The Business of Writing

Canadian Writers Working Harder While Earning Less

29 May 2015

From The Writers’ Union of Canada:

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) has released today a summary report from its latest income survey of Canadian writers. Devaluing Creators, Endangering Creativity contains the very bad news that writers in Canada are making 27% less from their writing than they were making in 1998 (when last surveyed to this extent). What’s more, a full 45% of those surveyed indicated they are working harder in order to earn that lower amount.

The Writers’ Union believes these results represent a cultural emergency for Canada. For 81% of respondents, income from writing would not allow them to live above the poverty line, and the average writer’s income ($12,879) is a full $36,000 below the national average. This despite the fact that writers have invested in post-graduate education in large numbers.

“This is not a sustainable situation,” said TWUC Chair Harry Thurston. “If we want a strong and diverse publishing and cultural industry in Canada, it’s essential that creators are reasonably rewarded. Everyone — governments, corporations, institutions, and individual consumers — have a part to play in fairly compensating writers for the content they expect, need and enjoy.”

Similar findings have emerged from recent income surveys in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Writers’ incomes are in steep decline across the English-language publishing industry. Changes to contracts and publishing practices (declines in royalty percentages and advances on sales), industry consolidation, as well as worldwide pressure on professional creators to work in a disastrously weakened copyright environment are all likely contributors.

Link to the rest at The Writers’ Union of Canada and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

It’s interesting to PG that this announcement from Canada is released at the same time The Authors Guild announces a steep decline in the income of traditionally-published authors in the United States.

Both announcements fail to mention the incomes of indie authors.

Writing by Committee

26 May 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I had a shudder moment yesterday. While researching something else, I read a New York Times interview on leadership with Gina Centrello, president and publisher of Random House Publishing Group. (No, she’s not the head of Random House. Just a section of it.)

She mentions the importance of teamwork in the publishing industry. She’s running a huge section of a major company. Of course there needs to be a team, and of course, the team needs to work toward a common goal.

In the article, she says some of the right things about writers, like:

Authors are fascinating people, and as a publisher, your job is to make their work public

Okay, that’s simplistic, but this is an interview, and one thing about interviews is that the interview’s subject has to simplify major concepts to be clear.

But the article bothered me, not from a business perspective, or even from what’s on the page. Just based on some things bestselling writers have told me about working for Random Penguin. This paragraph bothered me in particular:

Our group is composed of a ton of stars, but they’re part of this bigger galaxy. If you want to be a solo artist, you’re probably not going to be happy in our group. If anyone doesn’t succeed here, that’s usually why.

Again, she’s talking about working inside the publishing company. When you’re dealing with that many employees and a division as large as the one she manages, having an outlier employee might be a problem. (It might also be a boon, but that’s another article.)

However, that line: If you want to be a solo artist, you’re probably not going to be happy… kept reverberating for me. Because novelists are by definition solo artists.

. . . .

I do read bestsellers—generally, though, I started reading these writers before they became bestsellers—and many of their latest works have become frighteningly predictable.

Some are predictable in the way that writers become predictable once you’ve read a lot of their work. I was the annoying twelve-year-old who read every one of Agatha Christie’s mysteries (in a month) until I saw the pattern: the killer was always the person with the little or no motivation to commit the murder. Murder on the Orient Express was the one that made me quit because… SPOILER…

I had this thought as I read, “No one has a motive. She wouldn’t have all of them do it, would she?”

Turns out I was right.

END SPOILER (although, really, if you don’t know this one by now, you’re clearly not a mystery reader or a movie fan).

All writers have patterns, and sometimes, if you binge-read, you learn what those patterns are.

Those patterns are unique to the writer, so if you only read a few of the writer’s works, you’ll never see the pattern at all.

The patterns that have been kicking me out of so many bestsellers these days aren’t unique to the writers. The patterns aren’t even unique.

They’re storytelling patterns—familiar ones. The kind that tell me if the writer does A, then B will follow. A writer’s job isn’t to move from A to B. It’s to move from A to M, then back to E, and maybe all the way to Z before ending with L.

