Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: self-publishing

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Lane Pearman
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Lane Pearman

I know a lot of authors feel overwhelmed in the digital age of publishing and that is perfectly understandable. But today I would like to pan back and maybe offer a refreshed perspective to keep you pressing.

Today we face the challenge of creating a brand. But you might be thinking, “What exactly is a brand?” There is a lot of misinformation floating around so that is a reasonable question to ask.

A brand is the power of a name to drive sales. Our name alone compels action.

No easy task. Overcoming inertia is critical for any author who wants to make a living doing this writing thing. In an age of instant? This is going to take a while, but hopefully I can help ūüėČ .

But first…

The Struggle is NOT New

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Publishers have always struggled to help authors create a brand. This is NOT a new thing. I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. According to the BEA (Book Expo of America) statistics of 2004, writers had a 92% failure rate. Only one out of ten traditionally published authors ever saw another book in print. 92% of all books published sold less than a thousand copies (traditionally and nontraditionally published).

Why I like using 2004 statistics is this is two years before most of the major social media platforms gained traction. Facebook, You Tube and Twitter all emerged in roughly the same two year period.

But before social media? It was a nightmare for publishers to help authors create a brand (unless they were non-fiction authors). Nonfiction authors had far more access to platform building activities—public speaking, conferences, media, newsletters, or their own personal practices. The local news was far more likely to interview a doctor about his new weight loss program than they were to talk to a novelist about dragons or spaceships. Media was almost solely the domain of the NF expert.

Why this was so vital was that audiences suddenly had direct access to a writer who might be able to make his/her case and influence behavior. Maybe you weren’t normally a “reader” but that interview on NPR was so cool you just had to buy the book and learn how Hitler really escaped the bunker and the Russians lied about finding him.

Whatever.

But for fiction, more often than not publishers had to rely on some confluence of the stars to hope that a new book sold at least respectably. Sometimes writers could launch successful grassroots movements as was the case with The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. But, many writers tried this and most of them failed. Grassroots movements are lightning in a bottle even today.

But sometimes it worked. And that was cool because then publishers could offer the writer another contract and the brand slowly was built with a volume of titles. Go to any used bookstore and who takes up most of the shelf space? Writers with multiple multiple titles.

All of this to say that brands were excruciatingly difficult and slow to build.

Perspective

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I know a lot of writers get discouraged today, but we must learn to balance reality and expectations. If we go back to the “good old days” what we have is this.

A book written on a typewriter. Revisions involved scissors and tape.¬†Then we had to research at libraries. That little detail you need for your story? No opening a new tab and googling real quick. Nope. Back to the library. Want to learn about police procedurals? Yep, call the department you are writing about and see if you can schedule an interview. No tweeting, Anyone here Atlanta PD? I’m an author with a question¬†#LEO

Then we had to buy a Writer’s Market every year and pray the information hadn’t changed, but most of the time it had. I swear agents changed agencies more than my mom changes her mind about where to eat lunch. Then we had to type out a stack of queries, put in mail‚Ķthen wait.

Out of fifteen queries, likely five would be returned with, No longer at this agency. Three might come with No longer looking for X type of book. Another five just would never respond and the other two? Well one would probably be a form letter misspelling your name and the other would be a handwritten note suggesting we stop writing altogether.

Oh and every agent would demand “no simultaneous submissions”, but they could feel free to take six months to get back to us‚Ķif ever.

Just getting published was about as close to an act of God as we could get. And even then? That wasn’t the end of it. Generally it took about a year to eighteen months for the book to be in print. We got paid once, maybe twice a year.

If we add up the sheer volume of TIME involved in the old way, why are we griping that we have been self-published three years and aren’t yet J.K. Rowling?

I have mentioned the problems with Millennial Authors (these are writers who have “come of age” during the digital revolution and they could be 22 or 67). I know the “old way” wasn’t better, but it does lead me to believe that writers of the “old days” have better tenacity because they didn’t enter the profession in the Age of Instant.

Yes, our first book might only sell a handful of copies. But guess what? In the “old days” odds were we would only sell a small number of copies as well (refer to statistics above). But, unlike the “old days” we can keep writing more books. We can keep at it until something sticks or until we decide to move on.

Back to the Brand

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Brands take time to build. Only now, with social media, the task is far easier than it used to be. We can build our own platforms and create our own brands and we don’t have to pray for lighting in a bottle the same way we used to. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we are still working toward that magic, only now we have more control.

We don’t have to pray our local paper writes about us, or we score a radio interview so the outside world can encounter us. We can start cultivating our audience on our own. Yet, we still have the challenge of creating a brand.

Remember, a brand is when our name alone compels action whether that action is buying a book, commenting on a blog, reading a blog, sharing a post, RTing a tweet. The more we can compel action on the part of others, the stronger our brand will grow.

Traditional marketing, advertising and direct mail operate linearly. I send X to Y. Best Buy doesn’t expect that when I get a coupon in the mail I will then share it with all my friends.

Social media, conversely, operates algorithmically using the power of exponentials. Content flies out along countless vectors as opposed to ONE (which is why it is all but impossible to measure efficacy of social media in the same detailed way).

Someone reads my blog and tweets or posts to FB and that post then travels along infinite vectors I may never see.

Why is this important? Because our goal is to have a dialogue with others, generate interest and excitement that compels others to share. The problem is that a lot of writers are treating social media the same way as direct mail.

Buy my book!

Please retweet!

Sign up for my newsletter!

Instead of giving, they are taking and we are frankly worn plum out from takers. Every one of us has an inbox filled with newsletters we didn’t sign up for, ads, marketing, and on and on and they all WANT something. We feel like we’ve fallen into some swamp pond and staggered out covered in leeches.

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Thus, if we default to generating self-serving content (ads, marketing, self-promotion), we shouldn’t be surprised when creating a brand feels like trying to perform brain surgery from space with an egg beater. If we engage in traditional marketing tactics, we have use of ONE vector (us to other party).

This means we are beholden to the same dismal ROI (return on investment) numbers of all direct mail which is about a 1%-5% ROI. This means we better have 100,000 twitter followers to get any traction since we have to reach those people directly instead of with the help of a network.

