Posts Tagged Amazon

Brave New Publishing—Amazon Testing Paying Authors by the Page

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

We live in a really strange time and technology has altered the publishing landscape into something we could never have imagined in 1999. The changes have been nothing short of science fiction. Well, buckle your seat belts because it is about to happen again. Just about the time we kind of get the knack of things, it seems there is yet another upheaval and we have to adapt.

This is why I wrote my social media branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.  My methods keep us from having to tear down and start over every time something in the tech world goes topsy-turvy and we can maintain brand momentum no matter what. But this time it isn’t social media throwing the curve ball.

It is Amazon.

I’ve worked hard to be balanced in all my opinions about publishing. Yes, New York had (has) its problems, but when many authors were railing to tear down traditional publishing, I worked hard to show that there are two sides. Amazon might favor authors and genuinely be on our side, but that could change so be wary. I detailed a lot of my concerns a couple years ago (2012!) in a post, Amazon—Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts.

Just so y’all know, sometimes I scare myself with my predictions because science fiction easily becomes dystopian fiction. Just a slice…

Amazon is the 500 pound gorilla in the room, only we can’t see it because it is hidden neatly inside a giant digital Trojan Horse. Don’t get me wrong, I buy plenty of stuff off Amazon, and they have done a lot to help shake up the industry and get New York hopping. Without them, I don’t believe we would have seen so many miraculous changes so quickly.

Ah, but every fairy tale has a dark side…

…once the competition falls away and Amazon burns New York to the ground? What happens to the writer? What happens when we fall asleep and it is safe for Amazon’s Trojan Horse to unleash the gorilla?

When NY is razed and Amazon has no real competition, do they have to keep giving us the same sweet royalty rate? And they already have a nasty reputation. They pulled that little stunt with a publisher who dared to cross them. Two years ago, they removed all the “Buy Buttons” off all the Macmillan titles. So, if Amazon will use the brass knuckles on a major publisher that crossed their path…what about us? The little guys? What happens when a writer miffs them and they unleash the gorilla?

Lord Acton so eloquently said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and that statement is as relevant today in 2012 as it was in 1887, because while industries change and technology changes, humans are timeless. So what happens when it’s Amazon’s turn to hold all the keys to the kingdom? Will they use them any differently than those they crushed to gain them?

Unlike NY, Amazon isn’t searching through all the millions of wanna-bes for a handful of investments. Anyone can publish quickly and cheaply. Writers are running to them! The problem with this is they get all the benefits of being a publisher without any real sacrifice.

A lawyer friend of mine noted that when writers publish on Amazon, we all agree to the same blanket contract. This gives Amazon all the perks of being a publisher without concerning itself with any of the traditional protections for the writer.

And, I understand that writers haven’t been treated all that great in the past, but we need to ask the tough question. Is this future better? Is trading one dictator for another a good plan?

When I wrote this, I had reservations about digital publishing. Granted I love it. When you write books on social media, traditional publishing just doesn’t fit and I would never have been able to publish at all without it. I also love the global distribution. But, the idea that our words are stored in the ether gives me pause. In this post I just cited, I mentioned the pace of expansion, how quickly Amazon was making money. Yes, a 57% gain in one quarter was awesome, but…

As a former salesperson, I knew there would come a time when that windfall would taper off.

What then?

I ran across this article yesterday on Gizmodo. Amazon is launching a new “idea.” They are experimenting with the notion of paying authors based off the number of pages actually read. Yes, it is a real thing. I had to look too. See HERE.

According to Gizmodo’s article:

“Beginning on July 1st, authors who self-publish through Amazon’s KDP Select Program will become part of a new publishing experiment. Currently, Amazon divvies up a pot of money to its native authors each month, based on the number of times their e-Books are “borrowed” through two separate Kindle services: Kindle Unlimited, a standalone, $9.99 / month subscription service, and the Kindle Lending Library, an Amazon Prime membership perk. In the new scheme, authors will be paid for each page that remains on the screen long enough to be parsed, the first time a customer reads the book.”

Before anyone thinks I am anti-Amazon or yelling “FIRE!”, I’m not. In fact, this is too new for me to even fully know how I feel. Right now this only affects books borrowed.

For all we know, this experiment remains in the realms of a narrow section of the overall Amazon model (the lending part) and the impact is not that large or might even work out well for authors. But I do think we have the responsibility to be watchful and if I am really honest? This trend scares me more than a little bit.

Why?

Because businesses are in the business of making money, not giving away money. If they can find a way to increase profit margin, they will. Sometimes this works in our favor. I.e. Efficient distribution. Sometimes? It gets a bit 1984 and paying us by the page seems way tempting to those who are in the business of running publishing empires.

