Showing posts with label Kris Rusch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kris Rusch. Show all posts

Saturday, May 18

The Key To Being A Productive Writer: Prioritize

The Key To Being A Productive Writer: Prioritize

Writing 3,000 words a day is hard.

I can just imagine Dean Wesley Smith shaking his head saying, "You think writing three hours a day is hard work?!"

Well, no. Writing for three hours a day is, to a certain extent, the easy part. After all, I already wrote about 1,000 words of non-fiction and 1,000 words of fiction a day.

There's also--I'm not going to say 're-writing'--but there is editing. At least there is for me. That's another two hours a day. Then there's my blog--two posts a day takes about four hours. Sorting through and answering my email, reading other blogs, keeping up with Twitter, all that takes another two hours.

Lately I've put aside an hour a day to do nothing but read, but--necessary though it is--that is time I'm not writing.

These past few days I've become acutely aware that I spend most of my working day on things that, while good and productive in their own way, keep me from putting my butt in my chair and writing fiction.

But that has changed, which is why I didn't blog at all yesterday: I was busy writing.

I've decided I need to make some sacrifices. One of these is that I won't be blogging twice a day anymore. To be honest, I'm not completely sure how much I'll be blogging. I've been thinking about writing a post a day, or perhaps five posts a week like Chuck Wendig.

Speaking of Chuck Wendig, this is really his fault, him and Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch. Actually, Kris started it all by mentioning she wrote one million words in 2012.

One million!

The thought boggled me. I imagined Kris sitting at her computer typing away in a blue bodysuit with a red "W" on the front and a red cape falling gracefully from her shoulders. In my imagination I gave her the name: Superwriter.

Then recently Chuck Wendig revealed that he, too, is a member of the one million words a year club. That's 3,000 words a day, each and every day.

My first thought was that it would be hard never having a day off.

But then I did something Dean Wesley Smith is always encouraging writers to do (see here, here and here) and I ran the numbers.

Guess what I found? Assuming that one's books are moderately successful (and that's a BIG if), if one writes a million words a year, chances are good that, at the end of five years, a writer can make a reasonable living.

Now, I'm not saying that one has to write a million words a year for five years to make a reasonable living as a writer.

Not at all!

One or more of your books could be a bestseller, and if that book is part of a series then chances are you'll be well on your way to making a decent living.

But hoping that one's books will be bestsellers is a much bigger IF than hoping each of one's books does moderately well. Thus my goal of writing a million words a year for the next five years.

Yes, folks, that's the goal! Whether I'll end up doing that, I don't know, but I'm certainly going to try.

It's difficult re-aligning one's life, one's priorities, so that can happen. It takes time, and it has been difficult for me to decide what to let go. I'm not letting go of this blog, I find it too rewarding, on a personal level as well as a professional one. I've learnt so much. Both through my own research and from your many insightful comments.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that this will be a learning process for me and I hope you will forgive me if I don't post as much as I used to.

And, by all means, if you would like to see a post on a certain topic, please leave a comment or contact me here.

I'll be sure to keep you updated on how it's going.


Other articles you might like:

- Indie Writers Can Now Get Their Books Into Bookstores
- What Do Aaron Sorkin, Stealing, And Advice About Writing Have In Common?
- 4 Ways Outlining Can Give A Writer Confidence

Photo credit: "London Calling #5" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, May 7

Chuck Wendig's 9 Tips For Writing A Million Words A Year

Chuck Wendig's 9 Tips For Writing A Million Words A Year

In a post with a very un-Chuck-Wendig-like title, How To Maximize Your Word Count and Write More Every Day, Chuck talks about how to write a million words a year.

Like him.

Yep, that's right: 1,000,000 words.

Chuck writes: "I generally write about 3,000 brand new shiny so-fresh-and-so-clean words per day."

A few months ago Chuck wrote about how to take a slow and steady approach to writing a novel in a year, today he wrote about stepping up the pace and, as he put it, punting "that slow and steady approach right in the See You Next Thursday."

Chucks tips for writing a million words a year

1. Do your writing in the morning

Although I'm nowhere near as prolific as Chuck Wendig, I find this as well; I am by far the most productive in the morning. It's like those hours are magical. Chuck writes:
Writing in the morning has more potential than writing in the evening and here’s why: writing at the end of the day means the candle is burning down. The timer is ticking. You’re watching the horizon eat the sun and with it, the remaining hours before sweet, sweet slumber.
. . . .
Write at the end of the day, you’re racing the clock.

Write at the fore of the day, you own the clock.

2. Wake up an hour earlier

Like many writers, Chuck Wendig has a toddler and toddlers loudly and voraciously demand attention. Chuck finds that by getting up at 5 AM he can get half his word count done before the little guy gets up.


Whenever I get up early I, too, get a lot of extra work done. The trick for me is to make sure I get at least 7 hours of sleep. If I don't, I feel about as lucid as a hibernating cave bat.

3. Coffee

Coffee is good, just don't overdo it. If you do it won't work as well when you really need it.

4. Snatch time from life's thieving jaws and use it to write

I'm struck by how close Chuck's advice is to Kris Rusch's in her post, Habits. They both talk about snatching bits of time here and there. I suspect many professional writers who write in the neighborhood of a million words a year do this. Chuck writes:
If you’re going to write a lot, you’re going to need to feint and duck, stick and move, and reach in to grab fistfuls of time-flesh and use it for your own sinister purposes: in this case, writing. Got a lunch break? Write. Sitting at a long stop light? Take a few quick voice notes on your phone.

5. Schedules and deadlines

Chuck writes:
Having a schedule keeps me sane and helps me meet my writing goals. I toss all the projects I need to write into a spreadsheet. I calculate them by day how much I have to write to get ‘em done. I mark deadlines and potential start dates.
I have stress-dreams where I realize I've got a book due IN TWO HOURS.

I've begun keeping a running list of all the writing tasks I need to accomplish and I've found this lets me relax a bit. When I start to stress I just look at my list and convince myself I'm on track.

6.  Plan, prep, plot, scheme (/Outlining saves time)

Chuck Wendig writes: "I outline not because I like it but because I must."

Why "must"? Because writing 3,000 words a day takes time and if you know where your story is going you can save oodles of time.

That said, I think everyone is different. Myself, I'm like Chuck, I outline. It gives me jitters just thinking about beginning a book without an outline. Dean Wesley Smith, on the other hand, recently wrote a 70,000 word book in 10 days without an outline. He had no idea where he was going with the book, how it would end, until he was about halfway through. Chuck writes:
[I]f you start the day with a mission statement already in play thanks to an outline, you can jump in, eschew any planning the day might require, and just start writing. The goal is to give as much of your time to actually telling the story as you can.

7. Politely ask for the time you need

Asking for things that you need from the folks that you love often works.


Good luck with that.

