Ed Patterson Intervieewed by Amanda Young

I gave an Interview on Amanda Young’s Romance website, complete with excerpts and covers. Come take a look and let me know what you think.

http://www.amandayoung.org/blog/

Edward C. Patterson
http;//www.dancaster.com

FiledByAuthor – An Easy, New, Free Web Presence Option For Authors

Filedbyauthor is a new, free web service that promises to connect authors with readers and readers with books.

From the site’s About Us page:

 

FiledBy, Inc is a digital marketing company providing membership sites, web tools and community building solutions to content Creators – authors, writers, illustrators and photographers – and their fans. The Company, based in Nashville, TN, has launched its flagship site, filedbyauthor, the most comprehensive online marketing platform and directory of published author web pages on the Internet.

Filedbyauthor is now in Beta. Any author with a book published in the U.S. or Canada can join for free, claim their page, check for accuracy, provide corrections and enhance their pages.

Mike Shatzkin. co-founder of filedbyauthor, was not quick to jump on the author web presence bandwagon.  On February 22 of this year, he wrote about his gradual conversion:

 

When Joe Esposito first told me about blogs in about 2001 or so, there were very few. Michael Cader had PublishersLunch, but if Michael knew that it was an emailed blog, he didn’t tell me. And then blogs “happened”, as things do: gradually, then suddenly. And now I’m late to have one of my own. Really late.

I’ll admit that I fiddled with this a couple of times before. I started up at least twice, maybe it was three times. I decided I’d try it for a while, see if I could get into the pattern of writing regularly, and then reveal it to the world when I’d piled up a month or two of posts. But I never GOT to a month or two of posts. And because I was keeping what I was doing a secret, I had no traffic, no comments, and none of the rewards of interaction which provide the motivation to keep going. So I didn’t keep going…

But I’ve been getting some signs that “now’s the time.”

One follows from having been on Peter Brantley’s mailing list for a couple of years. Twenty, thirty times a week, Peter sends us a link to something he’s found about publishing and digital change and invites comment. The posts and comments have increasingly sparked a response from me that amounts to a blog post. Once in a while Peter would ask me to extend a comment as a post to one of his blogs, PubFrontier. Then last week David Rothman flattered me by turning another Brantley list comment into a post on his Teleread.

And then two weeks ago I started using Twitter. I was a bit slow to get it, but Tools of Change accelerated the process for me. The complementarity of Twitter and a blog seem pretty apparent.

On top of that, I’m involved with a large number of exciting new initiatives even in these troubling times. Filedbyauthor, a new venture I’m co-founder of being headed by my longtime friend and colleague, Peter Clifton, will be live with a web page for every author with an active ISBN in another month or so.

 

Here we are, a month or so later, and FiledByAuthor is live (in beta).  PersonaNonData shared the announcement on 3/25/09:

 

FiledBy, Inc. today announced the Beta launch of filedbyauthor. The site is the first large-scale author-centric promotional platform to provide every author that has been published in the U.S. or Canada a free, hosted, ecommerce enabled web page ready to be claimed and enhanced. With more than 1.8 million pre-assembled author web pages and over 7 million book titles, filedbyauthor is the most complete site for finding and engaging with authors and their work.

“All authors, regardless of publishing category are encouraged to visit the site, claim their page, make corrections, and enrich them in a variety of ways," says Founder, President & C.E.O. Peter Clifton.

Any published author or co-author can easily and immediately update their author page which is linked to individual work pages. In addition to the free level, FiledBy announced two new membership levels designed to make additional web marketing tools available at low cost. These additional levels include blog tools, additional linking and media postings, event listings, online press kits and banner customization.

And, any reader can join the filedbyauthor community and start connecting with authors. Readers can fill in their own pages, collect favorite authors and books, write reviews, rate works and authors, and comment through wall postings.

“We hope to level the web marketing playing field for all authors, eliminate some of the challenges authors face when designing their online presence, and help every author become more easily discoverable through a highly optimized site,” added Clifton.

 

If you have a book with an ISBN that was published in the U.S. or Canada, you can claim your filedbyauthor page now.

Finding Value In Author Web Sites

This article, by Judith Rosen, originally appeared on Publisher’s Weekly on 12/15/08. 

Now that just about every writer has a Web site, blog and/or MySpace, Facebook and GoodReads pages, are they finding the effort of keeping up with it all worthwhile? Do authors even need a Web presence? And if so, is it worth the $3,000 to $35,000 fee that professional Web site creators/marketers charge?

“Yes,” said Steve Bennett, who has written more than 50 books and is president of AuthorBytes, which builds and markets author Web sites. “A Web site is your locus in space. It’s not that people can’t get basic author information on Amazon. But they’re looking for extras. The Web has changed the way we learn about products and services; it’s hard to imagine succeeding without it.”

There’s little question about the value of author Web sites for Carol Fitzgerald, founder and president of the Book Report Network, either. As she sees it, having a Web presence gives writers a chance to extend the conversation with their readers. When her company signs an author, she reads their books to make sure that the site her company creates captures the same attitude and tone, beginning with the welcome letter on the home page. Fitzgerald is less concerned about authors having a message board or book trailer than with providing a go-to place for fans.

“If you’re going to get a book review over the Web,” she said, “you want to be sure to have a Web site to send people to, not just the publisher’s site.” She does have one caveat, though: don’t overdo the Flash. “If I’m waiting for a site to load, it ought to be pretty good,” said Fitzgerald. “Like it ought to clean the floor.”