Benefits of Being Paid by the Page

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Yes, I see the “benefits.” As it stands, a writer who publishes an awesome page-turner is paid the same per unit as someone who publishes a book unfit for human consumption. Additionally, writers who publish longer works are paid the same as authors of short works.

Under this plan, the author of a riveting 120,000 word epic fantasy will be paid more than an author of a riveting 50,000 word short. Authors of works so boring it would peel the paint from the walls will get paid the same, no matter the length.

To Amazon’s credit, this is actually a very fair way of doing business with writers.

But this notion of being paid by the page is concerning. Yes, it is all well and good when this “experiment” is part of a small slice of the Amazon publishing model, but what if this expands? What if the test “works so well” that it becomes part of the overall publishing model? In ten years, how will we be making our money? Off books sold? Pages read? A combination of both? Is this good or bad? I don’t know.

But, no matter what, we are wise to pay close attention. It is our future on the line.

Separating the Slush

I can see one major benefit from this notion of “paid by the page.” I think it might be the ultimate playing field leveler. Why? One of the largest problems that has faced the Digital Publishing Paradigm is the slush. In the traditional model, we had gatekeepers to separate “good books” from “bad books” or even simply delay “books that needed more work and weren’t ready”.

In the past few years, the slush pile has been offloaded to the readers. To combat this, we’ve seen the rise of sites like Goodreads to help guide readers to the good stuff. Book reviews and book reviewers have also tried to intervene. Yet, despite these noble efforts, we have also seen book reviews grossly abused (I.e. sock puppets inflating bad books and trolls tanking good books). We’ve also witnessed all kinds of algorithm abuse.

If we trace the trajectory of this idea, how long will potential readers rely on reviews? If I were Amazon, I would start promoting works based of rates of completion. Could we be witnessing the birth of an entirely new form of ranking?

My book has a 87% rate of completion instead of My book was #1 in Western Romance.

If we (readers) can judge off rate of completion, this could change everything. Sure Big Shot Mega Author with a gajillion-dollar marketing budget sold X books, but the book only had a 34% rate of completion. But Jane Newbie who has thus far only sold Y amount of books and has only her social media for marketing has a 97% rate of completion. Hmmm, this might impact my decision.

Ugh, but the dark side of this…

If rate of completion extends into BOOKS SOLD (not just borrowed) as a way of accurate promotion, how long until the world can see that no one made it past Page 50 of our book? Before, we simply had to sell copies of our book. Now? We also have to face another layer of judgement?

I mean, the good side is that trolls and sock puppets will no longer impact us the same and if we write really good books we are rewarded, but am I the only one feeling the need for a drink pressure?

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

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

The Writing Matters No Matter What

This is why for eight years I have worked very hard to train you guys for success in the new age of publishing. In the 21st century publishing world, we must have a brand and a viable platform. But, we also must write excellent books. It is why I have blogged and taught on all aspects of publishing. Social media is limited in power if the book is weak and vice versa. Our writing remains our greatest sales tool.

This first five pages are essential (and now it seems the rest of them are about to be PRETTY important as well).

As an editor, I can almost always tell all that is wrong in a book in 20 pages or less. Usually, within 5 pages I can spot all weaknesses and bad habits that are likely to repeat throughout the work.

I really don’t need to read the whole thing.

For instance, if a writer shifts P.O.V. so much I can’t keep up with who’s head I am supposed to be in? I am fairly sure this is going to continue. If a writer overwrites and drowns me in purple prose? Probably not going to start writing lean and clean after page 25. And, there are more red flags the book is weak, but we aren’t talking about those today. I HIGHLY recommend Les Edgerton’s book Hooked and I am also about to teach my First Five Pages class if you want some more hands-on instruction.

This is also why I have spent so much time discussing flashbacks lately and how to use them well. I know they are a legitimate literary device. I know they can be done well and are done wellBut, I also know that flashbacks used poorly are probably the single greatest reason a reader will stop reading. And, in a world where we are paid by the page? That becomes more than a big deal.

We will continue talking about “bending time” next post. We are going to explore non-linear plotting. My problem with the term “flashback” is we tend to use it to broadly and lump every instance of going back in time into one term. So we are going to unpack some works that seem to “flashback” all over the place, but we will see they really don’t. We will dissect this unique way of delivering story.

In the meantime, does this “paid by the page” freak you out too? Or do you think this might be the great playing field leveler we have all been waiting for? Sure, Big Shot Writer sold X books, but only has a 25% completion rate, where as Small Guy Writer sold fewer books, but has a 90% completion rate? Would this influence your purchasing?

Do you like the idea of being paid by the page? Do you think it rewards good writing? Do you think it is one more reason writers are going to need therapy?

I think it’s hard enough selling copies of books, but if I saw that those who bought only made it 50% through? It probably would depress me, but maybe I could look at the book more closely and fix WHY people weren’t finishing. Maybe it would be the world’s most accurate critique. Maybe I would be grateful. And maybe I am a Chinese jet pilot.

