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

Mars Dorian—Spread Your Influence

Welcome to the fifth 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.

Mars Dorian’s blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to blog with a winning strategy. Incidentally, I love his blog name (which he’s said is about 80% based on his real name).

AN EXCELLENT POST ABOUT HOW TO STAND OUT IN AN OVERCROWDED NICHE

I learned some extremely important tips about breaking into a crowded niche while reading the Want To Dominate An Overcrowded Niche? This Post Will Help You post at his blog. He said,

2. Re-invent your digital career
Internet marketers and social media consultants are like zits. Just when you think you got enough, more sprout out of nowhere. Please, don’t become a zit !

Give yourself a title which only YOU can use.

In Berlin, Germany, there’s a former law student who now calls him Doc Alex – the party scientist. He’s earning a killing from organizing up to 150 big parties a year.

There’s supposed to be an archive worker at CNN who calls herself “Information Goddess of popular culture”

I know some people that are web designers but call themselves digital storytellers

Dave Navarro tagged himself as the “Launch coach” and now enjoys top dollars in the 6 figure range.

What do they all have in common ? They are all people who vaporized their standard job description (consultant, archivists, web designer) and created their own instead.

An unknown blogger or marketer has to face a huge problem when entering the competitive online arena. But when the blogger chooses to become a status quo non-conformist , or a Digital Empire builder , he will dominate his part of the niche and leave the competition in the digital dust.

That one tip about giving yourself a title that only you can use is worth serious consulting money! I’ve seen a number of bestselling personal finance authors use this tactic. There’s the “Rich Dad” series of books. There’s also Loral Langemeier, who has called herself “The Millionaire Maker.” This one idea has helped me with my future mainstream projects. Check it out.

October 19, 2010   8 Comments

The Art Of Stealth, Part 5: Cultivating Personal Character As A Weapon And Shield

Character development is the most powerful weapon and shield you have in a competitive world. No externally generated advantage such as wealth or natural good looks will benefit you for very long without some measure of character development to accompany it. For example, a totally undisciplined person will destroy whatever advantage they are blessed with.

Contrary to popular assumption, character development is not automatically identical with becoming a better person. A villian can be patient, resourceful, and self-disciplined. Character development makes you a more skilled and more effective person. How you use those skills is up to you.

Modern African-Americans have a cultural bias that favors focusing on external factors and barriers to personal success. We don’t like to pay attention to the internal factors that are completely under our own control. For example, we don’t need a protest march or anybody else’s permission and cooperation to:

  • cultivate a spirit of adventure
  • cultivate healthy ambition
  • cultivate patience
  • develop our powers of awareness
  • develop our resourcefulness
  • increase our tolerance for self-discipline, and so on.

We often want things that our current collection of character traits can’t achieve or sustain. Many of us belittle and insult the people who cultivated the internal traits needed to achieve certain things. We do this by attributing their success solely to luck or connections. This came up during an earlier conversation. Several readers and I discussed a New York Times article about a recent Black writers’ conference.

A reader named DeStouet said,

Unfortunately I’ve found that it doesn’t help to read anything by African American authors, including those that are already published.

The New York Times just recently wrote an article http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/23/books/23writers.html?hpw
about how black writers would like to seek a wider audience, which is great. It is actually something I think about as a writer.

However, the article’s tone was still depressing and sad. On the way to the store last night I caught myself thinking, “Well, what if I can’t….?”

The thing about reading essays, articles and other material by most AA is that it has the ability to make you feel like there is a box that you MUST remain in despite your training, discipline and craft.

However, I am certain that is a lie!

Good for her that she hasn’t let others discourage her. I said the following in response,

**Warning: EXTREMELY Long Reply Comment {chuckling}**

DeStouet,

I’m responding to your comment separately and at length because the points you’ve raised, and the news story you linked to, touch on something that all AAs need to be clear about:

There’s really NO getting around having to assume the responsibility for ourselves. Most of AAs’ whining about various topics has the same root cause. The things we complain about are the logical, predictable, end result of our consistent refusal to build our own infrastructures—in other words, build our own businesses.

