Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, Ebooks, Editing, self publishing, writing

5 trends every author should watch as self-publishing evolves

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 stores like Books&books in south Florida are welcoming self published authors.

Local stores like Books&books in south Florida are welcoming self published authors.

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.

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Libraries are selling e-books. What impact will that have on retailers and libraries?

WSJ logoIn the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, an article ran under the headline Libraries Check Out E-Sales. Subscribers to the Journal can view the complete article on-line, but if you haven’t had a chance to read the piece, I wanted to call your attention to it because I think it signals another significant shift in the publishing industry.

The lines used to be very clear. Libraries lent books. Bookstores sold books. Then with the advent of online retailers like Amazon, bookstores were no longer the only place to buy books, but the mission of libraries remained intact. They lent books.

According to a 2013 Library Journal study, 54% of regular library users had bought a book by an author they first discovered at their library.

With this recent development, the lines are blurring once again and I think this is a trend we need to watch. Here are some of the highlights from the article.

  • Roughly 13% of public libraries across the U.S. give patrons the choice to purchase e-books on their websites if a free copy isn’t immediately available, according to OverDrive, an e-book distributor.
  • Library officials said their primary motive was patron convenience; so far, book sales haven’t generated much money for libraries.
  • Offering e-books for sale could also help libraries woo publishers who have been reluctant to make e-books available to libraries for fear it would harm retail sales, according to Maureen Sullivan, president of the American Library Association.
  • The Queens Library expects by the end of June to begin selling print books, e-books and other materials through the book distributor Baker & Taylor, which handles sales for about 60 public libraries.
  • Book sales through libraries so far have been low. More than 35,000 e-book titles supplied by OverDrive are available in the catalog of the New York Public Library. Since February 2012, the library has made less than $1,000 from sales.

    Libraries are selling e-books and prints books. What impact do you think this will have?

    Libraries are selling e-books and prints books. What impact do you think this will have?

While the dollars and units are not significant yet, one other key point made in the article was that according to a 2013 Library Journal study, 54% of regular library users had bought a book by an author they first discovered at their library.

So now if you go to the library to look for a book and they don’t have it, instead of putting it on reserve and waiting, you can just buy it. Time will tell what the impact will be on retailers and libraries, but once again the indie revolution makes things better for readers to get content and for authors to get discovered.

What do you think? Will this trend develop into something significant or will it have no real impact? Is this good for readers and libraries or does it confuse the mission and roles. Use the comment section to let me know what you think.  I personally find this quite fascinating.

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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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4 key things Time magazine said about self publishing

time-magazine-logoIn the December 10th issue of Time magazine, reporter Andrew Rice wrote a lengthy article on self publishing under the title, The 99 cent Best Seller. The full article is only available to subscribers, but I thought there were some very interesting points made in the article that support many of the things I have been saying for years. 

So if you don’t subscribe and didn’t see the article, I thought I would highlight four key things I took away from the article.

  1. Self publishing is no longer the last option.  Rice makes the statement that, “In the book business self publishing used to be considered an act of desperation” Then he goes on to say how that is no longer the case. In fact, some of the most savvy authors are looking at self publishing as their first option, not their last.
  2. Self published titles are no longer excluded from the review lists. According to Rice, “Self published titles now regularly appear on the New York Times ebook best seller lists. Four were in the top 25 on Thanksgiving weekend, the beginning of the holiday book shopping season.”
  3. Seeing the first copy of your published book is an emotional high. I have been saying for years, one of the greatest thrills of being an author is holding or downloading a copy of your book for the first time. Rice supports that point in the article when he relates how he asked author Sheryl Hoyt what went through her mind when she downloaded her first self published book, Dangerous Heart. She choked up and told him, “It was a euphoric feeling.”
  4. There is no reason to die with a manuscript in your drawer. Again I like the way Rice summarizes this point. In his words, “Publishing can be humbling, but it is better than keeping the stories to yourself.”  Self publishing doesn’t mean everyone will be successful, but everyone has the opportunity to be successful.

I know I say it over and over again, but it truly is the best time in history to be an author.

