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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Self-Publishing, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. “Publishing Agnosticism”—What It Is, Why It’s Important, and What It Means for Authors

Eve Bridburg

BY EVE BRIDBURG, Executive Director of GrubStreet

The first time I heard the term “publishing agnostic” was in November of 2011 at the Park Plaza hotel in Boston.   Barry Eisler used it during a talk he gave to the GrubStreet community as part of our NEA-funded Publish it Forward series.   He had shocked the publishing world by turning down a very lucrative book contract from St. Martins arguing that he could do better on his own.  But by November he had decided to publish with Amazon instead.

Some fellow writers and pundits criticized this move to Amazon.   “What gives? “ They asked.  “We thought you had defected to the self-publishing club.”   It was by way of explaining his move from St. Martins to self-publishing to Amazon that Barry described himself as agnostic.

As one definition goes, an agnostic is someone who holds neither of two opposing positions.   I think that’s how Barry was using the term.  He was making the point that his decision to self-publish in the first place wasn’t about his endorsement or love of self-publishing, but rather about choosing the best way to reach his goals.   When a new pathway emerged which better served those goals, he felt no conflict about changing tactics.

But Barry, whether he realized it or not, in using a term with deeply religious connotations, was also asking us – a room full of believers – to be doubters.  He was asking us to question our blind faith in what almost every serious writer we’d worked with up until that point had ever wanted:  a book deal with a traditional publisher.  The bigger the publishing house, the better.

And it wasn’t just our writers.  It was us, the teachers at and leaders of a major independent writing center.  Having existed in the margins in our early years, we were understandably hungry for a track record, for evidence that our work mattered.   And so we celebrated hugely when one of our flock got a story in the Atlantic Monthly or a book deal with Simon and Schuster.   In 2003, we launched our first Muse and Marketplace Conference and soon began inviting literary agents and publishers to Boston to meet our writers.  Many book deals followed.

After Barry’s talk, I started to wonder what being publishing agnostic might mean to us as an organization, and to writers everywhere.   When the world is changing fast under your feet, you need to find your footing before you can decide where to go.   We therefore started articulating our values and principles.

Here’s where we landed:

  1. Writing excellence is paramount because it is “good” writing that transforms lives and the world and entertains at the highest level.  We can debate what “good” means, but for us it’s about the search for truth, hard work, and dedication to the craft no matter the genre.
  2. We are grown-ups. It’s up to each of us as writers and as the professionals supporting writers to understand and own the entire publishing process. It’s incumbent  on each of us to engage in honest self-assessment to determine goals and objectives, strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Community is the glue.  Writing is a lonely, difficult pursuit.  Finding your people and being as generous as possible with them is key.
  4. Success in this space isn’t just measured monetarily.  Money is nice of course when it means book sales for authors and the ability of a place like GrubStreet to provide more jobs, scholarships and free programming, but it’s not the only or most important measure.
  5. Choice is good, especially choice which respects the central role of writers and places control and financial equity in their hands.

These are the things we think about now when evaluating what kinds of programs to offer or who to invite to our Muse and Marketplace conference. This year, we’ll be welcoming A-list literary agents, editors from Random House and Penguin, along side e-publishers like Vook and Amazon.  We’ll have an editor from Ploughshares and another from Electric Literature.   As we always do, we’ll have a bookseller on hand selling the books of our visiting authors, but we’ll also be running an independent author shop for any participant or small press attending the conference.   In short, we’ll be hosting a hybrid conference, inclusive of the many choices and pathways available to authors today.

Most of our writers seem to want the traditional path and that’s great, but it’s our responsibility as a professional development organization for writers to educate them about all pathways, especially since the industry is changing before our eyes.  In our own work and what we bring to writers we now preach agnosticism and save our blind faith for the power and necessity of words.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Eve Bridburg is the founder and Executive Director of GrubStreet, one the country’s leading creative writing centers.  A former literary agent, Eve developed, edited and sold a wide variety of books to major publishers before returning four years ago to GrubStreet to oversee an expansion in programming designed to better equip writers to thrive in the digital age.  She has presented widely about publishing at conferences and writes a monthly blog post called Publish it Forward which can be found at Grubdaily.org

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2. Self-publishing vs. Traditional: Some Straight Talk


I'm thrilled to have a guest post from Natalie Whipple, one of my former clients, who is now a "hybrid" author with experience with both traditional and self-publishing. She is the author of Transparent and House of Ivy & Sorrow, which comes out today, and Relax, I'm a Ninja, which will come out in June!

Here's Natalie's post:

There is a lot of talk online about legacy versus indie publishing and which is better. People seem to spend so much time focused on defending one side or the other, that the details of what each path actually entails get skewed or lost entirely.

To me, arguing which is “better” is a lot like fighting over whether basketball, baseball, or football is the superior sport. They are all sports, they all have a fan base, and they all bring enjoyment to the people who choose to participate in them. Is there really a “better”? Well, no. They’re just different. Same with legacy and indie publishing.

Maybe I see it this way because I’ve chosen to venture into both legacy and indie publishing. I’m what people are now calling a “hybrid” author. So since I’ve been on both sides, today I want to give out neutral, practical information on the difference between Legacy and Indie. I’ll leave it up to you guys to decide what you think is more advantageous or preferable or whatever.

Rights

Most people think of authors selling their books, but really it’s more about selling your creative rights in legacy publishing. A publisher wants to buy your rights to reproduce your words in a certain form—usually a book form. There are also other rights you can sell, like electronic (ebook), cinematic, audio, and translation. In the legacy model, a writer usually obtains an agent who specializes in selling and drawing up fair contracts for these various rights. You get a percentage of profit, your agent gets a cut, and of course so does the publisher.

In indie publishing, a writer keeps all their rights and uses them as they see fit. You could say an indie sells their books because of that. That means they get almost all the profit to themselves, but also have to do all the work themselves as well. Indies effectively become a small publisher of their own work. If they want to sell in audio book format, they have to hire the voice actor and make it happen (yes, you can do that). If they want to translate their novel into Spanish, they can hire someone to do that. Their rights are in their hands, for better or worse.

Control

As alluded to in the previous section, indie publishing is all about control. The writer is in charge. While most authors hire out editors and designers, it’s still the writer who chooses who to work with and what the final product looks like. The writer controls price, marketing, design, everything.

In legacy, a writer gives up a lot of control when they sell rights. Your publisher will decide your cover, the price of the novel, the marketing scope. They will decide when your book releases and when they want to put it out of print. You can argue, but they don’t have to listen.

Payment

Legacy authors receive payment in two ways—advance against royalties, and then royalties if the novel “earns out its advance.” Your contract will contain royalty rates for each book format they purchased rights for. Advances are usually paid in segments upon contract signing, D&A, and publication. If you earn royalties, you may see a check every 6 months, sometimes once quarterly.

Indie writers do not receive advances, but begin to immediately make “royalty” on their work. The royalty received is much higher—usually 60-70% (as opposed to 6-25% legacy depending on format). Online distributers usually pay monthly if a threshold of income is achieved (from $10-100 depending on the place), otherwise it will be held to the next month.

Cost To Author

Legacy publishing has very little upfront cost to an aspiring writer (unless you consider time a cost, which is something to consider). Agents don’t take payments, but receive commission upon selling rights to your work. One you sell a novel, you may be paying for your own travel or marketing materials, but overall the cost can be almost zero if you don’t choose to do those things.

Indie publishing does have an upfront cost. The average for a quality product is around $1500 for a first novel, most of which goes to a freelance editor. Other costs can include interior and cover design, ebook formatting, ISBN purchasing, business license, marketing, purchasing hard copy inventory, etc.

Distribution

Indie publishing can reach many markets it couldn’t previously, thanks to online marketplaces and reduced cost of production in the digital age. An indie writer can make their book available globally without having to own a lot of costly inventory. Legacy publishing still has a leg up in the bookstore and library area, having deep connections and filters that are easy for store/library buyers to use. Though the stigma on indie is slowly lifting, there is still a trust built between established publishers and store/library buyers.

Marketing

Legacy publishing, in theory, gives an author a marketing plan they wouldn’t be able to accomplish on their own. At minimum, they submit their novels to trade reviewers, make them available in the publisher’s seasonal catalog, and make them more visible to store/library buyers who then champion those books to customers. At best (if you are very lucky), legacy publishers send authors on tour, get them big ad spaces in movie theaters, have features in well-known magazines, get radio and TV spots, etc.

Indie writers are responsible for their own marketing, and it’s really a matter of how much money and hustling they want to put into it. An indie can get ad space—it’s just very pricey. They can get trade reviews and other visibility. They can plan their own tours. They just have to foot the bill for everything. So it’s about maximizing visibility at a reasonable cost.


I hope this clears up some of the differences with legacy and indie publishing. But more than that, I hope it helps people see that both avenues have their pros and cons and aren’t necessarily against each other. Publishing is a hard business, no matter how you decide to tackle it. But I personally have found things to love in both methods, and I hope more writers begin to see that they have options and they don’t need to be afraid to explore them.

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3. The Why and How of Self-Publishing

The following is a guest post from the grand prize winner of our 1st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards (featured in InkWell in the May/June 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest).

