The great thing about self-publishing is that anybody can do it...the bad thing about it is so many people are doing it that it's hard to find the good stuff (or to help people find it, if you're the author).
For example, below are a few descriptions, written by the authors, of publications available for sale at smashwords.com. I have not included the names of the authors or their publications because it's not my intention to embarrass anybody, just to show that even the short descriptions suggest that these stories or books have not been edited for grammar or punctuation.
Sadie, a quiet 11 year-old girl is loved by doting yet strict parents who work hard to make a better life for their only child who is friendless and suffers from image problems. Follow Sadie as she meets Clawson, discover her strengths and disappear into thin air from a home locked from the inside.
Ghosts or spirits of Houlton's founders who reside in Evergreen cemetery appear to two local adolescent boys. The ghosts are not threatening, demonic, gruesome, grizzly, or have any intention of interfering with the teenagers' pursuits. Conversely, the ghosts eagerly interact with the youngsters and respond to all of their questions regarding the growth of their community, hardships suffered by (description cut off by length restriction at the site).
Sustainable (Green) Living is a new way living with nature without any adverse effect on it. This type of living stresses upon lesser utilization of natural resources. Sustainable Living decreases the cost living and increase the peace in life.
Her home was attacked and her Goblin master and husband was killed. Seeing the flames consume her husband she chose to die at his side but instead of dying she was pulled from the raging fire and forced to live by a Seelie Jinn. Perhaps the same one that killed her husband and left her heart and her body scared forever. (I'm guessing she meant scarred, but I could be wrong.)
She is the key to stopping a war that has lasted a millennia... And he is the key to her downfall.
In this intense short story by [name ommited], Charlie Task is the unnamed protagonist. He's taking care of business, doing what he can, using his special skills to remove blights from the world.
There's nothing wrong with people getting enjoyment from writing these and sharing them with their friends and family, but putting a price on them suggests that they meet a certain level of professionalism, which they clearly don't. This makes it more likely that readers, tired of poorly written works by new writers, will prefer to buy ebooks by authors with whom they are already familiar.
There are a variety of sites on which authors can showcase their work and get feedback from readers. At one of the biggest, Wattpad, readers can comment on your work, follow you, and vote for their favorites.
The site is geared mostly toward fiction for teens and young adults. One of the stars of Wattpad is Jerilee Kaye. She had more than ten million readers and more than 11,000 comments for Knight in Shining Suit, her chick-lit/romance novel.
That attracted attention from some traditional publishers, but she decided to go the independent route. She self-published the ebook using Smashwords (a popular self-publishing site), with a price of $2.99. She left ten chapters on Wattpad as a sample and to ensure the book’s continued presence on the site. She also created a trade paperback edition with CreateSpace (an arm of Amazon).
If ten million people had already read it on Wattpad for free, would there be anybody left to buy it?
The answer was a resounding yes. It is one of Smashwords’ top twenty-five bestselling titles ever. That didn’t happen by accident, though. Kaye told Publishers Weekly that getting reviews from bloggers, advertising on Goodreads and doing a paperback giveaway with them, and interacting with her readers online all were critical to her success. She also posted more material on Wattpad, which found new readers, some of whom then bought her book.
This is not the usual experience for a self-published author but it shows that having had free exposure for a book on a site like Wattpad can work for you rather than against you.
I see that somebody has an ebook out called "8 Hour Bestseller: How to Write Your Bestselling Book in Record Time." I guess in an era of the supposed 4-hour work week, 8 hours is a long time.
The author says his ebook will show you how to write 2000 words an hour. Wait a minute, that means your book will be only 16,000 words long. That's kind of short. Oh wait, his book has a print length of 59 pages. Allowing for the title page, table of contents, etc. probably it's only 50 pages...times, say, 300 words per page...equals 15,000 words. OK, I guess he considers that a book.
Oh wait, his book has a print length of 59 pages. Allowing for the title page, table of contents, etc. probably it's only 50 pages... times, say, 300 words per page...equals 15,000 words. OK, I guess he considers that a book.
By the way, his definition of "bestseller" is a book that reaches number one in its category on Amazon, which isn't hard to do if you get a bunch of people to buy your book at the same time. It has no relationship to the normal definition of bestseller.
I don't necessarily mean to be harsh with this author, it may be that his book has lots of useful information. What annoys me is the emphasis on how to write a book in the fastest possible time, rather than one that actually is as good as you can make it...and that won't happen in 8 hours.
If you want to write a book, you'll find friendly guidance in my book, Your Writing Coach, published by Nicholas Brealey and available from your favorite bookseller. Warning: it emphasizes quality over speed..
If you want to write a children's book you may want to know how much description of the illustrations you should include.
