I once read a piece on advice for writers by an established author. Step one was, if one had not yet done so, to go to college and spend several years pursuing a degree in English. I was blown away. Was this a joke? I read the whole article: No, the writer was dead serious. And this was not an isolated comment. All traditional advice for writers seems to imply that they have an arduous uphill trek before them. It seems that would-be writers are supposed to spend years and years reading hundreds if not thousands of books while honing their craft, rewriting their books over and over, and getting rejected again and again before being published (if ever). It's a long and painful, but necessary, process that will make them better writers, if they survive.
Before I write anything more let me state that I am all in favor of writers improving themselves. I do not favor mediocrity. Each of us should have a willingness to do better. This is not only because we are writers, but because that is what we should do as individuals.
However, when you read some of the notions out there about what a writer should go through, you wonder whether the traditional writing world is controlled by masochists and sadists. There seems to be the idea, perhaps ingrained in our wider culture, that unless we suffer, what we achieve is not worthwhile; and the more suffering the better! It appears that if a writer has not been rejected hundreds of times while eking out a poverty-level living, working by day, and writing by night, then the writer is not "serious", and what he/she writes is probably "not good".
To these notions I only have this to say: thank God for e-books and self-publishing!
In traditional publishing many writers take a long time to get published going from one depressing rejection to the next, and even if their books are accepted the whole publication process moves as slow as an anemic snail. Finally, of course, no matter how perfect the book is, it may not sell, in which case it will be removed from the shelves, and go out of print. However, self-publishing your book electronically can reduce this time (and the pain involved) by orders of magnitude. Most books including e-books do not sell well. But if your e-book does not sell that much, not only can you lower the price to get more sales (or at least more readers), but your e-book will remain on the virtual shelves forever, gathering sales at its own pace and taking its time to find its readers, while you write your next book.
Self-publishing is much faster, easier, cheaper, and anyone can do it. You can take your book directly to the reader without someone vetting you because they think your book is not good enough or will not sell. What is wrong with that? Why is slower, more complicated, and more expensive better? Why suffer more when you can suffer less?
I can already hear the cries, "The quality! The quality! What about the quality?" Yes, I agree, without gatekeepers a lot of people will publish substandard stuff, but that is just the nature of the rough beast that is slouching towards Bethlehem to be born (sorry for that Mr. Yeats). It will be the end-user, the reader, who will decide whether what is published is good enough for them by buying or not buying the books.
Folks, the genie is out of the bottle. Let's not fight among ourselves about what is good or desirable. This will happen so don't oppose it, just find a way to deal with it. According to some polls as many as 80% of Americans feel they have a book in them. That is about 200 million people. Get ready out there because them books are a-comin, and the vast majority won't be paper books!
This is funny but a good reminder of the toils and troubles awaiting you if you want to write a novel and how you shouldn't be naive about it. However, I think the characters in the video represent extreme positions.
I am not sure I agree with everything outlined here, but I do agree that writers should think about their readers and the ways in which their writing affects those readers. Thinking in these terms can radically alter the way you promote your book and help you connect with the end user of your product. The video is 23:51 minutes long but worth watching: great food for thought!
I wrote before in my blog that sales of e-books would probably increase faster than expected. Now Amazon.com has put out a news release revealing that its sales of Kindle books have exceeded those of its print books. This is good news for authors considering going the self-publishing route. The bad news is that the Kindle store has 950,000 e-books. So, if you self-publish your book, the Kindle store will have 950,001 books. How will you make your e-book stand out over the other 950,000? Time for a reality-check?
