Quick Link: A plea for reviewers – can we open up a dialogue about self-published books?

Quick links, bringing you great articles on writing from all over the web.

Roz Morris, owner of Nail Your Novel, reaches out to people who review books with a plea that they open their minds a little towards reviewing self-publishing titles. I can understand the reluctance of book reviewers, there are a lot of self-published books that look, well, self-published.  A lot. But, there are also a lot of self-publishing authors who do it right by hiring the correct people so their title is a professional offering and they are growing.  Thoughts?

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A plea for reviewers – can we open up a dialogue about self-published books?

by Roz Morris

So I find a lovely-looking review blog. The posts are thoughtful, fair and seriously considered. I look up the review policy and … it says ‘no self-published books’.

Today I want to open a dialogue with reviewers. If you have that policy, might you be persuaded to change it? Or to approach the problem in a different way?

I used the word ‘problem’. Because I appreciate – very well – that in making this policy you are trying to tackle a major problem. Your time as a reviewer is precious – and let me say your efforts are enormously appreciated by readers and authors alike. You get pitches for many more books than you can read and you need a way to fillet out the ones that are seriously worth your reading hours. A blanket ban is a way to fend off a lot of substandard material and save you many unpleasant conversations. And traditional publishing implies a certain benchmark of competence.

Competence. That’s probably the heart of the matter. There are good self-published books, of course, but how can I help you sort them from the bad and the fug-ugly?

Read the full post on Nail Your Novel

Quick Link: 5 Ways Independent Authors Can Advocate for Themselves

Quick links, bringing you great articles on writing from all over the web.

We all know there is a bias against self-publishing. While there are now more indie authors than ever, there is still a struggle to legitimize the choice of doing it yourself.  Brooke Warner has some great thoughts on how indie authors can help themselves as well as the rest of us.

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5 Ways Independent Authors Can Advocate for Themselves

by Brooke Warner

Earlier this month I moderated a panel at the Bay Area Book Festival called “The Future of Book Publishing.” We had an esteemed group of panelists from all areas of the industry, with Jack Jensen, publisher of Chronicle Books as the traditional figurehead, and Mark Coker of Smashwords representing the self-publishing contingent.

A question surfaced from the audience: Do some people avoid self-publishing because they don’t qualify for awards?

Jensen was the first to respond, telling the earnest woman that anyone can submit to contests — just submit. I almost felt bad to have to inform him of his industry’s bias — that no, you can’t just submit, and that countless awards programs bar self-published authors (and any author, in fact, who’s invested in their own work) from entering.

Jensen was shocked, and I was shocked that he was shocked. And yet gratified too. Even someone with such illustrious credentials who’s been in this industry nearly four decades thinks policies like these are bullshit.

A couple days later I was being interviewed for a podcast. The host started talking to me about the topic of bias in the industry, which seems to follow me everywhere I go (because I’m vocal about the aforementioned bullshit factor). She said she suggests self-published authors have their own imprints and submit wherever they want to and say that they’re published on a “small press” (their own) and no one will be any the wiser.

Quick Links: Self-publish and be sneered at?

Quick links, bringing you great articles on writing from all over the web.

When April started this blog, it was because she was championing the self-publishing author and what she saw was the unfair treatment they received. While I believe things have gotten a little better, it seems that we still have a long way to go for indie authors to get the respect they deserve. Especially if you read Clare Christian’s piece over at The Bookseller.

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Self-publish and be sneered at?

There are many things I love about the book industry but there are also a few that I don’t. Publishing can be slow and old-fashioned at times, broadsheet review pages can be snooty and exclusive and literary awards can be unfair in their submission guidelines. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that my accusations are levelled mainly towards attitudes to self-publishing.

Self-publishing has a lot going for it – I am a self-publishing enthusiast. But its one big disadvantage is the book industry itself – readers excepted. I have yet to meet a single reader who cares a jot who published the book they are reading. They just want great books that are well published. However, the industry does care. The broadsheets seem to have a blanket ban on reviewing self-published books and many literary awards exclude books expressly on the basis of who paid for their publication.

