The Myth of The Lazy Writer

3 August 2015

From Hugh Howey via Publishers Weekly:

The hardest part of getting a book published is the actual writing. All it takes to see this is the number of people who dream of publishing a book but never manage to hammer out a rough draft. I spent 20 years trying to write my first novel before I finally pulled it off. It’s not unusual for an aspiring writer to struggle for years and never produce a finished product to submit to agents or editors.

Once the hard part is done and a draft is written, there are two basic routes a writer can take. Much ink has been spilled over the past few years about the rise of self-publishing—even though the route predates Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. To self-publish requires hiring cover artists, editors, and typesetters or learning to do these things on one’s own. The difficult task of emailing a cover artist to hire her services is often used to frighten authors away from self-publishing. That’s because there’s a myth that authors are lazy, and a myth that some authors merely write for a living. No such creature has ever existed.

The alternative to self-publishing is to sign over your work to a traditional press. It sources the cover artist, editor, and typesetter for you. In exchange, it takes most of the income. This is sold as a fair deal, especially since it is said that publishers support authors while they write their novels by providing a livable advance. This is yet another myth: authors produce their first works while working another job; they are not given a year’s salary because they have an idea.

What is being sold with these myths is the notion that the self-published author works extra hard beyond the writing, while all other writers simply craft their drafts and FedEx the results to agents in New York. Having published along both routes, I can attest that the amount of work either way is roughly equal. Learning to query agents took me longer than learning how to self-publish.

Successful authors work their butts off either way. There is no such thing as a lazy successful author.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Hugh Howey’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

What I Miss About Traditional Publishing

1 August 2015

From author Deborah Cooke:

Although I am now an indie author, I was traditionally published—i.e. published by big publishing houses based in New York City—for twenty years. It was almost exactly the twentieth anniversary of my first sale when I stepped away from traditional publishing. I sold my first book to a publisher in April 1992, and declined the offer from my last publisher in March 2012.

In the last five years, I’ve repackaged and republished a lot of backlist titles (because the rights have reverted to me from the original publishers) and also have published a good bit of new work myself.

. . . .

Indie publishing has helped me to rediscover the joy of writing and storytelling.

That said, there things I miss about traditional publishing.

1/ Conversation
Most of the people I worked with in publishing were very clever and well-educated. They were interesting, whether talking about books or not. Although going to New York to meet with industry partners could be stressful, it was also often fascinating. I particularly miss talking to my agent, who had seen much and understood more. His insight was invaluable. I also miss the great gossipy chats I would have with some editors when we met in person, catching up on who was doing what and all the news in the tiny pond of romance publishing.

. . . .

2/ Expertise
There are things that big publishing houses do well, and which they continue to do best. The multi-national release of a blockbuster book, for example, requires skill and timing, as well as a kind of synchronization that is pretty much impossible for indie authors to manage alone. Very few authors write international blockbuster hits, so this doesn’t have much to do with most of us.

One of the things even the newest debut author sees with a big publishing house, though, is their collection and analysis of data. Having a large cache of sales information in a particular market niche gives big publishers the opportunity to discern patterns, even in sub-genre niches, to compare packages and tropes and author voices to try to identify what contributes to success. They can shape what they buy based on what they know they can sell, and they usually can articulate this very well. Like all powers, this one can be used badly—an editor can either build upon a given book’s strengths to make it appeal more strongly to the market without changing its essence, or an editor can insist that everything he or she acquires for publication fits a specific template, whether or not that destroys the work (or the author.) In recent years, the latter perspective seems to have become dominant.

So, I miss the consultations and the expertise the way it was offered fifteen or twenty years ago. This is because I have zillions of ideas. Literally. I truly think of several story ideas per day. It’s just not possible for me to write them all. Even if I could write a book in a month (and I can’t) and do it every month, there’d be at least (365-12) 350 ideas per year abandoned beneath my desk to die. I love all of my ideas, and I could make them all into good books. Choosing which is the most marketable or the most likely to succeed is a skill I don’t have, because I’m not sufficiently objective about my own work when it’s in sharp focus.