In an interview with the author Tara Lazar, illustrator Troy Cummings talks about how he went about illustrating her delightful children's book, Little Red Gliding Hood (Little Red is on skates). This is what he said about the nature of the collaboration between a children's author and his or her illustrator:
For instance, here’s a line Tara Lazar (you!) had written for LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD:
She swizzled down the river and saw a flurry of friends gathering beneath a banner.
This is all the copy needs to say—the author hasn’t spelled out exactly who has gathered beneath the banner. I get to do that! Then it’s fun to try to come up with something neat/funny that supports the text, but also has little surprises if you spend some time on it. (Who’s hanging out under the banner? Maybe Miss Muffet, bored [setting us up for the spider on page x/] Or Humpty Dumpty, walking with confidence (or nervously holding the handrail?)… Or bo-peep, distracted by something while her sheep are eyeing the exit. (etc., etc.)
Then it’s fun to try to come up with something neat/funny that supports the text, but also has little surprises if you spend some time on it. (Who’s hanging out under the banner? Maybe Miss Muffet, bored [setting us up for the spider on page x/] Or Humpty Dumpty, walking with confidence (or nervously holding the handrail?)… Or bo-peep, distracted by something while her sheep are eyeing the exit. (etc., etc.)
I get to play around in this world the author has created, and maybe set up a few characters/events that will pay off later in the story, and (ideally) throw in little details to surprise the reader on subsequent readings.
I also think there’s this really cool thing that happens when an author and illustrator work together:
As he says, many newer writers try to spell out everything to be illustrated, which is counter-productive.
Some also assume they have to provide the illustrations themselves and get a talented nephew or friend to do drawings to submit along with the manuscript. Unfortunately, the quality of these illustrations seldom is up professional standards.
Publishers like to choose the illustrator themselves, so you don't need to include suggestions for that with your proposal or manuscript.
*illustration copyright Troy Cummings, from Little Red Gliding Hood by Tara Lazar.
So you've published a book and nobody's reading it and you haven't made any money?You're writing the wrong things! You should be writing reports for the government. Nobody reads those, either, but the money is great.
You should be writing reports for the government. Nobody reads those, either, but the money is great.
Case in point: According to the Washington Post, the Department of Homeland Security commissioned a report on why morale is so low. The report cost $1 million. It went into a drawer. A second report was commissioned, duplicating the first. It also went into a drawer. Last year DHS commissioned two more studies. One of them cost $420,000.
The article describes another study, this one done 3 years ago:
"A committee of 11 experts visited about 25 DHS locations in Texas, New York and the Washington area. It produced a 268-page report under a contract, which allocated $588,000 for the work. About $500,000 in additional funds for the study came out of another line item in the contract, according to contracting documents and a source familiar with them."
The result: virtually nothing.
'It was not a very good light to shine on any of us, so we just hid it,' said one DHS employee familiar with the report, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation by supervisors."
Cool! You get almost $600,000 and then you charge an additional half million, and you don't even need to worry about grammar or spelling because nobody is going to read it anyway. DHS, call me! I can crank out a 268-page report for half that much.
The DHS says they did take action as a result of the study--embarking on further research! And drafting a five-year strategic plan that was supposed to be presented by May 2014. The Post got a copy and reports that it's a draft full of phrases like "add introduction," "add conclusion" and "insert photos."
Guys, I can give you a nice 500 pages with "insert report" on each page, for $250,000. You can tell Congress you've cut your research expenses by more than 50%!
By the way, the draft does identify one source of low morale: survey fatigue.
The rest of the reasons for low morale are not that mysterious. The article says, "Many DHS employees have said in the annual government 'viewpoint' survey of federal employees that their senior leaders are ineffective; that the department discourages innovation, and that promotions and raises are not based on merit. Others have described in interviews how a stifling bureaucracy and relentless congressional criticism makes DHS an exhausting, even infuriating, place to work."
Homeland Security, here's my final offer: for only $100,000 I will give you a lengthy study, which may at times coincidentally resemble random pages from the novel I'm writing, and a four-point action plan to improve morale. I'll even give you a hint as to one of the points: Friday afternoons...free pizzas.
The interpretation of these rules is mine, not the Dalai Lama’s, but I hope I’ve stayed within the spirit of his intention.
1: Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk
Yes, there’s a chance nobody will want to publish your book or buy your screenplay. If you self-publish, there’s a possibility few will buy your book. But if you are passionate about writing, these risks are worth it.
2: When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
Rejection is part of the writing process. Sometimes it doesn’t even take someone else to reject our work, we may realize when a project is done that it’s not our best work and put it aside. But there are lessons within each rejection, whether they be about writing or marketing, and if we can gain those, we’ve not lost.
3: Follow the three Rs:
Respect for self
If writing is important to you, go for it even if others are sceptical or unsupportive. Respect your dream.