If we don’t want to be on every social site and spending our time building up massive numbers (instead of writing), then we need to go back to the content. We can create stuff others want to share because social media is basically Show and Tell for adults ūüėČ . If we do this, then reaching 100,000 people is far easier since we are not singlehandedly reaching them via one road. Additionally, content will be viewed at a far higher rate since it is “spoken for” by a third party people know, like and trust.

Do this long enough and your “following” might be smaller in overall numbers, but those followers will be engaged which will make all the difference in the world. These are the followers we have cultivated to look forward to hearing from us because we are a brand.

Ads, marketing and promotion have little momentum without the engine of the BRAND.

In the end, don’t get too frustrated. Publishing has always been a slow business. Only now? It’s just slower in different ways. It also¬†feels¬†slower because everything else (besides writing the actual book) is pretty close to instant. So make sure you aren’t being unreasonable in your expectations. It is a heck of a lot faster to publish that book on Create Space than it is going to be to build the audience dying to read it. Just keep improving and keep pressing and keep perspective.

What are your thoughts? Do you think we have gotten a little spoiled with instant? That maybe it makes us unreasonably hard on ourselves? Do you want to set fire to your e-mail?

If branding and blogging and all that jazz has you overwhelmed, please pick up a copy of Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World¬†or check out the¬†classes I have below. I even have a Social Media Master’s series where you get three classes for the price of TWO. All you need to know to ROCK your book brand.

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Check out the Upcoming Classes

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses!¬†

All you need is an internet connection!

Branding Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb¬†THREE social media classes, ONE low price. Only $99. It is literally getting one class for FREE!!!!¬†

Craft Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb¬†THREE craft classes, ONE low price. Only $89. One class is FREE!!!! Includes my new class¬†The Art of Character.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 28th

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors¬†February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 2017

Blogging for Authors February 3rd

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on

Original image via Kabsik Park courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.
Original image via Kabsik Park courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Okay at first I wasn’t going to say anything regarding the latest Let’s Bash Self-Publishing rant over at HuffPo, but (like all “real” writers) I am in the business of serving my audience—YOU—what you want to hear and after about the tenth person who sent me Laurie Gough’s Self-Publishing—An Insult to the Written Word, I figured y’all might want my take ūüėČ .

For another angle on this controversy, I strongly recommend Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing.

Moving on…

Consider the Source

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First of all, am I the only one to see the laughable hypocrisy of anyone who writes for Huffington Post lecturing anyone¬†about¬†real¬†writing? Huffington Post is a predatory business, a literary parasite that has made hundreds of millions of dollars by paying writers in “exposure dollars.” And, by doing so, has contributed to obliterating traditional journalism.

One doesn’t need credentials or to submit queries to editors and hope one day this “news” agency will publish said article for actual money. Nope. If a writer has demonstrated an ability to cultivate readers, then Huff has slots available. They truck in wagons of cash and the contributor is paid in clicks and feel-goods.

Additionally, Huffington is run by geniuses who say crap like this…

Um…bite me?
Um…bite me?

Did I mention that Huffington Post sold for over $300 MILLION?

Yeah, how about an article,¬†Huffington Post—An Insult to the Written Word.

Wait, I did that already.

So apparently Gough believes real writing is only real when it has passed querying, editors, and a long list of “gatekeepers” but that apparently doesn’t apply to journalism which hasn’t been devalued at ALL.

*rolls eyes*

Very convenient.

Kobiyashi Maru

One of the reasons that self-published authors continue to take a lot of flack is that they refuse to play by the rules and that always pisses off those who like rules and those whom the rules have served.

Many of us started out playing by the rules then decided the rules sucked and so we decided to make our own rules. We found ourselves in a no-win situation and decided we no longer liked that game and decided to do things differently.

That is what entrepreneurs do. Entrepreneurs look at the market and what has sold, what is likely to sell, what they as consumers might like but does not yet exist and they act.

When I was an author starting out, anyone with one eye and half sense knew that social media was the next evolutionary step in human communication. I wanted to learn from experts. I bought all kinds of fledgling social media books and none of it applied to me as an emerging writer. I didn’t want to be in high-pressure sales. I didn’t like spam, so why would I serve it? I didn’t want to fundamentally alter my personality to have success. There HAD to be a compromise.

But in the existing literature? There wasn’t. Every book available was great for a business, but lousy for a writer who still had to have time to write books, probably work a day job and take care of a family.

I didn’t see what I wanted (and what I believed other writers wanted as well) so I created it.

But according to Ms. Gough I am not a “real” writer and I should have patiently waited until my work was blessed by Mount Olympus NYC Publishing instead of acting and filling a necessary and ignored need. Good thing I ignored that crap because Rise of the Machines has helped countless authors build platforms that have sold millions and millions of books.

The Long and Short of Publishing

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The elites who love to bash self-publishing are (to me) shockingly uninformed about the history of their own industry.

For years, traditional (legacy) publishers were the sole gatekeepers and this had a lot of disadvantages for authors and readers.

Because traditional publishing was taking on a large financial risk and had to also maintain high overhead, they obviously had to be picky about what works to publish (and still do). These works had to bring in a certain amount of ROI (return on investment). This devastated the literary landscape and drove many works to the brink of extinction.

For instance, in the 70s and 80s long epic works were all the rage. Readers actually liked a book so long you could take out a burglar with it. I mean, Clan of the Cave Bear could have been registered as a deadly weapon. But the thing is, paper is heavy so it is expensive to ship. It costs a lot more to print a long book (Duh).

Additionally, big thick paperbacks? Only fitting a few of those suckers on a shelf. Why sell three books for $9.99 when you can sell ten books for $7.99?

Basic math.

So, the trend became to cut works off after a certain word count. Many agents would take one look at a query and if the work was over 110,000 words? Forget it. It didn’t matter that it was the next Lord of the Rings.

They weren’t being mean, they simply knew that publishers were wanting shorter works because they could sell more of them and enjoy a higher profit.

But what if a story needed to be that long?

The other side also suffered. Short works.

Pulp fiction got its start with the much-esteemed Charles Dickens and this form of storytelling really picked up traction in the early part of the 20th century. This type of fiction gave the general public access the larger-than-life stories with exotic and sexy characters. Pulp authors also made a really good living, some becoming among the richest people in the country.

