Monthly Archives: March 2011

Accidental Authors – Writing is More Fun Than Therapy, Cheaper Too

31 March 2011
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Three sisters share a wicked sense of humor. They decide to write. Together.


Two years ago three sisters, with no better sense, became accidental writers. We began writing on a whim.  We had no vision or outline. We weren’t familiar with words like protagonistcharacter development, or literary agent.  We’re voracious readers but we’d never been to a book signing.  In short, we were clueless.

What we had was an idea.  We had Cat DeLuca, a woman with a lying cheating ex-husband.  We had her Pants On Fire Detective Agency. And we had Skype.

Each morning we’d stumble out of bed, get our coffee, and go on Skype.  Blurry eyed and in our pj’s, we’d ask the question: What does Cat DeLuca do today?

. . . .

People write for different reasons.  Writing is more fun than therapy and a helluva lot cheaper.  We sisters write to play.  For a little time each day we get to be in that space we lose when we become adults.  We’re kids again recreating our Nancy Drew adventures.  We never take ourselves too seriously.  And we write for the joy of being together.

Link to the rest at at Buried Under Books



New Entrants in Publishing or Self-Publishing Start with the Customer

31 March 2011
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Brian O’Leary writes a long piece primarily focused on publishers. He’s trying to get them to quit thinking about books, magazines or newspapers so they’re not destroyed by self-publishers

You see, although this blog is focused on the changes taking place in what we call “books,” everybody in the commercial word business is being disrupted. Magazines and newspapers – aggregators of small and smaller groups of words centered around a particular theme – have, of course, seen their business models decimated by online aggregators of words – blogs, The Drudge Report, etc., etc., etc.

Books took longer because reading War and Peace on a computer screen is beyond the capacity of all but those on the fringes of normality. You needed a slate, a pad, an ereader – a different form factor that accommodated the human body and its physical limitations – before consuming the large collection of words we call a book was a reasonable possibility. This big-bunch-of-words consumption device is in the process of becoming ubiquitous.

One factor that characterizes all successful online entrants is they pay close attention to their customers. What links are clicked, what stories are read? Even a modest undertaking like The Passive Voice has a sidebar that displays its most popular posts as chosen by its readers. This is both a help to visitors and an aid to Passive Guy in deciding what sorts of new posts to create.

Big Publishing is really a wholesaler to bookstores, not a retailer to customers. Big Publishing understands the book buyers at Barnes & Noble very well. Transforming itself into a business that understands readers as well as Amanda Hocking does is going to be a large (impossible?) task.

Anyway, back to Brian O’Leary. Almost. One more thing that is interesting to me is that Clayton Christensen first published his best-selling book on disruptive change in 1997 and began writing about fundamental principles of disruption in scholarly articles in about 1993. The high tech world was sucking in the implications of disruption as fast as it could during the late 1990’s. Only now, over ten years later, is the publishing business discovering that it can be disrupted as well.

Now back to Brian.


My idea in a nutshell is this: book, magazine and newspaper publishing is unduly governed by the physical containers we have used for centuries to transmit information.  Those containers define content in two dimensions, necessarily ignoring that which cannot or does not fit.

. . . .

We need to think about containers as an option, not the starting point.  Further, we must start to open up access, making it possible for readers to discover and consume our content within and across digital realms.

Without a shift in mindset, we are vulnerable to a range of current and future disruptive entrants.  Containers limit how we think about our audiences.  In stripping context, they also limit how audiences find our content.

Here, scale is not our friend.  It may well be the enemy.  As Clay Christensen first outlined in 1997, disruptive technologies don’t look or feel like what we typically value.  Often enough, they are cheaper, simpler, smaller and more convenient than their traditional analogues.

. . . .

As barriers to entry have fallen, I’ve started to think more about how traditional book, magazine and newspaper publishers can survive in a digital era.  There are both new and non-traditional established entrants across most publishing segments.  Their successes have pushed traditional publishers to look at ways to change business models and organize around customers.

It is time to see our publishing brethren – newspapers and magazines – as part of a disrupted continuum that affects us all.  Digital makes convergence not only possible; digital has made convergence inevitable.  Marketers have become publishers; publishers are marketing arms; new entrants are a bit of both.  Customers have become alternately competitors, partners and suppliers.

. . . .

And imagine a world in which content can be disseminated in a range of formats, at the figurative or literal push of a button.

That world exists today, with literally dozens of credible, widely accessible tools and resources. These authoring, repository and distribution tools and resources make it possible for anyone to create, manage and disseminate digital as well as physical content.

. . . .

While publishers think of agile workflows as an opportunity to drive down the cost of making content for containers, a newer breed of “born-digital” competitors have started with context. These new entrants are developing taxonomies and tools so that they can invade the same niches we thought we were making more efficient.

The challenge is not just being digital; it’s being demonstrably relevant to the audiences who now turn first to digital to find content.

