way. Toss a few million free books against a wall and hope something sticks. Heck, throw in pirated books for a million more! Social media! EXPOSE ME! EXPOSE ME!

Don’t ask for a sale. That is gauche. You’re an artist.

Yay! More exposure??? Awesome! No, I don’t need money. I do this for just…love.

We do have that option. Keep using it. Knock yourself out.

I’m Scandinavian. We loathe waste. I think it’s genetic. I don’t support companies that waste resources. I prefer to support companies that value resources. I think consumers could change publishing if we let them. If we stopped assuming they didn’t care, that all they wanted was cheap books no matter the consequences.

Guess what? Writers are resources. No matter what my critics say, you matter. You are not interchangeable cogs in a machine. And all the people railing that no one owes you (writers) a living. Guess what? No one owes the bookstores one either.

But maybe together we can make it better for all of us😀 . I prefer to believe that Fair Trade Fiction can thrive. Instead of promoting pirate sites, why not promote sites and bookstores that are GOOD to authors?

These days, social responsibility is a bankable asset. If Starbuck’s, Apple, BMW and Google apply this and they’re worth billions, why not publishers/bookstores? Why not at least…try?

Reward bookstores who are Fair Trade Fiction Stores.

Roberto Ventra

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Roberto Ventra

Hey, you bought used? Great! Did you love it? Awesome! Could you help out and buy the next one new? Wonderful! *fist bump* Now, you’re supporting the arts and the bookstore.

***Bookstores can’t pay rent off exposure either. I checked.

And if used bookstores wanted to add that extra touch of bohemian cultural to their “cultural center” then add some fair trade chocolate to serve with that fair trade coffee and maybe even promote some fair trade fiction at the checkout counter😉 .

What are your thoughts? Do you feel guilted when someone shows you a rainforest on a chocolate bar or do you go…mmm, not today. I think I will just get the cheap stuff. Do you prefer to buy quality over quantity? Do you like companies that exhibit social responsibility?

Do you think this is a niche bookstores (used and new) could fill? Or publishers? Fair Trade Fiction. I kinda like the ring to that. But, in a world filled with cheap and free books that suck and are a torture to read…what is the consumer’s time worth? Get the vetting of a legacy publisher but with the pay scale of the indies. Just putting it out there. Are you tired of the attitude that we just can’t change anything?

Me? I’m sick of people (writers) being far more willing to promote pirates than other authors. What the hell is wrong with the world when people  will write a whole blog trashing me for saying you deserve to be paid while promoting pirate sites? Did I just fall down a rabbit hole?

Anyway. To each his/her own. I believe in you😀

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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Y’all are going to have to give me time to tabulate December. Sorry. I am good, but not THAT good. Love you!

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

, , , , , , , ,

92 Comments

Consumer Power, Author Responsibility & Why Book Reviews MATTER

Too many choices!

Too many choices!

We’ve had an eventful week or so with my last couple of unplanned posts. In all fairness, I did expect to get some knickers in a twist (which I did) with my post Pay the Writer. As a quick recap, I love used bookstores. They get a lot more of my money than I like to admit *looks up number to 12 Step Sponsor*

You don’t understand. Half Price Books has books ZEN DOODLES. No frigging idea what those are…just that I need some.

I’m not against “discovering” an author there.

But writers? If we promote used bookstores, make sure to remind readers you don’t get paid that way. Discovery must serve a purpose. Exposure must have the follow-up to be effective.

Because if you don’t ever make any money, you have to go work retail. If you work retail, one day you will be asked one too many stupid questions. When you’re asked one too many stupid questions you snap. When you snap, you lose your job. When you lose your job, you can’t face your spouse. When you can’t face your spouse, you sell drugs for the cartel. When you sell drugs for the cartel, you get involved in a gunfight.

Don’t get involved in a gunfight for the cartel. Encourage readers to buy new if they LIKED it.

Readers, if you find a book you LOVE at that church thrift sale for 50 cents? ROCK ON! If you want MORE books like it? Try to buy new. That’s how capitalism works.

When no one buys new? Well go peruse pictures of Cuba.

By the way, if we buy NEW, the used bookstores make MONEY when we sell those suckers to fund our addiction. So anyone who is foolish enough to think that me encouraging people to buy new books is going to undermine the used book franchise doesn’t remember what used bookstores sell.

The Truth About Samples

Mmmmm…saaaaamples.

Mmmmm…saaaaamples.

Yes, I get that the used book is a sample. Just like at Costco they give out samples of pizza bites. But if no one ever BUYS pizza bites and instead use Pizza Bite Lady as a free buffet?

Pizza bites go away and tofurkey bites take their place and then the terrorists win.

*runs away from vegan friends*

That was the only point to the post that seemed to cause so much offense. Yes Mr. Konrath, I get NO ONE OWES the Pizza Bite Company writer anything, but still nothing wrong with the Pizza Bite Company writer asking for the sale.

When the Pizza Bite Company asks for a sale after we’ve laid waste to the sample table like an Old Testament plague? They’re selling not whining.

Nothing dirty about it when pizza bites sell stuff. Nothing dirty when writers sell stuff either😉 .

