Category — writing biz
Welcome to the second episode of Author Platform Construction 101. In an earlier post I mentioned the modern author’s need to find ways to create an audience for their work. Preferably, before publishing their books. In the writing context, creating connections with potential readers is called building an author’s “platform.”
Blogging can be an effective way of creating these connections. However, there’s more than one kind of blogging. Some blogging styles are more effective at building an audience than others. There’s the casual, pure hobby style of blogging that is done without any forethought. And then there’s strategic blogging that is designed to encourage specific responses from readers. The hoped for responses can be any number of things, such as: consider a new idea, rethink an old idea, buy a particular product, engage in social activism, spread the word about something, or any combination of the above.
Even though the site is geared toward helping online entrepreneurs, Erica.Biz is an excellent resource for writers looking to blog with a winning strategy. Ms. Douglass’ free ebook, Blog Success Manifesto, gives great tips for quickly growing your blog to thousands of subscribers. By reading her ebook, I learned several key blogging strategies that will help me with my future projects. Check it out.
May 27, 2010 15 Comments
This is the video clip that I referred to in the post 5 Elements of Money-Making Nonfiction Books. The post discussed the details of why nonfiction writers who want to earn a good living for themselves and their families don’t need to have their books on the bestsellers lists. Being on a bestseller list is a very good thing, but it’s not necessary to make significant amounts of money with a nonfiction book. As I mentioned during the post:
3. They serve as brochures for other, often more expensive products from the author.Entrepreneurial nonfiction authors know the real money does not come from book sales. Instead, the real money comes from “back-end” sales of other products (audio programs, newsletters, videos, special reports, teleseminars, boot camps, speaking engagements, personal coaching) mentioned in the books. It’s easier to sell additional products to existing customers than to get new customers.
Let’s use the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books as an example of this. The Rich Dad, Poor Dad franchise started when Robert Kiyosaki self-published the first Rich Dad book in 1997. The Rich Dad, Poor Dadbooks sprinkle references to other products in the product line throughout the books. I’ve seen a video clip where Mr. Kiyosaki mentions that he wasn’t focused on selling the first book as his ultimate goal. He was focused on getting some of the readers who bought the first Rich Dad book to also buy his more expensive CashFlow educational board game. The original Rich Dad, Poor Dad book costs $16. The CashFlow 101 board game costs $195. He eventually sold enough books to get the attention of a major publisher (Warner Books).
Mr. Kiyosaki also offers audio programs (ranging from $10 to $79); two seminar DVDs ($299 and $1,199); and live, three-day seminars (from $2,750 to $5,000). He also offers Rich Dad personal coaching. I guess it’s one of those “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” things. The Rich Dad website doesn’t disclose the price tag for this service. You have to call or email the company to find out that information.
During his remarks, Mr. Kiyosaki makes several important points. Specifically about how he views his writing. He said that he’s not an author. He’s “an entrepreneur who builds businesses behind books.” He’s “an entrepreneur who builds businesses behind games.”
I believe that’s a perspective that all aspiring entrepreneurial artists should keep in mind. Are you building a business behind your art?
April 16, 2010 5 Comments
I came across the following from a blog post by a literary agent. Among other things, she said:
I will tell you right now, if you don’t learn to move on, to write the next book and query the next book and write and query the next book after that you will never be published.
No agent and no publisher wants an author for only one book, and if you spend years reworking and re-pitching that same book you’re not making yourself a very marketable or publishable author.
Even though I groaned when I read this last part (after all, it’s hard work to write just one book), it does make sense. People in general are accustomed to perceiving their goals in a “gonna fly now-Rocky” context of the one prize fight, the one hit song, or the one blockbuster novel that will propel them to the top of their field. Very few people contemplate the sustained effort it takes to create a body of work.
So, what does this mean to me? It means that after I finish the first draft of my novel, I’ll set it aside for a while and write some short stories that I can enter into writing competitions. And then I’ll start my second novel after I finish revising the first one. Onward and forward.
In most contexts, it’s not good to depend on one thing. This has been noted throughout the ages. As Baltasar Gracian said in his 1637 book, The Art of Worldly Wisdom:
Double Your Resources. You thereby double your life. One must not depend on one thing or trust to only one resource, however preeminent. Everything should be kept double, especially the causes of success, of favor, or of esteem. . . Thus as nature gives us in duplicate the most important of our limbs and those most exposed to risk, so art should deal with the qualities on which we depend for success.
The Art of Worldly Wisdom, pg. 54.
April 3, 2010 18 Comments
NUTS & BOLTS RESOURCES
I would suggest that anyone considering some form of self-publishing check out Clea Saal’s site (beginning with the POD articles section). The following three books are also extremely helpful.
The Clearly Confusing World of Self-Publishing & POD, by Clea Saal (some of the book chapters are available as free essays on her site, with her comparisons of various “vanity” publishers).