Instead, we whine about how others haven’t saved a spot for us in their endeavors. (Traditionally we’ve been complaining about Whites’ failure to include AAs in their stuff. But as others like Latinos and Asians increasingly join the elite—which they already have in the science, medical and computer-related fields—then AAs will be whining about the other folks’ refusal to let us in their stuff).

This is the 21st century. How many more centuries are AAs going to sing this “They won’t save a spot for us” song/lament? How many centuries does it take for us to catch the hint that others DON’T feel any obligation to us?

You said, “Unfortunately I’ve found that it doesn’t help to read anything by African American authors, including those that are already published. . . . The thing about reading essays, articles and other material by most AA is that it has the ability to make you feel like there is a box that you MUST remain in despite your training, discipline and craft.”

This is why I only take in materials produced by people who are powerfully moving forward on their goals and dreams. This criterion tends to exclude 99.99% of things said by AAs. Because most of us are still locked into the traditional conditioned responses of: (1) looking for others to create a way for us and include us in their agenda; and (2) whining when these other people don’t do this.

First, let me mention my reactions to various statements in the news story:

“The conference, expected to attract 2,000 people, is a chance for writers to study and celebrate one another and for readers to hear writers presenting their work and dissecting social and literary themes. Over four days of workshops and discussions, the participants can also grapple with issues like the value of black sections in bookstores, the paucity of black editors in publishing and how to expand the list of black writers taught in schools.”

This sounds like an near-total waste of time. They need to talk about strategies for increasing sales and creating new distribution outlets for their work. Also note the traditional AA emphasis on congratulatory back-slapping. BEFORE any real “battle” has been WON.

“But some in the book world worry that conference attendees end up talking mostly to themselves. “I respect the ability of the Medgar Evers conference to build community,” said Martha Southgate, a novelist whose most recent book, “Third Girl From the Left,” was published in 2005. “But what I struggle with is that it should be beyond our community.””

It’s okay to talk with like-minded people. The problem here is what they have their minds set on—looking for others to make it happen for them.

“In 2007 Ms. Southgate was part of a racially mixed group of writers, editors and booksellers who dreamed up theringshout.com, a Web site devoted to literary black writers and the idea that they belong at the center of the American literary tradition, with readers of all kinds.”

This sounds like it might be somewhat of an improvement. However, how does this serve to create new distribution channels for AA writers? I’ll have to take a look at this site.

““We need cross-pollination,”” said Lawrence Schiller, a film producer, director and writer who was a founder of the Norman Mailer Writers Colony in Provincetown, Mass. Mr. Schiller, who is white, asked Brenda M. Greene, the director of the conference and executive director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, for help in finding a black writer to teach at the Mailer colony.”

Ahhh, a White person going out of his way to include AA writers. This is NOT mainstream behavior, and AA writers shouldn’t be in the position of depending on somebody else to wake up one day and decide to do some outreach. What nobody in the article mentioned is that if a novelist’s book sales are big enough, then that writer automatically becomes known to others throughout the industry—starting with the money people—“the suits.” Success creates visibility and gives non-AAs in the industry a self-interested REASON to seek one out. Which is why these folks need to be talking about creative strategies for increasing their sales.

“The conference is a step in raising the visibility of black writers, Mr. Schiller said, but those writers also need to be ““part of the bigger picture””: better represented at other conferences, on the curriculums of graduate writing programs and community colleges and more widely read by young nonblacks. Ms. Greene said the conference, which she believed was the largest event of its kind in the country, helped achieve those goals.”

The conference ISN’T raising the visibility of these AA writers to the people who matter most in this equation—the consumers. Whatever awareness this sort of moaning, groaning and whining conference is creating among consumers is probably NOT favorable. Really now, who mentally associates this type of “they won’t cut us in” grumbling with an enjoyable fiction-reading experience? NOBODY.

