Friday, August 31, 2012

Indie Authors: Don't Give Anyone Ownership Of Your Work

Indie Authors: Don't Give Anyone Ownersip Of Your Work

Over the past few months, like mushrooms after a rain, scammers have sprung up offering to help indie authors publish their work.

These companies charge the moon for everything from editorial services to formatting to custom design work, and then, ON TOP OF THIS, they take a percentage of your royalties! Here's what Dean Wesley Smith has to say about these people:
I can hear the questions. “But I can’t do covers, so shouldn’t it be all right to trade the work on the cover for a percentage of the sales?”

NO!!!!!!!!

For some strange reason, smart writer after smart writer seems intent on wanting and fighting to give away ownership percentages in their work, both with agents, with traditional publishers, with small presses, and with indie publishing “helpers.”
Some writers "believe it's fine to exchange work for a percentage of their property". It's not.
For example, you have a gardner come to your house to mow your lawn. But instead of money, you decide to give the gardner a percentage ownership in your home.
No one would consider this, so why do we find it so easy to do in the case of our manuscripts?

Companies that “Help” indie publishers.

There are two types of these companies. The Good and The Scam.

You always know The Good company when they never ask for a percentage of your work. The fees are up front for the work you need and stated, not hidden. And you always retain all rights to your work and the money goes directly to your bank account.

They work off of what is called a “menu” of services. They are, for the most part, the good. You decide how much you want to pay up front and either pay it or not.

The Bad company tries to hide any fees from you, tries to get you to give them a percentage, wants to handle your money before it goes to you with every sale, even tries to get you to sign up in their online agreements before you can even look at their site.

Solution: Run!!!!
I checked out a few of these companies because I wanted to find out how egregious their sins were. I found that many of them were up front about the amount of money they charge for services. One company publicly listed publishing packages costing up to--I kid you not--$10,000!

I pretended to be interested in this company's $5,000 package, one which included a website--I used to be a website developer--and asked to see an example site. Folks, these were the plainest, straight out-of-the-box, websites imaginable. The company was using free open source software to create the websites, something anyone with zero skill could do, and it only takes 5 minutes. Most hosting companies will set one of these sites up for free. That's right. For free! AND this company was demanding authors give them a cut of their royalties as well. My gosh! The nerve of some people, it's astonishing.

The Best Case Scenario
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you find a company, a small press, that does a great job with cover art, and formatting, and editing, etc., and let's say they take somewhere between 15% and 50% of your book in lieu of charging you for the services they provide. Here we're talking about a traditional publisher, but a very small one run by one person, sometimes two.

Here's what Dean has to say:
So you sign up with some small press publisher or some agent “publisher” who promises to get your book into electronic print, and then pay you FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE PLUS 70 YEARS 15% every month of everything that comes in.

Yeah, that’s going to happen and if you believe it will, I’ve got a very old bridge to sell you.

Imagine your grandkid trying to chase the grandkid of the agent sixty years after you die to get money and you start to see how really silly that idea is.
You all know how difficult it is to stick with something. Writing a book for instance! Your book is important to you, right? You love it (or at least you did in the beginning!) and yet it is so very easy to put down. We say things like, I've been so busy, one of my kids got sick, and so on. And there's nothing wrong with this. Life happens.

Imagine what it's like running a small publishing company in your spare time. The owner/publisher will likely wear more than one hat. They are responsible for acquiring manuscripts (a LOT of reading), negotiating contracts, doing cover art, line editing, formatting and uploading manuscripts and paying authors on time. AND they will probably do all the customer relations. Talk about stress!

How many of these small publishers do you think will still be around in a year? Two years? Five years? Not many. Consider: A medium sized publishing house probably has a few people on staff so if one person needs a break, if life intervenes, then someone else can step in and take over. Generally this isn't so with a small press.

So what happens when a small publisher folds? They've published your ebook and you don't have access to their accounts, and they'll likely have an account on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords just to name a few.

How do you get control of your book? The best case scenario is that the publisher will unpublish your book and send you the artwork they used for your cover along with the electronic file of your manuscript. But even then, because your book was unpublished, all the reviews your book received will be gone. You'll have to start over from square one.

And that's the best case scenario.

So what do you do? Dean writes:
— First, never, ever allow anyone to work for you for a percentage, either of income or ownership.

— Second, start learning how to indie publish your own work. It’s scary at first, but fun after that, and it gives you a sense of intense freedom. That way you can be clear-headed on signing a deal with anyone else.

— Third, make sure every contract you sign has a set date where the exclusive rights return to you. Period. Never sign a contract with a “speed limit” or a dollar figure of sales. Just set a date and if the publisher wants the work after that date, they can negotiate a new deal with you.
That's good advice. And it does get easier with practice. Read the rest of Dean Wesley Smith's article here: Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: The Myth of Giving Away 15% Ownership in Your Work.

Other articles you might like:
- Book Promotion: Where's The Line?
- John Locke Paid For Book Reviews
- Fifty Shades of Alice In Wonderland: Sales Peak At $1,000 Per Day

Photo credit: marfis75

Joe Konrath: Selling Your Books To Libraries


Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch are going to sell their entire ebook catalogues to the Harris County Public Library. These are their terms:
1. Ebooks are $3.99

2. No DRM.

3. The library only needs to buy one ebook of a title, and then they can make as many copies as they need for all of their patrons and all of their branches.

4. The library owns the rights to use that ebook forever.

5. The library can use it an any format they need; mobi, epub, pdf, lit, etc. And when new formats arise, they're’re free to convert it to the new format.

In short, the library buys one copy, and never has to buy it again.
Joe and Blake said they'd extend these terms to any library.

That's a petty good deal! I don't know much about this area but I believe that the usual practice with ebooks is only a certain number of copies can be loaned out at a time and each book can only be loaned out a certain number of times before the library has to renew the license.

Here's how the librarians at the Harris County Public Library put it:
Accessibility
Libraries are not able to purchase all of the eBooks we would like to purchase due to publisher and author concerns about copyright protection in the digital format.  Only two of the big six publishers will sell eBooks to libraries, and those pricing models either limit us to a low number of checkouts or charge us more than twice the retail price for a book.  Very few picture books are available for us to purchase, even though small children are a large part of our customer base and we often use digital books in storytimes.  With adult fiction titles, we can’t always offer complete series because of format availability or publisher restrictions.  Some publishers would even like to implement a plan that would force people to come to the library to check out eBooks, rather than being able to do it online, which kind of defeats the purpose.  Librarians are also making the adjustment to focus on providing access for our customers through leasing or subscription, rather than only owning items to be a permanent part of a collection.

Better Public Experience 
Because of the way we have to purchase electronic content, our customers often have to jump back and forth online through multiple access points, instead of simply finding a book and clicking to check it out.  This can make the borrowing experience quite confusing and complex.  Then add the confusion about which formats match which devices.  We’re not just providing materials for one type of device, our customers use Kindles and Nooks and iPads and cell phones and devices we probably haven’t heard of yet.  We are constantly learning about all of these devices because we are now free tech support for the public.  Our customers show up with their new eReader in a box, and we teach them how to use it.
I would urge everyone even the least interested in how libraries have changed over the years and the pressures they are under to read the entirety of Joe's post. I've only excerpted from the letter the librarians at the Harris County Public Library sent Joe and it's well worth reading in it's entirety: Ebooks For Libraries

Other articles you may be interested in:
- Stephen King's Latest Book: A Face In The Crowd 
- Fifty Shades of Grey - Oh My!
- Book Promotion: Where's The Line?