A lot of these authors specifically thank their “team” for help with the writing experience. Most writers have trusted readers, usually unfamiliar names to the rest of us. These unfamiliar names are friends and family, people who may not be in publishing at all.

But the writers I’m mentioning? They thank their publishing team for the help with the storytelling.

Since I started the blog on publishing six years ago, a lot of #1 New York Times bestsellers contacted me privately to talk with me about indie publishing. Many of these bestsellers had “retired” and all of them, to a person, mentioned the lack of respect at their Big 5 publishing house.

It seemed to these writers that the Big 5 publishing team thought they knew what sold better than the writer did. As one romance writer said to me, “Maybe they do know what sells well. But I became a bestseller without their help, and they have nothing to add creatively. They just want me to dumb things down.”

That romance writer retired, left her publisher, and now has left retirement to publish on her own. Her fans are happy, and so is she.

. . . .

A bestselling mystery writer told me that his treatment the last several years with his Big 5 publisher was so disheartening he thought he’d never write again. Again, he was told he didn’t know what sold and that he had to write the way that the company told him to, so that he could sell his books. Like the romance writer, he got angry. He’d sold a lot of books before these editor/publishers had even had a career in publishing.

So, rather than deal with that, he retired.

But he couldn’t stop writing. Also like the romance writer, he revived his career and his passion for writing by self-publishing.

. . . .

Corporate publishing has changed the game. With the emphasis on quarterly profits, the decline in a real sales staff, and the lack of institutional memory (due to so many in-house layoffs), the folks who work in traditional publishing are trying to make a fast buck by selling sure-thing products.

The problem here isn’t just with the publishers. It’s also with the writers who acquiesce. I know how seductive it is to have someone tell you what to do with your writing.

Even strong personalities, like the writer whose work I just quit reading forever and ever, can be seduced with the right language.

Your fans expect you to have a strong romance

Your fans won’t like a graphic murder scene

Your fans read your work for comfort; this book isn’t comforting

And so on.

Writers in these situations will often say that they and their agent are partners or that they and their editor will hone the book into the best book it can be.

But they’re wrong. And that’s why the books are starting to sound the same. The suggestion that the writer who is still with the Big 5 company received from her publisher  was so trite as to be the kind of cliché that movie-goers make fun of.

Big 5 publishers are patterning their business on the Hollywood model in a variety of ways. They want blockbusters, so they’re demanding that their writers produce blockbusters according to formula, even in original work. (Tie-ins are another matter; the writer is under contract to produce formula.)

. . . .

Last month, I spoke to a long-time bestseller who told me (like so many other bestsellers) that he doesn’t have time to deal with business or publishing his own work. He doesn’t deal with business now—his agent and his business manager do, so he can just write books.

I found myself wondering how much money his assistants helped themselves to over the years. But I’m too polite to ask questions like that in public. Usually I don’t say a lot to people when they tell me in person that they’re too busy as writers to handle things like finances. Sometimes I can’t shut up, though, as in the case last year of a writer who told me how much she adored the agency that represents her. It’s one of two that I caught embezzling from me.

. . . .

Some committees do work well together—a very creative writers’ room in a television series, for example—but most do not.

And no committee composed of business types can help on the creative end. That’s why the suggestions coming from the suits are usually mediocre and why suggestions based on an assumed fan/audience expectation are bad.

Audiences expect to be entertained, but the entertainment should be unique to the entertainer. That’s you, writers. I know it’s scary, but the best writers work without a net.

Many, many, many bestselling authors tell the sales force or the publisher/president to take a flying leap when the suits make suggestions that put the suits directly inside the creative process. Many of the bestsellers who “retired” did so because they didn’t want to deal with that ridiculous attitude any longer, and those bestsellers retired before indie publishing became an option.