“The wide-ranging conference includes tributes to Amiri Baraka and to Toni Cade Bambara, who died in 1995; panels on topics including “the black writer as literary activist” and “politics and satire in the literature of black writers”; and sessions exploring the influence of phenomena like hip-hop, war and the Internet on black writers. The conference also features writing workshops for students in elementary, middle school and high school.”

The traditional AA preoccupation with “tributes” BEFORE and often INSTEAD of handling the business.

“In addition to Ms. Morrison, who is to be honored at a reception on Saturday night, writers expected to take part include the novelists Colson Whitehead, Bernice McFadden, Victor LaValle and Breena Clarke; the poets Sonia Sanchez and Staceyann Chin; and authors whose work crosses genres, like James McBride, Thulani Davis, Kevin Powell and Touré.”

More self-congratulatory back-slapping. Instead of focusing on creating answers to the business problems of how to increase sales and create new ways of reaching potential consumers (new distribution channels).

“With all the changes and challenges in publishing, said the writer Linda Villarosa, a former executive editor of Essence Magazine who teaches writing and journalism at City College, this conference is needed now more than ever. “We need to get the heads of all the mainstream publishers there to explain —— and it doesn’t have to be angry —— how the business model works and how to get more of our books published,” she said. Among her concerns: the rise of racy “street lit” books, the small number of black editors at publishing houses and the way books by black authors are pigeonholed in stores.”

For those who don’t know, magazines are dying and soon to be mostly dead as a media form. It appears to be similar to what’s happening with newspapers. From what I’ve read, freelance writers who are depending on sales of articles to magazines are not doing well as they watch magazines fold and that kind of work dry up. Note that Ms. Villarosa left Messence . . . to teach . . . at City College.

“One reason getting attention can be hard is that “there are next to no African-Americans at influential publications reviewing theater and books on a regular basis,” Ms. Nottage said. “We are evaluated and critiqued by people outside the experience. Perhaps there is some resistance to penetrate the issues we’’re dealing with.””

Again, this boils down to AAs’ failure to create or buy “influential publications” that review theater and books on a regular basis.

What I found most striking—and not in a good way—is what I DIDN’T see in this news story:

I didn’t see any mention made of any of these AA writers taking the innovative steps that others have taken to create consumer awareness and demand for their fiction. Such as the strategy of doing (free or paid) podcasting of their novels to develop a base of readers and more importantly, book-buyers. At the earlier blog, I did a post about a (WM) science fiction/thriller author who did this (Scott Sigler).

There’s also an interview at Editor Unleashed with another (WM) author (crime novelist Seth Harwood) who used this strategy to generate exposure for his work. Another fiction writer who podcasted his work is the (WM) thriller writer, J.C. Hutchins, who wrote the 7th Son trilogy.

Note: These men didn’t just whip up a novel and toss it out there without some sort of plan for growing an audience for their work. In 2 of these cases, they used (iTunes) podcasting to create a VERIFIABLE audience for their fiction, and later leveraged these verifiable numbers into book contracts.

Now, I’m not saying that the podcasting one’s novel (freebie or paid) method always works—after all, we’re probably only hearing about the success stories with this technique. My point is that when I read news stories about (and essays by) AA authors I DON’T hear any of them brainstorming creative ideas like podcasting for generating exposure and consumer awareness of their work. Instead, I hear whining and waiting for White publishers and other White entities to make it happen for them.

The other thing that I believe AA novelists should factor in their plans is the sort of fiction they’re writing.

It seems to me that it’s probably easier to use the above sort of consumer awareness building/reader-building techniques when you’re writing in genres that have a subculture of voracious, book-hungry readers—such as science fiction and romance. The so-called “street lit” peddlers have created a genre that has a subculture of readers who are hungry for that trash.

Unfortunately, I haven’t read or heard many serious, legitimate AA writers do any sort of strategizing about any of the above. The one “strategy” seems to consist of whining about and to Whites in the industry.

