(The 10 ways I’ll know I’ve made into the BIG time as an author)
[Blogger’s Note: My latest novel, SIGNS OF WAR is in her final stages of editing – which means I’m basically sitting here waiting to finalize the graphic design/ISBN/Library of Congress/formatting/publishing so I can release her into the world. In my youth, I would turn to the bottle to pass the time and calm my nerves … nowadays I blog, venting my frustrations with mindless banter without the hangover the next day] By the way … the following is humor … so it’s okay to laugh!
I’ll know I made it as an author when …
#10 – I don’t mix up my royalty payment from Amazon with a returned payment for a broken Transformers toy I bought for my son.
#9 – I stop reading spam mail like its fan mail.
#8 – Joe Konrath replies to one of my comments on his blogs.
#7 – I stop reading Joe Konrath’s blogs because I’m too busy being a successful author. Joe recently intimated that only loser writers (like me) read his blogs because once a writer is successful, he/she doesn’t waste his/her time reading blogs. They’re too busy being John Malkovich.
#6 – Joe Konrath asks me to write a guest blog for him … one that I won’t read because I’m too busy being John Malkovich.
#5 – Cris De Niro appears in Brad Thor’s newest offering: Athena Project II: Cris & the Chicks
#4 – I write my next novel at a cabin in between fishing for muskie (like Joe Konrath)
#3 – I write my first non-fiction piece, How I Pre-Sold 1 Million eBooks
#2 – I lay out the pennies for a Kindle of my very own instead of stealing my wife’s like I’m a degenerate raiding her panty drawer.
#1 – My wife changes my name in her OUTLOOK from “Friggin’ Author” to “Sugar Daddy”
I hope I publish this book soon … is all I’m saying …
p.s. Apologies to Joe Konrath … though, I’m sure he’s too successful to ever read this blog. c”,)
I conducted a quasi-scientific analysis of the Kindle price points of the Top 100 Bestselling Thrillers on Amazon.com today (08-15-11). Here’s what I found:
Price = Frequency
$0.00 = 29 $5.23 = 1 $9.99 = 5
$0.99 = 26 $5.59 = 1 $11.99 = 1
$1.99 = 1 $7.99 = 5 $12.99 = 16
$2.99 = 6 $8.99 = 1 $13.99 = 1
$4.79 = 1 $9.59 = 1 $14.99 = 5
Observations: (Kindle pricing)
· Out of the top 100 bestselling thrillers on Amazon.com today, 54 are priced at $0.99 or $0.00. (54%)
· There are 34 thrillers charging money and under the $5.00 psychological price point. (34%)
· There are 37 thrillers priced over the $5.00 psychological price point. (37%)
· $12.99 appears to be the legacy publisher price point for most big-name authors.
· $0.99 appears to be the indie publisher price point for most indie/self-published authors.
My (Idiot) Evaluations:
· The majority of average readers/consumers with a Kindle, purchasing from Amazon.com are choosing from three basic price point categories:
A. A free eBook (29%)
B. A $0.99 eBook (26%)
C. A Best-selling author’s eBook priced at $12.99, $7.99, or $9.99 (26%)
Those three categories account for 81% of the Top 100 Bestselling Thrillers, as of today.
Now, I’ve been a devotee of Dean Wesley Smith and I do agree with his arguments regarding the reasonable price points of full length novels. The last time I checked Sensei Dean was making a rational argument for $4.99 full-length novels.
On the other hand, authors like Joe Konrath, John Locke and Scott Nicholson like the $2.99 to $0.99 price points. Nicholson even has at least one of his novels priced at $0.00.
As for me, I originally priced my eBook editions of my debut thriller, _THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM_ at $4.99. I then reduced the price to $2.99.
Factoring in such things as time of year, initial spike from the book being published, etc... I’d say that there was NO DIFFERENCE in my sales at either the $4.99 or $2.99 price points.
My wife, who is an avid buyer of Kindle books, thinks I’m crazy for selling my books at such a low price. When I show her this type of analysis and tell her about the rationale of successful authors like Konrath, Locke, and Nicholson … she replies with her South Philly swagger, “… Just because they’re nuts, doesn’t mean you have to be!”
Her points are:
1. If she likes an author or book, she buys it – period, regardless of the price.
2. She actually holds it against a book/author if she sees a price point under the normal legacy publisher prices.
My (Idiot) Conclusions:
· People are buying books for a bunch of different reasons. But with that said, right now …
· A slight majority of readers/consumers of Kindle eBooks are mostly buying $0.99 or free.
· BUT … there still seems to be over 1/3 of Kindle readers/buyers that will pay whatever price for their favorite legacy author’s works.
One final thought and request … In September, I’m about to release my second novel, the sequel to _THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM_ titled, _SIGNS of WAR_.
QUESTION: At what price do YOU think I should sell the eBOOK editions??? (and follow-up question … Should I keep _THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM_ at $2.99 or drop it to $0.99 or free. Keep in mind, both books are part of the CRIS DE NIRO series - _TWOE_ is Book I.)
I'd sincerely appreciate your feedback!
p.s. ... Something I believe, ""I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." — Henry David Thoreau
You may have heard of Author Michael Gerber's great books – The E-Myth and The E-Myth Revisited – if you haven't read them you should pick up a copy (here's an Amazon link to: E-Myth Revisited). Gerber does a great job of explaining both why some entrepreneurs are successful and why so many more fail. The "E-Myth" or Entrepreneurial Myth is the misguided belief that too many folks have about starting and operating their own businesses and what makes them successful. Here's the description from Amazon:
"In this first new and totally revised edition of the over two million copy bestseller, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber dispels the myths surrounding starting your own business and shows how commonplace assumptions can get in the way of running a business. Next, he walks you through the steps in the life of a business -- from entrepreneurial infancy through adolescent growing pains to the mature entrepreneurial perspective: the guiding light of all businesses that succeed -- and shows how to apply the lessons of franchising to any business, whether it is a franchise or not. Finally, Gerber draws the vital, often overlooked distinction between working on your business and working in your business. After you have read The E-Myth Revisited, you will truly be able to grow your business in a predictable and productive way."