Judith GilleThe View from Casa Chepitos: A Journey Beyond the Border*   *   *   *   *

The View from Casa Chepitos

The other bad news, for me at least, was that I’d written a memoir. Word on the ground was that memoirs were no longer “de rigeur.” Unless you were a rock star or a lapsed Mormon, a refuge from a currently war-torn country or the victim of incest, chances were slim any editor would be interested. Memoirs written by middle-aged white women were a “dime a dozen,” according to one agent. What agents were looking for was prescriptive nonfiction written by experts with built-in audiences, YA books and genre novels. Thrillers, mysteries, and romances were high on their lists. A semi-literary memoir about Mexican immigrants was not.

I’d gone to the conference thinking I had at least a 50-50 chance of getting an agent’s attention but have since learned that the odds are steep: most of us madly pitching our manuscripts to agents that weekend would probably never land a book deal with a major publisher. So why bother to attend these conferences? Because you can learn about other paths to publishing, and make your dream come true all by yourself.  

I learned from Keith Ogorek’s panel on Navigating the World of Self-Publishing, and by talking to a number of representatives for independent publishers, that self-publishing was the fastest growing segment of the industry. Every week companies were sprouting up to meet the demand in the independent market. Even the big guys wanted in: Simon & Schuster was developing a self-publishing arm (Archway Publishing), Amazon had hired Larry Kirshbaum to head up Amazon Publishing, and the following July, Penguin would buy Author Solutions for $116 million.

Print-on-demand (POD) had finally been perfected to such a point that it was difficult to tell if a book was produced via POD or printed on an offset press. It was faster, easier and cheaper to create a book yourself than ever before. At the WD conference, tables were set up in a hallway where Abbott Press and a number other self-publishing companies were showing off their wares. Examples of books that looked professionally produced and felt good in your hands abounded.

My own prejudice against self-publishing began to wane.

Back home I began researching my options. I looked into the various packages offered by Author Solutions, Archway and Abbott Press. I studied the websites of Bookbaby, CreateSpace, Smashwords and Lulu to see what they had to offer. For various reasons, most of them having to do with the cost, I decided not to use the services of any of the self-publishing companies. I wanted complete control of my product and royalties and figured I could get more bang for my buck by doing it myself. My husband had years of experience in the printing industry and had worked with many small publishers. I’d run my own retail business for thirty-five years and I knew about marketing. Between the two of us we had the skill and expertise to do it.

So, in the summer of 2013, we registered Davis Bay Press with the state of Washington. A few days later I hired a copy-editor and a book designer, and signed Lightning Source on to print 1500 books. By late September my book, The View from Casa Chepitos: A Journey Beyond the Border, was published in e-book form and shortly afterwards in paperback. (I probably could have done it even more quickly if I hadn’t also been working full-time at my day job.)

We officially launched the book in November. More than two hundred people packed the hall at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle that night and we threw a festive Mexican-style fiesta with Mexican fare from the local taco truck and lots of tequila afterwards. We sold lots of books that night. As a matter of fact, in less than six months we’ve sold more than half the books we ordered (in only seven stores) and many more on Kindle.

Despite the long lines at that Pitch Slam at the Writer’s Digest 2012 conference, and lots of authors going way beyond their allotted three minutes, I did manage to successfully pitch seven agents. All of them asked to see the manuscript. Several actually got back to me. Three of them referred to the book as “the next Under the Tuscan Sun.” Unfortunately, none of them offered to represent me. But I’m okay with that.

I’m okay with it because I produced a beautiful, award-winning memoir that is selling well for an independently published book. It’s second only to Tony Cohan’s On Mexican Time for the number positive reviews on Amazon in the Mexican travel category. I’ve already recouped my initial investment, and not a day goes by that I don’t get an email, a note on Facebook or a card in the mail from someone who read it and wants to tell me how much they loved it.

Maybe I could have gotten a small advance and I might have sold more books if a traditional publisher had picked it up. But I doubt if the Mexican family I write about would be benefiting from the book’s success like they are today if one had. Because all of the proceeds from the book sales in Mexico go to them.

The “windfall” enables Lupe to buy shoes for her kids and hire tutors for her daughter who is struggling in school. It helped the entire Cordova-Rodriguez clan take their first-ever vacation—to the beaches of Zihuatanejo in December. Seeing photos of my Mexican godchildren romping in the surf and my friend Gracia and her husband (neither of whom had ever seen the ocean before) dancing in the sand brought me more happiness than a $2,000 advance from a big publishing house ever could have.

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4. Queer Little Chapbooks

Olga Garcίa Echeverrίa

This past week was finals week for me, both as a teacher and a graduate student. When I wasn’t grading student essays, I was cramming for my own exams and rushing to submit final portfolios. Imagine an out of shape 44-year-old baseball player sliding into home plate. Asί terminé.
 
Safe!


I’m happy to say, though, that it wasn’t all pain, sweat, and skid marks. There were those queer little chapbooks that accompanied me during my end-of-the-quarter madness, offering momentary escapes, carcajadas, and poetic musings. I love me some libritos (AKA chapbooks). Aside from being easy-to-carry, they are quick reads and generally inexpensive to make and purchase. Although as a writer I have to say that putting a chapbook together no es cualquier cosita. Tiene su chiste. Tiene su magia.
 
 


 

Take Myriam Gurba’s latest chapbooks, Sweatsuits of the Damned (which won the Eli Coppola Memorial Chapbook Prize of 2013) and A Flower for that Bitch (the story formerly known as A Rose for Emily). Rumor has it there was some Frankensteinish electricity guiding the births of these strange lovely creatures.

Gurba Wielding Chapbook-Making Electricity

 
As always, Gurba's poetry and prose does not disappoint. Her “klassy” rewrite/re-envisioning of Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily, for instance, lo tiene todo: crazy Southern bitches, a mysterious Mexican moso, butcher knives, smelly corpses, and critiques of old-school White privilege, tax evasion, and welfare. There are even warnings of the extreme dangers of not eating enough fiber (this chapbook is good for your health, Raza).

Faulkner’s famous 19th Century character Emily Grierson is the main protagonist in Gurba’s A Flower for that Bitch. But do not fret y’all, you won’t get stuck in the deep South in the post-Civil War era. That would be like having to watch a re-run of Birth of a Nation or Gone with the Wind or as Gurba eloquently sums up, that would be “some Django shit.” To lessen the trauma of the traumatic setting (Mississippi KKK town circa 1890's) Gurba provides us with a subversive re-scripting of Emily Grierson's vida loca. Best of all Gurba give us an orgy of anachronisms, such as sightings of KFC, Norman Bates, Bettie Davis taking a selfie, Christina Ricci in chains and calzones, Homer Simpson, Madonna, and a mention of “the Aztec cure-all: Vicks VapoRub.” Because everyone, even crazy peeps from the Southern post-Civil War era should know about and have access to that beloved Mexican panacea, VapoRu. 
 
This librito, with a photocopied strand of Gurba's hair in the final pages, is too weird of a journey to recreate. You gotta buy and read it yourself to experience and believe it. You will laugh. You will freak out. You will say, "WTF?" If you cry, it will most likely be because you are laughing or because the stench of the smelly corpse in the story rose out of the pages like steam and messed with your eyes and your nostrils. I can't wait to teach "English" Literature again (hopefully soon), so that I can have students write a comparative essay between Faulkner's and Gurba's versions of this story.
 
Gurba's grade for fucking with Faulkner = A+. 


Gurba’s other librito, Sweatsuits of the Damned
está bonito, even if it is wearing a damned sweat suit. Since it’s a Radar Production and a prize winner, the chapbook has a cover made out of fancy cardboard and it is hand-stitched at the center. But don’t let that fool you, it has still got the ghettofabulous Gurba touch, as is evident in her following short poem:

 
Cholo Yoga

Downward facing wassup dog?
Spread ‘em, hands against the wall.

I know it is a tad ridiculious, but isn't it great? When I asked Gurba how she comes up with all this wacky chapbook material, she FB messaged me back with the following: “I will write something that I’m pretty sure is unpublishable but something that I think would like to interact with people. I do believe that things we create enjoy interacting with society, and so I take creativity into my own hands and decide to self-publish. I do it because if I don’t do it, probs no one else will. Even if my art is shitty, it has a right to live. Just like so many unaborted babies who grow up to be shitty adults. I need to be engaged in projects. Otherwise, I feel a desperate sense of languishing. It’s like having homework! Adult homework.”
 
Sigh. I love Myriam. My girlfriend loves Myriam. Everyone I have ever shared Myriam’s work with ends up loving Myriam. Our dear dear Myriam Dearest.


Myriam Dearest

I leave y’all with a short excerpt from Sweatsuits of the Damned. To purchase Gurba’s libritos: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Lesbrain
To read her blogs: http://lesbrain.wordpress.com/
 
Excerpt from Sweatsuits of the Damned

My parents took my twin brother and sister and I on day trips to relatively desolate California missions where Spanish priests once enslaved native people and forced them to tend heirloom goats, make candles from rendered fats, contract poxes, and bury one another in mass graves that resembled capirotada: Mexican bread pudding.

