Dean Wesley Smith and Joe Konrath were the two writers who, more than anyone else, convinced me that independent publishing offered opportunities traditional publishing couldn't. And, yes, it works the other way too.
Today Dean published a post that will help a lot of folks understand what indie publishing can and can't do. I've already bookmarked the URL in Evernote. This is a post I'm going to re-read often in the months to come: The New World of Publishing: How To Get Started Selling Fiction in 2013.
Dean's Advice To New Writers For 2013
1) Spend 80% of your focus and time on producing new fiction. Not rewriting, not researching, but producing new words on the page. Period. (Follow Heinlein’s Rules to the letter.)Dean mentions Heinlein's Rules in (1), above. If you're a bit fuzzy on what those are, here's a post you might like: Heinlein's Rules, by Robert Sawyer.
2) Spend 15% of your time on learning craft and business. Both a little at a time. In any way you can.
3) Spend the remaining 5% of your time mailing finished work to editors or getting your work up indie published or both. (The #5 path above I believe in 2013 is the best if you have the courage.)
4) Think five and ten years out and set production goals. (Not selling goals, you are not in charge of those, but you are in charge of your own production and how much you learn.)
Dean's Six Major Paths Writers Can Take
You'll notice that, in point three, above, Dean talks about "path #5". Although Dean gives his recommendations, he also details "the six major paths that a fiction writer can take in 2013 when starting out". Here they are:
1. Follow the myths
"[W]rite one novel, rewrite it to death, then spend all your time tracking down an agent."
Con: "This path seldom leads to a decent sale or decent writing, but most beginning writers still follow this path ...."
2. Follow tradition
"Write a novel and mail a submission package for your book directly to editors. Then while that book is in the mail, write more novels and mail them as well while working on becoming a better storyteller."
Pro: "This is the way it’s been done forever in publishing and is still valid."
Con: "Contracts are much more difficult these days."
Note: "Only difference now from ten years ago is that now you need an IP attorney to work on your contract instead of an agent."
3. Pay to follow the myths
"Write a novel, rewrite it to death, pay a gad-zillion bucks to have someone put it up electronically for you and then take a percentage of your work, then you promote it to your 200 friends on Facebook until they start fleeing ...."
Con: "This path seldom works ...."
4. Go indie: write and publish novels
"Write a novel, learn how to do your own covers and formatting, put the novel up yourself electronically and in POD and then write the next novel and work on learning and becoming a better storyteller. Repeat. Do not promote other than telling your friends once each book is out."
Pro: "This is more of a standard, traditional path that will work, but takes time as you learn how to tell better stories that people want to read."
5. Go indie & follow tradition
"Follow #4 and #2 at the same exact time, telling the editors in the submission package that the book is self-published electronically and sending them a cover in the package."
Pro: See Dean's comments on #2 and #4.
Note: "Very few beginning writers are trying this method yet because they are afraid traditional editors will come to their houses and break their fingers ...."
6. Short stories
"Forget novels completely and only write short stories, selling to traditional magazines as well as publishing indie."
Pro: "This method has a lot quicker feedback loops and is a good way to learn how to tell great stories ..."
Con: "... it takes a mind set most beginning writers do not have. And you must learn how to do all the indie publishing work yourself."
Note: "This method was never a path to making a living writing fiction, but now it is possible if you really, really, really love short fiction. Otherwise, just write a few stories here and there to help your novels."
You'll notice that I re-formatted some of Dean's points, above. (You should have seen my notebooks in school!) I did it so that I could take in more information at a glance. Oh, and all quotations are from Dean's article, "The New World of Publishing: How To Get Started Selling Fiction in 2013".
Dean's Advice For The New Year
In my opinion, all writers these days should be writing, selling, and publishing some short fiction along with writing novels. The short fiction market is booming and short fiction should just be a part of any business plan for a fiction writer.In other words, try a combination of paths 5 and 6, above.
Dean also holds that:
[T]he best way to sell books is write a lot, work on learning how to be a better storyteller constantly, get your work in front of editors or readers or both, and plan for the long haul.
How To Defeat The Siren Call Of Social Media
I think this is brilliant! Dean writes:
[S]et up a writing computer that is only for creation of new words. Have no games, no email, no internet connection on that computer. Make it only a writing computer. That way the creative side of things has a line between it and the information overload and opinions flooding at you from everywhere. It honestly will help and be worth the few hundred bucks for a new computer.Thanks to cloud storage you can save your work using utilities like Dropbox or Google Drive and then access your work on your main computer when you need to edit and format it.
Beware of Over-Marketing
I think this might be one of Dean's most controversial pieces of advice. As far as I can tell, Dean isn't against all marketing--after all, he recommends telling your online community about your book or short story when it's first published--but he is against over-marketing. Dean writes:
I watch new writers, who have managed to complete their first novel, promoting the life out of their “book” because they believe they should, and then complaining when there are very few sales.Point well taken.
From a place of perspective, this is like watching a brand new violin player stride onto the stage at Carnage Hall with their very first recital piece and wondering why no one showed up to listen even though they advertised their concert to everyone they knew.
The Importance Of Practicing Your Craft
All fiction writers, at some point, given enough time, start to understand that to become a good storyteller it takes time. John D. McDonald said every fiction writer has a million words of crap in them before they reach their first published word. I agree and could go on about why this is so, but don’t have the time in this article.I hope Dean writes that article soon! A million words is about 10 books at 100,000 words a book. Even if the finished word count isn't 100,000 chances are you'll have written at least that number when you count up all the drafts.
Those novels that you've stuffed under your bed--we all have them!--did you a favor. They helped you work through your 1,000,000 practice words.
The Writings and Opinions of Dean Wesley Smith
If you haven't subscribed to Dean's blog and you're interested in indie publishing, I highly recommend it. You don't have to agree with everything he says, but his advice is worth thinking about even if you don't take it.
Thanks to Andy Goldman for bringing Dean's latest post to my attention. :-)
Other articles you might like:
- Robert Sawyer Says: Don't Worry About What's Popular, Write What You Love
- Writing A Story? Make Sure You Have A Concept Not Just An Idea
- Amazon's KDP Select Program Has A Lot To Offer New Writers, But What About Established Ones?
Photo credit: "Late for Work / Tarde pa'l trabajo" by Eneas under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.