In my past, I've successfully owned and operated a number of businesses including a manufacturing business, a record company, a transportation agency and a financial consultancy. While the scope of the industries was vast, the formula for success and the pitfalls for failure were and are the same. It all begins with how you approach your business … or in the case of self-publishing … THAT you approach it AS a business!
The one thing all SelfPubbers have in common is our desire to publish our literary works. From there though, we each set off on our separate paths. We seem to fall into two general categories"
Group 1 writes the book, self-publishes the book and goes right to work on marketing the book – social networking, book tours, blog tours, giveaways, soliciting reviews, book trailers, etc. The one important aspect this group misses: WRITING THE NEXT BOOK!
Group 2 writes the book, self-publishes the book and then moves right into writing the next book without giving hardly a nod to marketing the book they've written.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each group. Successful authors/publishers like my mentor, Dean Wesley Smith warn us about falling too easily into the first group where we write one book and spend WAY too much time trying to sell it, at the expense of writing the next book. Sensei Dean, Joe Konrath and others explain emphatically that the best way to market your self-published titles is by having a number of them.
Good books that we write sell the other good books that we write better than any other single form of marketing!
Nevertheless, there is a certain amount of marketing that MUST be done. Some writers love to market themselves, some hate it – it doesn't matter – if you want to become successful (successful SelfPubber = SelfPubber that makes money = net profit) then you HAVE TO market yourself and your book(s)!
So, as SelfPubbers, how do we know how to balance our writing, back office (operations and administration), and marketing (promoting, advertising, publicizing)?
We do what DWS has repeatedly implored us to do … WE ACT LIKE A BUSINESS! We become a publisher. If we apply Gerber's entrepreneurial model and combine it with Dean Wesley Smith's teachings/expertise/advise, we not only come out with a proven process to ramp up but we also create a sustainable self-publishing business model. Here are a few steps that should be taken (my suggestions), if you want to become a professional self-publisher:
+ Decide on and create a structure: Structure is the first decision in starting any business. In the case of self-publishing, it doesn't matter as much upon which structure you decide (DBA, LLC, Inc., etc.) just THAT you decide on one and set it up. Sensei Dean suggests that for most, a simple DBA (Doing Business As) structure is all you need. My JarRyJorNo Publishing is set up as a DBA. DBA's are the least expensive to create and the easiest to set up and maintain. You can change your structure at a later time – but, according to the structure with which you launch, it can be expensive and complicated. Not so with DBA's, so they are a great structure with which to start.
+ Once you have your structure, open a business checking account! Other than obviously physically separating monies that are made and spent on your self-publishing, this step (as do the other steps) also does something else … it gets you to think about your publishing company as a BUSINESS! I believe it to be a bad practice of just writing checks from your personal checking account for self-publishing needs. I'm not just talking about bad accounting practices, I'm talking about undisciplined business behavior. It's that kind of undisciplined behavior that has lead to small businesses going out of business!
If you want to be a professional and successful self-publisher, you no longer are just a person who's written a book and formatted it for eBook and/or print. Doing those things is necessary but they do not make a business, they're just a few aspects of a self-publishing business. NOTE: Be sure to pass all of your expenses and inflows through your business checking account.
+ This step is where Gerber's model really kicks in – Write down on a piece of paper, all of the jobs that need to be performed in order to successfully (see definition of successful above) self-publish your written work(s). Gerber has you do it in the form of an organizational chart – I like that way – but the way you do it isn't as important as doing it. You can simply take a pad and list down the left side, all of the necessary jobs/tasks. Next, give the jobs (positional) names with a brief but clear description of the position. So, here's an example of my list: (These are my job titles and definitions, not industry standards. You can call them anything you want)
Publisher – In command, strategic-thinking (creates plans to achieve long-term objectives: 12-month, 24-month, and 60-month)
Editor – Responsible for quality control of all published titles. Quality control includes, content editing and book cover and interior design.
VP Marketing – Responsible for all promotional activities, publicity and advertising for both author and book(s).
Chief Information Officer – Responsible for all tech-related issues including web-design and maintenance, social networking (tech-related issues), software utilization (including updates, tutorials, integration, etc.)
Author Liaison – Responsible for efficient communications between author (me) and publisher (me), including any communications with subordinate positions within publisher.
This last position – Author Liaison – is one I created (I'm a fiction writer – I make things up for a living), but it's a vital one and it's the one that I think every SelfPubber would benefit creating. The Author Liaison's primary responsibility is communication between your publisher position/function and writer position/function. This includes aspects like – from publisher to writer: deadlines and scheduling; and from writer to publisher: everything from research assistance to rights management and draw … yes, I pay my writer (myself) a draw. A draw is basically an advance, to be repaid upon the publisher making money. From there on, the writer (me) could convert from a draw to whatever pay setup the publisher and writer have negotiated. This money aspect is not one to fret over – and it's not one to make overly-complicated. I utilize it because I believe, like with any business, the money/pay/expenses components should be accounted for. Again – it makes you act like a real business and that's important because a SelfPubber IS A REAL BUSINESS!
I consider my Author Liaison (me) the Task Master of my publishing house. I have to deal with him on a daily basis and he's friendly enough but he's also on top of me (the writer) all the time and for everything!