Many people are excited about the e-book revolution and I am one of them. Like thousands of other authors I am gearing up to self-publish my work and trying to find the right strategy. Although I keep telling myself that I have to be realistic in my expectations, I can't help but be caught up in the excitement; and who wouldn't? I wrote an article on Scribd that mentioned how the writer Barry Eisler turned down a $500,000 offer from a major publishing house because he thinks he can do better publishing e-books on his own (Self-Publishing and the Shot Heard Around the World). We have all heard the stories, including how Joe Konrath makes tens of thousands of dollars a month selling his e-books, how Amanda Hocking, the poster girl for e-publishing, recently accepted a $2,000,000 offer from Saint Martin's Press for a series of books, and how John Locke makes more than $100,000 a month selling 99 cent thrillers . We also know that e-book sales are sky-rocketing and well on their way to leaving paper sales behind.
Few of us think we will be the next Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking, but we dream that if we could make say, at least a low fraction of those figures, we would be happy; and why not? We believe we are reasonably competent (at least our readers tell us so) and we are willing to make the effort and do the hard work of publishing and promoting our books. So why won't we be successful?
Before you read on I don't want you to get me wrong, maybe you and I will be successful at e-publishing but there are some sobering statistics that we should be aware of. If you go to the site of the e-publisher Smashwords this is one of the things you can read in their marketing guide:
"...most books, whether they’re traditionally published or self-published, don’t sell well. Whether your book is intended to inspire, inform or entertain, millions of other books and media forms are competing against you for your prospective reader’s ever-shrinking pie of attention."
So what are the stats for e-book publishing? Smashwords has more than 18,000 published authors. Of these fewer than 50 (less than 0.3%) are making $50,000 a year. The vast majority of authors are not selling well at all. At Amazon it is not that different with many low-priced books not even selling a single copy. And I don't need these numbers to know this. I have exchanged messages on Twitter and other forums with published authors and their most common complaint is that their books are stuck in "low sales limbo". I want to add that these were authors who worked hard and went through all the recommended media marketing motions.
Of course we would all like to think that we will be the exception rather than the rule, and maybe some of us will, but let's be honest and accept this reality check. Going by the available stats, if all of us aspiring authors choose to self-publish, a majority will not sell very well. This is even more likely in the case of people like me, a no-name author without a large following.
I have lived long enough to have accumulated a significant number of scars from the sparks that fly in that threshold where dreams meet reality. So I am trying to tone it down. I try to tell myself that I am doing it for the experience, for the fun, and so forth. The truth however, is that I can't help dreaming: it's like falling in love. Like that Linda Ronstadt song that goes, "People tell me love's for fools, here I go, breaking all the rules...it's so easy to fall in love". And perhaps it is necessary, perhaps without wild unrealistic dreams, as without love, we would not write anything to begin with.
So, my fellow writers, I guess the take home lesson is, dream, love, and write, but don't quit your day jobs.
Author Cynthia Robertson published in her blog a piece about the bad quality of self-published books. She made a lot of valid points regarding this topic but I felt I needed to reply and make some points of my own.This was my reply:Hi Cynthia, thanks for stopping by my Scribd article (Self-Publishing and the Shot Heard Around the World) and leaving a comment. I replied to you there, but allow me also to do it here.
I agree that we should strive to be better writers and that a badly written book can be a hindrance to its enjoyment. However, I have two comments to make.
The first is that many people will settle for less than perfection. In fact most people are not so much interested in the English as they are interested in the story, and how it thrills them, inspires them, or relates to their situation, values, etc. This is the point that many purists of the language don't understand.
The second is that most authors do not have the money to pay for a professional editor or other services. Until recently the editors/publishers held every author to their high standards keeping some great stories from being told. With the e-book revolution the difference today is that editors and publishers are no longer the gatekeepers and authors can present their work directly to the readers.
Now if editors/publishers are smarter than their dinosaur distant relatives they will have the good sense to evolve and extend an olive branch to self-published authors. They should approach authors and say things like, "Hey, for a reasonable percentage of your sales, we can edit and format your books and make them better." Then they should also have the good sense to not charge for e-books the same amount they charge for paper books. Finally, inclusion of self-published authors in the best seller lists will be a plus too. When these things happen, there will be a dialogue and an understanding. On the meantime the clock is ticking...and traditional publishing is dying.
