Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
A distinction that I should've made before:
There are two forms, as I see it, of self-publishing.
- One is the long established "Author+Amazon=BOOK."
- The rise of the "ePublisher" (we WILL talk about this more; what follows is just a snapshot)
There's a ton to be said about ePublishers but the most important things to remember:
- They're new. A lot will change.
- An ePublisher can never NEVER be monetarily associated with or a part of an agency. AAR would have our hides. So, in fact, would our authors.
Related to bullet two above: Agents and agencies make their money from AGENTING. Not anything else. You won't pay an agent to design your cover, and you won't pay them to find you someone who will (not directly, at least. Good cover=increased sales=more money from their commission, but that's sort of arbitrary.)
You can hire freelancers to do work like cover design. But if you do so without an agent, you do so without an advocate. Sure, you can get all up in your designer's grill if they don't produce something up to snuff. But you're just one client. They're not going under if you get mad, or even if you don't pay. A freelancer's relationship with an agent/agency is different. Those entities offer volume: hundreds of referrals are at stake if the agency takes their authors elsewhere. They're more likely to get it together, crash a project, or make a deal for that kind of risk.*
Point 3 about ePublishers:
- Royalty/Advance structures aren't set in stone. Some deals do have advances, others use high royalty rates to offset a no-advance deal. Either way, the agent signs up for what you sign up for: if there's no advance, we don't get paid until the first royalty statement (but, with no advance to earn back, there should be immediate money).
So, blahblahblah, that's all fine--why are we back to a publisher again?! Isn't the point of self-publishing to get away from all of that???
If you feel that way, may I direct you to number 1, above. But here's what ePublishers are offering (the ones that will succeed, at least): Distribution.
In traditional publishing, distribution is what makes the Big Six "big." It means they get your books shipped to stores with favorable rates on shipping, etc. that minimize cost and maximize market penetration, maximize profit.
But this is the Internet, right? We've all got "distribution," Sally. Well, yes. But I italicized minimize cost above for a reason. Distribution is not only about getting the book on the shelf (digital or real). It's about doing it efficiently, with the lowest cost. ePublishers can do that because (to answer Livia's question), they do have special deals with online retailers. This is similar to the freelancer/agency relationship. Perseus is the largest distributor of independent publishers in North America. You think they have clout with Amazon and Apple? You bet.
Exactly what that clout will get ePublishers remains to be completely defined. But they will have special arrangements for royalty models, and more control over book pricing, not to mention other things that don't even have to do with price, like page placement. It's the equivalent of getting your book face-out or not in a bookstore. That was the publisher's doing, you know.
The ePublishers are just getting themselves launched. They make arrangements with agencies because they need work that's 1. vetted and 2. plentiful. They need content--a lot of it--in order to have clout with eRetailers--agencies offer an aggregation of hundreds of authors, thousands of books. Even a sole proprietor offers dozens of authors and books. For you, the author, getting into that pool means getting the best deal. Getting an agent (at an agency that's thinking about these things--question to ask people offering rep.) means getting into that pool.
Agents are able to see where ePublishers are getting it right and which ones to steer clear of. And, by the way, which books just need the ol' fashioned traditional publishing treatment. Authors are brilliant. They could do the research and figure out 90% of what agents know. But then there's still 10% advance info gleaned from contacts about new initiatives/companies/etc. that you'll never have access to. Not because publishing is "so insular," but because you're not in publishing. You don't have those relationships.
Agents have the full picture. They can strategize with you. That's what made them valuable in traditional publishing and even moreso now. With so much in flux, a lot stands to be gained by having a professional advocate, and a lot stands to be lost by going it alone.
But, you know...I'm biased.
*Are the agents/agency getting a kickback from these referrals? More thank likely not, although models for becoming more full-service are evolving. Always remember: the agent gets paid if you get paid. They've got your best interests at heart because it's their best interest. If you don't feel like that, you've got the wrong agent.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Just the fact that there are a lot of variables sounds like a fine reason, to me, to have an expert involved. Yet I still hear a lot of grumbling about agents and earning commissions in a self-publishing model. Maybe I'm biased. Let's look at what's going on:
Before self-publishing was available, agents' most recognized "value added" was knowing the gatekeepers at a publishing house. Gatekeeper. Because that doesn't play a role, most authors chafe at the thought of paying someone a commission to handle their book.
