self publishing

What are some the next big things we will see for self-published authors?

This past weekend I was a panelist at the Writer’s Digest conference in a session that focused on new developments in indie or self-publishing. Panelists included Dan Dillon from Lulu and Amanda Barbara from Pubslush, which is a crowd funding platform for authors. Moderator was Phil Sexton from Writer’s Digest.

Jimmy Brass

Jimmy Brass is a graphic novel that was self-published through AuthorHouse in partnership with Golden Apple Comics

As usual, there was some lively dialogue and great questions from the audience and I always find the Writer’s Digest conference to be one of the best in the country. Being on the panel prompted me to think about what might be  some of the next big things we will see in Indie or self-publishing.

Self-published graphic novels will grow substantially

This past spring, we announced a partnership with Golden Apple comics to launch self publishing packages specifically tailored for graphic novel creators. About the same time, Amazon also announced a move into that space. Both are signs that graphic novel creators are going to be the next big group of content creators to take advantage of indie publishing.

Gorging Out cover

Gorging Out is a self-published novel that was recently optioned for film right.

Hollywood will produce a movie based on a self-published novel.

50 Shades of Grey will be in theaters shortly and while it started as a self-published novel, its meteoric success came once a traditional publisher, Random House, picked it up. I believe it won’t be long before you will see a film on the big screen that is developed from a self-published book. In fact, recently we announced another book that was optioned by Hollywood. Link to the release is here.  Stay tuned.

Subscriptions will not be as big a deal as the current bluster would lead you to believe.

If you pay attention to publishing news, subscription services are getting quite a bit of coverage. However, it is interesting to me that none of the news is around how many readers have signed up for the services. I think that is because consuming a book is a very different experience than consuming a song or a television show or movie. Pandora and Netflix do not require a significant commitment of time and much of what you get from their subscription services is disposable. A book is different. In the time it takes you to read a book, you could listen to one hundred songs or watch multiple movies. You can justify the value of a subscription because of the volume. I don’t think people will see the same value with books because they cannot consume them at the same rate.

I could be wrong and time will tell, but it will be interesting to watch.

Subscription services may lead to the resurgence of the serial.

While I don’t think book subscription services will get the traction of music and video services, I do think the format may fuel a resurgence of people writing serials and introducing a new chapter or what I call a micro-book each month. It has happened yet to any measure, but I think it will and may be one of the ancillary benefits of the new subscription services.

What do you think? Do you see any other big developments that I have missed? Use the comment section to let me know.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Even in the media drenched times in which we live, books still impact lives in unique and signficant ways.

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.

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Author Solutions, authors, self publishing, writing

Overcoming 5 Common Roadblocks That Keep Writers From Finishing Their Books (Part 1)

RoadblockHaving an idea for a book is really easy.  Starting a book is easy, but writing to finish is difficult and very few people actually reach the goal. Why is that?  I believe it is because the path to a finished book has many obstacles.

Why do some authors get published and others do not?  Well, I have authored three books myself, but more importantly, I have had hundreds of conversations with authors. It is from those chats that I have seen five common roadblocks that prevent writers from getting the manuscript to finished book.  Here is that list and some ways you can overcome them.

  1. Forgetting why you wanted to write the book
  2. Losing the discipline of writing regularly
  3. Losing sight of the day you want to hold your book
  4. Doubt creeps in.
  5. Unclear what you will do when you are done writing.

Forgetting why you wanted to write the book. There is usually some moment of inspiration or impetus that causes an author to want to write.  It is very easy along the way of doing the hard work of completing the manuscript to forget that reason.  Motivation is tied to remembering why.  So it is a very, very simple thing to do, but take a piece of paper and write down why you wanted to write the book in the first place.  Put that paper where you can see it every time you sit down to write.

Motivation is tied to remembering why

Losing the discipline of writing regularly. One thing I have seen that is common to all authors who are successful in self-publishing is they determine the best time to write and they block that time on the calendar.  Every author who I have spoken to usually has a time that is better than others for them to write.  Most authors can write more in one good hour than in three hours when not in the right space or time.

I remember one time I was sitting with an author who is quite prolific.  She has published more than 30 book and I wanted to test this theory with her.  I was having lunch with she and her husband.  I asked her the question, “Is there a particular time that you find yourself more productive in writing?”  Before she could answer the question, her husband said, “5:30 in the morning.”  He knew being married to her that there was a time when she was more productive than not.  So that is an important thing to remember, and what I find is if you try to write only when you have time, you will not be as successful. Other things will rush in and fill up the most productive time you have for writing.  So make an appointment with yourself on your calendar and block that time.

I will address the remaining three roadblocks in my next post. In the meantime, use the comments section to let me know if you think there are any other roadblocks I did not address. (To Be Continued)

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self publishing, authors, book selling, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, Author Solutions

5 signs you are not ready to publish a book yet

TheIndieBookPublishingRevolution-1The 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.

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.Bookshelf
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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Author Solutions, AuthorHouse, authors, book marketing, Ebooks, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

Carl Reiner releases enhanced e-book version of I Remember Me

In an earlier post, I talked about the release of a new book by comic genius, Carl Reiner, titled I Remember Me. In this book, which he published through AuthorHouse, has been praised by comics such as Jerry Seinfield and Jay Leno. 

Now Reiner has released an enhanced e-book that includes video and other images that helps bring the words on the page to life in a new and exciting way.  Here’s a video that provides a preview of the book. It is a great example of how the book is evolving.

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authors, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

How to avoid writing badly.