The Fine Print of Self-Publishing:The Contracts and Services of 45 Self-Publishing Companies Analyzed, Ranked, and Exposed, by Mark Levine. He’s an intellectual property attorney who offers his ratings and critiques of the various publishing contracts offered by various “vanity” publishers. Including a listing of some vanity publishers to avoid at all costs.
Become a Real Self-Publisher by Michael N. Marcus. He’s fairly anti-vanity publishers, and he “names names” in his book about the disadvantages of dealing with various vanity publishers. He also gives detailed information about the mechanics of being a writer and a publisher who takes control of all aspects of creating a book.
THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE VARIOUS TYPES OF SELF-PUBLISHING AND TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING
Incidentally, even though it’s a pejorative term, I don’t have a problem with the term “vanity” publisher—I used one for my book. I think that some of the vanity publishing companies are good as long as the writer goes into the situation with their eyes wide open—and fully understands the difference between vanity publishers and traditional publishers. There are two main differences.
First, with vanity publishers, the writer is paying for book cover design, interior layout, editing, and other book production services.
Second, the vanity publisher is NOT going to market the author’s book. They don’t get their money from book sales. Unlike traditional publishers, vanity publishers get their money from selling book production services to writers, and not from selling the books. When using vanity publishers, writers need to have their own marketing plan for bringing attention to their book.
The bottom line is that most vanity publishers function as glorified printers. That’s all. Period. Overall, I’m pleased with my experience with my publisher because I had researched what to expect from them. And I went into the process with my own plans about book marketing and book cover design.
A TIP FROM KHADIJA’S WRITING ADVENTURES
Here’s A Tip From Khadija’s Writing Adventures. A traditional problem with many vanity publishers is that they often design amateurish-looking book covers. If you use a vanity publisher, don’t let them design your book cover from scratch. It’s better to approach them with design ideas of your own, along with detailed, concrete examples. Best of all is to learn from the big-budget examples provided by traditionally published books. I spent an evening looking over dozens of book covers on Amazon.com. For my own cover, I selected design elements (typeface, subtitle on top and over the main title, and so on) from some book covers that I liked. Here’s part of one of the emails I sent to my publisher about the cover that I wanted for my book:
I’ve found examples for the book cover that I would like to have for my book . . . Here’s the link to Amazon.com.
(1) I like that the subtitle is at the top. I would like my subtitle to also be at the top similar to how it is on this cover. I would also like my subtitle “A Black Woman’s Guide To Having The Life And Love You Deserve” to be in the same all capitals type face as the _____________________ subtitle (and with the same sized font). I would like my subtitle to be in the same maroon color used for the 2nd subtitle for the _______________ book.
(2) I like the progression from a cream color to another color toward the bottom part of the __________ cover. I would like the same effect for my book cover. However, I don’t want the green that the ____________ cover uses. Instead of the green at the bottom that the __________________ cover uses, I would like the bottom part of my book cover to be the same maroon that I mentioned above regarding the subtitle. . .
. . . Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.”
The cover design techs suggested and added other elements to the book cover (such as the muted photograph of the woman—I instructed them to add a man walking beside her). But their starting point was based on my initial comments and examples.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
From what I can tell from reading comments on various blogs, many of the writers who are angry about their experiences with various vanity publishers didn’t do their research. Many of them had the mistaken belief the vanity publisher was going to market their books (like traditional publishers do). Many of them didn’t comparison shop or research the differences between the contracts offered by various vanity publishers. Many of them didn’t research which vanity publishers to avoid; and there are some terrible vanity publishing companies out there. Buyer beware!
The Writer Beware blog is another good resource for avoiding the various tricks, traps and scams involved in the writing biz.
MAKE SURE YOUR STRATEGY MATCHES YOUR GOALS FOR YOUR WRITING
On a slightly related note, from what I’ve read, another common source of bitterness for many self-published writers is the result of their lack of awareness of the widespread, heavy-duty stigma against self-published books within the book industry. See here for an example. See here for a less dismissive perspective from a literary agent about the difficulties involved with self-publishing (particularly regarding fiction).
All of this shows why aspiring writers need to be clear about their priorities. What are you looking to do with your writing? Earn a living? Become famous? Advance a social or political movement? Become a respected author within academic or literary circles? Some combination of the above? There are different strategies for achieving each of these goals.
In the nonfiction context, I don’t care about the stigma against self-published books. This is because of the particular goals I have with my nonfiction works. For those nonfiction works specifically addressing African-American women, I’m looking to advance a social movement (abundant life for African-American women and girls). For the business-related nonfiction books (and other information products) that I’m writing, I’m looking to make money while educating people. What “approved” insiders within the publishing industry think about these two types of products is not relevant to achieving these two goals. As I mentioned in this post, there are many ways of making good money with nonfiction that have nothing to do with gaining the approval of book industry insiders.