(Now, there's a lot of other stuff an agent does, but authors typically aren't exposed to that until they have an agent. Then it's still frequently so behind-the-scenes that they don't know it's going on.)
Getting a book published, on a "shelf" (digital or real), is only step one. Self-publishing exposes authors to every single subsequent step. Distribution, for instance. Um, PRODUCTION?? Cover design? It also exacerbates longstanding challenges, like promo and marketing. Though everyone cries foul that publishers don't promote authors, they do cover some basics, like printing galleys to send for blurbs. Tweeting, even putting an author up on their site is helpful, for SEO if nothing else. Who takes on the rest of the promo effort? Agencies. Oh, and remember editing? And do you simply trust that Amazon is sending you the royalties you've earned?
^^Hopefully, that doesn't sound like too much for you to handle, intrepid self-publisher. Because it's only the vaguest outline of what goes into a book.
None of this is even getting into what I talk about as agents' "new responsibilities" as digital becomes a bigger and bigger deal. This is all what agents do on a regular basis today.
Do I need to say more?
It's not an entirely unfounded bias, either. There're a lot of books online. Some of them are bound to be crap. But, as a couple of people pointed out in the comments last week, there's crap coming out of traditional publishing, too. Even some books lauded as "bestsellers," that make millions, have their detractors.
Self-publishing's been stigmatized because it seems to allow anyone to vomit something up there and drag us all down with 'em. There's no oversight, no gatekeeping. It's interesting, because complaints of unfair or erratic gatekeeping are perhaps the most common of those leveled against traditional publishing. (eyebrow: raised)
Self-publishing is coming into its own as a viable option for serious writers, and traditional publishing is actually leading that charge, primarily from the agenting side. Agents are a great legitimizing force for self-published authors because, in general, recognized experts raise the perceived value of a product. Raising the perceived value = eliminating stigma.
Self- and traditional publishing are not foes, and they're not either/or. That's why traditional publishing must-haves, like agents, aren't going anywhere. It's why, despite all predictions 5 years ago, publishing hasn't gone bankrupt and stopped printing physical books. It's ironic, but the most important people in self-publishing's journey to validity are traditional publishing professionals.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
- Not having to write about sex on my professional blog (not done).
- Not linking to the joke of a "news" outlet that is the NY Observer. Because you read both NY Mag's funny, derisive article and The Observer's...one.
- It's TRUE. And funny.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
What I like:
- As with brainstorming, I think mediums that force authors to release the death grip on their stories will allow pleasantly unexpected things to happen. I think we'll see creativity at its most unfettered.
- It's social!
- There are rules (you have to alternate turns every sentence) but not too many rules.
- The site allows you to choose with whom you collaborate--or you can just collaborate with strangers. You've got control over who sees your work.
- They're talking about selling on Amazon and paying authors!! Sweet. The more places to make moneyz writing, the better.
But when something collaborative gets monetized, there's bound to be conflict over who gets what--and Neovella purports to split royalties based on "the success of the web site and the given story." What about splits based on content? Do we divide based on who submitted the most sentences? Does the originator of the story, as the one who technically wrote the first copyrighted word and, it could be claimed, had "the idea," get a larger amount? What about conflict over quality of content? You *know* some all authors will feel like he/she carried the story.
Neovella won't be able to cover every conceivable conflict. Writers are just too creative. But they can track who submits what and pay accordingly. As for heading off the more complex issues, I think Neovella should consider the following:
- Optional monetization. Just as you can choose with whom you collaborate, you should also be able to opt out of the Amazon program. Take $$ out of the equation, suddenly things get a lot less complicated.
- Contracts. Neovella could make boilerplates available for story initiators to post with the opening line of the story. As you have to agree to terms and conditions before a program will install on your computer, you have to agree to the contract before being allowed to post. Users should be able to tweak the contract, submitting revisions for approval by the group before the story begins--no revisions after things are underway except by unanimous vote.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Now, you've got this blog! It's your online brand-y-hub thing! You are crafting a message both personal and interesting to your audience!
Whoa. Audience? Who said anything about that?
Your audience, as you doubtless know, is numero uno. It's more important than your witty quips or cool stories. Plus, if you keep checking your comments and you've still only got that one from your mom asking about your change of address,
Two things on audience: Who they are and how to get on their radar screen.