The final step in Gerber's E-model is to fill in your name in EVERY box in your organizational chart! That's right, since we are now businesses with only one employee (ourselves), we have to do EVERYTHING! The difference with following Gerber's steps above is that we now take OWNERSHIP of each job!
Now, I left out the sub-positions of each position above, like the Administrative Assistant's for the Publisher and Editor, the web designer under CIO, the bookkeeper, etc. All of those jobs will either have your name written next to them OR you (wearing your Publisher's hat) will assign a third party to them.
Even when your publishing house hires a 3rd-party vendor, the buck stops with each of your internal (read: you) department heads. So for instance, if my publishing house hires someone to create the cover of my next novel, my editor is still responsible for the project management associated with it. My advice: Farm out activities NOT responsibilities! ALL responsibility should always remain with your staff (again, read: you).
There are many benefits to utilizing Gerber's model:
+ Responsibilities are clearly defined which allows you to focus on them, prioritize them and schedule them efficiently.
+ Hierarchies are created within your self-publisher which also allow you to prioritize and handle any conflicts (yes, you will conflict with yourself if you wear all the hats necessary to successfully operate a publishing house).
+ Scalability is built into your company. By clearly defining the many duties associated with operating a self-publishing business, if and when the time comes where you'd want to or (better yet) need to have someone else perform one/some of the duties, you will already have a job description and even SOP (standard operating procedure) for that job. That gives you the ability to effectively manage any 3rd party.
You may scoff at things like scalability, saying to yourself, "I'll never sell enough books to need it." Suit yourself … personally, I do another thing Gerber suggests in the beginning of his E-Myth book, that is, I picture myself five years from now – as a mega-successful author of 20 novels, with Hollywood, video game and other multi-media arms attached.
That vision is what drives me every moment of every day.
Before you can accomplish anything, you MUST believe you CAN accomplish anything!
Passive Guy, the brilliant and mysterious non-practicing IP attorney who's been gracious enough to share his expertise and non-practicing advise with our SelfPubber community passed on this article written by the well-respected, experienced editor, Alan Rinzler - "Good day sunshine for writers." Thanks PG for pointing us to it! Pulling a pint of your own from the tap! c",)
The article is actually a positive one for SelfPubbers to read. Mr. R. gives us all an insider's perspective on the level of confusion in which many TRADPUB execs are existing nowadays. It's an informative article and I have utmost respect for Alan Rinzler, however I do contend on a few points and wanted to share them with you here:
My pennies ... (click on the article above first, so you know what I'm talking about.
Mr. R gives us great insight into the haze of confusion in which many TRADPUBBED execs are living.
Nevertheless, being a devout student of the Tao of Dean Wesley Smith, I do contend with parts of two of his 3 myths about SELFPUBBING:
#2 - Agents won’t represent an author who self-publishes
Mr. R writes, "They’re (read: agents) representing translation and film rights for these self-published titles, and they’re selling self-published books to traditional publishers, if that’s what the author wants."
g: A SELFPUBBER would be better off getting an IP attorney for contract negotiations (pay a fee vs. royalties). As for shopping to TRADPUB ... at this point, I'd suggest that SELFPUBBERS just wait for TRADPUB to come knocking on their doors. Is that pie-in-the-sky? It is, however, if a SELFPUBBER sells north of 5,000 widgets (Mr. R points out 5K as the test-marketing breakwater), they will be in a much better negotiating position and will deal DIRECTLY with the TRADPUB house (no need for the Agent then). If under 5,000 sold, you know what - chances are even if you did attract a TRADPUB house to sign you, you won't earn back even a paltry advance.
Mr. R: "Agents are also beginning to help self-publishing authors to get professional outside developmental and copy-editing, a great jacket designer, set up their website and learn how to social network, make a video for YouTube, get on Facebook, and learn how to strategically blog and tweet."
g: It's sheer nonsense to me that a SELFPUBBER would turn to an Agent (in the capacity of an Agent) for these things. All of them can be accomplished by the SELFPUBBER themselves (no laziness allowed) or by finding/hiring these 3rd-parties directly.
Mr R: "So agents are becoming managers and coaches in the career development of self-published authors. Not all agents, but more and more of the hipper, younger ones who understand how to do this."
g: Is that what a SELFPUBBER wants ... Agents that are managers & coaches? Not this one! How about this - if I want a manager, I'll hire one that actually knows something about managing and calls themselves a manager (with an accompanying 'manager's contract' that would have to show their skin in the game) As for coaches ... lol ... sorry, I'm from Brooklyn, coaches are for little league baseball players. Coaches ... lol
#3 It’s easy to succeed as a self-published author
Mr. R: "Successful writers I know – whether they’re published commercially or self-published – need to write and rewrite their books many times, usually with the support of a developmental editor, not someone who does spelling and punctuation but a creative partner who is able to identify and solve problems with the story, structure, characterization, dialogue, visual description, literary style, pacing, the narrative arc – with a first, second, and third act that engages the reader and reaches some kind of epiphany or denouement that entertains, illuminates and provides emotional satisfaction for the reader."
g: I have respect for Mr. R, however ... this is spoken like a true editor. Let me be clear - editor's are ESSENTIAL to publishing quality literary works! Nevertheless, I am NOT a supporter of the notion (Mr. R definitely gave me the implication) that, in order to become a successful author, one must write, rewrite and re-rewrite with the help of an editor who now reshapes the author's work creatively! Could you imagine Leonardo Da Vinci letting his employee touch up the Mona Lisa ... or Shakespeare allowing a stage hand to change a few lines of one of his plays ... you know, so that the stagehand could "identify and solve problems with the story, structure, characterization, dialogue, visual description, literary style, pacing, the narrative arc ..."?
To me that is the very core ... the essence of the ART of writing. If someone is doing those things, they should have co-writing credit, in my humble opinion.