8. Write with your internal editor gagged and shoved in a box

This was one of my favorite points. Chuck writes:
Editing as you go is a perfectly viable way to write.

It is not a perfectly viable way to write quickly and to maximize your word count.
Chuck Wendig points out that editing as you go will slow you down--and I agree--but I've also found that I usually end up changing things that shouldn't be changed because I lack perspective.

I need to finish the draft, warts and all, put it away for as long as I can stand then come back and edit it.

What does this mean for your internal editor?
[Y]ou need to shut your internal editor up. Elbow him in the throat and shove him in a duffel bag. Remind him his time will come. The editor always gets the last laugh.

9. Silence self-doubt with hollowpoint bullets packed with your indifference

This is my favorite point. Chuck writes:
You sit there and write and hate everything about what you’re doing and want to punch your characters, your paragraphs, your whole story, yourself.

Self-doubt is a sticky mud, indeed.

It will slow you down.
And if one is going to write a million words a year slow is bad.

So, how does one turn their self-doubt off?

Chuck writes:
The secret, actually, isn’t in the silencing of your self-doubt.

The secret is in ignoring it.

We’re not particularly smart about our own authorial worth while in the midst of writing something. We love what sucks and hate what works and at least for me, during writing a project my headspace starts to look like the back of my television: a thousand wires braided together .... Point is, you start to lose the sense of what feeling is moored to what part of your story. It’s all just a tangle of wires.

Your self-doubt just ain’t that ... effective. Or accurate.
. . . .
So, ignore it. It’s going to be there. Pretend you don’t hear it. Tune it out. It is rarely meaningful or efficient. It’s damn sure not helpful. ...

That’s maybe the biggest secret to writing a lot of words really, really fast: you need to blacken your self-doubt sensors with a boot and — say it with me –

An inspiring post!

One thing I loved about NaNoWriMo was the feeling of working together with other writers toward a common cause: each of us, individually, producing a 50,000 word manuscript in a month.

Perhaps one day there'll be a 5 o'clock club for overcaffinated writers who aspire to write one million words a year.

Do you have a tip on how to increase ones word count (other than 'Write more!')?

Other articles you might like:

- How To Get Over A Destructive Critique
- Writer Beware: Penguin And Author Solutions
- Chuck Wendig On Finding Your Voice

Photo credit: "Anything Goes" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, April 18

When Is A Story Ready To Publish?

When Is A Story Ready To Publish?

Or, to use Kris Rusch's term, when is a story ready to be released into the wild?"

"Into the wild." I like that phrase. It covers a multitude of events: sending your work off to an editor, a contest, that sort of thing, as well as publishing it yourself.

So, how does one determine when one's story is ready?


I feel some folks would say: "When it's perfect."

Let's say you've given your story to beta readers, your plot points are strong, your characters reactions make sense, there are no unfired guns at the end (Chekhov's Gun), and so on.

I guarantee you there are still going to be parts of your manuscript that could do with polishing.

But nothing's ever perfect. (And perfect for whom?)

The 80-20 Principle

The other day I read an article by Tim Ferriss and he--as he often does--mentioned the 80-20 Principle, that 80% of your benefits come from 20% of your efforts.

For instance ...

Economics: 20% of the world's population earns 80% of the income,

Business: 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers.

Software optimization: "Microsoft noted that by fixing the top 20% most reported bugs, 80% of the errors and crashes would be eliminated. (Pareto Principle, Wikipedia)"

That got me thinking. Perhaps the 80-20 principle applies to writing as well.

Kris Rusch: No Story Is Ever Perfect

Kris writes:
At every craft workshop I teach, I make at least one writer cry. This week, I’m teaching a short story workshop for professional writers. These are workshop-hardened folk, people who have been eviscerated by the best of them, people who come to my workshops having heard that I make writers cry, expecting me to be the most vicious critiquer of all.

How do I bring writers to tears? Usually by saying this:

I loved this story. It’s wonderful. Mail it.

That’s my entire critique.

Is the story perfect? Of course not. No story is. Not a one. No matter how many times it’s “polished” and “fixed” and “improved.” No one can write a perfect story.

If such a thing existed, then we would all read the same books and enjoy them equally. We would watch the same movies and need reviewers to tell us only which movie is perfect and which one isn’t. We would buy the same comics, again, going only for the comic that is perfect, and ignoring all the others.

Am I telling people to write crap? No. Because the choice isn’t between crap and perfection. Those are false choices. (The Business Rusch: Perfection)
Kris continues:
... I always begin by asking them [my workshop-experienced students] this, “What’s wrong with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”

Well, we’re all raised to believe that Shakespeare is a god who never could do anything wrong. Had he done anything wrong, had his stories been less-than-perfect, we wouldn’t be reading them? Right?


If William Shakespeare—professional writer—had turned A Midsummer Night’s Dream in at a workshop I taught, I would have told him this:

“Bill, lose at least two of your endings. The main story of the play ends in Act IV, Scene 2—and then you go on for two more scenes. All of these endings would work. Pick one.”

Bill Shakespeare, dutiful workshopper that he is, would nod sadly, go back to his room, and delete one of the most favorite and quoted scenes in all of English literature. Puck turns to the audience and says,

If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended,

That you have but slumber’d here

While these visions did appear.

I would have said to Bill, “Lovely. Thematically significant. Beautifully written. Lose it. You can do the same thing elsewhere.”

Yeah, right. My harsh words, spoken with authority, and Workshopper Bill’s insecurity would have stolen 400 years of enjoyment from audiences all over the world.

Anything can be critiqued. Criticizing something is easy. It makes the critiquer feel smart, and just a little bit superior to the writer.

But that kind of critique serves no real purpose, because that kind of critique is wrong from the moment the critiquer picks up the story or the manuscript or the 400-year-old play.

Readers read for enjoyment. They vote for what they like with their hard cold cash. (The Business Rusch: Perfection)
In other words, write the story that's in you, finish that story (so hand it to beta-readers and make the changes that resonated with you if that's your process), then send it out.

Besides, you need to know not only what writers think about your work, but what readers do, and the best way of doing that is to send your work out into the wild.

Challenge: leave a link to the last thing you published, whether traditionally or independently. Let's celebrate the stories we've released into the world!

Other articles you might like:

- Owen Egerton's 30 Writing Tips, Inspiration For Your Muse
- 5 Rules For Writing A Murder Mystery: Keeping the Murderer Secret Until The End
- What Slush Pile Readers Look For In A Story

Photo credit: "Fly away" by martinak15 under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, April 4

Kris Rusch: Don't Accept A Book Advance Of Less Than $100,000

Kris Rusch: Don't Accept A Book Advance Of Less Than $100,000
Got your attention? Perhaps that title is over-the-top but Kris Rusch knows her stuff. She's been in the industry as a successful working professional for decades, as both a writer and an editor. So when Kris Rusch says, "Don't take a book advance for less than $100,000" my antenna perk up.

