Using Kickstarter

Spacewalk on Gemini flight, from NASA
Spacewalk on Gemini flight, from NASA….For some taking the plunge into self publishing, the first step may be a bit  like spacewalking

Taking The Plunge

It’s a constantly changing and strange world for those who have not yet broken into traditional publishing and are now considering a try at doing it themselves. Roughly speaking, authors have been self-publishing e-books for over 10 years now with the bulk of online activity coming within the last five. For the most part, Amazon has been the main place to post your e-book, but other venues such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Sony have been around almost as long. Following is a quick survey of some things that you might encounter if you decide to self-publish.

Content

Not only do you have to have content that is of a high quality, but also your written material must be in demand by those who are willing to purchase and read an e-book. This might sound like a no-brainer to many writers, but keep in mind that there is a lot of well-written, highly-conceived material that receives little attention by readers. In other words, to draw the interest of readers you have to hit the right chord that will make that person purchase your e-book. This is just as true for the short story priced at 99 cents, as it is for the full-sized novel that runs in the ten dollar range.

The Writer Glut

As time goes on, literary sales to owners of electronic reading devices may become more difficult as the numbers of authors attempting to self-publish increases and the number of e-book  readers levels off. This is just a matter of  numerical reality and common sense. Nowadays, when I put I put up a new title on Smashwords, it is off the charts (relegated to page 5 or greater) in a few hours. Back when Smashwords was just starting out, a newly published e-book would stay visible (in the first several pages of listings) for a few days.

Reversing The Trend

However, all is not lost for the newbie writer, for there are several ways to beat the odds and gain a loyal following. Let’s assume for a minute that you have already found a small niche with a couple of written pieces that readers respond to in a positive way, which hopefully includes an occasional purchase or two. From here the next step will be to bring more people into your readership base.

The best way to do this is to self-publish more work, while at the same time, letting everybody know about your newest release. Currently, blogging and participating in other forms of social media, such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc., are the best methods to get the word out……. And hopefully along the way, something that you wrote goes viral and you become the latest internet sensation…….BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT……for slow and steady seems to be the rule of the day.

Going The Kickstarter Route

So far I have been working on the assumption that you are doing everything, like editing, proofreading, cover design and formatting, on your own. If you aren’t, good thinking because bringing talented personnel to help out with these tasks can be a big boost to the way your final product appears to the prospective buyer. It can also be a big drain on your bank account.

This is where funding sites like Kickstarter can be an essential aid to the newbie self-publisher, because by the time your first publication is ready to go live, you will be more of a publisher than a writer. However, the plus side to all of this, is that going through a public crowd sourcing site, like Kickstarter will force you to plan ahead and seek good graphic designers, formatters, proofreaders and whoever may be required to get your little literary effort looking ship-shape. And then again another big advantage, is that once your project goes live, your potential readership will grow from the ranks of those who choose to support your project. And that my friends is a win-win situation.

contrary to popular belief, self-publishing is seldom an easy ride,
Contrary to popular belief, self-publishing is seldom an easy ride.

 

 

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Who’s Who In the Amazon-Hachette Debate

painting by Rembrandt
painting by Rembrandt

Overview In the very near future a group of writers, calling themselves Authors United, will place an ad in the NY Times addressing the dispute between Amazon and Hachette, Beware folks, for this little episode is about to get a whole bunch bigger. I’m not quite sure when the ad will appear, but you can bet your bottom dollar, that when it does, stakes will be raised dramatically on both sides. In the mean time here’s a short list of literary personalities and author organizations that are sounding off on the issue in question.

Amazon

Amazon is the giant online retailer that sells anything from computers and cell phones to baby dolls. Currently, they are locked in a debate with Hachette over the prices of ebooks that are published by Hachette and sold by Amazon. Basically, Amazon wants lower retail prices, while Hachette doesn’t.

Hatchette headquarters in Paris, France  from wiki commons, photo by Tangopaso
Hachette headquarters in Paris, France from wiki commons, photo by Tangopaso

Hachette

Hachette is a French book publisher, headquartered in Paris, France. Recently, they entered the American market (2006) with the purchase of Time-Warner books. Their dispute with Amazon revolves around the pricing and profit-sharing of ebooks.