In the absence of clear proof that an expensive, Flash-driven site makes any difference when it comes to sales, some authors, even well-known ones, are opting for a bare-bones Web presence. Susan Cheever, who was given her first Web site 15 years ago, chose a no-frills, DIY Authors Guild site, where writers pay up to $9 a month for Web hosting.

She said that she would upgrade if there were any way to prove that sites sell books. In addition to saving money, the Authors Guild arrangement allows Cheever to update her site (www.susancheever.com) directly, unlike many Web services.

Not that she changes it often—her most recent book, Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction, is still listed on her home page as due out in the beginning of October. Nor is there a blog. Still, for her the site does what she wants: it enabled this reporter to track her down at Yaddo, and she uses it to sign up speaking engagements.

Despite Cheever’s decision not to blog, both Bennett and Fitzgerald argue that a blog is the easiest way to keep sites fresh. And there’s no reason the blog has to be only about the book; at least that’s James Frey’s approach at BigJimIndustries.com. On his blog, he collects funny news items, videos he likes and stray Web commentary.

But it’s not just bestselling writers who use the Web to keep their names out in the blogosphere. Relatively unknown authors, especially nonfiction writers, have found the Web to be an effective tool for generating interest in their work. Months before her combination travelogue/humor book Queen of the Road came out in June, Doreen Orion used her advance from Broadway to hire AuthorBytes to create QueenoftheRoadtheBook.com.

Her objective, she said, was to have a site that would give people a sense of her book without reading it. She chose to have every Web page look like a postcard sent from a different destination, with a stamp of her wearing a tiara.

Although Orion estimates that she spent eight hours a day for six months before her book came out working on the site and posting YouTube videos, she said the money and time were well spent. She credits the site with getting her a speaking engagement at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, Calif., as well as making her book a reading group selection. She viewed her advance as “my book’s money. If you don’t have a really good Web site, you’re hampering yourself.”

Clearly something’s working. Queen of the Road is in its sixth printing and has close to 38,000 copies in print.

Read the rest of the article at Publisher’s Weekly, and also take a look at this companion article about filedbyauthor for a new, totally free option for creating your own author web presence.

The Psychology of Writing, Part 1: A Sane Perspective On The Creative Process

Today Publetariat launches a new series on the psychology of writers and writing. First up is a video from the TED network featuring author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love) speaking on the emotional pitfalls of being a creative person, particularly about feeling at the mercy of your muses. In the clip, Gilbert explains how she came to a healthier, more positive attitude about the seeming capriciousness of the creative process.

This video is approximately 20 minutes in length. In it, Ms. Gilbert talks about the psychological and emotional challenges of being a writer, how to make peace with the emotional risks one takes in creating, and how altering your perspective on creativity can free you to find new joy in your work.

Watch for additional articles in this series, to be run each Wednesday.

Borders Continues To Struggle

This article, by Greta Guest, originally appeared on the Detroit Free Press site.

Borders Group Inc. shares languish below the price of a candy bar, its new CEO is closing stores and slashing payroll and turnaround experts differ on its fate.

 

(Click on picture above to view larger)

The Ann Arbor bookseller reports fourth-quarter results next week. And the expectation is for more multimillion-dollar losses, turnaround experts say. Borders said its holiday sales at stores open at least a year fell 14.4%.

 

Shareholders will hear more about the company’s strategy next Wednesday when CEO Ron Marshall hosts a conference call with analysts and investors.

What they know already is that the retailer is in danger of being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. Its shares closed Tuesday at 64 cents, down 60% in the four months since it announced it was no longer for sale.

Meanwhile, chief competitors have seen huge gains in share prices. Amazon is up 71% to $72.70 and Barnes & Noble, thought to be Borders’ most likely suitor, has risen 53% to $23.01.

Borders has been cutting costs in the past year while spending big on an e-commerce site. It has announced some store closings including the downtown Detroit and Chicago’s Michigan Avenue stores and cut 1,152 jobs. The company employs 27,000 at more than 1,000 stores.

 

Ken Dalto, a Farmington Hills-based turnaround expert, said Borders’ strategy seems to be one of buying time and hoping economic recovery is just around the corner.

"They are figuring their brand name is going to carry them," Dalto said. "Brand names mean less with the inroads of technology. The brand name is Amazon."

Dalto said staffing cuts and dropping small things like free bookmarks could hurt the in-store experience.

"It is a self-liquidation," he said.

Jim McTevia, managing partner of Bingham Farms-based McTevia Associations LLC, a turnaround firm, said he thinks Borders could seek Chapter 11 protection, but it wouldn’t solve the bookseller’s business problems.

"Depending on their ability to get debtor-in-possession financing, they could easily file for Chapter 11," he said. "It is much easier to facilitate the sale of a troubled company under bankruptcy protection."

Read the rest of the article on the Detroit Free Press site.

Understanding Writer's Block

This article, by Christopher Edwards, originally appeared on the Stillpoint Coaching website.  It’s primarily aimed at people who write scientific and academic pieces for journal publication, but the ideas presented here about the roots of writer’s block are equally applicable to any author.

You’re stuck, damn it. You can’t even imagine starting to write your grant or article without a twinge of terror or resentment. Even if you can manage to drag yourself to the computer, the words just don’t flow. At one time or another, most everyone who needs to write suffers from writer’s block. It’s a devastatingly painful experience, and it can kill a career.

I have known research professors who left academia for industry to avoid writing, professors denied tenure because they could not publish, and Ph.D. candidates who bailed out of graduate school because they could not write their dissertations.