Kris writes:
Weirdly—from my perspective—I now believe that any writer who goes to traditional publishing for book advance of less than $100,000 is getting screwed.
"Weirdly" because even four years ago Kris worried that "new writers would give up on themselves too soon and go directly to self-publishing, hurting their careers."

The Advantages Of Publishing Your Own Work

As an example of the advantages of publishing your work yourself, of having control every step of the way, Kris writes about her book, The Freelancer's Survival Guide.
To date, the [Freelancer's Survival] Guide (and not its spin-off short books) has sold as many copies as it would have sold if it were traditionally published with the standard promotion given to a writing book or a low-level business book.

By now, if I had gone the traditional route, the Guide would have had only one edition, and would no longer be on any bookstore shelves. You might still be able to order it through an online bookstore like Amazon, but you might not. The book would most likely be out of print. It would never have had an audio version (ever), it would not have been available outside of the US, and it would probably have had a very crappy e-book edition.

It certainly wouldn’t continue to reach its intended market, freelancers who are or have started their own small businesses.
Kris' post, The Business Rusch: Four Years, is a must read, and it marks the anniversary of the 4th year of her blog.
Do you agree with Kris Rusch that unless a traditional publisher offers at least a $100,000 advance that a writer should walk away? What would it take for you to sign with a traditional publisher?

Other articles you might like:

- C.J. Lyons Discusses Whether Amazon KDP Select Is Worth The Price Of Exclusivity
- Chuck Wendig On Straight Lines, Story Structure And Why Storytellers Need To Be Unconventional
- A Pantser Turned Plotter

Photo credit: "la terrasse" by jenny downing under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, February 23

The Importance Of Finding Your Own Voice

The Importance Of Finding Your Own Voice
Kris Rusch has written another awesome, inspirational, post: Out! All of You!

It was just what I needed. Over the past few days I've been getting back into the habit of writing after taking a break for my shoulder to heal and it's been tough.

Ignoring Your Inner Critic

Whenever I sat down to write all sorts of jabbering voices rose up like mushrooms after a rain, each telling me I was writing crap, that I would always write crap, that my crap was so crappy no one would read it.

Of course we have to care what other folks think about our work. After all, we need to pay the rent and eat occasionally. But it's easy to forget that the person we are writing for, first and foremost, is ourselves.

This isn't self-indulgence, it isn't ego. As writers, as creative beings, we need to stretch our creative muscles, we need to grow and continually develop our unique voice.

How do we do this? We write what our souls call us to write, regardless of what anyone else will think about it, regardless of whether anyone else believes what we're doing is valuable, or good, or even remotely sane!

Finding Your Own Creative Voice

In Out! All of you! Kris Rusch writes about finding your creative voice. She says that to have a long-term career, you need to learn to roll with the punches AND "you need to believe in yourself with a fierce passion. You need to know that your vision is the correct vision for you, and then you need to defend it."

Sally Field Fought For Her Creative Voice

Kris Rusch took the title of her piece--Out! All of you!--from a story Sally Field told in this short (4 min) video clip (starts around 2:45) during her interview on Nightline. It's an excellent video and Sally Field is wonderfully charismatic, it's well worth watching.

The point is that Sally Field believed enough in herself, in her artistic voice, to ignore the advice of her agents, her business manager and her husband and go her own way. And it paid off. She was right about herself. She succeeded.

Kris writes:
What disturbs me every teaching season is the way that writers wait for someone to tell them what box they fit in or what box they should go to. Every year, writers tell at least one of us that we need to give them better instructions. If we give better instructions, the writers insist, then they can write what we want them to write, so that we’ll be happy with them.

These writers entirely miss the point. The point isn’t for us to be happy, but for those writers to find their own voice. Sometimes they’ll fail an assignment and have to do it all over again from scratch. Oh, well. All that means is that they have to invest more time into their craft.

But for a certain type of writer, it means that they have screwed up completely, that they’ll never succeed, that they didn’t receive the help they needed to mold themselves into something someone else wanted.

We can’t help those writers. We try not to teach them, because we teach writers to stand on their own, defend their own vision, and become who they want to be, not who they’re told to be. It’s a tougher road to walk, because it means that there’s no one to blame when things go wrong.

Write For Yourself As Well As Others

Yesterday I wrote a 1,600 word short story in about 4 hours. For me that's good. I'll have to do another pass or two but I'm proud of it.

But I'll never, ever, publish it.

Why? Because it has to do with my father's death. It provided we with a way to say goodbye to him and to explore various issues that lingered, like ghosts, after his passing. (I did this as an unofficial response to Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenge: Write What You Know.)

I wrote for myself, and I learnt something about myself and my writing. It gave me new energy, it invigorated me.

Rather than ask a question today I want to issue my own challenge:

Writing Challenge: Find Your Own Voice

1. Write something for yourself. 

Perhaps, down the road, you'll publish what you've written, but don't write with that in mind. Write something for you. If it will help, here is something Chuck Wendig wrote for his Write What You Know flash fiction challenge:
I want you to grab an event from your life. Then I want you to write about it through a fictional, genre interpretation — changing the event from your life to suit the story you’re telling. So, maybe you write about your first hunting trip between father-and-son, but you reinterpret that as a king taking his youngest out to hunt dragons. Or, you take events from your Prom (“I caught my boyfriend cheating on me in the science lab”) and spin it so that the event happens at the same time a slasher killer is making literal mincemeat of the Prom King and Queen. (Write What You Know)

2. Keep it short, 1,000 words or less

The second part of this challenge is to make it a short piece of 1,000 words or less. (Don't worry if you can't keep it to 1,000 words. I shot for 1,000 words and ended up with 1,600, but that was the shortest story I've written for years and was thrilled.)

Try to finish your piece on or before March 2. If you want to share it, post it on your website or blog and leave the link in a comment, below. If it's too personal to share, I'd still love to hear about your writing experience. :-)

Other articles you might like:

- Write A Novel In A Year, Chuck Wendig's Plan: The Big 350
- Plot, Story and Tension
- Patricia Cornwell Vindicated In Court, Wins 50.9 Million Dollars

Photo credit: "To Beseech Thee" by The Wandering Angel under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, November 29

Crowdfunding: Cutting Out The Middleman

Crowdfunding: Cutting Out The Middleman

What Is Crowdfunding?

I've talked quite a bit about how to sell your work through Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and so on, but I haven't said a great deal about using crowdfunding.

Examples of crowdfunded projects are all over Kickstarter. That site also has a great tutorial, called Kickstarter School, which will step you through every aspect of creating a project.

The Do's And Don't Of Crowdfunding

1. Know how much money to ask for

Look at projects similar to yours and see how much money they're asking for. Don't ask for substantially more.

2. Make your pitch exciting!

Just as when you write a book blurb, you need to catch a readers attention quickly. Make them curious. Fascinated. Entertain them!