We can thank pulp fiction for some of the greatest literary geniuses of our culture. Edgar Rice Burroughs almost single-handedly laid the foundation for today’s science fiction. Then we have Max Brand, H.P. Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ray Bradbury.

With WWII we experienced paper rationing and the pulp magazine fell into decline as publishers opted for longer works with…a greater ROI.

Notice how these changes really don’t have much to do with the skill of the writer and have more to do with paper costs, shipping costs and ROI (PROFIT).

As publishing became bigger and bigger business, it had less to do with the story and the quality of the writing and more to do with, “Can we sell this?”

Oh, but maybe I am misguided and Snooki’s—It’s a Shore Thing is great literature I’ve overlooked. But hey, I am a troglodyte.

Again, this is simply wise business. A publisher might love a vampire book…but unfortunately they already had taken on three other vampire books and filled that quota for the year.

The beauty of the new publishing model is we are seeing a MAJOR resurgence of works that were all but lost. According to Ms. Gough traditional publishing is some great champion of literature, but I would challenge her to query a poetry book and see how far she gets.

Death by Elitism

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Every time I run across one of these articles kicking self-published authors what stands out to me is the almost repugnant level of elitism. It’s like they all hang out in places with finger sandwiches to feed their own BS echo chamber.

Elitism is a big reason that legacy publishing is suffering. Instead of working with the changes in technology and what audiences want, they have spent an exorbitant amount of time propping up a dying business model (probably with pinkies extended ūüėČ ). They continue to do business in a way where authors are paid the last and the least and where only the 1%ers truly benefit.

And sure, if you want evidence to support a theory that all self-published authors are hacks, there is plenty to be found. But, to assert that all self-published authors are drunken monkeys banging on a typewriter is myopic and completely ignores that some of the greatest works of our time are NOT coming out of NY. This assertion ignores how business-minded authors have changed the rules and created a game that works in their favor.

Remember, traditional publishing didn’t consider erotica a¬†real¬†genre until 50 Shades¬†sold a gazillion copies ūüėČ .

Author Animal Farm

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Content creators hold no allegiance to any business that no longer serves their needs. But often what happens, is that these entities have created an idea that they have our best interests in mind, and to question that is some form of subversion. That if we don’t do things their way we lack talent, ability and legitimacy.

In the book¬†Animal Farm¬†the animals take the farm from the human owner by force believing they can run the farm in a way that serves the animals’ needs better, and at first? All is wonderful.¬†The animals are quick to create a foundational ideology to support this move and the mantra,¬†Four legs¬†goooood, two legs baaaaaad is readily adopted.

But then…

A hierarchy soon emerges and the farm is eventually run by the pigs and,¬†as the story progresses, conditions for the animals working the farm grow worse and worse and worse. The animals contributing all the labor fail to ever really look at the evidence and ask the hard questions, and all (but the pigs) pay dearly. The pigs have created a system that works really well for them and any animal that doesn’t toe the line is considered an enemy to all.

There is a similar ideology that has formed around legacy publishing.

Legacy books gooood. Self-published baaaaad.

Many emerging writers are afraid to really look and see for themselves if this is actually true, or whether they are afraid of exercising agency. Structure is comfortable, free will is not. And any writer who wants to strike out and do things differently is no more an enemy to other writers or publishing than animals who questioned the soundness of working seven days a week for almost no food were enemies of their fellow beasts.

In the End

All writers have to do business the exact same way, regardless of the publishing path. We need to:

  1. Create something people want to buy.
  2. Find those people.

That’s it.

So be careful buying into the mantra, especially when those chanting it don’t even buy their own BS. If Gough really believed what she’s preaching, then why publish this article on Huffington? Why didn’t she query a regular print magazine?

She is doing the exact same thing she is blasting countless other writers for doing. She created an article and believed she could get readers. She is using new technology and new ways of reaching readers and all in a nontraditional way that I am pretty sure pisses off more than a few old school journalists.

She is aware of her market—that more people are reading blogs than print resources. She acted accordingly. She didn’t wait to be printed on shiny copy, she acted and went around more than a few traditional gatekeepers. She met the audience where they were with the kind of content they wanted and in the format they desired.

Um, hypocrite much?

Sure, there is a lot of crap that gets self-published but the genie is out of the bottle. What are you going to do?

It isn’t like we have some UNDO button to make it go back to 1999.

Legacy publishing has a lot of advantages but they are not a One-Size-Fits-All. Same with self-pub. In both, if we write crap we get ignored. Plain and simple. We just get to choose where we are ignored, in some agent’s slush pile or at #300,745,321 on the Amazon list. So to the elitists? This is the hand that history has dealt us so get to work on your own stuff and stop worrying whether or not I am “real.”

Because my opinion….

WHO CARES? Just pick the path that works for you and what you are writing and I say, “GOD SPEED! And BE BLESSED!”

What are your thoughts?

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Check out the Upcoming Classes

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses!¬†

All you need is an internet connection!

NEW!!!! APPROVED USE FOR CHRISTMAS MONEY!!!!

Branding Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb¬†THREE social media classes, ONE low price. Only $99. It is literally getting one class for FREE!!!!¬†

Craft Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb¬†THREE craft classes, ONE low price. Only $89. One class is FREE!!!! Includes my new class¬†The Art of Character.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 6th

Plotting for Dummies January 7th, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors January 13th, 2017

Social Media for Authors January 14th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 2017

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of David Rogers
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of David Rogers

Technology always changes our reality and there are inevitable growing pains that go part and parcel with any innovation. Every meaningful advance always has social consequences.

Always.

From the Gutenberg Press to the Model-T to electric lighting humans have had to adjust, shift and learn to balance great benefits with never before encountered consequences.

With the digital age? Here we go again.

As I’ve mentioned before, as early as 2004 when I was puttering around a site called Gather, I saw what social media was going to evolve into, that we were looking at likely the largest shift in communication since the Gutenberg Press. I knew even then that this was likely going to be the end of publishing as we had known it for well over a hundred years.

But I would be lying if I said I didn’t have mixed emotions.

The Good

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Martin.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Martin.