Photo credit: Friar Balsam

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Stephen King's Latest Book: A Face In The Crowd

Stephen King Lastest Book Is An Ebook: A Face In The Crowd

I'm late to the party! Hodders released Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan's ebook, A Face in the Crowd, August 21st. A Face in the Crowd is also available as an audiobook in MP3 and CD form. For more information on purchasing options, read Stephen O'Nan's blog post.

Here's a link to an excerpt from the audiobook version: A Face in the Crowd.
STEPHEN KING & STEWART O’NAN
A FACE IN THE CROWD
A New Story Coming August  21, 2012

We are delighted to announce a chilling new story entitled A FACE IN THE CROWD. Set for release on August 21st, the original eBook and simultaneous audio digital download marks a second collaboration between Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan (Faithful).

What if you were watching your favourite sport on television and the camera swung to a familiar face in the crowd?  Someone who couldn't possibly be there?
Dean Evers, an elderly widower, sits in front of the television with nothing better to do than waste his leftover evenings watching baseball. His adopted Florida baseball team, the Rays, are going strong. Suddenly, in a seat a few rows up beyond the batter, Evers sees the face of someone he knows from decades past, someone who shouldn’t be at the ballgame, shouldn’t even be on the planet. And so begins a parade of people from Evers’s past, people he has wronged, all of them occupying that seat behind home plate. Until one day, he sees someone even closer to home…

A FACE IN THE CROWD is a beautifully written story about grief, loneliness and revenge.
To read the rest of the announcement, click here:  A New Story Coming August  21, 2012 from Stephen King & Steward O'Nan.

The publication of this book came as a complete surprise to me--I try to keep up on all things King. Looks like a good story, I'm anxious to read it.

It's nice to have something to tide us over until the release of Joyland and Doctor Sleep next year. You'll recall that the announcement of Joyland caused a stir because King wasn't releasing an ebook version. With A Face in the Crowd he's releasing an ebook but no print version. I think this confirms what I've long thought: King's an innovator. He's trying out new things. 

I hadn't read any of Steward O'Nan's work before but after looking over his bio I'm wondering why that is. I love it when I find a new authors (well, new to me, he has been writing for some time).

Happy reading!

(I was about to hit the "publish" button when I remembered the last post I did. Ed Robertson opined that $3.99 was the best price for an ebook. King and O'Nan are selling this book in the UK for 2.99 which comes to $3.48 in the US Amazon store. Seems like Stephen King agrees!)

Other articles on Stephen King you might enjoy:
- Stephen King: 15 tips on how to become a better writer
- Neil Gaiman Interviews Stephen King, King talks about Dr. Sleep
- Stephen King Reads An Excerpt From The Dark Tower

Tips For First Time Writers

Tips For First Time Writers

I've started reading Ed Robertson's blog, Failure Ahoy!, regularly. Ed meticulously tracks the performance of his books in response to various promotions on Amazon and, now, Barnes & Noble. Many would keep this information to themselves thinking it could give a competitive edge, but in true Indie spirit Ed shares his findings with the community.

So when Ed published a post giving advice for first time authors I read it with interest. Here are some of his tips:

The new sweet spot for ebooks is $3.99
99 cents, then $2.99, used to be a good price point for ebooks but now an ebook sold for 99 cents has gained something of a stigma and even, though to a much lesser degree, $2.99, since that is the lowest price a writer can sell their work for and earn a 70% royalty. IMHO this thinking is wrong but with marketing sometimes it is all about perception.

That said, making your book free for a time (see below), or lowering it's price to 99 cents as part of a promotion, can be a good strategy.

Join Kindleboards
Ed cautions that you might not see any gain from this for a few months but that, for him at least, joining the Kindleboard community was a good investment of his time.

Join Goodreads
The folks over at Goodreads are mighty nice and I enjoy the community. Ed writes:
It's probably worthwhile to get your book listed on GoodReads. I am not intricately well-versed in how Goodreads runs, but if you have librarian status, or know someone who does, you should be able to add your book easily. If you can't, it's no big deal--someone will get to it eventually--but Goodreads seems to be a fairly important part of developing your book's infrastructure, a concept I'll get to in a bit.
Free is your friend: Enroll your book in Amazon's KDP Select Program
If this is your first book you have no reviews, no 'also bought' recommendations. In short, no one has the foggiest idea who you are. Ed writes:
But perhaps the most important thing you can do after hitting publish is this: make your book free. Right out of the gate. Give away the hell out if it. Schedule it for a two-day run, sit back, and see what happens.

"What happens" probably won't be much. I think it's vitally important to set the right expectations at this stage, and for most beginning authors, the reality is you're going to sell very little right off the bat. In concrete terms, you're doing very well if you're selling 1/day. Many brand-new books from first-time authors with no platform can easily go days or weeks or even months between sales. A month from now, your sales column might consist of a number between 1-9, and that is perfectly okay.

At this phase, that means every single sale is a success. Every sale means someone stumbled over an unknown book and thought it looked interesting enough to pay money for. Do you know how hard it is to make that happen? Remember: 1,504,243 ebook titles and counting. As a brand-new book, the only place you're showing up is in the new releases list and in keyword searches, and even then, anyone who found your book is either obsessive or almost superhumanly dedicated to finding new books, because they probably had to dig through dozens of pages before they happened upon yours. In terms of its present visibility, your book may have a "Buy" button on its page, but in many ways it still hasn't really been published.

So cheer every day you do get a sale, but try not to be surprised or disappointed when you don't. It's probably going to be some time before your book starts traveling down some of the main avenues to discoverability.

And that's why we're going free right off the bat--to try to kickstart a couple of these avenues.
If you are a new author (or just feel like one!) I highly recommend reading Ed Robertson's article in its entirety:  I'm New to Indie Publishing and This Is Awesome and Terrifying, Part 1: Releasing Your First Book.

Other articles you might like:
- Book Promotion: Where's The Line?
- John Locke Paid For Book Reviews
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

Photo credit: Mrs Logic

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Promotion: Where's The Line?

Book Promotion: Where's The Line?

Buying Reviews
The world recently learnt that successful indie author John Locke bought reviews for his novels. Locke was confident in his writing ability so he stipulated reviewers were to give their honest opinion, but the fact remains he paid for reviews, something which goes against Amazon policy and at least one law.

A couple months after commissioning the reviews, sales of John Locke's novels took off. Coincidence? Perhaps. It was in December, a time book sales explode, but even so it seems as though Locke's decision to pay for reviews may have been a significant factor in his success.

My first reaction was astonishment. I had read Locke's book, How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months and his emphasis was on building a community and, as any indie author knows, building a community takes time and a lot of hard work. In The New York Times article which exposed Locke's business practises, I read this:
Mr. Locke is unwilling to say that paying for reviews made a big difference. “Reviews are the smallest piece of being successful,” he said. “But it’s a lot easier to buy them than cultivating an audience.” [Emphasis mine]
Indeed.

Then I remembered, indie authors have been offered the opportunity to pay for reviews for a while now, and from no less a name than Kirkus.

Kirkus charges $425 for a standard review, $575 for their express service. They guarantee the review will be approximately 250 to 350 words.