Once it became an option, these writers embraced it. Their sales are at the same level (or better) than they were when the writers were with their traditional publishers, and the writers are making a lot more money.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Linda for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s books

PG says the consolidation of publishing into a handful of big conglomerates is death for creativity. The corporate mentality invariably runs to something like “Give me another Hunger Games” or “We’re looking for the next Fifty Shades.”

Whatever generated that big quarter last year is what the suits want to do again this year. In their perfect world, the publisher would release one huge book every quarter, quarter after quarter. Think of how much excess headcount you could cut with a business model like that.


10 things authors learn the hard way

26 May 2015

From BDaily:

Writing workshops and books, professional advice, even Google, won’t answer every question an author may have. Some knowledge can only be gained by personal experience. The following list stems from genuine reports by authors I’ve either spoken to or worked with, across the globe. Individual points are not meant as sweeping statements; there may be a good portion of authors who have different outcomes and opinions. Nevertheless….

No one but you cares as much about your book  

Agents, publishers and publicists – and especially readers – don’t have the same emotional investment as the author of a book. They might just as easily prefer another book on the same subject, or easily forget your title altogether; with over 14 million books to choose from, that yours will be the best, most unique book they’ve ever come across is unlikely. Dump the ego, and work on enticing them to look at your book in the first place. Help them to make their buying decision, don’t just assume that once seen, automatically sold.

Traditional publishing is not better than self-publishing

Yes, TP has a lot going for it, but it also has its downsides. Sacrifices to become a TP author may include your book no longer being recognisable to you, little control over the book’s aesthetics, a long, long time to market and vastly reduced royalties. That’s not to say self-publishing doesn’t have any cons; TP and SP are essentially just different ways to publish that should each be thoroughly investigated.

Traditional publishers commonly display shiny book syndrome

Your book’s out, you ride the publicity wave for a few months, then…..nothing. Though your book will be in the publisher’s back catalogue, and will undoubtedly have a strategy behind its continued promotion, your publisher will switch their attention to their newest author, time and time again. Neither can you pick up the mantle; your contract with them may restrict the marketing you do off your own back. A Catch-22 situation indeed.

. . . .

Publishing is an unscrupulous business

Vanity publishing, scams, fake competitions, companies only looking to make money out of you….there are many of them about. If your gut tells you it doesn’t feel right, it most probably isn’t. It’s very rare for a traditionally published author to financially contribute to their project (usually, only when certain copyrights or research needs to be obtained), and it should also be clear to a self-publisher what their upfront costs of production are – and it’s not as expensive as you may think. If you’re quoted a price above a couple of thousand run it by me – or just run.

Link to the rest at BDaily

No, Not Anyone Can Write a Good Book

21 May 2015

From The Daily Beast:

I went into book publishing for the same reason I suspect most people are drawn to the field: I loved books and dreamed of one day writing my own. I started as an editorial intern and transitioned to publicity in academic publishing, small independent presses, and finally the big leagues: the Random House Publishing Group.

By day I’d stuff galleys (or advance copies of a book, in industry-speak) into envelopes, craft press releases, and leave prattling messages while trying to hide the tremble in my voice to newspaper editors who deliberately screened calls from book publicists like me. By night I’d scribble pages toward a novel turned memoir turned essay collection and back to a novel again—a racket that went on for five years before I finally quit publishing to pursue my MFA (and had to scrap that nebulous manuscript and start afresh).

It’s not uncommon to see industry professionals making the leap from publishing to published. Toni Morrison famously edited Random House authors before becoming one herself.

. . . .

“There’s a sense of solidarity in the work that remains the same today, though the business has changed enormously in all sorts of ways. But it’s still absolutely Us Against the World.”

But the same impetus that led me to publishing was the reason that I decided to leave. In an interview on The Days of Yore, Harrison says, “When you work in publishing, you can spend an endless amount of time working. You take work home. After I had been doing it for about six months, my husband said, ‘This is really stupid. You spend all your time working on other people’s writing, but you’re not getting any done yourself. I want you to change that.’”

. . . .