Today we’re going to talk about reviews, because I do think that was the big shocker from my last post. I believe most folks have come to mistakenly assume that reviews are kind of this “extra” nicety that isn’t directly relevant to the author beyond ego and that’s patently false especially in the digital age where we writers live and die by algorithms.

Yes, in the digital age, our biggest challenge is discoverability. The defenders of the used bookstore have an excellent point. Obscurity=DEATH. That IS true. But I still say, discoverability means nothing to writers (or any business) without an eventual sale…somewhere.

And for those of you who are on that limited budget who inhale books by the dozen? You have no idea how much power you wield to truly help the writers you love but hopefully you are about to find out.

***Note I said the writers you love. Not ALL writerKIND. Just because I write a book does not entitle me to any review beyond what I EARN.

Why Reviews Are So Essential

Sheer Visibility

We’re all spoiled by Web 2.0 which is a user-generated web that is the offspring of the implosion of the doc.coms in the early 2000s. If you recall the 90s, web content was static. Content was mostly generated by sweaty geeks living in their grandmother’s basement (Okay, I was in a guest room). Anything Internet-related might as well have been Sanskrit for the average person.

Now? Everyone contributes to the web including  my sidekick Odin the Ridiculously Handsome Cat.

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 7.45.13 PM

This is part of what makes the Internet so damn addictive and fun. Everyone contributes. But, with all this content, the web is a BIG place and it’s very dynamic.

Search engines use algorithms to keep everything organized. Algorithms in turn rely on certain favorable behaviors.

I teach this in my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. You want a website that gets more traffic? Blog off it! Want a blog that gets more traffic? Do the stuff search engines love. One thing search engines LOVE?

Fresh content.

Would you want a Coke that had been sitting out for days? It’s stagnant, flat…got floaties? Guess what? You and search engines have a lot in common. You like fresh stuff. So do search engines.

This is why regular reviews are very important. If my book hasn’t been reviewed on Amazon since 2013? Algorithms will figure my content is best ignored unless someone actively hunts for that molded cup of forgotten Coca Cola my book.

When a book is reviewed, however, Amazon (or Goodreads or wherever we review because they use the same basic programming) perks to life. Because any site that sells or recommends books wants to help guide customers to good/new content, it’s obviously going to favor the “happening” place.

Think of it this way.

You have out of town guests. Are you going to recommend they go hang out at that dive off the highway where the bartender is about to die from loneliness? Or that hot salsa club downtown with a line out the door?

Visibility & One-Click Shopping

When that review improves the algorithms, the algorithm then starts improving that book’s visibility. It shuffles that book out of the dusty back realms of Nowhereville and gets it in the sightline of a possible buyer. Why this is perhaps more valuable on-line is that Amazon (in particular) understands sales.

Why I’m not a fan of the “exposure” alone is that I come from a background in sales.

There’s this thing called inertia and it’s a bugger to overcome. When I worked in jewelry, if I let a person out of the store without making the sale? Odds we’re 99% that sale was as good as lost. It was better to sell something and make the person have to RETURN it because then inertia worked in MY favor.

Same with used books. Great, customer gets a good book, but most of the time? That’s just not going to translate into a new sale unless an outside factor intervenes.

Outside Factor #1—OMG! TAKE MY MONEY!

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

OMG! I SAW ANGELS! I MUST BUY! It happens.

All of us (writers) think we have written this book. Probably not. We keep at it though until we do.

Outside Factor #2—Consumers Voting With Purchases

We vote with consumer dollars all the time and often this is sparked when we are educated that we need to buy differently. Don’t believe me?

I’m highly allergic to gluten and have been all my life. Three years ago most people thought Gluten was a moon orbiting Pluto. Then writers started educating consumers about the food industry. Our food had gotten to where you needed a degree in organic chemistry to know what the hell was in it.

Consumers fought back.

They ignored cheap foods loaded in artificial ingredients and bought non-GMO, organic and gluten-free. As a consequence, prices dropped, selection improved and now General Mills has announced that this year it will be removing artificial ingredients from many of its most popular products.

I can…OMG…eat Cheerios again! *SOBS* Spawn can eat them!

Image vie Cheerios. WE LOVE YOU!!! Even though you are stuck to every piece of furniture I OWN! http://www.cheerios.com/GlutenFree/

Image vie Cheerios. WE LOVE YOU!!! Even though you are stuck to every piece of furniture I OWN!
http://www.cheerios.com/GlutenFree/

THAT is the power of educating consumers. Readers have the exact same power. Now that people know how writers they love make money, buying habits may be altered due to this factor and inertia overcome.

Hooked on a series from a used book? Perhaps buy the next one new.

Outside Factor #3—Our Nemesis, THE IMPULSE BUY

Most of the time price and seeing a new copy while shopping will spark a sale.

The main reason Amazon IS the new SkyNet is they’ve mastered the one-click impulse buy.

So when that algorithm shuffles your favorite author’s book into the sightline of other potential readers? Odds greatly improve that someone will impulse buy. More sales means that author’s odds of continuing to write more books like the one YOU liked have greatly improved.

How Else Do We Authors Improve?