From the Kirkus website:
Kirkus Indie will send you the review via email, at which point you may choose to keep it private or publish it on our website (at no extra charge). If you choose to keep it private, it will never see the light of day. If you decide to publish the review on our site, you may use it any way you choose—on the back cover of your book, in marketing collateral, on your website or in a letter to an agent or publisher.

If you choose to publish your review on our website, we will also distribute it to our licensees, including Google, BN.com, Ingram, Baker & Taylor and more. On top of that, our editors will consider it for publication in Kirkus Reviews magazine, which is read by librarians, booksellers, publishers, agents, journalists and entertainment executives. Your review may also be selected to be featured in our email newsletter, which is distributed to more than 50,000 industry professionals and consumers.
So Kirkus gets a minimum of $425 per review and the author has the opportunity to bury the review if they don't like it.

My question: Why is it okay for Kirkus to sell reviews?

Sockpuppet Accounts
Recently Stephen Leather told the Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, and so the world, that he uses sockpuppet accounts. I'll let wikipedia explain what a sockpuppet account is:
A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term—a reference to the manipulation of a simple hand puppet made from a sock—originally referred to a false identity assumed by a member of an internet community who spoke to, or about himself while pretending to be another person. The term now includes other uses of misleading online identities, such as those created to praise, defend or support a third party or organization, or to circumvent a suspension or ban from a website. A significant difference between the use of a pseudonym and the creation of a sockpuppet is that the sockpuppet poses as an independent third-party unaffiliated with the puppeteer. (Wikipedia, Sockpuppet (Internet))
For instance, let's say Matilda has published a book--whether herself or through a traditional publisher--Keeping Hummingbirds Happy and she creates an accont on Amazon under an assumed name, Hummingbird1. This is a sockpuppet account. Using this account she will give her book a good review. Of course one positive review is unlikely to make much of a difference so she creates Hummingbird2, Hmmingbird3, and so on.

I would like to stress that Stephen Leather never publicly said he had made a sockpuppet account on Amazon. He admitted to having one on Twitter, which is a very different thing. Stephen Leather is a fellow indie author and I have no wish to attack him.

That said, what startled me about Stephen Leather's admission (well, that he admitted it at a writers' conference in front of dozens of people surprised the heck out of me!) was that he apparently thought everyone had sockpuppet accounts. Here's how it went:
Stephen Leather: I’ll go onto several forums, from the well-known forums, and post there, under my own name and under various other names and various other characters. You build this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself. And then I’ve got enough fans…

Steve Mosby: So you use sockpuppet accounts basically?

SL: I think everyone does. Everyone does. Or I have friends who are sockpuppets, who might be real, but they might pick a fight with me.

SM: Are your readers aware of this, or…?

SL: Well, I think that everyone … well, are the readers aware of it? No … But they’re not buying it because of the sockpuppet. What you’re trying to do is create a buzz. And it’s very hard, one person, surrounded by a hundred thousand other writers, to create a buzz. I mean, that’s one of the things that publishers do. They create a buzz. One person on their own, difficult to create a buzz. If you’ve got ten friends, and they’ve got friends, and you can get them all as one creating a buzz, then hopefully you’ll be all right.
If readers aren't buying one's books because of ones sockpuppet account(s), then why go to all the bother of setting them up? Sure, to create buzz, but if there's no connection between 'buzz' and booksales, why do it?

Does it work? Do paid reviews and sockpuppet accounts help sell books?
I would imagine the answer is yes, they do. Or at least the folks who pay for the reviews and spend the time to set up the sockpuppet accounts believe they do.

But I think the real question isn't whether these techniques help sell books, but whether an author's time is best spent buying reviews, setting up sockpuppet accounts or writing new work.

How many books do you think Stephen Leather would have been able to write if he hadn't been busy with sockpuppet accounts? Does the amount of money that SL made due to his sockpuppet accounts exceed the amount of money he would have made on sales of new books?

It is, of course, impossible to know. I think the best way of selling books is to write more books. I know how much time it takes me to maintain my @woodwardkaren Twitter account, I can't imagine maintaining two. I would have no time for writing! If a person has a real twitter account, a couple of fake twitter accounts and three or four fake Amazon accounts, when are they going to find the time to write?

You've heard the old saying: Are you a man or a mouse? Here's mine: Are you a writer or a sockpuppet? We are our choices. Let's write.

Other articles you might like:
- John Locke Paid For Book Reviews
- Fifty Shades of Alice In Wonderland: Sales Peak At $1,000 Per Day
- Hugh Howey, Bestselling Author Of Wool, On The Key To Writing Success

Links to articles (off site):
- Anonymous Author Shares Fiverr Experience
- The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy
- Publishing's Drug Problem
- Fake Reviews: Amazon's Rotten Core

Photo credit: johndal

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ursula K. Le Guin On Academic Criticism & Philip K. Dick

Ursula K. Le Guin On Acedemic Criticism & Philip K. Dick
Ursula K. Le Guin

This is from Ursula K. Le Guin's interview over at Wired.

On Academic Criticism
Wired: There’s been a large amount of academic criticism devoted to your work. Do you ever read any of that, and is there any that you think is particularly noteworthy?

Le Guin: Well, I read some of it. A lot of it’s kind of written for other academics, you know? But there are certain writers, like Brian Attebery or Jim Bittner, who I think really understand my work, and sometimes can explain it to me. “Oh, is that what I was doing? Hmm, never thought of that,” you know.
On Philip K. Dick
Wired: I’m a big fan of Philip K. Dick, and when I attended the Clarion writers workshop, Tim Powers and Karen Joy Fowler assigned each of us a book to read that they thought would resonate with us, and the book that they assigned me was The Lathe of Heaven, which they described as an homage to Philip K. Dick, and I’ve always wondered if that’s true?

Le Guin: Oh yeah, definitely. You know, I couldn’t write a Phil Dick book, but I could steal some of his tricks, in a way. Pulling reality out from under the reader all the time, changing reality on them, the way he does. Well, I did it through dreams. Phil would have done it another way. But yeah, homage to Phil Dick is right.

Wired: Did you know him at all?

Le Guin: We talked on the telephone, and we corresponded some, but we never actually met. Except, we must have met in high school, because we were at Berkeley High School at the same time, but nobody I know remembers him. He is the unknown man from my class at Berkeley High.

Wired: Well, that’s sort of funny, because in a lot of his stories — one that comes to mind is Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said — it’s about a guy who suddenly nobody knows who he is anymore. I wonder if that was autobiographical in any way?

Le Guin: Oh, must be. [laughs] I don’t know. I’m rather proud of the fact that I was defending Phil Dick’s work early on, when he was not being paid much attention to and never kept in print. And I kept saying, “This guy is really good. This guy is writing completely original stuff. You know, it isn’t conventional, it isn’t run-of-the-mill. It’s different, but it’s really interesting.” And of course Phil picked up on that, and you always like it when another writer likes your stuff, you want to know that writer, so he may have written me or me him, and we talked some. I got a little bit bossy and told him that the women in his novels were kind of predictable. I didn’t think he’d really pay any attention, but he did. Apparently he really tried to think about the way he’d been handling women in his fiction. That touches me. You know, he didn’t have to pay any mind to anything I said.

Wired: Do you remember what year that was, that people would look for that sort of change in his fiction?

