Over the past few weeks, I’ve encountered several essays in which authors have enumerated reasons not to “self-publish.” I think that their use of the phrase implies some prejudice already–no lesser a source than Hachette (one of the big 6 publishers) notes in a leaked document that “Self-publishing is a misnomer.” When one major corporation acknowledges the phrase is misleading, another is tries to pawn off vanity services as “assisted self-publishing,” and more writers are discussing all the reasons not to do it, one possible implication is that it has become more viable.
That’s because it has.
Which means the big question is whether or not you should do it.
Just received an email that Amazon has made a special KDP Select option available on its Kindle Direct Publishing platform, which what many authors–including me–use to publish our work for Kindle. Which is awesome. I know a lot of corporate publishers, literary agents, retailers, and authors are wary of Amazon, its continued growth, and its possible dominance, but for many of us–again, myself included–it’s been uniquely empowering.
The new Select option is interesting; authors who agree to digital exclusivity with Amazon can both make their books available as part of Kindle’s new Lending Library and take advantage of free promotions.
I decided to try it out to see what I could see. I went ahead and enrolled “Jamais Plus: Explorations in the Curious Case of the Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe”, while at the same time increasing its “normal” price to non-promotional level (and taking advantage of that free promotion). “Jamais Plus” is a choose-your-own-adventure noir, a twisting-winding throwback to the adventure novels so many of us grew up on, in which C. Auguste Dupin investigates the death of the man who made him an infamous detective. It required substantial and specialized coding to make it work on Kindle, and it’s sort of even more a reading experience than a story.
I am halfway to 34, and this coming December 24th will be my 34th Christmas Eve, which is how I measure Christmases. For me, Christmas has never been so much about lists and presents and trees as it has been about making those lists and anticipating those presents underneath that tree. Which means that, for me, the essence of Christmas is the breathless hope of wishing on the brightest star in the sky and believing it might come true. That singular moment of potential.
Christmas Eve occurs before the fire at my parents’ house, surrounded by my mother’s sister and her family, as well as any friends who happen to wassail their ways to our home. It’s full of egg nog and sugar cookies and chances are there’s enough nog it gets blurrier as the evening continues in fits of discarded wrapping paper and torn asunder envelopes, but one thing stands out. One thing always stands out.
Titles seem to be one of the elements of writing writers fret over most, and justifiably so. Chances are, titles are the first thing readers see, so they take on a lot of importance. Under ideal circumstances, they somehow carry the whole theme and story all in a quick phrase. My favorites include Needful Things, American Gods, Peace Like a River, and The Silence of the Lambs. All are not just effective but evocative; Stephen King’s Needful Things, in fact, begins with a character discussing the name of the new shop in town, which happens to be Needful Things–“What do you suppose something like that means? Why, a store like that might carry anything. Anything at all.”
And indeed it does. It’s where you can buy anything your heart desires–or at least the fantasy of it. For a price.
Knowing how important a title can be, I always fret over them. Which was why I was relieved when The Prodigal Hour finally came to me.
So what might a writer learn from Locke? You’ve written a “good enough” novel–whatever you’ve decided that means. Maybe you just finished it for NaNoWriMo (and in which case, congratulations!).
Maybe you’re an experienced indie author still frustrated when you see other authors selling crazy amounts of books while sales of yours trickle in.
Maybe you’re an author who got a corporate deal–advance and all!–but your publisher never really got around to marketing you. Maybe you signed with Simon & Schuster, and they’re too busy with uploading and then deleting Snooki YouTube videos.
In discussing Locke and How I Sold (as well as Hocking and Eisler et al.), I think one huge caveat that must be enumerated, and can’t be mentioned often enough, is that: there is no magic bullet. What’s worked for one writer might not–and probably will not–work for others.
I’m sure someone could make the argument that people don’t discuss that bit because it’s understood, but I don’t buy that.
In Malcolm Gladwells’ book “The Tipping Point,” Gladwell discusses myriad companies whose products tipped the industries they were in, changing them around them in such a way as to not simply be successful but even rewrite a paradigm. During the past several years, several different events have increasingly tipped publishing from being a business based on print and bookstores to transforming into one based on digital readers and online retailers; Amazon’s Kindle, which debuted in 2007, was a first step in a march of tipping points that has progressed inexorably since then.
