Sunday, December 7, 2014

Publishing Trends from the Trenches

Regarding publishing, here are my thoughts as we near the end of 2014. Mine is not expert testimony. My ideas/opinions are collected by absorption rather than concentrated research. But I want to share my notes from the Asheville Bookfest this weekend, where I participated in a panel alongside several in-the-know writer-types.
AVL Bookfest 2014

Good News for Writers:

There are more ways than ever for a writer to get published.

Bad News for Writers:

The “old” way is harder than ever and demands as much work on the part of the writer as self-publishing.

Trend:
Your work is creative content and should be considered marketable on many different levels – screenplays, video games, merchandise, graphic novels, TV series, YouTube, anywhere a good story and characters can be plugged in.

Let’s talk about the good news…

Writers have a wide range of options for publishing their work. This includes …

  • Writing a blog (my blog is hosted free on Google’s platform, Blogger.com)
  • Being creative and going rogue, like Homestuck, which my kids are obsessed with (http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=6)
  • Building a website to start an online (literary) journal/magazine for your own work or the work of others (several ways to do it free, such as Weebly.com)
  • Joining forums for fanfiction (FanFiction.net, tagline is “unleash your imagination" and includes a category for anime)
  • Joining social platforms for writers (the largest of which is WattPad.com, which has a database of 35 million registered user and 75 million free stories)
  • And writers have a wide range of options for self-publishing a book (what used to be called vanity press); the list is long of service provider

Big Self-Publishing Service Providers


          CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing arm, and its ebook platform Kindle Direct, both of which are free, for right now (major caveat) 
          Lulu.com, which published both print and ebooks; it has a link to Indie Books on its homepage
          Smashwords.com and Xlibris.com, two of the most established due to longevity
          Bookbaby.com, which also is associated with CDbaby if you want to produce music or the audio version of the book
          FastPencil.com, which is launching a new site that won the Innovation Award from the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) at the 2014 BookExpo America (BEA)
          …and right in middle America, out of Bloomington, IN, is BookTango.com, which may be the only one of the self-publishing entities that allows writers the option of earning 100% royalties. (Recently merged with Book Country.)

Because of the tremendous choices writers have now to publish on their own and because ebook readership is going up, this has put intense pressure on the traditional publishing house (and some boutique/small presses) to become even pickier about taking risks on new or unproven talent.

1.    The market is saturated with more books (some not so good; in fact, dare I say, very bad, poorly edited and written)
2.    Big names writers are opting to go it alone -- they fight for their digital rights or self-publish
3.    This makes it difficult for traditional publishers to find books they think will sell -- like picking a grain of sand from a beach

One way traditional houses are finding new talent is from self-published best-sellers. Agents and editors are trolling the lists of popular self-published books and going after those authors with contracts and promises of broader readership.

For the writer, the mantra is becoming: A well-received self-published book is the new query letter. 

Why Trends in Publishing Put a Greater Burden on the Writer

If you happen to enjoy being discovered or building a relationship with a traditional publishing house, you will likely end up doing your own marketing or be expected to by the publisher. This means, in many cases, developing your own brand (the hated B word), which may require significant investments in: 
  • graphics, art, photography
  • creating newsletters and building email lists
  • developing avenues for exposure, such as teaching, workshops, manuscript editing and tutoring, book reviewing, how-to articles and books about writing, guest blogging, public speaking, youth tutoring, and volunteering for writers groups
  • building a web presence: having a blog and website and as many social media outlets as possible (the list keeps growing, ever heard of Ello or Vine?)
  • being your own PR machine – white pages, press release, radio and TV interviews, road tours
  • finding and cultivating reviews of your work, which can easily consume hour upon hour of research
And the ever popular ...
  • become a fab-u-loso blogger
  • or just be smart and follow Jane Friedman
Catch you later. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

NaNoWriMo Winners, Congratulations on Self-Discipline

In my part of the country tonight, there's still time to finish the 50K-word novel and win the NaNoWriMo honor. National Novel Writing Month ends in about two hours on the East Coast, and certainly there are legions of chests bursting with appropriate pride for writing a novel in thirty days. Congratulations. I mean that sincerely though I didn't participate this year.

Despite it being a whipping boy for naysayers who call it a crap-fest, I believe the bones of the NaNoWriMo concept are good. It's an exercise in self-discipline, a necessary requirement for writers, one that usually is under-emphasized. Writers have to produce. In order to produce, they have to set goals and write on a regular basis. They should write every day. This is a stumbling point for many wannabe writers because it is so damn hard to do.

I am quite capable of explaining in agonizing detail the infinite (no exaggeration) ways in which things/life/distractions/people/natural disasters get in the way of my writing on a regular basis. Oh, hmm, how about, let's start with the easy stuff:

Housework (I cannot let my cat lick the dirty cereal bowls while I write, now can I?)
Mail (It may only come once a day and not on Sunday, but there's at least an hour of figuring out what to do with it.)
Repairs (My computer is flypaper to viruses; I must purge.)
Clutter (The very definition of my desk.)
Hairballs (See reference to cat in Housework.)
Blogging (I must write about why I'm not writing.)

Then there are the less obvious things that eat away at a writer's productivity. For me, something on the scale of small tragedy. Look away if you must, for these are not funny.

Death. (My husband died March 15.)
Loss of identity. (We were married for 20 years and together for 26. I spent more of my life with him than alone.)
Relocation. (By my choice, but nonetheless infused with hopes that didn't immediately materialize.)
Anxiety. (How do I become what I want to become, fashion a new life?)
Grace. (The state I am in, according to the grief counselor, therefore nothing else matters, including the writing.)

Please, do not feel sad for me. Feel encouraged tonight that scores of new stories were written this month by promising minds and that someday these books may find a way onto book shelves. I have hope my work will blossom again, too.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Writers Are Closet Narcissists

Give already. Write and you suffer your ego. Write and you long for attention. Write and you long to be on the New York Times bestsellers list. You ego-driven bastard, you.

The Mayo Clinic defines narcissism as a defined disorder: Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Shall I raise my hand for all of us in the crowd? 

I've got to make a little room to accommodate my self-absorbed self (is that possible, two selves?). Without it, I am a lump of clay who wouldn't write a damn word. Because the flipside of the writerhood coin is the inferiority complex. Who is good enough here? Who, I demand to know? None of us. 

And all of us. 
Ego balm


Words are simple tools to deliver good, evil, and truth. Any person on the street can express an opinion or tell a story. It's a short trip to actually writing those verbalized ideas or thoughts down. Writers do -- in story form. We tell the tale, and by God, try to do it while entertaining the rest of you who never'll lift a pen.

Pens? Who uses those?