However, both the scholarly literature and my own client work convince me that most scientists with basic language competence can overcome writer’s block. This article will identify some major sources of writer’s block, particularly the most harmful attitudes toward writing, and will suggest a few solutions. In a follow-up article, I will describe some detailed strategies one can apply to break or avoid writer’s block. I will also suggest instances in which writing coaches or even psychotherapists can be helpful.

Anxiety and boredom are two major emotional sources of writer’s block. As with other productivity problems, overcoming writer’s block requires that scientists work within the zone of emotional arousal where they are neither bored nor overly anxious, setting realistic goals they can accomplish with concentrated effort. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a productivity specialist at the University of Chicago, defines this zone as the dimension where people experience pleasure, productivity, and flow in their work.  As with laboratory work, success with writing depends upon having enough challenge to stretch one’s abilities, but not so much that one lives in fear of failing.

If you struggle with the task of writing, take a close look at unrealistic, crippling attitudes you may hold. Psychologist A.C. Jones concludes that writer’s block occurs when grandiose but fluctuating expectations of success combine with a vaguely planned project. Perfectionism may be the greatest of all attitudinal blocks. I have seen scientists labor over every single word of the first draft, crawling toward the end of each paragraph by constantly switching between writing and correcting.

If you lower your expectations about earlier drafts and stop editing while you write, you can raise your productivity. Outline the main ideas and use the first draft to test what you will include in the submitted work. A writer invites paralysis by expecting anything close to a finished product in early drafts. With scientific writing, as with other writing, there is never a perfect text. To paraphrase poet Paul Valery, an article is never finished, only abandoned.

Writer’s block can be a reaction to boredom as much as perfectionistic fear. Boredom can occur when scientists view writing as merely a mechanical transmission of their truly creative work. If one feels this way, the challenge is to create enough novelty and interest to finish the writing task. As writer Dorothy Parker quipped: The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. 

Writing up research can be an interesting way of refining as well as communicating one’s science; if you can treat it as a challenge, it can sharpen your thinking. For example, I have watched scientists develop a better sense of the larger significance of their work through their writing, since composing and editing force one to confront what may be important for others, not simply oneself.

Task inflation can be another source of writer’s block. It occurs when one makes a project seem more daunting than it really is. Two types of task inflation can plague scientists when they write: overvaluing the importance of getting a current article published, and overestimating the role of one’s prose in the work’s acceptance for publication. No matter how important an article may be, it is only a limited communication of a portion of one’s lifetime scientific achievement.

Many excellent papers are published in Nature, Science, and Cell, only to be added to the list of hundreds of good scientific papers published each year. When one does publish in top journals, the writing is far less important than the science about which one writes. In reality, good journals accept even very poorly written scientific papers, if the science is novel and significant. One can conquer task inflation by learning to focus on the work one is reporting, instead of on imagined reactions to the paper.

When the above-mentioned attitudinal problems are combined with major misleading myths about writing, writing becomes a painful, frustrating bore of a chore. Three of the most debilitating myths, well described by Jerrold Mundis, are: writing should be fun and easy; one can only write when one is inspired or otherwise feeling enthusiastic about a manuscript, and writing requires some type of special genius. 

Scientists who write as a part of their jobs can learn something about the fun and easy myth from full-time writers. Many of the best professional writers dread writing. It is never easy. For many, the real pleasure of writing only comes with submission of the text – there is a sigh, a moment of relief from the tension of composing and revising that has been mounting for weeks, months, or years. Writing is lonely, hard work with few intermediate rewards. It can become more enjoyable over time, but only if one is willing to sit in front of the blank screen and plug away at a draft in the midst of fear or boredom.

Interestingly, the act of writing is rarely, on its own, the source of agony. Avoidance of the task, along with the cycles of fear and guilt that follow, is often the greatest cause of frustration.

Read the rest of the article at Stillpoint Coaching.

The Three Great Myths of Writing

This article, by Joan Marie Verba, originally appeared on SFF.net.

For a long time, many people thought that they could get warts from handling frogs. Now we know that this was a myth–something "everyone" thought was true, but which had no basis in fact.

Writing, too, has its own mythology.

In writing, as in everything else, mythology is perpetuated for a reason. People use myths to explain phenomena they do not understand, or to deal with realities they do not wish to face, or to avoid confronting the fact that events are often random and unfair. Because myths have such powerful uses, myths are seldom questioned, and people become very upset when their cherished myths are challenged. But myths, because they are untrue, can cause people who believe in them to feel hurt or lost or confused when they rely on these myths to guide their actions.

That is why I believe that writers should become aware of the myths that exist in our profession. In my experience, I have discovered three myths which I believe are particularly misleading, and are worth further discussion.

Myth #1: If your writing is good, you will have no trouble selling your stories; if you are not selling your writing, it means your stories are no good.

This myth has a factual basis. A lot of writing does get rejected because it is poor. But the myth, as repeated by many experienced writers, is that good writing guarantees acceptance and, conversely, non-acceptance surely means that the writing is poor. To debunk this myth, researchers have recently taken classic novels–The Yearling comes to mind as an example–and submitted them as manuscripts to publishers. These were seldom recognized by the publishers, and almost universally rejected.

The reason is that publishers nowadays are less interested in the quality of writing than they are in the commercial potential of the writing. If the publisher thinks the writing will sell, even if the manuscript is flawed, the publisher may be inclined to buy it. If the publisher thinks the manuscript will not sell, the publisher may not take it no matter how well it is written. This, for instance, explains rejection slips which say, "good writing, we just don’t want to publish it."

Myth #2: Once you sell a book, or several short stories, you will not have any trouble getting an agent, and you will not have any trouble selling any more of your own writing.