Amazon’s announcement that independent author John Locke had sold a million Kindle downloads might have been the first real tip of independent publishing from a specific designator used in a specific way toward a more general appellation embraced by myriad creators operating outside of so-called “traditional” systems.
Over the weekend, I read Locke’s “How I Sold a Million Ebooks in Five Months!” The exclamation point is his (he has a propensity toward the punctuation. I don’t think a single page didn’t contain at least one). As I read his recounting of his experiences, I started to wonder how authors might use the knowledge, but I also started to wonder if the fact that Locke exists in the first place might be even more important than his techniques and books.
I never do anything today. Black Friday keeps me safely home, away from bargain-seeking crowds in the retail jungle.
Still, who doesn’t like a good deal, right?
Which is why, for a limited time only, all my books for Kindle are just 99 cents.
This includes the essays and short stories, of course, “Jamais Plus” and “Struck by the Light of the Son,” and “Blues’n How to Play’em.”
But it also includes both:
The Prodigal Hour
Both of which have been consistently well received and so far well reviewed.
So if you’re looking for some Exciting books to give to people you love, filling up their digital readers or sending them a gift for their phone they can read during their morning commute, they make for a perfect gift. And just 99 cents for a very limited time only.
A long time ago, I dated (briefly) a girl whom I took out on the night before Thanksgiving. We went out with mutual friends to a bar, and we danced and drank and were young. At the end of the evening, I drove her home, and I kissed her goodnight. It was our first kiss, and I remember that cold November evening, the crunch of snow and crackle of ice, the sharp dark air full of possibility. I remember the feel of her lips against mine, the feel of her hair in my fingers, the skin of her cheek under my fingertips.
A brief kiss, as the universe goes. A defiant flicker in the darkness.
She told me, later, long after I’d turned and trudged back to my car and started it and driven home, that she’d melted against the door. Just like in the movies.
I’m grateful for that moment.
Funding has often been one of the most difficult elements of any artistic endeavor. Guys like Shakespeare and Marlowe got patrons, rich blokes who basically gave them a bunch of cash to write for them. Lots of authors nowadays hope to get funding from big corporations, as advances against the potential that the books they write might sell enough copies to turn a profit.
Now, there’s Kickstarter, which is a website that makes crowdfunding possible. Very interesting.
All the “versus” debates floating around recently have made me think about debates in the first place. Binary thinking.
Conceptual versus linear thinking. Which, of course, one could argue is just as binary.
Interesting: as I discussed words and their meanings and how the ways they influence ideas (good and bad), a development:
Giant corporate publisher Penguin announced “self-publishing services” through their Book Country site.
And yes, those words are in quotation marks because that is not what is meant. At all.
Last week, I caught a post by Angela Perry, in which she mentions she’s considering “self-publishing” but ultimately moves on to discuss writers and tone. I honestly think that tone is at the heart of why people think a “debate” exists, and why there are two sides to it. Some of the rhetoric recently used has been hyperbolic and not-so-helpful, but I’ll be honest: I can, in ways, see why it’s been used. Why some loud, brash independent authors have resorted to using somewhat shocking language.
Publishing never used to be so divided, but then, it was never really so conglomerated, either.
As Amazon takes on more roles and responsibilities in the book world, many wonder if that’s a great thing. I remember back when Amazon sold only books, before it was the retail powerhouse it has become, the online equivalent of big-box stores. Now, it’s refocused on books, first with Kindle and then with publishing-related endeavors, setting up imprints as it has become both retailer and publisher in some cases.
Lots of smaller, independent bookstores–by which one means bookstores that are privately held, and not part of a chain, which means anyone besides Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, basically–don’t like this. They see Amazon as they saw Barnes & Noble when it was first beginning. The big boy on the block who set up shop next door and ultimately drove them out of business.
As a reader, it saddens me. As guy with a business degree, it makes me wonder.
When I first heard about the Occupy Movement (which has now spread far beyond Wall Street), I was intrigued because I felt like I identified with the frustration behind it. I wasn’t sure what it stood for or wanted (and still, in ways, am not), but I was glad someone was acknowledging rampant injustice.
I still am, but I’m realizing everything’s a little more complicated than that.