If a writer can't do those things on their own, then they shouldn't be a writer. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it!
Keep up the great work, PG ... much appreciated!
B/T/W ... I'm in the trenches of setting up my "TWOE PATRIOT Blog Tour." The tour will run from July 04 to September 11. I'll post info on my site about it ASAP but just wanted everyone to know that I may not post as much until I get the tour set up. There's a TON of emails, correspondence, review-copy shipping, article-writing, Q&A answering, etc. to take care of - something I will write about in a future post. Once again, I want to thank great author and (I consider him) friend, Jeff Bennington for teaching me the ins and outs of conducting a Blog Tour. Jeff told us all about it in his guest blog here at the Pub - you can read it "Building a Blog Tour."
From the moment estributors like Smashwords.com opened its e-doors, the world of publishing changed forever ... we all know that ... but I'm NOT talking about the decline of the Big 6 or the obliteration of the "agent-acting-as-gatekeeper" model here. I'm talking about the loss of a QUALITY STANDARD in literary publishing.
Before these platforms were around, people could publish their own written works, but the process was arduous, time-consuming and costly ... and there were limited opportunities for the end result in terms of distribution. Meanwhile, publishing to paper was transformed a bit by print-on-demand, but there were hurdles to leap for POD in terms of cost, which acted as a barrier-to-entry for most.
There were still people who self-published prior to 2008, but they were relatively few and far in-between. The quality of their published works varied greatly, and for the most part, no one cared because they didn't represent any respectable percentage of books sold. It's also worth mentioning that back then, most of the people who self-published were those rejected by TRADPUB - this is especially true for works of fiction - and I think this still holds true today.
So what did the average self-published work look and read like back in the day? Bad grammar ... bad punctuation on cheap paper with shoddy printing wrapped by a cover design that looked like a young child created it. Notice, I'm not speaking about storyline, prose, characters, theme, settings, etc. Those are components of the ART of writing. What this article is about is the CRAFT of writing.
As I've mentioned before (and will continue to mention) ART is subjective, but craft is OBJECTIVE!
Jump to today and now you have quality paper and printing, but what about the rest?
Let me get to the point ... a point I'll continue to talk about and hammer at into the future, because I think this point will be a DEFINING ISSUE in this New World of Publishing revolution ...
There is a NEED for a QUALITY STANDARD in self-publishing!
It's apparent to this Pub owner that in doing away with the old TRADPUB query/proposal process, we've thrown the baby out with the bathwater! What do I mean? Well, let's look at the old process ... and when I say old, this process is still utilized today and will continue to be, at least for a time, but to a much less extent - primarily because nowadays people can circumvent it and just SELFPUB:
In the old days ... say, last year ... a writer like me would write a manuscript. Because I've never been published before, I'd have to adhere to a very narrow window of length - say @80,000 words for a full-length novel. So, manuscript length acted as one of the first barriers-to-entry. If my Ms. was much shorter than that, it wouldn't be accepted as a full-length novel by most agents (read: publishers). If it were much longer, it could very easily be tossed without being read, just from the "151,000 Words" written on the top of the cover page. Even if it was a masterpiece and somehow was read by an agent/publishing editor, the response would almost always be "great but you need to condense it" ... the frustrating call for a re-write.
Length was just one of the rules - yes, there used to be rules to publishing. Some were age-old, some were self-imposed by the particular agent or editor, but there were always rules. Manuscripts had to be flawless grammatically and punctuation-wise, double-spaced and adhering to a bunch of other specific guidelines. All that was BEFORE your prose, voice, characters, settings, etc. The gatekeepers wouldn't even get to that good stuff because of a typo or poor use of commas.
Two years ago, before I shopped my first manuscript, I spent about a year just trying to learn the rules. I went online and read about the query and proposal process. I purchased the _Writer's Market Deluxe Edition_ and the _Guide to Literary Agents_ and I read both cover to cover. Other than their lists of agents and publishers, there was a volume of rules, guidelines an advice in each of those books. I looked at countless samples of manuscript formatting, delving into such micro-topics as 'acceptable fonts' and 'chapter titling and spacing.' Then there was the query formatting ...
I YI YI ... before you were supposed to even create a query, I was taught to create an entire proposal - a much longer document which including everything from the 'back cover blurb' to a competitive analysis. I had to create a 1,500-word summary, a 500-word summary, a one-paragraph summary and a one-sentence description.
The query itself had to be impeccable - short and to-the-point, but it also had to include all the pertinent info. I studied dozens and dozens of examples and continually refined my queries until they were perfect, tight, squeaky-clean works of art!
And what did all that work produce? Just a dozen requests for full manuscripts and ultimately over 90 rejections. Ouch! I'll tell you what though - not one person who read my Ms. critiqued the quality of the writing ... my craft! They tossed me for the subjective reasons, "I didn't fall in love with your main character ..." or "I didn't fall in love with your storyline ..." Ya know what I'm thinking? There's a lotta LOVE-STARVED agents out there!
"Yo, agents ... if you're lookin' for love, there's a whole bunch of websites out there ... if you're looking for a little escape and to be entertained, my novel fills the bill!" That's what I wanted to say, anyhow.
But what did that query process really do? For the industry and the readers, it separated the workers from the chaff. I know of a host of writers who simply never attempted a second manuscript after going through the old query process only to be rejected. When the quitters quit, that only left the workers ... the "strivers" ... the folks I call the WINNERS - because the definition of a winner to me is a person that doesn't give up! What did it do for me personally? It made me examine, analyze and continually improve my writing craft ... and it still does because I still utilize the same process, even though I now SELFPUB!