Both take a little legwork. Your blog has a topic--you don't only have to talk about that one thing, but it should constitute the majorty of your content. So research that topic! Google keywords and see what comes up. Take a look on Twitter to see who's talking about the things you're blogging about. Use this info to:
- See who should follow/friend/link to--as in other bloggers
- Decide how to tailor your posts and labels (at the bottom of blog posts) so that you include the keywords people most often search when looking for your topic. They're the intuitive ones. The ones you Googled. You're dabbling in SEO now!! You techy, you.
The people involved in the internet discussions you uncovered with your Googling are your core audience--they're already interested. Their followers/friends/readers are interested in what they're retweeting/posting/blogging--meaning they're valuable. They'll extend your "reach." Marketing lingo! Look at you...
Now you talks to them!! But before you start broadcasting your presence, hedge your bets a little. Get about a week's worth of your best material queued up to pose. You can take one of two routes:
- Have a big launch day.
- Just sort of ease onto the scene
The former is appropriate if you've got something you know people will want. I had some assurance that people would like the prizes I
hawked offered on my launch day (thank you, btw!!), so this was a no brainer to me. I knew it would drive traffic and, through retweets, etc., that people would spread the word (THANK YOU!). Do you? Be creative now...and make sure it's not random. It needs to make sense in the context of your blog.
If you don't do a launch day, tha's cool. Just ease in there--post that week's worth of material before you start promoting yourself. But make sure your best, most interesting post is the one you post on the day you start buzzing about yourself. One that'll hook 'em, and get them clicking around your other posts. Doesn't hurt to cross link to your other posts, either.
When you're ready, just slide into the conversations you've been watching:
- Twitter is the easiest place to do this. Make comments or retweet. Use hashtags. Don't be afraid to talk directly (@) people. You can link to your blog in your tweets, but also link to other sites that you find interesting. Be interesting/linky and not only will people follow you, but they'll check out your profile, which lists your blog (right???).
- Other blogs are fantastic ways to get ideas for content or crosslinking. Someone say something you have Opinions about? Response blog and link to it. Mention your response, using the other person's handle, on Twitter. You can build on others' posts and, by linking to them, build a presence in the community.
- Facebook. I don't know. Post a picture or something. Facebook is a weird and wild animal. It'll have it's own series here somewhere. Plus, I use mine only for personal use. You have to be careful with that. With all the pictures.
- Quora. OMG this place is so underappreciated. People ask questions, other people answer them. It's a great place to build a platform and find things to blog about. The things people are asking about are the things that they'll want to read blog posts about.
So that's it! KNow that you'll do probably 5 hours of work up front, figuring out where your audience is and how to best talk to them. Expect that, and don't be discouraged. Your time investment will reduce as you find the most efficient means of talking to your readers. And as your readers start reblogging/retweeting you...doing your work for you. :)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
"Little of their workday is left to discover the next Lorrie Moore; to read the thousands of manuscripts you have to mine to find The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, they sacrifice their weekends."
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
People may debate excerpts on ze blog. I'll reiterate here what I said in yesterday's comments: excerpts are usually part of a sales strategy. This assumes the book is for SALE (or orderable), whether via traditional or self publishing. If it's not pushing people to buy (NOW) or preorder, your excerpt is wasted. In my opinion and many others'.
But barring your copyrighted content, anything is blog fodder! Blog your LIFE! Your PASSIONS!! Right?!?!
YES. Well, no. Almost.
Just because you're blogging about "your life/passions" doesn't mean you don't have to filter. Someone likened blogging to "reality TV" and "car crashes" in the comments, because it's raw and emotional and you can't look away. Eh...not really.
"Feelings" don't belong on your blog. OK, half of them do. The "YAY This awesome thing!!" or "How cool is this?!" feelings are great for blogging. But the feelings that I most associate with car crashes and Reality TV (regret, sadness, anger, etc.) should never make their way onto the internet--anywhere.
Back to the brand. While no one is happy/professional all the time, your blog/Twitter/Facebook should read like you are. Moments when you're down are moments when you need your friends around you, yes. You just need to TAWLK. But your Twitter followers and blog readers are not your friends (barring the ones that were friends first). They're your Twitter followers and your blog readers.
You love them, but it's, like, meta-love. It's binary code love. Not suitable for heavy emotional stuff--too much is lost in translation. Just think about all those text messages that have come across wrong at one time or another. Do you really want that happening on an interwebz scale?? No.
Monday, March 7, 2011
The second most popular reason is closely related: Coming up with something to say is hard--it takes time. You have to think...