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Peter Dutton

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Peter Dutton

Believe it or not? Writers are omniscient…only in our fictional worlds. We just can’t know unless you tell us.

For the fiction writers, if ten people say our characters need more depth, then we won’t be wasting time doing more world-building. Feedback makes us better and saves us time.

And *draws a breath* I’m again about to possibly be unpopular.

We writers hear that you (readers) want excellent and professional covers, seamless interior design, professional editing, proofing and formatting…but that costs money. Please don’t rant that no one owes us a living and that you refuse to buy new books but then gripe about crappy covers.

We’re going to have to meet halfway.

Writers. We have a responsibility to put out the very BEST product possible. Refer to my post Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Writers.

Reviewers don’t owe us any review beyond what we earn and they shouldn’t pay for an inferior product.

The Deadly Silence

I think what’s killing many authors is that readers have come to believe that reviews are not important to us in any way beyond our ego or guiding other consumers (like reviewing a toaster).

Either readers will enjoy a book and never say anything, OR often they will say it in the “wrong” place.

I can’t count how many e-mails I get where a reader just gushes how my book changed their life. How awesome my book was. They loved it!

…then never write a review.

😦

Reviewing Tips

Original image via Flickr Commons courtesy of Mark Coggins

Original image via Flickr Commons courtesy of Mark Coggins

It’s OKAY Not To Be a Pro

We’ve all made the book review WAY more complicated than necessary. Readers, you are not professional book reviewers and do NOT NEED TO BE. If a book kept you up until four in the morning and made you hate life as you slogged through your day job? Give it 4 or 5 stars and just write:

“Book kept me up until 4: 00 a.m. Writer is evil stealing sleep from innocent victims.”

If the book kept you interested and was fun and did its JOB? Reward it. Simple.

I know writers freak you out and you think we’re silently judging your prose. We’re actually too busy wetting ourselves that you liked our book and picking out artisan frames to put your review in….typos and all. They just make you extra adorable.

It’s all good.

Review According to the Book’s FUNCTION

Did the author do his/her job? If yes, great! Why was it great? If not? Why not?

If it’s brain candy then say, “Hey, great brain candy. Fun Saturday afternoon read.” Not all books are supposed to be contenders for the Pulitzer.

Recently I gave a good review to a NF but also left a criticism. The author had mission drift. He never delivered what the book promised (the THESIS). Now, I gave him four stars because I still got a lot out of it, learned a lot and enjoyed the writing…but he didn’t do his job. At least not all the way and he can’t do better unless I give feedback.

And I have the attention span of a meth-addicted ferret so if I finish a book? You get 4 stars just for that alone.

Kristen's Brain as acted by Spiffy the Hamster Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

Kristen’s Brain as acted by Spiffy the Hamster
Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

NEVER Put Your Name on What You Don’t Believe In

This is to offer relief to reviewers. Don’t let writers guilt you and if they insist on guilting you, tell them you’re going to tell me *stern Mama face*.

You beloved reader, don’t owe us anything we don’t earn.

Yes, I want you to support writers with good reviews only because I do think a lot of you have enjoyed books and have never taken time to write a review because you simply didn’t understand how much they mattered. Beyond that?

You’re in the clear.

If you don’t want to write a review? Don’t. You don’t owe us anything.

If you’re a reader and choose to leave a bad review? All I ask is you remember a real breathing human is on the other side of that. A human who sacrificed many hours of free time for the sole purpose of wanting to bring YOU joy. 

If we failed, we failed. That’s fair. But, there’s a difference between giving us something we can work with to improve versus prompting us to contemplate suicide.

Writers, don’t guilt others into giving good reviews.

This is a big reason that it’s tough to get reviews. I hate to say it, but I’ve lost many “friendships” because I refused to write a stellar review on a piece that had not earned it. Pouting isn’t professional.

Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons

Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons

If you want to be paid, then you’re a pro but that comes with some hard knocks and sometimes that hard knock is the book sucked. I’m your colleague and will tell you in private.

Readers don’t owe you (or me) that courtesy.

Tips for Shopping

This is mainly for the readers.

Take One Star Reviews With a Grain of Salt

One of the reasons I am not a huge fan of Goodreads is that trolls tend to hang out there and GR has not done a lot protect authors from being abused. So, if you spot a book that suddenly has a weird cluster of one and two-star reviews and there is NO explanation? Could be troll-sign. Trolls also like to hide behind cutesy monikers and avatars (btw sock puppets do too).

Do NOT Be Spooked By All Good Reviews

I also heard a lot of people say they were suspicious if a book got all good reviews, but be careful.

If you see a gathering of all 4 & 5 stars and NO commentary, THEN be wary. That’s a good sign you have a cluster of sock puppets (fake reviews).

But if you’re looking at a book that’s getting mostly 4 and 5 stars and readers are detailing WHY, the book might just be THAT good and the writer earned those high marks. Don’t punish excellence.

For the writers.

DO NOT PAY FOR REVIEWS & DOWN WITH SOCK PUPPETS

Anyone who has a financial interest in reviewing our book already has a conflict of interest as far as I am concerned. Save your money.