…some of the most savvy authors are looking at self publishing as their first option, not their last.

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4 important things all authors can learn from Seth Godin’s latest publishing plans

Last week, Seth Godin, author, thought leader and publishing innovator announced he was returning to his traditional publisher, Portfolio, to publish his next three books. At the same time, he was launching a new experiment using Kickstarter to measure interest among his followers for his new book.  The text from the Wall Street Journal article that covered this announcement is copied below.  It is worth the read.

…his hybrid approach—which essentially supplements his publisher’s efforts with his own promotional work—could well become an industry template because it eliminates much of the uncertainty for booksellers and publishers deciding which titles to bet on.Godin has long been one creating new models for publishing..

I find this change in direction a bit surprising and also instructive to any author thinking putting a book in the market in the new world of publishing. Here’s some of things I think we can all learn from this latest development.

Seth Godin returns to his traditional publisher.

  1. A big platform does not always guarantee book sales–Even with Godin’s following, some of his self published books struggled to achieve the sales he hoped for. It wasn’t because of a lack of effort or even publicity, but readers purchasing habits are hard to predict. I find at times, first time authors believe if they do everything they read, it guarantees success as if selling books is like a math problem. Now that doesn’t mean you should not follow sage marketing advice, build a platform and get creative in your marketing efforts, but it doesn’t mean you will always have big sales.
  2. Being an author is as much about the journey as the destination–Despite this change of strategy by Godin, I don’t think he has failed in any way. His decisions and risk taking have helped fuel discussion and debate about how authors and publishers and readers and agents will relate in this new world. If you only measure your impact as an author by book sales, you miss the point. A book gives you a platform from which you can impact people’s lives. That is what makes becoming an author such a worthwhile pursuit.
  3. Publishers and authors will share the risk together going forward–Whether it is through self publishing or through ideas like Godin’s current Kickstarter plan, authors and publishers are each going to have some skin in the game when it comes to bringing books to market. The days of publishing companies putting up all the money are likely gone except for a few exceptional authors.
  4. Creativity is still one of our most valuable resources–Godin has always been willing to try new things and been very creative about how he promotes his books. We can all learn from that. Take some risks. Some will work. Some will not. That’s OK as long as you don’t take a second mortgage to promote your book. And when in doubt, remember point number two in this post.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Giving Book Readers a Say

Seth Godin Returns to Old Publisher, but Measures Fan Interest Via Kickstarter

By JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG

Seth Godin, the best-selling business author who jettisoned his longtime publisher Portfolio in August 2010 in favor of selling his books directly to his readers, is now returning to Portfolio and will publish three new titles in January.

Bloomberg NewsAuthor Seth Godin says testing reader interest could reduce risks.

But Mr. Godin, a marketing iconoclast known for titles like “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable,” is taking an unorthodox path. A champion of new approaches to business, Mr. Godin decided to test online whether readers would be interested in his new books before the works actually hit the shelves, a decision that he says could make publishing and selling books considerably less risky in the future.

For Mr. Godin, his hybrid approach—which essentially supplements his publisher’s efforts with his own promotional work—could well become an industry template because it eliminates much of the uncertainty for booksellers and publishers deciding which titles to bet on.

“The pressure on the bookstore and the publisher is to pick stuff that will work,” said Mr. Godin. “I’m saying ‘Hey, Mr. Bookstore Owner, the world has spoken. There are lots of people talking about these books.’ “

Mr. Godin began his publishing experiment in June on Kickstarter, a website that enables people to solicit funds from individual investors. Before agreeing to his new deal with Portfolio, an imprint of Pearson PSO -0.50%PLC’s Penguin Group, Mr. Godin hoped to gauge interest from readers in the three new projects he had in mind. To potential backers, he presented a variety of pledge packages—that is, different levels of financial support for the projects bring perks for individuals, such as previews of the books and copies autographed by the author.

The lead title he offered is “The Icarus Deception,” which he describes online as looking at “how our economy rewards people who are willing to stand up and stand out.” There is also an illustrated book for adults titled “V is for Vulnerable” adapted from one section of “Icarus,” and a compendium of previous writings.