3. Make a great video

The Kickstarter folks have put together a great article on just this: Making your Kickstarter video.

4. Thoughtful rewards

Believe it or not, some Kickstarter projects don't have any rewards! Good, varied, rewards for donors go a long way toward making a project successful.

Those points come courtesy of Kris Rush and her wonderful article, Getting Rid of the Middle Man. Kris writes that even if you don't already have a tribe/community you can still do a Kickstarter project. She writes:
[I]f you have a fan base, you’re better off than the folks who are starting from scratch. But I just watched the Bijou raise funds from all over the world, not because of the theater’s fan base, but because small theaters in general have a fan base. 

Different Kinds Of Crowdfunding

So far I've just talked about Kickstarter, but there are many different ways to crowdsource a project.

For instance, Kris writes that a number of novelists are serializing their books online. They fund the project by placing a donate button at the end of very chapter.

Kris recommends, and I think this is an excellent idea, that you finish your book before you serialize it "just in case something in your life goes awry or you have to go back and add a gun in chapter one so that you can shoot that gun in chapter fifteen. (Getting Rid of the Middle Man)"

Yep, been there, done that.

Why Try Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding, or crowdsourcing, allows writers to cut out the middle man.

Kris writes:
I’ve mentioned before how I appreciate the loss of the middle man. But this week truly showed me on a deep level what kind of world we’d live in if crowdsourcing hadn’t gone mainstream. ...

First, that royalty statement. It is missing both some information and some promised money—money the publisher has owed me ... since early last year. ...

As Dean said as he shook his head over yet another royalty fight facing me, the third this year, “It’s a wonder anyone survives in traditional publishing any more.”

I certainly wouldn’t be earning a living at it—a reasonable, above-poverty rate living—any more. In the last few years, I earned about one-quarter of what I used to earn in my bad years. The advances have gone from survivable to insulting. And now publishers are fudging on royalties owed. It’s disgraceful and hard.
.  .  .  .
But the next four e-mails were all from Kickstarter projects run by full-time freelancers. From anthology projects to magazine startups to calendars ...

... Sometimes I participate in a crowdsourced project because I like the people involved, but mostly I do so because I think the project is worthy—something I want in my library, I want to see, or I want to hang on my wall.

None of these projects would have gotten funding through some arts organization, nor would they have made it through the byzantine system set up by the studios/publishers—ah, hell, let’s just call them suits.

And if the project had made it past the suits, then the artist who proposed the project probably wouldn’t have made any money on it. Or the artist wouldn’t have seen any money for  years after the project got released.
.  .  .  .
It’s time for writers to explore all of their options. And many of those options should not include middle men.  The suits don’t care about midlist writers or indie films or small movie theaters. They care about whatever bottom line they see, and they don’t care how they reach that bottom line.

Should You Try Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunded projects aren't for everyone. They're stressful even for those folks who don't have trouble meeting their goals, folks like Kris Rusch and her husband Dean Wesley Smith with their project Fiction River.

Beyond that, there are many other ways to get your work out to readers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, even places like wattpad. I think it would be interesting to serialize a novel on Amazon. Publish one chapter a week and then, at the end, release the book.

It's great to know writers have options such as crowdfunding. We no longer need middle-men. Though it's always good to keep ones options open. (That said, I cringe at the thought of constantly having to fight publishers just to get paid the royalties owed me.)

Here's a useful article from How to Crowdfund Your Creative Project.

Have you tried crowdfunding? How'd it go? Would you recommend the approach to others?

Other articles you might like:
- Simon & Schuster's Archway Publishing: Is It Ethical?
- How To Start A Blog
- How To Design A Great Looking Book Cover

Photo credit: "the smile of a man with a wild fan base" by notsogoodphotography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, November 1

Does Amazon KDP Select Drive Away True Fans?

"Turn into something Beautiful" by Courtney Carmody under CC BY 2.0

For a while now Kris Rusch, among others, has been saying exclusivity is a bad thing. I never doubted Kris had a good reason for her opinion but, honestly, I had a hard time agreeing with her and felt there must be something, some aspect of her argument, I was missing. (See: Amazon's KDP Select: The Best Long-Term Strategy?)

There was. In her latest business column, Kris ties her opposition of exclusivity--for instance, Amazon's KDP Select program--in with the notion of 1,000 true fans. Now I understand. And, you know what? It makes sense.

Exclusivity Alienates True Fans

Here's Kris' argument (as I understand it) in a nutshell:
Exclusivity alienates true fans.

What is a true fan?

Kevin Kelly, in his famous post 1,000 True Fans, writes:
The gist of 1,000 True Fans can be stated simply:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

Exclusivity is to true fans what Kryptonite was to Superman

Kris' point is that restricting your readers accessibility to your books will cost you a lot more than sales, it will cost you true fans.

In order to acquire true fans you need to show them you care about them. Having your books only available through certain outlets, outlets they may be cut off from, is NOT a good way of showing your readers--and your potential readers--you care about them.

Kris writes:
Yes, there is occasionally a marketing reason to be exclusive for a month or two. But only for a month or two and only for one project.

Because to do otherwise pisses off readers. Readers don’t avoid a writer because they get angry at the writer. Readers have short attention spans. If a friend recommends a book at midnight, and a reader can’t find that book online or in her favorite bookstore, the reader might not remember the name of the author or the name of the book a week later.

The sale is lost.
And not just a sale. A potential true fan. Kris continues:
As someone who has fought for more than twenty years to get her books to as  many readers as possible, I find it sad to watch newer writers limit their sales from the get-go. These writers are doing to themselves what I railed at my publishers for doing to me against my wishes and those of my fans.

If you’re thinking about short-term numbers, if you’re thinking about reviews and marketing and “online presence,” then you’re thinking the way that traditional publishers do. And traditional publishers have never been reader friendly. ....

Why follow a model that alienates your fan base when you’re trying to grow your writing business? It makes no sense to me.

Of course, new writers haven’t had the sad task of writing back to fans who can’t find books ...
Kris' article (The Business Rusch: No Reader Left Behind) is a must-read for anyone considering whether to enroll their books in Amazon KDP Select--or any other program that restricts an authors ability to sell his or her books in other markets.

What do you think? Are you convinced that exclusivity is inimical to attracting true fans?

Other articles you might like:
- NaNoWriMo: A Survival Guide
- How To Get Honest Book Reviews
- How To Record Your Own Audiobook: Setting Up A Home Studio

Thursday, September 27

The Key To Success: 3000 Words A Day

There are writers and then there are writers. In a recent post Kris Rusch reveals that she wrote 1,000,000 words last year. One million! That means she wrote nearly 3,000 words a day, each and every day.

