Tag Archives: biography

Bring On the Digital Publishing Revolution (You’re Already a Part of It)

Surf star Clay Marzo, the subject of "Just Add Water", tearing it up in Maui.

Surf star Clay Marzo, the subject of “Just Add Water”, tearing it up in Maui.

Back in the saddle after two weeks of working in Maui with surf star Clay Marzo on our book, Just Add Water (due out in Summer 2014 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), meeting with musician Stevie Salas to discuss his memoir, When We Were The Boys (due out in Fall 2014 from Rowman & Littlefield), revving up the PR machine for author Allan Patch and his exquisite new novel, Passage at Delphi (due out in late November), and presenting at the Digital Author and Self Publishing Conference in Los Angeles …

… Which is where we’re going with this blog.  We’ve heard a lot in the past few years about the rise of e-books, online publishing, and the impending death of the printed book. While the printed book is not going away, at least anytime soon, it is no secret that digital publishing is taking over the industry – and self-publishing is a huge part of it.

One statistic bears it out more than any other: according to R.R. Bowker, which issues the International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) that every book must have to be distributed, the number of ISBNs in circulation has grown in the past 15 years from 900,000 to 32 million. That means there are 32 million different book titles circulating in bookstores, libraries, online booksellers, website stores and wherever you can buy a book.

"Passage at Delphi," the forthcoming novel by Allan Patch

“Passage at Delphi,” the forthcoming novel by Allan Patch

The vast majority of these books are self-published by digital means. In other words, I write a book, format it into a manuscript, and deliver it to either a print source (such as CreateSpace, the self-publishing arm of Amazon.com) or an e-reader service (Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords, Nook, Diesel, Sony e-reader, Apple, etc.). If Smashwords is involved, the e-books are made available for purchase on hundreds of online booksellers. Obviously, if CreateSpace is involved, you can find them on Amazon.com as a print or Kindle title.

Authors can also turn to any number of companies that offer these services, plus scaled-up services for marketing and distribution (extra charge). There are plenty of choices, but I’ll caution you now – do your due diligence. Some are exceptional, like PublishNext and Balboa Press, while others will gladly take your money, print your books and not worry about the quality of their service. Major publishers now offer self-publishing operations as well; two examples include Author Solutions (Penguin) and Balboa Press (Hay House).

This massive shift into self-publishing, or Indie Authorship as it is called among serious authors, has occurred for two reasons: 1) the technology to produce our own books inexpensively is available through our home computers; and 2) authors want the money from their book sales.

Which begs the question: Don’t authors get paid when their books are published by traditional publishers? Of course – but that book sale is cut many ways. On average, authors receive 10% to 15% of each book sold by a traditional publisher. If they are advanced money to write the book, then they only get their 10% to 15% royalties after the advance earns out – sales top the amount advanced. Given that the traditional publishing world has shrunk to five major publishers, their imprints and the smaller publishers, the opportunities to get published are shrinking by the day. Plus, publishers are more unwilling than ever to take a chance on someone who does not have a viable name and presence in the public eye – which is blatantly unfair to writers with good stories that would certainly be read.

However, that’s life in 2013. This is not our parents’ publishing world. What a shame.

The Indie Author approach puts sales in the writer’s hands. But it also includes the responsibility of marketing, promotion and publicity. That’s where a traditionally published book has a huge advantage. Publishers bring distribution, production and marketing to the table, and they do it with full staffs and decades of work on well-built networks. When you give up 85% to 90% of the cover price of the book, that’s where the money goes. (Well, most of it, but that’s another story that would take a very long day to discuss.)

However, writers who are smart enough (and have the funds) to hire experts in traditional and online book marketing, promotions and publicity (shop carefully; there are plenty of shysters out there) can prosper through digital publishing. After loading their manuscripts onto CreateSpace, PDF files on their computers, and/or the e-book readers, they retain 70% to 100% of sales. Or, you can try my approach, which is to collaborate with a publishing partner (in my case, Tuscany Global Publishing and the very exceptional Brian Wilkes). You write and promote the book, the partner handles the production, loading and fanning out to the online retailers, and you split the money down the middle.