Le Guin: I think the novel where he tried to write women differently was VALIS. So it’s kind of late. We’re getting into the novels after he had that sort of revelation thing he had, and began writing a rather different kind of book.
Read the rest of her interview here: Ursula K. Le Guin: Still Battling the Powers That Be

It astonished me to learn that Ursula K. Le Guin's publishers were putting pressure on her to make her books "more like Harry Potter". Can you imagine! I suspect even J.K. Rowling would be scandalized.

Other articles you might like:
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer
- 10 Tips For Decluttering Your Life and Increasing Creativity
- Jane Friedman: How To Build An Awesome Twitter Bio

Photo credit: Marion Wood Kolisch

Jim Butcher: Cold Days, The Next Dresden Book, On Sale Nov 27th, 2012

Jim Butcher: Cold Days, The Next Dresden Book, On Sale Nov 27th, 2012

I'm jumping up and down right now! Okay, not really. It's too early for that. I'm finishing up the dregs of my first cup of coffee after getting four hours sleep. The only thing that's going to make me jump right now is if I sit on a tack.

Jim Butcher is my favorite author and his Dresden series is one I've followed for years. Usually a series will go downhill over time but Butcher's Dresden series has gotten better. Ghost Story was great but Changes (the second to last book) was amazing.

Update (Aug 31st):
SPOILER WARNING!!! IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE LAST TWO BOOKS IN THE SERIES AND LIKE BEING SURPRISED, DON'T READ ON!!

If you want to read the blurb for Cold Days scroll down.













Cold Days is available for pre-order. Here's the blurb:
HARRY DRESDEN LIVES!!!

After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard.

He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill.

Guess which Mab wants first?

Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday.

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own…

His soul.
To read more about Cold Days visit Jim Butcher's website.

Jim Butcher is not only an excellent writer but he gives marvelous writing tips and advice.
- Jim Butcher: How To Write A Story
- How to build a Villain, by Jim Butcher

I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas!

Photo credit: Unknown

Monday, August 27, 2012

Nathan Bransford: The Pubishing Process In GIF Form


Best. Post. Ever.

Enough said.

Read Nathan Bransford's post here: The Publishing Process In Gif Form.

The clip from the TV series Friends of Joey Tribbiani (aka Matt LeBlanc) is my favorite.

Other articles you might like:
- Amanda Hocking's Unusual Writing Schedule
- Pixar: 22 Ways To Tell A Great Story

Photo credit: Yasin Hassan

John Locke Paid For Book Reviews


I was surprised when I read that John Locke paid for book reviews. I was even more surprised that he required the reviewers to be honest; if the reviewer wanted to give his book a 1 star review, that was fine.

But why would someone pay for a one star review? A one star review screams at readers: don't buy this book, you won't like it! Here's what Mr. Locke had to say:
“My first marketing goal was to get five five-star reviews,” he [John Locke] writes. “That’s it. But you know what? It took me almost two months!” In the first nine months of his publishing career, he sold only a few thousand e-books. Then, in December 2010, he suddenly caught on and sold 15,000 e-books.

One thing that made a difference is not mentioned in “How I Sold One Million E-Books.” That October, Mr. Locke commissioned Mr. Rutherford to order reviews for him, becoming one of the fledging service’s best customers. “I will start with 50 for $1,000, and if it works and if you feel you have enough readers available, I would be glad to order many more,” he wrote in an Oct. 13 e-mail to Mr. Rutherford. “I’m ready to roll.”

Mr. Locke was secure enough in his talents to say that he did not care what the reviews said. “If someone doesn’t like my book,” he instructed, “they should feel free to say so.” He also asked that the reviewers make their book purchases directly from Amazon, which would then show up as an “Amazon verified purchase” and increase the review’s credibility.

In a phone interview from his office in Louisville, Ky., Mr. Locke confirmed the transaction. “I wouldn’t hesitate to buy reviews from people that were honest,” he said. Even before using GettingBookReviews.com, he experimented with buying attention through reviews. “I reached out every way I knew to people to try to get them to read my books.”

Many of the 300 reviews he bought through GettingBookReviews were highly favorable, although it’s impossible to say whether this was because the reviewers genuinely liked the books, or because of their well-developed tendency toward approval, or some combination of the two.

Mr. Locke is unwilling to say that paying for reviews made a big difference. “Reviews are the smallest piece of being successful,” he said. “But it’s a lot easier to buy them than cultivating an audience.”
John Locke commissioned reviews on October 13th and his book sales took off in December. I imagine it would probably take about a month for the reviews to start coming through, so those paid reviews could have been an important factor in his December success. Of course, that Christmas was coming up wouldn't have hurt.

That John Locke paid for reviews is just one part of an article about Todd Rutherford and his book review site: gettingbookreviews.com.
The tale of GettingBookReviews.com, which commissioned 4,531 reviews in its brief existence, is a story of a vast but hidden corner of the Internet [...].
.  .  .  .
In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a Web site, GettingBookReviews.com. At first, he advertised that he would review a book for $99. But some clients wanted a chorus proclaiming their excellence. So, for $499, Mr. Rutherford would do 20 online reviews. A few people needed a whole orchestra. For $999, he would do 50. 

There were immediate complaints in online forums that the service was violating the sacred arm’s-length relationship between reviewer and author. But there were also orders, a lot of them. Before he knew it, he was taking in $28,000 a month.
.  .  .  .
How little, [Todd Rutherford] wondered, could he pay freelance reviewers and still satisfy the authors? He figured on $15. He advertised on Craigslist and received 75 responses within 24 hours. 

Potential reviewers were told that if they felt they could not give a book a five-star review, they should say so and would still be paid half their fee, Mr. Rutherford said. As you might guess, this hardly ever happened. 

Amazon and other e-commerce sites have policies against paying for reviews. But Mr. Rutherford did not spend much time worrying about that. “I was just a pure capitalist,” he said. Amazon declined to comment. 

Mr. Rutherford’s busiest reviewer was Brittany Walters-Bearden, now 24, a freelancer who had just returned to the United States from a stint in South Africa. She had recently married a former professional wrestler, and the newlyweds had run out of money and were living in a hotel in Las Vegas when she saw the job posting. 

Ms. Walters-Bearden had the energy of youth and an upbeat attitude. “A lot of the books were trying to prove creationism,” she said. “I was like, I don’t know where I stand, but they make a solid case.” 

For a 50-word review, she said she could find “enough information on the Internet so that I didn’t need to read anything, really.” For a 300-word review, she said, “I spent about 15 minutes reading the book.” She wrote three of each every week as well as press releases. In a few months, she earned $12,500. 

“There were books I wished I could have gone back and actually read,” she said. “But I had to produce 70 pieces of content a week to pay my bills.”
In case anyone is thinking, "There should be a law against this!" let me assure you there is.
The Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines stating that all online endorsements need to make clear when there is a financial relationship, but enforcement has been minimal and there has been a lot of confusion in the blogosphere over how this affects traditional book reviews. 
Todd Rutherford's company has been shut down and he now sells recreational vehicles. If you would like to read David Streitfeld's article about Tod Rutherford, click here: The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy.

Book review sites for indie books are desperately needed, but paying for reviews is not the way to go about it.

Other articles you might like:
- Picking Up The Threads: Getting Back Into Your Story
- Hugh Howey, Bestselling Author Of Wool, On The Key To Writing Success
- Creativity: Use It Or Lose It

Photo credit: brewbooks


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Creativity: Use It Or Lose It

Creativity: Use It Or Lose It

I have a theory. I think that the more one writes, the more one can write.

