Monday Mashup!

Lots of good stuff in here for everyone at every point in the publication process. En. Joy.

If you’re thinking about quitting your job to start a freelance business, here are 8 things you need to know, courtesy of Guerilla Freelancing. Their first point, “the feast or famine cycle is very real.” Dude, I know ALL ABOUT THAT.

Not quite ready to quit your job without knowing what the heck you’re supposed to do? Try Author School. Seriously. Publishing overview, making press kits, doing TV interviews, etc. Where was this when I was starting out?

However, if you’re still struggling to get through your manuscript, you might want to see if you’re falling victim to these common writing pitfalls, courtesy of Kristen Lamb. (Her blog is one of my faves.) My pitfall… I tend to dive into the action.

For all of us writers taking advantage of Facebook’s platform for social media, beware their new rules. Unless of course you plan to never run a contest, in which case, never mind. Courtesy of Media Bistro.

Still looking for an agent? Here are a few interviews with literary agents that might help you find your representative. Interviews are an excellent tool when you’re doing research.

But if the rejections are still rolling in despite your best efforts, never fear. Here’s writer/illustratior Debbie Ohi on how a rejection became an acceptance. An editor came looking for her? When does that happen? (And another reason you should join the SCBWI if you write or illustrate for kids.) Congratulations Debbie!

If that isn’t enough to motivate and inspire you, writer Tymothy Longoria posed this question to several authors: what does it mean to be a writer? Tymothy also whips out bible quotes. Nice.

If you’re thinking of self-publishing, and who isn’t these days? then listen to what a publisher has to say about your options: “I’m going to start at the beginning of the value chain, with the author. And this is their choice. Do I need a publisher? You might think it’s a provocative question for a publisher to pose. … But today, they have a real choice. So it’s critical, that we acknowledge the alternatives on offer – and their appeal to some writers.”

So you’ve already made the decision to self-publish. The irrepressible  J.A. Konrath has 5 points about ebook promo including, “I’ve noticed the books that sell best seem to be professional looking (covers, formatting, editing), have low prices, good product descriptions, and are well-written. Don’t put up anything less than terrific on all counts.”

Speaking of, one writer decided to tinker with the cover of her ebook after it was published because she didn’t feel it had enough impact when viewed on a web page. Did she do a good job? She wants you to tell her.

In further smart self-marketing, an author shares tips for making your own book trailer. I have to save that for later. 🙂

Heading out on a book tour? Find out what you need to have or more importantly, what you don’t need to have: “Book tour is a vulnerable time, an emotional rollercoaster.  Now is the time to be surrounded only by real friends.” Ooh, kicking haters to the curb is my favorite! The advice is good but the title of this post is aces.

Whew! That was a lot. But there’s two more on the lighter side: jokes about editors and publishers, and BEST OF THE WEEK, popular sci-fi as IKEA manuals. Hys. Terical.

Have a great week, everyone!


How to build a team

E is for Book

More and more traditionally published writers are moving to self-publish their own ebooks, and as ebook numbers rise, everyone is watching the trend and wondering when it might be best to bite the bullet and jump in. I certainly am. The numbers are looking good, and it’s all about the numbers. But there is still a lot to consider if you’re going to self-publish. You may think that getting a book onto the Nook or Kindle is a simple matter of this:

Write the book –> edit the book –> format the book –> send the book to the millions of ebook buying masses!

But it’s really more like this:

Write the book –> find a professional editor to edit the book –> rewrite the book –> copyedit the book –> format the book –> work with a professional designer to create a cover — > send the book to the millions of ebook buying masses –> market and promote the book

Building a team

Doing all of this on your own isn’t wise. You really need fresh eyes, professional eyes to take care of some of the heavy lifting. So you’ll need to put together a team. You need an editor, a copy editor, a designer, and if you’re not good at marketing, you’ll need someone to help you with promotion. Finding the right people may be a job in itself, and you will be paying them up front before your book has made a dime. But now you’re investing in yourself and your work. So you have to know whether or not that investment is worth it.

Are professionals worth it?

Do you really want to turn off readers because your book is a minefield of errors? Don’t let this happen to you. Hire an editor and a copy editor.

Covers are billboards advertising your work. You definitely want to shell out the money for a good one. Because people still judge books by their covers.

If you’re shy, you want someone else stomping the virtual pavement for you to promote your book. Because if nobody hears about it, how will they buy it?

And finally

The main reason for spending money on a good team is this simple fact: your current book is the best ad for your next book. If this one fails to please, what’s the likelihood of anyone picking up your next offering? Like I said, it’s all about the numbers.

Bookstores are dead. Long live bookstores!

In the ever-increasing ebook market, bookstores seem to be as endangered as polar bears, and inspire the same amount of passionate response. Things are changing. It’s natural that some people will panic. But is that panic really warranted? I know that some see the closing of Borders bookstores as a huge sign that The End Is Near. But I think the end is only coming for huge chain bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. Small independent bookstores will thrive because they cater to niche markets. And customers will probably like them more because they’re going to be specialized.

In a post last week, Nathan Bransford asked for advice to booksellers. Among the comments was a bookseller named Boon who wrote that their specialized bookstore didn’t cater to mass-market books and bestsellers, and is thriving because of it. And it is because their customers trust them to stock only books that they feel really good about. Sounds awesome right?