One thing that has really burned my @$$ is authors banding together and reviewing each other’s books and that is all well and good if the reviews are genuine reviews. Sadly this has not always been the case. Being a sock puppet doesn’t help anyone.

It will wreck your friend’s brand and your brand because readers will lose confidence and colleagues will lose respect. I refuse to put my name on anything I don’t believe in. If I give a book a five star glowing review? It earned it.

Being a real friend is not easy. But I’d rather someone no longer hang out with me than I serve them up to the wolves on a platter with dipping sauce. In the digital age, we writers live and die by the value of our name.

Don’t let friends guilt you into reviews they haven’t earned. If they’re a real friend and a pro, they’ll  get over the hurt and thank you later.

I hope this has helped all of you better understand how reviews work in the digital age and maybe even taken some of the pressure to write The Great American Literary Review off your shoulders. Don’t let other writers give you a guilt trip. As I said, you can tattle on them to me😛 . I’ll set them straight.

Does this help? Writers, don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed to ask for a sale. Now if you ask and they say no? Don’t be a pest.

Readers. Feel free to buy books any way and anywhere you want to, but please remember that we do vote with our dollars. That holds true for cars, pizza rolls, gluten-free bread and it holds true for good books.

For the savvy reviewers out there, are there any tips you’d like to add to help us out? Writers, I hope this is something you can reblog and share so your readers know how to help and support you if they so choose.

What are your thoughts? Feelings? Are your eyes wide open? Would you like to add anything?

I love hearing from you!

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

Enough of that…

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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

66 Comments

The Ugly Truth of Publishing & How BEST to Support Writers

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

Well, I figure I have one more day to drunkenly torch my platform. Sad thing is I don’t drink. I am apparently this stupid when sober😛 . Actually I am writing this as a follow up for my rant from the day before yesterday, because knowledge is power.

Writers need this. Your friends and families need this. Readers need this. The more people get how this industry works, the more everyone can start working together for everyone’s benefit.

In my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I go into a LOT more detail and I highly recommend you get a copy if you don’t have one. I spend the first chapters of the book explaining how the various forms of publishing work so you can make an educated decision.

All types of publishing have corresponding strengths and weaknesses and this is a decision only the writer can make. Not all writers are suited for self-publishing. Not all books are good for traditional.

And so on.

But today, dear newbies. I am going to take you on a tour behind the curtain. Also for those who are NOT newbies, feel free to pass this to family in a “Take Your Clueless Friends Who Think You Will Make a Million Dollars as Soon as You Publish To WORK Day.”

Nuts and Bolts of Publishing

Publishing is a very old business that has not updated its business model since the biggest traffic snarl in NYC involved a runaway horse carriage colliding with a drunken fish monger. In the early days of publishing in order to encourage bookstores to carry books, publishers invented what was known as the consignment model.

Publishers would guesstimate how many books would sell, send them to the merchant with the promise that, whatever did NOT sell could be returned at no cost. The merchant only had to pay for books that sold.

Hint: NO OTHER BUSINESS TODAY DOES THIS.

Can you imagine a car manufacturer sending out fleets of new cars that customers could test drive all day long. Run up mileage, spill drinks in the console, but then if they didn’t sell the dealership could say, “Nah, we’re good. Can you send us different models from another designer? We really dig that sleek crossover.”

Because often that is what happens with books. People use bookstores like a freaking library. They go into the adjacent Starbucks with a stack of books, read to their heart’s content and then leave a stack of books for the clerk to put away.

Now the spines are cracked, the pages wrinkled and no one is going to buy that book, but the bookstore isn’t out anything because they can rip the covers off and send them back. Ultimately the writer is the one who takes the hit. Kind of the publisher but really the writer as we are about to see.

Because bookstores want to provide a “browsing experience” they don’t want to rely on the new and far more efficient way of doing business, which is POD (print on demand). They like having stock to show off, which of course they do because they are not really out anything.

How Writers Are Paid

Original Image via Wikimedia Commons

Original Image via Wikimedia Commons

Why I kind of derailed into a rant Tuesday was because there are so many things that get presented as “blessings” for writers when in fact, they are benevolently killing us. They are undermining us and making it harder and harder to make a living wage. We can’t criticize these sacred cows lest we look like jerks.

You ever wonder why people just assume that a published author is rich? That is because this used to be a profession that did rather well. Granted it was easier to be elected to congress than write for a living, but these “good ideas to sell more books” have eroded the Author Middle Class and created a Publishing Third World Economy.

You know what a marker of a third world economy is? My degree is in political economy. In a third world country wealth is concentrated at the top. There is little to NO middle class and the vast majority are working poor or poverty level.

If you peruse my blog from the other day, I mentioned the ways we are paid best (digital and new books). We get a royalty. Anything used? We make no money. But let’s explore a bit further…

Compounded Sales

Back in the days before the mega bookstore, there was a very strong Author Middle Class. This author wasn’t a gazillionaire, but he did really well writing for a living. The reason was that a smaller store like B. Dalton often carried an author’s backlist. If you are old enough to remember browsing these small stores, you might even remember that factor coloring your decision.

