Author Education Series #9a
By R.S. Guthrie, www.robonwriting.com
I admit, years ago—we’re talking, twenty-plus—back when there really was no alternative to the cycle of write a book, submit it to an agent or publisher, wait weeks to months for a likely rejection slip, then rinse and repeat, I was unsure if I would ever realize my dream to become a published author. I imagine I was feeling the way a lot of writers were feeling back then (and it was not a pleasant thing to face).
Enter the digital publishing revolution. Suddenly, it wasn’t simply the striving, struggling, (hopefully talented) writers who could get their works out in the marketplace, but also any other person who had the whim to do so.
Many of us leaped. I did. For too long the dream of having even one reader buy my book, read the words, and actually love them, had been nothing more than myth. Or at least it felt like one. To have that technology and ability to make that happen, literally at an author’s fingertips, well, that was a temptation too incredible to resist.
Now it’s been a year. I have three book out there, wishing they had a bigger audience. I wrote once in a guest post that I had always believed the hardest part of the equation would always be writing the dang book. Not just writing, of course, but proofing and editing then reproofing and re-editing then rewriting and starting the whole cycle again until the work felt finished (which it never actually does). But finishing a book is nowhere near the hardest part of the process. Honestly, I wish I had time to write. Just write, like before.
Oh yes, I have completed three books, and they’ve been reviewed incredibly favorably by those who have read them. And I have far exceeded that “one reader” finishing and loving my book one day. Yet I still feel lost in the middle of the Amazon forest (pun intended), thousands of miles from the reading civilization, trying desperately to put my books in their hands and let them decide whether or not I deserve to be a published author.
That decision used to rest in the hands of the aforementioned agents and publishers. The slush-pile was on their desks. Now it has simply moved to the marketplace and has, in its own way, constructed the jungle prison in which the majority of us now eke out our days as (self) published writers. By the way, there is a reason I put (self) in parenthesis. I grew up learning that you don’t use words like “step” for a brother or sister unless you are writing a thesis or composing a medical history or a family tree. I don’t like adverbs or adjectives that have a negative connotation, thus branding the (self) published author before he or she even really emerges from the crowd.
But every writer who finishes a book has a decision to make:
Traditional versus Self.
And oh how the arguments jump forward from that point on. There are more than two camps—there are a hundred. Maybe a thousand. Because it’s simply not clear anymore what the marketplace looks like. It’s in a constant state of flux. Most can agree that it’s changing, rapidly, and that when it settles it’s going to look vastly different than it does today—but few seem to be able to agree on what that vision is. Will a company like Amazon be the monopoly in control? Will the Nook die a horrible death or will it whip the pants off the Kindle and dominate the marketplace?
And who will the big publishers be? Will the Big Five still be the Big Five or will they succumb to some new and as yet unidentified model of publishing?
I chose to publish on my own for several reasons. Yes, a big one was being able to put my goods out there and not have to face rejection.
NOTE: I had never actually submitted a novel to an agent or a publisher. I had sent in a few short stories in my youth, but I had studied the world of publishing, waiting, looking, wondering, and when my first novel was written, I chose to put it out there under my own label. The reasons?
1. Unless you are already known (either a well-known author already or a celebrity), most large publishers are going to put much of the burden of marketing, etc. on YOU. Writers grew up with this vision of “once I am accepted into the fold, that’s it—all I ever have to do then is keep writing more books.” No. If you are an unknown, you are treated that way (unless you happen to write one of the handful of books each year that go to auction). That’s the author’s equivalent of winning the lottery. Big publishers literally bid on the rights to your book, so sure are they it will be a huge seller. HINT: that rarely happens, so it’s really not worth a prudent writer’s consideration as a viable option.
2. All work rejected by agents and publishers is not poor quality. Many books have eventually reached bestseller status that were rejected many times. Just Google “famous authors rejected” to read the lists. It is staggering. There’s never any guarantee that a form rejection means your work was ever even read. And it is a very, very subjective process. So much so that I decided I didn’t want to chance it; that if my writing was good enough and out there, one day someone would see it and believe in it.
3. Agents and publishers take cuts. Big percentages. You cannot make anywhere near the royalty a company like Amazon (right now, anyway) is willing to pay you for each unit sold.
4. When you sign with a publisher, you lose the right to market your book the way you see fit. You can’t just join a great promotion. You also can’t set the price (and in most cases, you are no longer even in charge of the words). What if a publisher sets your book at a price that is much too high to expect very many sales for an unknown author? You can ask; you can even complain. But ultimately, you lose much control of your work: the price point, the creative process, promotional specifics, and other important post-production decisions.
5. The publishing process itself can take years. You might sign in 2012 and then not see your book actually in print until 2014. It’s hard to stay topical and fresh with lead times like that.