Then there’s the world of hybrid authorship, which is where I reside. Agents and traditional publishers are getting used

Creating Adventures, Sharing Stories, a collection of 51 pieces derived from the Word Journeys Blogs

Creating Adventures, Sharing Stories, a collection of 51 pieces derived from the Word Journeys Blogs

to this approach, with the publishers having a particularly tough time of it. Hybrid authors self-publish and work with traditional publishers. For example, I’m working on two books under contract (Just Add Water and When We Were the Boys), while showcasing two other books that I put out with Tuscany Global (Backroad Melodies and Creating Adventures, Sharing Stories: Word Journeys Dispatches Vol. 1). With much more to come.

How the digital world has opened it up! The options are many. More and more good writers are capitalizing on them. Chances are, you own plenty of books by Indie Authors on your bookshelves or e-readers, and don’t even know it. Nor does it matter. What matters is how good the book is. That’s the beauty of digital publishing…

… and why this past weekend’s Digital Authors and Self Publishing Conference in LA was so valuable. Hats off to conference director Tony Todaro: he knows how to present diverse conferences that nail the pulse we feel on the front lines of this shapeshifting industry! Publishing experts such as legendary literary agent Ashley Grayson, agents Claire Gerus and Toni Lopopolo, CD Baby and Book Baby CEO Brian Felsen, science fiction icon (and one-time Star Trek writer) David Gerrold, and author-marketers Linton Robinson, Karen Angermeyer, Gary Philips, Steven Booth and yours truly, were among those discussing this crucial subject. The workshops were packed, the insights riveting and eye-opening, and the information invaluable.

You’ll hear plenty more from me in this blog about digital publishing, especially since I work with it all the time for my clients, and my own work. And that’s about to expand, greatly, but I’ll save that announcement for November…

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Adult Literacy, Author Platform, Books, Digital Publishing, E-books, Education, Featured Websites, Hybrid Authors, Innovation, Internet, Marketing, Online Media, Promotion, Promotions, Self Publishing, Social Media, Technology, writers conferences, Writing, Writing Education

30 Books Every Writer Should Own: The Other 20

Well, good to see that everyone is looking for fun lists for holiday shopping! The “30 Books Every Writer Should Own” blog entry spiked my average reader count for this blog; it was the highest single-day total yet. I thank you all very much!

I’ve already received some wonderful comments, but this one leads to today’s blog: “What books were hardest for you to keep off the Top 30 list?”

Since I took 50 books that have touched me deeply in my writing career – or life – and pared them down to 30, I thought I’d run out the list of the 20 “Very Honorable Mentions.” Keep in mind: this list is incredibly subjective. All of these books belong on every writer’s short list of titles. They continue the theme of how I believe writers should read – roundly, fully, deeply, and interactively.

The Very Honorable Mentions (again, not in any particular order):

The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art, by Joyce Carol Oates: If you could mate pure, distilled wisdom and vision with the intimacy of a deep romance, this book would be the offspring. What a treasure, by one of the greatest writers on the planet.

The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself, by Susan Bell: For most writers, the hardest part of the process comes after you finish writing the draft – editing your work. In my opinion, this is the best book on editing. It contains tips, strategies, counsel from the greatest book editors of the past century, and interviews with top-selling authors. The author’s personal touch makes self-editing very inviting … and I invite you in, because these days, books need to go to publishers very well edited.

Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury: Zen connotes space, presence, serenity, succinctness. All of which you find in Bradbury’s prolific writing style. I was at a signing when science fiction’s greatest living writer toured this book 20 years ago … I’ll never forget his encouraging comments to me. This book remain a treasure.

On Being a Writer, Bill Strickland, ed: I kept this in the Top 30 list until the last moment. A great collection of conversations with our finest authors, who discuss voice, technique and process openly, in a way that every writer can absorb.