Former Vintage and Columbia University Press editor Peter Dimock also describes the moment he vowed to go full-steam with his own writing—no matter how long it took. After a phone editing session with one of his authors, he suddenly felt “a surge of bitterness and resentment that came close to rage. I realized I was jealous because no one was doing for me what I was doing for him—and that was what I most wanted.”

Having worked in the business made me think I knew how the sausage factory was run, but in continuing with this oft-used publishing metaphor, I knew nothing about raising the pig from which the sausage was made. As difficult as it was to publish and promote books in a shrinking market, I soon learned it was that much harder to write one in the first place.

. . . .

I found the writing life to be lonely; it requires large blocks of time and depletes your mental reserves. You no longer have the security—or prestige—of an office job, nor the benefits that come with a steady paycheck. For years I took odd jobs carved around those writing blocks with nothing to show for my glacial novel progress, while I watched my publishing colleagues rise through the ranks. I’ve even bagged the groceries of some of them, which I’ll admit is a bit of an awkward experience.

It’s rather surreal for me now to be on the reverse end of the process, as a published novelist. I have a deep appreciation for the efforts of my publicists at Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, but I also recognize the irony of becoming the annoying author who sends them ten emails a day. I remember when I was once in their place—fielding those pesky messages, venting over drinks with colleagues. I hope I’m nothing more than a cameo in those happy hour conversations.

Link to the rest at The Daily Beast and thanks to Des for the tip.

To Win Big, You Have to Enter the Race

19 May 2015

From NYT bestselling author and former writing professor, Dave Farland:

Last week I got a note from a student who just had a novel accepted by a major publisher. He seemed a little surprised at how easily it had happened, as if he’d happened to enter a horserace and had just taken first place by accident.

But it’s no accident. I’ve heard a lot of writers talk about publishing and making money in this business as having an element of chance, as if writers who succeed are just lucky. I’ll grant you, it does seem to me that at times there is an element of chance.

For example, my friend Richard Paul Evans started out as a self-published author. He took his little book out to Book Expo America—a huge trade show—and tried to get a table so that he could display it. But the tables were sold out.

Yet as he was walking through the exhibition halls, he noticed that one table was open—the vendor that had reserved it was a no show—so he quietly set up a little display and talked to people about his book. No one was interested, it seemed, but he was invited to a small bookstore in the South to do a signing.

He went to the bookstore, and signed in the midst of a snowstorm. No one came. He realized that he had wasted his time and thousands of dollars in self-publishing, but then a woman walked in late, just before the store was about to close for the night.

She brushed the snow off of her coat and got to talking to him. She told him that she was a television producer for a morning news show—Good Morning America. Due to the snow, their guest the next morning wasn’t going to be able to make it. She asked if he would be willing to stand in for the missing guest.

. . . .

Was it luck? Coincidence? Perseverance?

I think it was a combination of factors. Richard Paul Evans perseveres. He’s also smart. But eventually, when he most needed publicity, he met someone who happened to need a guest speaker, and it changed his life.

Yet time and time again I meet young would-be writers who say, “You know, those authors who make it big? It’s all a matter of luck.” This becomes their excuse for doing nothing at all.

Link to the rest at David Farland

Here’s a link to Dave Farland’s books

Not All Hybrid Publishers Are Created Equal

18 May 2015

From Jane Friedman via Publishers Weekly:

Since 2013, I’ve been maintaining a chart on the key book publishing paths for authors. My goal is to help people cut through the confusion of the increasing number of options available—from traditional publishing to self-publishing, and everything in between.

It’s that in between part that’s vexing.

. . . .

Will there be a traditional print run—and who’s paying for it?

A print run equates to an investment—someone is taking a financial risk on the book’s success. Having a specific number of books printed anticipates sales and marks confidence that the book will be actively stocked in bricks-and-mortar stores. Authors shouldn’t pay for their own print runs unless they know exactly how and to whom those books will be sold.

Will the book be pitched to retailers or distributors by a sales team?

This means that the publisher calls on specific retail accounts and distributors to secure orders for the book in advance of publication. This step is very unlikely unless there’s investment in a print run as well as a marketing plan.