My mind boggles! I think I might be able to do 3,000 words a day, but I'm not sure what else I'd have time for--but perhaps that's the point. One has to prioritize and non-writing related pursuits fall by the wayside. Specifically, fretting over and tweaking ones sales strategies.
Kris Rusch admonishes writers to concentrate on their writing as opposed to their sales since writers make money from the creation and sale of new work.  She writes:
Stop trying to tweak your numbers on one platform in one or maybe two countries on a daily basis, and write more books. Publish more books. Use all of the opportunities available to you.

Stop watching the sales numbers and start watching your personal production numbers.

I wrote one million words last year, despite a pretty serious illness, some major personal setbacks, and problems of others that my husband and friends are still dealing with.

The million words are under my control. The number of sales, once a book is released, is not under my control. Not when you look at the worldwide market, at all of the distribution channels. I can get the work out there, then I have to trust it to sell.

Write more. Fret less. Stop watching your sales numbers. Beat my million words this year.
Wow! One million words. I can't get over it. I doubt many writers have been able to match her output. But that ties in with her other advice:
Your writing career isn’t about this month or next month or last month or even five years from now. If you do this right, your career should last for your entire working life. We’re all different. I’m 52, and I hope to have as many more working years as Jack Williamson had. He was still writing up to his death at the age of 98. That means I get another 46 years of a writing career. On top of the thirty I’ve already had.

I’m planning for that.
Why do I have the image of Kris Rusch in a Superman outfit? I marvel that she has any time left to read!

Kris' post (The Business Rusch: Watching The Numbers) has both inspired me and made me feel like a complete slacker! Okay, gotta stop chatting with you folks and write. :-)

Other articles you might like:
- Tips For First Time Writers
- Query Tracker: Keep Track Of Your Stories
- Penelope Trunk Discusses Time Management

Photo credit: WordRidden

Thursday, September 6

Writing: Contract Negotiation Horror Stories

Writing: Contract Negotiation Horror Stories

This is from the blog of Kris Rusch:
... I got something from a New York Times bestseller who, in the middle of a contract negotiation, was promised 10 and 12.5% royalties on a mass market paperback as a deal sweetener in a contract negotiation. The publisher added this sweetener in lieu of better terms elsewhere in the contract, terms the writer had asked for and the publisher refused. The writer then discovered through another source that the publisher never planned to publish a mass market edition of the book.

In other words, the sweetener became sour. The great royalty rate was only added to get the writer to sign on, not because the publisher ever planned to publish that kind of book. If the writer had been a little less savvy, he would have lost some other positive contract terms by believing that this one was important.

Not illegal or even unusual these days, but still, bad enough to make the writer feel cheated in the midst of negotiating a new contract. Dumb on the publisher’s part, but only because the publisher got caught.
Read other stories as well as how to avoid this happening to you: The Business Rusch: A Good Offense.

Other articles you might like:
- Amazon's KDP Select Program: The Power Of Free
- 8 Tips For Blogging Success
- Book Promotion: Where's The Line?

Photo credit: Unknown

Saturday, September 1

Snake Oil Salesmen And The Indie Author

Snake Oil Salesmen And The Indie Author

I know I posted about this yesterday, but this article by Kris Rusch is excellent. Kris talks about companies that charge for things like editing, formatting, etc., and then ALSO take 15 or more percent of the author's royalties.

In one of my previous blog posts I called these companies Vanity Presses because the moniker seemed to fit, but no one else is using that name. To make things easier I'm going to call these companies Snake Oil companies, because not only are they selling authors something they don't need, they're selling something which can harm them.

Judging from what I'm hearing in the community and from friends, as well as friends of friends, it seems that more authors are turning to Snake Oil companies to put their books online. I had thought, though, that these scams appealed mostly to writers who didn't have the money to pay a flat fee for cover design, etc., but it seems I was wrong. Kris writes:
This writer has multiple New York Times bestsellers published at more than three per year for at least twenty years. She has sold 35 million copies of her books. She can afford to pay someone a flat fee to put her out-of-print backlist up as e-titles. She can afford to pay someone with real experience to handle her social media for her.

Instead, she gave it all to a start-up for 15% of royalties earned.

That’s not the scary part. The scary part is the Terms of Use that she had to agree to in order to go with this company.
.  .  .  .
And then this POS [the Terms of Use] gets even worse. Let’s say  you do cancel. Do you get the e-pub or MOBI files of your e-book, the one that  you paid for through 15% of your royalties? Nope. Those files are proprietary to this service.

By the way, the service doesn’t pay for copyedits or proofreading, and so you get charged for those services by a flat fee separately. If you read the bestselling romance writer’s supposed Facebook post, you can see why this service doesn’t do copy edits. But really, there’s no one at the service who knows how to design covers either, certainly not covers worthy of a New York Times bestselling author.

And speaking of that author, she’s spending thousands for a service she’s tied to at 15% of royalties earned. If she cancels, she gets nothing.
To read Kris Rusch's article in full click here: The Business Rusch: A Warning To All Writers Who Need Help Indie Publishing.

There are many reputable companies who charge a flat fee for things like cover design, formatting, and so on. Joe Konrath has links to the folks he uses (you may need to scroll down the page) and John Locke has recommended Telemachus Press and still uses them to format and publish his work.

This is from the landing page at the Telemachus Press website:
Telemachus Press is a "work for hire" author services epublishing company. What makes us different than a vanity press? You keep 100% of your royalties and receive complete sales reporting. All material that we create on your behalf belongs to you — it's your property. We store all working copies of your book (interior and cover files) on a secure FTP site where you have access to your work 24/7. You don't need our permission to retrieve a copy of your files. We set up all eBook accounts in your name. It's your book - access sales reports and keep all royalties. Some of our channel partners are listed below. We work for you.
I've never used Telemachus Press, but that's the sort of information you need to ask about when you're shopping around for someone to help you put your book online.

Best of luck to you. And, remember, don't get so caught up with these publishing details you forget to write!

Other articles you might like:
- Writer Beware: The Return Of The Vanity Press
- Indie Authors: Don't Give Anyone Ownership Of Your Work
- Book Promotion: Where's The Line?

Photo credit:

Thursday, August 23

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

Friday, August 17

Extraterritoriality & DRM: An Insidious New Gottya Clause

I generally read Kris Rusch's business post as soon as it comes out on Wednesday or Thursday, but I've been busy and didn't get to it until this morning and read it while my brain was still trying to wake up.

It was hilarious! My responses, that is, not Kris' post. I kept batting my eyes and shaking my head thinking, no I can't possibly have read that, that's absurd. But, no, I hadn't read it wrong.

