A number of years ago, I wrote a white paper titled, The Democratization of Publishing. I suggested then that one of the key benefits of self publishing was not just getting to market quicker or earning more royalties, but using books to make a difference in the lives of others. Author Solutions (AS) has recently started a campaign that validates that claim.
Under the banner of Real Authors, Real Impact, AS is highlighting authors that have published a book for the purpose of impacting others. In this campaign, there are stories of authors who have promoted organ donation and saved countless lives, helped raise awareness of domestic sex slavery, even helped changed laws. You can find the complete list of stories in the campaign on the Author Solutions site by clicking here.
In the meantime, this video is a compilation of some of the stories you will see in the campaign. If you wonder if your book can make a difference, watch the video. I think you will find it to be motivating and inspirational.
In conjunction with the release of its 225,000th title, Author Solutions has released a video titled, “Special Delivery: Holding Your Book for the First Time.”. This unique compilation captures a range of authors speaking about what it was like to see a copy of their print book for the first time.
Two of the authors, Donna Schwenk and J. L Witterick were eventually picked up by traditional publishers, Hay House andG.P. Putnam’s Sons respectively, one of the world’s leading trade imprints of Penguin.
If you are still working on your manuscript, I think this video will motivate you to write to the finish.
One of the great things about the WordPress blog platform is the analytics it provides. With them, you can tell what posts get the most views and what search terms are bringing people to your blog, I always watch these numbers because it tells me what readers are most interested in and what prospective readers are searching for.
The most read post by a landslide is the one titled, The 5 essential elements of every great story. So in the event you have not had a chance to read it, I thought I would repost it here. Hopefully, you will find it helpful.
Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to be part of three Book-to-Screen Pitchfests where authors learn how to pitch their book as an idea for adaptation for film or television and then have the opportunity to pitch to entertainment executives in a speed-dating like setting. They have been great events for the authors and the entertainment executives alike. There have been hundreds of requests for different books. One has been optioned and there are a number of others that are under consideration.
If you break down every great story, it has these elements
What has been most interesting to me is no matter what the genre, there are some common elements to every great story. The books that get noticed have these elements. The books that Hollywood execs often pass on are missing one or more of these. In fact one exec said to me, “If you break down every great story, it has these elements”. So what are they?
- An inciting action. This means open the story with some event that sets the characters and action in motion. Get my attention in the beginning and give me a reason why I am going to care about the people and the story going forward.
- Conflict. There needs to be some challenge to overcome or some quest or mystery. The character or characters need to have some type of struggle.
- Resolution. Make sure the conflict gets resolved by the end of the book and don’t come up with some crazy way to solve the matter. One thing I have noticed about authors’ books that get close to being requested, but often get a pass is the resolution to their story doesn’t make sense. They set up the conflict, make the characters interesting and then resolve it with something that comes out of the blue. In their efforts to be creative, they end up making the ending implausible and that hurts the story.
- Protagonist. Give me a character I want to care about and can understand. Help me understand why they do what they do. Sounds simple, but it is very challenging.
- Antagonist. Life is often about struggle and opposition and so great stories present those challenges as well. Many times it takes the form of a person. As with the protagonist, make the antagonist interesting. Help me understand why he or she presents the opposition.
Now none of these five elements should be surprising, but I have been somewhat surprised at how some books are missing one of these elements, have them underdeveloped or make them implausible. How about your story? It would be could to do a quick review of your manuscript to see if you have these elements included. All good stories do.
The Indie Revolution in publishing has been a wonderful development. It has removed the barriers that used to exist between authors and readers and made it possible for anyone who has a manuscript to have a book available in distribution. However, just because everyone can publish a book, doesn’t mean everyone should. By that statement, I am not saying aspiring authors should not take advantage of the publishing opportunities that make this the best time in history to be an author. Rather, I mean some authors may not have a realistic assessment of what it takes to put a good book in the market and attract readers. So here are five signs you may not be ready to publish.
- You believe you are a one-draft wonder: Most authors write because they feel passionate about what they have to say, but that doesn’t mean a good editor can’t improve on what you say and how you say it. Too many self-published authors believe their first draft is just perfect and they rush to publish that. Good editing will only improve the work and make what you have to say even more powerful.
- Your daughter is an artist: Great book covers take more than artistic talent and too often authors rely on an inexperienced cover designer to create the book cover. Not a good idea. That’s why on this blog I have made numerous posts about how to design a killer book cover. Just search by that term if you want some great tips.
- You have never checked to see if anyone else is using your book title: I am amazed how many authors will chose a book title without ever browsing the internet to see if someone else is already using the title. Try to find a title that no one else is using. Sounds obvious, but too many authors get locked in on an idea and don’t do the proper research to have their title stand out.
- You have not browsed a bookstore in months: Don’t publish in isolation. Visit the local bookstore and look for titles that jump off the shelf for you. Take note of what is unique about the design. Also pay attention to your genre to see if you can spot any trends you can take advantage of when you are designing your book.
- You believe a platform is something a carpenter builds: That is actually a line I heard from an author when I asked what he was doing to build his platform. Bottom line is you need to start marketing and connecting with potential readers even before your book is available and then continue to build momentum once your title is live.
Recently, I was asked what I believed to be the next big trends or issues around self publishing. As I thought about it and shared my ideas, I thought it might also make a good blog post. See if you agree with my thinking and share your ideas in the comment section.
Editing is finally being recognized as essential by self-published authors.
This seems like a “duh” statement, but early on many self-published authors didn’t understand how critical editing was and so many books were not that good. All that has changed and most authors now work hard to find the right editor for their work.
Subscription models are cropping up everywhere. Authors have to figure out how to play.
It seems like every week, there is an announcement about someone offering a subscription model for e-books. (See Scribd) It really isn’t that surprising when you see what happened in music. Books are simply following in the same path as the previous indie revolutions. The difference between music and books is you can sell individual songs from an album. Not sure anyone would pay for individual chapters so how will authors participate?
Local independent bookstores are finally embracing and welcoming authors because they can create store traffic.
It wasn’t that long ago that bookstores would turn away any author who self published, but now bookstores are recognizing that a local author with a good book can drive traffic to the store. So instead of rejecting them, they are welcoming them. That is unless you publish with Createspace. Most stores won’t accept those books because they believe Amazon has greatly undermined the retail market.
Hollywood is looking at self-published books more than ever for source material.
A few years ago, I could not get any one in Hollywood to talk to me, if they were on fire and I had a bucket of water. But now the whole entertainment industry is looking for new ideas to feed the multitude of cable and subscription channels. And self-published books are a great source of new material. That is why we created The Hollywood Pitch database and the Book-to-Screen Pitchfest.
99 cents used to be a way to differentiate, but now every one is doing it so authors have to find new ways to use price.
Low price is always a purchase incentive and early on, many authors used a 99 cent price to build readership. Now it is a strategy that many authors employ so what will the next creative pricing strategy be to stand out from the crowd? Time will tell.
This past week I had the opportunity to participate in a panel at the Writers Digest West Conference, with the title, The New Frontiers of Self-Publishing. The panel was moderated by Phil Sexton from Writer’s Digest and had a variety of knowledgeable panelists, including Amanda Barbara, from Pubslush, Dan Dillon, from Lulu, and Ashleigh Gardner from Wattpad.
I really enjoyed this panel because I thought there was a great mix of people from different places in the self-publishing space. Here was my take away about what people think we will see next in the self-publishing space.
- Crowd-funding–We have seen it in film and music. Should see the same trend for books. Pubslush is focused on this area right now.
- Data driving marketing–More and more authors are realizing there is data available to them that can help them target their marketing and endorsements or reviews. Lulu has a proprietary program called Helix which many authors are finding useful.
- Hollywood is watching now–As content demand for outlets like Netflix and DirecTV and the myriad of cable channels, producers and studios are looking at source material for a wide range of shows and movies. Self-published books are a place they are looking at very closely. At Author Solutions, we are seeing more interest than ever before from entertainment companies who want to have access to the titles our authors publish.
- Search Engine Optimization–More authors are becoming adept at learning how to tag their blogs and use keywords in metadata so that when people are searching for a particular topic, their book or web site or blog shows up in the results.
- More Hybrid Authors–Not sure who first coined the phrase, but this describes the author who choses to self-publish one book, but maybe chooses a traditional contract for another book. Or the author may keep the digital rights, but give the print rights to a traditional publisher. The point is the line between self-published and traditionally published author will blur and people will choose the best option based on the project.
- Local Bookstores will really embrace local self-published authors–We are already seeing this trend. Local bookstores see local authors as a way to drive traffic to the stores. Most still won’t take books published by CreateSpace, but otherwise we are seeing more authors finding success right down the street.
- Serializing work–more authors are realizing they can build an audience by giving readers pieces of the story in parts. It isn’t a new idea in publishing, but self-published authors seem to be seeing this as an opportunity.
What do you think? Are you seeing these trends? Are there other things you think I missed? Use the comment section to share your throughts.