I recently read an interview with an award-winning author who said that she was not able to get an agent until after she sold her fourth novel. Another author, a friend of mine, also worked out her fourth book contract without an agent, though she was able to get an agent for her fifth. I know a third author who has had five novels published, but for the past three years has not been able to find anyone interested in the two novels she has written since then. And I recently read an account from a writer whose first book sold tens of thousands of copies who reported that she did not have an agent for her first book, and has had trouble finding an agent for her second.

With so many counter-examples cropping up, this myth is beginning to lose its hold, though it still persists. My guess is that those who perpetuate this myth are the lucky authors who were able to find an agent after (or even before) their first book came out, and had no trouble finding a publisher for any novel they wrote thereafter. Such authors do exist, but I suspect they are not as numerous as mythology would have it.

Myth #3: If you follow the advice of experienced authors, you are certain to get published.

I recall the advice that the late science fiction author Robert Heinlein had for writers: write, finish what you write, and keep sending the manuscript to publishers until it sells. Experienced authors tend to add other advice: study the markets, improve your skills, and so forth. This third myth is very seductive because the advice is sound. But the fact is that novices can read and follow every word of advice that experienced writers print and still not get published.

The problem is not simply that no method works for everyone, and to say that writers must find a method that works for their particular situation is too superficial. The problem is that many writers who give advice imply–if they do not say it outright–that any writer who follows their advice will absolutely, positively, get published….now, if not sooner.

This leaves novices who follow such advice beating their heads against the wall in frustration. ("But I did everything J. Doe said in the article ‘How to Get Your Story Published’ and I still have not placed my story.") Novices will be helped, instead, if they are told that writing is a complex task involving a lot of intangibles and random variables (or, in other words, luck). Authors need to be told that no one piece of advice will guarantee acceptance; at best, following good advice merely increases the probability of publication.

Writing, as a profession, is tough enough without well-intentioned authors passing along useless myths. A writer who has a stack of unpaid bills on one hand and a stack of rejection slips on the other is not helped by being told that if the writing is good, it will sell; or that once the first story is sold, there will be no problem selling the next one; or that if the writer just follows J. Doe’s advice, the acceptances will start rolling in.

Encouragement and reassurance need to be based on a realistic appraisal of the obstacles writers inevitably face. Writers can and do sell stories. Good writers can and do get rejected. Writers with track records can and do have problems placing succeeding stories. Advisors can and do fail to give suggestions that work.

I suspect there are other myths making the rounds, but either I have not yet come across them, or I have not yet found out that certain statements I have heard are myths. I am interested in hearing from anyone who has other myths to report (that is, myths that writers tell other writers, as opposed to myths that the public has about writers). Myths about writing may never disappear, even if exposed as falsehoods, but at least those of us who love frogs should be able to handle them without fearing that we will get warts.

Copyright 1994 Joan Marie Verba.

Interview With Doyce Testerman – Twitter As A New Medium In Authorship, Pt. 2

 

Doyce Testerman is an author who’s writing experimental fiction on Twitter, the micro-blogging web application which allows a maximum length of 140 characters (including spaces).  Instead of just ‘tweeting’ a novel one line at a time however, Doyce tweets in the character of Finnras, the protagonist of his story.  In this interview series, Doyce talks about the project. You can read part one in the series here.

P: How do you feel the @finnras project has informed or influenced your more traditional prose, if at all?

DT: One of the things I really, truly appreciate about writing Adrift (what I call the larger ‘Finnras story’) has been the constraint I have to work under to get meaningful prose delivered in 140 characters. I can be wordy when I want to be (as you might have noticed), and writing via Twitter has really helped me work on concise, specific language. There’s a lot of precision required, and some verbal gymnastics. I love that challenge.

It’s also relaxing. So much of what we write is "so many hundred pages"; "so many thousand words" – having that daily, miniature project to work on is like a kind of meditation. I compared it to working on a bonsai before, and that’s a fair comparison — I can step back from whatever huge landscaping job is my current ‘main project’ and just sit quietly and work on a tiny thing.

It’s a little more fun than a bonsai, though; sometimes it tells me jokes.

P: Will the @finnras project continue indefinitely, or do you have a specific endpoint in mind?

DT: I have specific things I really hope I get to see. If pressed, I could even describe the progress from the beginning to end as a series of ‘books’, starting with Adrift, but it’s not a perpetual story — there’s a very definite end point off in the future. That isn’t to say that I know what’s going to happen… but I do know where.

P: What would you say is the greatest benefit you’ve seen from the project?

Every day, it reminds me why I write. It makes me laugh, makes me happy, sometimes makes me sad. That sounds corny as hell, but it is what it is.

I think that you can sometimes lose track of why you’re writing in the middle a big first draft – you can easily lose track of why you’re writing when you’re in the middle of second or third or mumble-teenth revision of a story you’ve been living with for a couple years. Doing this project is worth it, just for the daily reminder ‘why’.

It’s also become a good warm-up for me — once I finish up with Finn for the day, I’m ready to get back into the bigger projects.

Ugh. I sound like an advertisement for a writer’s workshop.

You know, it’s a Radio Flyer’s worth of fun, and I’m going to keep doing it until it isn’t. There.
 

The series concludes on Friday, 3/27, with a survey of writing projects undertaken on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Interview with Shelley Lieber on the Bright Future for Self Publishing

The other week, publishing industry veteran Shelley Lieber, the subject of today’s interview, posted a thought-provoking comment on the Smashwords blog in response to my interview with Smashwords author Norman Savage.