I rejoiced during these childhood day trips to the missions.

During them, an odd quiet felt untouchable.
The smell of anciency seeped into my sweat suits.

I walked through oatmeal cookie crumble chapels and across bishops sleeping dreadfully beneath altar tiles.

I looked out tall doors, along stone veranda, to our minivan parked alone in the parking lot. I looked at the wooden crucifix standing in the parched crab grasses. Its lumber would burn if it got any hotter.

Indian ghosts rubbed against me. They were welcoming me psychically and whispering into my brain that they had suffered and died and that they liked my shoes.

Velcro, very innovative.



Myriam Gurba: As American As Capirotada


Myriam Gurba is the author of Dahlia Season (Manic D Press 2007), Wish You Were Me (Future Tense Press 2010), and several self-published things. She worked as an editorial assistant for On Our Backsand toured North America with Sister Spit. She irregularly blogs at lesbrain.wordpress.com. She is allergic to penicillin.

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5. The Weekend Writer: The Hybrid Author

Since The Weekend Writer is a series for new writers, I'll send those readers over to the IndieReCon site to study up on hybrid writers. Hybrid writers, like my car that runs on both gas and electricity, operate two ways.  They publish both traditionally and on their own.

Notice that agent Lara Perkins says that among the benefits of being a hybrid author is "hybrid authors often enjoy greater creative control over self-published titles and over the scope of their career since they have more control over what to publish, when, and how." An example? I'm familiar with a situation in which a traditionally published children's author is interested in pursuing publication for an adult work. (Hmm. Another type of hybrid?) Her agent and publisher are discouraging her, wanting her to be firmly branded as a children's author first. The writer is concerned about striking while the iron is hot (she's done well with her first book). Also, branding could be a two-edged sword. The adult publishing world may not be interested in her once she's been branded as not one of them. There's definitely an issue there about who is in control.

Notice that Perkins also writes about the challenges for hybrids. They are essentially "running a small business." It is "a tremendous amount of work." And speaking from experience, I can tell you that while you're doing the tremendous amount of work of running the business, you have trouble finding time to do more writing. For all the control that traditional publishers get over writers, they also take over a lot of the nonwriting burden of publishing.

Understand the pros and cons of both types of publishing.

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6. Crowdfunding a Picture Book 101

First completed illustration (by Susan Eaddy) for Julie Hedlund's "My Love for You is the Sun

First completed illustration for Julie Hedlund’s “My Love for You is the Sun”

My friend, fellow writer and editing client, Julie Foster Hedlund, is conducting a unique experiment in hybrid publishing – a process that may well become a model to help small publishers increase their lists and authors and illustrators find opportunities beyond self-publishing.  She’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to pre-fund the production, publication and printing of one of her picture books – even though she has a traditional publisher committed to the project.

The book is a beauty – one I’m proud to say I served as editor for. “My Love for You is the Sun” is a love letter from parent to child, written in verse and expressing that timeless and unconditional love through metaphors from the natural world.  My Love for You is the Sun, a Tree, the Rain, a River… but of course, it’s also about more than familial or parental love, it’s about the universal, infinite nature of love itself, and as such, will hold crossover appeal for all ages. The book is being illustrated by Susan Eaddy, whose three-dimensional clay illustrations provide extraordinary depth and texture. Julie’s goal is for the end result to be a beautiful book in every way – from design to paper to binding, worthy of becoming a family keepsake for generations. If her crowdfunding efforts are successful, I have no doubt this will be the case.

This hybrid publishing concept is very intriguing, and in my view may well become an industry standard in the very near future.  Stacey Williams-Ng, editor and art director at Little Bahalia - a small indie publisher with a laser focus on quality – liked ”My Love for You is the Sun” and wanted to publish it, but her list was full. Julie proposed the idea of crowdfunding the initial production and printing costs, and a new contract model was created.

What’s really interesting about this project, though, is that Julie is documenting her process to help other authors and illustrators.  A couple of weeks ago, she posted a five-part series on “Why Crowdfunding?” on her blog, and recently shared the Top Five lessons she’s learned so far, as follows:

  1. If you are going to crowdfund, make it count. Select a project you are passionate about so your passion permeates every aspect of the campaign.
  2. Crowdfunding is a TON of work and is by no means an “easy route” to publishing. Another reason why having passion for your project is critical.
  3. WHY are you crowdfunding? Know the answer to that question, because you will be asked to answer it hundreds of times.
  4. Give yourself way more time than you think you need to pull everything together. Everything I did to prepare for the launch took longer than I expected, and there is SO much more I wish I could have done.
  5. Build a team. Even if you are crowdfunding a self-publishing project (mine is hybrid), pull together a group of people who will give you timely feedback on your video, your rewards, and your project description/pitch. You’d never publish a book without critiques and edits, so don’t launch a crowdfunding project without them either.

The good news is that within 24 hours of launching her Kickstarter campaign, Julie was already 60% funded – so it looks like this is going to fly.

If you are remotely interested in self- or hybrid publishing, it’s well worth following this project. You can find out more and become a part of Julie’s team (not to mention get an advance copy of this beautiful book once its published) here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1022559326/my-love-for-you-is-the-sun-a-picture-book

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7. How Henry Bushkin Got His New Book Published

HenryBushkin

Henry Bushkin, attorney and former right-hand man to Johnny Carson, has written a book about what life was really like with his famous friend. It’s a deeply personal account filled with scandalous details, including the real story on why his relationship with Carson ended.

Yet despite the book’s obvious potential, Bushkin actually had a hard time getting it published. In Mediabistro’s latest installment of So What Do You Do?, Bushkin talks about the media’s reaction to his writing, his thoughts on the proposed NBC miniseries and the process of publishing:

In the book’s acknowledgments, you explain how the impetus for the book came in 2008 from fellow (and subsequent) Carson attorney Ed Hookstratten. Can you explain a bit how you got from there to here?
Some time ago, I was about to self-publish the book. The book that has come out this week is essentially the same book. Frankly, when I was going to do it on my own with a small staff, it became apparent that Carson wasn’t relevant in the eyes of New York publishers vis-a-vis New York editors. They thought he was just irrelevant.

When I had the manuscript in polished form, I sent it to a friend of mine in New York. She then immediately sent it to a friend of hers at Vanity Fair, and then she asked if she could send it to a friend of hers, an agent in New York. I said yes. And all of a sudden, there were five publishers bidding for it. So it had quite an evolution that took quite some time, with the book going through several gestation periods.

To hear more about the book and its controversies, read: So What Do You Do, Henry Bushkin, Attorney and Author of Johnny Carson?

– Aneya Fernando

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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8. Weekend Links: Carnival Of The Indies Edition

I took part in the most recent Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies. I also managed to visit a number of the other contributors. My favorites:

Book Cover Design: Judging a Book by Its Cover--Part I at WGB.  If I ever self-publish another eBook, I'll pass this along to Computer Guy.

Should You Convert Your Ebook Yourself, Or Hire A Professional? at Learn Out Live. I should have passed this on to Computer Guy before self-publishing Saving the Planet & Stuff.

Why Self-Publishing Needs a Sundance (and Who Should Be Redford) at Electronic Bindery. It's hard to believe there isn't one.

How I Created My First Podcast  at Small Blue Dog Publishing. I did send this one to Computer Guy. I love listening to podcasts while I'm working in the kitchen. (Yeah, as my Facebook friends can tell you, I don't mind spending time in a kitchen.) I have a podcast fantasy.

Team Indie Author Games: Elevator Book Pitch at Electronic Bindery.   Possible conference workshop?

The Elementary Marketing Tactic You Don't Know You're Missing at Be a Freelance Blogger. It's just one word. It is important in blogging, and I'm not sure how many writers realize it.

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9. SCBWI Debuts The Spark Award

THE SOCIETY OF CHILDREN’S BOOK WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS DEBUTS THE SPARK AWARD FOR INDEPENDENTLY-PUBLISHED WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS

The SCBWI is pleased to announce the creation of The Spark Award, an annual award that recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route.  The award is open to current writer and/or illustrator SCBWI members who have independently-published a board book, picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult novel through an established self- publishing enterprise  or individually self-published.  Submissions must be submitted in traditionally bound form, contain an ISBN number, and provide evidence of Copyright registration.

Entries may not have been previously published in any print or digital form prior to the self-published form and SCBWI reserves the right to disqualify books published by enterprises that we believe, in our discretion, operate in a predatory or unprofessional manner.

One winner and one honor book will be chosen by a panel of industry professionals and will focus on quality of writing and concept, quality of illustrations (if applicable), professional presentation, and editing and design.

SCBWI Executive Director, Lin Oliver, and President, Stephen Mooser, strongly believe that, “it is time that SCBWI recognize that there are new models for publishing. The Spark Award is one way we can reward those authors and illustrators who are pursuing independent and self-publishing in a legitimate and high quality way.”

The winner will receive a Spark seal to display on their book, a commemorative plaque, have their book featured in the SCBWI online bookstore and marketed on SCBWI social networking sites, and receive the opportunity to sell their book at the SCBWI Summer or Winter Conference in Los Angeles or New York.