How I ended up hooked on any number of SERIES was that the bookstores stocked the series. I didn’t want a standalone book. If I fell in love with an author or characters, I wanted to be able to keep reading.

What this meant was that writers weren’t being paid royalties from ONE book, but many books. Even if the author didn’t write series, if the author had multiple titles, odds were pretty good that the store ordered those, so even with single titles, a browsing reader could be assured they could get more than one title from THAT author.

But there was a downside…for the reader. Books were more expensive. The store was not the size of an aircraft hangar and had no place to buy a frappucino and good luck being able to buy a figurine of a chubby cat reading Shakespeare.

The MegaStore is GREAT for READERS…and Writers of COURSE

Spawn writing his memoirs.

Good luck getting good placement BABY WRITER.

So then Borders and B&N came on the scene. I still remember how they were lauded. How they were going to improve literacy because books would be so much more affordable! They were “cultural centers” and “bookish hubs”. Writers will get so much more “exposure.” Does any of that sound familiar? Refer to that @$$hat article I was ranting about.

But there was a problem. There is no free lunch. Those “deep discounts” came at a cost…to the writers. In order to discount the books the way they do, the mega stores don’t stock like the old indie bookstores unless an author is a household name guaranteed to sell.

Megastores are in the business of moving high volume. That is how they give the consumer the discount. Books, for the first time in history, had a far shorter shelf life than ever before.

Instead of books remaining in the store and giving the writer time to cultivate a fan base, the covers were ripped off and the books pulped.

As a consequence? The mid-list author (Author Middle Class) was nearly wiped out. Authors who’d made a very good living previously had to return to the regular workforce (I.e. teaching) because they no longer could live off their writing income.

I had a friend of mine who won a Nebula Award in science fiction. She went from making a regular income off ELEVEN titles, to making income off ONE title at a time.

Even though she was a respected and award-winning author, she had to give up writing full time (until Amazon).

***This was all until Amazon, by the way. Many of these authors who were driven to poverty actually now make more money than they ever did traditionally published and they no longer have to be pillaged by megastores. Which is why I get pissy when people act like Amazon is the devil and bookstores are so awesome.

Megastores make money with volume and offering the newest shiny. But the problem is that books often are like fine wine. I said wine, not whine😉. They need time to mature.

But the problem was that the very literary ecosystem that helped launch unknown books like The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood into legendary status…was destroyed. Traded for beads frappucinos. Borders and Barnes & Noble obliterated the small bookstore and took with it the earning ability of many writers.

The mega-bestsellers did VERY well. Ergo my reference to Publishing Third World. Wealth was redistributed and concentrated at the top and the middle class was eradicated.

Book Placement

Screen Shot 2012-03-26 at 8.14.34 AM

If you do not have an on-line platform, then Browsing Roulette is about the best you can hope for. But those spots in a bookstore are all negotiated in a writer’s contract. Those front slots on a table are premium real estate.

Same with displays. Ironically, though, the authors with the most selling power often get the best displays (remember the volume thing). But, George R.R. Martin is probably going to sell books. The writers who need that placement the most are the least likely to get it.

This isn’t personal. It’s business.

If I came out with a novel, I am going to sell a heck of a lot less than George R.R. Martin. Well, at least five or six copies less😛 .

In seriousness, though it makes sense to display your heavy hitters. Problem is then that the newer writer no one knows then better hope her last name falls at the fortuitous eye-level because she will be spine-out on a shelf.

And if the time runs out and no sale? Off with that cover and the book is pulped.

Advances

Before I became a writer I bought books everywhere. Because it was not my profession I guess I really just never put any thought into how that writer was paid. If I bought a book at a used bookstore and it was new, I assumed it was overstock. I had no idea what a remainder was (more on that in a moment).

I’d also watched movies and heard this term “advance” tossed around as if it meant money rained from the sky. In fact, as a new writer, I dreamed of all kinds of ways to spend my million dollar advance.

Advances are not free money. They are essentially a payday loan. It is money loaned to the author against the money eventually earned in royalties.

So if an author is given a $20,000 advance, he is not paid another dime until that book earns over $20,000.

Herein lies the pickle.

If an author doesn’t “earn out” the advance, odds are she will not be given another book deal. So, if you get that $20,000 and the book makes $19,700? No more deals. That’s why BIG advances seem like a good thing, but can actually wreck a career. It’s far easier to earn out a $20,000 advance than a $90,000 one.

Writers don’t have to pay back the advance, but if it doesn’t “earn out” it means the writer is not a wise investment for the publisher so the odds are not good for the author getting another book deal. Depending on the author or the book, they might get another deal. But with newer authors? Probably not. And first-time authors? Forget about an advance. Not happening unless your name is Kardashian.

This was a really big deal before the digital age because traditional publishing WAS the only game in town. So if an author didn’t make her quota? Game over.

These days, advances are pretty much a thing of the past. Any money most writers will make are going to come from US buying books from them.

Print Runs

Screen Shot 2012-05-04 at 11.05.40 AM

One can tell how much confidence a publisher has in a book (author) by the print run. Low print runs mean the publisher is being conservative to hedge losses…but low print runs mean the writer doesn’t make as much. A standard print run for a new unknown author is 10,000 books. But traditional tends to limit authors to one book a year so even if an author makes $2 per book, that is $20,000 before taxes.