She expressed concern Norman wasn’t pricing his book high enough given the quality of his novel. Her comment sparked an email thread between Shelley and myself, which led to a phone conversation, which led to today’s interview.
 

Shelley is the author of 4Ps to Publishing Success, now available at Smashwords, a book that educates authors about the art of writing and business of publishing.

In our exclusive interview, Lieber hints at a coming renaissance in self-publishing as authors and publishers alike begin to shed previously held misconceptions about the quality and potential of self-published books. As Lieber notes, the secrets to writing a great book remain the same, but the path to publishing and marketing a book are forever changed thanks to new publishing tools.

[Mark Coker] – Your experience in the publishing industry goes back 30 years, both as an author and as a book editor at Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Macmillan and McGraw-Hill. How has the industry changed in this time, and how have these changes impacted authors?

[Shelley Lieber] – The industry has probably changed more in the past two years than it has in the previous 50 to 75 years. Of all the creative industries, publishing is the most conservative and slowest to change. As technology advanced and became more readily available and affordable, individual artists in every creative field began to take on more responsibility for all areas of their craft. Authors were no exception; however, at first authors did not get the favorable response that film artists or musicians got from their respective industries or from the general public.

Everyone is probably familiar with the term “vanity press” and the accompanying insinuation that if one couldn’t get a traditional publisher’s stamp of approval, the work was unworthy so it had to be self-published. With the advent of print on demand (POD) printing and the easy accessibility of digital publishing in the form of ebooks on the Internet and now on ereaders such as Kindle, iPhone and more, everything has changed.

Faced with the prospect of spending years trying to get an agent, who then may take yet another year or more trying to find a publisher, who may take another 18 months to produce the book, which may not earn back the advance, ambitious authors looked for other avenues—and found them. People are publishing their own work, and getting their message out to their audiences using the new methods because it’s faster, easier and more effective than the traditional way.

A loose translation of Victor Hugo’s famous quote is, “An invasion of ideas cannot be resisted.” And while the majority of the old school publishing community dug in its heels and refused to budge, the rest of the world began to incorporate those new ideas. What we are witnessing in publishing today is the result of “an idea whose time has come.” The budget cutbacks, acquisitions freeze, restructuring and layoffs rampant in the publishing may have been hastened by the current economic situation, but were not caused by the recession. The old system wasn’t working, and the recession became a convenient label or excuse to explain it. Or, perhaps it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Either way, the changes are good for authors. I believe this is the beginning of a new era in publishing. In January of this year I declared 2009 as “The Year of The Author,” because there are more opportunities for publication today than ever before and it’s going to get even better.

[Mark Coker] – In our phone chat, you mentioned that just a couple years ago, you might not have recommended self-publishing to authors, yet now you do. What changed your opinion?

[Shelley Lieber] – I think what I said was that I would not have recommend self-publishing with the specific intention of attracting a traditional publisher and contract, because back then, self-publishing served more as a mark against you than for you, unless you had sold thousands of books. Today is a whole new market, however. Two things are working for the self-published author: one, is that there’s much more help available to make sure you put out a good book and the quality of self-publishing as a whole is rising. Second, with the limitations acquisition editors are facing—smaller budgets, celebrity authors not being guaranteed successes and memoir writers turning out to be liars and frauds—a “safe” bet is the self-published author who has sold 5,000 to 10,000 books on her own. Suddenly agents and editors are trolling the Internet in search of these self-published authors. Ironically, now successful indie authors are finding themselves being approached by the very publishers wouldn’t even return the SASE two years ago.

[Mark Coker] – In your view, what’s driving the rapid growth in self-publishing?

[Shelley Lieber] – More than anything else, technology is driving the rapid growth. People are doing it themselves because they can. It’s empowering to have artistic control over your work. And serious writers are taking the steps to do it in a professional manner. The stigma of “vanity” press is diminishing because the product is improving. Yes, there’s still tons of bad stuff being put out. But that will change. The cream always rises to the top. The poorly executed projects won’t sell and the fun of doing it won’t sustain. But, the books put out by authors who took the time and money to do it right will sell, make money and make a difference.

Plus, right now the DIY trend is huge. More and more, the focus is on favoring the little guy (or gal) making it, and it’s especially appealing to the public when it’s done in the face of the big, mean corporate machine. People are really tired of the demands and restrictions of bureaucracy and ever more ready to root for the underdog who triumphs in the face of obstacles. It’s sooo American dream. And if a book is good, it’s good. Most people don’t give a hoot who the publisher is if they like the book. The snobbery associated with traditional publishing is much less appealing and powerful than it was before.

[Mark Coker] – In the 4Ps to Publishing Success, you argue that authors need to treat their writing as a business. What do you mean by this?

[Shelley Lieber] – I encourage everyone to write; it’s a wonderful form of self-expression and helps individuals explore and examine their inner selves. Writing is a passion, a soul-driven activity. However, publishing is a business, and successful (VIP) authors know the difference. For some reason, perhaps because there’s no heavy machinery involved, people think all they need is a computer and printer and that makes them an author and publisher. Yet, these same people wouldn’t enter any other business on a whim. They would take classes, work in the field and perhaps seek the services of a coach or mentor. It must be the same for publishing.

The truth is that most mistakes first-time authors make are the result of one BIG error: not getting educated about the publishing process. So many people jump right in without knowing what they are doing. The result is they spend way too much time and money (or too little, thinking they can do it all themselves), and end up with inferior products because they didn’t know enough to make informed decisions.