What do you think? This revelation is so new, I am unsure even what I think, so I would appreciate your opinions.

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Classes:

Before we go, y’all asked for it so here goes. I have two classes coming up. The class on log-lines Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line is $35 and as a BONUS, the first ten sign-ups get to be victims. IF YOU ARE QUERYING AN AGENT, YOU NEED A PITCH. I will pull apart and torture your log-line until it is agent-ready for FREE. 

Beyond the first ten folks? We will work out something super affordable as a bonus for being in the class so don’t fret. I’ll take good care of you. AND, it is two hours and on a Saturday (June 27th) and recorded so no excuses :P .

I am also running Hooking the Reader–Your First Five Pages.  Class is on June 30th so let’s make Tuesdays interesting. General Admission is $40 and Gold Level is $55 but with Gold Level, you get the class, the recording and I look at your first five and give detailed edit.

Our first five pages are essential for trying to attract an agent or even selling BOOKS. Readers give us a page…maybe five. Can we hook them enough to part with cold hard CASH? Also, I can generally tell all bad habits in 5 pages so probably can save you a ton in content edit.

 

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

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109 Comments

Marketing, Social Media & Book Signings—Why NONE of These Directly Impact Book Sales

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.57.14 AM

In The Digital Age, we seem to find a lot of extremes. Either articles or blogs ranting how social media doesn’t sell books, it’s too hard, there are too many rules, whiiiiiiinnnnne. These folks might write books, maybe even great books, but I suppose they think readers will find them using telepathy. 

Or, there are those who worship the Oracle of Automation and the Lord of Algorithms. Instead of writing MORE BOOKS, they tweet, FB, Instagram, buy flare, do blog tours, futz with the website, the cover, the algorithms…and then can later be witnessed crying in a corner with a pan of brownies and a half-finished bottle of rum.

Thus, I am here to bring some balance to The Force.

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

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

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

How?

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

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

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

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

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

Ick.

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

Hmmm, looks legit.

Hmmm, looks legit.

The Battle of the Experts

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

1) Are these people tweeting or ovulating?

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

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

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

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

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

Oooh, But We Can MEASURE…um, NO

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

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

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

Meet Spiffy the Algorithm Hamster. He is DEAD.

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

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

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

Might I suggest one of these...

Might I suggest one of these…

Relationships are Key

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

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

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

Your estimated call wait time is three days.

HINT: Anniversary.

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

The Bottom Line

Since I don’t have all the articles and blogs griping about social media, I am limited here. But I imagine that, aside from telling writers social media was a waste of time that doesn’t sell books, I assume not one of these complainers offered up some panacea replace social media.

See, it is a hell of a lot easier to complain than to offer a solution. Griping takes ZERO brainpower.

So, if social media doesn’t sell books, then what does? Ads don’t. Never have. Promotions (without an extant and vested platform) are time-consuming, expensive and have a dismal ROI (Return on Investment).

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

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

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 1.17.53 PM

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

The Future

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

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

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

Oh, and these are popping up…

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Check your bank balance then BUY A BOOK!

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

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

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

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

But, if THESE kiosks are down the pipeline, how can we reasonably come to the conclusion that social media is a total waste of time?

Relying totally on social media is a waste of time, but I’ve been saying that for years. As authors, we are wise to think in terms of our careers. Think like a business, as in short-term and long-term. Platforms and careers need a wide base, deep roots, a community of support, time and a heck of a lot of sweat equity.

Also, there are effective ways to do social media and ways that make others want to stab us in the face (which was why I wrote Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World).W.A.N.A. ways WORK. They’re responsible for selling millions of books. But they take time.

ROM has a simple step-by-step plan. Heck, don’t buy my book. Browse my blogs for free. I only care about your success.

The Future IS Bright for Writers

The future for authors is wonderful, but there is no Social Media Shake Weight. Sorry. I was bummed, too. But here’s the thing. The same articles/blogs that will discourage writers from social media because it doesn’t sell books aren’t also demanding we halt all book signings.

Book signings are fun, they are social, and they’ve historically been a way to connect authors to an audience in a personal way.

Until social media they were the only way. 

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

Craftfest

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

Food for thought ;) .

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

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

…ALIENS.

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

, , , , , , , , , ,

84 Comments

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

Original image via Rosaura Ochoa via Flikr Creative Commons

Original image via Rosaura Ochoa via Flikr Creative Commons

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

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

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

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

How?

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

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

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

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

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

Ick.

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

The Battle of the Experts

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

1) Are these people tweeting or ovulating?

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

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

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

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

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

Oooh, But We Can MEASURE…um, NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Might I suggest one of these...

Might I suggest one of these…

Relationships are Key

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

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

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

Your estimated call wait time is three days.

HINT: Anniversary.

