Congratulations, you’ve completed your first novel! It’s finally time to shop for an agent or, if you’re not into the traditional publishing route, to self-publish. Whichever path you choose to introduce your master opus to the masses, you’re going to face a tremendous challenge at your next step. Your work will be competing for the attention of agents, publishers, and readers against a pool of talented authors and limited publishing opportunities. For the self-publisher, there’s the challenge of connecting with an audience beyond your immediate circle of friends and supporters. For the traditionalist, the difficulty lies in convincing professionals with deep constraints to take a chance on a new author. [Read more…]
It’s a funny quote, but I wonder just how many writers are sitting around thinking about writing that book they’ve always wanted to write? Of course, there are many factors that come into play.
You may not have the time to work on your book. After all, bills have to be paid.
You may lack inspiration and may be waiting for the right time. Understandable, but it’s also “overcomeable” – a story for another day. Let’s just assume for now that you have an awesome book!
There’s the possibility of issues with publishing. You might have the makings of a book, but what if no publisher picks it up? That’s where the beauty of self-publishing comes into the picture.
The rise of self-publishing
The main thing about self-publishing is that you – the author – do not have to rely on the whims of a publishing house. You can do everything yourself, or at least get the process going. There are two things that contribute to the rise of self-publishing.
This technology has enabled the quality of self-published books to be at par with those created by major publishing houses. Basically, print-on-demand allows the creation of copies books one at a time, when the demand arises. You can easily see how this can lessen the burden of having to print books in bulk.
Online stores and electronic formats
Amazon is the first and biggest name that comes to mind, although there is no lack of online book retailers. With the Kindle, the iPad, and other eReaders, the electronic book format has become more and more popular, making it easier for authors to publish their work and distribute it as well.
The advantages of self-publishing are countless. Some of the most significant ones are:
- You cut back on publishing times. Everything basically depends on how fast you work and the resources you have under your control. You do not have to wait for the long processes that normally accompany traditional publishing.
- You earn more. Without the publishing house, you get to keep most of the earnings from your book. Even if you have to pay retailers a cut, you still get a good percentage. Additionally, royalties/payments come in more often as compared to regular publishing standards.
- You control all the rights. You even control other things such as how your book will look and feel after publishing! Nothing more needs to be said.
- Timing. If you are writing about something that is currently popular, who is to say that it will still be popular a year down the road? This is a risk that traditionally published authors run, and if you self-publish, you can keep up with the trends, especially if you write fast enough. The reason? It’s much, much faster to get a book out by self-publishing.
What are you waiting for?
So yes, if you have been sitting on that book for a while now, what is stopping you from publishing it? Given that you are actually writing the content, you can easily find all the other resources that you need on how to self-publish.
Stop procrastinating and seize the chance while it’s there.
P.S. If you publish a book any time soon, and you want to share it with us, just hit us up!
Image via Walt Stoneburner
Since ebooks went mainstream (thank you, Kindle), book authors are now finding themselves in the same awkward spot that musicians have been in for over a decade. Readers can bypass bookstores, Kindle, and everything else, and own your book without paying a dime to you or anyone else. You’re being ripped off! What do you do? How are you supposed to react when that huge project you labored over and poured your soul into and sacrificed other parts of your life for, is made available to the whole world for free?
The standard reaction of most writers is outrage and frustration. Even litigation if they can afford it (most of us can’t).
I was pretty surprised the first time one of my books started appearing on illegal “file sharing” websites. It happened very suddenly, a few months ago. I got a Google Alert (an invaluable tool — you can register so that any time a search term of your choice is indexed by Google from a new webpage, you get sent an email with a link to that page; I have an alert set for my name) in my inbox pointing to one of the many, many file sharing websites where my last novel, Nightmare, was available as a free ebook download. [Read more…]
I’m a work-at-home father of two and a full-time writer. I write for blogs like this one, I write books, and I write whatever print freelance assignments come along in between.
I’m not here to tell you what an unbelievable challenge working at home can be. If you’re reading this blog, I’m sure you already know. Instead, I’m going to share with you some strategies for overcoming the work-at-home obstacles.
In the many years I’ve been doing it, I’ve noticed a phenomenon that’s utterly unique to stay-at-home workers. I call it the ATOOTC Principle. We stay-at-home workers desperately long to be taken as seriously as those who work outside the home. We want to be treated and respected equally. But if you don’t work at the office, on the clock, then all of your family and friends (usually subconsciously) behave as though the work you do isn’t as important. If you work at home, then you’re treated as though the usual strictures of priorities, responsibilities, and deadlines don’t apply to you.