I’m working with an author right now who came to me for marketing help just before she was going to press with her book. I asked her to wait until I saw her final file before going ahead with the printing. This is what I saw in her proof copy: an inferior photograph and uninspired graphic presentation on the front cover with poorly crafted back cover copy. The inside the pages were not designed well, either. The pagination was incorrect, and the title and copyright pages were not formatted correctly. The layout was amateurish. The header style changed from page to page, the paragraph indents were too wide and the inside margin was too narrow. The page layouts were dull without use of any graphic features, and it needed a good copyedit for style consistency and language use. That was on the first thumb-through.

Once I spot read a few chapters, I saw the book was a well-written, interesting and compelling read on a topic that would have broad appeal in the marketplace. But if she had gone ahead with that original file, she never would have garnered any attention or positive response because everything about it said unprofessional presentation. Even if you don’t have my professional eye, you would know just by looking at it that it was self-published.

I titled my book the 4Ps to Publishing Successbecause publishing is a four-part process: plan, produce, publish and promote. There is a right way and a wrong way. Just because you are self-publishing doesn’t mean you want to throw out all the conventional wisdom of how to do it. Education is the key. You don’t necessarily need to become a publishing professional to put out a good book on your own. You have to know enough, though, to know how to hire the right people to provide the right services without getting ripped off.

[Mark Coker] – In your comment on Norman’s interview, you wrote, "Writers do a disservice to the craft (and other writers) when they give away their work." Do you think authors are too quick to discount the value of their works, and too quick to embrace FREE as a marketing tool? And if so, how do you recommend authors compete against the growing number of free and low-cost alternatives to their books?

[Shelley Lieber] – I absolutely think that authors are too ready to give away their work. In the magazine industry, it’s not uncommon for publishers pay writers in copies of the magazine or as little a one or two cents per word. New writers are so eager to get their name in print, they often will give away their work. However, when writers undervalue their own work, it sends a message out that writing is not valuable. Typically, writers are underpaid for the amount of time and effort they put out, especially compared to other services such as design, illustration and photography—and that’s across all industries: publishing, advertising, public relations, etc.

This is not to be confused with writing free articles for ezine directories as a marketing strategy. Writers can employ “free” as a method that will serve to promote themselves and their work. For example, it makes sense to me to give away a chapter of a book via a free download on Smashwords. Or, offering a lower-cost ebook version of a book may lead to the reader purchasing the print version later on. Authors need to be creative using their writing talents: blogs, commenting on other people’s blogs, press releases, letters to the editor, etc are all ways to get make your name visible to the public and offer an opportunity to advertise your website or blog. Authors can give free tele-seminars, offer podcasts, create short videos for YouTube…there’s no end to what you can do for yourself. Create demand for your work, create value…and then you can charge what you’re worth.

[Mark Coker] – Thanks Shelley!

***

Shelley Lieber’s 4Ps to Publishing Success at is available as a multi-format ebook at Smashwords for $5.99 by clicking this link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1321

To learn more about Shelley, visit her Smashwords author page or visit her web site at http://wordywoman.com.

For authors interested in Shelley’s author mentoring services, check out the VIP Author’s Mentorship Program, where she offers a newsletter, weekly group teleconferences, and one-on-one consulting.

This interview was published the same day at the Smashwords Blog.

www.sustainyourspirit.com

I am Jabez L. Van Cleef, a poet and human rights advocate in Madison, New Jersey.  All of my work can be accessed at: 

www.SustainYourSpirit.com

This site gathers foundational spiritual texts from all over the world and interprets them in the common language of poetry. We currently offer 37 titles and have several more in process.  The purpose of this site is to provide you with the spiritual resources that you will need to cope with a distorted, depleted and alienated world. We have brought together texts in six categories, as listed below. All titles are available in the following formats: 1)FREE spoken word podcast on Gcast, Garageband, or iTunes; 2) E-Book (Kindle book); 3) CD; and 4) publish on demand  book. The podcasts are free. The books can be purchased from Createspace (an Amazon subsidiary linked to our site), or from amazon.com. We hope you will take time to listen and immerse yourself in the spiritual power of the human voice. And, we would like to hear from you, so send us an email:

mailto:  jabez.vancleef@verizon.net

Show, Don’t Tell 2.0: The “Wook”

In this year of revolution in the publishing industry, or rather, swirling around outside of the publishing industry, author Patrick Carman is taking the old admonition to “show, don’t tell” quite literally. Only half of the story he’s written,Skeleton Creek, is set down between the covers of the Scholastic book of the same name. The other half takes place online, in the form of videos, blog entries and a discussion group.

The Blair Witch Project The producers of the 1999 film, The Blair Witch Project, were the first to blaze a successful trail in utilizing online supplemental material to increase awareness of, and interest in, an offline product. The film tells the story of some college kids who set out to make a documentary about The Blair Witch, a mysterious and frightening figure in New England lore whose spirit is believed by locals to live on in the burnt-out wreck of her former home in the woods. The students never return from their filmmaking junket, but an investigation into their disappearance turns up their personal effects, including the video camera they were using and all the footage they shot. 
Tantalizing bits of that footage showed up on a Blair Witch website, and the teaser/whisper campaign about the mystery which followed was likely the first instance of true online viral marketing. By the time the film came out, there was a fevered level of interest in the legend of The Blair Witch, and the low-budget, independent film which followed opened to sold out crowds, going on to smash box office records wherever it played. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this story is the fact that the legend of the Blair Witch is entirely fictional, as is the story of the disappearing, documentarian college students.
 