But should a writer’s talent really be judged by who has paid for the publication of his or her book? We all know that publishers are becoming increasingly (and necessarily) risk-averse, so what happens to the authors who, not so very long ago, would have been picked up by a traditional publisher? What happens to those authors whose agents love their book but can’t place it because it doesn’t fit into this or that box, it’s cross-genre or because it’s not the next Gone Girl?

Rachel Abbott is a highly successful self-published author. She has written five best-selling psychological thrillers plus a novella, and last year was named the 14th bestselling author over the last five years on Amazon’s Kindle in the UK. By March of this year she had sold 2 million copies of her books and she has a good and supportive agent in Lizzy Kremer. Yet when her publicist began work to generate interest in Stranger Child, she was met with a blanket no from book review editors – because Rachel pays for her own work to be published.

Surely the many, many readers who buy and enjoy Rachel’s books can’t be wrong? If they have read and enjoyed them isn’t it just possible that some of the readers who browse the book reviews sections of their newspapers could possibly enjoy them too? Or perhaps they would Google Rachel, see that she has paid for the publication of the book and scratch the book from their ‘to read’ list in protest.

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If you liked this article, please share. If you have suggestions for further articles, articles you would like to submit, or just general comments, please contact me at paula@publetariat.com or leave a message below.

New Struggles in Self-Publishing

This post by David Farland originally appeared on his site on 6/23/15.

I hesitate to mention problems with self-publishing. In some genres, such as romance or self-help books, the industry is doing great. But for those who are trying to sell fiction, it seems that the markets are contracting, and it appears that things will go from bad to worse.

If you’ve been self-publishing for the past few years, you probably remember the good old days. For example, a few years ago I put my novel The Golden Queen up as a free e-book for a week and forgot about it. I was going to mention on my social media what I had done, but seriously got busy with something else. Three days later, I got an email from someone who said, “Why don’t you take your free e-book down and let someone else have a shot at the #1 spot.” I’d given away 15,000 copies in three days, and had sold thousands of dollars in inventory on the other two books in the series.

Today, even getting readers to look at a free book is nearly impossible. People have seen so many promotions for bad books that they stay away in droves. In this past year alone, I’ve read that nearly three million e-books were created, and another three million are anticipated this year. With so much “white noise,” how is a good author to be heard?


Read the full post on David Farland’s site.


Advice For An Author Looking For A Literary Agent

This post by Mike Shatzkin originally appeared on The Shatzkin Files on 5/20/15.

Until last week, I hadn’t stopped to think about how often I’m advising authors about how to deal with the publishing business. I would imagine this is something that most of us in the industry find ourselves doing very frequently. There are, after all, a lot of aspiring authors in the world and when one’s a friend, or a friend of a friend, they ask. And you try to help them.

As I wrote in an April post, I had assumed until very recently that an author couldn’t do herself any harm by self-publishing her work on her way to finding an agent or a publisher. When an agent I know and respect told an author I’d sent to him that he really found it hard to sell publishers already self-published books, it stopped me short. I sent out a query to a long list of agents and the consensus opinion that came back was that publishers are really uncomfortable picking up a book that has already made an appearance in the marketplace. (A deeper look at the results of this canvassing will be the subject of a future post.)

Although we all know stories of self-published books that went on to have fabulous runs with a publisher (“50 Shades of Gray” being the obvious example), it seems that most agents think that most publishers see the previous publishing history as a challenge. If the book didn’t do well, they don’t attribute it to poor or non-existent marketing. And if it did well, they sometimes wonder if the audience has been exhausted.

Obviously, there are both agents and editors who don’t think that way, but I was really surprised to learn that so many of them apparently do.

I would never attempt to advise an author on the techniques for self-publishing. That’s not what I know and there are many people, starting with our friend Jane Friedman (not the one from Open Road), who specialize in that (although she knows about finding agents and regular publishing too). But I have long had a formulation of how to recruit an agent which I passed along when asked.


Read the full post on The Shatzkin Files.


