Monthly Archives: December 2018

How to Finally Write Your Nonfiction Book

11 December 2018

From The New York Times:

“I’d like to write a book someday.”
Like many writers, I said this for years before finally deciding to commit to the long and grueling process of publishing my first book, which is about personal finance.

Most authors would probably agree that writing a book is one of the most difficult challenges of their careers. You spend your summer inside writing while your friends post photos of their beach vacations on Instagram. Once your book is published, the work is far from over: You must now sell it like your career depends on it, because it kind of does. Failure is a constant fear, and impostor syndrome can feel overwhelming. But more often than not, it’s also completely worth it.

. . . .

Before you write your first word, ask yourself: Do I have an audience? And, most important: Does my idea actually appeal to readers?

“My most common recommendation for people who want to write a book is, ‘Don’t — not yet,’” said Ramit Sethi, the author of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.” “Build a large audience first.” Mr. Sethi, whose nonfiction personal finance book started as a blog with the same title, was able to amass hundreds of thousands of readers before he landed a book deal.

Even though you might not need to write the entire book before pitching it, it’s likely that if an agent or potential publisher likes the idea, they’ll still want to see at least two sample chapters. In any case, you’re going to want to fully flesh out your idea and write up those sample chapters before reaching out to agents, or, if you’re still building an audience, a few blog posts on your topic. Doing so will give you a deeper sense of what your book is about and what the rest of the writing process will be like — and this will also help you firm up your ideas of what the rest of the book will be like.
. . . .

Self-publishing means publishing your book on your own, or with the help of a self-publishing platform like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or CreateSpace, which is also owned by Amazon. Barnes & Noble also has a self-publishing platform.

“As a self-published author, you have more control of your work because you have more control of your deadlines and budget,” said Nailah Harvey, author of “Look Better in Writing.” “Some people do not work well with the pressure of third-party deadlines, so self-publishing may be a better fit for their personality.” You also have full creative control over your work, Ms. Harvey said, whereas with a publisher, you may have to bend to their ideas for your book title, cover and content.

Mr. Sethi, both a traditionally published and self-published author, said your choice will partly depend on what’s more important to you: profit or credibility. Traditional publishing lends you the latter, while self-publishing can be more profitable because you won’t have to give a percentage of sales to an agent and publisher. On the other hand, an agent and publisher might be able to help increase your reach to make those sales.

When I started to get serious about my idea, I bought “How to Write a Book Proposal.” From there, it was two and a half years until I convinced an agent to represent my idea, and another year and a half before my book was on a shelf.

“I think you should plan for at least one year to write the first draft of a book, and a second year to rewrite it,” Ms. Perhach said.

. . . .

“Writing is like putting together Ikea furniture,” she added. “There’s a right way to do it, but nobody knows what it is.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times


11 December 2018

The PGs’ offspring used to love Shaun the Sheep.


Brazilian booksellers face wave of closures that leave sector in crisis

11 December 2018

From The Guardian:

“These are dark days for the book in Brazil”, one of the country’s leading publishers has warned, after crises at the country’s two largest bookstore chains have left many worried that many towns may be left without a single bookstore.

After announcing the closure of 20 stores in October, book chain Saraiva announced in late November that it was filing for bankruptcy protection, citing a crisis in the publishing market that combined steady declines in the price of books with rising inflation. Rival chain Cultura has also filed a reorganisation plan to avoid bankruptcy this autumn. Brazil is in the middle of its worst recession in decades, with the October election of the far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro as the country’s next president sending ripples of fear through the country’s cultural community.

In a widely shared “love letter to books”, Companhia das Letras co-founder Luiz Schwarcz has laid out the stark reality of Brazil’s current book market, urging readers to buy books this Christmas to help the sector survive.

“It remains impossible to predict the full extent of the knock-on effects of this crisis, but they are nonetheless already terrifying … Here, many towns are about to be left without a single bookstore, and publishers are now faced with the challenge of getting their books out to readers and have to deal with significant accumulated loss,” wrote Schwarcz, who won a lifetime achievement award at the 2017 London book fair.

He added: “Publishing houses in Brazil have already been launching fewer new titles, dropping slow sellers from their immediate plans, and letting staff go. With Cultura and Saraiva in receivership, dozens of stores have been closed, hundreds of booksellers laid off and publishers’ revenues slashed by 40% or more, leaving a massive hole that threatens to engulf the publishing market in Brazil.”