For many years of my career, I was a creative director at an ad agency and one thing I would tell the writers on my team is we do not work for a deli. We are not paid by the pound or volume we write. In fact, many times when they would bring me copy for an ad, I would ask them to go back and  take 30% of the words out of what they wrote and see if it hurt the communication. In almost every case, the communication was improved by using fewer words.  I think authors of books would find the same exercise helpful. Even though books are not bound by the time and page restrictions of advertising, writing with brevity and clarity can actually make the writing more powerful.

The road to not writing badly starts with simplifying and clarifying.- Ben Yagoda

Writing for stories

Learning to write well takes work, but this book can help.

Apparently, I am not the only one who holds that point of view. This weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran a column written by Ben Yagoda, English professor at the University of Delaware. He is the author of How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them,” to be published this week.

In the article, he uses an example from his classroom that illustrates the challenges many aspiring writers face today. Here’s excerpt.

My students can’t really handle writing “well.” At this point in their writing lives, that goal is too ambitious. I propose a more modest aim: not writing badly.

Take this sentence, adapted from a restaurant review by a student who was roughly in the middle of the pack in terms of ability: “Walking in the front door of the cafe, the vestiges of domesticity are everywhere regardless of a recent renovation.”

In just 19 words, it provides an impressive selection of current widespread writing woes: dangling modifier (“vestiges” didn’t walk in the front door), poor word choice (“vestiges,” “domesticity,” “regardless”), excessive prepositions (four in all) and an underappreciated but pervasive ill, a weak sentence-subject (“vestiges”).

The fact that someone would write such a sentence in an advanced college class is generally attributed to deficiencies in K-12 education. I don’t doubt that’s a valid criticism, but two other factors are equally important and a bit simpler to address

He goes on to offer some reasons why he thinks writing is a challenge today and one suggestion of what we can do about it. In his words,

Young people don’t read enough edited prose. Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the notion that, in order to become an outstanding practitioner in a discipline, you need to devote to it roughly 10,000 hours of practice. If you’ve done that much reading—not including text messages, emails and status updates—you will probably have absorbed a sufficient sense of punctuation, diction and style so as not to perpetrate a sentence such as the one above.

The second thing is that the author of that sentence tried to write “well.” Trying to create a complex sentence led to the dangling modifier. Trying to use fancy words led to misusing “vestiges,” “domesticity” and “regardless.”

This desire to “write well” is a big reason why so much writing fails to connect with and hold the writer.  Again in his words:

The road to not writing badly starts with simplifying and clarifying. What was the author trying to express? The nub of it was that when you’re in the cafe, you notice a lot of homey stuff, and that this is surprising, or at least interesting enough to mention, because of the recent renovation. So the way to start is just by saying that as precisely as you can. Something like this: “The cafe was remodeled last year, but lots of homey touches are still evident.”

What about your writing? Once you have a draft, do you go back through and see if you can say what you want to say with fewer words or more precise words? It is how to not write bad.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, Ebooks, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Kindle, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Six tips from wicked good book cover designers

Even with the growth of ebooks, book covers are still an important issue for authors to consider.  So I asked some book designers I respect to offer some keys to creating a great cover for print and digital formats. Here are six simple things you can do to make sure your cover stands out from the rest.

Pick something to be the focal point. On the cover to the right, type and image are too similar in size.

Pick something to be the focal point. On the cover to the right, type and image are too similar in size.

  1. Do your research. Sounds simple, but it is the important first step. Go to a local bookstore. Observe the customers. See what books stand out on the shelves. Do thesame thing online and on e-readers.  Also, pay attention to the thumbnails. Some designs work well on a bookshelf, but don’t work as a thumbnail.
  2. Pay attention to your genre. You don’t have to do a cookie-cutter cover, but you should look at the best covers in your genre. Notice any common elements and trends. Pay attention to the images being used.
  3. Pick a focal point. Everything can’t be important. So you need to decide whether the typography or the image is going to be the focal point. When they are similar in size or the amount of visual space they occupy, it can hinder the eye from being drawing to the cover.
  4. Image matters. Make sure you choose an image that is relevant for your genre but that is also eye-catching. Avoid cliche or what I call, computer desktop imagery. Also, one striking image is almost always better than a collection of images. Collections typically violate point three.
  5. Check the thumbnail. Once you have a cover you like, make sure you reduce it down in size and see what it will look like as a thumbnail. The rise of e-books has made the thumbnail more important as you think about designing your cover
  6. Choose your colors carefully. If you are publishing in the US, colors convey a message in themselves. Here is a general guideline as to what colors communicate.
  • Red – High Energy, powerful, passionate, excited, strong, sexy, fast, dangerous.
  • Blue – Male, Cool, conservative, trustful, reliable, safe.
  • Yellow — Warm, bright, cheerful, sunny, cheerful, happy
  • Orange – Warm, playful, vibrant, bold.
  • Green — Natural, fresh, cool, organic, abundant.
  • Purple — Royal, spiritual, dignified
  • Pink – Feminine, soft, sweet, nurturing, secure, gentle.
  • White — Pure, clean, bright, virginal, youthful, mild.
  • Black — Sophisticated, elegant, seductive, mysterious
  • Gold – Expensive, prestigious, affluent
  • Silver – Cold, prestigious, scientific, clinical

Crafting a well written manuscript is the most important task of an author, but making sure the cover is inviting, eye-catching and relevant is an equally important job. Using these tips will help you make sure you have a cover that is as good as your book deserves. What other tips do you have for creating a great cover? Use the comments features to share your ideas.

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