Yes, J.K. Rowling is a billionaire but she is not the norm.

***Btw, all of this is VERY unscientific and very broad strokes to give y’all the gist.

This isn’t BAD for the new writer because it is way easier to sell out that 10,000 and then she will get a bigger run the next book and the next as her brand grows (if she doesn’t starve in the meantime).

However, higher print runs? We are in the same deal with advances. If you don’t sell out your print run, the remaining copies are remaindered. 

There are ways writers can buy a portion of their remainders to sell by hand and they can get a far lower royalty off remaindered copies that are then sold through wholesale outlets and used bookstores.

Usually if you see a new book at a used bookstore and it looks like this (pic below)? It is a remaindered copy. That’s why yes, I get the Doctrine of First Sale and that used bookstores are not doing anything “illegal.” But don’t assume that a writer was paid a full royalty the first go. That isn’t always the case.

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 8.50.18 AM

Image courtesy of Angela Quarles

Yes, this is a great fabulous discount for the reader, but when I see this? My heart feels heavy and sad for the author. That is why in my last post I said, YES feel free to buy used but if you can, please see if you can buy new from the author. The reason is that those sales can make the difference in that author earning out the advance, selling out a print run and getting their next book contract.

Because used bookstores do not favor self-published and indie authors. Most of their stock will be traditionally published authors so you (readers) supporting who you like with a new sale becomes far more important to that writer’s future and career.

Royalties

Traditionally published authors are often paid yearly. Sometimes quarterly. That is negotiated. It is why you have an agent. So whatever the author makes, Vinnie the Fish Agent makes sure the publisher pays, then takes 15% (pretty standard). Then the writer is subjected to self-employment taxes, but with all this “exposure” from the megastore the writer might qualify for food stamps.

So writers are paid like farmers. Let your family know that your down payment on the yacht might be delayed.

Reviews

I get that a lot of people buy used because they are on a budget. Been there so *fist bump*. You can still support writers in meaningful ways.

Even if you buy new, there is another way you can support writers you love. Write a REVIEW. A GOOD ONE.

As a writer I have a personal policy. If I can’t say something good, I shut up. Mainly because I AM far more picky about story being a writer and an editor but also this business is brutal. If we are not supporting each other? Who will? Because our families don’t get us. Our significant others might. Our kids think we are nuts. So I only leave glowing reviews. But that is me. Writers shouldn’t eat their young.

For READERS. Reviews are more important now than ever before, especially for the indie and self-published author. The reason is that with the change in the publishing paradigm, the slush pile (unfortunately) has been dumped into the reader’s lap. There are a lot of bad books out there. But even then, that really isn’t all that big of a problem.

Want to know the bigger problem?

There are a lot of good books out there.

With the Internet and social media and the explosion of books there is SO MUCH content. This means consumers are overwhelmed with choices. Reviews help writers sell books because if readers see a book with no reviews or five reviews versus a similar title with thirty reviews? Who will they choose? Additionally writers gain access to promotional tools like Bookbub, but can ONLY do this with a minimum number of reviews.

Instead of sending me an e-mail about how much my book changed your life? Put it on Amazon and change MINE! 

Readers are essential to our success beyond just the sale. If you love our books, your promotion means a thousand times more than any ad I could pay for. Ads and marketing don’t sell books. Never did and never will. Only thing that sells books is word of mouth.

Beloved reader? You would be shocked how much regular people will pay attention to you. That review is worth your weight in gold to me for a number of reasons. Humans don’t like being first. So unless a couple of you are brave and review? My book can sit with NO reviews and it is then unlikely to sell.

Think about a shelf with ONE item. It freaks us out. There is only ONE. Is it poison?O_o

Secondly, when you review us, Amazon favors our books in the algorithms meaning more people SEE our book. More people SEE it, odds are I will sell more copies. In the on-line world YOU have the power to get US that awesome front of the store book placement. The more reviews the better the algorithm. Better algorithm, more views. More views, more sales, more sales—>we make a best-seller LIST!

❤❤❤

You can also use your social media because it means more than ours.

Tweet a picture of our book. Put it on Facebook. People in your network ARE noticing. Peer review and approval is paramount in the digital age. And don’t support your favorite author on Goodreads as a first choice (AMAZON reviews are better). The only people hanging out on Goodreads for the most part are other writers and book trolls.

Support us on your regular Facebook page or Instagram or Twitter. Because when you post a great new book you LOVED your regular friends see that. When they get stranded in an Urgent Care or an airport? What will they remember? THAT BOOK. They won’t be on Goodreads. Trust me.

So there is your year’s end peek behind the curtain. Sorry (again) it was so long but this is meant as a reference/guide. Readers, we love you. Honest. It is why we are so stupid to work for free so much. This is a labor of love in many ways. Writers, I hope this helps you understand your profession better and maybe even “get” why I was so ticked off the other day.

Happy New Year! I love all of you very much. So NO, your writer friend is NOT YET a millionaire, but you can help MAKE HER ONE😀.

I love hearing from you!