Generally, I think the more tasks one does which require creativity the more such tasks one can complete. Clear as mud? For instance, let's say a writer has a hobby; she finds it relaxing to make dolls, or bind journals, or paint, or do fridge poetry, or write a thousand words of glorious nonsense that, like a sandpainting, exist only for a moment and then is gone, sealed away forever. Those actions require creativity and I think creativity works something like muscles do: use it or lose it. The more we use our creativity the more we are able to use it.

Aisha Sultan seems to agree with me. She writes:
If you ask a kindergartner to tell you a story, chances are you'll hear a nonsensical and fabulous tale. If you put a chocolate chip cookie on a counter and forbid the child from using a chair to reach it, chances are she'll find a few alternate routes to that cookie.

Children are born inherently creative. They act on it unselfconsciously when they are young, willing to dance, draw or create at a moment's notice. We all begin with enormous creative capacity, but how does our willingness to act on it diminish as we grow older?

I confronted this question when I participated in my first fiction writing workshop last year. The instructor gave us a series of prompts, and each time, I stared at a blank screen with unmitigated fear.

I was convinced that my fiction would be poorly disguised autobiography. And that it would be terrible. And that others would see just how terrible it was. So terrible that it wasn't worth making a fool of myself.

I envied how easily my children could slip into pretend stories, where make-believe dialogue didn't sound contrived or wooden, and plot was just a four-letter word.
. . . .
We unlearn creativity, according to Josh Linkner [...]. "Instead of growing into our creativity, we grow out of it," he said.

Fear is the main culprit, he says. We are conditioned through years of schooling to strive for the "right" answer.
. . . .
"People learn from an early age to get in line," he said. So, we judge others and judge ourselves when we make a mistake or - heaven forbid - fail. We talk ourselves out of creativity and hold ourselves back from big ideas.
. . . .
My own children were encouraging during my creative-writing fits.

"Just try again," they would say.

So, I did. And it was never as terrible as I imagined it would be before I began.
You can read the rest of Aisha's article here: How we grow out of our creativity. Thanks to Passive Guy over at The Passive Voice Blog for posting a link to Aisha Sultan's article.

What do you think? Have you found that the more creative tasks you complete the more you can complete?

Other articles you might like:
- Seth Godin on Creativity, Childhood and Heroes
- Amanda Hocking's Unusual Writing Schedule
- Ripley Patton: The Self-Validated Writer

Photo credit: h.koppdelaney

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Are You Writing The Right Book? 5 Ways To Find Out

Are You Writing The Right Book? 5 Ways To Find Out

Ever heard of a book-writing coach? Neither had I. But if Lisa Tener is representative, I want one! Here are 5 ways to make sure you're writing the right book (I'm paraphrasing):

1) What is your vision for this book?
Lisa Tener writes:
a) What will this book do for your life, your work (or business), your lifestyle?;
b) How will this book affect your readers? What will their lives be like before and after reading it?; and
c) Imagine how your book will affect the larger world -- it will. In the earlier example, you may end up focusing solely on the Internet and protecting children, rather than all computer issues. If you can't state your vision in one sentence, it's not a workable vision.
For fiction writers you might ask what sort of emotional impact you want your book to have on your readers. Storytellers always want to evoke emotion in their audience, but there are many different emotions. Do you want them angry about an injustice? Sad about the death of a great love? Happy that the star-crossed lovers found love at last?

2) Who are your core readers?
Lisa Tener writes:
[P]icture a dartboard. The bull's eye is your core reader. That's the person you imagine when you're writing your title, your outline, your bio and every word in-between. Write with this core audience in mind and your book will be conversational (versus self-conscious), compelling (versus boring), and accessible (versus scattered) -- and it will have a lot more impact.

A number of writers say they keep a notion of an 'ideal reader' at the back of their minds as they write. Personally I do find this sometimes helps tell a story; I think it's psychological. It's easier to tell a story to an audience, even if it's an audience of one! Often ones ideal reader isn't imaginary, so if you write romances and your ideal reader is a voracious reader of romance, this will help keep you writing a romance (versus, say, a tale of urban fantasy with romantic elements).

3) Determine the theme
The theme of a story is generally something you read between the lines. For instance in the movie Shrek I'd say the main theme was about learning to let people in, learning to be vulnerable so that one can make real connections with others. I'm sure there's a better way of saying that! Perhaps one could say the theme for Snow White was that true love would be victorious in the end. Knowing the theme of your story from the beginning will help keep you from getting sidetracked.

4) Determine the scope
Fiction writers spin tales about entire imaginary civilizations so the question of where to start and stop a book can be difficult. As one writes one finds out more about ones characters as well as the social/political/physical world(s) they inhabit. It is often difficult to know where to draw the finish line, especially if one is starting what could be a series. If you're writing a high fantasy novel this could be fine--I've used my Lord of the Rings volumes as a paperweight more than once!--but readers of, for instance, urban fantasy are used to shorter reads, so a longer book could be a problem.

5) Have an outline
I know it's often said there are two kinds of writers: pantsers and plotters. Pantsers are those who, like Stephen King, forgo outlining in favor of a more organic approach. King views stories as real things that exist (more or less) independently of the writer, and that the writer must discover like a paleontologist would uncover the fossilized bones of an ancient creature. Plotters, on the other hand, outline in great and glorious detail before they start writing (or shortly thereafter).

Personally, I think most folks are some combination of panter and plotter. A lot of writers I've talked with have told me they make some sort of outline but then they feel free to ignore it. Or not. I think whether one outlines is personal and I'd hate to say that a writer has to outline, because I don't think that's true. I do think--and Stephen King said this in On Writing--that it does help save the writer from getting halfway through a book and then abandoning the effort because he or she's not sure where the story is going.

You can read Lisa Tener's entire article here: Write the Right Book.

Other articles you might be interested in:
- The End Of The Professional Writer?
- Indie Writers: 10 Things Not To Do
- How To Be A Writer

Thanks to The Passive Voice Blog for mentioning Lisa Tener's article.

Photo credit: library_mistress

Friday, August 24, 2012

Scams Aimed At Writers


Guest post on duolit by Lila: 
Most authors want to make a profit on their books. Unfortunately, some people don’t care about books and simply want to make a profit from the authors. Here are five of the most common scams.
Scam 1: The Agent's Reading Fee
Lila writes:

What They’re Not Telling You:

When you send your manuscript, you’ll need to include a small reading fee. And is this your first draft? It’s going to need lots of editing. She’ll recommend one of her “professional connections” to edit your novel for only a few hundred (or thousand!) dollars. The promises will keep getting bigger as your bank account gets smaller. Every week, there will be some new service absolutely crucial to preparing your manuscript for submission to the Big Six publishers. In the best-case scenario, these people might do some decent work. More likely, they will lead you on a merry chase and disappear once the check clears.

Question Toolbox:

  • Is she looking to make money with you, or first take money from you?
  • Does she allow you to pick your services and providers, or does she force hers upon you? For example, can you pick your own editor, or does she demand you use the recommended editor if you want to keep her as an agent?
  • If she’s an in-demand agent powerhouse, how does she have time to accept online submissions from strangers?
To read about the other four scams read Lila's entire article here: Five Common Writer Scams — Explained!