How will your books be distributed?

Anyone can get a book distributed through Ingram and Amazon via print-on-demand, as long as the files meet certain basic standards. If your book is listed via Ingram, all book retailers can place orders for it. (That doesn’t mean your book will ever sit on a physical shelf, but it can be ordered through a store.) If a publishing service touts being distributed through Ingram, that’s not necessarily a selling point—you can do that on your own.

. . . .

Can you speak to recent authors?

This can be the best litmus test of all. Are other authors pleased with the publisher’s communication and level of involvement? How much value did the publisher add to the process?

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The One Reason You Will Fail at Writing

11 May 2015

From TPV regular and author Shantnu Tiwari:

So this is week 8 of writing with baby challenge. With almost 7000 words written this week, I finished my book at 50,500 words!

Of this, 40,000 were written after the baby was born.

Now I will do one, and only one, editing draft in which I will only fix typos and minor errors. No rewriting at all.

. . . .

I was originally going to write this article as a numbered list. You know, “X Reasons which cause writers to fail”?

But the problem was, no matter how much I tried to make up reasons, at the end of the day, there was actually only one reason.

Just one.

. . . .

And here it is: You will fail at writing if you do not understand that you are not an Arteeste, writing for love.

You are a business.

Which means all the rules of business apply to you.

Link to the rest at Shantnu Tiwari

Here’s a link to Shantnu Tiwari’s books

The Top Five Dumbest Business Practices in Publishing

11 May 2015

From Dean Wesley Smith:

From the real world perspective, publishing is really, really, really known for its head-shakingly stupid business practices. But inside of publishing, these practices have become so common and set in “the way things are done” as to be defended by otherwise sane business people.

So I figured I would honor Dave Letterman’s departure with a quick top five list.

I’ll give the real world equivalent of the publishing practice, then the actual publishing practice, working down to the most stupid publishing practice of them all.

. . . .

Real World: You walk up to a neighbor’s house you don’t really know, but at a neighborhood block party you met them. You ask the neighbor to give you legal advice about a legal contract you have been offered. The neighbor teaches English at the local high school and is not an attorney. Plus it is against the law in your state (and all states) for someone without a law degree to give legal advice. But since the neighbor on his last trip stayed at Holiday Inn Express (remember those commercials?) he agrees to give you advice on the contract and negotiate it for you. Would you ever do that? Of course not. You would go to a lawyer who knows the area of contracts you have been offered.

Publishing: Recent graduates of college with a bachelors in English who have a business card that says “agent” think nothing of giving legal advice to writers and negotiating the contract for them. And writers let them without a second thought. Apply common business sense and hire an IP attorney to handle your contract and negotiations. Duh.

. . . .

Real World: You hire a gardener to mow your lawn when it needs it. In exchange for that simple task, you offer your gardener 15% of your property for the life of the property, plus seventy years past your death. That means the gardener’s grandkids would be getting money from your grandkids because the gardener mowed your lawn once or twice. Would you do that? Of course not. You would simply pay your gardener by the hour or the project.

Publishing: Every agency agreement, both from agents and inside of publishing contracts, gives an agent on a project 15% of the property (remember, copyright is property) for the life of the copyright which is 70 years past your death. And often the agent gets this for a couple hours work one day and a phone call. Apply common sense. If an agent won’t work for a set fee per property, then hire an IP attorney who is licensed and who can do all the same things an agent would do, only legally. And you only pay one set fee or hourly rate. Duh.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to Ava for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books

Debt Collection

8 May 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

When writers get overzealous, they sometimes burn bridges that don’t need to be burned. I saw that last December as one writer who, in trying to deliberately burn a bridge, burned at least five other bridges, probably unknowingly. Editors, writers, and other publishers do work with each other and talk to each other, so realize that when you burn one bridge, you often torch bridges you can’t even see.

All of the tools I discuss in this post can lead to bridge burning if handled incorrectly. You should not burn bridges except in an extreme situation—no matter how much money someone owes you.