So ultimately I figured “why would I give a percentage of my profit to others in the flow when they make the decisions, I lose much of my control, and they aren’t going to spend much on marketing me and my brand anyway (and they get to choose how—-if at all—-that happens)? The decision came down to this: the prestige of having a name like Penguin or Simon & Schuster behind you.
Believe me, I am not trying to make the case that having a big-name publisher on the jacket of your book and on the banners at your book signings is not a big deal. I believe it is definitely worth something, just not enough for me to go through the long, arduous, potentially rejection-filled process when I have something much more accessible right in front of me.
Now for the million dollar question: has it all been worth it? Unfortunately, I can’t answer that yet. It’s still too early. Success takes time no matter what it is you are chasing. It’s fair to say that I don’t believe I’d be any further with a traditional publisher (and more than likely my books wouldn’t even have hit the market yet), so from that perspective I am way ahead. But as I mentioned before: I am still in many ways lost in the forest, looking for the pathway out. I still have not reached my readership. I’ve sold a nice number of books, and I have come a long way since May of 2011 when I published my first book (and AUGUST, when I finally started blogging and getting on Twitter and Facebook and marketing my brand—ME). But there is still a long road ahead. The bottom line is that by doing it myself—getting the books out there as soon as they were ready and learning the marketing ropes earlier rather than later—I feel I made the right decision. It’s happening, it’s just happening slowly, which any good thing will.
Either way you go, however, just know this: you are in for a ton of work, post-production, and no one ever tells you that. Too many authors think that if they’ve written the next great novel for the world, the rest (sales, money, book deals, fame) will happen eventually. And these things very well might happen for you (and for me). It is nearly a guarantee that to reach your audience, at the very least, it is going to take a monumental amount of work on your part. Just be prepared, that’s all I am really trying to say.
An unknown is an unknown no matter whose imprint is on the cover. And to become known in this world—-even just to be noticed; a distinguishable needle in an infinite (and ever growing) pile of needles—-may well be the hardest challenge you will ever undertake. Yet there is only one certainty—-one guaranteed thing every author must do or never succeed:
About the Author
Mystery writer, dog lover, author of Dark Prairies, five-star thriller set in in his home state of Wyoming, and two in the Detective Bobby Mac Mystery series set in Denver: Black Beast& LOST. The author currently lives in Colorado with his wife, three Australian Shepherds, and a Chihuahua who thinks she’s a 40-lb Aussie.
Author Education Series #5
31 Ways to Find Inspiration For Your Writing
No matter how much you love writing, there will always be days when you need inspiration from one muse or another.
In fact, I would argue that inspiration is not just a desirable thing, it’s an integral part of the writing process.
Every writer needs inspiration to produce inspired writing. And sometimes, it can come from the unlikeliest sources.
I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite ways of finding inspiration — some of them obvious, some of them less so. But it’s always good to have reminders, and if you haven’t used a few of these sources of inspiration in awhile (or ever), give them a go.
Author Education Series #2
Getting Started: Great Research
By Melissa Giovagnoli Wilson, www.networlding.com
One of the questions I get asked most often about writing a book is, “How do I get started?” I always respond, “Start with great research.”
To make it even easier, I am going to give you my step-by-step process for getting to the right book that will stand out in a glutted marketplace.
Step 1: Go to Amazon and find a book that is similar to yours.
Step 2: Look further down on that page and find the spot where it says, “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed” to find similar books.
Step 3: Keep looking for similar books to the one you want to write and start a spreadsheet.
Step 4: Put in the following columns in your spreadsheet: Author’s Name, Publisher, Date Published, # of Pages in the Book, Rank (Amazon Book Rank) # of Good Reviews, # of Bad Reviews, Good Review Samples, Poor Samples
Step 5: Fill in the information from the books you have selected into your spreadsheet. Choose 5-10 books to review. In the Review Samples column, look for patterns for both good and bad reviews.
Step 6: Sort your columns by ranking–lowest to highest numbers.
This view of your competition will help you figure out where there are gaps to write a better book–a book that will stand out among the competition.
I have been using this method for years and it has worked to help me help my authors both get agents and publishers.
Author Education Series #3
Plot vs. Character: Which Is More Important?
Authors debate plot vs. character, as if the two were gladiators, waging war on the sands of the Coliseum in some winner-take-all death battle. Both sides of the debate claim a definitive superiority for their chosen gladiator, and for the most part, the battle splits nicely down the lines of literary and commercial fiction, the commercialists placing the emphasis on plot in the interest of producing “page turners,” while the literati poke up their noses at the thought of anything so crude and artless. So who’s right?