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

The Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

The Future

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

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

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

Oh, and these are popping up…

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Check your bank balance then BUY A BOOK!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future IS Bright for Writers

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

Until social media they were the only way. 

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

Craftfest

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

Food for thought ;) .

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

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

…ALIENS.

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

 

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147 Comments

How to Write a Great Author Blog AND Avoid Huge Ships

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

Blogging is THE most resilient form of social media and one of the best tools to build an author platform. Why? Readers read blogs. Perfect snare for readers. We also own our blogs, whereas content posted on Facebook and Twitter (and other social sites) is no longer exclusively ours, meaning these sites could rearrange the digital furniture and take our posts/archives with them.

If Twitter flitters and FB implodes, blogs will remain. Blogs will continue to grow over time, and search engines LOVE them. Blogs have been going strong since the 90s. Blogging also makes us better, faster, cleaner writers and they can be harvested later for books (I.e. to use as promotion).

Whenever I teach writers about blogging, my first challenge is to talk them off the ledge from panic. What do I TALK about? I have no IDEAAAAASSSS!

*breathes into paper bag*

And I truly understand this panic, because a lot of social media experts advise writers to blog in a way that is very left-brain.

Write about writing.

Write about the industry.

Write about your process.

Write about your research.

Write about your books.

Write essays.

Write about getting an agent.

Conduct interviews.

Do book reviews.

Talk to your characters. NOOOOOO! (*hint* Anyone who knows the characters already bought the book. To anyone else? Seriously creepy.)

Yet, here’s the thing, writers (especially fiction writers) are CREATIVE people. We are storytellers. When we blog merely on information, we engage the left side of the brain (analytical), but our fiction engages the RIGHT side of the brain (emotional). Blogs need to do this, too.

Why are we trying to build a following/fan base for a right-brain product with a left-brain TOOL?

Craft, the industry, our process, our research are our tools for our art, but they ARE NOT our art. Readers, or potential readers ARE NOT interested in the tools of our trade, rather they want to see how we USE those tools. Regular people (readers) are interested in the art, which is merely the unique “set of eyes” that permits writers to see what others can’t (but secretly wish they could).

EVERY product marketed uses the right side of the brain, from razor blades to duct tape. Madison Avenue wants us to see Michelin tires and think safety. They want cheap body wash to give us an “organic experience”, or why else pay an attractive actress to go all When Harry Met Sally with soap and a loofah on prime-time TV?

If virtually EVERY product sold uses emotion, then why do we think we are going to get traction pumping out a constant stream of information?

Writers are not, per se, experts at teaching craft or discussing changes in the industry (and regular people could care less about Random-Penguin). We are artists. A writer’s expertise is looking at the world in a unique way mere mortals can’t. THAT is what readers (fans) gravitate to. They rely on us to focus in on something they would have walked right past and make that unexceptional object or event magical.

Writers look at ordinary things in extraordinary ways. Want to be a great writer? Pay attention, REAL attention to the world around you and get good at seeing/and selling with artist eyes. Great blogging uses the world as your muse…just like your fiction ;).

Even the genius marketers KNOW we are ignoring ads more than ever. We scream past commercials or wait to watch our favorite shows when we can get them on Netflix. To combat this, they know they no longer can just offer lots of stuff CHEAP; they have to entertain. Make us WANT to watch and even share by using?

STORY.

I’ll illustrate with this super-fun commercial from Samsung.

The best written examples of this technique (that I’ve witnessed) are some of the people who leave reviews on Amazon. There are reviews that go viral simply because a reviewer had some fun. They took the time to elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary…and people LOVE reading what they have to say because they are FABULOUS storytellers.

We don’t all need to be comedians to write great blogs, but maybe these can give you a good laugh and perhaps open your minds to what a blog of The Digital Age really is.

I selected entries from the banana-slicer review at Amazon, the Big Pen For Her reviews, and the Amazon reviews of Captain Trimmer’s  book “How to Avoid Huge Ships.” All of these are just page after page of gasping-for-air-clutching-one’s-sides-delight. I think I may have found my kindred spirits here.

But watch how they take items so vanilla and unmemorable and turn it into something you can’t wait to share…by using the power of story.

TheMightyBahamutSee all my reviews

This review is from: Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer (Kitchen)

All my life I have been wondering how to make a banana into small bite sized pieces.I spent my childhood in a basement practicing on smaller fruits like grapes before graduating to plums and even small peaches.

My parents became concerned when household fruits would turn up missing, and the day they found me hiding in the bushes enthralled with my dissection of a large apple, they decided I had a problem.

As I reached adulthood my need to slice open fruits was becoming unbearable. I would gaze longingly at bananas in the store, wondering how best to slice open their delicate flesh so I may feel their moist sticky insides. I made my first clumsy attempt around age 25.