. . . .

First, a lot of people say my earnings numbers when discussing freelancing are unreasonably high. No, sorry. Successful freelancers often work in those numbers. I know hundreds of writers who do. And there’s no point in discussing American taxes at the lower earnings numbers either, because if you have a good accountant and you know what you’re doing, you won’t run into major tax issues when you earn $20,000 to $30,000 freelancing. It’s when you get to the higher numbers that taxes should become a major issue.

Second, a number of people said that they would never become freelancers without having a day job in reserve. Not only is that silly, it also shows that the person making the comment should never freelance.

Think of this way: do you have another day job lined up in case your current day job goes belly-up? Because that’s the attitude you’re expressing about freelancing.

Day jobs are no more secure than freelancing. If you believe your day job is secure, then you are deluding yourself. If you work for a major corporation, the office in your area could close without warning. I can cite example after example of company towns that get wiped out economically when the big company pulls its stakes with less than two weeks notice.

If you work for a small company, then you might want to figure out who owns the company and what happens in the event of that person’s death. Because anyone can get hit by a bus tomorrow. Just because someone else pays you doesn’t mean you’re secure.

. . . .

The difference between long-time freelancers and people with long-time day jobs is that the long-time freelancer knows how to handle personal economic ups and downs, and people who lose their day jobs often don’t. Unlike long-time freelancers, people with day jobs have no idea how to function if their primary income source disappears.

That’s what this entire series is about: how to survive the economic ups and downs of freelancing. Which is why I call it the freelance scramble.

. . . .

The problem is that most freelancers don’t know the signs of a business in serious trouble. Good, established businesses will often have cash flow bumps, and payments will sometimes be late. (Usually with explanation.) Sometimes businesses need to revisit their internal models and make course corrections.

In other words, healthy businesses lay off employees, get rid of departments, cut underperforming product lines, and change focus to growth areas. If I thought that every business I’d ever worked with was going out of business when it laid off an employee, I wouldn’t work in publishing any more.

Every single publisher I’ve ever worked with has laid off employees (sometimes en masse), cut book lines, chased new areas of profit, and reorganized entire departments. But let’s leave publishing for a moment.

. . . .

But sometimes the layoffs, shutdowns, and reorganizations are signs of a company in trouble—ironically, because the company hasn’t been making cuts or changes up until that point. In other words, the company put off making the hard decisions, and then, when it’s probably too late, they throw the kitchen sink at everything and hope it will work.

Again, impossible to tell if that’s happening, unless you’re involved in the decision-making

So, if most people can’t tell how a business is doing from the outside, then why am I telling you that freelancers should know? Or at least, should be able to guess?

Because there are some signs. And most of those signs involve payment.

. . . .

What isn’t contract specific is something that most people who work in business have learned over the years. To maintain good relationships with the people you do business with, you give the opposing party the right to cure the problem.

The right to cure is a legal term that I might be misusing, since I’m not a lawyer. But the theory behind the right to cure is a good rule of thumb when you’re dealing with a contract.

. . . .

Whenever someone fails to meet one of the terms of a contract—turning a book in by a certain deadline, making a payment on time—the contract suddenly comes into play. The contract has been violated, but not fatally so.

. . . .

There’s an implied few days or few weeks in which the party who has screwed up has time to make things right without anyone making a fuss.

Unless the contract has some language that penalizes the parties for missing the exact date and time.

. . . .

So, let’s pretend your contract on this project is a standard publishing contract, one that lays out payments and deadlines, but doesn’t ascribe penalties (like late fees for missed payments or automatic cancellation for a missed deadline).

How do you handle it when a payment gets missed?

You write a polite letter, reminding the company that payment is now overdue. The letter should be pretty casual. You should get a response—with a new timeline for payment.

Your letter should say something along the lines of:

Dear [Name],

I’m rather stunned that it’s May. I’ve come out of my latest project and as I put my business affairs in order, I noticed that the contracted payment for [title of project] has not arrived yet.