For more information and submission guidelines see Spark Award under the “Awards and Grants” section.

Deadline:  Deadline for submission is December 31 for books published in that calendar year. Books published in previous years and re-issues are ineligible.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Competition, Contest, need to know, opportunity, Places to sumit, Self-publishing Tagged: SCBWI, Self Published Books, The Spark Award

1 Comments on SCBWI Debuts The Spark Award, last added: 9/25/2013
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10. Self-Published ebook Competition

WD-SP-ebook_600px1

Writer’s Digest hosts the first-ever self-published ebook competition — the  Self-Published eBook Awards. This self-published competition spotlights today’s self-published works and honors self-published authors.Whether you’re a professional writer, a part-time freelancer or a self-starting student, here’s your chance to enter Writer’s Digest’s newest competition exclusively for self-published ebooks.

Deadline: October 1, 2013

Enter your book into one these categories:

  • Fiction (Includes but not limited to Mainstream/Literary Fiction, Children’s/Picture books, Genre Fiction, Middle-Grade/Young Adult books)
  • Nonfiction (Includes but not limited to Reference Books, Cookbooks, Life Stories)

One Grand Prize Winner will receive:

  • $2,000 cash
  • Interview with winner featured in Writer’s Digest magazine
  • Winner’s name on the cover of Writer’s Digest magazine (subscriber issues)
  • $200 worth of Writer’s Digest books
  • 30-minute platform & marketing consultation with Chuck Sambuchino, author of Create Your Writer Platform
  • Subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine

The First-Place Winner in each category will receive:

  • $500 in prize money
  • Recognition in Writer’s Digest magazine
  • $100 worth of Writer’s Digest Books
  • Subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine

The Second-Place Winner in each category will receive:

  • $250 in prize money
  • Recognition in Writer’s Digest magazine
  • $50 worth of Writer’s Digest Books
  • Subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine

Honorable Mention Winners will receive $50 worth of Writer’s Digest Books and be promoted on www.writersdigest.com.

All entrants will receive a brief commentary from the judges.

THE RULES:

1. The competition is open to all English-language self-published books for which the authors have paid the full cost of publication, or the cost of publication has been paid for by a grant or as part of a prize.

2. You must enter online. Acceptable file types include .epub, .mobi, .ipa, etc.

3. Entries will be evaluated on content, writing quality and overall quality of production and appearance.

4. All books published or revised between 2008 and 2013 are eligible. (Writer’s Digest may demand proof of eligibility of semifinalists.)

5. We accept check, money order or credit card payment for the required judging fee. Regular entry fees are $85 for the first entry, $60 for each additional entry Payment must be received before a title goes to the judges.

6. All Entries submitted must be postmarked by October 1, 2013. All winners will be notified by December 31, 2013.

7. Judges reserve the right to re-categorize entries.

8. Books which have previously won awards from Writers Digest are not eligible.

9. Employees of F+W Media, Inc. and their immediate families are not eligible. Books published by Abbott Press are not eligible to participate.

10. Writer’s Digest is not responsible for the loss, damage or return of any books submitted to the competition.

I know the fee to submit is high, but the rewards could be great. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: awards, Competition, Contest, opportunity, Places to sumit, Self-publishing Tagged: e-book contest, Writer's Digest e-book Awards

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11. Self-publishing And Web Presence

Since I've been maintaining the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar, I've been noticing an odd little quirk regarding the web presence of some of our local self-published authors. While it is common for self-published authors to have websites and blogs as sophisticated as anything you'll see in the world of traditional publishing, as well as Facebook pages, Google+ accounts, and Twitter feeds, it's also not unusual to see some self-published authors who have done nothing at all to market themselves on the Internet. I'll see authors making appearances at bookstores and when I try to find some information on them to link to within the CCLC, there is nothing. If I make a big effort (and I shouldn't have to--really, I shouldn't), I may find a small article in a local paper about Joe/Josephine Blow having published a book. And that's it. But sometimes I don't even find that.

What's going on here? you may ask. I certainly did.

In some cases, we may be talking about very inexperienced writers who are living the write-it-and-they-will-come fantasy. They may not realize that writers need to do something more than publish a book in order to find readers.

In other cases, we may be talking hobbyists, people who just want the experience of seeing their names on a book. Though why those folks are then making an appearance at a bookstore is a mystery. 

In either case, if they sat down and tried to come up with a plan to make it difficult for readers to find them, they couldn't do better than what they're doing, which is nothing.

I, of course, am interested in children's and YA writers for my children's literature calendar. I have occasionally come across writers who have chosen ambiguous titles and covers for their children's books. Unless the bookstore clearly labels these authors' events for children, and sometimes they don't, potential visitors/buyers can't even tell what age group the book is for and, thus, whether or not they're interested. If, on top of that, these authors have no web presence, there is no way to determine what their work is or who it is for.

Now, yes, traditionally published authors may not market themselves professionally, either. But the situations I have stumbled upon have all involved writers of the self-published persuasion.

I've had to put in some extra time and effort tracking down these people this past year. For the sake of my own work, I've recently made a couple of decisions: 1. If I can't find an obvious children's author's website immediately, I will list the event with no link for the author. 2. If I can't determine from the bookstore's marketing that an author has written a children's book, I can no longer justify taking the time to hunt down that information. That author's event just won't be listed.

Not only do these authors miss opportunities to connect with readers because they haven't put in the work to market themselves on the Internet, they also miss opportunities for professional networking. It isn't necessary to do every single form of Internet marketing, but it's hard to understand why someone wouldn't do at least one thing.


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12. Getting Ready to Self-Publish?

tsps-where-authors-get-help1

The above slide points out two things I think are extremely important to the success of your self-published book. IMO, cutting corners on the cover design and copy editing can make a big difference in how many copies you sell.

The report found that getting help, paid or unpaid, with editing, copy editing and proofreading provided a 13 per cent bump in earnings. Those who added cover design to that list saw a 34 per cent increase over the average. Interestingly, ebook formatting help added only an extra 1 per cent.

It was estimated that about 68 per cent of authors who’d spent money on their book would recoup that cost within 12 months. For the rest, no amount of lipstick could improve the story. So make sure your foundation is good and go through all the steps you would to get a solid, interesting story.

Writers with agents earn three times more than those without. Romance writers earn 120 per cent of the average, but science fiction, fantasy and literary writers do much worse earning 38 per cent, 32 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

Those who had already had books put out by traditional publishers earned 2.5 times more than authors who’d been rejected by traditional publishers or who had skipped the traditional route all together.

The Taleist survey found that most self-publishers are “old hands” with 40 per cent having been writing for more than ten years, and 60 per cent for more than five years. Only one in ten were newbies, writing for less than a year.

Getting positive books reviews is important. In book stores like Amazon, getting reviews is key to getting your book recognised by the site’s recommendation algorithm. The survey found that those authors who submitted to book review blogs has slightly higher than average reviews and revenue. But those authors who submitted their book to popular reviewers on Amazon received 25 per cent more reviews than average and 32 per cent more revenue.

What respondents did to seek reviews actively:

ts4-2_seekingreviews

The authors who did best, however, did everything except pay for reviews: They gave away review copies, submitted to book review blogs and the mainstream press, sought popular reviewers on Amazon and asked their readers through email lists etc.

The results of the recent self publishing survey by Taleist.com shows Authors who submitted to popular reviewers on Amazon received 25% more reviews than average and earned 32% more revenue for their latest release.  But there can be potential risks, so spend the time to do your research. Getting a review for your fantasy book with a top Amazon reviewer who doesn’t like fantasy is not going to help your book.

Here is the link to the top Amazon reviewers: http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers.

Did you know you do not need a Kindle to read an ebook from Amazon. Under its promise of “buy once, read anywhere”, Amazon provides free apps to read Kindle books on computers, smartphones, and tablets. Even if you have a Nook, you can use the Amazon App to read their books and everyday they have four Kindle book deals. These apps can be downloaded from Amazon here.

Here is the link to purchase Not a Gold Rush – The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey [Kindle Edition]

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, marketing, need to know, Process, Self-publishing, Tips Tagged: Importance of cover Design, Romance Writers earn more money, self- Publishing Statistics, Taleist Self-Publishing Survey

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13. Out There: The Wrong Goal of Self-Publishing


START YOUR NOVEL

Six Winning Steps Toward a Compelling Opening Line, Scene and Chapter
Start Your Novel by Darcy Pattison
  • 29 Plot Templates
  • 2 Essential Writing Skills
  • 100 Examples of Opening Lines
  • 7 Weak Openings to Avoid
  • 4 Strong Openings to Use
  • 3 Assignments to Get Unstuck
  • 7 Problems to Resolve
The Math adds up to one thing: a publishable manuscript. Download a sample chapter on your Kindle.

“I just want my novel out there.”
Ouch.
Too many times lately, I have heard people say this about their self-publishing efforts. Out there. I just want it out there. What does that even mean?