As in most conflicts, there is a conclusive answer. But, in this instance, it isn’t an answer held by either set of extremists. Rather, it’s the answer held by both. The simple fact is that fiction requires both plot and character to achieve its full potential. One could argue convincingly from both sides of the subject: 1) that stories originated from plot (first this happens, which then causes this to happen); or 2) that stories originated from character (this person did this and that persondid that). But why bother with such an argument, when, by focusing on both facets, we can produce a story that contains both a riveting plot and a fascinating character?
It’s unfortunate that many within the literary world have decided that stories must be either character stories or plot stories, when, in fact, the two are symbionts. It’s very true that storytelling originally focused more on plot and has evolved over the years to put more emphasis on character. In his book Characters & Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card elucidates:
But neither can we disregard plot, as pointed out in Lev Grossman’s article “Good Novels Don’t Have to Be Hard”:
Author Education Series #8b
Traditional Publishing: How to Get an Agent
So, you want to be published! It’s a noble goal, one that requires lots of work and creativity and, typically - if you want to go the route of traditional publishing with the Big Six houses - an agent.
An agent is your guide through the publishing jungle - they make sure your manuscript gets in the hands of the editors most likely to love your book, they represent your best interests always, they make sure you don’t get caught in terrible contracts, and they don’t get paid unless you get paid: that’s why they work so hard for you.
But how do you get an agent? If you google “how to get a literary agent” you’ll find many, many posts filled with good advice. I won’t pull any punches: it’s hard. You might cry. You might cry a lot! But if you are very talented and a little bit lucky, you’ll find an agent that is perfect for you and your books.
Here are a few first steps to get you on your way:
Answer this question: do you really want to be a writer? Maybe you’ve written a book, and it’s taken a very long time to write this book, but lo! It is written, and you are rightfully proud. But do you feel compelled to write another book? Are you a one-book pony? Do you just want to see this One Book bound and made up all pretty, like a Real Book? If that’s the case, you may want to consider the wide variety of self-publishing options out there, because agents want career-writers: authors that will continue to write and produce books and make money. So really: you have to want to be published, and keep getting published.
Author Education Series #11b
Crowdfunding: How To Create and Upload Your Video To Pubslush
How to Create and Upload Your Video to www.pubslush.com
Things you will need:
- A computer
- A webcam (if the computer you have does not have a built-in webcam)
- An idea of what you want to say. If you need a script, write one beforehand!
Points to include:
- Your name
- Your book’s title
- What your book is about
- Why you wrote it
- Who’s it for (the audience)
- Why people will love it
- Sincere thank you
- Reminder for readers to share with friends
Here’s a sample:
- Watch other author’s videos on our site to get a better idea of what you would like your video to be like
- Do a run through of what you would like to say
Step 1: Create a YouTube Account
- Go to www.youtube.com
- In the right corner click “Create Account”
- If you already have a Google account, you can click “sign in” in the top right, or simply follow the instructions to sign up
- You’ve created an account! Click “Back to YouTube” on the mid-left side of the page
Step 2: Record the Video
To record your video directly on YouTube (easiest option):
- On the YouTube homepage, click “Upload” in the top right corner
- Select the option “record from webcam”
- Click “start recording” to begin your video and then “stop recording” when you have finished
- Click “Upload” in the right corner of the video
- Clicking “Upload” will lead you to a new page where you can fill in the video’s information: Title, Description, Tags, Adjust Privacy Settings (list the video as unlisted so anyone with the link can view it), Choose a Category, and License and Rights Ownership (click Standard YouTube license)
- Click “Save changes” on the right
- To view your video click “View on video page” on the top right
To record on iMovie (Macs only):
- Click the video icon on the far middle left
- Click “Capture” on the far bottom right to start recording and click “Stop” when finished
- Edit and save
To record on PhotoBooth (Macs only):
- Choose the film strip icon and simply press the middle red button to start and stop
- Select the video from the reel below the record button
- Click “File” then “Export” to save the file
Step 3: Upload the Video to YouTube
Author Education Series #10a
Marketing Yourself: Social Media Marketing and Creating an Online Presence
How To Market Yourself
Writing and publishing a book is a challenging and rewarding way to spend your time. I love it- it’s what I do. I also love working with authors who are on the path to publishing and worry about things like how to promote themselves, sell books, and get a crowd at their next reading.
Here is what I tell them, and what I tell you: No one can buy your book, come to your event, or talk about what you’re doing until they hear about it.
That’s where it starts, and using social media will help you make it happen.
What is social media?
In my mind, social media is any media that lets you interact with other people- that’s what makes it social. For example, Facebook is social media because you can have a conversation, while TV is not because it’s just the screen talking to you. I’m going to focus on the most popular networks in this article: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Email.
Why use social media for marketing?