I can only compare reading Barbara's Mirror talk to appreciating a pointillist painting. When you begin to read it up close, the author lays down the colored dots of her life leaping from past to present and back. Sometimes you wonder what she is up to, but as you keep reading, and you step back, the dots form patterns, and patterns of patterns, until finally you get to the end and are able to see the whole; and it all makes sense. Anyone can live a life and write about it, but poets like Barbara have the best skill to examine said life, and place the right dots side by side to conjure up a gestalt that they can present to others in a way that is beautiful, meaningful, and entertaining.
But this book is not one of the many self-serving memoirs you read out there. In this one Barbara deals honestly with the rough edges of family life, her religious upbringing, her faith, her life choices, and she does not shy away from expressing her opinions. She is curious about her journey and her destination, about who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be.
There were many things that I particularly enjoyed. Chapters like "Make Mine Cognac" or "The Snowball Incident" were very funny, whereas other chapters like "The Goddard Experience" really soared. The metaphor of the three balloons was amazing and Thalia's request to Zeus was hilarious. Barbara also includes in this book a few fine poems of which "A Child's Poem" is truly riveting.
All in all it was an enjoyable and thought-inspiring read, the sort of experience that enriches your life. I recommend that you buy her book and read it before facing that mirror on your wall.
I love this image that I found on Facebook. It's like the center of a flower. I view it as a metaphor of the things we can create when we work together and interact with one another. The image was posted along with a quote from Richard Rhodes about fear of writing.
In a past post in this blog I discussed one particular way of dealing with writer's block. This is: if you have writer's block, then write about having writer's block! I discussed two ways to do this. The first is to merely write about having it. The second involves not just writing about it but antagonizing the beast, bringing it out into the open and wrestling with it analyzing it and defining it.However, there is a third way, embrace the beast! Yes, seek the creature were it hides in the dark recesses of your imagination and when you find it, walk willingly into its arms (give in to the dark side Luke!). Consort with it, let it inseminate you with its wicked seed, and then gestate and deliver into this world its twisted offspring!(Insert maniacal laughter here)OK, what the heck am I talking about?If you want to understand please first read this very short story that I posted on Scribd: She's Back! (if you already read it keep on reading).The premise of the story is simple. To what extremes would a writer go to get rid of a bad case of writer's block? Especially a writer who has figured out the inner workings of his muse and the terrible thing he has to do to keep her coming back to him.You see my point? Take your weakness, that anxiety, that depression, that barrenness that you are experiencing, and turn them into your strength. Writer's block can inspire stories, they may not be pretty, but they will get you out of your creative funk.Now, if you allow me, I can't resist going over what the writer in the story discovered about muses. I will call it:Museology 1011) A muse is not an abstraction, a muse is a shape-shifting trans-dimensional being that feeds on our desire to create. It provides us with ideas, we take the ideas and break them down and reorganize them into stories and the muse feeds on the energy generated by the whole process.2) Much in the same way that you won't eat eggs and bacon every day, a muse will not stay forever with one writer, it needs a balanced diet.3) When you muse deserts you, it doesn't disappear, it goes off with another writer and gives that writer the ideas it would have provided to you. Therefore that writer will write or will finish writing the stories you would have written if the muse had stayed with you. Your muse will eventually return to you, just like you decide to eat eggs and bacon after not eating them for a while, but when this will happen is anyone's guess.4) Now here is the crucial fact. If something were to happen to that "other" writer, say for example an "accident" like being hit on the head with a blunt object and buried in a basement, the muse will automatically return to the previous writer.So you see dear reader, this is the type of inspiration and ideas you get when you embrace your "inner beast". Thank you for your attention, I hope both that you find the inspiration to write some great stories, and that you have gained some understanding of the plight of your fellow writers out there suffering writer's block. Remember also to be kind enough to accept an invitation to their house for dinner. ; ^ )Phantomimic