By 2006, novelists were dying due to the predatory practices of mega-bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble (for more on why, go HERE). These businesses had made next to impossible for novelists to make a living wage. Their methods obliterated the author middle class and replaced a balanced economy with a Publishing Third World where most of the wealth was concentrated at the top with the super well-known brands.

Mid-list authors were leaving writing altogether and going back to “real” jobs like teaching. New authors were finding it increasingly difficult to “break out.”

The reason is that, to offer so many books so deeply discounted, books had a far shorter shelf life. Also, unlike say a B. Dalton, the mega stores didn’t carry backlist so a mid-list author was no longer making royalties off eight or ten or fifteen books, she was making royalties off of ONE. The backlist was pulled and essentially stuffed in storage.

The problem was that how platforms were traditionally built was by an author being able to offer multiple titles. Without multiple titles in circulation? Platforms dissolved or never formed at all.

If you were a new author, you had to hope for a proper alignment of stars and hope the book took off and made impact like a literary meteor strike. Because, if you didn’t? There was no good way to keep fan fires burning because older titles got pulled.

Enter social media….

I saw that it was now going to be possible for an emerging writer to cultivate an audience and fan base before the first book was ever published much the same way non-fiction authors could do. Additionally, authors now had a way to offer interaction and content with fans between books. 

When Amazon, Smash Words, etc. entered the scene with e-books? The future got brighter. Mid-list authors who were leaving publishing in defeat now could take that backlist and put it out with new life and power this engine using social media. Not only could they build and maintain a brand and platform with social interaction on, say, Twitter or Facebook, but they were back to having those multiple titles SO critical for any brand.

Authors who’d been driven practically into poverty now were making incomes unlike anything they’d seen before.

The Bad

Before sites like Amazon, writers had two choices. Legacy press or the pay-to-play vanity press. But the steep cost of vanity press acted as a sort of gatekeeper. Also, without social media, vanity press was pretty much a sure way to end up with $10,000 worth of books in our garage. This meant that 1) bad books never really made it into circulation and 2) writers had time to learn and grow and mature before their book was good enough to be accepted by a legacy press.

Granted, I am not saying everything NY accepted was great literature. Nor am I saying they didn’t reject some amazing works because of¬†their¬†business model. But, I think I am fairly safe saying that writers who had no plot (I mean NO plot), poor grammar and atrocious spelling likely didn’t make the cut.

So places like Amazon have been wonderful and have given us gems like¬†Wool¬†and¬†The Martian¬†and it has given new life to old series we wouldn’t have been able to buy unless we struck gold at a garage sale or used bookstore.

Even I have benefitted greatly. NY didn’t want a social media branding book. Even though they were insisting every one of their authors BE on social media, they refused to publish the manual on HOW to do it well.

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Yeah, I know. Go fig. But Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World would have been impossible without self-pub and writers would have had to figure everything out the hard way.

But one of the reasons I was not fully gung-ho on self-publishing is that I also saw it was going to bring a LOT of problems. The slush pile would be dumped in the reader’s lap and it would devalue what it meant to say, “I am a published author.” And, by giving any person who’d finished a book the title of “published author” it was going to be harder and harder to correct bad writing.

The Awful

You guys know I am all about writers being supportive of each other. We have a tough job and we already endure friends, family and the world knifing us, we don’t need to be doing it to each other. I have always had a policy on doing book reviews. If I can’t leave at least three stars, I don’t say anything at all.

But I am starting to have REAL internal conflict about this policy because…

Publishing is the New Participation Trophy

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We are drowning in a sea of participation trophies and this is problematic not only for readers, it is devastating to the writing community. Writers who were in no way ready to be published are, but because they are “published” this makes it all but impossible to offer meaningful correction so they can actually grow.

Social media only exacerbates this. Groups of writers band together to offer “support” by reading and reviewing but one of two things is happening. Since the writer is a “friend” others might be offering good reviews that simply were not earned in order to “help.”

Or, they remain silent.

By remaining silent, the author is given no meaningful feedback on how to get any better so the author is just going to keep putting out bad books only making the problem worse.

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Thank GOD it was before Amazon.

Then because the writer now is an “author” they are far harder to correct. I have had folks who have won my 20 page critique who sent in writing so bad I could barely make it through. When I red-penned it, I got ripped on how the work was already published and had “great reviews” (All my friends and family LOVE me so you are an idiot).

Failure to Thrive

We are seeing real problems with the millennial generation, and reaping the consequences of handing out participation trophies, banning any failed grades and making teachers use blue pens for grading because “red ink hurts feelings”. We have young people who are bright and passionate and who want to change the world, but they are vastly unrealistic and virtually impossible to correct.

They are addicted to instant gratification and for being rewarded for “trying.” Because of social media, they also have the ability to surround themselves in an ideological echo chamber so anyone who challenges their beliefs or opinions can be “unfriended” and replaced with a more compliant “friend.” When they leave the university and enter the real world they are getting discouraged because creating a career is a long hard journey with lots of work and no one cares if you “tried.”

What is happening is that our intelligent and idealistic youth are suffering unprecedented rates of depression and they are giving up before they should, all because the world doesn’t match their skewed world view. We all are suffering because these kids DO have a tremendous amount to offer, but have been knee-capped by misguided benevolence.

They were not allowed to fail. And by not being allowed to fail, we stole the joy of authentic success. We devalued those who’d earned success. Failure is the best teacher. Humans are wired to learn from failure.

And while that is a whole other blog altogether, I am seeing what I feared back in 2004 happening to the writing world. The same crisis facing our millennials is devastating our writers.

We have created Generation Author Snowflake.

A title that once meant something is open to anyone with a computer. Not only does this discourage writers who did the hard work by handing rewards to those who skipped key parts, but it gives many writers a skewed sense of their abilities. Because failure has been removed from the equation, many writers keep putting out books that aren’t any better than the first bad book that really wasn’t ready to begin with.

I frequently tell writers the key to success is multiple titles (like above) but this is assuming the author is putting out quality material people want to read. Simply writing book after book with no plot or one-dimensional characters is only padding a virtual slush pile.