The Kickstarter campaign began on June 18 at 5:50 a.m. By 8:15 a.m., he’d reached his pledge goal of $40,000. By the end of the next day, he had exceeded his personal goal of pledgers signing up for 10,000 copies.

Mr. Godin’s followers continue to sign on to the Kickstarter campaign. As of Sunday at 1 p.m., the pledges totaled $232,000. Since the pledge window remains open until July 17, the total could move substantially higher.

Addressing the response to his new project, Mr. Godin, said, “What this shows is that if you build a tribe, you can use it to calmly build a publishing career that doesn’t involve a roulette wheel experience where you only have a week to succeed.”

Mr. Godin’s experiment comes as publishers and authors alike seek out new ways to build stronger direct ties with readers.

“You have to go direct to consumers today because it’s gotten harder to get attention from general media,” said Dee Dee De Bartlo, a principal in the marketing and publicity firm February Partners. She herself is taking a direct approach in marketing a new title from Rodale Press, “The Starch Solution,” which preaches the benefits of a plant-based diet. Her firm is targeting self-proclaimed vegans on Facebook.

Ms. De Bartlo thinks Mr. Godin’s hybrid approach may appeal to other authors. “It’s hard to convince publishers to take on some authors unless you can prove you have a fan base,” she said. “This is one way to do it.”

After Mr. Godin left Portfolio in the summer of 2010, he launched a joint venture imprint with Amazon.com Inc. AMZN +0.09%called the Domino Project, which published a dozen titles. Among them was Mr. Godin’s “We Are All Weird,” which generated disappointing sales, results Mr. Godin later attributed to his own failure to aggressively promote the book. Late last year Mr. Godin called it quits, writing on his blog that the effort was “not a lifelong commitment to being a publisher of books.”

As for Portfolio, it believes that the early copies that Mr. Godin sold will generate wider consumer interest when the book is distributed to stores and online.

“Before we published ‘Purple Cow,’ Seth self-published it and sold 10,000 copies,” said Adrian Zackheim, Portfolio’s publisher. “It went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies. The idea is that the core base will start talking about the book, and that will spread to non-core readers.”

Kickstarter Pitch

Author Seth Godin is seeking fan pledges via Kickstarter:

For $4 or more: Pledgers get a digital preview edition of ‘The Icarus Deception.’

$49 or more: four copies of ‘Icarus’ plus access to the preview digital edition.

$111 or more: eight hardcover copies of ‘Icarus’; two signed copies of ‘V is for Vulnerable’; a limited-edition essay collection; digital preview.

$1,150 or more: Mr. Godin will interview each participant and write a brief account of an artistic accomplishment that will be included in ‘Icarus.’ Pledgers also get eight hardcover copies of ‘Icarus’; two signed copies of ‘V is for Vulnerable’; an essay collection; the digital preview.

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New study declares: The Self-Published Book: A Major Force in the Publishing World

Self publishing is not a new phenomenon, but while I have read much from journalists and bloggers on the topic, I have not seen academics weigh in on the topic. That is until now. Researchers at the University of Arizona are in the midst of a study on the shifts taking place in publishing.
This week, La Monica Everett-Haynes, from the University of Arizona Communications office wrote an article detailing some of the early results and conclusions of the research team. Her article bore the following headline:

A UA-led research team has spent years investigating the emergence of non-traditional book publishing and is predicting major shifts in the industry.

What follows is the text of her article. I think you will find it reaffirming and helpful as you wrestle with the dramatic shifts taking place in publishing today.

_______________________________________________________________

Which books have gripped you, challenged your mind and evoked your emotions? Maybe it was The Little Prince? Beloved? The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Perhaps The Iliad or Lord of the Rings? Seemingly, it was once easier to find a good book. But a UA team has found that with shifts in social media and the publishing industry, readers are relying on new methods to find good reads.

Self-publishing not only is changing the traditional publishing industry and the relationship between authors and editors, but also the ways readers are connecting with books.

