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Archive for November, 2009

Love it or hate it, if you’re a writer you can’t ignore it.  It’s the debate on whether being self-published is valid or not and whether we should continue to call ourselves Independent Authors or Self-published Authors.  After reading Victoria Strauss’ “Why You Are Probably Not an Independent Author (or, Another Post for Which I Expect I Will Get Some Flack)” I thought I’d chime in on the argument.

I must admit that Victoria’s idea that using the term “Independent” was: 1) inaccurate, 2) redundant, and 3) euphemistic and that we should all just call ourselves “self-published” (unless we can’t “admit that self-publishing actually does still carry a stigma“) made me rather angry.  If we put her words to work, then we can’t even call ourselves “self-published” unless we do everything, including printing each and every copy ourselves.

As MeiLin Miranda commented, “But why should people be stigmatized for trying to find their own audience? What amazes me is that literature is the last medium where the gatekeepers are still so firmly worshipped and those outside the gates so deeply despised.”  MeiLin goes on to explain that bands and comic artists aren’t stigmatized by going the independent route.  The question is, why are authors?

One person commented that “self-published” equalled poor quality writing.  I can’t argue that in a lot of cases that is true.  However, this person believes that by going the traditional route one’s writing will become better because it must get past the editor’s desk first.  I say, not so!  I’ve seen plenty of traditionally published books that make me shudder from the poor quality.  It was published because the publisher believed it would sell, not because it was well-written.  If a writer wants to improve his or her writing and still self-publish, then that writer must seek out an unbiased third-party to edit the piece.  There are groups like Critters for that.

As Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords publishing, points out, “Part of the problem here is that many traditionalists (uh oh, did I just create a new label?) have spent years maligning the term “self-published” to connote “loser author,” “failure,” “not good enough to get published in a respectable manner,” and worst of all, “vanity.””  He goes on to say about vanity that “…the word also implies conceited and excessive pride in one’s appearance. What’s more vain than an author refusing to publish their book unless its published by a big name NY publisher? Vanity cuts both ways, folks. And let’s face it, publishing is an act of vanity. It’s the author saying, “I have something I think is worth sharing with the world.” Blogging, twittering, public speaking and social networking are all forms of vanity as well.”

There were a lot more comments on both sides.  Obviously I come down on the side of keeping the term “Independent Author”, but I would like to add one more item, something another person added in the comments.  No writer should be stigmatized regardless of what path one takes.  I would like to put forth the idea that both “traditionally published” and “self-published” be abolished from our vocabulary.  Let us all just be writers on The (hard) Road to Writing.

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Hello, fine readers!  Just a short post to ask a question.  I’ve been reading that a few authors post first drafts of books as they write them and the first chapters of their books that have been published.  So, here’s my question: do you think posting first drafts and final first chapters is a good idea?

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My husband is a big Star Wars fan.  He watches all six movies often, though there’s a couple he watches more often than the rest.  He collects the action figures (never call them toys to a “true” collector).  He rushes to the video store that sells the comic books the same day they call him to let him know his comic is in.  And everytime a new SW novel appears in print he combs the bookstores (ranting about it being released in hard back first and having to wait a year or more for its release in paper back, but that’s another story for another blog).  All of this means that when he found his favorite SW author’s web site he, of course, emailed a link to the site to me.

Usually I look at these “helpful” links others send me with half-hearted attention, but the fact that he raves about this author’s writing made me curious.  My initial reaction to Karen Traviss’ web site was, if possible, even more curiousity because the first page link she has is to something called Critters.  (My husband, being the wonderfully oblivious man he is, assumed the author was talking about her pets or some such thing.)  After looking at her other page links, which all had to do with how to be a better writer, I figured it had to have something to do with writing.

I haven’t been so surprised at being right in a long time.  It turns out that Critters is a group of writers from novice to pro who critique each others’ work.  (Hence the clever name.)  It’s a great idea.  The only catch is that all members are required to submit a minimum of one critique per week.  The good news is that there are ways to get ahead in critiquing and ways to catch up.  The benefits of having your work honestly, and tactfully, critiqued before it hits the publishers desk or you’ve already submitted it to a POD (print-on-demand) company far outweigh the commitment in time and energy spent doing a critique a week.

The best part is that you can have your complete novel critiqued as well as smaller works.  There are special provisions for entire novels and a way to get your work bumped up to the top for critique if you just don’t have the time to wait an entire month.

While it would be nice to be able to write the perfect story from the first word, a good writer knows that editing and rewriting are a must in the craft.  Having your work critiqued by others who have no reason to stroke your ego, as family and friends do, makes the process that much better (though no less painful).  Thanks to authors like Karen Traviss, who are willing to give new and emerging writers advice, and to fellow writers like those on Critters, every would-be author has a better chance at success on The Road to Writing.

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We have the flu at our house, so this will be just a short post (and probably a bit scattered in its organization, so I apologize).  I hope to write more on the subject at a later date.  Perhaps by then I’ll have tried all the techniques suggested in the following links and will be able to give you a heads up on what’s worked best for me.

To begin, a lot of first time Independent Authors may think using a print ad will help sell their book.  Not so, says Morris Rosenthal.  Think about when you last purchased a book.  Did you buy it because you saw a great print ad that convinced you to buy it?  Not too likely.  You probably bought it either because you got a peek at what was inside or you heard a great review either by someone you know or another online customer (assuming you bought it somewhere like Amazon).

Going along with that is an article by Sam Henrie that gives tips on how to best market your book.  He says that authors shouldn’t focus on brick-and-mortar stores, but rather on online stores like Amazon and on online marketing.  At the very end of his article he states that every author should have a web site, which will help sell the books.  Some suggest publishing completely online.

On that, Morris Rosenthal says in his article “Book Marketing — Reasearch Competing Title Sales And How To Market Books Online”, “You can’t give the whole book away for free and not expect it to affect sales.”  I’ve been considering putting a chapter or two for potential readers on my web site (which I have yet to build :P).   We’ll see how that works for me.  According to Rosenthal, his sales jumped 200% when he put only the first three chapters of his book Start Your Own Computer Business: The Unembellished Guide on his site.

As for actual strategies on how to market a book online, I’ve discovered a wonderful free eBook called Plug Your Book by Steve Weber.  Weber says, “A single strategy won’t work, but a combined effort will produce results, and the effect will be cumulative.”  I plan on doing as he suggests and reading through the book entirely, then attacking each strategy in turn.  I’ll be keeping track of my progress on a calendar, as he also suggests, and plan on updating all of you as well.

Well, my “short post” wasn’t as short as I had planned, but sometimes that’s the way it goes on The (long) Road to Writing.

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