Print versus digital. “Self-publishing” versus “traditional publishing.” “Plotters” versus “pantsers.”
Everything in publishing seems so binary lately and has a “debate,” and it’s starting to drive me crazy.
Tying the knot isn’t the only big change I’m making in my life. But, then, my life has been one enormous change after another for the past five or so years, so I guess it’s not really altogether new.
But man is it exciting.
Yesterday, I caught Chuck Wending’s post over at his Terrible Minds site, “Writers Are the 99%.” Interesting post about the marginalization of writers in industry and culture.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately, and especially with regard to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
I often note that I realized I was a writer after I finished Stephen King’s Needful Things, and while that’s not untrue, it neglects all the other elements and stories and media that played a role and influenced me as a storyteller. Stuff like Where the Wild Things Are and The Hardy Boys. Don’t forget Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and Quantum Leap, and that’s not even mentioning Infocom games.
And that’s what Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is all about, and it’s brilliant.
It’s that time of year again!
I’m surprised to realize I wrote “A Writer’s Alternative to NaNoWriMo” two years ago now.
Looking back, it’s fun, but I realize I’ve been reconsidering my opinion of it, especially in light of recent posts and novels.
A year ago today, I began to serialize Meets Girl, then published it in paperback and on Kindle over the Thanksgiving holiday, three weeks into its serialization. I refrained from writing about it for a couple of reasons, the most major being that I didn’t want to spoil anything for anyone. However, given that a year–give or take–has passed, I feel the statute of limitations on spoilers has expired.
So I thought I’d take a moment to write about it. If you haven’t read it yet, pick it up here, for Kindle or in paperback, and come back.
If you have, more after the jump.
The other day, amusingly obscene penmonkey Chuck Wendig posted a prompt about Terrible Minds nicknames to Google+. His note at the time was that one’s first name was the object immediately to one’s right, while one’s surname was one’s greatest fear.
Which is where the title of this post comes from, as mine was Remote Control Mediocrity.
Because it got me thinking about success and how we define it. Years ago, I thought six-figure (or any-figure) book contracts were required for validation, because I thought for sure that if one wrote a “good enough” book–meaning a book that is technically competent in all ways–one could get an agent and attract a corporate publisher like Random House.
There are lots of ways to share a book and, in doing so, improve as a writer. Not all those ways are created equal, and some work better than others.
I’m pretty sure there are various websites that basically serve as online writing workshops, and I’m nearly certain that part of Richard Nash’s Red Lemonade has some of that functionality, wherein writers post chapters and stories and the best rise to the top. I’ve participated in both writing groups and online writing workshops in the past, and they all share one thing in common: all are best with a smaller amount of material, and honestly most effective for short stories.
The other day I mentioned you have to decide for yourself what “good enough” means to you. I want to elaborate.
I opened this “Add New Post” page with the intention of noting that I don’t mean it’s okay to be mediocre.
But then I got to thinking, “What’s mediocre?” Just like we wonder “What’s ‘good enough’?”
Lately, I’ve noticed an uptick in the numbers of writers (and agents) discussing when it’s time to give up on a book. Not in the sense of beginning to write a story and then realizing, at some point, that the meat of it isn’t there and it’s not meant to be a novel, but rather in the moment when it’s time to look at the finished product of a novel, acknowledge it’s not good enough, and move on. Such moments inevitably come after a long, slow process of submission and rejection. Sometimes the thought seems to be that if enough literary agents pass on a novel, it must not be good enough for publication and is better off trunked or drawered, ignored but never quite forgotten, dismissed but never quite put out of mind.
Other times, the time to shelve or drawer or trash or bury a book comes later, after an agent has already accepted a project for representation and taken it out on submission to editors, all of whom read the book but scratch their heads because they can’t figure out how to sell it or don’t have room in their lists to do so.
I don’t think you should ever give up on a story just because someone else doesn’t get it, and between the condescension of agents purporting to know when to start a novel and the outright masochism of writers kowtowing to business and commerce and market and all the other factors that have absolutely nothing to do with either writing a good book or telling a good story, I’m just not sure which is worse.
Should you give up on a story? I don’t know. I can’t tell you that. But I can tell you how to make that difficult choice. I know. I’ve done it before.