It means a couple things:
First, it means that the writer can find closure to his/her writing process. It means there is a finished product and the creative process has ended. Now, it’s up to everyone else to do whatever they will do with that product: ignore it, read it, praise it, trash it. But the writer can move on. There’s value in this, of course, to have something finished and not on the back burner, to have it stop nagging.

Second, the writer usually means that the story, novel, picture book, or nonfiction book will find readers. Here’s where the writer is wrong. The book will not find readers by itself. Guaranteed.

In their fascinating book, DECISIVE, Chip and Dan Heath talk about one flaw in the decision making process, namely, that people overestimate their own success and ignore solid data in front of them. In fact, most self-published books sell less than 100 copies. If your book is OUT THERE without any support, you will NOT sell copies. Your friends and family–because they love you–may buy copies, but that’s usually the 100 copies that get sold. Do not make this mistake (and how many ways and how strongly can I say this?), you will not sell copies if you do not market.
I just want it out there." Death knell for a self-published book
OUT THERE–publishing a book without marketing a book is not going to work.
Many of you will ignore this fact: you will convince yourself that your story is different and will beat the odds. OK. Do what you have to do. Put it OUT THERE. But it will not sell.

Unless.

A self-published book needs marketing. That means the publishing house (that’s you!) needs a platform, a network of connections that are proven places to sell a book. The author (that’s you!) needs to be working to support the publisher (Oh, that’s you, too!) to sell the book. This can be accomplished through any number of means: catalogs, speaking engagements and back of the room sales (BOTR), online venues, guest blogging, schools, special sales to corporations, gift shops, and on and on. The venues for sales of books are endless. But you must focus somewhere and work to get your book into those venues.

OUT THERE? You want your book out there? Get it out of your head by doing a small printing and giving copies to friends and family as Christmas gifts. But if you really want it OUT THERE in the world wide market place, get ready to work.

Instead, you should be saying, “I want to work hard to get my story into the hands of the right readers.” Now THAT is a worthy goal of self-publishing.

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14. Who Can Get You Into A Bookstore?

Last week I briefly mentioned a blog post I'd read called Eisler on Digital Denial. Author Barry Eisler wrote about his contention that the one major benefit traditional publishers can offer writers is distribution to "real" stores. Some folks disagreed with him. Tweeting was involved. It was all quite exciting.

While eating lunch just now, I stumbled upon Self-Publishing is for Control Freaks at the Forbes website. It appears to have been published a couple of days after Eisler's post at A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. The article is about a report on what authors look for when deciding whether to self-publish or seek out a traditional publisher. It concludes with this: "However, according to the report, distribution is far and away the most important factor and that should be comforting to publishers because, at this point, established publishers are the only reliable path into bricks-and-mortar bookstores, where a large proportion of sales are still made."

Only four comments follow the Forbes article. Eisler's article at A Newbie's Guide to Publishing got 185. Not that it's a competition, but either one readership found the concept waaaay more interesting than the other, or one site has more readership to begin with. Or something.

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15. Yeah, It's The Wild West Out There

I'm still recovering from a day of illness and hoped to stretch out with a couple of different kinds of research, which is like resting but different. But then I became glued to my desktop reading Eisler on Digital Denial at A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. And I scanned all the comments as well, which is where I read M.J. Rose's line, "It's the wild west out there."

That makes the exhaustion I've been feeling over publishing and marketing and everything I'm doing other than writing seem at least a little more interesting and exciting. A little pep me up.

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16. New Interview On Self-Publishing Backlist Titles

Tanita Davis and Sarah Stevenson have posted an interview/conversation with me at their collaborative blog, Finding Wonderland: The Writing YA Weblog.  The subject? Self-publishing Saving the Planet & Stuff. Note the great intro story about finding a self-published gem among the SFF Cybil nominees a few years ago.

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17. Weekend Links

This is an all self-pub Weekend Links.

Hugh Howey explains how the big Wool deal came about. This story will send tens--if not hundreds--of thousands of people into self-publishing.

John Winters has not had Hugh Howey's experience. Not even close. Tens--if not hundreds--of thousands of people should read this, but probably won't.

Hugh Howey kind of rebutts John Winters. I agree with a lot of what Howey has to say, except for the part about "learn your craft while producing material. You win over your fans directly."  He compares learning to write with learning to play a musical instrument and perform with same. "How many people teach themselves to play the guitar? We celebrate this, don’t we?"..."They go on to strum on the sidewalk with a hat by their feet much like someone might blog and hope for a donation. They play small venues on open-mic nights that we can think of as free books on Smashwords. They get a few paying gigs, which is like self-publishing on Amazon." He carries the comparison on until he gets to "This is how artists are born. They are self-made. They perform for people. They learn and improve as they do both."

Here's the big difference that he's not considering: Musicians may be learning performance and improving their performance as they perform but they have to have learned some kind of skill before that point or they aren't going to get many opportunities to perform in the first place, even on sidewalks. What's more, because we're talking performance, once that performance is over, it's gone. (Unless someone records it on their iPhones, of course. But try to see my point.) They are able to practice performance in public, but also somewhat privately because in most cases the public can't go over and over what they did and keep assessing it. With writers, it's different. You've committed something to paper or you've digitized it and the public has it and can keep looking at it. While everyone should continue to learn and improve throughout a career, if you are taking the attitude that it's appropriate for you to truly learn to write while you are publishing, then the public can be reminded over and over that your writing wasn't of professional quality with that first book. That you weren't really that good with the second one. Malcolm Gladwell writes in Outliers about how many hours the Beatles spent performing before they hit the big time. But they were performing in a strip club in Germany. How many people were able to hear those performances after the fact? The Beatles actually had a certain amount of privacy in which to perfect their performance skills. Personally, I think writers ought to consider looking for a similar type of privacy to learn their craft.

The Self-Published Authors Share 5 Things They Learned in 2012 series at Live Write Thrive Note that a few of these people stress the need for editing.

Some info on self-publishing in paper  from Maria Murnane

Info on making digital picture books at e is for book

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18. What Are the Best Resources for Self-Publishers?


So. I'm embarking on a project to self-publish a Guide to Writing a Novel.

What are the best resources for self-publishers? What are your favorite blogs, message boards, and books?

Art: The bookbinder by Anonymous

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19. Self-Publishing Homework

working on laptopIf you have decided to self- publish, there are lots of things you need to know and consider. Don’t think you get to wiggle out of doing your homework and making a plan on the steps you need to take and things you need to consider.

The biggest mistake writer’s make, is thinking their story is ready after they have finished writing their book. Whether you go the traditional route or want to self-publish, it is always a mistake to run out and seek someone to publish your book after the first draft. You should pat yourself on the back, because you have accomplished something that eludes many writers and you have a right to be excited and proud, but 99% of the time it is not ready for publication. You have just taken step one of the publication process.

So many self-published books could have made money for the author, if only they could take control of that excitement of finishing that first draft.  Even if it is your fourth draft and is the best book ever written, don’t mess it up by accepting a bad contract. There are companies who try to act like real publishers, who will take anybody and any book and offer a contract. The author is elated and jumps at the offer. Don’t do That!

I am convinced these companies do not give any thought as to the quality of the content. Sometimes I wonder if they even take the time to read the books submitted. They offer production, distribution, press release, and design and artwork, but it is all so inferior that even if the first draft of the book was well written and unique, it ends up being so ugly and made from such poor quality paper that no one, other than friends and family would purchase the book. Then they throw on an extremely high price, like $25 for a picture book, which further dooms the sale of the book.

These pretend publishers realize everyone has friends and family and will get those sales and occasionally they might get someone who really promotes their book and sells more than 50 copies.  For all their work these motivated authors end up making maybe a total of $150. When if they had taken their time, did their homework, and made the right choices, they could have put out a good book that people actually read and would have made money for them.

There are so many things to consider and now so many forms of publishing your book. At the beginning of the year, I promised to start including self-publishing in my post. Next week, I will start pointing out steps you need to take, places to consider, and what they bring to the table, new formats and how to make that happen, and how to get your book seen and distributed.

Hope you’ll stop back.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, need to know, Process, publishers, Publishing Industry, reference, Tips Tagged: How to Self Publish Your book, Self-Publishing

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20. The Weekend Writer: The Difference Between Traditional And Self-Publishing

I am a very linear person and had planned to begin this series with the beginning of a writing project. However, this past week I "attended" IndieReCon, and I'm going to be making a self-publishing announcement, myself, next week, so I decided to start writing about the end of the writing road.

While I suspect most of my readers are very knowledgeable about the publishing process, there are many people who are not. And a lot of them want to write and publish books. This post is for them.

What Needs To Be Done To Publish A Book

Editing--Before publishing, any manuscript needs both developmental (what I used to call "content") and copy editing. Developmental editing involves an editor working with the author to make sure that

the plot makes sense

characters behave consistently and logically within their storylines

there are no unnecessary characters

scenes are not drawn out or unnecessary

voice is maintained throughout

and a great many other things are done correctly.

Copy editing usually involves another editor checking for spelling, punctuation, and usage.

Proper editing is the hallmark of a professionally prepared book.