. . . .

6/ Someone To Say ‘No’
This is the big one. It’s counter-intuitive to most indie authors, and even to many authors who come from traditional publishing. One of the things I love about indie publishing is the freedom. It’s very liberating to not have anyone to shoot down your ideas, to be able to play with different formats of stories or different genres, to take a chance on an idea and see how it flies. That power restores our ability to take a chance on an idea that just won’t let go of our imagination.

But who will tell an indie author if he or she has it totally wrong? As tedious as it can be to build consensus, there is merit in listening to other voices. Where will I find that voice? Everyone I consult in this market is being paid by me. I’m the client of my freelance editor, which reverses the balance of power between us. Just as in the traditional publishing market, I couldn’t tell my editor that I wouldn’t make change X to my book (or do it by Y date), my editor now can’t tell me to make change X. A freelance editor might believe she can’t tell a client indie author things that author won’t want to hear.

Power is held by the one who pays.

Link to the rest at Deborah Coooke and thanks to James for the tip.

Here’s a link to Deborah Cooke’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Will Traditional Publishing Retain Its Dominance by Mandating That Its Authors Keep Their Distance From Self-Published Authors?

29 July 2015

From HuffPost Books:

Imagine my dismay this week to discover that one of the Big Five houses has a policy that bars its authors from endorsing print-on-demand books. Sadly, it’s not surprising. Traditional publishing actively works to position itself against nontraditional publishing yet has no issue whatsoever with scooping up self-published success stories. Double standard? Yes.

. . . .

That a traditional publisher would institute a policy against blurbing POD books suggests a few things:

1) They’re equating print-on-demand with self-publishing. Inaccurate. Many self-published books are not print-on-demand, and many traditionally published books are flipped to POD status, oftentimes as soon as a year following publication. During my years at Seal Press, I sat in on countless meetings where we decided, based on sluggish sales, which books should become print-on-demand, since it makes no business sense whatsoever to reprint 500 books (what offset printing requires to benefit from economies of scale) for titles that aren’t moving. And I know for a fact that the big houses practice this as well.

2) They’re operating from the worst kind of scarcity mentality. They must believe that endorsing POD (or self-published) books will shine a negative light on their authors.

Link to the rest at HuffPost Books

Diane Duane discusses selling e-books, writing and rewriting books

27 July 2015

From TeleRead:

The first half of the podcast was spent discussing Diane Duane’s e-book store (which is currently running a sale preparatory to the launch of her new Young Wizards novella “Lifeboat” on Tuesday). She set up this e-book store in order to sell her Young Wizards novels to territories where Harcourt’s e-book version was unavailable. After trying other options, she settled on Shopify’s shopping cart system, which she has used for the last five years.

One interesting aspect of the store is that, thanks to her trusty iPad, she can administer the store from anyplace that has mobile broadband. That has proven handy when she has been traveling. While she has had a few troubles with the store, by and large it has proven easy to run.

Diane Duane also doesn’t recall having any trouble with people upset that her works weren’t available directly through Amazon, though the issue of how to sideload them to people’s readers has come up a time or two. She generates different EPUBs optimized for each reader, and is looking into ways of including explanatory notes with the e-book files.

By and large, Duane finds the issue of whether to self-publish a work has boiled down to the work’s length. Traditional publishers haven’t been interested in her recent Young Wizards novellas, so she is publishing them herself, and will be offering them in print via Amazon as a collected volume after the third one, “Lifeboat,” is published (which she expects to take place on Tuesday).

. . . .

In most other cases, Duane tends to prefer to place projects with traditional publishers when she can. She’s built up enough of a reputation over the years that she usually can place most of her books there without needing to self-publish them—with the occasional odd exception, such as a historical novel she wants to do but has been as yet unable to place with any publisher. That may end up being another work she has to self-publish instead.

. . . .