Apparently Hachette has added, or will be adding ...
... language that would require authors to “ensure that any of his or her licensees of rights in territories not licensed under this agreement” will use DRM. 
That's from an article by Cory Doctorow, Doubling Down on DRM: Hachette U.K. dabbles in extraterritoriality . Kris quoted him and I've taken these quotations form his article over at Publishers Weekly. Here's Cory's analysis:
It’s hard to say what’s more shocking to me: the temerity of Hachette to attempt to dictate terms to its rivals on the use of anti-customer technology, or the evidence-free insistence that DRM has some nexus with improving the commercial fortunes of writers and their publishers. Let’s just say that Hachette has balls the size of Mars if it thinks it can dictate what other publishers do with titles in territories where it has no rights.  
Kirs Rusch agrees. She writes:
Yeah. Cory’s exactly right about this. And he’s right about the balls the size of Mars. ...

Still, I e-mailed the link to a friend of mine who happens to be an intellectual property attorney who deals with the publishing industry a lot. The attorney’s response? Not shock, not surprise, but this (and I’m paraphrasing here):

Given what I see in  my dealings with the general counsels at various traditional publishing houses, I have to say that everyone in traditional publishing has gone insane.

Needless to say this clause—if indeed it exists—will be a new deal breaker. ... Do not sign anything that requires you to tell other publishers who publish your work in a different territory what to do. For that matter, do not sign anything that requires you to publish all your other work  (not covered under this contract) with DRM attached. If I had signed a contract like that, for example, I would not be able to publish this blog on my website. I would need to have some sort of DRM on this blog to remain in compliance with this contract.

So…if a publisher demands this of you, do not sign that contract. Negotiate it away. If you can’t, walk away. (A Tale Of Two Royalty Statements)
Cory Doctorow tells the story of an author, left unnamed, who published work with Hachette and also with Tor Books. The problem? Tor Books doesn't use DRM. The author had just received a politely worded letter from Hachette explaining his dilemma to him and inquiring about his proposed course of action. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!

So put this on your list of deal-breakers: If a publishing company wants to control how your other work is published, work that has nothing to do with them, don't sign it!

I'd normally end my post at this point feeling releived that as an indie author I don't have to worry about gottya clauses and the wiles of the Big Six.

Um, wrong. As Kris points out:
This clause [the DRM clause] has a major impact on indie writers who publish their own work in their native language, then sell foreign rights to Hachette. If you sign the DRM clause as Cory outlines it, you must make sure your indie title is available only as DRM. Do you indie writers now understand why you must pay attention to these contract discussions?
Indie writers often handle sales to the English speaking world (or the world of their native tongue) themselves but hand over foreign rights to a publisher who can then have the book translated.

But if a writer signs one of Hachette's contracts with the DRM clause in it then the indie author would have to use DRM to protect even the English language titles they sell through, for instance, Amazon. Yikies!

Personally I don't like DRM and don't use it because it frustrates readers--I know, because it frustrates the heck out of me! Why would I want to aggravate readers who paid for my book by making it harder for them to read? That doesn't make sense to me. I know some folks believe DRM helps prevent an ebook from being pirated, but I doubt that. For more on the topic of DRM and whether it works, read the rest of Cory's article, Doubling Down on DRM, especially the comments.

Wishing you the best of luck in all your contract negotiations! Cheers.

Other articles you might be interested in:
- Why Indie Authors Are Good For Publishing
- Hugh Howey, Bestselling Author Of Wool, On The Key To Writing Success

Photo credit: listentomyvoice

Friday, August 10

Contracts: Deadly Agent Clauses

Contracts: Deadly Agent Clauses

I love Kris Rusch's discussions of agent clauses. I'm sure that many, perhaps even most, agents are kind, honest, people who look out for the interests of their authors. That said, perhaps an agent isn't always familiar with all the clauses in the contract they ask their writers to sign.

In any case, reading what some writers have signed has been an eye-opener. My mother always said that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Let's hope! Kris writes:
[T]he agent clause, which you find in most agent-negotiated publishing contracts, now says things like:

The Author hereby appoints Agent A irrevocably as the Agent in all matters pertaining to or arising from this Agreement…Such Agent is hereby fully empowered to act on behalf of the Author in all matters in any way arising out of this Agreement…All sums of money due to the Author under this Agreement shall be paid to and in the name of said Agent…The Author does also irrevocably assign and transfer to Agent A, as an agency coupled with an interest, and Agent A shall retain a sum equal to fifteen percent (15%) of all gross monies due and payable to the account of the Author under this Agreement.
.  .  .  .
First of all, I’m not assigning anyone anything “irrevocably”—certainly not someone I can fire for cause. Especially if my money goes through their account first. I will not “fully empower” anyone to act for me. (Some agents go so far as demanding legal power of attorney—which is something you should never give anyone. What that means is that they then have the right to be you in all legal matters. No. Do not give legal power of attorney to anyone without good cause—like you’re dying and need someone to handle your accounts (and even then, it might not be a good idea).)

Finally let’s discuss “agency coupled with an interest.” What that means is this: You are giving the agent ownership in your novel. Ownership. They now have a 15% ownership of your book.
.  .  .  .
Through the agent-author agreement and with the agent clause, some major agencies actually take 15% ownership in everything a writer writes, even if that writer never sells the product through the agency at all. This is becoming more and more common.

But let’s assume your agent is a fairly nice person who works for a large agency. Let’s assume that the agency insists on an agent-author agreement, and let’s assume that the agent-author agreement looks fairly benign.

By fairly benign, I mean that the agent-author agreement details the relationship—what you will do, what the agent will do, and even lets you cancel the agreement for any reason with thirty days notice. However, the agreement has one clause in it, one little tiny clause that says something like this:

The Writer agrees that she will abide by the agent clause negotiated by Agent in all of her publishing contracts.

Sounds fine, right? It’s not. Because…let’s assume the agent clause in your publishing contract has this standard little phrase at the end: The provisions of this paragraph shall survive the termination of this Agreement.

This means you’re screwed. You have twice signed legal documents (and maybe more than twice) that says you will continue to pay your agent money on this particular agreement in perpetuity. The first time you signed, it was in the agent-author agreement (stating you will abide by the agent clause), and the second time was when you signed the publishing contract itself.

This is nasty, nasty stuff, folks, and lots of writers have signed it. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of writers have done so.

Don’t you do it.

In fact, if your agent asks you to do so, run from that agent, leave that agency, and don’t look back.

Why? Even if your agent is a really nice person, here’s what these clauses tell you. They tell you that your agent does not work for you. Your agent is interested in his own business and his own profits at the expense of yours.
If you're ever thinking of getting an agent, or have an agent, I heartily recommend reading Kris' article: The Business Rusch: The Agent Clause (Deal Breakers 2012).

Further reading:
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer
- Helping Writers De-Stress: Meditation Apps
- Fifty Shades of Grey - Oh My!

Photo credit: Gérald Tibbits

Friday, August 3

Non-Compete Clauses And A Writers' Career

Kris Rusch on non-compete clauses:
In reality, it’s a “do-not-do-business-without-our-permission” clause.

I did write about this in last year’s article, but I was a bit more lenient toward publishers than I am now. What changed? I certainly didn’t. I believe that writers should protect their rights as much as possible.