Cover--The cover needs an illustration as well as design layout with whatever titles are required. If this is a paper and print book, the spine and back cover must be designed. Fonts must be chosen and guess what? Some of them are copyrighted, so someone needs to deal with that. A good cover is another hallmark of a professionally prepared book.

Interior design--Someone has to lay out the pages, deciding how wide the margins will be, what the text will look like, what kinds of fonts will be used for chapter titles, etc. If this is an eBook, someone needs to format the manuscript.

Marketing and promotion--Someone needs to find a way to get the book into the hands of reviewers, whether they be print journals or blogs. Should there be press releases? To whom should they be sent? Should the author do public appearances? Where? Who should be contacted to try to arrange them?

Distribution and Sales--If this is a paper and print book, will bookstores carry it? How will the book come to their attention? Will Amazon carry it, and how will that be done?

There will probably be more things I haven't thought of.

Traditional Publishing

With what has been known in the twentieth century as traditional publishing, a publishing company selects manuscripts submitted to it on the basis of quality or marketability and agrees to do all the above for the author. In return, the traditional publishing gets a big chunk of the profit made on the book. Authors might get, say, twelve percent of the cover price on their books with the publishing company getting the rest. However, the author has not invested any money in this project, only the publishing company has. In addition, the author has received an advance payment against the income she's expected to receive on sales of her book. She gets to keep that even if the book doesn't sell enough copies to meet that expected income.

Self-Publishing

With self-publishing, authors do all the work that needs to be done to publish the book. If she can't do it herself, she has to find other people to do it and pay them. She gets to keep a much bigger cut of the money that comes in, but she's done a great deal more work and invested her own money in the project.

I've seen blog posts from self-published authors that suggested there were a few simple steps to publishing a book. One traditionally-published author who was planning to self-publish her next book announced that she was going to have her mother edit it, because mom had a master's degree. The Honest Inside Scoop or the Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing by Jessie Harrell, which appeared at the IndieReCon site this past week, is a very good assessment of the work involved with self-publishing. IndieReCon also ran Costs of Self Publishing by Miral Sattar of BiblioCrunch, which will give you an idea of what some of the expenses can run up to. (Hey, you know what? If your mom's good enough to edit your book, she ought to get paid.)

The point I want to make here is that publishing a book is publishing a book. The same work has to be done whether a traditional publishing company is doing it or you're doing it yourself. Self-publishing is a serious endeavor. The people who are making any money at all are investing time and money into their work.

You don't really need to know a great deal about publishing if you're lucky enough to have a manuscript accepted by a traditional publishing company. I certainly didn't when I first started publishing. If you're thinking about self-publishing, you'd better know a lot or find a way to learn what you need to know. This isn't something you want to go into blind.

0 Comments on The Weekend Writer: The Difference Between Traditional And Self-Publishing as of 2/23/2013 10:11:00 PM
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21. Show the love: Third Annual Mini-Comics Day

Tweet I’m a HUGE mini-comics fan; I think they encapsulate the potential and diversity of the medium perfectly in the way in which they combine storytelling, art, and innovation with accessibility and a do-it-yourself attitude. Its currently a very good time to be fond of the floppy- the format has been experiencing somewhat of a revival in the past [...]

1 Comments on Show the love: Third Annual Mini-Comics Day, last added: 2/27/2013
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22. Self-Publishing Starters

Every book sold on the market needs an ISBN Number and a bar code, so if you are planning to self-publish a book, you will need both of these things, too.  Retailers use these numbers to track and catalog your books, and to report your sales.  

I am not saying you should run out and purchase these right now, because it will depend on the choices you decide to make. You may decide to accept a package from a company that includes these numbers. You could run into an editor who wants to buy your book and that would change everything.

That being said you should realize what they do for you and your options.

bowker

ISBNs are sold like any other commodity by Bowker www.bowker.org and a few authorized re-sellers. And to accommodate the needs of these self-publishers, they made individual numbers available for the first time.

In addition, Bowker is actually registering your publishing company when they issue you your numbers, not your individual books. This is a key step for many self-publishers and that’s a pretty good reason to get an ISBN as well.

Bowker sells most of the ISBN numbers and discounts according to the amount purchased. The cost of buying just one is $125, so it is better to buy a block of numbers, because you will need more than one anyway. Most publishers these days are going to publish at least five (5) versions of a book (Hardback, Softback, EPUB, MOBI, and PDF), each of which requires an ISBN.

Smashwords will tell you that retailers such as Apple and Sony will not accept your Smashwords book unless you have a unique e-ISBN and everything on Smashwords is an e-book, but there isn’t a special e-ISBN, just plain old ISBNs.

Owning a block of 10 ISBNs is usually enough for two different books. Those who purchase blocks of 10 ISBNs are usually self-publishers who have researched their needs before making a purchase and realize this is the most cost effective purchase for their needs. The price of 10 ISBNs is $250.

barcode_homeThe Bookland EAN Barcode is an essential component of booksellers handling of the book. You must provide a retail price for your barcode. Cost $25

The largest book retailers, as well as many book wholesalers, require books to display the Bookland EAN barcode graphic symbol which carries the ISBN. At the point of sale in a bookstore, the ISBN is scanned and all related information about the title is accessed in their sales system — identifying the price correctly and subtracting a copy from their inventory etc.

In the US, the first digit of the add-on data indicates which currency the price is expressed in — so for US dollars, the designated digit is a 5. So an add-on of 51995 indicates a price of US$ 19.95. The largest US retailers such as Barnes and Noble now require the use of EAN-5 barcode on books they handle. Scanners in American bookstores cannot read the Bookland EAN code without the corresponding 5-digit add-on. Publishers who don’t comply with this requirement may be penalized.

Please remember what I said last week, writer’s who want to self-publish need to do there homework and try to hold back their enthusium in order to make the right choices, so please check back for my weekly post or start researching on your own if you can’t wait. Just make sure you do your homework before you jump in with both feet. Click here to read 1st Self-Publishing post

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, How to, Process, Self-publishing Tagged: Bookland EAN code, Bowker, ISBN Numbers, Self-Publishing

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23. Self-Publishing – Getting Your Book Ready

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I have met authors who have spent over $25,000 to self-publish their own book in print. Not counting the content of the book, the quality of the illustrations, paper, cover was beautiful. This was before print on demand, so that same person now could self-publish the same book for less than half that amount.  But still that book had problems. Two many pages, too young of story for the writing and format.  This is something many new authors make and the reason I tell you not to rush your book out the door.

To have a good selling enjoyable picture book the illustrations and design has to go along with the text. Many times a new author will go with a Vanity/Subsidy publisher who offers to publish their book, because they can forego an agent, graphic and interior layout designers, editors, printers, advertising, distribution,  marketing specialists, and book publicists. But buyer beware, what type of artwork will they provide? The books I have seen have used low level artists or the pay so low, that an illustrator can’t give the book the time it needs to shine and the results are awful. I don’t know about you, but I buy most of my picture books because I love the artwork. Of course I have an art degree, so illustration is a big part of my life, but in my opinion a picture book must have enjoyable art or it will fall flat on its face. So spend a lot of time making sure you hire someone who can make it happen. But don’t be a control freak. You will stiffle the artist and not get the best out of them.

So hear I am preaching about the steps you need to take to help lift up the reputation and quality of Self-Published books. These are the steps you need to take even if you want to snag an agent or pique the interest of a mainstream publisher.

The First draft – just the beginning. This is where you write your story and then get your critique group to read it and give you their thoughts. They should be able to point out if they see any holes in your story. Whether they like your main character. Is he/she sympathetic? Too mean? Too dumb? Are there places in the manuscript where they were pulled out of the story?
Are their holes in your plot? Here is a list of questions you can ask them to answer:

Is the conflict strong, or is it contrived and something a conversation could resolve?

Setting? Does it seem real?

Are the senses involved? (description of smell, touch, taste, etc.)

Does the story hold your interest? If not, where did you lose interest?

Accuracy and consistency: Do the facts seem accurate, (no cell phones in the 1700s, for example) and are they consistent (blue eyes don’t turn green somewhere along the way.)

Were you able to suspend disbelief?

Does the story work? Do you want to read more?

With characters, ask yourself: Are the main characters three-dimensional? Sympathetic? Are other characters well drawn? Are motivations strong and clear?

Writing Style

Voice: Strong? Too passive?

Any problems with point of view? If there are multiple points of view, are the POV changes handled well?

Does the dialogue sound natural? Is the dialogue of each character distinct, or does everyone sound the same?

Does the dialogue move the story forward?

Were there too many “he said” dialogue tags, or awkward substitutes for “said?” (snarled, hissed.)

As to back story: Is it woven into the story, or are there any info dumps or “As you know, Bob”s (use of dialogue to dump information into the story.)

Is there too much narrative? Too many flashbacks?

Are the sentences clear, or do they need to be reworded to improve clarity?

Is the story well-paced, or does it slow in places?

Is there plenty of white space, or is the writing dense? (In other words, are the paragraphs short and interspersed with dialogue, or are they long blocks of type running a half page—or more.)