This affirmation is based on a major, multi-year investigation into the alternative publishing industry led by a research team at the University of Arizona’s School of Information Resources and Library Science, SIRLS.

The emergent self-publishing model poses itself as a hybrid in the world of publishing. And, in effect, self-publishing is disrupting the traditional industry while also creating shifts in how readers connect with books.

Convened and led by Jana Bradley, a SIRLS professor, the team since 2007 has studied how the recent emergence of digital self-publishing has resulted in major shifts in the industry.

Mainstream trade publishing still dominates print sales. But self-published, print-on-demand for private, local or niche audiences is faster, said Bradley, founder of the Research Group on Non-Traditional Publishing Practices, RG-NTPP.

That growth was propelled by a number of things.

Since about 2010, “the stigma of self-publishing was quickly diminishing,” Bradley said, adding that the cheaper, growth market is the self-published e-book.

Amazon, in launching Kindle Direct Publishing, was at the forefront in disrupting traditional models of publishing, Bradley said. The company allows authors to post their digital files to an automated publishing system, which then made them available as Kindle products on Amazon. Other companies followed.

“The major disruption, however, was that they allowed the authors to set the price,” Bradley said, noting that the most popular prices were between 99 cents and $2.99. Companies also offered authors royalties ranging between 35 and 70 percent, depending on a range of factors.

Since about 2010, “the stigma of self-publishing was quickly diminishing,”

RG-NTPP research also shows that the reading public is, indeed, embracing self-published titles at the low price points. About one-third of the top 100 paid titles on Kindle are by self-publishing authors.

RG-NTPP members have published a series of articles, including “Non-traditional Book Publishing,” published by First Monday, about the shifting industry and digital self-publishing. That article was co-authored by Bradley, Bruce Fulton, the digital projects librarian at SIRLS, Marlene Helm, an associate librarian at the Arizona State Museum, and Katherine A. Pittner, a SIRLS doctoral student who teaches history at Pima Community College. Other studies are ongoing.

All told, RG-NTPP’s investigations and subsequent findings indicate an industry on the cusp: The traditional publishing mode by which publishers fronting authors a cut of money then handle publishing and marketing, all the while hoping for the best on the buyer’s market, is in transition.

The team noted that the contemporary world of self-publishing can be understood as consisting of two major and different segments.

The first, print-on-demand self-publishing, produces books in print and came of age around 2007. The second segment, digital self-publishing, is the faster growing of the two, and often indistinguishable from digital mainstream publishing.

The team’s results of a multi-year study of print-on-demand self-published books were published in April by The Library Quarterly. The article, “Self-published Books: An Empirical ‘Snapshot’,” was co-authored by Bradley, Fulton and Helm.

RG-NTPP members studied a random sample of 348 books from the nearly 390,000 self-published titles available in 2008 through fee-based services, like Lulu, AuthorHouse and iUniverse.

The team found that self-published authors enjoy more freedom in making decisions about editing, design and marketing.

“This freedom, in the hands of inexperienced authors, can lead to inconsistent writing and grammatical errors, enforcing the view of self-publishing as inferior publishing,” Bradley said.

Yet the team also found a greater variety in self-published books.

“Self-help books on subjects from exercise to grieving were written by people with considerable experience. Authors wrote convincingly about local events, stories and history that would probably never interest mainstream publishers,” Bradley said.

Also, the “private” tribute book surged as ordinary people began writing and publishing about family histories, life events, vacations and wildlife, among other things. Also, established mainstream authors also republished their out-of-print books.

This has resulted in a “blurring of the boundaries” between the traditional and digital publishing, Bradley said, adding that one major difference emerging is who makes the publishing decisions, pays the bills and gets most of the profits.

“Self-help books on subjects from exercise to grieving were written by people with considerable experience. Authors wrote convincingly about local events, stories and history that would probably never interest mainstream publishers”

“Such trends not only are changing what is happening at the publishing level, but also how readers connect with books.

“I don’t know if readers realize it, but they are part of this market shift that is happening,” said Fulton, also a doctoral candidate at SIRLS whose minor is in communication.