My point: That old query/proposal process acted as a filter and a barrier-to-entry and since the only alternative in the 'old days' ... say like in the year 2008, was the costly and complicated self-publishing process, those filters were most effective in weeding out the chaff. Did they also weed out some talented folks and brilliant works ... yes and no, for in my experience, WINNERS never quit. So, in the worst case, the old process just delayed some of the worth-publishing writers and works.
What about nowadays? Well without any dam (read: any barrier-to-entry), the global population of readers are now faced with a DELUGE of garbage-laced slush that comes at them like a TIDAL WAVE of brown, smelly muck!
For the most part, the average reader can still count on a TRADPUBBED work to have a consistent level of quality. There's a certain polish ... a certain je ne sais quoi to a TRADPUBBED book or novel. You know what I'm talkin' about!
Now think of the average SELFPUBBED work.
Yeah ... I rest my case.
If we, (read: SELFPUBBERS) think most SELFPUBBED works are sub-par - what do you think the folks think?
I'll talk more about the old TRADPUB process in subsequent articles - mostly because as SELFPUBBERS, we NEED to save the baby! The bathwater we can flush down the drain - stuff like unqualified agents rejecting us because THEY think they know what will sell - or making subjective criticisms about our work and calling for re-writes. Excuse my old neighborhood mentality but "... who the bloody hell died and made YOU friggin' king or queen, Mr./Mrs. Kiss-my-butt-'cause-I-call-myself-an-agent?!
I feel better now ... I'll continue ...
In the last few years everything's changed. Here's a news release by Smashwords, just a couple of weeks ago on May 23rd:
"Smashwords achieved two special milestones in the the last few days. We reached 50,000 original ebooks published by over 20,000 authors [emphasis mine]. We're on track to surpass 75,000 titles by the end of year, up from 28,800 at the end of 2010, 6,000 in 2009 and 140 in 2008."
So, 140 titles in 2008 has turned into over 75,000 titles in 2011, and if the writer-title ratio holds up, there will be @30,000 authors writing those 75,000 works!
My opinion ... virtually 100% of those 30,000 authors WOULD NOT have been published by TRADPUB (in 2011) ... and that includes this Pub owner. Hey, you can't shoot a man for his opinion especially in his own establishment, so there it is. Now you know what TRADPUBBERS meant by their slushpile ... 75,000 titles and that's just the ones that will be published via Smashwords this year!
Getting back to the topic - I'll pose a question: Focusing only on the Smashwords 2011 titles/authors, how many of them do you think would pass a quality standard that just focused on rudimentary grammar, typos and punctuation? And for those of you who've started yackin' about an author's voice and prose and yadda-yadda-yadda - I'M NOT TALKING DIALOG!
I'll use myself as an example. For my debut novel, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, my editing process included three different people - yet, when my 12 year-old son Jared read it for a book report, he found 14 typos. <sigh> 14 typos may not sound like a lot in an 86,000 word novel, but to me it's 14 typos too many. Why? Because I wouldn't tolerate them from any TRADPUB novel I bought - and here's my ultimate point - there should be NO DIFFERENCE between the quality of a TRADPUB and SELFPUB work!
Listen, I count myself as one of the Patriots, just a rank-n-file member of the working-class SELFPUBBERS, which means I'm ecstatic with all the changes that have taken place in the literary publishing industry in the last couple of years. Nevertheless, I'm not a literary anarchist!
Does everyone have the ability to self-publish nowadays - YES; BUT should everyone publish every single jot and tittle of what they write without so much as spell-checking it? The answer, my answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!
Every time one of us self-publishes a literary work of inferior quality, we have diminished ALL self-published works! Why? Because people ... you know, the folks for which we supposedly write our works (and for which we expect them to pay their hard-earned $$$) look at SELFPUBBED works as a type of BRAND! A single brand. Honestly, whenever I read a SELFPUBBED work, I do so with a critical eye. I'm looking for the errors. I don't do that with TRADPUBBED books.
One of the first questions I'm invariably asked whenever speaking to someone who just learned I'm an author is, "Who's your publisher?" I hate the look people give me when I say, "I published myself." The look I get is usually whimsical and condescending.
What they reply is, "How nice!" What they mean to say is, "Just what the world needs, another poorly edited, sloppy pile of trash!"
What really hurts is the fact that for the most part, I agree with them.
That has to change.
Next in this QUALITY series - let's talk about the difficulties, challenges and potential pitfalls of establishing a quality standard in SELFPUB.
All the talk lately in the self-publishing community has been about Thomas & Mercer, the new Amazon.com imprint and particularly their signing of two legendary self-published authors, Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler. Both Joe and Barry have been kind enough to publish their online conversations about their signings - you can read their latest chat here. They're also going to publish their entire conversation on Amazon.com, so keep an eye out for it. As proprietor of this pub, I'll weigh in with my thoughts (since every Tom, Dick & Harry have already done so). Here's my take:
By launching their Thomas & Mercer mystery/thriller imprint, now and in the way they did, Amazon shows themselves as masters of Sun Tzo's philosophies in his legendary tome, _The Art of War_!
This imprint is an OUTSTANDING idea and one whose time has come! For those who don't know what Thomas & Mercer is, here's a snippet from Amazon's May 18th press release about it:
"Amazon.com today announced the launch of Thomas & Mercer, the fifth imprint from Amazon Publishing, focused on mysteries and thrillers. Thomas & Mercer launches with four books that will be released in Fall 2011: "Resuscitation" by D.M. Annechino, "Stirred" by J.A. Konrath and Blake Crouch, "The Immortalists" by Kyle Mills and "Already Gone" by John Rector ..."
It's the next logical step for Amazon. They're already the largest online bookseller, their online hub is massively known and allows them to self-market, promote and advertise, they have a fantastic publishing platform for SELFPUBBERS with Kindle Direct Publishing and their distribution channel is totally owned and controlled by them. That last point is most important since distribution has always been under the primary command and control of the Big 6 (even indirectly, they've always been able to manipulate distributors like Barnes & Noble and Borders) and as in any war, command and control is key. Make no mistake, Amazon has declared war on TRADPUB, but like wise students of Sun Tzu, they have won the war before even fighting the first battle. No doubt they will be met with stiff resistance, at least for the near future, by the infamous and, as Dean Wesley Smith and his wife Kris Rusch always point out, mislabeled "Big 6". The big publishing houses are backed by large corporations with deep pockets. If they decide to put up a unified front, they could succeed in slowing the momentum of T&M but they won't be able to stop the train ... as the saying goes, "that train already left the station."
I told you that Amazon are masters of "The Art of War." Let me show you what I mean by quoting the great general, Sun Tzu, and illustrating how Amazon has heeded his counsel:
"In conflict, straightforward actions generally lead to engagement, surprising actions generally lead to victory."
By launching this imprint with two of the best known SELFPUBBERS in Konrath and Eisler, Amazon has (for now) evaded enticing TRADPUB's biggest authors to jump ship. If Amazon would have waited to lure TRADPUB's whales, it would have given the Big 6 a heads-up. TRADPUB can't keep tabs on Konrath and Eisler's movements as they could their own stable. Plus, if Amazon would have gone after the real money-makers for the Big 6, they definitely would have waged a direct and bloody engagement. I believe the Big 6 were surprised with Amazon's timing and signings.
“Thus those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle ... . They conquer by strategy."
Amazon's strategy is masterful! They launch an imprint which will DIRECTLY compete with TRADPUB on every level but with generals (Konrath and Eisler particularly) that are not turncoats. Joe and Barry have always been patriots (some may call them rebels, I don't). In this way, Amazon doesn't provoke and they don't overtly array their armies for battle. Rather, they're seen as just marching their army directly through TRADPUB's territory, but more as a parade than a menacing force. Out of the box, all the Big 6 can do is stand on the sidewalk, watch and wave.
“In war, numbers alone confer no advantage."
As of today, when seen as one entity, the Big 6 still 'outnumber' Amazon when it comes to scale. However, because of TRADPUB's shortsightedness, stupidity and foolishness they missed the boat when it came to the revolutionary changes in the literary publishing industry. Their entire infrastructure is built on obsolete and soon-to-be obsolete models and processes. Barry Eisler coined the term "legacy publishers" - that is the perfect way to describe TRADPUBBERS now. Because their foundations are built on yesterday's process, their scale is meaningless.
Picture an army of 1,000,000 men all armed with swords and bows and arrows, facing just one super-carrier.
“To ... not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues."
The former describes TRADPUB and the latter, Amazon.
“What is of the greatest importance in war is extraordinary speed: One cannot afford to neglect opportunity."
Amazon is a company built on 21-century technology and innovation which allows the retail giant to continue to act with the speed of a small, nimble company. In contrast, TRADPUB is ruled by the Big 6 who are in turn, mostly owned and controlled by bigger companies with 20th century sensibilities. Amazon saw the HUGE opportunity and were adept enough to jump on it with T&M.
“A sovereign of high character and intelligence must be able to know the right man, should place the responsibility on him, and expect results."
By launching with Konrath and Eisler as their generals, Amazon showed true wisdom! They selected two of the brightest and boldest new authors who have already showed themselves fearless to the intimidation of the TRADPUB industry. Not only are they showing confidence in both men, they LISTEN to them and their advice! Eisler speaks about how he suggested changes to their contract and they LISTENED ... something TRADPUB has NOT done for the most part with any but their biggest authors. I believe Amazon will continue to pursue authors like Eisler and Konrath - writers who understand and utilize the newest processes of publishing and who continue to invent new ways of marketing themselves. NOTE: In their published chat, both Joe and Barry speak at length about the fact that they are NOT adverse to TRADPUB - they are NOT trying to destroy TRADPUB - and that, to them SELFPUB is not so much an ideology but an astute business decision. In other words, they will continue to utilize self-publishing when it's the prudent choice. As for their Thomas & Mercer deals, those deals were the prudent choice.
“If an enemy has alliances, the problem is grave and the enemy's position strong; if he has no alliances, the problem is minor and the enemy's position weak."
This one you might think would side with TRADPUB, after all they have decades of alliances with large-chain and indy brick-n-mortar booksellers as well as media outlets, big-name authors, agents, reviewers, etc. However, TRADPUB's alliances are not as strong as they may appear. In fact, their strongest alliance may be with their newest competitor ... Amazon! The Big 6 continue to sell a ton of books (both paper and eBook) via Amazon and their Kindle platform. As for their other alliances:
- Just like the Big 6 - major brick-n-mortar retailers like Barnes & Noble and Borders are suffering from their own shortsightedness and stupidity. Borders continues to operate one step away from total bankruptcy while B&N is being acquired by a rich man who already stated that he's not as interested in bookstores and paper books as he is the NOOK.
- Media outlets thrive on news and more and more, the most exciting news is coming from the rank and file of SELFPUB and from the new hybrids like Amazon's Thomas & Mercer.
- Big-name authors have become big names from TRADPUB, no doubt, but that doesn't mean TRADPUB will keep it's monopoly on them. Just like with Eisler and Konrath, big-name TRADPUBBED authors will make the prudent choice for themselves. Many might remain with TRADPUB, which is NOT a bad thing but others might move to imprints like Amazon (and there WILL be others) or SELFPUB. Dean Wesley Smith has always asserted that the wisest choice for ALL authors is to utilize both, if possible - TRADPUB and SELFPUB and now let's throw in the HYBRIDPUBS like T&M. They each offer advantages.
To sum up, although for now it appears that war has been declared on traditional publishing in general and the Big 6 in particular - I believe that it's TRADPUB and the Big 6 that perceive it that way - more so than Amazon, SELFPUB, or the folks do!
Traditional publishing will NOT survive in its present and past forms. They will HAVE TO adapt and to some extent they already are. There is no denying that a change has taken place in literary publishing. The balance of power has shifted. The once all-powerful Big 6 NO LONGER control the industry as they once did ... and they never will again. That is the way of things in a capitalist society. It is the natural progression of things.
Once upon a time, the word computer and the company, IBM were synonymous. When Microsoft came along and started designing operating systems and applications for 'desktop' computers, the IBM stogies decided to dismiss the new company, technology and industry. They stuck with what they considered 'tried and true' mainframes, and turned a blind eye to the needs and desires of the folks. IBM is hardly ever spoken about anymore.
“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana)
I'll leave you with the summary of a great book titled, _The Limits of Strategy_ by Ernest Von Simson.
"1992 was a killing year for the four computer companies most important to business buyers over the decade. All four had been dominant suppliers of minicomputers for the preceding fifteen or twenty years. But on July 16, the CEOs of both Digital Equipment and Hewlett Packard were pushed into retirement. On August 8, Wang Laboratories declared bankruptcy. In December, IBM halved its dividend for the first time ever, forcing the resignation of its CEO a month later.
How did this happen? All four CEOs were clever and experienced. Two were founders of their companies; the other two highly successful career executives in their respective companies. All four were simply overwhelmed. And while there was no single explanation for what happened, there were definite common themes.
They recur again and again in the many stories of this book. Are the deadliest changes unavoidable because strategy is too easily thwarted by cluster bombs like technological velocity, cultural inertia, obsolete business models, executive conflict, and investor expectations? The year 1992 is the fulcrum of this book, but the underlying theme is company transitions in the face of massive changes in markets, technologies, or business models - or, in other words, the limits of strategy."
Log Date: 05-31-11 I'm renaming my blog from "The World According to g" to – "SELFPUBBER'S PUB: For writers and readers of self-published works!" and wanted to tell you why …
Back on January 22, 2010, the day I started this blog, "The World According to g," I was only months away from leaving my 9to5 grind (actually it was more like 5am to9pm).
My wife had finally convinced me to pursue my dream of becoming a published writer. I was excited … still am, even more so now, but back then, I hadn't a clue about the literary industry.
I created my www.GerarddeMarigny.com website and decided to start a blog to allow others to get to know me a bit. I've always been the type that wanted to have some sort of friendly acquaintance with people that do business with me … and yes, selling the books that I write is my business. I've always approached it as a business and that's not a bad thing – not coming from a place like Ridgewood, NY.
When you come from an old neighborhood like Ridgewood and you owned a business – from the corner deli to the local funeral home – you ALWAYS got to know the people in the community … the people who shopped in your place of business. Of course there were always strangers that you'd serve, but even with them, you said Hi and maybe a little small talk – if they wanted to indulge in some.
I hate talking at people … and I hate hawking things at people. I know it can be an effective way to sell – constantly 'shouting' at people to buy what you're selling – generic mass email and social media replies and all the rest … but I like to practice the Golden Rule – 'Do unto others …" I hate being talked at so I don't talk at people … I talk to them.
… Which brings me to this blog. Over the last year and some months, I've used the blog to share some of my memories – funny ones and some poignant ones. I've talked a little about music, religion and a few notable people. I've talked about losing weight (my endless quest), all in trying to introduce myself.
Once I published my first novel, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, a day short of one year from when I launched my website and this blog , I wanted to shift the focus of this blog to introducing readers to my writing. Not just my novel but my writing style.
I started publishing some funny stories – anecdotes really and poetry (I'm intending on publishing a collection of my poetry, when I've written enough of them). I've gotten progressively more positive feedback from an ever growing community of readers who love the anecdotes and poetry – thank you so much for sharing your feedback!
The community of people who are supporting me is growing fast. I consider it a community, I consider my readers – friends - just as if I owned a deli and was selling great meatball heroes and I consider myself just a member of the community. I just happen to be the one making and selling the great meatball heroes – but no more or less important than everyone else who is getting sauce on their chins as they eat my meatball heroes (yeah, I eat them too, they can get messy).
So, I wanted to tell you about this new feature just like I would explain a new hero I was launching – say … "g's Chicken Cutlet Parmesan hero" (I better stop with the food comparisons, I'm getting myself hungry).
First, the facts about my community:
To date, just on my website alone I have 2,734 people from 72 different countries who visit my site and that’s growing by a few hundred every month now. Keep in mind, that started at 0 on January 21, 2010 and I've only had my first novel out since January 21, 2011. Not bad and thank you all who have shown me the love! All told I have over 10,000 people following me on my website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace and growing every day – so cool!!!
My community is made up of great people from all over the globe. The top 10 countries are, of course, the U.S., then (Oh) Canada, U.K., India, Brazil, Australia, France, Philippines, Russia and Vietnam, in that order. They're about 52% male – 44% female (and I guess the other 6% aren't sure), and they range in age from 13 to 74 (that I know of).
It blows my mind and makes me feel very grateful to God and you!
Okay, so about this new feature – "SELFPUBBER'S PUB: For writers and readers of self-published works!" …
I already write a regular self-publishing industry blog (you can read it here) but that one is really pointed at other self-published writers. I want to bring together both writers and readers of self-published works. I have much bigger aspirations (like starting a "National Association of Self-Publishers" (NASP) and an annual conference to go along with it) but I need to start humbly ... and my blog's the place to do that!
I look at it the same way I would if I owned a deli in Ridgewood and someone came in and asked, "Yo g, how's things?" You always filled people in with what's going on and people always filled you in with what's going on with them … I like that! They also let you know when they liked something and when they don't … I like that too! It helps me do my best to please the folks!
So, what's going on with me?
Most of you know that I self-published my debut novel, _The Watchman of Ephraim_. It has been a remarkable experience so far! I started writing at a pinnacle point in literary publishing. As in the days of when cars replaced the horse and carriage as the primary mode of transportation and the days of when TV replaced radio as the primary entertainment medium – a HUGE change is taking place right now in the book industry! The same type of change took place, starting about 10 years ago in the music industry. The 'big' record companies lost control of the distribution of music when the internet, specifically the World Wide Web took hold. People no longer had to shop at a 'record store' and they also didn't need to buy their favorite music from the big record company websites. They could simply download into their iPods or listen on an internet radio station or watch a video on YouTube.
The same is happening in literary publishing … and it's happening now! eBooks have changed everything! The internet has changed everything!
After spending a year trying to shop my first manuscript – the traditional way of getting published (for the last few decades) was to query agents to try and land one that would 'sign' you and then they would shop you to one of the big publishers. I sent out 34 queries and got 30 rejections (the other four didn't even have the decency to reply and reject me).
I thought the whole process was silly. When agents first came around in the literary field, they were only supposed to negotiate contracts for you, with publishers. You hired them! Nowadays, agents have been acting as gatekeepers for the big publishing companies … to me, totally a conflict of interest – and for that, I'm supposed to pay them 15% of my royalties, forever?!
I ended up shelving that first manuscript – not because of the rejections but because it wasn't the story I was trying to tell. Then I wrote, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, finished in December 2010 and once again I queried agents (still didn't have enough confidence in going it alone) – this time 54 of them - but this time I immediately got interest from a half-dozen. But this was where it all changed for me because I started reading about self-publishing.
The more I read, the more I wanted to self-publish. I could control what I wrote, how I wrote it, how I published it, WHEN I publish it … the cover design … everything! I love that!
I started reading the blogs of a great writer and publisher, Dean Wesley Smith and within a week of reading his critiques of traditional publishing and his endorsement of self-publishing, I was hooked!
I self-published _The Watchman of Ephraim_ on January 21, 2011 and I've never been happier, but for all that freedom, there are a bunch of responsibilities that I have to personally handle. When you self-publish, you're not just the lazy writer – you're the harried publisher!
Here's what I'm working on now and what I have in the works:
+ In my ongoing quest to make available the best quality novels, I just released the 3rd edition of _The Watchman of Ephraim_. My son Jared performed a fantastic editing job – finding 14 typos (not too bad for 86,000 words) and this after three other people edited the novel. It costs me time and money to publish new editions but I only want the best quality books out there with my name on them. NOTE: if you have already purchased an earlier eBook from Smashwords.com, you can download the new edition for free – do so, so you have the best edition available.
+ I'm about 60% finished with writing the sequel to _The Watchman of Ephraim_, called _Signs of War_. It's due out by September … specifically because, if you've read _TWOE_ you know the series begins on 9/11. I want to have _Signs of War_ available by the 10th anniversary of 9/11 – a date that's the climax of _TWOE_. _Signs of War_ continues the story of Cris De Niro, a billionaire hedge fund manager who lost his wife and unborn son in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. He dedicates himself to protecting the United States from its enemies domestic and abroad by acquiring a counter-terrorism firm. He renames the firm "The Watchman" from a passage he read in the Bible (Hosea 8:4) where he reads about "The watchman of Ephraim" Ephraim is the symbol for the United States in prophesy.
+ I'm planning to redesign my website, www.GerarddeMarigny.com. Remember, I do all the work, including creating and maintaining my websites, so it takes me time. I have a particular concept in mind – in any case, I intend on making the site look cleaner, friendlier and cooler! I'm intending to launch the new look by 9/11.
+ I have blog talk radio interviews scheduled for June 14 and December 21 with two great ladies/book reviewers – Fran Lewis and Marsha Cook. They should be fun – you can find out more from my Facebook page here.
+ June 15, Booktown is publishing an interview I had with Susan Whitfield at their site here.
+I also have the concept written for what I thought was going to be a stand-alone novel, but now it may be the third book in the Watchman of Ephraim series. I'm planning to have it out by either December 2011 or January 2012.
This blog rambled but I wanted to let y'all know about this new feature. It will be the focus of most of my blogs from now on. Yes, I will continue to publish the occasional 'funny-thing-that-happened-to-me' stories and of course, my poetry.
In following blogs, I'll be talking more about fellow authors – both TRADPUBBED and SELFPUBBED. Authors like Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler on the cutting edge and at the top of the heap in self-publishing. Also authors like Brad Thor, James Rollins, Vince Flynn, William Tyree, Kathleen Antrim, and others – all thriller authors that I respect. I want to also talk about a few yet-to-be-famous authors too (brother and sister writers working in the trenches next to me). I'll also report on the newest happenings in the world of Self Publishing. It's my world and now it's your world too if you're in my community!
I know this one was a long one – no worries – mostly much shorter after this one. I hope you all enjoy my new focus here. Let me know what you think!
That's it for now … gotta get back to Cris De Niro & company. Out …
PLEASE NOTE: THIS WEBSITE IS THE PROPERTY OF GERARD DE MARIGNY/JARRYJORNO PUBLISHING (JRJN). SOLICITATIONS OF ANY KIND POSTED ON THIS SITE OTHER THAN ONES BY JRJN, OR LINKS TO OUTSIDE WEBSITES, OR ANY POSTINGS DEEMED OFFENSIVE ARE EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED ON THIS WEBSITE AND WILL BE TAKEN DOWN AT THE DISCRETION OF JRJN.
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