Second Draft – This is where you go back and correct the problems that rang true from your critiques.
Then you get your critique group and if possible, a few different people to read your story to see if you improved the story. Just because you rewrite doesn’t mean you have made the manuscript better. If you have, then it is on to the third draft.

You could also hire a consultant to read and critique your story to help you through this process, but that is additional money you will have to spend. This can run you $150 – $5000, according to the amount of pages, the amount of time, and the amount of expertise.

Third Draft – This is where you read every line and decide if each line is written to the best of your ability. Can the sentence be tighten? Have you repeated the same basic thought in more than one sentence? Have you repeated the same word a number of times? Have you overwritten a scene? Do you need every word? If you are writing in first person. Have you avoided starting your sentences with “I” as much as possible? Have you avoided the use of dialog tags where you can? Do your characters act age appropriate? Does your first page hook your reader? Do you have a sagging middle? Do you have a subplot? Do you have tension that builds to the climax? Are there words that can be changed to be more interesting word?  After making these changes, it is on to the 4th draft.

Fourth Draft – This is where you read the book aloud. How do the sentences sound? Do you hear anything that breaks the tension. Do you hear anything that takes you in another direction?

There are many roads to take to get to this point. Now you should be ready to submit your manuscript to publishers or decide on the plan you are going to follow to Self-Publish. Next week we will talk about your plan of action.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, children writing, Process, Publishing Industry, reference, Self-publishing, Tips, Writing Tips Tagged: doing your homework, Getting Your book Ready, Making a Plan, Self-Publish Your Book

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24. Self-Published Book? Get Noticed

21stSelfPub-800px-300x86We have been talking about self-publishing for the last few weeks, so I thought you might be interested in reading about this annual contest.  The entry fee is high, but if you have a self-published book you think is good, entering this premier self-published competition could help get your book noticed. It is exclusively for self-published books.

Writer’s Digest hosts the 21st annual self-published competition — the Annual Self-Published Book Awards. This self-published competition spotlights today’s self-published works and honors self-published authors.

Early Bird Deadline: April 1, 2013

Wondering what is in it for you?

  • A chance to win $3,000 in cash
  • Get national exposure for your work
  • Catch the attention of prospective editors and publishers
  • A paid trip to the ever-popular Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City!

How to enter: register and pay online or download a printable entry form. (Early Bird Entry fees are $100 for the first entry, and $75 for each additional entry.)

Enter your book into one or more of these categories:

  • Mainstream/Literary Fiction
  • Genre Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Inspirational (Spiritual, New Age)
  • Life Stories (Biographies, Autobiographies, Family Histories, Memoirs)
  • Children’s/Picture books
  • Middle-Grade/Young Adult books
  • Reference Books (Directories, Encyclopedias, Guide Books)
  • Poetry

One Grand Prize Winner will receive:

  • $3,000 cash and a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City
  • A priceless endorsement for their book from the Writer’s Digest Editors–10 copies of their book for submission to major publishing review houses.
  • A one-year membership for Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the largest not-for-profit trade association representing more than 3,000 independent book publishers, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • Guaranteed acceptance in a special sales catalog and national representation through 1,800 salespeople who sell to non-bookstore markets, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • A one-year membership to Author-U, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • A copy of Show Me About Book Publishing and consultation with Book Shepherd Judith Briles (valued at $500), courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • A guaranteed review in Midwest Book Review, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.

Nine First-Place Winners will receive:

  • $1,000 cash and promotion in Writer’s Digest
  • A one-year membership to Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN), courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • A guaranteed review in Midwest Book Review, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • A one-year membership to Book Central Station where you can find lists of suppliers rated by previous clients, provided by Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • An ebook titled Beyond the Bookstore by Brian Jud (with CD).

All Grand Prize and First Place winners will:

  • Be featured on the Writer’s Digest website
  • Receive a copy of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 4th Edition by Tom and Marilyn Ross.
  • $100 worth of Writer’s Digest Books

Honorable Mention Winners will receive $50 worth of Writer’s Digest Books and be promoted on www.writersdigest.com.

All other entrants will receive a brief commentary from the judges along with a link to the entrant’s website (only if the URL is accurate) on writersdigest.com.

THE RULES:

1. The competition is open to all English-language self-published books for which the authors have paid the full cost of publication, or the cost of printing has been paid for by a grant or as part of a prize.

2. You may register and pay online for faster service.

3. Entrants must send a printed and bound book. Entries will be evaluated on content, writing quality and overall quality of production and appearance. No handwritten books are accepted.

4. All books published or revised and reprinted between 2008 and 2013 are eligible. (Writer’s Digest may demand proof of eligibility of semifinalists.)

5. All books not registered online must be accompanied by an Official Entry Form. Photocopies of the Official Entry Form are acceptable. You may enter more than one book and/or more than one category; however, you must include a separate book, entry form and the additional fee for each entry.

6. We accept check, money order or credit card payment for the required judging fee. The early bird entry fees are $100 for the first entry, $75 for each additional entry must accompany submissions. For books submitted after the April 1 early bird deadline, the fees are $110 for the first entry, $85 for each additional entry. Payment must accompany submissions.

7. All early bird entries must be postmarked no later than April 1, 2013. Entries submitted for the regular deadline must be postmarked by May 1, 2013. All winners will be notified by October 14, 2013. If you wish to receive confirmation that your entry was received before the deadline, we recommend using certified mail or some other tracking method to send your entry.

8. Judges reserve the right to withhold prizes in any category. Judges reserve the right to re-categorize entries.

9. Books which have previously won awards from Writers Digest are not eligible.

10. Employees of F+W Media, Inc. and Book Marketing Works, LLC and their immediate families are not eligible. Books published by Abbott Press are not eligible to participate.

11. Writer’s Digest is not responsible for the loss, damage or return of any books submitted to the competition.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: authors and illustrators, awards, Competition, Contest, Marketing a book, opportunity, Publishing Industry, Self-publishing Tagged: Self-Published Book Awards, Writer's Digest

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25. WOOL – Self-Publishing Success

WoolWe have been discussing Self-Published books for the last few weeks and we have been talking for months about how the publishing industry is changing, so I thought I should make sure you don’t miss this article written by Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Alter. It is an excellent article and one you really should read (the whole thing). It is long, but worth the five minutes of time. If for some reason you can’t take the time to read it, click on the above link and at least listen to the interview with Ms. Alter about her article.  But in the article, she talks about how Hugh Howey got his book off the ground.

This just might be the article that keeps you going when things seem bleak. I just ordered Part One  of WOOL on Amazon.  It is free for download to your Kindle.

Simon & Schuster has put down six figures for print rights to a post-apocalyptic thriller called “Wool” that it believes could draw the same readers that made “The Hunger Games” trilogy a success.

Simon & Schuster’s print-only editions of Hugh Howey’s Wool, which brought in over a million dollars as a self-published ebook was published yesterday. Howey’s long holdout for a traditional publishing deal came a reality and allowed him to keep his ebook rights.

Hugh Howey’s postapocalyptic thriller “Wool” has sold more than half a million copies and generated more than 5,260 Amazon reviews. Mr. Howey has raked in more than a million dollars in royalties and sold the film rights to “Alien” producer Ridley Scott. And Simon & Schuster hasn’t even released the book yet.

In a highly unusual deal, Simon & Schuster acquired print publication rights to “Wool” while allowing Mr. Howey to keep the e-book rights himself. Mr. Howey self-published “Wool” as a serial novel in 2011, and took a rare stand by refusing to sell the digital rights. Last year, he turned down multiple seven-figure offers from publishers before reaching a mid-six-figure, print-only deal with Simon & Schuster.

“I had made seven figures on my own, so it was easy to walk away,” says Mr. Howey, 37, a college dropout who worked as a yacht captain, a roofer and a bookseller before he started self-publishing. “I thought, ‘How are you guys going to sell six times what I’m selling now?’ “

It’s a sign of how far the balance of power has shifted toward authors in the new digital publishing landscape. Self-published titles made up 25% of the top-selling books on Amazon last year. Four independent authors have sold more than a million Kindle copies of their books, and 23 have sold more than 250,000, according to Amazon.

Publishing houses that once ignored independent authors are now furiously courting them. In the past year, more than 60 independent authors have landed contracts with traditional publishers. Several won seven-figure advances. A handful have negotiated deals that allow them to continue selling e-books on their own, including romance writers Bella Andre and Colleen Hoover, who have each sold more than a million copies of their books.

Print-only deals remain extremely rare. Few publishers want to part with the fastest-growing segment of the industry. E-book sales for adult fiction and nonfiction grew by 36% in the first three quarters of 2012, compared with the previous year. Mass-market paperback sales shrank by 17% in the same period, while hardcover sales declined by 2.4%, according to a recent report from the Association of American Publishers.

When “Wool” hits bookstores next Tuesday, publishing industry insiders will be watching the experiment closely. Simon & Schuster will release a $15 paperback and a $26 hardcover simultaneously, competing directly against Mr. Howey’s digital edition, which costs $5.99.

“We would have preferred to own all the rights, but that wasn’t going to happen,” says Simon & Schuster President and Publisher Jonathan Karp. “It was a very unusual circumstance.”