What are your thoughts? Feelings? Are your eyes wide open? Would you like to add anything?

I love hearing from you!

Make SURE you sign up for my upcoming classes! This is part of how I fund my plans for global domination. Purchase a class! Buy a book! OR ignore all that follows but DAMN sure buy all your books NEW or I WILL FIND YOUO_o ….

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

Enough of that…

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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

, , , , , , , , ,

261 Comments

What Are the REAL Odds of Success? Extreme Ownership & the Best-Selling Author

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Many of us are doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). If you’ve been following this blog the last two weeks, then you probably know I’ve had a horrific case of the flu. While this does mean I’ve sidelined editing (have to have higher thinking skills) and teaching (kind of need a voice) this has not excused me from writing.

In fact, it’s been pretty good for my writing since Robotussin apparently chloroforms the internal editor and is like Skittles to the Lizard Brain who is now running around in my head with scissors.

Oh God! It has the glitter! Hold on! Back in a minute….

Where was I? Yes, Lizard Brain is great for creating, and if I keep my pace, I should finish my 50,000 words tomorrow. Right now I am at almost 41,000 words and have been averaging about 5K a day. I never could have done this alone. I have my teammates on W.A.N.A.Tribe. We have been doing word sprints every morning and every afternoon for the past week.

Like clockwork, no matter what is happening or how we feel, we meet. We sprint for 30 minutes at a time. We write as much as we can. No looking back. No word smithing. No editing. Just writing. These folks have been a huge blessing because if they didn’t take the time to be disciplined and show up? I doubt I would be so far along.

I kept referring to them as my 5%ers and they didn’t know what I was talking about. So today we are going to talk about…the 5%er.

W.A.N.A. Sprinters, this is for you😉 .

Success

Success is a really weird thing. I used to think people just needed to be given opportunities. What I have found is that this is not actually as critical as I once believed. There are actually opportunities everywhere. Seriously…everywhere. The problem is that internal inertia.

We must overcome our natures. Will we take advantage of those opportunities? Will we make our own opportunities where none exist? Or, will we sink to average because it’s easy?

Beware the lollipop of mediocrity; lick it once and you’ll suck forever. 

Anyone who’s ever been successful will tell you that a big part of overcoming adversity is mental. I know it’s a grossly inaccurate movie, but I still love G.I. Jane. I recall a scene during Hell Week (the first evolution of SEAL training) where Master Chief has everyone doing butterfly kicks in the rain. He yells at the recruits to look to their left and look to their right, that statistically, those people will quit.

Who will be the first to ring that bell? Who will be the first to quit?

Years ago, one of my mentors mentioned The 5% Rule. What’s The 5% Rule? So happy you asked. Statistically, only 5% of the population is capable of sustained change. This means of ALL the people who want to run marathons, 5% will. Of ALL the people who join a martial arts class, only 5% will ever reach black belt. Of ALL the people who have a dream of being a career author, only about 5% will ever reach that goal and maintain it.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 12.39.09 PM

At first, I was horrified when I heard this statistic. I want everyone to be successful! Surely if they had more tools, more chances, more affordable classes…

Human nature is a weird thing and, had I not seen this 5% rule play out countless times, I’d still be an unbeliever. Yet, like everyone is not meant to be a Navy SEAL, not everyone is meant to be a career author. This is good news and bad news. Bad news is odds are against us. Good news is multi-fold. First, we control a lot of the factors that lead to success. Secondly, this job is NOT for everyone.

Believe it or not, what we writers do is excruciatingly HARD. Just like it is NOT normal for a human body to run long miles in freezing surf carrying a Zodiac filled with water, it is NOT normal to sit and write 100,000+ words. Most people—literate or not—cannot do what we do.

They like to believe they can…but they can’t.

One of the reasons regular people are so shocked to meet a “real” writer is that so few writers ever really reach the professional level. But, why? Why do so many give up the dream? What does the 5% writer do differently than hoi polloi 95%?

I’m an optimist. I believe all of us possess what it takes to be in that coveted 5%. Question is, can we overcome our natures? What is the difference between the amateur and the pro?

Pros Like Validation But Don’t Require It 

Image via QuickMeme

Image via QuickMeme

Validation is different from feedback. We ALL love validation. We crave it. We adore it. But pros don’t require it.

When I first brought my glorious prose to a critique group, I said I wanted feedback. What I really wanted was for the group to tell me that my words were written in angel tears and that all the agents who rejected me must have been brain damaged.

I did not want to hear that I might not have a clue what I was doing. I did not want my pages handed back dripping in red ink. In fact, that hurt. A LOT. I had to learn to suck it up and press on. If one person had an opinion? Well, might just be a personal preference. When ten people gave the same opinion?

Houston, I had a problem.

Writers can work years without any hint of outside approval. Most people can’t sustain this and they give up. One glance in my sidebar and you’ll see this blog was named Writer’s Digest‘s Top 101 Websites for Writers for 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 10.37.39 AM

But some of you might not know that I blogged for almost two years and no one cared. My biggest fans were the male-enhancement bots.

I so licked your blog. You make many grate poinsettias. Is it just me or are all your commenters brain dead?