For example, if you’re an ATOOTC worker, your friends and family respect your work time and your office. They leave you be during your work hours, so you can do the job that you’re paid to do. If you’re at home, then no matter how hard you work, friends and family believe they can interrupt you all they want. Since you’re at home… then you can’t be doing real work, right?
Combatting this attitude can be a full time job in and of itself. But as if that’s not enough, the 21st Century is the Age of Distraction. It’s harder than ever before to maintain a singular focus while working at home. Not only do we have people calling on us constantly — both in person and on the phone — we now have the wonders of email and text messages and voice mail and smartphones and Internet outages and so much more to deal with. This problem is compounded when you work at home, with the addition of chores and household maintenance that must be dealt with. There’s always laundry, there’s always dirty dishes, there’s always something around the house that has to be fixed, and invariably these things always come up during your designated work time.
On top of this, not all home workers even have in-home offices to work out of. I used to have an office until the baby came along. Now, the living room is my office, and my end of the couch is my desk. There’s no such thing as privacy or personal work space. I’m surrounded by a three-ring circus at all times. This can be catastrophic for we writers in particular, as it can be awfully difficult to focus or maintain the simplest trains-of-thought when you’re not in an isolated environment.
If any (or all) of this sounds familiar to you, here are my best tips for getting the work done if you’re an at-home writer, regardless of what’s going on around you.
1) Be Rigid. “Flexibility” is a term that gets a lot of love these days. It’s held in high regard along with other pop buzzwords like “tolerance.” But tolerance isn’t always a good thing. Should we be tolerant of hate, for example? Freelance writers, by definition, have to be flexible. Assignments come and go, and you have to be available for whatever opportunities arise. And the modern woman and/or mother especially is expected to be capable of wearing dozens of hats at once — and make it look easy.
When it comes to writing at home, flexibility can be a killer. Being inflexible is of far greater value. Guard your writing time with righteous fervor, determined to let nothing interrupt it. This is, of course, an unrealistic goal; intrusions will always happen. But the more rigid you are with your designated work time, the more work you’ll get done.
2) Remember That “No” Is Not a Bad Word. We all want to be everything to everyone: responsible parents and siblings, good friends who are always there. But if you say “yes” to every lunch date or play date with the kids or what have you, you’ll never get anything written. Sometimes — in fact, a whole lot of the time — you just have to say no. During whatever time of the day you’ve set aside as your work hours, treat it as though you’re in an ATOOTC office with your boss watching your every move.
As for your friends and family, if they’re worth their salt, they’ll understand and respect you for being disciplined with your work responsibilities.
3) Work Odd Hours. This isn’t for everyone, but if you can handle it, working during the hours that others are asleep or not around can be extremely conducive to getting things done. I often find that I can get a lot done late at night when my wife and kids are asleep. Others work early in the morning before everyone else wakes up. It could even be as simple as working during school hours, when the kids are out of the house.
4) Get Out of the House. As important as it is to guard your at-home work time, sometimes you just have to get away from all the around-the-house distractions in order to get anything done. So grab the laptop and head out to someplace where there’s free wifi, like Barnes & Noble or Starbucks. Find yourself a small table or a quiet corner, and get busy. I’ve often found that being around other people — but not interacting with them — can be particularly helpful when I’m writing fiction. Something about being able to observe people going about their lives, hearing the way they talk… it can help trigger those instincts for writing strong prose.
These are the strategies I’ve found that work best for me. What works for you?
If there’s one thing lacking in the publishing and journalism industries these days, it’s certainty. The world of writing and publishing is changing day-by-day, and no longer can you be a successful writer — whether your craft is journalism or novel writing, whether you’re writing for print or digital — merely by virtue of being talented. There are entirely new skill sets required for the modern successful writer, and whatever kind of writer you are, you’re going to find that these skills are a must.
You want to be a 21st Century writer? Here are three hats you must wear in addition to being a strong writer. [Read more…]
I’ve had five novels published professionally, through an internationally-distributed publishing house. I’m contracted for one more, which will be hitting stores next Summer. And like all good authors, knowing that there’s an end in sight to my current contract, I’m on the hunt for a new one.
After my first three books, getting a second contract for three more was easy. My books weren’t bestsellers, but they sold enough to turn a profit for my publisher, so getting a new contract was a no-brainer. Yet now, suddenly, after almost six published books under my belt, landing a new contract is proving far more difficult.