“Wool” became a viral hit last winter, a few months after Mr. Howey began publishing the five-part series on Amazon. The novel takes place in a postapocalyptic future where a few thousand remaining humans live in a giant, 144-story underground silo. Couples who want to have a child have to enter a lottery; tickets are distributed only when someone dies. Citizens who break the law are sent outside to choke to death on the toxic air. Those who are sent to their deaths are forced to clean the grime off the digital sensors that transmit grainy images of the ruined landscape to a screen inside the silo. The images are meant to remind residents that the world beyond the silo is deadly, but some begin to suspect their leaders are lying to them about what’s outside and how the world came to ruin.

Mr. Howey says he was watching cable news one day when he came up with the idea of a future where people get all of their information from a single, unreliable screen.

“Wool” landed just as the entertainment industry was searching for a high-concept, dystopian hit like Suzanne Collins’s young-adult “Hunger Games” trilogy or Justin Cronin’s postapocalyptic vampire novel “The Passage.” (Mr. Cronin blurbed “Wool,” calling it “an epic feat of imagination.”) The serial format helped build buzz and anticipation among binge readers who were desperate for the next installment, while the 99-cent price tag made each installment an easy impulse buy. “Wool” was the most favorably reviewed book on Amazon in 2012, with an average rating of 4.8 out of five stars. The novel seems to appeal to both men and women, and has attracted hard-core science fiction fans as well as general readers, much like “The Hunger Games.”

Mr. Howey comes across as a charming, self-deprecating goofball (he posted a video of himself doing ballet on his lawn on YouTube after he signed his publishing deal), but he’s proven to be a savage negotiator and slick marketer. He sent free copies of “Wool” to book bloggers and reviewers at Goodreads, a social-media site for avid readers. Early raves prompted more people to try the book, and the reviews snowballed. “Wool” now has more than 12,500 ratings and around 2,200 reviews on Goodreads. He hosted an “Ask Me Anything” session on the popular website Reddit, fielding users’ questions for more than 12 hours. He encouraged fan art and fan fiction set in the “Wool” universe; his readers have designed book covers and written their own novella-length takes on the story. He conscripted 30 of his most ardent fans to be “beta” readers who edit early drafts of his books for free.

Mr. Howey grew up in Monroe, N.C., the son of a farmer and a schoolteacher. As a teenager he devoured popular science fiction books like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Ender’s Game,” and always had a wild imagination. He studied physics and English at the College of Charleston, but dropped out his junior year to sail to the Bahamas. He cycled through a series of odd jobs, working as a yacht captain, a roofer, and a technician for an audio-video company. Four years ago, he decided to give writing a shot. He and his wife were living in a 750-square foot house in Boone, N.C. He was unemployed; his wife, Amber Lyda, was working as a psychologist. He had an idea for a story about a young spaceship pilot who travels across the galaxy in search of her missing father. He sold the novel, “Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue,” to a small Indiana publisher for less than a thousand dollars. Sales were meager.

“When he first published ‘Molly Fyde,’ I’d call his wife and say, ‘How many books has he sold? Should I go to Amazon and buy three more?’” says his mother, Gay Murrill, who owns a yarn shop in Charleston.

Mr. Howey kept trying. He got a 30-hour-a-week job at a university bookstore that paid only $10 an hour but gave him some flexibility. He got up at two or three in the morning to write, and wrote through his lunch hour and after dinner. He designed his own cover art, enlisting his wife and sister to pose in photos. He would often jolt up in bed in the middle of the night to scribble down ideas.

“It was almost a compulsion for him,” says Ms. Lyda. Ms. Lyda said she pleaded with him to leave his pen open on his nightstand, because the clicking noise of his pen kept waking her up.

“Wool” started as a short story that Mr. Howey dashed off in three weeks. He posted it on Amazon for 99 cents in July 2011. Within three months, the story had sold 1,000 copies. Mr. Howey was stunned.

“I told my wife, ‘Baby, we’re going to be able to pay a couple of bills off this short story,’ ” he said.

Readers begged for a sequel, and in November, Mr. Howey released another installment. He sold more than 3,000 copies that month. The next month, he released two more installments and sold nearly 10,000 copies total. In January, he released the final installment, for $2.99, and published all five as a single volume, for $5.99. Collectively, he sold 23,000 copies of all the editions that month. “Wool” shot up Amazon’s science-fiction best-seller list. Mr. Howey quit his job.

Literary agents started courting him. The BBC proposed a television deal based on the series. Most of the agents wanted to auction off print and digital rights to the highest bidder. Mr. Howey wasn’t interested. One agent, Kristin Nelson, said she didn’t think he should sign away digital rights, but that she could help him with foreign rights and film and TV deals. He signed with her in January of last year. They sold the series in 24 foreign countries. Several British publishers bid on the book, and Century won rights for a high-six-figure sum.

Ms. Nelson also sent “Wool” to U.S. publishers, and received a few low six-figure offers. Mr. Howey turned them down. Through Amazon’s self-publishing platform, he was collecting 70% of royalties, which amounted to nearly $40,000 a month. Most publishers offer a digital royalty rate that amounts to 10% to 15% of a book’s retail price.

That spring, Mr. Howey began selling the books on Barnes & Noble‘s BKS -2.57%Nook and Kobo’s e-reader and through Apple’s iTunes store. An agent at United Talent Agency began shopping film rights. Three studios bid on the book. 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott, director of the blockbuster science-fiction films “Blade Runner” and “Alien,” optioned it. Indie writer and director J Blakeson is writing the screenplay.

After news of the movie deal broke, publishers pounced again. Mr. Howey flew to New York in May to meet with five major publishers. Four of them bid. Mr. Howey, who by then was making $120,000 a month, wasn’t swayed. Some of the publishers wanted to change the book’s title, a proposal that Mr. Howey called “comical,” since it would sabotage his online branding efforts. Others insisted that he immediately take down his digital edition, which would erase all records of the thousands of five-star reviews the book had accumulated, forcing him to start from scratch.

One meeting went better than the others. Mr. Howey sat down with Mr. Karp, the head of Simon & Schuster, who had heard about “Wool” from two of his top editors and from Dave Cullen, author of “Columbine,” a 2009 book profiling the shooters behind the 1999 mass killing. “When I read more about it and saw what a culture phenomenon it had become, I realized it was something we should take seriously,” Mr. Karp says.

Mr. Karp was unusually solicitous, asking Mr. Howey what kind of deal he would accept. Mr. Howey said he wanted a co-publishing deal, where he kept digital rights and Simon & Schuster held hardcover and paperback rights. Mr. Karp was noncommittal, and said he’d be in touch.

Sales soared over the summer. Mr. Howey and his wife moved to Jupiter, Fla. and bought a slightly larger house—900 square feet. Mr. Howey continued to write and self-publish new books, including a zombie novel and prequels to “Wool” that explore how and why the silos were built.

In October, Amazon discounted “Wool” for 24 hours as part of its Kindle Daily Deal, a discount program that highlights select titles. Amazon dropped the price on the “Wool” Omnibus, which has all five stories, from $5.99 to $1.99. Mr. Howey sold 20,000 in a single day. New offers from publishers poured in, some in the low-seven-figure range.

Then Mr. Howey’s agent got an email from Mr. Karp, asking if they would consider a print-only deal. Ms. Nelson says she wrote him back, “Is this for real?” and he wrote back, “Yes.”

Simon & Schuster now has to transform a digital hit into a traditional print blockbuster. The publisher is sending Mr. Howey on an 11-city tour, and has planned a bold six-figure marketing campaign that will capitalize on the film news and online reviews. They are releasing the book simultaneously in hardcover and paperback in an attempt to capture both the library and first-edition collectors market as well as retailers like Target and Wal-Mart WMT +0.85%. Much of the online marketing will fall to Mr. Howey, who has proved himself to be adept at digital self promotion. He’s still selling 50,000 e-books a month.

“A lot of the things we normally teach authors to do, Hugh has been smart enough to do himself,” says Richard Rhorer, who oversees marketing at Simon & Schuster.

Mr. Howey just returned from book tours in Germany, Scotland, Wales and England, where “Wool” recently hit the best-seller lists. He’s starting to feel more like an established author. “Publishing is changing so quickly that we are all equal experts,” he said. “We’re all trying to figure this out.”

Mr. Howey recalls feeling anonymous at a science fiction conference last summer in Chicago. He got excited for a moment when a woman approached him—he thought she wanted his autograph—but she was looking for the bathroom.

Nearby, fantasy writer George R.R. Martin, author of the best-selling series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” was signing hundreds of books. Mr. Howey went up and introduced himself. When it became clear that Mr. Martin had never heard of him, Mr. Howey told him his novel was No. 6 on Amazon’s list of science-fiction and fantasy best sellers, behind Mr. Martin’s five books. Mr. Martin gamely signed a book for Mr. Howey, inscribing it “To # 6—Keep trying!”

A few months later, Mr. Howey landed at the top of the list, just ahead of Mr. Martin.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: article, authors and illustrators, Book Contracts, Publishing Industry, Self-publishing, success Tagged: Alexandra Alter, Hugh Howey, Wall Street Journal, WOOL

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