Fiction Writers Who Are Prepared To Self-Publish AND Self-Market: Get Moving!

If you’re an aspiring novelist, please read and consider the following posts.

AS OF JANUARY 2011, THINGS ARE NOT LOOKING GOOD FOR TRADITIONAL PUBLISHERS OR BOOKSTORES

CURRENTLY AT AMAZON.COM, GENRE EBOOKS BY UNCONNECTED NOVELISTS ARE SELLING AS WELL AS WORKS BY ESTABLISHED, TRADITIONALLY-PUBLISHED AUTHORS

See the following posts over at J.A. Konrath’s blog (A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing). He’s changed his mind from his earlier position, and is now strongly in favor of self-publishing. One way to see these posts is to simply read the posts from his blog from December 27, 2010 through January 7, 2011. Here are the separate links:

Your mileage may vary, but all aspiring genre fiction writers should look into this! In the past, I was strongly against fiction writers self-publishing if they hadn’t already gotten some form of recognition from the traditional publishing industry. This was due to the stigma against self-published books within the industry.

However, after the past year, the traditional publishing industry currently appears to be on its knees. And at the same time, totally unconnected newbies are selling quite well in the genre ebook niches on Amazon.com. So, the equation has changed. The stigma still exists, but depending on one’s goals as a writer, it might not matter anymore. In any event, one resource you might want to check out is Are You Still Submitting Your Work To a Traditional Publisher?

January 11, 2011   37 Comments

WORDPLAY—Screenwriting Secrets From Working Screenwriters

There’s a wonderful and helpful website called WORDPLAY—Screenwriting Secrets From Working Screenwriters. It’s well worth any aspiring screenwriter’s time to check it out. Browse, learn and enjoy!

May 1, 2010   2 Comments

The Difference Between Self-Publishing & Traditional Publishing

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:

“Hi ________,

I’ve found examples for the book cover that I would like to have for my book . . . Here’s the link to Amazon.com.

Specifically:

(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

A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing

Joe Konrath is a full-time novelist who publishes the following excellent blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. He’s definitely not a “newbie.” He and his blog are a storehouse of insider information about the writing biz. It’s well worth any aspiring writer’s time to read through all of his blog archives, and check out his 761-page free ebook of blog posts organized by subject matter, The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.

He’s a talented, entertaining writer. I enjoyed reading his technothriller, The List.

March 6, 2010   21 Comments

Copyblogger

Welcome to the first episode of Author Platform Construction 101. In a recent 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.

Copyblogger is an excellent resource for writers looking to blog with a winning strategy. It discusses the various copywriting skills and techniques bloggers can use to write persuasive, compelling blog posts in support of their goals. Check it out.

February 12, 2010   2 Comments