Diane Duane noted that she was looking into the possibility of licensing Young Wizards for movie adaptations, provided that she would be the scriptwriter and have creative control. She has been collecting enough screen writing credits lately that it was beginning to look like a possibility.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

How to Publish Ebooks – an Ebook Publishing Intensive by Mark Coker

26 July 2015

Thanks to Chris for the tip.

With 10,699 books printed, Windsor library’s self-publishing machine is a hit

22 July 2015

From the Windsor Star:

Sue Perry likens her role at the Windsor Public Library to that of a midwife.

Perry runs the main library’s self-publishing Espresso Book Machine which has produced 10,699 books in three years and she hopes to be even busier delivering professionally-bound paperback books into the hands of local authors.

Windsor was the first public library in Canada to install such a machine in 2012 so it wasn’t clear how well it would be received. Three years later, the service isn’t a money-maker but its growing popularity and a proposed fee increase could help it break even.

Perry said it’s not about turning a profit but providing a service that, in this case, led to the birth of a writer’s group and gave people a way to publish their work even if they only want one book.

. . . .

The machine is growing in popularity. In its first half year, the machine pumped out 986 books. So far this year, it has printed more than 4,000 books.

There have been more than 248 individual titles produced, books in English, Arabic, Polish, Spanish and French, and authors from teenagers to writers in their 80s. Although people can make a copy of an out-of-print book, 98 per cent of the customers are self publishing, she said. There are children’s books, textbooks, memoirs, fiction novels, how-to manuals and genealogy books.

Link to the rest at The Windsor Star

Life as an Indie Author in 5 Words or Less

21 July 2015

How Chicago’s Weirdest Bookstore Keeps Its Edge

18 July 2015

From Inc. Magazine:

On a frosty night last January, noisy, skinny-jeaned crowds pressed into cocktail bars and dance clubs around Chicago’s Wicker Park. Meanwhile, inside a small brick neighborhood storefront, about 20 young people sat at tables, laboring to express their visions, their aesthetics, their whimsies, or their true selves with pens, paper, and scissors. Many had brought sleeping bags and pajamas, planning to spend the night. With luck, whatever they produced would soon be displayed for sale on the shelves around them.

Manager Liz Mason calls the annual slumber party her favorite event on the packed calendar of Quimby’s Bookstore. “It’s a bunch of cute, nerdy, zine-ster and comics kids. They work in total silence or just whisper to each other,” she says. Quimby’s holds the event in January, she explains, “because it fuels your creative fire when you still have that New Year’s resolution to put out another issue of your zine.”

The zines Mason refers to are self-published print magazines. They flourished in the 1980s and — weirdly, wonderfully — may be even more abundant in the digital age. Personal and idiosyncratic, zines range from the artistically provocative (“Crap Hound” uses clip art to test the boundaries of fair-use doctrine) to the smartly snarky (“How to Talk to Your Cat About Abstinence” is part of a series for a hypothetical audience of right-wing pet owners). Someone looking for a specific title may have a tough time. Amazon fodder this isn’t. Fortunately for zine fans, almost all fetch up at Quimby’s, which stocks thousands.

. . . .

Svymbersky understood that when outsiders find someplace that treats them like insiders, they respond with gratitude and loyalty. Quimby’s has never made much money. But it is a magnet for artists and iconoclasts, the freethinking and the curious. By contrast, conventionally minded folks often feel intimidated or uncomfortable in this outré environment. “The frat boy types will wander in and say, ‘Awesome!'” says Kirsammer. “Then they really look around. Blink. Blink. And they say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go now.'”

For small presses and self-publishers, Quimby’s can be the skewed trellis up which they clamber. “There’s this wonderful synchronicity between our community and their community, and so we grew together,” says Joe Biel, the founder of Microcosm Publishing, whose books include Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Records and Hot Pants: Do It Yourself GynecologyAlthough based in Portland, Oregon, Biel periodically brings authors to do signings at Quimby’s, bunking down at Mason’s house on more than one occasion. “The magnitude with which they promoted our titles is incalculable,” he says.