Prism of the Night: A Biography of Anne Rice, by Katherine Ransland: One of the most poignant biographies of a living literary figure. Ransland’s book itself is art. It also dives all the way into how tragedy, turmoil, deep suffering and vision created the author who did the impossible – rewrote the legacy of vampires.

The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell: We need to be in contact with the mythologies that formed the archetypes we use in our writing. We also need to know the art of myth-making as storytellers. This book, first published in conjunction with a PBS series in the late 1980s, brings myth into the present. Worthy companion: Mythology, by Edith Hamilton.

Keeping a Journal You Love, by Sheila Bender: A wonderful friend in the writing-teaching community, Sheila has dedicated the last 20 years of her life to helping writers improve their craft. She’s written several books, but this brings home the essence of what it takes to be a compelling writer: Going deep inside, taking your life experiences and world view with you, and percolating wisdom and compassion through journaling. This book erases writer’s block – fast.

The Poet and the Poem, by Judson Jerome: 35 years after its publication, this Writer’s Digest Book remains a landmark on the craft of poetry.

Writing Begins with the Breath, by Laraine Herring: This new release borrows from William Carlos Williams’ philosophy of poetry, which launched the Beat poets movement. Part Buddhism, part instructional … a fine book.

Dare to be a Great Writer: 329 Keys to Powerful Fiction, by Leonard Bishop: Another Writer’s Digest Book, this is one of the most thought-out breakdowns of the fiction writing technique and process.

The Rise of the Creative Class, by Richard Florida: A sociological book on how society, culture, education, timing and the ’60s conspired to form perhaps the most diverse and creative group of people in U.S. history – us. Invaluable reading for better understanding of the Boomers and Gen X – the core book-buying public.

The Literary Journalists, Norman O. Sims, ed.: Another book about the New Journalism movement, which launched the personal memoir and narrative non-fiction as we now know it.

The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Marilyn Ferguson: A classic from its publication in 1979, this book breaks out the sociological network of community, technology, spiritual living and environmental consideration that are front-page news items today. I consider it a “must” because it reminds us of our responsibilities to society as creatives.

The Life of Poetry, by Muriel Rukeyser: A beautifully rendered part-memoir, part-instructional discussion of poetry by one of the greatest writers of the mid-20th century.

Journal of a Solitude, by May Sarton: As those who have been in my workshops know, I am BIG on journaling. This wonderful book is best read by a fire, with a cup of coffee or tea, quiet music … and a journal alongside. Because you will be sparked by the writings of the ever-wise May Sarton.

On Death and Dying, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: I realize this classic is a very unusual choice, but let’s face it – the vast majority of novels include death, many of us touch the subject in our writing, and we all face it. Why on this list? Because, when I edit books and read end-of-life scenes, it is very easy to see who has experienced them with family or friends, and who has not. This book will bring greater authenticity to your writing. Plus, everyone should read this book.

The Art of the Personal Essay, Philip Lopate, ed.: This should be a staple in every aspiring and practicing essay writer’s home library – from ages 10 to 100. The variety of essays, and informative lead-ins, make this one of the best edited and selected writing anthologies ever.

The Best Writing on Writing, Jack Heffron, ed.: Jack is a former Writer’s Digest Books editor who occasionally teaches writing workshops. He also compiles very good anthologies. This annual release offers plenty of great pieces for writers looking for a tip or some inspiration.

The Alphabetic Labyrinth, by Johanna Drucker: Writing is conveyed by letters. This masterpiece shares the history of alphabets worldwide, how cultures intermingled to create new alphabets, and how the written word spread. The book is beautiful rendered and illustrated, and is one of several wonderful studies of language and the word by this author.

And finally, one of my own:
The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life, by Robert Yehling: It’s very hard for me to include myself in any list, but I’m just sharing the vibe I’ve received from readers and reviewers since its publication in September. The exercises in this book are both stand-alone and mini-series pieces that cover every genre and leave plenty of opportunity for personal interpretation. You won’t find a more diverse writing exercise book.

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