Finally, a Single Book Has Changed the Self-publishing Debate

This post by Dan Holloway originally appeared on his blog on 6/8/14.

There are many reasons why the success of Eimar McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is wonderful news. It is a brilliant book. Quite possibly the best book to win a major literary prize in a decade or more. It will inevitably mean other publishers raise their eyebrows, and have a little “hmm, let’s have a think about that moment.”

But what interests me most is that it has changed, in a single, scalpel-sharp focused scything swoop, the discourse around self-publishing.

Many of us have long argued that self-publishing is of greatest value to readers because it offers daring, original, undefinable fiction they could not get elsewhere. We have pointed to the conservative tendencies of traditional publishers, the dropping of the midlist, the impossibility of getting the awkward and experimental even seen. By contrast self-publishing is an unfettered land of artistic freedom, burgeoning with a billion blossoms of brilliance.

Of late, many of us have had our original enthusiasm somewhat dampened by the incessant droning on on the one hand in the media about self-publishing’s bestselling icons and genre fiction superstars, leaving large parts of the landscape uncharted, and on the other hand by self-publishers themselves pleading that their books are “as good as those in the mainstream” as though the prospect of being as good as something already overly-abundant was somehow an irresistible, intoxicating prospect.


Click here to read the full post on Dan Holloway’s blog.


The Best Time NOT To Self Publish Is…(Never)

This post by Marcy Goldman originally appeared on Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies on 4/9/14.

There are so many op-eds these days on when or if to self-publish but more so, features on the inferiority of self-published works just by virtue of fact they are self-published. This premise is applied even if the self-publishing author has the budget, foresight and professionalism to engage all manner of expert editors, proof readers, formatters, designers and thoroughly research the distributing and promotion of his/her work, the resultant book will be very bad. Worse, it will be amateur in content and looks.

There’s also an assumption (somewhat fear, vs. empirically based) that without sufficient social media or platform, books (even great ones) won’t get noticed. I’ve seen a zillion writerly blogs with this headline: If you publish it who will find it/you? This suggests that Shakespeare (et al, Dan Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, JD Salinger, James Patterson, Ayn Rand) without benefit of Twitter, Facebook and Instragram or a YouTube book trailer of Othello, would never have been discovered. This is to further suggest that we as authors, creators, publishers and readers actually believe form trumps content. That means greatness, is a deux et machninas/medium-is-the-message is a fail from the get-go and a Pulitzer would never percolate to a deserved level of consciousness and find a collective of readers who know a good thing (or alternatively, what they want) when they find it – however they find it. But trust me (and the author of 50 Shades of Grey), they do and will find it.

What astounds me in the vast acreage of articulated opinions on these issues is a few-fold.

For one thing, there’s a passion, even a nervous derision or tempered contempt or dismissiveness offered to self-published authors in most of the opinion pieces I’ve read. Although I am Canadian, it is a divide akin to Tea Party-ers and Democrats, i.e. it’s a visceral thing.


Click here to read the full post on Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies.


The Self-Publishing Debate: A Social Scientist Separates Fact from Fiction (Part 2 of 3)

This post by Dana Beth Weinberg originally appeared on Digital Book World on 12/4/13. Click here to begin with Part 1 in the same series, by the same author, also on Digital Book World (post will open in a new window or tab).

In the writers’ groups I attend, self-publishing is a touchy issue. I know a number of writers who served their time in the trenches, writing and submitting and rewriting and resubmitting their work over and over again to agents and publishers before that one magical “yes.” It’s not unusual to meet a writer who tried to get published for ten years or more before winning a publishing contract. These writers have overcome significant odds, and they are rightly proud of their achievements. In the same group, there are a number of writers who haven’t yet broken into traditional publishing or haven’t even tried but who have decided to self-publish. Some don’t have the war stories and battle scars from trying to break in, while others do. Despite not having the traditional publisher’s stamp of approval, all of them are also proud of their achievements and expect equal consideration as published authors. It might be easy for the traditionally published authors to maintain their sense of superiority over self-published authors (and, thus, their sense of comfort that they had done the right thing all those years that they waited and tried) were it not also for the token members of the group who have self-published and made a lot of money at it.