When no one was looking I snatched a small banana from its companions, and brought it to my basement. It was a disaster, my knife-work just left a smashed and uneven mess, so I buried it in the woods lest anyone stumble upon my grizzly handiwork.

Finally I found the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer. I used it on the next unattended banana I saw, and discovered I could now cut up and dispose of an entire banana in one swift movement! I can do it in mere seconds, or slowly lower the slicer, prolonging the ecstasy I feel seeing the bananas flesh torn open.

Thank you Hutzler 751, because of you my basement walls are lined with the peels of hundreds of bananas, and I am currently working on a mask made from the peels of all my victims sewn together.

1,445 of 1,556 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Finally! You’re tellin’ me…., September 8, 2012

By DMS – See all my reviews

This review is from: BIC Cristal For Her Ball Pen, 1.0mm, Black, 16ct (MSLP16-Blk) (Office Product)

This here is a wonderful invention. Now my wife can stop stealin’ all my man pens that I leave all over the house. I sure don’t understand it bein’ a man and all, but shoo-ooot, it sure is nice that she finally found herself a pen that’s all her own.

Now don’t get me wrong fellas. If you are really in a pinch, y’all can use one o’ these bad boys to write somethin’ down. Just don’t be surprised if your paper smells a little purtier and feels a little softer than you’re used to. That part ain’t all that bad really…

UPDATE:

I’ve actually found that I really enjoy writing letters with these pens while I’m sitting at my weather beaten desk donning my Three Wolf Moon t-shirt and a pair of zebra print Zubaz pants, and sipping a nice cup of chamomile and honey. Not sure what that means…

Should I be concerned?

UPDATE:

I’ve started digging into the wife’s Bronte sisters collection. Taking notes with these pens on what I’m reading just feels, I dunno…right. I gotta say, I’m finally starting to understand why the wife likes reading these things so much.

UPDATE:

You know, it just ain’t right how women have been treated throughout history. I mean, I’m starting to realize that we men just don’t really understand a lot of what a woman goes through on this earth and how she struggles to love and care and give and give and give until she can’t give no more. But I feel like I’m starting to get it, you know?

UPDATE:

I’ve gotta be kinder to the wife. You know, listen to her. Just listen. Instead of tryin’ to fix everything and give her answers to her problems while she’s talkin’. That’s not what she needs. She needs a man to listen. She’s not looking for answers, just somebody to empathize with her and tell her she’s alright.

UPDATE:

Got into work today and all I had was a sharpie. I feel so lost…
Kinda like… Like I was missing a part of myself you know?

UPDATE:

Got home tonight and washed and folded all the laundry just ’cause. You know, this HGTV thing ain’t half bad. I could watch this stuff all night. Why in the world am I payin’ for the premium sports package…

UPDATE:

Decided to take the day off this morning and just get the kids up and breakfasted and out the door. Let her sleep, she never gets to do that…

UPDATE:

Some of the fellas from work came over today, just to see how I was doin’. They tried like gangbusters to get me to watch The Expendables with them. I eventually asked them to leave. Which they did. I gave them each a pen on the way out and thanked them sincerely for their concern.

UPDATE:

Me and the fellas who came over yesterday have decided to have a massive sell off of all our action movies and pool our money and resources to remodel one another’s kitchens. All except Drew. Which is funny because he was the only one who refused to take a pen from me. We’re going to go over to his house later as a group and see if we can persuade him to take the pen. I just know if he writes something down with it he’ll begin to see why this matters so much to us. I don’t really know what’s come over me, but I feel wonderful. We all do. And I’m sure Drew will feel wonderful too once he is assimilated.

UPDATE: PLEASE READ:

I had a moment of clarity today. It’s a TRAP! Forget everything I’ve said – Well except for that part about bein’ a better listener and bein’ nicer to the wife and all that. That’s still true. But there’s somethin’ else goin’ on here… Somethin’ deeper. Like my mind is bein’ taken over er somethin’. I happened upon an old episode of Buck Rogers on the internet today, that’s what broke me out of this…this trance or whatever you want to call it. I have no idea how long it will be before I fall back into it. They know that I know now… They’re coming for me… There’s something in the plastic. Some kind of serum that… Someone’s at the door – Get those pens out of your house before it’s too bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

UPDATE:NEVERMINDS, I AM FINE THANK YOU:

Please excuse last post. I had bout with the deliriousness. Continue to use pen. Perfectly safe. Continue to share with all friends of the male type. Go sports team!

How to Avoid Huge Ships Book Review

508 of 537 people found the following review helpful
This book is invaluable!