Additionally, benchmarks of success have been devalued. Years ago, there¬†was a writer in my old writing group whose writing was SO horrible we felt like we were hostages, not critique partners. He never took a single suggestion even though we endured that terrible book for 18 months. When he invited me to his “book signing” at Barnes & Noble? I died a little inside. To this day a “book signing” means less because of this.

Ah, Feelings….

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of DualD Flip Flop
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of DualD Flip Flop

But it gets worse. Because we really don’t want to hurt feelings or suffer a backlash, those of us who might actually help a writer grow remain quiet. I recently tried to read a book that was unbelievably bad. But the author was popular, so I guess that is all that matters, right?

I really struggled.

If I wrote the scathing review the book deserved, then I am a jerk for publicly stabbing another writer (and risk tanking my brand for “being mean”). If I write an e-mail, then that would likely fall flat because so many others said the book was better than unicorn tears. But if I remain quiet, who really suffers?

One, the reader for being recommended a 5-star book that hardly earned the rating and for more reasons than simple subjective taste (no plot, repetitive words, bizarre body movements, flawed facts, etc). But the author never grows because the social media echo chamber of popularity is offering a distorted reality.

In the end, I have no good answer. I still can’t bring myself to write bad reviews but then am I contributing to Generation Author Snowflake?

I get messages from writers who have friends who published and, being a good friend, they bought and read the book then were are all, “W‚ĶT‚ĶH?”

This book is awful! Kristen, what do I do?

I got nothing. Sorry.

But this is the reason behind my post. One of the great benefits of social media is the hive mind. I am only so smart, can only have so many answers. But with you guys? Maybe we can figure out how to change things because I want to get better. I don’t want to get trolled, but I don’t want sunshine blown up my skirt, either. I want to believe I earned what I got and I don’t think I am alone.

I am so thrilled we have all the advantages of e-books and Amazon and blogs and social media. But there are some serious consequences we need to address and correct. Writers are getting discouraged and giving up. Their careers are lacking meaning and they feel like failures, much like the millennials who have corners filled with ribbons and medals they know they didn’t earn (but with no authentic feedback how to improve).

Maybe they really DO have talent, but because they have no correction it really never develops. Or, sad to say, maybe they just aren’t good writers and they need to treat writing as a hobby and stop hemorrhaging money in marketing because they lack what it takes to do this as a career.

No matter what way I look at it, this is bad. It need to change.

So what are your thoughts? Do you have writers around you who are less open to feedback because they are “published”? Do you struggle with reviews? Do you have any ideas or thoughts or suggestions? How do you handle it when a friend has a book that really wasn’t yet ready to be published? Do you find that old benchmarks mean less? Do book signings or book launches fall a bit flatter for you? Do your real successes mean less than they might have 15 years ago?

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

November’s winner of my 20 page critique is Nancy Segovia. THANK YOU for being such an awesome supporter of this blog and its guests. Please send your 5000 word Word document (double-spaced, Times New Roman Font 12 point) to kristen@wana intl dot com.

Check out the Upcoming Classes

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses!¬†

All you need is an internet connection!

NEW!!!! APPROVED USE FOR CHRISTMAS MONEY!!!!

Branding Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb¬†THREE social media classes, ONE low price. Only $99. It is literally getting one class for FREE!!!!¬†

Craft Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb¬†THREE craft classes, ONE low price. Only $89. One class is FREE!!!! Includes my new class¬†The Art of Character.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 6th

Plotting for Dummies January 7th, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors January 13th, 2017

Social Media for Authors January 14th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 2017

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

Image courtesy of Wikimedia
Image courtesy of Wikimedia

All righty, so last time in Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish we talked about a lot of myths that surround publishing in general and I promised to delve deeper into this subject. I hope, at the very least, y’all walked away with one core understanding about traditional publishing.

Traditional publishing measures one thing and one thing only…commercial viability.

Granted, this often means the author is professional and the writing is outstanding‚Ķbut that’s isn’t always the case.¬†Some works are published for the sole reason that they will sell a certain amount of copies (refer to Snookie’s memoir). Additionally some of the greatest works of our time are not coming to market (initially) through legacy presses (refer to¬†The Martian).

But here’s the deal. While we certainly don’t have to be leggy-pressed to be “real” writers, self-publishing is no panacea.

The hard truth is there is a lot of junk being published. There are too many people who are so in love with the idea of calling themselves “published authors” that they take shortcuts, and I feel this is likely what irritates many professionals (especially since what this group lacks in skill and talent they tend to more than make up for in mass marketing).

But, the dangerous idea comes when we cut off our nose to spite our face.

We are SO scared that we are going to get lumped in with the folks who, frankly, should just increase processing speed by deleting Word off their hard drives, that we sit around believing we aren’t any good unless the Legacy Gods reach down from Olympus New York and give us their blessing.

NY is not going to give you (or me) a writing career. We have to hustle. Self-publishing actually has a lot of benefits not only for writers, but for traditional publishers as well.

Really, I Mean It

In my post The Ugly Truth About Publishing I explained how the consignment model worked and how mega-stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble obliterated the bookstore landscape. We discussed the terrible consequences writers have endured because of these companies’ greed.

Borders is now a memory and, trust me, Barnes and Noble isn’t far behind. They’re succumbing to the effects of their own avarice. Having a megastore on every corner was a sound business model‚Ķuntil everyone began shopping on-line.

If Barnes & Noble survives (which I highly doubt because, to date, they have not listened to my advice to SAVE them ūüėõ ) they aren’t going to offer writers all that much of an advantage. These days, their stores are few and far between meaning there are fewer point-of-sales locations than ever.

The remaining stores resemble a department store more than a bookstore. They look like a Starbucks, a Hallmark, a Radio Shack, a Tower records, a Blockbuster and a Toys-R-Us had a baby…oh and there are some books, too.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 9.35.27 AM

It’s almost an ironic homage to all stores/industries first plundered by the megastore.

You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. 

Btw, that was¬†WAY cooler before Amazon started doing it to them. Anyway…

This transition has a huge impact on all authors because bookstores no longer are the best place for discoverability. Gone are the days where most readers found what they wanted to read by browsing a bookstore. Amazon has done a stellar job of spoiling us and training us to rely on algorithms to help us choose.

People who bought this, also bought THIS.