What changed is this: publishers have started requiring non-compete clauses in almost all of their contracts, and are making those clauses a deal breaker from the publisher’s side. In other words, the publisher will cancel the deal if you do not sign a non-compete.  The choice you are given is this: either you let the publisher control your entire career just because you sold that publisher one book for $5000 or you walk.

If that’s the choice you’re given, walk. Hell, run.
You can read the rest of Kris' article here: The Future And Balance (Deal Breakers 2012).

If you're thinking about signing a book contract I recommend that you get an IP attorney to look it over.

Other articles:
- How I Solved My Book Cover Dilemma, and How You Can Too
- Derek Haines: Are Free Ebooks A Good Marketing Strategy?
- 50 Shades Of Alice In Wonderland: Another Indie Success Story

Photo credit

Thursday, July 12

Jody Hedlund: Talent Is Overrated

Ever wondered whether you had what it took to be a writer? Ever feared you weren't talented enough? Jody Hedlund's article is a breath of fresh air sweeping away the poisonous cobwebs of doubt. She writes:
Talent is over-rated. Sure it may help to have a little bit of inborn gifting to help you get going on something. Talent may help you progress a little faster and easier.

But . . . talent isn’t necessary to succeed. ...

1. Stay determined. Decide you want to do it. Then make up your mind to stay the course.

2. Don’t get discouraged (at least not for long). Don’t listen to the naysayers who don’t think you have what it takes (especially if that naysayer is yourself!). And if you are discouraged, let it push you to try all the harder.

3. Don’t give up too soon. Stick with it even when you know you’re not all that good yet. Remember that most don’t start out as super stars, that they have to work hard for years before honing their skills.

4. Surround yourself with friends who share and understand the passion. They enrich the experience.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others. While I may have compared my son to others, he didn’t. He always focused on what he needed to do and never worried about how he measured up to others.

6. Work your tail off. Go at it until you sweat and feel pain.

7. Practice daily (or at least regularly). Come up with a routine. Have a checklist (my son did).

8. Continually push yourself to improve. Once you’ve mastered something, then learn something new.

9. Keep the vision of what you can become. Always see the product of what you will accomplish if you work hard enough.

10. Most of all enjoy it. Find pleasure in the process itself, even when it’s hard.
Visit Jody over at Jody Hedlund Author and Speaker and read the rest of her article, 10 Traits That Are More Important Than Talent.

I agree with each and every one of Jody's points, especially #7. It reminds of Kris Rusch's post, Writers and Business. Kris writes:
Talent is, as the cliché says, its own reward.

And its own curse.

I have watched hundreds—and I do mean hundreds—of talented writers fall by the wayside as their less-talented (by the judgment of a teacher, editor, critic) fellows succeed. Why are the less-talented succeeding where the talented fail?

The convention wisdom is that the less-talented appeal to the masses, as if the masses are a bad thing. But what’s really happening here is this: The so-called less talented feel that they must work harder to get where their talented peers are naturally. So the so-called less-talented end up with a work ethic where the talented have none.

But what about the people who are clearly better at writing than others in the class? Aren’t those people talented?

No. Sometimes what’s considered talent by a professor is simply that a writer writes to that professor’s taste. More often, however, the “talented” writer has had more practice than others and is more skilled by the time they get to the class.
The rest of Kris' article is equally great, a must read if you've ever felt droopy and depressed, wondering if you have enough talent to make it as a writer.

As Stephen King once wrote: Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.


Related links:
- Terry Gilliam: Talent is less important than patience
- Kris Rusch: The Value Of Imperfection
- The Key To Being Talented: Work Hard!

Photo credit: ♥JanltoilE♥

Thursday, July 5

How Important Is It To Promote Your Books?

book promotion, is it worth it?
Book Promotion

Kris Rusch says: not very. She writes:
The person who disagreed with me ... was convinced I didn’t know what I was talking about when it came to the necessity of promoting work, particularly for a new writer. The writer actually said that I had never had a point in my career where I was unknown, which made me laugh. Um, we were all beginning writers once upon a time.

The writer challenged me to self-publish things under a super secret pen name, and was convinced I would understand then why new writers need to promote. I actually responded to this one—I usually don’t—because of the challenge, and because I’d met it  years ago.

I have four things up under four super-secret pen names, things which I put up with no promotion. One outsells everything I do under my name and my known pen names. One isn’t doing very well at all, and two are doing okay. All outsell some titles I have under the Rusch name. So I have met the challenge, plus some.

Because I had to explain to this new writer that back in the Dark Ages of Publishing when I started, there was no such thing as Twitter, blogging, Facebook, and the like. If a writer wanted to promote her work, she had to spend more than her advance to do so. Because even back then, publishers didn’t promote 95% of the books they published. Those books would sink or swim based on sales in bookstores that might or might not carry the books. Some of my early work wasn’t even listed with description and a cover photo in the publisher’s catalog. Just a one line listing under “Also Available” which was arranged by genre.

So how did a writer sell a lot of copies of her book? She wrote another. Back in the Dark Ages of Publishing, before the conglomerate bean counters got involved, most writers (even new writers) got a multibook contract. Because publishers knew it was the number of titles on the shelf that sold books, not the quality of an as-yet-unread single title, that got a reader to pick up a book.

So I not only met the challenge in this new world of publishing, I met that challenge every time I had traditionally published a book with a brand new name on the spine.
Read the rest of Kris' post here: The Business Rusch: Careers, Critics, and Professors

It's nice to know a writer can make a living using her craft without needing to promote.

I wonder though, if Kris had promoted her work perhaps she would have sold even more books. I guess then the question would be: would she sell enough copies to make the promotion worth it. If, rather than spending time and money on the promotion, she had just written, would she have made more money in the end? I could see that being the case.

Kris' post this week is wonderful, as always, and very encouraging. It follows her and Dean's theme of: Just write! I don't think we can get better advice than that.

Related reading:
- Henry Miller's 11 Writing Commandments
- Kris Rusch: The Value of Imperfection

Thursday, June 28

Kris Rusch: The Value of Imperfection

Kris writes:
At every craft workshop I teach, I make at least one writer cry. ...

How do I bring writers to tears? Usually by saying this:

I loved this story. It’s wonderful. Mail it.
I found this very touching. As Kris says, professional writers "are workshop-hardened folk, people who have been eviscerated by the best of them ...".

It is so true, and one reason why I am leery of workshops. I think every writer--priofessional or otherwise--has had the experience of being told that, in some way or other, their writing didn't measure up.

Since we pour who we are, our souls, into our prose, when our work is dismissed it can be a soul-crushing experience.

Kris' point is that no story is perfect. She quotes Tina Fey: "The show doesn’t go on when it’s finished; it goes on because it’s 11:30". So very true. Kris writes:
Exactly. At some point, you must simply let go of that book or story or play and move to the next.