These days we need warnings about fraudsters. Lila has put together a great post I think ever writer should read.

Thanks to The Passive Voice Blog for mentioning Lila's article.

Photo credit: mark i geo

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The End Of The Professional Writer?


An article in The Globe And Mail recently proclaimed the end of the professional writer. Professional writers, it was said, are going the way of the dodo and the buggy whip maker. (There Will Be No More Professional Writers in The Future)

Kris Rusch disagrees. She writes:
"... [Ewan Morrison] predicts, “There will be no more professional writers in the future.”

Here’s the thing: Viewed from a certain perspective, Morrison is absolutely right. A decade or two down the road, the model that we once called “professional” for writers will disappear.

That model depended on writers writing on spec until they sell something. Those writers need a day job to support themselves. Those writers once they sell something then hire an employee with no legal training who negotiates their contract. Then that same employee, who usually has no literary training, vets all of the writer’s future works.

For this single sale, the writers will get an interest-free loan that they do not have to pay back if their book fails to sell well. If the book does sell well, then that interest-free loan will be paid off and the writer will receive a percentage of the book’s cover price (in theory) for each copy sold. Of course, cover price might be subject to discounting (at which case the percentage paid to the writer goes down) and the definition of sold might include free copies given away in hopes of goosing remaining sales, but hey, who is counting?

Wait. The answer to that is no one. Because accounting programs at most traditional publishers are so behind the times that they can’t handle e-book royalties in any sane way.
.  .  .  .
Morrison is right when he calls traditional publishing a feudal economic system. What he fails to see is that it has always been one. And that the economics are simply getting  more rigid as time goes on. The writers are getting less of the pie than they did before, and seem to have no way to combat that.

Except through the very thing he bemoans—digital publishing. Rather than embracing the revolution, he criticizes it [...].

He finds himself faced with a hell of a dilemma—one that most traditionally published writers face. Should they get a day job in which someone else now pays for their time? Should they keep writing and hope that things will improve? Or should they learn how to run a small business and actually control their finances—and their careers—for the first time in their lives?
.  .  .  .
The true professional writers will publish indie. You have to be professional to survive in a market that requires business savvy as well as creativity.
.  .  .  .
Yes, Morrison is right. The past sixty years of publishing have become an era that is no more.

And that’s a very, very, very good thing.
Read more of Kris Rusch's article here: The Business Rusch: The End of the Unprofessional Writer

Other articles you might enjoy:
- Kristen Lamb: 5 Rules For Using Twitter Successfully
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

Photo credit: Unknown

Dean Wesley Smith: Why I Self Publish

Dean Wesley Smith: Why I Self Publish

Dean Wesley Smith, in an article written for Kirkus reviews, talks about how he became an indie author:
After 100-plus novels through the system, I had decided to pretty much move on. I would finish the last few contracts I had and just fade away, write some short fiction, go play some poker.

Then my wife Kristine walked into my writing office on a fine day in May 2010, laughing. She told me about a $12 payment she had just received from Amazon for two short stories.

The previous fall I had tested the new electronic book world of Amazon with a couple of her short stories and a couple of mine. And then promptly forgot about them.

As Kris stood in my office door laughing about the $12, not in a bad way, but in an astounded way that those two stories had made 12 bucks in one month, I understood finally the new world we had just entered for writers.

For the first time, writers had an option other than traditional publishers, a viable option to reach readers directly, a viable option to make a living with their fiction.
Read the rest of Dean's article here: Dean Wesley Smith: The Self-Publishing Bestseller on ‘How I Did It’

I'm fascinated by tales of why authors start to self publish. Although each person's circumstances are unique each story has the same refrain: a writer wanted an alternative to traditional publishing and they liked having more control over their work.

Other articles you might be interested in:
- Spice Up Your Writing: The Passive Voice & Eliminating Passive Verbs
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Kristen Lamb: 5 Rules For Using Twitter Successfully

Kristen Lamb: 5 Rules For Using Twitter Successfully

Kristen Lamb gives great advice, especially when it comes to the no-man's land of social media, particularly Twitter and Twitter hash tags.

As many of you know, Kristen started the group #MyWANA as a kind of water cooler area for writers to hangout in and get to know one another. If you haven't dropped by yet, what are you waiting for? It's a wonderful virtual community that, now, is relatively spam free although, as Kristen shares in her most recent article, that has not always been the case.

What do we need to know about social media to be successful? Kristen says that the same social rules we learnt in Kindergarden still apply: be considerate.

Kristen's rules for social media success:

"RULE #1 Listening is as Important as Talking—We don’t need to tweet all the time, every hour to be heard."
Tweeting 24 times a day is too much! Of course whether you flood someones twitter account depends on how any people they follow, I try to not send more than 6 general tweets a day.

"RULE #2 You Will Be Graded on Attendance and Participation—NO AUTOMATION, PERIOD"
Kristen writes:
Recently on #MyWANA we had a link-spammer who would not stop spamming #MyWANA. I tweeted nicely and asked her to stop. So did at least a dozen other people. When nice didn’t work, we tried not-nice and tweeted “WHY ARE YOU SPAMMING #MyWANA? STOP!” I even blogged, then blogged AGAIN to make the mission and rules of #MyWANA clear and to gently discourage her behavior.

Still, she kept posting links…and more links…and, yes, even MORE links.

We finally blocked and reported her so much that Twitter shut down her account. What did she do? She opened a new one (or unlocked the reported account) and started link-spamming #MyWANA AGAIN, no matter how many times we told her that #MyWANA was for community.

Why didn’t she listen? Likely because she’d set up automation. Because she wasn’t present, she couldn’t see the fierce hatred we all had for her. Every time we saw her name, we saw red.

When I awoke yesterday to an entire column of tweets from this woman on #MyWANA, I took the fight to Facebook. This got her attention. She apologized and said she was only trying to help writers, that she had a good intentions, and I believe her but:

Good intentions + horrible manners = ticked off followers
"RULE #3 Each of Us Gets One Turn—We only need one identity on Twitter…really."
If you're a writer and you DO have more than one Twitter account, think about the trade-off you're making. The time spent in setting up and maintaining a second account versus time spent writing.

"RULE #4 Play Well with Others—Follow any #s we regularly use and pay attention to the Mentions column."
Excellent advice! And a great way to find useful articles.

"RULE #5 Remember the Golden Rule—Tweet Unto Others as You Would Have Them Tweet Unto You"
That says it all.

Read Kristen Lamb's entire article here: All We Needed To Know About Social Media Success, We Learned in Kindergarten.

Happy tweeting!

Other articles you might enjoy:
- 19 Ways To Grow Your Twitter Following
- 50 Shades Of Alice In Wonderland: Another Indie Success Story
- Kristen Lamb: Don't Let Trolls Make You Crazy

8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

I love Dean Wesley Smith's articles, especially his advice to writers. Here's Dean's most recent advice to new authors, paraphrased.

1) Never stop writing, and never stop having fun.

2) Don't limit yourself: try both indie and traditional publishing.

3) You don't need an agent. Send your manuscript directly to the editor, even if the editor says she doesn't accept unagented material.

4) Hire an IP lawyer if you receive an offer from a publisher. An IP lawyer can explain the contract to you, tell you if there are any 'gottya' clauses, and help you negotiate with the publisher.