This means the remaining points of distribution—Walmart, Costco, Sam’s, airport bookstores, drug stores and grocery stores—are the only common points of sale and they only carry a scarce fraction of available titles (and those are almost always established brands guaranteed to sell—you know, “real” writers ūüėõ ).

The biggest advantage legacy press had was distribution, and in a world not yet shopping on-line? That used to be a big deal. Now?

For the first-time novelist or the novelist who’s yet to be a big brand? Not the big deal it used to be simply because shelf space is finite (and only for a short time) and brick-and-mortar stores are going under and the new brick-and-mortars are owned by The Borg Amazon.

The remaining stores (the few indie bookstores that survived) are generally very small, which means limited inventory. By the time we subtract the classics which will always be a staple and the mega-authors who are guaranteed to sell? *cough Stephen King* 

We don’t have a lot of space left for anyone else.

What Does This Mean?

Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons
Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons

In my opinion, the author career path is evolving. Traditional’s ability to distribute is still a pretty big deal, but due to market changes, NY can now be far smarter/surgical about how they choose. They need to be picky, especially now when shelf space is more limited than ever.

In the old days, a publisher took on a huge risk hoping a work would resonate with audiences and sell.

Now? They really don’t need to. They can simply look to what is doing well in the indie world then come in and help develop that work/author on the next level.

Try to go through an airport without seeing The Martian on a newsstand.

I feel this new trend also allows us to gain a greater diversity of works. Before we could get realtime feedback what audiences were loving, legacy presses were forced into a lot of guess work. They would spot a trend (Twilight) and then ride that trend until the sparkly vampire was beaten to death. Now? They can capitalize on what I am calling The Dark Horse Effect.

What is The Dark Horse Effect?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Pedro Ribiero Simoes
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Pedro Ribiero Simoes

The dark horse is the outlier no one saw coming. It’s the candidate or competitor about whom little is known but unexpectedly wins. Instead of NY trying to¬†create lighting in a bottle, now they just have to catch it.

It is impossible for NY to capitalize on the dark horse author without self-publishing. Why? Because by definition a dark horse is no one anyone expects to win, and last I checked? NY wasn’t into that.

Self-published/indie authors have much more freedom to experiment with writing that would have been patently rejected ten years ago. I know I keep mentioning The Martian but it is a stellar example because it breaks all the rules.

Too Much Science

Self-published book and now a major motion picture. BOO-YAH!
Self-published book and now a major motion picture. BOO-YAH!

First of all, I’ve read the book and it is very science heavy. I could see an agent going cross-eyed and telling Weir to cut all the talk about chemistry, that audiences would be bored. Why? Because¬†usually that is great advice.

But had Weir (in a parallel universe) sought after approval from the Legacy Gods, they very likely would have given advice that wrecked the exact reason this book is so awesome.

Content Published on a Blog is No Good for Publication

For years (and even today) we will hear agents say that any fiction we publish on our blog is no good and not worthy of publication. The Martian, however, shows this is not always the case.

Weir was originally a programmer who left AOL and decided to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a writer‚Ķbut failed. He couldn’t get an agent, let alone a publisher. So he then left writing and returned to programming, but then decided he would still write his story and offer it on his personal blog where anyone could read it for free.

Initially, his story flopped, but he kept at it fine-tuning and doing more research while honing his writing skills.

It paid off. BIG.

Eventually, word of the story spread and readers started requesting an e-version (the PDF was too hard to download) so Weir uploaded it into Kindle and sold it for .99. Within a few months¬†The Martian rocketed to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list and an agent contacted him.

Soon, Random House called and wanted to make it into a hardcover. Within days, Hollywood called and asked for movie rights. Weir scored a book deal and a movie deal in the same week.

Crowd-Sourcing is Bad

I would imagine that many within Legacy Land would have broken out in hives at the thought of a book being written using crowd-sourcing. But that is precisely why The Martian ended up being so successful.

According to Business Insider:

“Chemists actually pointed out some problems in early drafts,” Weir said. He was able to go back and correct some of the chemistry that’s crucial for Watney’s survival.

Fans of the work were eager to be part of the collaborative process, even if it simply meant helping out with the facts. The writer of that Guardian article blasting self-publishing was adamant that “real” writers possess the decency to make mistakes in private.

But Weir wasn’t afraid to get it wrong in public‚Ķand it paid off BIG TIME.

Not everyone has the rhino skin to be corrected publicly, but if we do? We grow up way faster.

Breaking Making the Rules

What all this means is that a work that breaks all the “rules” for what NY might have been looking for in a query letter goes out the window the second they are able to see what readers really want‚Ķin sales figures.

NY didn’t have to guess that a science-heavy-crowd-sourced-geek-fest previously offered for free “might” be a winner. They could see it for themselves.

What happens to "rules" when a work is profitable.
What happens to Legacy Press “Rules” when a work is profitable.

I’m also happy Weir didn’t care about being a “real” writer.

As much as self-publishing gets flack, it’s allowing legacy publishers to reap high profits in a world where that’s harder and harder to do. It’s removing much of the guess work out of what readers like and want which helps NY’s bottom line.

It’s also freeing up writers to do what we do best‚Ķget creative. We can experiment. Try new things. Adjust, adapt, grow and mature instead of slaving away on one draft for a decade hoping someone in NY will notice.

Additionally, successes like Weir’s prove that a writer can create a platform of hardcore fans¬†before the work is ever published.¬†The single greatest reason authors fail to ever make a living is they can’t escape the gravitational pull of The Black Hole of Obscurity. Now? We can.

The Martian wasn’t released into a vacuum (*bada bump snare*), rather Weir created a core group of die hard fans using‚Ķhis blog. There was no high-priced marketing campaign or promotion (which doesn’t work as well as writers believe). Rather, it began as a small grassroots fandom that grew roots and spread¬†exploded.

No ads, no algorithmic alchemy, no giveaways, no contests, no relentless blog tours, no slaving away on social media instead of writing. Hmmm. Wonder if he read my book¬†Rise of the Machines?¬†ūüėõ #heywhynot

Suffice all this to say that this notion that we are only a “real” writer if we publish a certain way is ridiculous. But, we find what fits for us and our work. We try things, we get creative and who knows?