Why is it so much harder to get a contract after six published books, when it was so easy to get one after just three? Shouldn’t cumulative publishing experience count for something?
My fan base is growing slowly but surely, so my sales numbers are small but respectable. So why is this happening now? What’s the difference?
We all know the answer to this question by now, and it’s a problem that a surprising number of established writers are dealing with. I just heard from my agent today, and she confirmed the ugly truth we all know. And I quote: “publishers are continuing to publish fewer titles a year.”
The problem, it turns out, isn’t so much on my end. Sure, my sales history could be stronger. Who’s couldn’t? And I always seek to better myself as a writer. But these things actually have surprisingly little to do with getting a contract.
The issue is rooted in the industry itself. The tanking economy and the advent of ebooks have led to a floundering publishing industry. The firm foundation that this industry has been standing on for its entire existence has turned to shifting sand. And thus, everyone is in survival mode. Everyone’s looking for ways to cut costs, so employees like editors and marketing staff are being laid off. Publishers aren’t taking as many risks on new talent, and they’re scaling back their production numbers with existing writers.
So what’s a writer to do? Published or unpublished — unless you’re among the elite few with huge sales and name recognition, your current status just doesn’t matter all that much. It’s an even playing field in some respects, and I’ve used a lot of words in this column describing the options available to writers, from self-publishing to e-publishing and everything in between.
But there’s no substitute for a contract with a publisher. Even if we’re talking about web publishing or ebook publishing or book apps or some other form of new media… writers need publishers. And if you don’t believe me — if you genuinely think that self-published writers can do just as well as published writers, thanks to “a little hard work and some ingenuity” — here’s a brilliant and sobering article from one publisher who explains just exactly why the writer/publisher relationship is crucial to bookselling success. An excerpt:
It takes a long time to build… trust with a large reader base and that’s the real strength of the publishing company and what an author really gives up by going alone. Publishing companies are businesses designed to make connections with readers both directly and with intermediaries (book reviewers, bookstores, etc) for the purpose of selling stories. Publishers keep the connection open with the reader even when the writer is on a break from writing. By going alone you only maintain that connection with your readers for as long as you are producing content.
More importantly, publishers pull resources that individuals do not have access to on their own.
…no one can reach a large enough audience alone. Cross promotion is an obvious and necessary next step that will benefit everyone, but it can’t be done without capital (read: $$) and that can’t be done without agreements that make it clear who’s putting up the capital and what they’re getting in return, that requires publishing houses.
That says it all. You can come up with the coolest new publishing ideas ever, the most “wow” concept of a story, and write some of the best prose this world has ever seen. But if you don’t have the infrastructure in place that a publishing house provides — to publish and promote it to the mass audience of readers — you’re never going to have anything more than just another self-published title with a small, niche readership.
Self-publishing is great, and I’m not knocking it. I’ve expounded on its virtues before. But if you hope to make at least a portion of your living from book writing — even in this wildly changing landscape — a publishing house is all but required.
So here’s the rub: how do you land a publisher in this increasingly uncertain publishing climate? On the one hand, there are lots of different types of publishers, and the digital publishing realm is bringing about even more of them. Even ebooks and web-books are seeing publishers or special arms of established publishing houses dedicated just to that form of publishing. But that doesn’t solve the core issue.
It’s hard enough to merely define the new landscape of publishing, much less navigate it. In the future, I’ll talk more about attracting the attention of publishers of all kinds.
In the meantime, let’s open a dialogue between authors, editors, publishers, marketers, and everyone else in the industry. How have things changed for you, what does the future hold for us, and how can we all get there successfully?
Google Editions is coming, and you best be ready for it.
Google is about to go head-to-head against Amazon over the ebook marketplace. This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky speculation. It’s fact. Originally planned to launch this summer, Google Editions has been met with endless delays. But the Wall Street Journal seems to think it’s almost here, so it’s time for a primer.
Until now, ebooks have been a closed system. The ebook marketplace is heavily dominated by Amazon and its Kindle device, which boasts about two-thirds of all ebook sales. Everyone else — Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iBooks, Borders’ Kobo, etc. — is left to pick up the crumbs from Amazon’s dinner table. But the one thing all of these ebooksellers have in common is that they all want you to use their software and hardware to read your ebooks. Amazon sells the Kindle device, but also has free downloadable Kindle software for every mobile platform imaginable. Most of the other ebook retailers offer the same, but the model remains the same: “Come to our ebook store, download or buy our reading system, and read your ebooks here and nowhere else.”