Is self-publishing an amateurish endeavor, a means of sharing stories, a strategic move in a writing career, or an entrepreneurial activity? In Part 1 of this blog, I examined the top priorities of the nearly 5,000 authors who responded to the 2013 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey in relation to whether and how they have published their work. Now I turn my attention to the differences in writing productivity for the four different types of authors identified in the survey: aspiring authors, self-published authors, traditionally published authors, and hybrid authors with a combination of self-published and traditionally published works.

The necessary ingredient to success in a writing career is actually writing. So how do our various types of authors stack up in terms of manuscripts completed, whether published or unpublished?


Click here to read the full post on Digital Book World.

Click here to read part 3 in the same series, by the same author, also on Digital Book World. (post will open in a new window or tab).


Writing—So Easy a Caveman Can Do It

This post by Kristen Lamb originally appeared on her site on 3/7/14.

Recently a Facebook friend shared a post with me regarding Indie Musicians versus Indie Authors. It appears our culture has a fascination and reverence for the Indie Musician whereas Indie Authors face an immediate stigma. We authors have to continually prove ourselves, whereas musicians don’t (at least not in the same way). My friend seemed perplexed, but to me it’s very simple.

We’re not even going to address the flood of “bad” books. Many writers rush to publish before they’re ready, don’t secure proper editing, etc. But I feel the issue is deeper and it reflects one of the many challenges authors face and always will.

People give automatic respect to a musician because not everyone can play an instrument or sing. Simple. It’s clear that artist can do something many cannot.

As writers, we have an insidious enemy. People believe what we do is easy. If we are good writers, we make it look effortless. I recall being a kid watching the Olympics. The gymnasts made those handsprings look like nothing. Being four years old, I dove in…and broke my arm…twice (because I’m an overachiever that way).

The blunt truth is everyone has a story to tell. They do. Every life can be fascinating in the hands of a skilled author. Every idea can be masterful in the hands of a wordsmith. Ah, but the general public assumption is that the only thing standing between them and being J.K. Rowling is merely sitting down and finishing the story. Many believe that, because they’re literate and have command of their native language that they can do what we do.


Click here to read the full post on Kristen Lamb’s site.


Books, Just Like You Wanted

This post by David Streitfeld originally appeared on The New York Times Bits blog on 1/3/14.

Anyone can publish a book these days, and just about everyone does. But if the supply of writers is increasing at a velocity unknown in literary history, the supply of readers is not. That is making competition for attention rather fierce. One result: ceaseless self-promotion by eager beginners.

Another consequence is writers’ thirst for more data on how they are being read, so they can shape their books to please their readers more. This is something novelists have always done, using sources like fan mail, personal appearances, reviews and sales. Technology is starting to give them data that is much more precise, and thus potentially more helpful.

“If you write as a business, you have to sell books,” said Quinn Loftis, a very successful self-published writer for teenagers. “To do that, you have to cater to the market. I don’t want to write a novel because I want to write it. I want to write it because people will enjoy it.”

But my article last week outlining how the digital book subscription services Oyster and Scribd plan to collect and share data with writers like Ms. Loftis resulted in little enthusiasm, at least among potential readers. Nearly all the comments on the article expressed dismay about where the trend could go.


Click here to read the full article on The New York Times Bits blog.


Is #Indie Publishing Worth It? Would I Do It Again? A Tell-All.

This post by Toby Neal originally appeared on her site on 2/13/14.

Perhaps because of the recent brouhaha in the blogosphere due to my hero Hugh Howey’s continued pioneering, this time in bringing full disclosure numbers via AuthorEarnings.com that paint a very different picture than traditional publishing would have us know, yesterday I heard from a talented writer who used to work in my former agent’s office. This person knew my writing from the get-go. She knew how hard the agency worked to sell my book series, and she had to find another job when my agent retired in frustration in 2011. She has continued to write herself, and watch my career as someone who has seen it from that very first version of Blood Orchids, that, while needing a complete rewrite, had enough promise to attract her boss. Spurred by the Authorearnings disclosure, and “on the fence” herself about which way to go with agent interest in her work, she wrote me a series of questions to help her decide whether to persist with the traditional route or make the leap to “author-publisher.”