We might just be the next dark horse ūüėČ .

Are you ready for a perfect storm?

What are your thoughts? Personally, I love this new renaissance and it always thrills me to see how creative you guys can be. I’m also a helpless pawn on Amazon—the crack-meth-heroin dealer of books. I am now listening to three audiobooks, reading one novel and another novella on my Kindle. Yes, I am ADD but I do finish ūüėõ #donotjudgeme

I am also completely spoiled that when I find an author I love? I can buy that writer’s entire backlist‚Ķprobably far too easily.

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

March’s WINNER: DK WALKER! Please send your 5000 word WORD document (New Times Roman and one-inch margins double-spaced) to kristen at wana intl dot com and CONGRATULATIONS!

Before we go, I want to give you a heads up especially if you are thinking on attending a conference.

I’m holding my ever-popular Your Story in a Sentence class. Can you tell what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t? There might be a huge plot problem. This also helps if you are ever going to query or pitch an agent. The first ten signups get their log-line shredded by MOI for FREE.

Also speaking of FREE, I’d like to mention again the new class I am offering!

How and WHY are we using FREE!?

Making Money with FREE!¬†As a bonus for this class, my friend Jack Patterson who’s so far sold over 150,000 books to come and teach us how to ROCK the newsletter. This is in excess of two hours of training and the recording (as always) comes with purchase.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 8.21.53 PM

One of the things I love about doing what I do is that I have the ability to connect so closely with you guys and speak on the topics that matter to you. Yesterday, a fellow writer shared an article from The Guardian, For me traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way. She wanted my take on what the author had to say.

All right.

For those who’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, I hope I’ve been really clear that I support all paths of publishing (vanity press doesn’t count).

All forms of publishing hold advantages and disadvantages and, as a business, we are wise to consider what form of publishing is best for our writing, our work, our goals, our personality, etc. But my goal has always been to educate writers so they are making wise decisions based off data, not just personal preferences.

We don’t self-publish because all our friends are doing it and we think we can make a million dollars fast cash. But, at the same time, we shouldn’t hold out for traditional out of some misguided idea that self-publishing/indie isn’t for “real” authors and that traditional publishers are somehow going to handhold us.

The author of this article has the right to publish as she sees fit. I am all for empowering authors and trust me, I know that self-publishing gets a bad rap for good reasons. I am not blind to all the book spam and authors who write ONE book and camp on top of it for the next five years selling to anyone who looks at them.

But there were some egregious errors in many of the article’s assertions that I’d like to address so that your decision is based of reality not an opinion piece. I won’t address them all today for the sake of brevity, but here were the major ones that jumped out at me.

Myth #1—Serious Novelists Don’t Self-Publish

Tell that to Hugh Howey, Bob Mayer, Barry Eisler, Joel Eisenberg, Vicki Hinze, Theresa Ragan and y’all get the point.

Myth #2—Self-Publish and ALL Time Will Be Spent Marketing Not Writing

Or maybe they’re doing it wrong?

Myth #3—If You Self-Publish You Will Act Like an Amway Rep Crossed with a Jehovah’s Witness

Many do, but that’s a choice not an inevitability.

Myth #4—Gatekeepers Know Best

LOL. Sure. Because Snookie’s¬†It’s A Shore Thing was published for its literary value.

Myth #5—Private Apprenticeship is Better for Author Growth

Public feedback can be brutal and isn’t for everyone, but rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic in private isn’t necessarily a better, nobler path either.

Myth #6—Awards Are Everything

For some genres, perhaps. But can the literary world keep ignoring that some of the best works of our time are not coming from legacy presses?

Myth #7—To Look Pro in Self-Publishing You Spend a Fortune

Network better.

Myth #8—Traditional Publishing Creates a Far Superior Product

Tell that to the romance authors who, for years, couldn’t expect that the cover would match their story. Pyramids on a romance set in the Highlands? It has happened.

Vonda McIntre (who is a brilliant Nebula Award Winning Author) has even posted some of the really awful covers her publisher (traditional) thought were a good idea. And, because she was a mere author and had no control over the covers? She had no say.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 11.51.12 AM

Myth #9—Self-Published Authors Can’t Make a Living

Many don’t. This job is not for everyone. But then again, most traditional authors would make more flipping burgers.

Myth #10—Amazon & Self-Publishing Have Destroyed Author Incomes

Definitely a NO. For the first time in history more authors are making a living wage than ever before. Mega-bookstores like Barnes & Noble did more to damage author incomes than almost any other factor. They almost single-handedly destroyed the bookstore ecosystem and many writers who were making a good living suddenly were forced to get a day job if they liked eating.

Refer to my post The Ugly Truth of Publishing.

Now that I pointed out the ten contentions I disagree with, I’d like to zoom in on this idea that traditional publishing is only for real writers and that self-publishing is for amateurs. Namely this quote from the article rubbed me the wrong way:

Despite royalty rates of 70%, I think self-publishing is a terrible idea for serious novelists (by which I mean, novelists who take writing seriously, and love to write).

This statement is so far off-base I need this book…

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 9.19.49 AM

I’m back and I can “literally even” so let’s go ūüėÄ

The Long and Short of Publishing

I know we are going through a lot of birthing pains right now and we still have ways to go, but a lot of the changes in publishing have been for the better. For years, traditional (legacy) publishers were the sole gatekeepers and this had a lot of disadvantages for authors and readers.

Because traditional publishing was taking on a large financial risk and had to also maintain high overhead, they obviously had to be picky about what works to publish. These works had to bring in a certain amount of ROI (return on investment). This devastated the literary landscape and drove many works to the brink of extinction.

For instance, in the 70s and 80s long epic works were all the rage. Readers actually liked a book so long you could take out a burglar with it. I mean, Clan of the Cave Bear  could have been registered as a deadly weapon. But the thing is, paper is heavy so it is expensive to ship. It costs a lot more to print a long book (Duh).

Additionally, big thick paperbacks? Only fitting a few of those suckers on a shelf. Why sell three books for $9.99 when you can sell ten books for $7.99?

Basic math.