New entrants – our real competition – start with the customer. They develop contextual frameworks that help them differentiate both readers and themselves. The new guys like the new tools because they are cheap, scalable and open-source. In fact, they are already exploiting tools that many traditional publishers lament are “just too hard to learn”.

Link to the rest at Magellan Media Consulting Partners



Want to be a Famous Author? Check Craigslist

31 March 2011
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I haven’t read anywhere that one of the benefits of being an indie author who sells ebooks and POD is that there are no book signings.


Book signings happen in book stores and, indie boy and indie girl, you are anathema to book stores.

For non-indie authors, book signings happen.

Some authors like ’em. Some authors hate ’em. Alexander Greenwood described them as “lonely after school detention for grownups.”

But you don’t have to go to all the trouble of writing a book to sign books like a famous author does.


To some authors, the book-signing is a curse. What could be more excruciatingly dull, to the sensitive creative mind, than to sit for hours in a festival tent or bookshop, inscribing your name on several hundred copies of your new masterpiece? This isn’t a proper display of your writing talent – a baboon scratching the dirt with a stick could do it just as well.

To other authors, signing books for the public is a sacramental act, a talismanic ritual in which the bond between writer and reader, expressed in a few words of warm mutual stroking, is sealed by the seminal squiggle of ink.

Between these extremes of attitude lies the truth: book signings are a repetitive chore, mitigated by the pleasure, for authors, of meeting their buying public, and the joy, for readers, of meeting the mind that dreamt up an imaginative creation which lives in their heads. But such is the demand for signed copies that authors often have to sign several thousand books in private, to be sold later.

. . . .

Now, though, an American publisher is short-circuiting the process. His company has posted an advertisement on Craigslist, the internet listing site, asking for 14 volunteers who can fake the signatures of two big-name authors of a forthcoming book; each successful applicant will be paid $25 for every 200 books signed. “You will need,” reads the advert, “to be able to copy the look and style of both authors’ signatures.” It must be some book: the ersatz signings are scheduled to last 16 hours: with 14 people signing at a rate of four books per minute, that suggests more than 50,000 copies will be processed.

The identity of the publisher, and the co-authors, remains unknown. Their signature scam is a clear case of fraud, or “passing off,” but is being greeted in publishing circles as an enterprising answer to a problem. And it throws up some long-overdue questions. Such as: Why would you want an author to scribble her name in your book? Does it increase its value? How can best-selling authors sign books for seven hours at a stretch? Why do readers want to meet writers anyway?

Link to the rest at The Independent




The Dreams of The Writer Lead To The Dreams of The Reader

30 March 2011
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A lot of indie publishing discussion centers around the writer as a seller and the reader as a buyer.

Alexander M. Zoltai discusses an entirely different aspect of this relationship.


The dreams indicated in the title up there are what have been given the fancy term, “fictive dreams”, more reasonably called “fictional dreams”.

The writer is in a dream-like state when the creative act is flowing and, hopefully, the reader can fall into a similar state. Still, the dream of the reader is rarely just like the dream of the writer.

. . . .

[John] Gardner argues that this fictional dream first happens in the writer’s head, and the writer’s job is to write it down for the reader:

“In the writing state—the state of inspiration—the fictive dream springs up fully alive: the writer forgets the words he has written on the page and sees, instead, his characters moving around their rooms, hunting through cupboards, glancing irritably through their mail, setting mousetraps, loading pistols. The dream is as alive and compelling as one’s dreams at night, and when the writer writes down on paper what he has imagined, the words, however inadequate, do not distract his mind from the fictive dream but provide him with a fix on it, so that when the dream flags he can reread what he’s written and find the dream starting up again. This and nothing else is the desperately sought and tragically fragile writer’s process: in his imagination, he sees made-up people doing things—sees them clearly—and in the act of wondering what they will do next he sees what they will do next, and all this he writes down in the best, most accurate words he can find, understanding even as he writes that he may have to find better words later, and that a change in the words may mean a sharpening or deepening of the vision, the fictive dream or vision becoming more and more lucid, until reality, by comparison, seems cold, tedious, and dead.”

Link to the rest at Notes from An Alien


Amazon Signs Dead Authors to Exclusive Ebook Deals

30 March 2011
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Ian Fleming and Catherine Cookson are dead and their publishers are infuriated. Not about the dead part. That can’t be helped.

Working through agents and side-stepping their publishers, the estates of each of these writers have signed an exclusive ebook publishing contract with Amazon.

Excerpts from Phillip Jones:

To lose one author maybe be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness. I am thinking of course of Ian Fleming, and Catherine Cookson: backlist brands that have gone digital via their literary agents rather than through their print publishers.

And I think, from what I know about the latest deal reported here, carelessness really is the right word. Sonia Land tells the Daily Mail: “They do not own the electronic publishing rights to the works. In recent years, they have shown little interest in marketing or exploiting the Cookson brand. It is a wake-up call for the industry.”

. . . .