Respect for others
There will always be people who don’t get it. These could be family members who don’t understand why you’re spending so much time on something they can’t relate to, or editors who fail to appreciate your work, or people who make rude or stupid comments on your blog or in a review. Don’t waste time trying to win them over. Respect their right to have an opinion…and your right to ignore it. But also be open to the possibility that sometimes criticism stated the wrong way may still have something useful at its core.
Responsibility for all your actions
If you’re not writing, it’s nobody else’s fault. Yes, you have pressures and demands but many who have had as many or more obstacles have managed to write books and scripts and plays.
4: Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
There are many successful writers who desperately wanted their first novel to be published and it wasn’t. Years later they look back and say thank goodness, because it wasn’t good enough. Had it been published, probably it would have failed and delayed their eventual success.
5: Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
The so-called rules of writing have evolved from the experience of many writers over many years, and they will stand you in good stead most of the time. Once you understand them, you can feel free to experiment and break them.
6: Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
Never ask for anyone's opinion about your work unless you're ready to hear it--good or bad--and not let negative feedback affect your relationship. As I said above, some people in your life won't get it. If you value those people for other reasons, keep your writing life as separate as possible from your interactions with them.
(next post: rules 7-12)
I don't know if this is new, or only new to me, but this morning I got an email from somebody I know, saying they had tried to send me a pdf but weren't able to, so they wanted me to access it from Google docs.
When I clicked on the link I got a page that looked like it was a Google site, and it asked me to sign in with my email address and password and also to fill in my phone number.
Not yet fully awake, I almost did it, but then I realized this didn't seem right. I emailed the person in question and she said her account had been hacked.
If you get this kind of message, be sure to confirm with the apparent sender.
What percentage of Americans do you think read at least one book or e-book, fiction or non-fiction, last year?
A new survey by the National Endowment for the Arts reveals it was 54%.
"Novels have suffered more than nonfiction in recent years, according to research firm Nielsen.
Total adult print book sales fell 2.5% to nearly 501.6 million in 2013 from 2012; adult nonfiction sales were broadly flat at 225.2million while fiction sales dropped 11% to 103.5 million...
Poetry suffered the steepest decline in readership for any literary genre. Only 6.7% of American adults read poetry last year, versus 12% in 2002, the NEA report found.
On the upside, e-books are helping to offset this trend: 28% of adults read an e-book in 2013, up from 23% the year before, according to the Pew Research Internet Project."
There are lots of possible explanations for the decline. Shorter attention spans, more non-fiction content available via the internet, greater demands being made on our time, more time taken up using social media, the competition from the better offerings available on cable TV, and increasing interest in the sciences vs. the humanities.
For the individual author, there is comfort in the fact that 54% of the population still is a lot of people.
---If you want to write a book, you'll find friendly guidance from idea through to publication in my book, Your Writing Coach, published by Nicholas Brealey and available from your favorite bookseller.
One aspect you want to check is what kind of editorial control you are giving up. Victoria Strauss has a great post about this on the Writer Beware blog:
Little, Brown Publishers set up a site called Novl (theNovl.com) on which all their teen properties and book projects were featured. The content included book trailers, author guest posts, and author playlists.
Now they are turning it into a digital imprint that will release short-form, low-cost content every month.
These will be e-only short stories and novellas by Little, Brown authors and will be tied to existing properties.
The formats will include prequels and pieces told by characters in series whose points of view have not been explored, or they may be stories whose characters are new but live in the world created by the author.
The lengths will range from 7500 to 15,000 words, and prices will be between 99 cents and $2.99.
There will also be some fan-generated content, and visitors will be able to vote on things like cover art.
At the moment, the site has a relatively modest following (about 13,000) but they hope the new version will draw additional fans.
What's in this for you if you're not a Little, Brown author? If you have a publisher, you might see whether they are open to setting up something like this as well.
If you self-publish, you might want to find another half dozen self-published authors and create a site like this. Ideally the authors would all be writing in the same genre so that visitors are likely to be tempted to sample work by authors they don't know yet.
It could also be a good idea to sign up for their newsletter at the Novl site, to see whether their promotional activities might inspire some of your own.
(for helpful guidance in writing your book, get a copy of Your Writing Coach, published by Nicholas Brealey and available from your favorite bookseller.)
"The only blank paper in the house was hers, and if she found out I touched it she’d go crazy. I sometimes stole paper from school and even that made her mad. I think it’s why I hoard paper to this day. I have so much blank paper everywhere, in every drawer, on every shelf, and still when I need a sheet I look in the garbage first. I agonize over using a “good” sheet of paper for anything. I have good drawing paper I’ve been dragging around for twenty years because I’m not good enough to use it yet. Yes, I know this is insane."