. . . .

 Brazilian writer Paolo Scott told the Guardian that the crisis had had an enormous negative impact on writers’ lives: “Their book releases are being postponed, their book sales are not being passed on to them, publishers have been much more cautious about what they are going to publish.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

What the Media Industry Can Teach Us About Digital Business Models

11 December 2018

From The Harvard Business Review:

It has been a great 20 years for U.S. media innovators, with hundreds of billions of dollars created by companies that are helping democratize content production and distribution while developing new ways to connect advertisers and customers. Google and its disruptive advertising model leads the pack with a $370 billion market capitalization, but consider also companies like Facebook ($225 billion), LinkedIn ($25 billion), Twitter ($24 billion), TripAdvisor ($11 billion), and Yelp ($3 billion).

Of course, for most traditional publishing incumbents, “great” is not the word that springs to mind. The U.S. newspaper industry has seen widespread bankruptcies and significant job losses. Only a handful of companies that primarily focus on traditional print publications still exist, such as The New York Times Company, E.W. Scripps, McClatchy, and A.H. Belo. The combined market value of those four companies? Less than $5 billion.

Why has this been the best of times for some in media and the worst of time for others? The answer reveals the critical role business models play in determining competitive winners in times of disruptive change.

Media executive Jeffrey Zucker once famously quipped that media companies embracing online disruption faced the unappealing prospect of “trading analog dollars for digital pennies” (Zucker now says it’s closer to quarters than pennies). The basic point was that online advertising was too small, and that transaction sizes were too insignificant to be anything other than a step down for companies used to rich cash flows.

But there is nothing inherently wrong with digital pennies, if you have the right business model. After all, media disruptors have shown paths to profits by amalgamating large numbers of small transactions – from Google Adwords to Facebook’s hypertargeted ads. Zucker’s dilemma only exists if digital pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters are running through analog business models.

And that’s the crux of the challenge that traditional media has faced: grappling with digital disruption requires reframing the challenge from a technological challenge to a business model one. Unfortunately, that makes the problem harder, not easier, as business models are often hard-wired in what our colleague Mark Johnson dubs an organization’s rules, norms, and metrics, making shifts difficult to execute.

Zooming in on the sales challenge helps to highlight the difficulty of business model innovation. Think about the highly successful model newspapers historically followed: Journalists would develop unique content to attract wide swaths of readers, and sales reps would sell advertising to people hoping to reach those readers. Those advertisements could be “display” advertisements to build a company’s brand, promote a particular product, or detail a limited-time discount, or they could be “classified” advertisements briefly describing an item for sale or an open job posting (as innocent as classified ads appear, for many newspaper companies they contributed a significant portion of profits).

Superficially, the disruptors do the exact same thing: draw users and serve advertisers. But the underlying way in which they create, deliver, and capture value is substantially different. Instead of having journalists developing content, disruptors largely feature platforms that simplify content creation and distribution. Rather than sell advertisements targeting broad groups, disruptors parlay sophisticated information about individual users into hyper-targeted promotions. Google, for example, doesn’t produce any original content. Its powerful search engine serves as a platform that instantaneously brings others’ content to users. Companies use its AdWords offering to bid for the right to tie advertisements to particular search words and pay Google based on the number of times users click on a link.

It seems logical to assume that all incumbents need to do is point their existing sales force in a disruptive direction. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

One complicating factor is that disruption almost always changes how to make money. 

Link to the rest at The Harvard Business Review

PG notes that, while most traditional publishers make money by providing a relatively small number of new titles and effectively limiting the number of books a single author can publish, indie authors publish many more books than almost any publisher would permit. 

Some traditional authors have done an end run around publishers’ defacto limits by writing under multiple pen names for different publishers. 

Indie authors, on the other hand, are free to publish as often as they want and generally use their own name or a single pen name in order to build brand equity around that name.

In PG’s observation, at least some indie authors regularly participate in the creation of collections of short stories or novellas in cooperation with other indie authors which each author benefitting from the brand names of the other authors in the collection.

At least some indie authors have learned they can earn more money by providing books for their fans multiple times during the year rather than pursue a model akin to traditional publishing, focused on a single blockbuster each year.