As I said at the beginning of this very long comment, this boils down to our refusal to become more business-minded and create our own infrastructure.

Another reader named JaliliMaster pointed out the following,

I’ve noticed that whenever Black folks compare the fortunes of INDIVIDUAL WM to that of BM in the same professions, they always only look at his success, while ignoring the extra things he might have done that they didn’t. Looking at these 3 men, most Black folks would just dismiss it as them getting a ‘leg-up’ because they are White, ignoring the fact that these men didn’t do things the traditional way. The fact is, if you want to get something you’ve never had, you have to do something that you’ve never done. When Black folks get a clue, they’ll realise the benefits. Till then…oh well.

She’s absolutely right. Instead of considering some of the internal traits the others had to cultivate for their success (in these cases, resourcefulness), we’re quick to attribute their success purely to external factors. How convenient for a group of people who resist doing any sort of introspection or internal work.

POP QUIZ: FROM THE THINGS THEY SAID, WHAT CHARACTER TRAITS WOULD YOU GUESS ARE LACKING AMONG MANY OF THE CONFERENCE ATTENDEES?

This quiz might be an eye-opening experience. Replay the statements made by many of the Black writers quoted from the conference. And consider how these statements probably sound to other, more resourceful, people. Ask yourself . . . do you want to sound like these people?

REAL LIFE HAS MANY SILENT ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Real life has a number of silent, but very real, entry requirements. As writer Steve Pavlina stated in his post Achieving Goals By Improving Your Character,

Often a change in character is a crucial part of shifting your identity to become more congruent with your goals and intentions. For example, suppose you want to become more successful in your career, and you set a goal to reach a certain position. Maybe the main reason you haven’t yet reached that position is that your character attributes are out of sync with it. Perhaps you aren’t disciplined enough, confident enough, or resourceful enough to get there.

Once you can identify the character qualities you’re missing, you can consciously develop them. But as long as you remain in the dark about these deficiencies, it will be tough to reach your goal because you won’t yet be the kind of person who can achieve it. It’s like trying to lift more weight than your muscles can manage.

Select one of your goals or intentions, especially one where your progress has been disappointing. Now ask yourself if a person with different character attributes would be more capable of achieving this goal than you are. What kind of person would find your goal easy to achieve?

He goes on to suggest various tools you can use to become that person. I highly recommend that you check them out.

October 10, 2010   27 Comments

50 Essential Resources For Ebook Writers

Even though the site is geared toward information marketers, AlexisDawes.com is an excellent resource for writers looking to make money with their nonfiction. In this 2008 post, Ms. Dawes mentions 50 resources that are essential for ebook writers. One of Ms. Dawes’ ebooks, Desperate Buyers Only, gives great tips for writing ebooks that people are eager to buy. She explains specific techniques for selecting ebook topics that provide answers for readers who are desperate to solve specific problems. Think of the consumer dynamics involved with products that promise to help solve hair loss problems—you want to create nonfiction ebooks that solve similar “desperate” problems. From what I’ve seen, I agree with Ms. Dawes when she says,

If you’re not making as much money as you want selling information products online, I guarantee it’s because you’re trying to sell with a “bookstore book” mentality. Change your focus, and make more money.

By reading her blog and ebook, I learned several key strategies that will help me with my future projects. Check it out.

**Audience Note** I don’t have any affiliate relationships with anybody. If I mention a site or product, it’s because I’ve found it to be helpful in my own projects.

September 5, 2010   4 Comments

The Smart Passive Income Blog

Welcome to the fourth 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, The Smart Passive Income Blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to blog with a winning strategy. Mr. Flynn’s free ebook, Ebooks The $mart Way, gives great tips for publishing, marketing, and automating “killer ebooks.” Giving away a free, content-rich ebook in exchange for a reader subscribing to one’s blog is a popular strategy among professional bloggers. It’s a way to quickly grow the number of people who subscribe to your blog. By reading this ebook, I learned several key strategies that will help me with my future projects. Check it out.

August 8, 2010   14 Comments