A Message of Hope and of Responsibility

A while back, a guy wrote an article on salon.com about his failed attempts at self publishing. There was a lot of criticism about the piece because it seemed to cast a negative light on self pubbers and the guy didn’t seem to have tried very hard to make his book a success. Hugh Howey recently wrote a counterpoint article. (Links to both at the bottom of this post.)

If you haven’t read these articles, you should. The blogosphere is aflame with posts about the dueling viewpoints — and rightfully so. They express two points of view that I read a lot in my journeys through forums and blogs:

POV 1 – Over 3 million books will be published this year. If yours sells more than a handful, thank the stars for your luck at finding a market.

POV 2 – If your work is good enough and plentiful enough and you market it right, you will find an audience.

Note that I have no idea where I got that number about the quantity of books to be published. I can’t remember and, frankly, have no idea if it’s accurate. I do know that 93.499152168291063% of all statistics are made up.

The voices espousing POV 1 are much more plentiful than those for the counterpoint, and, I must admit, they sometimes give me pause. There are a lot of authors out there who have spent hundreds/thousands of dollars to publish a book and have sold about 50 copies.

Let’s be honest. I’ve read a lot of traditionally published stuff over the years. The majority of it is simply meh. Over the last year, I’ve read a lot of indie and small pub stuff. Overall, I’d say the quality is less than that of the traditional material.

No one is saying, “If you put something out there, no matter how crappy it is, you’ll sell mega copies.” What POV 2 says is, “If you work on your craft and produce stories that are compelling to your audience and you work hard and smart to find that audience, you will succeed.”

What Hugh says in his article, and what Michael Sullivan preaches all the time, is that there are a lot of people out there earning their living from self publishing. Though you wouldn’t recognize them if you hit them with a truck, they do exist, and they’re plentiful.

This view gives me hope.

This view scares me.

If success absolutely can be achieved, the only person I have to blame if I fail is me.

If POV 2 is correct, there are only 5 reasons for failure:

• I didn’t work hard enough at my craft.
• I didn’t work hard enough producing a sufficient quantity of products.
• I didn’t work smart enough in producing something my audience wants.
• I didn’t work hard enough at reaching my audience.
• I didn’t work smart enough in determining how to reach my audience.

I have hope; I can succeed. But, if I don’t, it’s all my responsibility.

Links:

I’m a Self-Publishing Failure by John Winters

Self-Publishing is the future — and great for writers by Hugh Howey

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Nook Sales Are Falling and That’s not a Good Thing

Check out this article: Amazon is Gutting Barnes and Noble.  And this one: Barnes & Noble sells fewer Nooks, retail revenue falls.

If you don’t feel like clicking the links, they basically say that Nook sales are falling and indications are that B&N is having a hard time holding onto its market share in ebooks.

Not good.

Amazon, as the market leader by far in ebook sales, has already shown a propensity to push people around.  Imagine what will happen if they’re the only game in town.

If I have a choice (and sometimes I don’t because Amazon has a bigger library), I buy from Barnes and Noble.  I own a Nook, not a Kindle.  In fact, I am a fan of B&N in general and think that their stores offer a good shopping experience.

Their online platform, not so much.  I often find myself searching for books and recommendations at Amazon before going to the B&N website to make the purchase.

Amazon has mastered the art and science of selling books.  Their website isn’t just a place to shop but a social network all its own.  I don’t see B&N doing anything to counter, or even match, Amazon’s strategies.  Why aren’t they doing any of the following:

  • Offering incentives for people to leave reviews
  • Offering incentive for authors to publish at B&N exclusively
  • Encouraging social use of the B&N website
  • Incorporating some kind of Goodreads-type functionality to help you find books you might enjoy

Case in point of their “if we offer ebooks people will buy them without any more effort on our part approach” — I used to pay $25 every year to them for “membership.”  In exchange, I received a 10% discount on all my purchases.  That made the math pretty simple for me.  If I spent more than $250 a year there, it was a good deal.  Otherwise, it wasn’t.

My wife and I easily spend that in total, so why do we no longer pony up for the membership?  The discount didn’t apply to Nook books.

Really?

Self Publishers need someone to step up to offer competition to Amazon, but I’m not sure B&N is ever going to be that company.

Some Contest Links

I’ve been thinking about writing contests a lot lately.  First, my short story, “Man in White,” won Ankari’s Iron Pen 5, and then Zero Angel posted a link to Amazon’s Amazing Breakthrough Novel Contest.

Though it feels like making a deal with the devil, I’ve decided to enter Amazon’s contest.  It starts on January 14, 1013, and, since they’re only accepting the first 10,000 entries, I need to have it in on that date.  Lots to do before then:

  • Finish 2nd draft of Power of the Mages
  • Get as far on the 3rd draft as I can by 1/7.  I think I can get through at least chapter 11.
  • Spend the remaining week picking up beta reader comments on the rest of the chapters; I’ll call that draft 2.5.
  • Figure out formatting and everything else I need to do to actually enter the manuscript.

That extensive list means that all my writing besides this blog will be devoted to editing the novel – no more shorts for a while and Slender Man is on hiatus.

It’s a struggle to get your work noticed, and I think that contests have the potential to help.  The recognition is important, and they expose you to readers who wouldn’t have otherwise noticed you.  And, of course, the prices don’t hurt.

Here are some other links to check out:

  • A list of competitions hosted by Writers Digest
  • A searchable list of all kinds of contests

I’ve also decided to host a writing challenge on this blog.  Watch for details in early February.

Have you had any experience with contests and challenges?  Post your experiences in the comments.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum…

I’m a writer.  You’d think that I’d find a clever way to tie in the random title to the topic of my post today.  Not as much.  It’s just there ’cause it’s a famous title and uses the word “forum.”

I’ve found that writing requires a lot of support.  It’s a difficult craft to master, and getting the opinion of other authors regarding use of technique, plot holes, and research is important.  Pursuing this artform can also be a soul-crushing experience; it’s good to have friends who understand what you’re going through.

To this end, I’ve found that online forums are a great resource.  Beyond the advantages listed above, they are also a great place to find beta-readers and get encouragement.  Here are some that I frequent:

Mythic Scribes – If you’re a budding fantasy writer, you need to visit this site.  There are a lot of helpful, civil, and knowledgeable people who can help you.

48Days.net – Though forums for writers have some discussions on marketing, it’s definitely not the focus.  This forum is all about trying to make money, and a lot of  writers gather there.  I’m finding it a nice place that offers a different knowledge base.

Writing Forums – So far, I’ve found that genre specific forums seem to offer more than generic writing forums like this one.  Still, this is one is active, and I’m maintaining a presence there.

Sci-Fi Writer’s Forum – I haven’t explored this one too much, but it appears to be active.  I’ll get more involved in this community once I start my next project.

Goodreads – I’ve been told that this is a great place for authors to interact with their readers.  I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly how the community works there, but I haven’t given up yet.

What about you?  Any forums that you’ve found useful?

A Couple of Book Blog Links

Book blogs are a relatively new revelation for me, and I’m just beginning my exploration of them.  In general, I think they’re a fantastic concept.  There have been so many times in my life where I searched for recommendations on books.  The ability to find a reviewer who’s tastes match your own and use their recommendations is quite valuable.  Here are two sites that I’ve looked at:

Check out Pauline’s Fantasy Reviews.  She reads a lot of indie authors, including most of the ones from Mythic Scribes.  Her reviews are comprehensive, fun to read, and give you a good idea of whether or not you’ll like the book.

I recently discovered that one of my IRL friends does a book blog.  He’s only got one review, but it’s well a well written and entertaining take on 50 Shades of Grey.  Check out The Eddie Gibbs One-Man Book Club.