PG additionally suggests that indie authors are ideally suited to create a disruptive impact on traditional publishing by readily experimenting with a variety of business practices that don’t fit the manner in which traditional publishers make money.

The (UN) Glamorous World of Publishing Revealed

10 December 2018

From Aboutmyjob:

For some reason, many people regard publishing as a glamorous industry.

. . . .

 Even getting PUBLISHED isn’t glamorous for most people. Believe me, I know. I’m a book editor. I work for a small house that is part of a big media group.

. . . .

 Half the time you feel bad for the people in-house because of the demands of a screaming author. The other half of the time you feel bad for the author because of the incompetent handling of his or her book in-house. Eventually, the nightmare that is a book is published and makes its way to the remainder pile.

Link to the rest at Aboutmyjob

Stay Away From Traditional Book Publishing

10 December 2018

From Dean Wesley Smith:

Yes, I Know That is a Dream for Many…

But it is a horrid (and I mean horrid beyond words) path for writers now in 2018.

But Dean, how can you say that? You first published with traditional publishing, right? Yes, I sold my first novel in 1987 and did my last work for them in 2008. I did 106 books (that I can remember) through traditional big-five book publishing. I am pretty convinced that even by my  math, most of that was last century.

Let me repeat that. Last century. You know, dial phones hooked to a wall with cords, no internet, no email. That century.

Yet traditional book publishing hasn’t changed in the slightest from those old dial-up days and writers still want to work with them. Stuns me.

. . . .

Reason One…

— They take all your copyright for the life of your work, and often will buy your characters and worlds if you are not super careful. You can’t negotiate with them on this, especially if you went begging to them with your tin cup manuscript in your hand.)

Reason Two…

— You need a book agent to deal with them. Book agents really are equal to dial-up phones, or better put, pay phones that take your money and never make a connection. (You got to be really old, meaning you had to live in the 1970s to remember that.)  Book agents will also take your copyright if not careful, and also your money. A very large percentage of them are scams these days.

Reason Three…

— You will make no more sales than you could publishing the book indie, and actually in a few short years your indie sales will pass any possible traditional publishing sales. And you will not be able to trust the traditional publisher’s royalty statements every six months. Their accounting systems are also stuck back in dial-up phone land. Not kidding.

. . . .

Reason Six…

— It takes forever to sell a book to traditional publishing, often if you count the agent time, rewriting time, and publishing time, three to five years from writing the book to it being published. You sell a book tomorrow to traditional and B&N goes down before your book is published, you are done. Chances are your book will never be published, but they will own and keep all the rights to it anyway. (You signed the contract, sorry.)

Reason Seven…

You must write what they want you to write, not what you want to write. And also, you must write slower, do fewer books, and often contracts will keep you from writing for anyone else in any genre and any series. Not kidding.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

 PG will add another reason not to deal with traditional publishers because the milk of human kindness has gone a little sour in him due to the aggravating technical issues in his life: These days, publishers are packed with mediocrity.

Think about it – Does anybody with more than a thimbleful of business sense go to work at a traditional publisher in 2018? PG thinks not.

Is anyone who could be hired into another industry at about the same salary staying in publishing in 2018? Why would they?

Is there a bright tomorrow for traditional publishing?

Is smart money investing in publishers or bookstores or the supply chain that links the old-model book business together?

Does anyone quit Amazon to go to work at Random House?

PG will go lie down for awhile. 

Being a Good Manager

10 December 2018

The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.

~ Casey Stengel

Literary Cross-Stitch Patterns

10 December 2018

From Bookriot:

As the weather begins to cool down and more time is spent inside with waning hours of evening sunlight, I find myself needing to do more making of things with my hands. I find myself cooking more, baking more, cleaning more, and wanting to dig back into the crafts I enjoy. I am notoriously good at starting these projects (such as the blanket I started crocheting 5 years ago that is still in a tub), but I have found that when it comes to cross-stitch, especially because it requires more concentration than crocheting does for me, I can start and end a project pretty routinely. It got me thinking about all of the awesome literary cross stitch patterns you can score online, ranging from inexpensive to intricate, more pricey projects.

. . . .

 “She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain” cross-stitch pattern. $4.66.

. . . .

My weekend is booked cross-stitch pattern. So little! So cute! $3.

Link to the rest at Bookriot

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