5) Be professional. When you  publish your own work yourself, make sure you're dong a professional job. (Indie Writers: 10 Things Not To Do)

6) Follow Heinlein's Rules of Writing. Figure out ways to give yourself more time to write. (How To Be A Writer)

7) Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about writing and publishing. This takes time. Reading the following blogs helps:
- A Newbie's Guide to Publishing
- Dean Wesley Smith
- Kris Rusch
- The Passive Voice Blog
- Mystery Writing Is Murder (Elizabeth Craig also tweets links to great articles on writing)

8) Don't be discouraged. For most writers it will take years to learn how to be a good storyteller. Don't be impatient and don't ever give up.

To Dean's list I'd add this: Don't be shy about experimenting. If you are indie published and one of your titles isn't selling as much as you'd like--or even if it is!--experiment with different covers, different prices, different marketing strategies, but all the while keeping in mind that the best way to market your work is to publish a new book.

Other articles you might like:
- Pixar: 22 Ways To Tell A Great Story
- Penelope Trunk Discusses Time Management
- Fifty Shades of Grey - Oh My!

Photo credit: Ben Fredericson

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Picking Up The Threads: Getting Back Into Your Story


From the blog of Elizabeth S. Craig:
Jumping back into your story:

Consider limited Re-reading: The worst part is losing the story thread. I’ll usually read the last couple of pages and just forge ahead. If I poke around too long in past pages, I start getting my editor hat on. For me, that kills the creative process. But every writer is different. And this is harder to do if you’re way behind.

Timer: I’ll write as quickly as I can for 10 minutes. I won’t worry about if it’s something that’s going to need to be cut later. The important thing is making process on the story…mentally, that’s important. The next day, the writing will be more focused.

Lists: At the very least, sit down and make a list for options for your next scene, options for your character’s development, options for the next big conflict. Get your mind back into the story again.

Silence your inner critic: It’s not doing us any good.

Don’t try to catch up: It’s not fun to meet your daily goal and then write more than that to satisfy your catch-up goal. If I’m not close to a deadline (and right now I’m not), then I’m going to forget about those 8 or 9 pages I’m behind on. Each day is an opportunity to meet that day’s goal.

The important thing is to pick up your story again. It might be that the only way of doing that means taking a small notebook on the go to jot down story notes. I’m doing that today when I take my kids to their dentist appointment. Just figure out a way to fit it in.
"Silence your inner critic: It's not doing you any good." Truer words were never written! Another great article by Elizabeth Craig: Jump Back Into Your Story.

Other articles you might enjoy:
- How To Be A Writer
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

Photo credit: LifeSupercharger

Plot Without Conflict

Plot Without Conflict

Plot without conflict. Impossible? Not necessarily.
In the West, plot is commonly thought to revolve around conflict: a confrontation between two or more elements, in which one ultimately dominates the other. The standard three- and five-act plot structures—which permeate Western media—have conflict written into their very foundations. A “problem” appears near the end of the first act; and, in the second act, the conflict generated by this problem takes center stage. Conflict is used to create reader involvement even by many post-modern writers, whose work otherwise defies traditional structure.

The necessity of conflict is preached as a kind of dogma by contemporary writers’ workshops and Internet “guides” to writing. A plot without conflict is considered dull; some even go so far as to call it impossible. This has influenced not only fiction, but writing in general—arguably even philosophy. Yet, is there any truth to this belief? Does plot necessarily hinge on conflict? No. Such claims are a product of the West’s insularity. For countless centuries, Chinese and Japanese writers have used a plot structure that does not have conflict “built in”, so to speak. Rather, it relies on exposition and contrast to generate interest. This structure is known as kishōtenketsu.

Kishōtenketsu contains four acts: introduction, development, twist and reconciliation. The basics of the story—characters, setting, etc.—are established in the first act and developed in the second. No major changes occur until the third act, in which a new, often surprising element is introduced. The third act is the core of the plot, and it may be thought of as a kind of structural non sequitur. The fourth act draws a conclusion from the contrast between the first two “straight” acts and the disconnected third, thereby reconciling them into a coherent whole. Kishōtenketsu is probably best known to Westerners as the structure of Japanese yonkoma (four-panel) manga; and, with this in mind, our artist has kindly provided a simple comic to illustrate the concept.
See the comic and read the rest of this thought-provoking article here: The significance of plot without conflict. Thanks to C.G. Cameron for the link.

I had heard something about this--creating plot without conflict--but never had described in any detail. Lovely idea. I would like to read a short story based on kishōtenketsu.

Other articles you might be interested in:
- Helping Writers De-Stress: Meditation Apps
- Spice Up Your Writing: The Passive Voice & Elimiating Passive Verbs

Photo credit: davidppatriot

Monday, August 20, 2012

How To Be A Writer

How To Be A Writer

From Roxane Gay is Spelled With One "N".
How to Be a Contemporary Writer:

1. Read diversely.

2. Write.

3. See items 1 and 2.

4. Accept that there is no one way to make it as a writer and that the definition of making it is fluid and tiered. 
. . . .
8. Be nice. The community is small and everyone talks. Being nice does not mean eating shit. Being nice does not mean kissing ass. Being nice just means treating others the way you would prefer to be treated. If you’re comfortable being treated like an asshole, then by all means.
. . . .
17a. You are neither as great or terrible a writer as you assume.

18. Know that sometimes you simply need to work harder and sometimes you’ve done the best you can do and there’s no shame in either.
. . . .
25. Ignore all of this as you see fit.
Read the rest here: How to Be a Contemporary Writer.

Or, as Robert Heinlein put it all those years ago:
Heinlein's Rules for Writing:
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.
Today with the advent of indie publishing I think the fourth and fifth points could read:

4. You must publish your work when it is ready. If your story has not been professionally edited and formatted, if it does not have a professional looking cover, then it is not ready.

5. You must keep the work published even if your initial sales are disappointing. Experiment with different covers and with different prices and even with different pen names.

How do you think Heinlein would adapt his rules of writing to the world of indie publishing?

Thanks for reading!

Other articles you might like:
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer
- 99Designs.com: How I Solved My Book Cover Dilemma, and How You Can Too
- Jane Friedman: How To Build An Awesome Twitter Bio

Photo credit: Håkan Dahlström

Fifty Shades of Alice In Wonderland: Sales Peak At $1,000 Per Day


Ever wondered what other authors are making on their self-published titles?  Melinda DuChamp, author of the indie bestseller Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland, shares how much her book has earned. (All quotations are from Joe Konrath's blog post Independence.

Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland: Marketing
On July 23, 2012 Melinda DuChamp self-published Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland. Over the next two days her novel sold one copy. (Melinda also bought a copy to check the formatting, but that doesn't count!) Then, on the third day after it was released, Melinda set Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland to free for the next five days.

Other than enroll Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland into Amazon's KDP Select program and take advantage of the free days, Melinda did two other promotions:
The only promotion I did was the interview on Joe's blog. NYT bestseller Ruth Cardello was also kind enough to include Alice in a contest for her fans. Joe also was sweet enough to mention it on the Facebook page "What to Read After Fifty Shades of Grey" because I'm not on Facebook yet (I know! I know! I need to get on Facebook. I'm trying to become more like Joe and Ruth and get into social media, but I'm a Luddite and I was on a deadline for another book.)