So, the trend became to cut works off after a certain word count. Many agents would take one look at a query and if the work was over 110,000 words? Forget it. It didn’t matter that it was the next Lord of the Rings.¬†

They weren’t being mean, they simply knew that publishers were wanting shorter works because they could sell more of them and enjoy a higher profit.

But what if a story needed to be that long?

The other side also suffered. Short works. Pulp fiction got its start with the much-esteemed Charles Dickens and this form of storytelling really picked up traction in the early part of the 20th century. This type of fiction gave the general public access the larger-than-life stories with exotic and sexy characters. Pulp authors also made a really good living, some becoming among the richest people in the country.

We can thank pulp fiction for some of the greatest literary geniuses of our culture.¬†Edgar Rice Burroughs almost single-handedly laid the foundation for today’s science fiction. Then we have¬†Max Brand, H.P. Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ray Bradbury.

With WWII we experienced paper rationing and the pulp magazine fell into decline as publishers opted for longer works with‚Ķa greater ROI. Notice how these changes really don’t have much to do with the skill of the writer and have more to do with paper costs, shipping costs and ROI.

The beauty of pulp fiction was how it connected to everyday people who normally would not have considered themselves “avid readers.”

As publishing became bigger and bigger business, it had less to do with the story and the quality of the writing and more to do with, “Can we¬†sell this?” Again, this is simply wise business. A publisher might¬†love a vampire book‚Ķbut unfortunately they already had taken on three other vampire books and filled that quota for the year.

REJECTION

Many forms of writing were driven virtually to the point of extinction. Novellas, short stories, poetry, memoirs (unless your were famous), and epic works all suffered terribly. To extend the logic, their creators were driven almost to the point of extinction.

Because what if you happen to be an¬†excellent pulp writer in a paradigm that has no outlet for that? What if your strength is epic length high fantasy that just can’t fit into under 150,000 words? Then just because a writer doesn’t fit into the current business model of legacy publishers she is less‚Ķtalented? He isn’t a professional?

No.

Remember Traditional Publishing is a BUSINESS

Original image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin
Original image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin

This notion that an author lacks skill or talent or has nothing worthwhile to offer unless the Legacy Gods deem approval ignores history. Most noteworthy?

John Kennedy Toole’s work¬†A Confederacy of Dunces was published posthumously and went on to win the Pulitzer for Fiction. Though Toole’s work was praiseworthy in his lifetime, after facing rejection after rejection he took his own life.

Was it Toole’s work was substandard? Or did it have more to do with the business model of the publishing world and his work didn’t neatly fit in? Would Toole have continued to be a great voice in literature had other viable models of publishing been in existence?

African American Author Zora Neal Hurston was an anthropologist whose fiction was overlooked in her lifetime. Luckily for us the first wave of feminism catapulted her writing to success…after her death.

Often traditional publishing is hesitant to make waves because…they are a business.

Notice the massive uptick in LGBT fiction? Thank indie/self-publishing for much of that because these authors had the freedom to push boundaries and challenge social norms in a way that would have been virtually impossible for traditional publishing.

In fact, the success of many of these indies has allowed legacy presses to relax and realize just maybe there is an audience out there who’d love to have a voice, too (I.e. Barry Eisler writing anti-establishment, anti-war thrillers with a gay lead). Eisler left traditional because of the stories he believed needed a voice and he knew there would be an audience who shared those views, too. Indies are aware of cultural shifts and are risk-takers willing to explore them for good or bad.

I suppose this is one big reason I am puzzled a literary author would have so much against non-traditional publishing. Often it is¬†literature that says what’s unpopular, that points out the pink elephant in the room. Literature is known for highlighting the lives and struggles of those groups who are largely ignored in the commercial realm.

Self-published authors have largely been responsible for many of the most beneficial changes in publishing history. Check out Why We Should All Hug a Self-Published/Indie Author.

Back to Business

Sure thing.
Sure thing.

Is Snookie’s¬†A Shore Thing great writing? Or did the decision to publish this work have more to do with the fact that NY could capitalize on the popularity of a reality television show and, crunching the numbers, knew they could sell copies? Is 50 Shades of Grey a better book simply because a legacy press picked it up? Or did they pick it up because giving E.L. James a far wider distribution was a sound business decision?

What all of us have to remember is NY is not a non-profit organization; it’s a business driven by profit and loss. Sure, a lot of authors jump the gun to self-publish and they aren’t ready. Refer to 5 Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors. But guess what? That is common in ALL business. There is a reason most restaurants don’t last a year ūüėČ .

Traditional publishing tests ONE thing…commercial viability. All across the arts from painting to music to writing, the greatest legends were very often overlooked by the establishment. From Picasso to Plath, genius is often not something that fits neatly into a P&L statement.

Traditional publishing is also not a meritocracy.

There are excellent writers who don’t make the cut for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing. We all know of talented authors we love who, for whatever reason, aren’t selling like¬†50 Shades of Darker‚Ķand we die just a little inside knowing that.

But this notion that only “real” writers publish traditionally? Patently false. We will take some time to explore some of these other myths, but rest-assured the decision of how to publish and when to publish is far more complex than it may seem. Also, self-publishing has evolved quite a lot. Yes, it used to be the equivalent of cheap vanity press, but that is light years from today’s reality.

There are good and bad reasons for ALL forms of publishing, so do some homework. Also, remember sometimes we need to try things on. If they don’t fit? Um‚Ķchange.

What are your thoughts? Are you a successful indie/hybrid/self-pub author who gets tired of this misconception that you are not a “real” writer? Have you felt undue pressure to self-publish? Are you a writer of really long or really short works and think maybe you might have a new home?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

I will announce March’s winner next post.

Before we go, I want to give you a heads up especially if you are thinking on attending a conference.

I’m holding my ever-popular Your Story in a Sentence class. Can you tell what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t? There might be a huge plot problem. This also helps if you are ever going to query or pitch an agent. The first ten signups get their log-line shredded by MOI for FREE.

Also speaking of FREE, I’d like to mention again the new class I am offering!

How and WHY are we using FREE!?

Making Money with FREE!¬†As a bonus for this class, my friend Jack Patterson who’s so far sold over 150,000 books to come and teach us how to ROCK the newsletter. This is in excess of two hours of training and the recording (as always) comes with purchase.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†