Another trend is that readers increasingly turn to social media and social networks for information about books.

Increasingly, mainstream authors are expected to handle their own marketing, which they tend to do through their on Webs and through social media, like Facebook, Fulton said.

For self-published authors, this is essential.

Fulton, whose dissertation work involves the study of publishing and reading given the influential nature of social media, said the same appears to be true for readers.

Another trend is that readers increasingly turn to social media and social networks for information about books.

“Changes in traditional media, like magazines and newspapers, indicate a downward slide where there are fewer reviews in those publications,” he said. Simultaneously, there is an emergence of sites dedicated to amateur editorials and reviews of books, including those that are self-published.

“People are beginning to pay more attention to those,” Fulton said, adding that with the emergence of self-publishing, readers also have a much more diverse range of titles to select.

“There is this notion of traditional and mainstream publishers having been viewed as gatekeepers,” Fulton said. “But people can now choose who they want to be the gatekeepers, so the reader has gotten a lot more power to drive the industry.”

Also, self-publishing titles tend to include books that are locally focused, narrate family histories, are niche and at times more risque – around religion, politics, sex and sexuality – than what a traditional publisher might wish to handle, Fulton and Bradley said.

“There is a real value in self-publishing. There are stories self-publishing offers that simply wouldn’t be told any other way,” Fulton said. “So what we’re seeing is something we didn’t have a mechanism for before.”

But self-publishing authors still struggle to make a big break. So one question remains evasive: What does it take to produce a blockbuster bookshelf whit?

“The industry still isn’t very good about predicting what will sell,” Fulton said about both the traditional and self-publishing sectors. “It is still very much an art, not a science.”

Et Cetera

    • Extra Info Books that have been or are self-published:
      • “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White
      • “A Time to Kill” by John Grisham
      • “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma Rombauer
      • “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron
      • “Tiger’s Curse” by Colleen Houck
      • “Caribbean Moon” by Rick Murcer
      • “Lethal Experiment” by John Locke
      • “Last Breath” by Michael Prescott
      • “The Abbey” by Chris Culver
      • “My Blood Approves” by Amanda Hocking

      Sources: Amazon.com, Kindle Store, ParaPublishing.com



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Every author’s greatest fear and greatest hope: Will they like me?

A review on Amazon for my book reminded me how publishing enables us to impact the lives of people we have never met.

As you know, I have a lot of conversations with authors of all experience levels. I myself have used indie publishing to put two books in the market and recently, after a  number of interactions with a variety of authors, I realized there is a common fear we all have and a common hope. We want people to like our books, which is actually a proxy for them liking us

Now that may not sound like a  revolutionary idea, but I decided it was worth writing about because I have never seen a post about the topic.  Much is written about the economics and process of publishing, but what I have learned is becoming an author is an intensely personal and emotional experience. When you put a book in distribution, you are actually putting a bit of your self out there for the world to see. I am not saying that is bad or good. I am just saying what we really hope for is that people will like our book and like us.  When they do, it can be very gratifying. Readers may express their appreciation through an email or blog comment or at a book signing.   Recently, I was thrilled to see someone really liked my book Eli the Stable Boy becaue she wrote a customer review on Amazon.  I have never met her, but here’s what she wrote

A drummer boy story for today!,

What a charming and insightful book! This is the story that teaches our children that they, too, serve God, in their own way! Just as the Little Drummer Boy taught my generation that we all have gifts to give to God, Eli, the stable boy shows our children that they can have a real part in the story God is writing for them!

The illustrations are charming, the story is engaging, and the lesson is well taught, and one that will be remembered for lifetimes. I recommend this story and book to anyone with children.

Her words were a reminder to me of a statement I have made previously,but which I think bears repeating. That is when you publish a book, you have the opportunity to impact the lives of people you have never met, and even if it is just ten or twenty people, it is worth the effort. So don’t let that manuscript sit in your drawer. Get it published and into the hands of readers. Not all of them will like it, but you may find a number of people greatly appreciate your work and that is one of the best things about becoming a published author.

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