By Roger on August 21, 2013

Format: Paperback

When on my jet ski in the Chesapeake bay this summer I was confronted by a huge ship moving up the channel. You can imagine my horror when I realized I had only 1 hour and 45 minutes or so before the lumbering behemoth was sure to pass through my area. With no place to hide and only a water jet propelled small craft beneath me for transport, I quickly withdrew my Kindle Fire from the storage compartment beneath my seat and preceded to read the book How To Avoid Huge Ships. One hour later and with only 45 minutes to spare, I implemented the expert advice provided by the author and turned my jet ski in the opposite direction of the huge ship to avoid certain disaster.

And frankly, these reviews make me want to buy stuff. I actually just BOUGHT the Hutzler banana slicer even though I am allergic to bananas. Why? Because, I know when I’m having a bad day, I will be able to retrieve my slicer from my kitchen drawer and get a really good laugh. I am so grateful for these armchair artists, and honored to share their writing here. I hope you will go give them the 5 star reviews they deserve…and maybe buy some Bic Pens for Her to spice up your marriage, too!

***NOTE: I give a detailed blueprint how to create an author blog in Rise of the Machines–Human Writers in a Digital World.  Create a blog you enjoy and that reflects your unique style and voice. I will also be teaching blogging classes at WANACon, the virtual conference you can enjoy from HOME and all recordings are included with admission (sign up HERE).***

What are your thoughts? Opinions? What is the best item you’ve ever seen reviewed? Do you think this might be a good way to practice those blogging muscles? Go write these kinds of reviews. Hey, it helps the product AND gives us practice. Something to noodle over at least :D.

I love hearing from you!

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

January’s WINNER is Elizabeth Kaiser. Thanks for your comments, support and re-blogs. Please send a 5000 word WORD document, a 250 word WORD synopsis or query letter (your choice which of the three) to kristen at wana intl dot com. Congratulations!

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Rejection, Reinvention & Do-Overs—What YOU Need to Know About E-Books

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Waaayyyy back in the Dark Ages of Publishing, I queried many, many…*sigh* many agents, only to be rejected. Then, I pitched a social media book for writers…and they laughed in my face. Social media is a fad. Authors only need a good book. Yup. Well, these are the same folks who are now requiring an author to have a strong social media platform and most won’t so much as look at a book if they can’t google an author’s name and have it show up (and show something vibrant and interesting).

Had it not been for the indie/e-book revolution, my first #1 best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, and my second #1 best-selling book Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer, and now my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World would never have existed (let alone dominated the top three slots in multiple categories).

Thank you WANA and INDIE PUBLISHERS! *shout-out to Bob Mayer, Jen Talty & Cool Gus Publishing who took a chance on my first two books*

Aside from me (being a niche author), there were many traditionally authors who had extensive backlists (full of mega-successful books) who would have never made another dime off that work (and a lot are now making six and seven figures). There were also many authors who’d been rejected for years, who finally forged their own paths using e-books. Look up Romance Author Theresa Ragan. Theresa sold SO many books, that when NY came calling? She turned them down.

I wonder if she sent them a rejection letter with “does not fit my needs”? Hmmm, perhaps I should ask next time I see her :D.

There are also authors like John Locke who used e-book success to garner sweet publishing deals. Why am I mentioning this stuff? Because no matter what kind of author we are—traditional, indie, self-published? E-books are important. 

Yes, even if we traditionally publish. Right now NY can produce a book (maybe two) in a year. That’s a lifetime in the Digital World. What better way to keep fans excited than by publishing backstory, short stories, deleted scenes, stories involving supporting characters? This helps keep readers passionate so when your book is on the shelves? They are SO THERE.

Today, to talk about e-books and her own experience is Award-Winning Author (of TWENTY-SIX books) Amy Shojai…who happens to be a WANA International Instructor because I only want the best for you guys.

Take it away, Amy!

***

A few years ago, I had a high-profile agent, a spokesperson gig with a major pet products company, and a dozen award winning pet books published by “Noo Yawk” publishers. Oh, I worked my furry tail off for years to get there, but thought I’d finally arrived.

Before y’all decide to use my face on your personal dart board, you should know this: publishing went KER-FLOOEY!

I ended up back at square one. My agent couldn’t get a bite on any of my proposals. The spokesperson gig cancelled. My books got remaindered instead of renewed. All those backlist books, my retirement income (sob!), instead became dust bunny habitat under the bed.

Betcha you heard the booming echo of head-banging frustration where you lived. And you know what? “Noo Yawk” didn’t care. Tried a new agent and that didn’t work either. So I quit writing. I even took a real job . . .for about six months until I realized it doesn’t matter that “Noo Yawk” doesn’t care.

It only matters that I CARE.

Nobody cares more about YOU and your goals than YOU. So ya gotta be nice to you, treat you like royalty, and find ways to say “yes I can” instead of wallowing in “why I can’t.”

WHO ARE YOU, ANYWAY?