Google Editions offers a whole new model that’s not tied to any one device or software. Think of Google Editions as the “open source” option, because it can be read on any hardware and software. Google supplies the books, you supply the means of reading it. This is because unlike all other ebooksellers, Google is going to sell its ebooks via “the cloud.” That’s a term used by the tech industry to describe media that’s stored on an Internet server instead of on a user’s personal hard drive.
A lot of modern computing is moving to cloud-based models, because it gives users the benefit of not having to store their content locally on a piece of hardware that could crash and be lost forever. Cloud-based media also allows you to access your content anywhere, from any device. (See where this is going?)
With Google Editions, you’ll buy ebooks the same as always, but you won’t download them. Instead, they’ll be stored on a Google server, where your purchase allows you to access them anytime you want, from anywhere with a web browser and an Internet connection. Some are speculating that Google Editions could spell the end of ereader devices like Kindle and Nook. If Google wins the ebook war, tablets used exclusively for reading ebooks could become obsolete in favor of laptops and multimedia/Internet tablets like the iPad.
Independent booksellers are reportedly signing on with Google Editions in droves, because it gives them the chance to get in on ebook sales, which until now has been the exclusive playground of chain stores like B&N and Borders. Anyone can become an affiliate of Google Editions — not just indie stores — so authors like myself could sign up with GE and sell my ebooks directly from my own website, instead of referring ebook consumers elsewhere. And I’ll get a larger piece of the profits as well.
Google hasn’t yet revealed any details about self-publishing options, but you can bet it’s something they’re hard at work on. Amazon and Barnes & Noble both offer ebook self-publishing for writers, via upload-and-sell models where they keep a portion of the revenue in exchange for listing and selling your wares. Google would be idiotic not to offer a similar self-publishing solution, and they know it.
Google Editions is now expected to launch before the end of the year (which is not far away — seriously, where did 2010 go?). I’ll have more details for you about it once the service goes live.
Fiction writing ain’t what it used to be.
We live in a new world, where dozens of online tools are available to make the process easier and faster, helping you organize and work your way through the process with ease. Let’s take a look at the usual steps to writing a novel, and how various online tools can simplify them.
Traditionally, the first step in writing your novel is Brainstorming. And the Internet offers plenty of options for brainstormers in the form of “mind-mapping” software. There’s MindMeister, a visual tool for mapping ideas that’s accessible via your web browser or a downloadable smartphone app. Other similar options include bubbl.us, Mind42 and Mindomo.
Depending on the complexity of your story, you may need help organizing its various elements — its ideas, characters, locations, etc. With some outside-the-box thinking, you can easily use online database apps like Zoho or Grubba to create your own free database to collect and keep track of all that information in one easy-to-access and sort location. For example, you might use Zoho’s “Contact Organizer” function as a place to store details about your characters, including their names, ages, locations, likes, dislikes, personalities, etc.
Researching is fun for some novelists and the bane of others’ existence. Either way, your best resources are going to be Wikipedia and Google Books. Another resource, if you’re feeling particularly brave, is your standard search engine. The Internet is a wild, untamed animal, but there’s a ton of great content out there that can be extremely useful. The trick is getting to it, and even the biggest search engines — Google and Bing — can make it a chore to track down the details you need. I find that any search engine returns better results the more detailed and specific the search terms you use. Put phrases in quotation marks, or go to the “Advanced Search” options page, and narrow down your search to specific words you do and don’t want it to find, timeframes, and more.
If and when you’re ready to create your outline (some writers don’t bother, but I find outlines essential), I recommend trying Loosestitch, Checkvist, or Todoist. Each of these comes with additional features that can tie into your brainstorming and cataloging of ideas.
Looking for feedback before you publish? Try a collaborative writing site like Protagonize, Book Oven, or Portrayl. These websites will allow you to write in a social environment where like-minded peers can critique and offer advice on your work — or even co-write alongside you, if you’re looking to team up.
Don’t limit your creativity to just your story — look at the tools available on the Internet and dream up ways of using them that they weren’t necessarily intended for. You may be surprised at what you can find to help you finally get that novel done.
Far be it from me to harp on a single issue every week. There’s a whole lot more to publishing in the 21st Century than just ebooks. But ebooks are the hot topic in publishing right now, and it’s proving an impossible subject to avoid when I settle down to write my FWJ column each week.