. . . .

Svymbersky opened Quimby’s in a former bodega, which at the time was surrounded by pretty much nothing. Within the first week cartoonist Chris Ware — now famous, then largely unknown — came in. Coincidence #1: Ware lived around the block. Coincidence #2: he had created a comic strip starring Quimby the Mouse: a two-headed rodent that suggests what might happen if Mickey went skinny-dipping nearThe Simpsons’ nuclear plant. “I immediately asked him, “How about you do my sign and my business cards?'” Svymbersky says. The mouse became the store’s logo.

To promote Quimby’s, Svymbersky prowled Chicago’s pulsing alternative scene — concerts, gallery openings, tattoo shops. “I went anyplace that had the smell of being underground, and I would always have flyers with me.” Ware and Dan Clowes, another now-famous cartoonist who also lived nearby, acted as heralds. “They immediately told all the other underground cartoonists in Chicago, and within a couple of weeks I knew everybody,” says Svymbersky. “We had signings right away. I had their original artwork on the walls.”

Link to the rest at Inc. Magazine and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

The Secret World of Kindle Gold Rushers

17 July 2015

From The Hustle:

So there’s a group of people who make a living churning out dozens of lowbrow Kindle books a month. I call them Kindle Gold Rushers. Some of them make hundreds of thousands of dollars selling ebooks on niche categories.

In this week’s story, we hear from one of the top selling Kindle Gold Rushers. He’s 26 years old, sells 6,000 books a month, and nets $150,000+ a year.

On the surface it’s a badass story of success: a young professional quits his job, becomes a self-published author, and earns six figures per year. Except for one thing: he doesn’t actually write the books he publishes. Instead, he has a team of outsourced writers and creatives who pump out dozens of books a year to game Amazon and dominate various book categories.

. . . .

Before my life as a semi-famous, best-selling self-help Kindle author, I was an corporate cog in the wheel with a meaningless graduate degree. I was grinding out 70 hours a week in an office with no sunlight, focused on becoming a senior associate and eventual partner.

By the time I was 24 years old, I was bored and unhappy. Something had to change in my life. After reading an article on Kindle authors and how their income was pretty much passive after the book launched, I thought, “What the hell. Maybe I should give writing a try.”

After checking out the self-help section in the Kindle store, I noticed how godawful the writing was. I couldn’t tell if someone had outsourced their book to a non-native English speaking writer (which is common), or if it was actually someone’s legitimate effort at a book. I was shocked that anyone (a) put this stuff for sale, and (b) the books actually sold.

. . . .

Before writing, I created a three-page outline based on the tables of contents I had seen in other books. My first book was 18,000 words (40 pages). It was on how to be more persuasive, something that I know quite well. It took two weeks to write.

Since it was non-fiction, I didn’t have to fact check or cite anything/anyone, which was one of the reasons it only took two weeks to write. That’s the beauty of writing self-help books (and why it’s easy to game) – there’s never really a wrong answer.

After writing the draft, I had a cover made on Fiverr. A graphic designer in the Philippines created what I wanted for $5. Then I uploaded the book to the Amazon Kindle store.

11 copies sold the first month and 30 copies the second, netting 35 cents from each sale. The sales came organically from the Amazon search. Not much, but I enjoyed the prospect of being a published author, so I kept writing. After all, whose first effort ever hits the mark? I applied everything that I had learned about the process to my following books.

. . . .

I wrote 8 books within a few months, all on similar topics. Two of them were each making $1,000 a month, and I was netting over $4,000 per month from Amazon. I literally did nothing to get a sale after the initial writing and launch.

. . . .

I was spending a ton of time — about two weeks — writing and editing each book. I’d heard that a ton of other Kindle authors hired ghostwriters so they could churn out a dozen books a month. To scale up my process and start making real dollars, I needed one myself.

. . . .

I tried eLance and Craigslist, but Warrior Forum was the winner. I was only making $3000 a month, so I couldn’t afford a premium ghostwriter, which costs around $1000 per book. Plus, the actual writing wasn’t that important.

. . . .

I auditioned 8 writers by sending them an outline for a book. They sent back 2,000 word essays. The person I chose deviates as he pleases to fit his vision of my outlines, which I like. He has great English, can fill space (which is all I need), and most importantly, he lives in the Philippines, which means he’s cheap. For $150 per book, I send him a 2,000 word outline and 7 days later he sends me a 20,000-word book. I spend about a week editing those 20,000 words It’s that easy.

I make (net) around $1,000 each month per book.

. . . .

I have a best-seller on gardening, an activity I’ve literally never done. These books are only about 20 pages and simple to create. I find books that are selling well, check out their tables of contents, look at the negative reviews to see what they missed, and then do a little research on the web. I create a 20 chapter outline, filling each chapter with 4-5 bullet points about main ideas, angles to explore, and specific things to mention. Once I have an outline, I send it off to the ol’ ghostwriter. one week later, I get my manuscript.

. . . .

After publishing a book, Amazon gives you the option of giving it away for free for up to 5 days. This is when I used to send the book to 20 friends to review. I’d write each review for them, so all they had to do is copy and paste.

This worked well, but it was also a pain in the ass, so I recently started paying someone to find reviewers for me.

I found my fake reviewer on Craigslist after I posting an ad looking for a content writer. He ended up being a part of some kind of review circle that I still don’t really understand, but I pay $3 per review that he gets me.

Link to the rest at The Hustle and thanks to Dave for the tip.

In the E-Book Economy, Big Authors Lose Money to Big Publishers Losing Ground

14 July 2015

From The Observer:

Readers might think that buying an electronic copy of an author’s book on their Kindle delivers more profit to writers. After all, the marginal cost to a publisher for each e-book is effectively zero (that is, the cost to publish an additional unit). It turns out, though, that if you’re buying a book from one of the big publishers, the writer earns less than he or she would had the reader purchased a paper copy, according to data collected by The Authors Guild.

On the other hand, the big publishers are not as good at selling e-books as indie authors, who keep all the money after Amazon takes its cut. According to data from Author Earnings, the major publishers command a smaller and smaller proportion of the bestselling e-books on Amazon every month.

The Authors Guild argues that there’s no reason why the profit split should differ from paper books to electronic. They offer data from several major titles to illustrate that authors have deals that short them on income for e-book sales.

. . . .

One might think that, since publishers have managed to gouge their writers on e-book royalties, they would have a strong incentive to move digital units, but they are losing ground in the e-book economy every month.

The fifteen month trend-line for the big five publishers (Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster), in terms of market share of e-book bestsellers, has been downward. The top companies had 20 percent of the titles in the Amazon bestselling ebook list in February 2014, 19 percent in January 2015 and 14 percent in May 2015.

What have those companies been doing in the last several months to increase their share of the e-book market? Naturally, they have been increasing cover prices for digital titles, which is a tried and true way to up sales, right?

. . . .

Small and medium publishers are also staying flat. Meanwhile, indie published books are going up. In terms of unit sales, indie publishers pulled ahead of the big publishers around the beginning of this year.

The argument for sticking with major publishers in the era of digital publishing has long been that they can deliver value and drive more sales. What an author gives up in terms of control is more than made up for in profit that the big guns of literature can deliver.

However, as  the big publishers lose market share, that argument grows specious. In fact, increasing cover prices is especially problematic. Authors’ job security comes from building an audience. Higher prices will cut into sales, making it harder for these writers to build a following that can support them when time runs out on their present employers.

Indie publishers are winning, in part, because they are just a bit less precious about their books. The average price of indie published e-books has been hovering around $4. It even went down a little, recently, since the leading publishers’ prices went up.

Link to the rest at The Observer and thanks to Anonymous for the tip.

Next Page »