Skeleton Creek Ten years after the Blair Witch phenomenon, along comes Skeleton Creek to blaze a new, multimedia trail for books. In this book aimed at tweens, Ryan and best friend Sarah investigate a ghostly mystery in their town: Ryan, through a journal which comprises the Skeleton Creek book, and Sarah, with videotaped footage of her detective work, which she posts online. Unlike Blair Witch however, the online footage is not merely videotaped excerpts of content from the story, nor supplementary material. 
Ryan’s journal contains periodic links and passwords the reader must use to go online and view Sarah’s videos, and the reader must read the journal and watch the videos to follow the investigation. The two elements are halves of a narrative whole, and in that sense, the “book” encompasses both the written content and the web content: a “wook”, if you will. When speakers at this year’s O’Reilly Tools of Change conference exhorted publishers to rethink their definition of the book, focusing on content instead of delivery system, this is exactly the kind of thing they were talking about.
While the multimedia, online approach isn’t right for every type of book, it’s probably right for many of them, fiction and nonfiction alike. Technical books have long provided online supplemental material, but Carman may be the first mainstream fiction author to dip a toe in the online pool, and the first to treat online material as an integral part of the narrative instead of an adjunct or mere promotional material. It’s working: Skeleton Creek is currently the #1 bestseller in the Children’s Books category on Amazon, and a sequel is scheduled for release in September. 
The multimedia presentation speaks to teens and young adults, who themselves spend considerable time online, texting, tweeting and blogging. Characters in their same age group who engage in these activities are much more ‘real’ and relatable to the target audience. If you’ve got a contemporary or futuristic manuscript aimed at a YA or collegiate audience, particularly if the story has a strong visual feel, you can easily follow in Carman’s footsteps to create a multimedia wook of your own. 
Instead of transcribing your character’s journal or blog entries into your manuscript, create a blog in the character’s name and direct readers to a first-hand experience of reading the blog. Populate your character’s profile with information to flesh that character out into a real person. Would one or more of your characters have a Twitter, Flickr, Facebook or MySpace account? Give them those accounts, and let their respective parts in the story unfold on those sites. 
It’s easy enough to shoot videos and upload them to a blog, website or YouTube using a Flip Mino camera, and so long as your characters are not supposed to be professional filmmakers, the low-budget feel of those videos will only add to the realism of your story. If crucial clues or character background lie in a given character’s artwork, photos or original music, put that art or music online for the reader to discover and interpret for himself when the story takes him off the printed page. 
Be careful, though; any such material you post online must be original or licensed from its creator, and you must have a signed release form from any person who appears in your character’s photos. Only stock photos can be used without individual, signed releases.
Just remember that a wook is not the same thing as a book with supplemental, online material. A wook is a multimedia presentation that encompasses both printed and digital material, and engages the reader to interact with the online material in real life. With a wook, the consumer isn’t reading a story, she experiences an adventure right alongside your characters. She takes an active role in piecing the story together herself. 
Now that’s what I call rethinking your definition of the book! 

April L. Hamilton is an author and the founder of Publetariat.

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Six Projects That Could Change Publishing For The Better

In this Flash video, BookNet Canada CEO Michael Tamblyn identifies the key stumbling blocks hampering publishers in today’s environment and presents six suggested solutions.  The video is approximately half an hour long, but well worth the viewing for anyone with a vested interest in books. 

In the presentation, Mr. Tamblyn makes reference to some innovative websites.  Links to those sites are provided beneath the video. If you are having trouble viewing the video in the widget below, you can view it on blip.tv, here.

Links:

Shortcovers

Zoomii

oSkope

Amaztype

Part II of "Writing Good Stories" now on Hold the Presses

Part II of my article "Writing Good Stories" is featured today on BD Design’s website. http://bddesignonline.com/Press/wordpress/?p=66

Ed Patterson

31 Ways To Find Inspiration For Your Writing

This article, by Leo Babauta, originally appeared on Write To Done on 3/3/08.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London

No matter how much you love writing, there will always be days when you need inspiration from one muse or another.

In fact, I would argue that inspiration is not just a desirable thing, it’s an integral part of the writing process.

Every writer needs inspiration to produce inspired writing. And sometimes, it can come from the unlikeliest sources.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite ways of finding inspiration — some of them obvious, some of them less so. But it’s always good to have reminders, and if you haven’t used a few of these sources of inspiration in awhile (or ever), give them a go.

1. Blogs. This is one of my favorites, of course. Aside from this blog, there are dozens of great blogs on writing and every topic under the sun. I like to read about what works for others — it inspires me to action!

2. Books. Maybe my favorite overall. I read writers I love (read about my current loves) and then I steal from them, analyze their writing, get inspired by their greatness. Fiction is my favorite, but I’ll devour anything. If you normally read just a couple of your favorite authors, try branching out into something different. You just might find new inspiration.

3. Overheard dialog. If I’m anywhere public, whether it be at a park or a mall or my workplace, sometimes I’ll eavesdrop on people. Not in a gross way or anything, but I’ll just keep quiet, and listen. I love hearing other people have conversations. Sometimes it doesn’t happen on purpose — you can’t help but overhear people sometimes. If you happen to overhear a snippet of interesting dialog, jot it down in your writing journal as soon as possible. It can serve as a model or inspiration for later writing.

4. Magazines. Good magazines aren’t always filled with great writing, but you can usually find one good piece of either fiction or non-fiction. Good for its writing style, its voice, its rhythm and ability to pull you along to the end. These pieces inspire me. And bad magazines, while perhaps not the best models for writing, can still be inspirations for ideas for good blog posts. These magazines, as they don’t draw readers with great writing, find interesting story angles to attract an audience.