I am a writer. It’s not what I do, it’s who I am. But the “old Amy” no longer worked in the new world. Without an agent, I had nobody telling me “don’t bother, it won’t sell.” Without an editorial deadline, I had time to revise and update the latest, greatest information. And without that high-profile on-the-road gig, I could experiment with projects without concern it might hiss-off a sponsor.

So I reinvented myself first by kindle-izing my backlist books. That led to partnering with Jen Talty and Bob Mayer’s COOL GUS Publishing, creating my BLING, BITCHES & BLOOD blog (thank you Kristen!), voicing my own audio books, writing original titles and most recently a critically acclaimed dog-viewpoint THRILLERS WITH BITE series.

All because publishing went KER-FLOOEY. That’s a techie term. You have my permission to use it (I’m a writer, so I can make schtuff up).

BEYOND NaNoWriMo: KNOW YOUR OPTIONS

So, what does this have to do with you? Today there are fewer eyebrows raised toward hybrid/indie/self-pub authors than when I jumped off the digital cliff. The flood gates have opened.

Did you complete NaNoWriMo? Are you lined up at the starting gate, ready to pull the trigger on a spanking-new baby book?

Whether you plan to DIY Ebook, hire POD done, or choose a la carte services for cover design, publishing and more, LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES. Discover the options and make educated choices.

Because do-overs sucketh big time. This is why I am offering my:

EBOOK FOR WRITERS WEBINAR Dec. 7, 2-3:30 NY Time

Next Saturday, December 7, 2013, join my EBOOKS FOR WRITERS Webinar from 2-3:30 NY time for all the must-know options for publishing in today’s digital age. It’s only $40 (but you’ll get $10 off with the code GO INDIE). Register here.

No hotel, no travel, no makeup required! I love Webinars because I can wear jammies and have your cat or dog on my lap. The recording makes it possible to revisit the session later—especially helpful for those with a time conflict who live in, say, Australia. Or the wilds of Manhattan. And, if you aren’t yet ready to pull the trigger on your book, the session helps you figure out next steps when you ARE ready.

(Hint: Might be a cool early holiday gift for a writer in your life.)

The live Power Point presentation includes lots of SQUEEE! cute animal picture illustrations, answers your questions and gives you a life-preserver to keep you afloat as you dive off the self-publishing cliff. You will learn:
• Pros & Cons of Ebook Publishing compared to “Traditional”
• Options Available from DIY platforms to for-hire services
• Kinds of costs involved
• What you can (and should) do yourself
• What you should hire professionals to do
• Resources for helpful self-publishing software, editorial assistance and cover design help
• Practical step-by-step how-to “Kindle-ize” your manuscript
• Formatting tips for illustrations, covers, sidebars and table of contents
• Promotional must-knows including DO’s and DON’TS!
• Includes valuable links to further information, available as a down-load/handout.

I got to reinvent myself with help of others like Kristen Lamb who mentored me into creating a kick-ass BLING, BITCHES & BLOOD BLOG, so turn-about is fair play. Besides, it’s just the right thing to do. That’s one reason I jumped at the chance to guest here at Kristen’s amazing blog site. Good karma gets returned so find ways to pay-it-forward, let others know about the seminar (and discount code GO INDIE). You can thank me later ;).

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

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

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

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

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

WANA LOVES ALL WRITERS

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

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

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

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

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

I wanted to scream.

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

I felt like Jerry MacGuire:

Help me, help you!

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

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

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

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

The Publishing Apocalypse

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

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

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

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Aaron Charlton

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Aaron Charlton

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

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

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

What Does This Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grandinetti’s speech left me in tears.

FINALLY!

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

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

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

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

*and the choir sings*

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

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

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

1. ALL authors need an on-line platform.

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

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

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

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

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

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Lies that Can Poison Your Dreams–Don’t Eat the Butt in 2013

Chuy

Happy New Year! Today we are going to revisit a favorite series of mine that I call Don’t Eat the Butt. Why? Because typing “butt” makes me giggle. Besides, when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, I guarantee most of you vowed to 1) start your novel 2) finish your novel 3) land an agent 4) self-publish 5) be better about checking in with your parole officer.

Maybe that’s just me :D.

Kristen, Why Are We Talking About “Butts” and What Does This Have to Do with Writing?

We’re getting there! Geesh! Patience.

I like to think about stuff.

A lot of stuff.

Probably far too much stuff.

Anyway, I wonder about the first person who ate an oyster. Was it a dare? Someone lose a bet? What about mushrooms? There are 100,000 known species of mushrooms, yet only 2,000 are edible. How do we know this? Someone had to eat the bad ‘shrooms then pass that knowledge down for posterity (after he stopped seeing snakes).

Who volunteers for this kind of stuff?

But the most fascinating culinary assassin, in my POV, is the puffer fish. There is only ONE TINY PART of the puffer fish that is not deadly. Oh, and if you don’t know how to cut a puffer fish correctly, you can unwittingly unleash deadly poison into the non-poisonous part.