Other than that, I didn't do anything to promote Alice. I figured it would sink or swim on its own merit.
Downloads of Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland
Melinda writes:
During the free period, I gave away 22,740 copies in the US and 10,255 in the UK and hit the Top 10 free list in each. That surprised me, because I'd done free promotions before but had never given away that many.
Sales of Fifty Shades
Downloads when a book is free is one thing, how did those downloads translate into sales? 
Assuming the loans are $2 each, Alice has made close to $15,000 in the last 20 days. That's more than many of my advances. [....] Alice peaked at #194 in the US, and #56 in the UK. It is currently #643 and #208. At its peak, it was earning over $1,000 a day. Things have slowed down, but it is still outselling all of my other novels on Amazon.
Melinda's Plan
Where does Melinda go from here? How is she planning to capitalize on the incredible success of Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland?

Melinda has done what any smart author would do in her place: write a sequel. Fifty Shades of Alice: Through The Looking Glass is now available on Amazon. Melinda writes:
At the height of Alice's sales, I was fantasizing about money. What if I had twenty ebooks doing well instead of just one? Making $20,000 a day is almost impossible to comprehend. But is it really impossible?

I'm working on the third book in the Alice trilogy. When finished, I'll release it as a stand alone, and also package the trilogy as a set. So I'll have four ebooks (each individual title, and the combined collection.)  If I did this four more times with four more trilogies, I'd have twenty ebooks for sale. With twenty for sale, I could have one ebook always free on KDP Select. Twenty ebooks at five days per free promo is one hundred days of free promo. KDP Select resets every three months, and then you can use the free promo again.

Writing twenty ebooks might seem like a daunting task. But remember, five of those are box sets, and each ebook is only around 30,000 words.

So in order to have 20 erotica ebooks, and one title always free, I only need to write 450,000 words. That's less than five full length-novels. Writing 2500 words per day, that's only six months of writing.

Half a year to write twenty ebooks? It sounds crazy, but it is entirely possible, even though I really believe $20k a day is a fantasy that can never happen. It's just too big a number. And who knows when the mommy porn bubble will burst?
I'd never thought of it quite like that, but Melinda's got a point.

If an ebook were only 30,000 words long and every three books written was a trilogy, each trilogy could be bundled to make a fourth book. In that case an author could write 20 books after writing ([3 x 30,000] x 5) 450,000 words. At 2,500 words a day that would take about 6 months to do.

Amazon Select allows an author to offer her book for zero dollars for a maximum of five days every 90 days. With 20 books on Amazon's virtual shelves an author would have 100 days of free promo time which means that she could always run a free promotion on one of her books.

Here's Joe's comment on Melinda's plan:
If she [Melinda DuChamp] wrote 20 ebooks (15 titles and 5 collections) and each one earns only $150 a day, that's a million dollars a year. That's just 75 ebook sales and loans a day per title, and I've hit that number many times and for extended periods.
2,500 words a day, huh? Where'd I put my pen ...

UPDATE (February 25, 2013): Joe writes:
I ... asked my buddy Melinda DuChamp for a sales update, and she emailed me.

Melinda: "Happy to share, dearie. The two ebooks have made me over $65k in seven months. I'm working on a third, then I'm going to follow your lead and make a trilogy boxed set and a paper version via Createspace. Considering how quickly I wrote these books, this is the highest paid I've ever been as a writer per hour, even with traditional paper sales in the millions under my other names." (Ann Voss Peterson's Big Regret)

Other articles you might like:

- Kristen Lamb: 5 Steps To Writing Success
- What To Write About: Fiction That Sells
- Update On Amazon's KDP Select Program
- Indie Authors: Bad Sales? Redo Your Cover!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Writing, Publishing and Productivity: Links


I thought I'd try something different today and share links to articles I found interesting or helpful.

How Amazon Grew My Audience By More Than 24,000 Readers in Three Days
How to successfully market your books on Amazon.

What if your slogan is true?
Seth Godin on the importance of having a true story.

7 Writing & Productivity Articles Worth Reading
The best way to be productive is to stop reading this and write! But reading this article comes in a close second. :)

Book Spine Poetry: Your Turn
Poetry is writing! And this looks fun.

The Science of Sleep: Dreaming, Depression, and How REM Sleep Regulates Negative Emotions
This article has nothing to do with writing, it's about what may be one of the primary functions of dreaming: the regulation of emotion.

I hope it's sunny where you are and that a tall cold glass of lemonade is in your near future. That and writing. Cheers!

Other articles you might enjoy:
- Jane Friedman: How To Build An Awesome Twitter Bio
- Seth Godin on Creativity, Childhood and Heroes

Photo credit: Light Cue 23

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Spice Up Your Writing: The Passive Voice & Eliminating Passive Verbs

Spice Up Your Writing: The Passive Voice & Elimiating Passive Verbs

Elizabeth S. Craig writes about passive verbs:
What people sometimes confuse as passive voice is really the use of static verbs instead of dynamic (or active) verbs.  But frequently editors will ask you to reword sentences with static verbs because you could write a stronger sentence with dynamic verbs. Journalist Constance Hale wrote an interesting article for the New York Times in April about static and dynamic verbs and some subcategories of each (I loved her list of wimpy verbs.)

Although hunting down “to be” words isn’t necessarily going to help you create active voice sentence structure, if you have a lot of linking verbs in your story, you might want to make sure you’re showing, not telling.  So even though Anna was mad isn’t passive, it might make for stronger writing for you to say Anna slammed John’s plate on the table in front of him, making green peas fly off.  Frequently, when writers talk about finding linking verbs in their manuscript, they’re really advising us to avoid using weak verbs.
Read the rest of Elizabeth's article here: Passive Voice with Elizabeth S Craig.

If you're looking for a good article on the passive voice and how to avoid wimpy sentences I highly recommend Elizabeth's article. 

Another great article on how to avoid passive sentences is the one Elizabeth recommended: Make-or-Break Verbs by Constance Hale. Here's a sampling:
Fundamentally, verbs fall into two classes: static (to be, to seem, to become) and dynamic (to whistle, to waffle, to wonder). (These two classes are sometimes called “passive” and “active,” and the former are also known as “linking” or “copulative” verbs.) Static verbs stand back, politely allowing nouns and adjectives to take center stage. Dynamic verbs thunder in from the wings, announcing an event, producing a spark, adding drama to an assembled group.
. . . .
Power Verbs Dynamic verbs are the classic action words. They turn the subject of a sentence into a doer in some sort of drama. But there are dynamic verbs — and then there are dynamos. Verbs like has, does, goes, gets and puts are all dynamic, but they don’t let us envision the action. The dynamos, by contrast, give us an instant picture of a specific movement. Why have a character go when he could gambol, shamble, lumber, lurch, sway, swagger or sashay? Picking pointed verbs also allows us to forgo adverbs. Many of these modifiers merely prop up a limp verb anyway. Strike speaks softly and insert whispers. Erase eats hungrily in favor of devours. And whatever you do, avoid adverbs that mindlessly repeat the sense of the verb, as in circle around, merge together or mentally recall.
This reminds me of the advice Stephen King repeated gave in his book On Writing to use strong verbs and, as much as possible, avoid the use of adverbs and even adjectives.

Good writing!

Other articles you might like:
- Stephen King: 15 tips on how to become a better writer
- What To Write About: Fiction That Sells  
- Henry Miller's 11 Writing Commandments

Photo credit: photo by Vincepal on Flickr