Embarrassing confession: I have some notebooks about which I feel the same, and I can't even blame my mother. But reading Barry's confession has made me realize that the best time to use the good paper is now.
Of course "the good paper" is also a metaphor for anything you've been denying yourself because you're not good enough yet, or the time is not right yet, or some other excuse.
Do you think maybe it's time for you to "use the good paper", too?
If you've been putting off writing that book you've been thinking about, you'll find friendly guidance and useful tips in my book, Your Writing Coach, published by Nicholas Brealey and available from your favorite bookseller.
As reported in The Atlantic, buying experiences rather than things leads to greater happiness, and the anticipation of those experiences can make you even happier than the experiences themselves.
If you're looking forward to a winter break in a villa in the Canary Islands, for example, you don't anticipate the appearance of some cockroaches, a mouse, and a homeless guy you find one morning sleeping snuggled up next to the glass door to the living room. (As you may have gathered, I'm not speaking hypothetically; I'm writing this from a villa in Fuerteventura.)
There's a related saying that has always stuck in my mind: "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive."
Experiences also bring more happiness after the fact, the studies show. That's because even if the experience turns out differently than you expected, at the very least it gives you something to talk (or write) about.
EXPERIENCES VS. POSSESSIONS
Looking forward to acquiring material things doesn't bring as much happiness, maybe because with those you pretty much know what you're going to get, and the odds are low that it will be better than you expect, while there's a good chance that it will not be as satisfying as you anticipated.
Furthermore, in thinking about an upcoming experience you can image lots of different positive outcomes, whereas with a material possession the expectations may be more predictable.
Of course this is why advertisers try to convince you that you're buying an experience when you're buying a product: "Use XYZ deodorant and women/men will flock to you, just imagine all the sexual adventures you'll have!" Actually, the only thing that will happen is that your armpits will smell better, but that doesn't get the merchandise flying off the shelves.
The studies also found that while people generally will be interested to hear about your experiences, they're not so keen to hear about the material things you have acquired. Since talking about ourselves and having people listen also brings us happiness, that's another plus.
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MORE FONDLY?
This rings true when you think about what people talk about fondly in relating their past.
It's relatively rare that somebody will say, "Boy, I remember that great computer I had...so much internal memory and a retina screen!"
They do say thing like, "I remember that time some friends and I drove across the country..."
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
The moral of the story is to embrace having new experiences. That will give you something to look forward to and something to look back on. And that will make you happy.
If you read much on the internet you may have noticed that "insanely" now seems to be the most popular adjective:
"You'll learn some insanely successful ways..."
"Insanely cheap flights"
"25 insanely sexist vintage Valentines"
"Insanely easy vegetarian chilli"
"21 of the most insanely genius hacks"
Somebody, somewhere, must have figured out that more people click on articles with the word insanely in the headline and now it's spreading.
ALSO INSANELY POPULAR: RIDICULOUSLY
Coming up fast from the rear we have "ridiculously":
"the 21 most ridiculously frustrating video game moments"
"8 ridiculously hard butt moves"
Also ridiculously fun, resilient, efficient, handsome, responsive, extraordinary, and hot.
INSANELY, RIDICULOUSLY OVERBLOWN
Sooner or later, people will realize that what they read when they click on these headlines seldom is insane, ridiculous or outstanding in any way.
Perhaps we can start a movement for Honesty In Adjectives and Adverbs (HAA!), in which case the above would read, "You'll learn some occasionally successful ways..", "8 somewhat difficult butt moves," and "averagely priced flights."
Another current favorite is to add to many listicles "You won't believe number X" in hopes you'll open the list just to see the one you won't believe. A few examples:
"Top 10 Smartest Female Celebrities. You Won't Believe Number 6!" The text starts, "Who said you can't have ridiculously good looks...") No, I didn't look to see who number six is.
"Restaurants open on Thanksgiving. You won't believe number 13!" (I didn't look, but I think it unlikely that I'd react with astonishment to the fact that any particular restaurant is open on Thanksgiving.)
"10 Reasons the Web Is Getting Worse. You won't BELIEVE number six!!" Note the capital letters and the double exclamation mark. I think this is a sign of inflation in the "you won't believe" category.
A variation is "Number X made me..." Examples include "made me cry," "made me spit out my coffee" and "made me lol on the train."
Unfortunately, I won't believe any of those.
Below is a link to a short video in which children's picture book writer Pat Zietlow-Miller talks about how she came to realize her writing dream.
She was 39 when she started going for it seriously, and she had 126 rejections. What's more, even though she's now had several books published, she still gets rejections.
The secret of her persistence: she loved writing so much that she'd do it whether or not it ever got published.
(If you want to write, find tips and support in my book, Your Writing Coach, published by Nicholas Brealey and available from your favorite bookseller.)