Hmm, maybe he’s foreign? Or not *head desk*

How much do you LOVE the dream? Because I will tell you that if I went by outside approval, I would have quit YEARS ago. If I judged my future success by my beginning blog stats or early book sales?

*weeps*

I was starting to wonder if I’d made a serious error by leaving sales. Sales had a paycheck, a fancy title and a company car. No stranger ever asked me if I was a “real” salesperson.

I went a LONG, LONG, LOOOONG time when no one cared and worse, they thought I was a joke/lunatic/poseur/hack. We need rhino skin in this business.

When I started this blog almost eight years ago, there were all kinds of other bloggers who were bigger than me. Sadly, many of them are gone. Never underestimate the power of simply showing up.

Below is an image of my blog stats.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 11.10.51 AM

By the way, I can’t show you my beginning stats because they were so small, they didn’t register on a bar chart. Can you tell when I made it past “The Dip”? What if I’d quit? In 2009, I had a little over 6,000 views for the year (and I’d been blogging about 18 months by this point). In 2013, I had almost 450,000 views. But how many people would have given up when staring at those 2009 numbers (which works out to about 15 views a day and I bet half were from my mother)?

Pros Don’t Find Time, They MAKE Time

Time isn’t hiding down in the couch cushions camouflaged in Cheerios. We don’t find time, we make time. Often new writers will bemoan how they wish they could find time. 

Yet, I will posit this.

If today, I could guarantee you hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and all you had to do was finish the novel, how many would stay up late or get up early? How many would decide the family can go to the movies alone? Or that the floors are clean enough?

Often we procrastinate because there is no guarantee of success. Procrastination and perfectionism are frequently driven by fear of failure. If we never finish, we can never really fail. Our work is never out there to be judged.

As I like to say, “If we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.” So what if you write a blog and no one cares? Join the club. My first blogs were dreadful. So the crickets and spam bots can boo you😛 ? Write a crappy first novel. Then move on. Learn. Keep writing!

No unpublished blog ever went viral. No unfinished novel ever became a runaway success.

I read all the time. I inhale all kinds of books and my personal favorite are leadership and business books. I just finished Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and WinI love, love love this book. I opened a sticky note app on my phone just to take notes. One of my favorite lines was, “Discipline is freedom.” So remember this. Tape it somewhere.

Discipline is freedom.

This is something pros understand. It’s one of the reasons I am so hard on all of you to stop calling yourselves “aspiring writers.” Aspiring is for wimps. Writers write.

Pros understand that getting up early or staying up late and putting the words on the page every day, day after day after day no matter what is liberating. You get to eventually do what you love for a living. Discipline to write means more books get written.

Yes, building a platform can be the less fun part of the job (can be). But pros know it is necessary. Discipline is freedom. Do it and you sell more books. Sell more books eventually you have to do less of what you dislike and more of what you enjoy.

Excuses are free but they cost us everything.

Pros Focus on What They Can Control

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 7.38.15 AM

Show me a struggling author and I will show you someone spending too much time shopping the same book. Instead of writing more books and better books, these writers are worried about querying the same book over and over, or (if published) they fret over sales, marketing, blog tours, or algorithms.

We cannot control what will be the next hottest thing. We can’t control the marketplace or the tastes of readers or whether matte bookmarks sell more books than pink beer koozies. This means we shouldn’t waste precious time on things we cannot control at the expense of things we can.

I think this is one of the reasons I really loved the book Extreme Ownership, because if we take EXTREME OWNERSHIP, then THIS is what our careers CAN look like…

When I gave the 5% statistic earlier, many of you were probably discouraged. But let’s take a closer look at that number.

It’s been said that as much as 75% of the literate population would love to one day write a book. Out of hundreds of millions of possible authors, how many do you think actually take the idea seriously?

5%

And of the tens of millions left over, how many sit down and write and finish a first draft?

5%

Of the millions remaining, how many actually read craft books, get critique and keep revising that first draft until they have a polished draft?

5%

Of those who finish that first novel then realize they have a train wreck and not a novel, how many suck it up and start over to write a better book that’s more likely to engage with readers?

5%

Of those who finally write a decent book, how many take time to also build a brand and platform? How many learn to blog effectively in ways that reach and cultivate readers?

5%

How many get in the regular habit of writing, researching and revising? They don’t just stop with the one book and keep on writing more books?

5%

Of those who publish the first book and don’t instantly become zillionaires, how many keep writing and improving?

5%

This profession is really hard. Toss a few hundred million people with a dream into one large funnel and most will not shake out at the end. Yet, if we look at the individual pieces of becoming “successful” it is astonishing how much we control. We can take ownership of much more than we might realize.

Others whine, we work.

What are your thoughts? Does this 5% example make you feel a little better about your chances? Can you look at your own life and routine and maybe see some areas that you can come up higher? I am ALWAYS reevaluating how and where I am spending my time. Have you been allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by things beyond your control? Do you find that fear keeps you from finishing? Hey, I have been guilty of ALL of this, so we are friends here😉 .

I love hearing from you!

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

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

, , , , , , , , ,

93 Comments

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 53,985 other followers

%d bloggers like this: