The Moveable Writer

New technology and old comforts for today's writer.


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The Publishing Revolution at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference

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What an exciting conference this year! It is an interesting time in the publishing industry and the rifts between independent publishers and traditional publishers could not be more apparent. Add to this the common enemy of them both: Amazon. Tensions were high at the conference this year, opinions were voiced, and sides were taken.

Beneath this layer of the publishing revolution were great talks and wonderful writers from all over the country. Some highlights were Laurie McLean speaking on pitching your idea to agents or publishers, agent/author speed-dating, meeting fiction agents and publishers, Constance Hale’s Crafting Prose like the Pros, anything that Kevin Smokler was involved with especially his talk on Reading to Inform your Writing, Mark Coker’s Secrets of Indie Bestsellers, and Sheldon Siegel and Rhys Bowen on Keeping Up the Pace. BTW, Rhys Bowen is simply lovely!

There were three main columns at the conference and they were the Craft of Writing, Independent Publishers, and Traditional Publishers. Depending on where you spent your time, you walked away with a different view of the writing/publishing world with the craft seminars being the most neutral. There were some inspiring things spoken by the traditional publishers, but overall the mountain that editors need to climb to get a book published is daunting – and not only to authors. In this traditional model, you first need an agent because editors at the big six publishing houses will not allow you to talk directly to them. This model already sets in motion a lack of communication between authors and publishers. Next, after you get an agent, you need to catch the editor on a day that they are interested in your topic and it is marketable to mass readers. Editors take the books they love to giant committees of lawyers, salespeople, marketers, and the publishing executives. If they can’t all agree that it will sell a million copies then tough luck.

On the independent publishing side, what can I say: everyone has access and it’s free. The issue is how can you get your book into your market’s hands and beyond your own friends and family? Check out Mark Coker’s free ebook The Secrets to eBook Publishing Success. However, the lower prices on eBooks and the rising costs of paper make it harder for traditional print publishing to compete and pay their employees and authors as they try to compete with independent publishers online booksellers.

But back to the heat. The conference exploded with Barry Eisler‘s keynote speech – wow. He took the opportunity to address fellow authors and champion the choices that were available to them to get their work out to the public. He called out traditional publishers who were in the audience calling them “legacy publishers” and telling them that they perpetuated an “antiquated system”. He revealed/complained that they take too much money from authors in revenues and only pay them twice a year. He likened this to “medieval times.” But the biggest revelation was when traditional publishing argued that they were the gatekeepers to good literature. Someone in the audience asked how do we keep the quality of books if there are no gatekeepers and everyone is allowed to publish their work. They said it shouldn’t be allowed. It was clear that Barry Eisler has thought about this a lot, is passionate on the topic, and is very intelligent. He used the Internet as an example. He said, “I think 99.999% of what is on the Internet is crap, but do you use the Internet? Do you get pleasure from it?” And there are no gatekeepers there. Choice is always better. Mark Coker had a similar answer on this point when he said that he believes the readers should be the deciders on what is good literature.

Riveting!

I am all for choice and strive to be a hybrid author: both traditionally published and self published. If I can reach readers – it’s all good:) I am looking forward to the future of publishing and hopefully for traditional and independent publishers to be innovative together and find solutions that make both print and ebooks available and accessible to everyone who wants them.

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Uploading to Smashwords

In a previous post, We Can All Be Published, I compared uploading my ebook to Kindle Direct and Barnes and Noble publishing websites. I concluded that Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press was much more intuitive than the Kindle Direct Publishing site.

Recently I was shocked to learn that Barnes and Noble and Amazon do not have a coupon program where authors can create a sales promotion for their book and offer certain people a free copy using a coupon code. I have a marketing idea involving a coupon and was disappointed that I would not be able to launch it yet.

Enter Smashwords. Smashwords is another great internet company hailing from the Silicon Valley. They are an ebook publishing and distributing company that does offer a great coupon program. They also offer other promotional programs and will distribute your book in every format to most ebook retailers including Apple and Kobo. Their author percentage is also higher than Kindle Direct and Barnes and Noble. And when you first publish to their site, your book is featured on their new ebook page.

There were a couple of things about uploading to their system that I didn’t like. After you use their 140 page ebook to format your ebook for their system, you fill out the usual information and upload your materials. If you make a mistake and check off a box on their form that comes back as something you need to correct, then you have to upload your cover and manuscript again. You have to upload your materials for as many times as it takes you to get the form right. This is not the biggest deal, but still annoying.

The bigger issue for me was that you are published and featured on their website as soon as you hit the publish button. BUT, there is no way to know if you formatted your ebook correctly. There is NO preview section like in Kindle Direct and Nook Press. You don’t get to correct your book before it goes live. Since I like my books to look as profession as possible, this was a problem for me.

Next your book goes through a computer system that flags any immediate problems for you to change. You receive an email and then must consult the 140 page manual again to figure out how to fix the issues. Luckily they suggest where your problem may be found. When you are finished, you upload your revised manuscript. It goes through their system again and flags other problems that you may have. If no new problems are found, it goes into a cue to be reviewed by humans. All this while it is still live and featured. By the time the review is done, you are no longer a featured book and the only way you know how your book looks before this is to download it yourself in all of the formats to see what it looks like, which they suggest for you to do.

I did this and found that it did not look right in epub and looked great in mobi and others. I was able to make corrections and it turned out to look good in all formats, but I lost that window of being featured at my best. I am sure that across the industry the uploading systems will greatly improve over the next year, and still, Smashwords is an innovative company in this space.

 


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Technology Friend or Foe? Friend, of course!

You finished polishing your manuscript and it is available on several websites. Now you need to connect with your readers. And not just any readers, how do you connect with the readers that you wrote your manuscript for?

New technology makes the writing process both easier and harder. Laptops, printers, and – although I don’t use it, I hear – writing software programs make recording your ideas easy. However, the fact that technology exists has thrown a wrench in many of the plot choices I sometimes crave. Come on! Not only are we always connected to everyone by multiple devices, but also our characters are always connected! That means that unless you are writing a period piece, it is very hard for your characters to go off the grid. Even planes today have low cost Internet services that keep your characters connected. Not very long ago, a mere twenty years, when you left your house you were untouchable. Crisis could happen and people could be searching for you all day before you got word that anything was amiss. That is tension. Love could be lost from a missed phone call. Ah, the suspense.

That being said, what our characters suffer from enhances our opportunity. We have Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, and various outlets to shout out, but what about the good old-fashioned letter. Okay, speaking in techno-lingo, the email. If you are not a famous author, why not write your readers a letter at the end of your eBook, ask them a question, and invite them to email you their thoughts? Why not interact with those who most enjoyed your story? You can learn a lot from these interactions and make your readers excited about having read your book. Why not try to find out about book clubs in your genre. Write book club questions for your book and leave an email. There is nothing better than being able to solve a disagreement about why a character chose to do something than to have access to the author herself. Once your readers find you they will want to share you with others that they know who could like your book also and they can use all of their social media outlets to help you reach more readers.

Will this help? Let’s find out together!


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We Can All Be Published

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Now is an exciting time for writers and an exciting time for publishing your work. We have been liberated and that means we have options. Gone are the days of the single paved road, of writing a proposal to an agent and waitingfor months to find out if they will try on your behalf to sell your work to a publisher. If you are lucky enough to find an agent it still doesn’t mean that the public will ever see your work. Don’t get me wrong. There is romance in trying to get published in the traditional way and there are so many great agents and publishers. However, it is extremely difficult to publish this way and I will tell you why. There are so many good writers and the agents and the publishers are only human. What I mean to say is that like anyone else with loads of work to get through, they have to take into account what they can spend their time on, it has to appeal to them, and they have to feel confident that they can sell it. Some of you may be grunting right now about the merit of a great novel regardless of whether or not it will sell right now. And I hear you loud and clear. This is why I celebrate our options!

At first I did not want to break from tradition, but now I am an excited fan of publishing manuscripts in the form of an e-book. For one thing it is free to do it. The most important thing is that it will guarantee that you have a chance to reach people who will love your book. I say that you have a chance because with all of the books currently being uploaded, it is hard for fans of your genre to find you. But marketing yourself is a discussion for later. It is progress and it doesn’t mean that you can’t try the traditional route with another manuscript. After all, a writer must write so there will be more manuscripts – sequels if we are lucky! Not only is it free to upload your e-book, but it is also free to make your book print-on-demand with Amazon or Lulu – to name a couple. Amazon currently ranks as the top seller for books so that is not a shabby place to have a print book for sale.

A couple of weeks ago, I navigated the Kindle Direct Publishing and Nook Press sites. I use Amazon for a lot of my shopping needs and so I was eager to publish there first and second on Barnes and Noble Nook Press. I was surprised to find out that the Barnes and Noble interface is so much more intuitive and forgiving than the Kindle Direct interface. This is true for the conversion to e-book formatting and for the reports generated by their systems. The main difference is that at Nook Press you can edit your manuscript directly in its preview mode and make sure that everything will look good to your readers. This includes typing chapter names and changing copy within the manuscript. If you need to make changes in Kindle Direct you need to do it in your document and upload it again, then check it to make sure it is working properly. This can get time consuming and frustrating especially if you are not sure why you are having formatting issues. As for the reporting, Nook Press gathers all of the information you need on one dashboard as opposed to Kindle Direct, which uses separate links to view reports. They both have what you need to maintain your records, but Nook Press is more accessible. I am working on the Lulu system now and will report back how it compares with Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

In this exciting new publishing world, every writer can share their works and reach their core audiences. We are liberated to write and to be published. This being said we still crave the comforts of the traditional writer, that being our creature comforts and habits that enable us to put words to paper, our favorite authors who inspire us to search for the best words, and the right tools with which to proceed. This blog is about all things old and new that will enhance the writing process from beginning to end.

Be inspired. Write it. Share it.