In Boon’s comment, the store employees were called “curators,” a feeling echoed in Nicole Krauss’ recent article for The New Republic. As the market changes and authors take more control, what will survive are the experts. So a bookstore like Boon’s is probably going to continue to do remarkably well. Even on the production end of things, things will change. On J.A. Konrath’s blog, he and Barry Eisler recently discussed why Eisler was walking away from 1/2 mil book deals. They argue that editors will move from publishing houses to agencies as author’s representatives will increasingly have more power than the publishing houses. I don’t think that this is necessarily true. I think some editors may be able to stand alone as authors will seek to hire them directly. Again, the experts will win out, because naturally some editors will be more coveted than others.

The business model is turning upside down. And there are going to be a few bumps and bruises along the way but nobody’s job is going to disappear. The ones in control are just going to be different. Imagine authors running their own publishing houses. And small booksellers with the power to really have an impact on books.

Honestly, if you’re a writer or an independent bookseller right now, this is probably the best time to be in this business.

[Photo by Ansgar Walk, available here.]

The Konrath effect

Yesterday I came across an interview with J.A. Konrath… and then his blog… and then I bought one of his ebooks off of Amazon… and I was ready to bash my little head in. He writes 4,000 words a day. He’s thumbed his nose at the publishing industry by self-publishing his own books and making a crap-ton of money in the process (crap-ton is an actual unit of measurement, btw). And he isn’t afraid to tell the rest of us how it’s done.

It’s encouraging to know that consistent hard work pays off. Konrath’s blog bio reads, “There’s a word for a writer who never gives up… published.” But in his post about his self-published ebooks outselling his traditionally published ones, I had to ask whether that was because he was already popular. A fellow poster replied that she made 25k in eBook sales as a complete unknown.

I’m hearing that more and more often. At the recent Writing Matters panel in Montclair, another self-published author talked about how he self-published and eventually got six-figure deals with two of the big 6.

More and more, writers are taking matters into their own hands. Amazon has their own publishing platform. Barnes and Noble launched one this week. There are countless print on demand publishers. Between Amazon, B&N and POD, pretty much anyone can become their own little writing factory. The only thing I’m still confused about is how do you get people to know about your books and buy them? I still haven’t gotten a satisfactory answer from anyone.

But it’s interesting to see so many writers taking charge of their own destinies. Many have felt that they were pawns on the board, and now thanks to writers like Konrath who are very encouraging, they’re running their own plays.

Authors behaving badly

The publishing industry is in a sad state lately, and bad wanna-be writers are just making it worse.

Publishers are used to spending the majority of their marketing dollars on a handful of blockbusters, leaving us mid-listers in the dust. With the economy in bad shape, and everybody and their mother wanting in on the action, it’s getting crowded and lean.

There seem to be a few factors. On December 12, 2008, Paul Greenberg’s article “Bail Out the Writers!” for the New York Times expressed that overcapacity was causing “snow-blindness” in publishers. God knows, if you walk outside your house right now and put up a sign that read: WRITER WANTED, you’d stop traffic in an instant. And because there are so many of us vying for attention, it’s hard for publishers to sort the wheat from the chaff, which leads to all kinds of bad behavior.

I recently joined the social networking site JacketFlap. This morning as I scrolled through some member profiles, I came upon the same messages from a few members. Each of them was a small ad for their own book. Each of them seemed to have been sent to every single member in the network. This kind of behavior is disgusting. I realize you’re trying to promote your book, but spamming people is just unprofessional. These are probably the same people who would steal your seat at a conference when you get up to use the bathroom, even though you left your notebook there. Yes, this happened to me.

Then there’s the fact that new technology has made it easy for anyone to publish a book. Bowker reports that the number of titles every year is increasing, but who is publishing those titles? According to Motoko Rich’s New York Times Article “Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay Tab” it’s increasingly the authors themselves. And because you can publish a title for $99, you will be responsible for doing all the promoting you can on your own, which can lead to more bad behavior. You can, for more money, purchase a marketing kit with some vanity presses, but these prices go into the thousands.

Self-publishing is enticing. I could have my next novel available at Amazon in a couple of months if I wanted to. And for a couple of hundred dollars out of pocket, earning 45-55% of the cover price and selling for $12, I could make back my money after the sale of 37 copies and the rest is bank. Who wouldn’t? (Actually, I’m thinking about it. A LOT)

Some authors have even found traditional publishers this way after selling several thousand copies on their own. Of course, there are no guarantees you’ll be that diamond in the rough. Then there are the independent bookstores being innundated with requests to sell self-published titles that may not be any good. One such bookseller said, “For every thousand titles that get self-published, maybe there’s two that should have been published.”

Harold Underdown on his Purple Crayon site has a new article “Working in Children’s Books and the Recession of 2008-09” that breaks down the current economic trend as relates to the publishing industry. Harold is always pretty positive about the way things will turn out. I’ve known him a while and have never known him to grouse. He writes that Hachette Book Group recently handed out bonuses after a banner year, but since Hachette publishes the “Twilight” series, and those books sold more than 2.5 million copies in Nov/Dec 2008 alone, I wonder how much of those bonuses came driectly from the Stephenie Meyer or Rob Pattinson fan club. Even Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” won’t get those kinds of sales, and it won this year’s Newbery!

With a bad economy, everybody self-publishing, rock-star authors and their marketing-$-sucking-power, and authors behaving badly, I’ve had about all I can take.

The current state of affairs may be bringing out humor or a can-do attitude for some. I for one, feel the pressure of my shoulder to the grindstone. Every time I write, it just feels harder. And maybe that’s the job (one that I would do regardless), but I dislike sugar-coating except on pastry. It’s not pretty out there, people. So those of you who kind of suck at writing, (you’d know who you are if you read what you wrote) could you just roll over? The rest of us are feeling crowded.