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Author Cliff Adelman shares what inspired him to write The Russian Embassy Party.

Russian EmbassyOne of the great joys of my current job is meeting and speaking to many authors. I am always interested and amazed to hear their stories of what inspired them to write and by their willingness to help other writers in the journey to get published.

At Book Expo America in May,  I had the opportunity to meet Cliff Adelman, author of The Russian Embassy Party, which he self-published with Archway Publishing.  Here’s a summary of the story from the web site:

A ride on the edges of history, with all its unanticipated connections, from the 1963 March on Washington to the 1993 chaos of Yeltsin’s Russia. When an ex-CIA agent convinces a bumbling law student to write a term paper on international rights on the high seas, the student and his roommates in Washington wind up with the whole Soviet Embassy coming to dinner. This happened on August 10, 1963, and has never been marked in the history books. Out of this encounter spins a story of revenge, counterpoint, and rollicking foolishness, ending on a railroad platform by the Russian-Finnish border in September, 1993. The Russian Embassy Party follows its sort-of-ordinary people in a not-so-ordinary web through the edges of history (the set for ‘I Have a Dream,’ watching the fall of the Berlin Wall, revelations of the Katyn Forest Massacre, the last gasp failed Soviet coup of August 1991, stumbling attempts to shore up democracy in Yelstin’s Russia) until . . . Well, let’s say only that there is a good dose of history in the story, and a larger dose of realism in the minds, environments, and conversations of both American and Russian protagonists and supporting cast. At the same time, the echoes of the 1963 Russian Embassy Party itself (when the students behaved and talked like the late-adolescents they were) cut veins through the story, linking its participants in ways they realize, bit by bit, as adults.

According to his bio on the Archway Publishing website:

Cliff started making trouble in grade school in the Boston area, made it constructive trouble at Brown and the University of Chicago, and brought the construction to a head in a string of influential monographs that demonstrated how tractable and smart both governments and foundations can be. Not exactly a wall-flower.

As you can tell by his bio, Cliff is an interesting character in his own right so I asked him to share about his book. Here are my questions and his answers to an interview I conducted with him. I think you will find it an enjoyable read.

What inspired you to write the book?  For years, I had three stories I wanted to tell.  I chose The Russian Embassy Party for my first novel.  Why?  First, because I started writing the 1963 portion of the novel as a memoir in 1973.  It didn’t go anywhere then, and certainly wasn’t a story in and of itself.  So it slept.  Thirty years later, I meet a Finn on a train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg whose business is hauling out industrial waste sludge from Russia to extractors that could pull precious metals from the glop.  It took nearly 20 years more for me to put the two poles together and say, “You know?  There’s a good story here. Now, can I do it?”  That 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which plays a revelatory role in the 1963 portion of the novel, was push enough to get this thing done in 2012.

….let your characters talk, and their talk should become the engines of the story.

What do you think gain by reading your book?  They will squirm a little with the 1963 late adolescents talking and experiencing life like late adolescents; they will come to appreciate the underside of Soviet/Russian life as experienced by more-or-less ordinary people, who also tell bad Russian jokes; they will learn perhaps more than they ever knew of the way advertising works in international contexts; and will come to see how they, too, are bounced along the edges of history. And they
will have a good deal of fun along the way.

….have a marketing platform spelled out for yourself before you try to sell the finished product,

How did writing [non-fiction] for your job help you when writing this book?  I wrote monograph-length pieces in ways that,as people said, “made data sing,” and asked how the hell the U.S. government let me get away with that kind of colorful writing, let alone titles such as Women at Thirtysomething, Tourists  in Our Own Land, Answers in the Toolbox, and Moving Into Town–and Moving On.  Gradually, these got longer, so I knew I could sustain the prose.  Whether I could build and sustain characters and a plot that did not depend on underlying data was another story, and whether I could have the characters and story emerge principally through dialogue (as opposed to an auctorial voice) was a significant challenge that, as it turned out, was less difficult than I anticipated.

Archway logoWhat tips would you to  give aspiring writers?  First, never write about places you have not visited   As Orwell said, the physical memories—sounds, smells, surfaces of things—come first.  Second, let your characters talk, and their talk should become the engines of the story.  Don’t tell the reader what some character is thinking or feeling: let the character do it!  Third, if you have an international environment, use languages other than English and put the translations in brackets.  You may need help for this.  I did with the Russian (not the German, in which I am half-conversant; but you will notice that, even there, I had the bi-lingual German character translate for his American listeners in the natural rhythms of conversation).  Fourth, have a marketing platform spelled out for yourself before you try to sell the finished product, whether you wind up with an agent (highly unlikely), publisher directly (even more unlikely), or engage a self-publishing platform.

What has been the most satisfying aspect of publishing a novel? (I had published three non-fiction books with commercial publishers previously, so fiction was the issue) Easy: it opened the door to putting the next novel together.  It said: you can do this, so do it again

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The 2nd Gutenberg Effect: Examples of how it is helping Christian self-published authors

In my most recent post, I published the text of the closing address I gave at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference titled, The 2nd Gutenberg Effect: How self-publishing is creating exciting new opportunities for Christian authors.

The main point I tried to make was that self-publishing is providing Christian authors the opportunity to spread their message in a way that hasn’t presented itself in such a significant manner since Mr Gutenberg invented his press.  Take Annie Downs for example.

I do not know how many people you will impact with your writing if you publish, but do I know how many you will if you don’t.

Annie Downs has used self publishing to impact young people with her self published book and obtain a contract with Zondervan.

Annie Downs has used self publishing to impact young people with her self published book and obtain a contract with Zondervan.

She is a blogger and speaker who focused on young women and their need to really understand their identity and significance. After many of her talks, she realized she had nothing to leave to with people. So she pursued self-publishing and published her book with the title, From Head to Foot. As she continued to blog and speak, her platform grew, sales increased and an agent took notice. He shopped the book and Zondervan offered a contract and republished the book with the new title, Perfectly Unique, praising God from head to foot.   I featured Annie in a blog post I almost a year ago. If you want to know more about her story, you can read the post and see a video interview by clicking here.

The second example comes from my own experience. I never set out to be an author, but years ago, I was working on a curriculum and writing some material to support lessons in that curriculum. As people started to use the material, they started asking for copies of the readings I had written for the lessons. So I would run to Kinkos and make copies. Frankly, it got to be expensive and tiring so I explored how to get published. It was really a niche book because it addresses the issue of how a person’s worldview is formed. I did not think it had wide commercial appeal so I decided to self-publish.  And this was all before I worked for Author Solutions.

The book has been available for a few years, but about three years ago, I got an email from a gentlemen in Italy. He explained he had been using the book at the Institute where he teaches. When I asked him how he got the book, he told me an associate of his was given the book at a conference he had attended the year before. He went on to explain they now had interest from an Italian publisher and wanted to get it translated and publish it in Italy. He was writing for permission, which I gladly gave. Then some months later a box arrived at my house with multiple copies of the Italian version of my book, A Clear View.

Clear view and italian version groupNow the royalties from this book will never be life changing, but the thought that someone in another country was willing to invest the time and money to translate and publish it, is very satisfying.

I suspect if you are reading this, you have a manuscript in the works or ready to go and you may be pondering your options. You may also be overwhelmed by the options you have today as an author.  But you should investigate self publishing as an option.

Because while I do not know how many books you will sell if you publish, I do know how many you will if you don’t.

Even more importantly, I do not know how many people you will impact with your writing if you publish, but do I know how many you will if you don’t.

Writing is a talent you have been given, but publishing is part of your stewardship.

So I hope you will seize the opportunity that is before you to get your work into the hands of readers and spread the story and message God has given you.

Writing is a talent you have been given, but publishing is part of your stewardship.

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The Author Learning Center may be the best resource for aspiring authors to learn from experts

You can find just about everything you need to know at the Author Learning Center.

You can find just about everything you need to know at the Author Learning Center.

It hasn’t been around as some of the other resources aspiring authors can turn to to improve their craft and learn the business, but if you haven’t looked at the Author Learning Center, recently,  you should. Quietly, the Author Learning Center has been amassing the most amazing collection of educational information for writers and authors to help navigate the new world of publishing.

Writing, Publishing and Marketing, Oh My!

On this site, you can find a wide variety of authors, agents and professional service providers sharing their insights, opinions, and expertise on writing, publishing and marketing books. Even better, most of this content is available in video, article and podcast formats. Plus, there is a regular schedule of helpful webinars available.

Some of the most popular content includes:

  • How Do You Build a Social Media Platform From Scratch?
  • How Do You Grab A Reader’s Attention?
  • 3 Steps to Make Social Media Sell Your Books
  • What an Agent Really Wants From an Unpublished Author
  • When to Begin Promoting

A Book Launch Tool to Help You Get to Your Goal

ALC Book Launch ToolIn addition to the great content, the Author Learning Center offers a Book Launch Tool and Author Circle tool to help aspiring authors create a plan and accountability on their publishing journey. It is a subscription model and it is managed by Author Solutions, who sponsors this blog, but if you subscribe for the year and eventually publish with an ASI imprint in a year, you will get your money back in a discount on your publishing package.

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The Golden Age for Writers Is Right Now says Esquire magazine

Charles Dickens began his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities with the line, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”  Depending on your point of view and current position, that line might  describe what is happening in publishing today. For authors, it really is the best of times because there are more ways to get published than ever before. If you work in traditional publishing, you might think it is the worst of times as the industry goes through a transformation similar to what has already taken place in the film and music industries.

Over the weekend, I read an article by Stephen Marche in Esquire magazine where he offers that this is the absolute best time in history to be a writer. His opening statement declares that writers are whiners, but right now they have nothing to complain about.  To read the complete article, you will have to pick up a copy of the magazine on the newsstand, because it is not online yet, but here are few of the key reasons for his claim.

  1. Celebrity authors command more money than ever before. J.K. Rowling is a billionaire. Tom Wolfe got $7 million for his last book. By contrast, Charles Dickens total earnings in present value was around $10 million.
  2. Small presses are putting out more good books than ever before. In 2010, the National Book Award and the Pulitzer for fiction went to small publishers.
  3. Self-publishing has lost its stigma. Books like 50 Shades of Grey have helped demonstrate authors can take control of their own publishing futures and generate great results.
  4. It’s not just the novel. Essays are making a comeback as well. Good writers can use blogs and online content hubs like the Huffpost to practice their craft and get read.
  5. The e-reader is creating a new market, not destroying an old one.  People with e-readers read more books than people who don’t have the devices, and on average American adults read seventeen books in 2011. That number has never been higher since it started being tracked in 1990.

In summary,  Marche suggests that we are in the midst of a massive rebirth of reading which means there is more opportunity for writers. His closing line in the article says, “The whining by writers is not just untrue; it’s becoming embarrassingly untrue. New advice: Be grateful. Revel.”

What do you think? Is it the Golden Age for Writer? Use the comment section to let me know if you agree or disagree with his claim.

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Looks like self-publishing will be a hot topic at the Writers Digest West Conference

Writer’s Digest has hosted one of the most respected conferences  in New York City in January for quite some time. This year, they are also holding a writers conference  in October on the West Coast.  In fact, this is the first time this event has been this close to the Pacific. The registration web site gives more details. Here’s what it says:

For the first time ever, Writer’s Digest Conference brings its real-world publishing knowledge, writing inspiration and networking opportunities to a West Coast audience in 2012. Join us in Hollywood to find out how publishing and tech developments affect writers, how you can make your work and your pitch irresistible, and what you can do to get going, get discovered, and get published.

I will be speaking and sitting on a panel at the conference.  In my seminar titled, Seven Secrets of Successful Self Publishing, I will share all I have learned from

I will be speaking about the secrets I share in this e-book. You can download it for 99 cents at http://www.booktango.com if you don’t want to wait for the seminar.

working with authors who have found self publishing to be a very satisfying publishing option.  In addition I will sit on a panel titled, Self Publishing in the Real World – What to Expect, What to Do, and How to Do It.  I am really looking forward to this panel because they have assembled a very diverse group of people who can speak to the topic from different points of view. Here’ s the lineup:

Dana Newman, Attorney and Literary Agent, Dana Newman Literary, LLC, Eric DelaBarre, Writer/Director, Seven Publishing, Brian Felsen, President, BookBaby, Stephen Blake Mettee, CEO/Publisher, The Write Thought Inc. and K.C. Sherwood, Abbott Press Author and winner of the Mark of Quality.

There are a number of other seminars or panels that address the topic of self publishing because clearly it is the topic that is on everyone’s mind. I am really looking forward to my time there and hope to see you in Hollywood as well. Registration information is available on the web site. Just click here for more info.

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4 things every writer needs to know if they are planning on publishing today

The world has changed for authors which means they have new opportunities and consequently responsibilities.

As you can imagine, with the announcement a few weeks ago about Author Solutions being acquired by the world’s largest publisher, there has been an enormous amount of media interest. This is both a thrilling and confusing time for authors, so I think it is more important than ever for authors to be informed and choose the best option for getting published based on their goals, skills, patience, and budget. My last post suggested there were four paths authors could pursue today, and I laid out the differences among them. But recently, at the end of a very thoughtful and comprehensive interview, I was asked the question, “Is there anything else you would like to say to authors today?” What follows is my response to that question.

Gone are the days of walking to the mailbox and pulling out a pile of rejection letters and wondering if you would ever get published. Today, every author can get publishedand get his or her book into the hands of readers—whether you use a DIY method, assisted self-publishing, or sign with an agent and try to acquire a traditional publishing contract

That means authors have more opportunity than ever before, but they also have more responsibility. And that is not something anyone seems to be talking much about. Whereas before it was the publisher, now it is the author who has the responsibility to set clear goals and a budget. Having clarity about these two areas will help authors make the best decision about which publishing path is best for them. In addition, they also need to have a realistic assessment of the skill and time they have to put to the project.

You can absolutely change your brakes and wash your car for less money if you do it yourself, rather than paying someone to do it for you.  But if you don’t know how to change brakes or you don’t have time to wash your car, you should pay someone to do it for you.  I think the same type of decision-making should be applied to making a publishing decision.

In addition, authors should:

  1. Make sure you have a clear picture of who the audience is for your book.  Saying your goal is to sell to every man, woman, and child on the planet (I had an author tell me that) is not realistic.
  2. Understand your options. DIY, assisted, and traditional publishing all have advantages and drawbacks. Inform yourself. There is plenty of information out there. In fact, that is why we created the Author Learning Center (www.authorlearningcenter.com) and why I published 7 Secrets of Successful Self Published Authors. It’s an ebook on booktango.com  for 99 cents.  We have been told by many authors that both the ALC and the 7 Secrets are very helpful.
  3. Think about your marketing while you are writing your manuscript, and know there are no guarantees with marketing. Just ask any marketing director at any company in the world. You do some things that you think will work and they don’t, but you also do some things that far exceed your expectations. The key is to be consistent and experiment. Not everything is going to work, but if you do nothing, you don’t stand a chance.
  4. This industry-changing shift in publishing does not mean everyone will be successful, but it does mean everyone will have the opportunity to be successful. Honestly, I think that is the most exciting thing about the time in which we live. At ASI, we are simply providing the opportunity, whether you want to publish for free with Booktango or use an assisted self-publishing imprint like AuthorHouse or iUniverse or publish with an imprint tied to a traditional publisher like Westbow Press and Thomas Nelson or Balboa Press and Hay House. Not that long ago, authors only had one choice: find an agent and pray they could sell the manuscript. That has all changed, and I think that is amazingly exciting.

Too many authors publish a book with the expectation that the world is just sitting, waiting for their manuscript to get finished, and once they make it available for sale, the world will come to them. The reality is, being an author takes an informed, consistent effort, but when you get those e-mails from readers that tell you how much they enjoyed your book or found it helpful, it is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.

Certainly, there are economic considerations when it comes to publishing, but I think the one common goal that unites all authors is they want to impact people with their writing. That’s why those motivations I mentioned on our call are so key. Writing to help others or telling a story that has to be told or supporting a business or ministry are worthy pursuits because they impact people.

As I say to authors all the time, I don’t know how many books you will sell if you publish, but I know how many you will sell if you don’t. I don’t know how many people you will impact with your book if you publish, but I know how many you will impact if you don’t. And to all the naysayers and fearmongers, I would like say: quit bickering about methods, and let’s encourage authors to seize the opportunity.

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The 4 different publishing paths authors can pursue today.

It was that long ago that becoming an author meant there was one path to pursue. Find an agent to represent you and then have that agent sell your manuscript to a publisher. But as you know, the indie revolution has created more opportunities and choice for authors than ever before and so now there are four different paths authors can pursue to get their work into the hands of readers. 

…..the indie revolution has created more opportunities and choice for authors than ever before…

The first is what I call the Free DIY path. This is the author who uses a publishing tool like Booktango, Smashwords or Lulu to create a formatted book for limited distribution. It may only be an e-book and only  for sale on the publisher’s web site, but it is out there and available for readers.

The second publishing path  is what I call the General Contractor path. These are the individuals who serve as the “general contractor” for their book project and obtain all the services they need to create, publish, print and distribute their book. Some of the work they do themselves  and some they hire out , but they are in control of the whole project. I find this group is currently the most vocal and the ones most proud of how they are sourcing everything themselves or doing it on their own.

Which path is best for you? It depends on the skills, time and dollar investment you can make and what is your ultimate publishing goal.

The third path is the one where an author uses a bundled services package to get published. Imprints such as AuthorHouse or iUniverseoffer such packages.  This

More options mean more opportunity for authors.

Publishing Package path may mean paying more to get published than with the first two paths,  but there is a convenience and time savings to working with one company to get everything done. For whatever reason, the General Contractor authors seem to be most critical of this group of authors because they feel like they are overpaying to get their book published, but I think they are missing the point. You absolutely can use other means than a publishing package to get published, but if you don’t have the skill or time to mess with all the details, working with a professional services company is the fastest and easiest way to get to the goal of a published book.

The fourth path is the one that has always existed and will continue to persist. It is Traditional Publisher path. However,  the indie revolution has changed  where traditional publishers are finding authors they want to pick up.  It used to be they would only find them from query letters from agents, but now they are actually finding authors who are using free DIY, general contracting and publishing packages to publish.  That means the walls that have historically stood between authors and a traditional publisher have been torn down.

Now each of these paths has advantages and drawbacks, but the most important thing is that each of them can get you to the place where your book is available for readers. Which path is best for you? It depends on the skills, time and dollar investment you can make and what is your ultimate publishing goal. But you have four paths to choose from instead of just one.  That is why it truly is the best time in history to be an author.

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