The business model that I’m considering is similar to the one used by many small criminal defense law firms. They use the relatively steady stream of “bread-and-butter” DUI and other traffic cases to subsidize their involvement in pro bono impact litigation (such as class action civil rights lawsuits). I’m considering forming a publishing company that will use the sales of various “how to” information products as a foundation for eventually expanding into self-publishing my fiction.
However, I plan to use different strategies for my fiction works. First, because it’s easier to market self-published nonfiction (especially “how to” books) than self-published fiction. Second, because I’m beginning to believe that already having at least minimal credibility with industry insiders is best when it comes to fiction works.
I haven’t finished my research on this issue, but it appears that having some sort of industry “stamp of approval” is an entry requirement for success with fiction. What form that stamp of approval takes might vary. Landing an agent, and being published by a traditional publisher is one stamp of approval. Winning at least one fiction-writing contest is another stamp of approval. Selling a screenplay to a major studio is another stamp of approval.
What all of this means for me is that I plan to work at getting at least one “stamp of approval” for my first few fiction works before self-publishing later novels. The strategy that I’m mapping out is based on my specific goals with my writing. Your “mileage may vary” and you need to consider your own specific writing goals.
March 20, 2010 8 Comments
The publishing business is undergoing major (if not catastrophic) changes. The days of authors being “pure” creatives who write books, and then leave the selling of their books to others is long gone. The new business model for authors and many other creative artists is CwF + RtB; which means find ways to connect with fans, and give them reasons to buy your work. A number of independent musicians have already been using this business model to create an audience for their work. In the writing context, creating connections with potential readers is called a building a “platform.”
I’ll discuss this more in future posts, but as a starting point, I would strongly urge all aspiring authors to take heed of the following warning from a literary agent.
These are exciting times filled with many amazing opportunities for those African-American women who understand and apply several basic concepts:
(1) Always asking “What’s in it for me? What does will this do in terms of MY long-term interests?”
(2) Always keeping in mind and applying the normal human ordering of priorities: self, family, clan, ethnic group. [I mean this in the sense of the reciprocating folks within these categories. For me, a non-reciprocating biological relative is the same as a non-reciprocating total stranger in terms of my priorities.]
(3) Always take advantage of opportunities to cooperate with like-minded African-American women who understand points #1 and #2.
Ladies, you don’t need “the masses” of anybody to understand or do anything in order for you to make amazing progress in living out your wildest dreams. All you need is your own determination, your own willingness to take action, and God’s help (He helps those who help themselves).
Elijah Muhammad was quite correct when he said, “Start with the believers.” In other words, start with the people who “get it.” And don’t worry about the rest who don’t get it. The ones who don’t get it don’t matter. Bestselling self-help author Robert Ringer (author of “Looking Out For #1”) also stressed this simple rule of only working with what he calls “qualified prospects.” Meaning people who are “qualified” to be worthy of interacting with you because they “get it,” and want to work with you.
When I speak of encouraging more African-American women to form publishing and production companies, I’m not talking about this in the traditional sense of “Oh, come join this holy and noble crusade.”
Instead, I’m saying this because—in addition to being a good thing in terms of promoting healthier visions of sane living for Black women and girls—these are opportunities for you to make large sums of money doing things that you enjoy (for the aspiring writers among us)! I’ve never been interested in taking vows of poverty. For any reason. It’s quite possible and doable to “do well by doing good.” This has always been my motto and practice.
If you’re savvy and you work it right, the writing biz can solve many of your financial worries while also being a lot of fun. The folks who are most adept at working the angles of the writing biz have found financial freedom! This could be you!
As I mentioned in the sample blog post about the 5 elements of money-making nonfiction, there are a lot of people making good money with their writing without being on a bestsellers list. There are ways of doing this. Now, that’s what I’m talking about here. LOL! I’m not talking about the old, played-out “crusade” model of failed, idealistic African-American businesses.
The other interesting pattern I’ve noticed is that when you make your move, you’ll often be surprised by the unexpected support that you’ll get from like-minded people. I’ve been humbled by the outpouring of active support that so many of you have given me with this latest project. And I can’t THANK YOU enough for that!
There’s no need to worship other people in other places. Hidden between the deranged masses of African-Americans, we have our own deep pockets of talent, industriousness, and intelligence within our own African-American collective. Ladies, that would be YOU. *Smile* The problem is that right now, most otherwise-sensible African-American women are directing their energies and talents toward NON-reciprocating people, places and ideas.
With all the modern tools available at our fingertips (the new technology, an opening of social and business opportunities in the wider world, and so on), those African-American women who understand and apply the above-mentioned basic principles will make HUGE strides forward in this new decade!
Onward and forward to full-spectrum abundant life!
February 8, 2010 11 Comments