According to our contract of [such & so date], the payment for [title of project] was due on April 10. [Then you do an update here—you turned in the project on such & so date…]

I’m sure this was just an oversight. Please let me know the status of the payment.

Thank you.

All the best,

Polite, friendly, with a bit of an edge. The implication here is that you’re looking at the contract, and you will take action if the contract terms aren’t met. But you haven’t threatened anyone, and you’re not angry. We all make mistakes.

The response you want from the company is pretty simple: You want your payment. And you want them to want to pay you. At first, you do that with honey. Honey also keeps the relationship intact because, chances are, someone did screw up.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Bruce for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s books

As usual, good advice from Kris. PG doesn’t remember ever suing someone over a contract breach without sending a letter first.

A letter from an attorney can have a bracing effect — PG even sits up when he receives one (emails not so much) — and sometimes, catching a person’s attention is enough to resolve the problem.

At other times, sending a letter has brought a response providing PG with new information that caused him to advise his client to hold up on the lawsuit and go talk to the other party. Sometimes a resolution of the dispute followed soon thereafter.

Writers, Start Building Your Brand Early!

1 May 2015

From author Steven Ramirez:

One of the great challenges for an indie author is dividing time between actual writing and marketing. And I would argue that the same goes for writers who are as yet unpublished. Sometimes, I like to think about giants like Joyce, Fitzgerald and Nabokov. How did those guys do it? Most likely, not at all—or very little. The work spoke for itself. But, hey, we’re talking about us. What are we supposed to do?

If I had to pick one person from history to travel forward in time and demonstrate how it’s done, it would have to be Mark Twain. That guy knew brand, and I’m sure he would do very well using Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Can you imagine? Here are a few of his most famous quotes. And look—they fit so nicely into 140 characters!

All right, then, I’ll go to hell.
I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.
There are lies, damned lies and statistics.

Truman Capote was another famous author who truly understood brand. How about this tweetable quote:

Fame is only good for one thing—they will cash your check in a small town.

. . . .

I’ve met many writers over the years, and I will tell you that most are not comfortable in the spotlight. They are card-carrying introverts who love working behind the scenes, writing great stories which—if they’re lucky—get turned into movies.

If you ask my wife, she will tell you that I am an extrovert. I like being out and about, meeting people and engaging in interesting discussions. That’s just me. But I don’t think I would be comfortable being on the talk show circuit, delivering pithy one-liners in front of a studio audience. I’m better in small groups.

Which leads me to Brand. Many of the more seasoned authors out there know all about this. But there are those like you who are just getting started—who want to understand what it takes to not only write well but market well. As an aside, I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I’m happy to share what I know.

. . . .

How about James Patterson? You have only to utter his name, and book titles and scenes play out in your head. Never mind that he has a writer factory churning out books, he definitely gets brand, my friend.

When you do it right, here is what happens. Not only is your name recognizable but the name itself becomes embedded in the culture on a global scale. Kind of like Kleenex. How many people say, “Can you hand me a tissue?” More often it’s, “Have you got a Kleenex?” The same can be said for Xerox and Coke.

. . . .

Getting back to authors. When you think of horror, what is the first name that comes to mind? Stephen King, right? Of course. He has spent decades building his brand. His name is synonymous with horror.

. . . .

So what does building your brand mean? For me, it’s awareness. I try to be thoughtful about everything I post. I don’t always succeed. But being aware is important because what gets out into the Internet stays forever. So no drunk tweeting, no profanity and no mean-spirited troll attacks on others. A good general rule is to always take the high road.

Linking your digital assets is important as well. There should be a synergy among the various digital destinations you have out there. Make sure your bio and headshot are uniform across the various social media sites.

. . . .

Don’t create a Twitter account, leave the default image and expect to get followers. I mean, seriously? Who in the world is going to follow an egg?

Link to the rest at Glass Highway and thanks to Julia for the tip.

Here’s a link to Steven Ramirez’s books

Next Page »