This week saw some surprising news and predictions about the future of the ebook marketplace, and these details are far too juicy not to share and contemplate. For starters, did you hear that that the New York Times is planning to compile and publish some additions to its famed “Bestseller” lists? These new categories will be entirely devoted to ebooks. The “New York Times Bestseller” is arguably the most prestigious designation for any published book in the American literary world, so if they’re taking ebooks seriously, that should tell you something. Now ebooks will take their rightful place alongside their printed-page brothers, and be worthy of bearing the very same label.
If you ask me, the addition of ebooks to the New York Times Bestseller Lists is long overdue, so frankly I see this news more as the Times playing catch-up than breaking new ground.
Elsewhere, there’s a new study that predicts that by the end of this year (2010), ebook sales will top the one billion dollar mark. And that’s just in the United States. That’s a lot of coin. For perspective, only seven movies in history have ever managed to top the one billion dollar mark.
Last but not least, a French study on the growth of the ebook marketplace has deduced that by 2015, ebooks will comprise about 25% of the publishing industry. Since ebooks are only taking up about 5% of the industry at the moment, that’s a sharp climb for this fledgling industry over just five years’ time. And traditional print publishers have to be concerned that their longstanding business model is being encroached on to the point that 20% of their standard business is going to fall away in the next half-decade.
How long will it be until that margin increases to 50% of the publishing industry? Or even more?
What more is required to convince traditional publishers that we’re living in a brave new world? Writers are jumping into this wide-open new playing field in droves. Publishers will either do the same, or be left behind.
A few weeks ago, Amazon announced another new service they’ll be offering through their ebook store called Kindle Singles, which is meant to appeal to writers who want to publish something in that magical “in between” word count that comes between standard magazine article length and standard book length. The target size for Kindle Singles is 10,000-30,000 words, but Amazon will accept up to 50,000.
With this one simple idea, Amazon has demonstrated why they’re still king of the ebook marketplace — despite the likes of Barnes & Noble and Apple nipping at their heels. The reason why is simple: Amazon is always looking for those niches in publishing that haven’t been filled, and filling them. eBooks on the whole were nothing but a curiosity until Amazon started pushing them with their own proprietary hardware device and made it super-easy to buy and download ebooks straight to said device.
Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple, and everyone else has just been playing catch-up to Amazon, and the fact is, they still are. When the Nook was launched, Barnes & Noble came up with two minor new innovations that Amazon didn’t have: ebook lending between devices, and free, full ebook reading while inside B&N’s brick-and-mortar locations. Amazon can’t match the latter, but they’re already planning a Kindle update that will allow 15-day lending.
Barnes & Noble has also just launched its highly-publicized “NookColor,” a dedicated ebook reader that features a color display. Amazon has been rumored to be working on a colorized Kindle, but the reports suggest that Amazon wants to develop a color e-ink display. E-ink, which is used in all of Amazon’s Kindle devices, is easier on battery life than other screen types, and most readers find it a lot easier on the eyes, with stronger contrast ratios between light and dark. In essence, e-ink is supposedly better for your eyes than other screens. NookColor, on the other hand, is an LCD display, just like the iPad and other tablet devices. You could say that Barnes & Noble took the quick-and-easy route just so they could beat Amazon to the color punch.
Amazon is doing their ebook business smart by always thinking ahead. They have a smart, affordable device of their own, and they’ve put their Kindle software on every other electronic device known to man. Their ereading format is entirely proprietary, but if consumers have no problem with Apple’s iTunes store and its inability to play nice with others, then why should Amazon following the same playbook be an issue?
The only stumbling block in Amazon’s way is its Digital Text Platform, the online app that writers and publishers use to submit their books to the Kindle store. Using DTP’s multi-step, often confusing process, is akin to submitting a product for sale to eBay. Barnes & Noble has a more streamlined process, in the recently-announced PubIt app.
But the simple fact of the matter is that no one has yet created epublishing’s killer app. Amazon’s system is by far the most popular, but it’s not inviting to would-be ebook publishers, requiring a steep learning curve. If someone were to come along with a web app that makes epublishing point-and-click easy, that could easily penetrate both online stores and brick-and-mortars… when that day comes, ebooks may just kill the printed page.
Amazon has done things so smartly up to this point, aside from one thing: the DTP publishing process. If Amazon were to be the one to come up with a super-simple, universally-accessible submission process and ebook format, they could just find themselves with a sudden monopoly on the ebook market. In the meantime, Amazon’s stranglehold on ebooks isn’t going anywhere soon, because they got there first, and they never stop looking for new ways of using ebooks to meet consumers’ needs.