If our workshopping friend Bill Shakespeare strove for perfection, we would never have heard of him. We wouldn’t have gotten all of that marvelous writing, all of those wonderful—flawed—plays. (You don’t think A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the only one riddled with possible workshop-identifiable errors, do you? Think of Romeo and Juliet. Why didn’t those crazy lovesick kids just move to another town????)
So many times in Kris' post I felt like jumping up, pumping my first in the air and yelling, "Yes!". I couldn't, though, because, first, it would have destroyed my reputation as being quietly introspective and, second, it would have disturbed the cat who had chosen to sleep on me.

There's one more thing I want to share with you:
When I became an editor, I learned just how important taste is. The difference between the short stories in Analog and Asimov’s, two of the science fiction digest magazines (that now have e-book editions each month if you haven’t seen them before), isn’t that there is such thing as an Analog story or an Asimov’s story that I as a long-time reader can tell you about. The difference is in the taste of their editors. Stanley A. Schmidt of Analog likes different kinds of stories than Sheila Williams of Asimov’s does. Occasionally their tastes overlap. Most often, they do not.

If there were such a thing as a perfect sf story, then both editors would always buy the same stories, and you couldn’t tell the magazines apart.

As readers, you all know this. As writers, you forget it.

And when you forget it, you make the weirdest decisions.

You give control of your product to the wrong people. You submit romance novels to science fiction markets (and wonder why the editor didn’t read your manuscript—was it the passive sentence on page 32?). You try to revise to please everyone in your peer-level writing group.

You self-publish your novel, make sure it’s edited and copyedited, add a fantastic cover, and then revise to address concerns posted by reviewers who gave your book one star. That’s complete and utter idiocy. Seriously.

Some nutty brand new writer, with one or two novels to her name, posted a blog on Digital Book World espousing just that. She says writers should always address their critics’ concerns.

I read that and nearly snorted my tea all over my iPad. If I even tried to address all the nasty reviews I’ve gotten over the years, I’d never write anything new. If I tried to address all the somewhat valid criticisms I’ve gotten on my books, I’d still spend forever revising.

Only a writer with one or two publications to her credit would have time to even think such a thing is viable.

Her blog post has gone viral, and I’ve seen new writers everywhere wring their hands over the fact that they now have to pay attention to their one-star reviews and constantly revise.

I’m here to tell you this: If you want a career as a writer, ignore your critics.

When the book is finished, when the book is published for heaven’s sake, then it’s done. Irrevocably done. Mistakes and all.

And there will be mistakes. Lots of them.
This makes so much sense! I really needed to hear this. Again.

I would encourage your to read Kris' post in full, as my mother used to say, "It's a keeper". This one is being indexed in Evernote under the heading, "When you feel like a crappy writer, READ THIS!!!". Here's the link: The Business Rusch: Perfection.

Remember, keep writing!

Related reading:
Henry Miller's 11 Writing Commandments
- Write Or Die: The App
- Tips For Writers From Richard Nash, Previously Of Soft Skull Press

Thursday, June 14

Indie vs. Traditional Publishing, Which Should You Choose?

In today's business world writers have more choice than ever but sometimes that makes life harder rather than easier. Today writers can choose whether to self publish or submit their work to a traditional publisher. Sometimes the right choice is to self publish and sometimes it isn't, so how do you decide?

In her weekly article on the business of writing, Kris Rusch talks about this choice.

Indie publishing: Hurry up and wait

With indie publishing you write your stories, get them out to the world, and then wait for the book to be downloaded, read, reviewed and, ultimately, earn money so you can continue to write (and eat!).

The thing is, with indie publishing, it can be a long wait. Kris writes:
Sometimes you don’t even have your first sale for weeks, maybe months. The cash doesn’t roll. You panic. You stop your current project and do “promotion,” contacting all the book bloggers you know. You annoy your followers on Twitter by mentioning your book’s title every other Tweet. You look at the real-time sales numbers (or lack of them) over and over again.

You’re waiting for the book to “catch on,” for “lightning to strike,” for “miracles to happen.”

And if you’re smart, you’re also writing your next book. More on that a little later.

But really, what you’re waiting for is time to pass. Five sales per month over 120 months will make you quite a bit of money. Only it won’t seem that way at first.

The indie writer, particularly the indie writer with very few books published, has to be patient. The readership—and the income—will grow exponentially if the writer continues to produce work. One day, the indie writer will wake up and realize she’s making $1,000 per month on a single title, and that amount spread out over a year is more than she would have gotten as an advance for a first novel. (Most first novel advances in all genres are under $10,000.)

The thing is, if she earns $12,000 one year, nothing will stop her from earning the same or possibly more the next year, and the next, and the next.

The indie author must be patient, but if she’s a good storyteller (and her book has a decent cover and is copy edited, and if she keeps writing and publishing new material), she’ll make a living wage over time. In fact, over time, she’ll sell as many or more copies of that book than she would as a first-time novelist who is traditionally published.

The key phrase, though, is over time. Years, in fact.

Traditional Publishing: Wait and hurry up

With a traditionally published book you can wait for years while you query agents and/or editors but if your book is accepted it could have the benefit of the kind of support it would be next to impossible to generate yourself. Interviews for instance, and book reviews. I've been collecting the names of book review blogs that accept queries from independent authors and, let me tell you, there aren't a lot of them.

Kris' Advice:

Only you can know what kind of writer you are, what you want, and what you can live with.

And, of course, all publishing is not equal. Traditional publishing has long-term contracts. Indie publishing has agreements with distributors that can be canceled with the click of a mouse.

All publishing isn’t the same within one publishing house. One fantasy series writer might make millions on his series; another (with the same cover artist, editor, and sales department) might make thousands on her series.

All publishing isn’t even equal inside one writer’s career. I have books that sell really well and books I can’t give away. I’m the same writer. But readers have different reactions to different books.

So the key is to give readers what they want. What do they want? Good stories. And the readers will differ as to which of your stories are “good.” So give the readers a lot of stories to choose from.

That’s what traditional publishers do. That’s why they release a new set of books every month. Because they’re giving the readers a choice all the time. You have to do that too, no matter how you publish the books.

What you decide to do, how you decide to make your books available to readers, is truly your decision. If you go traditional, make sure you have an IP attorney vet your contract so you know what you’re signing. Be prepared to wait before seeing your book on the shelf.

If you go indie, spend some money to get that book in fighting shape before launching it at those bookstores. And be prepared to wait before seeing sales of your book.

Neither decision is right or wrong. It’s only right for you.
I agree 100%. These days the choice between publishing independently and publishing traditionally is made on a project by project basis. The days of having to commit to one way of doing things is, happily, behind us. Hopefully something Kris said makes it easier to choose whether to go indie with it.

Keep writing!

Related Reading:
- 5 Points To Ponder Before You Self Publish

Photo Credit: Mysteries and My Musings