And, really, do we need another writer blogging about their daily wordcount or their submission process? Is anyone interested in that?! No. No, they're not. Good instinct.
Think in terms of your brand again. Brands have specific messages, tailored to specific audiences. Successful brands sell product to audiences that are interested in consuming that product--they don't waste time talking about what their audience isn't interested in (*cough cough* your personal writing experience).
Blog about something you're passionate about. This will come across sincerely, and you'll have plenty to say--content won't be difficult. For me, it's the intersection of technology and publishing.
I COULD WRITE ABOUT THIS STUFF ALL DAY!
I don't because there's not time for that. But it's easy for me to find topics because it's where my mind gravitates naturally.
But, I'm passionate about WRITING, you say. Um, OK. But you're going to have to have some specificity, or risk becoming another one of "those" writer/bloggers. With no followers and no commenters
Ask yourself this question:
What do you like writing about? Are you fascinated by your characters' psychology, like Sarah Fine? Are you intrigued by court life in Regency England? For nonfiction, what's your premise? Fashion? Politics? Fashion in Regency England?! Blog about these topics--they're your voice, and they're what you love.
But continue to exercise caution. You have to keep your novelling/nonfic-ing SEPARATE from your blogging. Why? Because the book is (one of the) product(s) you're hawking--ideally to the same audience who finds your blog so clever. If you've said all you want to say on your blog, why would a publisher pay just to compile it? Why would readers pay for what you've already given them?!
Which brings me to the question of excerpts on the blog. NO!! NO, NO, NO!!!! No! Don't put writing you intend to sell on the interwebz for free. Not only are you putting it out there with only the minimum legal protections against intellectual theft, but you're undermining your book in the long run.
Build a following for yourself, separate from your book by blogging about the topics that prompted you to write a book. It's one step removed from your writing. This means that your blog readership is interested in you + your book. It's the best possible scenario: readers want to consume both products.
Win. Win. #Winning?
Friday, March 4, 2011
- Aimee @ 6:58am--short fiction markets are expanding due to the rise of online journals, etc. A lot of writers write both long and short form, so talking about selling your short stuff is of interest to many. And surprisingly pitfall heavy.
- ElizaFaith @7:33--Choose Your Own Adventure books. My head exploded. So. Many. Options.
- Tracey @ 1:28--Piracy. Obviously, important topic. I think I'll probably have some surprising opinions on the matter.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
- Download "Inigma" or search "QR Reader" in your app store/marketplace.
- Open that app. You'll see a box or something that says "center code" or something along those lines.
- Point your camera at the QR code on the computer screen and center it in the box you see.
- In some apps, you may have to click or tap to get it to capture, but Inigma will scan it automatically.
- OMG YOU'RE ON A WEBSITE! It's magic.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
I came across a tweet yesterday from Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) linking to a sparring match between Macolm Gladwell and Clay Shirky. The basic argument? What is the #$*$%#@ point of social media (SM)?
Gladwell says SM is an innovation but perhaps it doesn't "Matter," so much. Twitter and Facebook don't solve appreciable real world problems. They're nice, but...they did give us Farmville.
I suppose I see the point. But I lean more towards Shirky's argument. Using recent political uprisings as examples, he points to ways that SM and digital platforms (phones, for ex.) have changed the playing field in a lot of games. I think Egypt is a fine example. The protests in London earlier this year made extraordinary use of Google Maps.
Those are extreme examples. But I'd be hard pressed to find any aspect of our current culture that hasn't been revolutionized by SM and its portability on digital platforms. Well...so? Does that "Matter?"
Yes. I think it does.
Social media is not about what problems it solves/what it can do for you. Mostly, it's just about making friends and utilizing the incredible economies of scale that having thousands of friends create (word-of-mouth, anyone?). But SM and digital content (apps) are also about solving the problems you didn't even know you had. Using someone else's brain labor.
Apps come out and people smack their heads--how did they live before they could Yelp? Before being able to download a flashlight onto their phone! And why didn't I think of that?! Chuck Wendig got a chili recipe off Twitter, for goodness' sake. He COULD HAVE STARVED!
SM puts you in touch with experts you'd never have access to otherwise in an environment where questions and exchange of ideas can be nonthreatening. Noncreepy (I know you can do it). Digital platforms make SM mobile and, through apps, make experts' creations easily accessible.
If that's not revolutionary...