Yet, I cannot see beyond this being a real miss for publishers, and a real opportunity for estates and their agents. The Daily Mail presents publishers as “infuriated”, but the tenor is that they are out of step and greedy; while Amazon, which has exclusive rights, emerges as the clear winner. Perhaps the only winner.

Link to the rest at Future eBook


Video – Amanda Hocking Talks About Writing

30 March 2011
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Data point: She has between $1.4 million and $2 million in royalties that she’s earned, but not received yet.


If that’s your real name on the book cover, what’s your pen name?

30 March 2011
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10 Strange Things People Said to a Writer at a Book Signing.


This is a free sample, isn’t it? (Asked while the writer was inscribing the book.)

. . . .

Did Oprah like it?

Link to the rest at The Brimstone Murder’s Blog


Realistic Expectations for Online Book Marketing

30 March 2011
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So, you’re going to blog and Tweet and Like and Link, then everybody will buy your book.

Count the number of authors who blog. Count the number of authors who are bestsellers. Do you see a difference?

Phyllis Zimbler Miller suggests what an author can reasonably expect from online marketing.


1. Do I have the determination, patience, commitment (whatever you want to call this ability) to spend at least an hour four or five times a week engaging in social media participation or can I afford to hire someone to do this engagement for me?

2. Do I like to engage with my book fans or potential fans on a one-to-one basis or do I want to stay hidden behind the cover of my book?

3. Do I want to help other authors by sharing my hard-learned wisdom or do I want other authors to have to reinvent the wheel as I may have had to do?

. . . .

But what if you really, really want to sell your book?

First, consider whether you must only sell the book in its entirety in physical form, or can you sell your book in individual chapters as downloadable ebooks from your website?

Nowadays people are inundated with information. Reading a book on a specific topic may seem too much; but reading the one book chapter about which you particularly want to know may seem quite reasonable.

Second, are you going to integrate your online marketing plans with offline plans? Are you going to do live book signings? Sell books at your children’s school events and donate a percentage to the school?

While you may have better odds of actually selling books offline than online, what you do online can help encourage book sales. For example, people who already follow you on Twitter may have a stronger allegiance to you at a book signing than people who only came to the signing because free food was advertised.

If the person who follows you on Twitter buys a book at a signing, is that sale the result of your online or offline activity?

Link to the rest at Marketing Tips for Authors


New Rules for Self-Publishing

30 March 2011
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Penelope Trunk, CEO of The Brazen Careerist, makes some new rules for self-pubbing.


1. Mainstream publishers help very few people. And probably not you.
Authors sell books, not publishers. For writers without a big name, publishers give them credibility. The problem is that publishers aren’t set up to be able to make money from authors who haven’t already made a name for themselves. This arrangement used to be fine before social media, before almost every author needed a channel to an audience. But now authors have the ready-made sales channel that is social media, so the publishers are no longer the gatekeepers to customers.

. . . .

5. Forget about the book cover — have a great landing page instead.
You are going to send people to a page to buy a book, not a book store, not Amazon. This is your place where you are selling. It’s like your food truck. People will take a look at it quickly to see if it’s trustworthy and worth their time to try it.

The number of people you lose on the buy now page has to be really, really small. And it is not necessarily true that a picture of the cover of your book is what will close the sale. So you need to do a lot of tests to see what kind of copy and layout can close your sale. And if you’re on a limited budget, tell your designer to focus on the landing page, not the book cover.

Today authors need to be good at creating landing pages. It used to be that publishers were market-makers for books. We know now that authors are, but since publishers are not great at online marketing, it makes sense that the person who is writing—and connecting with the audience—would also be the person writing the landing page to turn interest into sales.

Link to the rest at Penelope Trunk


A world where writing a great book isn’t good enough

30 March 2011
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You’ve read some of this on Hocking/Eisler before, but Laura Miller has a little different take.


It has become a mantra that today’s author — whether self- or conventionally published — must learn to promote his or her books. Some, like Eisler and Hocking, happen to be good at it, but many aren’t. People often become writers because they’re introverted or awkward in personal encounters and have poured everything they want to say to the world into their work. What usually gets lost in the perpetual refrain about authors becoming their own marketers is that there’s no particular connection between writing talent and a gift for self-promotion.

. . . .

With all due respect to Hocking and Eisler (and I’ve got plenty for both), I’d rather have “To Kill a Mockingbird” than any of their novels. Even though they are much better at interacting with their fans and orchestrating their careers than Harper Lee is, Lee (in my opinion, at least) is the better writer. Today’s conventional wisdom, in both traditional and indie publishing, decrees that someone like Lee might as well not bother; however good her book is, it won’t find an audience unless she’s willing and able to make hawking it at least a part-time job.

What this means for readers is troubling. Even if the next generation’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” gets published, the author’s inability to promote it effectively may prevent it from reaching the millions of readers who would otherwise embrace it. And while Harper Lee never published a second book, I want the writers whose work I admire to have as much time as possible to write as many books as they wish. As Hocking so astutely points out, the hours spent in self-promotion are hours spent not writing.

Link to the rest at Salon

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