Marty: Wow, crazy, Dude. This puffer fish kind of tastes like chick–…*grabs throat and falls over foaming from the mouth*

Fred: Note to self. Don’t eat the butt.

This idea of the puffer fish made me start thinking about our careers as artists. There are a lot of common misperceptions that can leak poison into our writing dreams if we aren’t careful. Thus, the DETB (Don’t Eat the Butt) lessons are designed to help you guys spot the toxic beliefs that can KILL a writing career. My assistant Chuy (pictured above) is here to help.

In short, Don’t Eat the Butt, It’s Chuy.

This shall be your mantra.

I will not eat the butt. I will not eat the butt. I will not eat the butt. (Romance authors stop sniggering, please. Thank you.)

No butts about it.

bada bump *snare*

Some of us have been there, done that and got the butt-tasting T-shirt. I am here to hand down what I have learned from being stupid enough to eat the literary puffer butt and survive. Watch, listen and LEARN. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others.

Yeah, you’ve got all these shiny resolutions. Yay, for you. But I am here to help you turn resolutions into reality so we need to get your thinking straight. Battles begin and end with the mind.

Without further ado…

DETB Lie #1 I’m not a real writer until I have

  • a finished manuscript
  • landed an agent
  • am traditionally published
  • am selling enough books to quit my day job
  • am writing full time
  • have spent my retirement funds earning an MFA in Creative Writing

This is crap and don’t eat it. What yahoo decided that we aren’t real writers until we meet some silly outside standard of validation? On what plane of existence does this make ANY professional sense? We are writers the second we decide to take this career decision seriously.

Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies. Takes guts to be a writer..

Think of it this way. As writers we are entrepreneurs (refer to this post). Do entrepreneurs use the term aspiring? I am an aspiring restaurant owner. Oh, I am an aspiring landscaper. I am aspiring housekeeper.

NO.

If I want a house-cleaning business, the second I gather all of my cleaning supplies and a vacuum together in the back of my SUV and print off some business cards, I am a house-cleaning business. Even before my very first client.

In fact, I cannot land my first client until I first call myself a business. Who is going to let me into their house wielding a toilet brush if I approach them with, “Hi, I am an aspiring housekeeper. I’m still learning the best ways to get rid of soap scum, but maybe you can hire me even though I am not, per se a “real” housekeeper?

Again…no.

The title is not something we earn it is who we are. Our title defines our level of commitment. 

Here’s a news flash. There is no license requirement to write books (though it might be a good idea).

Profession by Certification

Doctors, lawyers, accountants, and nurses are professions that require outside certification. This is why they cannot call themselves “Doctor” or “Counselor” or “R.N.” until they take certain exams and pass various levels of professional vetting.

When it comes to being a DOCTOR, we are not a REAL DOCTOR until we have gone to medical school.

Profession of Results

Writers are not the same type of profession. We don’t need a license, an MFA, a finished novel, or an agent to call ourselves writers. We are writers when we decide to write.

Now, we might be bad writers, lazy writers, untalented writers, unpublished writers, pre-published writers but we are still real writers. We are a profession defined by results, not intentions or certifications.

Lose the Literary Training Wheels…NOW

Why Writers Fear the Title

When we decide to use the professional title writer, it is a sign to others that we are no longer hobbyists. Others will expect a certain work ethic to go with our title.

I feel many writers fear using a professional title because we invite a new level of accountability. We fear failure and so we hedge with euphemisms like “aspiring author” so that we can goof off and write when the fancy strikes.

We can never become a professional author if we won’t first claim being a real writer. How we define ourselves affects our choices, how we spend our time, and what we are willing to sacrifice. Those who will not first call themselves WRITER are almost certainly doomed to fail.

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us get up and go to work. ~Stephen King

Writers are professionals who treat their writing as if it is their first, second or even a third job. They have a solid work ethic and they know that they have to ante up and take the consequences for better or for worse. They are mature and no longer playing Literary Barbies with their characters.

Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 10.22.29 AM

The world does not reward perfectionists, it rewards finishers.

So best of luck with 2013, and I will do all I can to help you guys grow and mature and have the dreams of your heart.

Remember! Don’t Eat the Butt…It’s Chuy

For those who need some writer love and support, please join us over at WANATribe, the social network for writers. No ads, no spam, all awesome. We have digital Jell-O shots.

We are not alone!

We also have a wonderful lineup of classes at WANA International. Our digital classroom is state of the art. Learn from home and at your own pace. I HIGHLY recommend Agent Secrets taught by Literary Agent Laurie McLean. She is a FABULOUS teacher and is very savvy with the new options in the Digital Age.

What are your thoughts? Opinions? Fears? What keeps you from claiming the professional title?

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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

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

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

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

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

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