The discussion was so good I thought I’d share it with other writers struggling with the same dilemma.

Writer-on-the-fence: Would you self-publish again?

As you know more than anyone, I was devastated when our agent retired in 2011 and I was left without representation. It had taken me two years to get an agent and 179 query letters! Then, we hadn’t sold the series in 9 months (well, we did get an offer, but it was too low and digital rights only.) Read more about my complex emotions here: http://tobyneal.net/2011/08/14/complex-emotions/

I felt after that much “lost time” I had to try self-publishing, and our agent’s comments on the market had been very discouraging, so I thought at least it couldn’t hurt to try. I did, however, go “high end” from the beginning, with a top-tier cover artist (Julie Metz) a publicist, and two rounds of professional structural editing… That first book cost me $12,000 to produce and market its first month. (Now I have my book development expenses whittled down to a mere $4-6,000.) However, Blood Orchids paid for itself within two months after debuting in December 2011, and last year alone I netted close to a hundred thousand in sales.

I think of my books as a start-up business, so I spent at least half of that on new book development and advertising. This has made my take-home income just replacing the middle-class amount I made as a school counselor, a job I was able to leave because my writing income had replaced the need for a 9-to-5. I choose to keep re-investing in new books because, as others have said, every title is a worker bee out there earning for me, and the model that works in indie publishing is capturing your readers and keeping them reading and engaged with a flow of new titles.


Click here to read the full post on Toby Neal’s site.


The New World of Publishing: Can’t Get Books Into Bookstore Myth

This post by Dean Wesley Smith originally appeared on his site on 2/14/14.

It Has Officially Hit Myth Status

When some of the biggest supporters of indie publishing and indie writers start going on about how they are giving up paper books to New York, I finally just shook my head and assigned all the silliness to myth status.

So, since I have the book Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing now out in both paper and electronic and available, I suppose it’s time I start into the next book: Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing.

And Sacred Cow (myth) #1 is that indie writers, with their own press, CAN’T GET THEIR BOOKS INTO BOOKSTORES.

A complete myth.

Of course indie writers can get their books into bookstores. It’s not magic, it’s not hard, and it’s not even expensive.

Yet it gets repeated over and over like “You need an agent” phrase by traditional publishers. And indie writers buy right into it without question, the same writers who fight against all the crap that traditional publishers toss out.

That shows a flat, head-shaking lack-of-knowledge of how this system of paper book distribution works. Kris just banged her head on the same wall a couple weeks ago in her blog, and had all kinds of readers surprised that their books were already in bookstores when they went and looked.


So this quick post is just a warning shot across the bow, folks. I recorded an entire detailed lecture on this topic tonight that will be ready next week, and I will be back here shortly (or after the Anthology Workshop that we are holding here at the coast is finished) with the first of the new indie sacred cows to be led to slaughter.


Click here to read the full post on Dean Wesley Smith’s site.


Are You Legit?

This post by Andrew E. Kaufman originally appeared on The Crime Fiction Collective blog on 2/18/14.

So lets say you decide to write a book.

You’ve always been a fan of the things, had a few ideas swimming around in your head, and have wanted to take a stab at it for as long as you could remember. Now, here you are, finally connecting with the courage needed to commit those hungry fingers to keyboard, passion to dream.

After X amount of time, your novel is finished, and then, BAM! Away you go, uploading your book to the KDP platform, ready to take on the world and be the next Nora Roberts or Stephen King or whoever you think is the bomb.

First question: are you an author?

Well, technically speaking, yes, because you’ve:

A. Completed a novel.
B. Published it.
C. Can call yourself whatever the hell you want.

And really, in this era of self-publishing, that’s how a lot of established authors got their start (myself included).

Next question: are you a legitimate author?


Click here to read the full post on The Crime Fiction Collective blog.