5. Movies. Sometimes, while watching a movie, a character will say something so interesting that I’ll say, “That would make a great blog post!” or “I have to write that in my writing journal!” Sometimes screenwriters can write beautiful dialog. Other times I get inspired by the incredible camera work, the way that a face is framed by the camera, the beauty of the landscape captured on film.

6. Forums. When people write on forums, they rarely do so for style or beauty (there are exceptions, of course, but they’re rare). Forumers are writing to convey information and ideas. Still, those ideas can be beautiful and inspiring in and of themselves. They can inspire more ideas in you. I’m not saying you have to read a wide array of forums every day, but if you’re looking for information, trawling some good forums isn’t a bad idea.

7. Art. For the writer aspiring to greater heights, there is no better inspiration that great art, in my experience. While it doesn’t compare to the experience of seeing the art in person, I like to find inspiring works of art and put it on my computer desktop for contemplation (Michelangelo’s Pieta is there right now). It doesn’t have to be classical works, though — I’ve found inspiration in Japanese anime, in stuff I’ve found on deviantart.com, in local artists in my area.

8. Music. Along the same lines, it can be inspiring to download and play great music, from Mozart to Beethoven to the Beatles to Radiohead. Play it in the background as you write, and allow it to lift you up and move you.

9. Friends. Conversations with my friends, in real life, on the phone or via IM, have inspired some of my best posts. They stir up my ideas, contribute ideas of their own, and they fuse into something even more brilliant than either of us could have created.

10. Writing groups. Whether online or in your community, writing groups are great ways to get energy and motivation for your writing. My best short stories were done in a writing group in my local college (a great place to look for such groups, btw), as we read out our work to the group, critiqued them and made suggestions. The work of the other writers inspired me to do better.

11. The Pocket Muse. A book full of writing inspirations. Can’t beat that!

12. Quotes. I don’t know why it’s so, but great quotes help inspire me. I like to go to various quote sites to find ideas to spark my writing, turns of phrase that show what can be done with the language, motivation for self-improvement. Try these for a start: Writing Quotes and Quotes for Writers.

13. Nature. Stuck for ideas? Go for a walk or a jog. Get away from sidewalks and into grass and trees and fields and hills. Appreciate the beauty around you, and let the inspiration flow through you. Sunsets and sunrises, of course, are two of my favorite uplifting scenes of nature, and anything involving water is also awesome (oceans, rivers, lakes, rain, rivulets, even puddles).

14. History. It can be unexpected, but great people in history can inspire you to greatness. My favorites include Benjamin Franklin, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Leonardo da Vinci, and other greats.

15. Travel. Whether it be halfway around the world, or a day trip to the next town or national park, getting out of your usual area and discovering new places and people and customs can be one of the best inspirations for writing. Use these new places to open up new ways of seeing.

Read the rest of the article at Write To Done for 16 more terrific ideas, and feel free to share your own via the comment form below..

The Life, Death And Rebirth Of The Book

This article, by Hollie Shaw, originally appeared on The Financial Post on 3/14/09.

A funny thing happened as electronic readers have become more popular: So have regular books.

Print has been declared dead many times, but for aficionados of electronic readers like the Amazon Kindle, that might just be true.

"I love this thing," crowed one consumer reviewer on the CNET review board about Kindle 2, a new version of the immensely popular wireless reading device that was introduced solely to the U. S. market in late 2007. "I like the convenience…. Someone recommended a book to me at the doctor’s office–I had it in less than three minutes."

Described by its fans as the literary equivalent of Apple’s revolutionary iPod MP3 player, the Kindle’s biggest endorsement came in the form of talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, whose raves for the US$359 gadget on her show last October led to the Kindle running out of stock weeks before Christmas for the second year in a row.

Amazon also introduced an application last month allowing Kindle e-books, which are downloaded from Amazon.com,to be downloaded to an iPhone. While e-books still account for far less than 1% of the market in Canada and the U. S., their proponents are convinced electronic reading devices could become as ubiquitous as cellphones as their technology improves, as they come down in price and as the environmental and dollar costs of using paper continue to take a toll.

"We are not looking at a major shift from reading physical books to electronic books over the next 12 to 18 months," said e-commerce analyst, author and literary agent Rick Broadhead. "I think people will grow accustomed to it. The best test of the market is kids who will be introduced to books in that form. They may develop a preference to [reading on] electronic devices because that is the environment they are growing up in."

The folks at Amazon are tight-lipped as to when — if ever — the Kindle will become available in Canada, even though the retailer has operated a separate Amazon. caWeb site in this market since 2002.

"We know that our international customers are interested in Kindle and we look forward to making it available internationally," said Drew Herdener, Amazon.com spokesman, in an e-mailed response. "We have not announced any specifics."

Currently, the only dedicated e-book reading device for sale in Canada is the Sony Reader, which has two models retailing for $300 and an enhanced version with more memory that costs $400.

Since the Reader’s introduction into the Canadian market a little more than a year ago, its per-capita sales volume has outpaced that in the United States, said Candice Hayman, spokeswoman at Sony of Canada, but she could not give specific figures.

Still, the rise of e-books is not hurting Canadian book sales.

Sales have only become more robust heading into the recession, with book unit sales 6% higher in the last three months of 2008 than they were during the same time period in 2007, according to BookNet Canada, which tracks retail sales. In January, unit volumes jumped 10% year over year.

"It’s huge," said spokeswoman Morgan Cowie. "We can’t really say why it is happening, all we can see is that it is obviously the case that people are still buying books."

 

Read the rest of the story at The Financial Post.