Douglas Preston

Douglas Preston is a popular horror and techno-thriller author, who has organized writers in support of Hachette in their feud with Amazon.

Stephen Colbert Stephen Colbert is the host of the Colbert Report, a popular program of political satire on Comedy Central (and successful Hachette author). Stephen has also been selected by CBS to replace Dave Letterman as host of the Late Show, when David retires next year. Colbert jumped into this debate big time,  (aided by Native American author Sherman Alexie) by symbolically giving Amazon the finger, not once, but twice on the Colbert Report.

Authors United

Authors United is an offshoot from an effort by Douglas Preston to get Amazon.com to help out authors during Amazon’s dispute with Hachette. In June (2014) Preston circulated a letter that was signed by several hundred writers that demanded that Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) stop hurting authors during the company’s economic feud with the Big Five Publisher. Literary luminaries who have signed on with this group include James Patterson, Stephen King, Sandra Cisneros, J.K. Rowling and Lee Child. About 80 of these writers have come together and purchased a NY Times full page ad, supporting their position. The ad will probably appear in late July or early August of 2014. Just a run-through of the signees will show who is making big bucks in today’s literary world.

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, may be the one author, who has been most damaged by the literary stand-off. That is because her new Hachette release, Silkworm, has fallen right in the middle of this debate, causing a serious decline in online sales and orders.

Authors Guild

The Authors Guild is a literary organization with 18,000 members that tends to support Big Five or Legacy published authors. This group along with SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), The Tony Hillerman’s Writers Conference and the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust have supported the Hatchette position.

JA Konrath

Not everyone in the writing community supports the Big Five publisher, Hachette. In fact, most writers, who have had any kind of online success with ebooks tend to favor Amazon. That’s because Amazon sell ebooks (lots of them in fact) and pays its authors a high royalty. Highly visible among this group is JA Konrath a mystery and crime writer, who has seen his sales soar, as an ebook writer. Interested parties can follow the debate through Joe’s eyes at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.

Hugh Howey If you haven’t heard of Hugh Howey, then the best way to describe this writer might be as the James Patterson of electronic authorship. And not surprisingly he has been a staunch defender of self-publishing ebooks with Amazon or other online venues. Recently, Hugh wrote and self-published a short story called Wool. This sci-fi tale has morphed into a successful screenplay, online book and series, making the writer a very wealthy man in the process.

Chuck Wendig

For a slightly satiric digression from the self-published view, you might want to check out the irascible efforts of Chuck Wendig, a highly visible novelist, screenwriter and game designer on the internet. His blog, Terrible Minds, is always worth a visit. Be sure to check out his opinion of the Amazon-Hatchette controversy and the coming Kindle Unlimited experiment.

Another Storm On the Horizon

If you think the financially affluent writing community is really sticking it to the struggling, under-published author (like I do), you might want to hang onto your horses for a minute or two. For Amazon has just released another publishing bombshell on the literary world. This juggernaut is called Kindle Unlimited and though it’s a bit too soon to know for sure, this Amazon project could turn into the “Netflix” for ebooks…….not a great scenario for mid-list and low-list authors.

The Growing Popularity of Self-publishing

Soul_Nebula
The Soul Nebula from Wikipedia

What’s Up With Kindle’s Direct Publishing Select Program?

Kindle’s Direct Publishing Select seems to be gaining popularity with a growing number of authors and more importantly…..also with readers. However, it should be noted that various publishing companies and some literary agents do not share the same opinions.  Following is a quick glimpse at a few writers who have opted for participation in the Amazon e-book program and how they have done with their literary titles.

DutchMasters-adjusted

 

Submitting to Curtis Brown

As a literary agent for Curtis Brown LTD, Nathan Bransford developed one of the most widely read literary blogs around. Large numbers of prospective authors followed followed his timely remarks and comments, hoping to obtain the right piece of advice that would propel them into the fast lane of literary success. I was one of those people and I even went as far as to submit a query letter concerning a completed manuscript. All I got was a “Not For Me” rejection, but the general insight on the submission process that he provided was most helpful.  This was information published on his blog that could be read by everybody.

SF_From_Marin_Highlands3
San Francisco as viewed from the Marin Headlands, from wikipedia, photo by Paul.h

From Literary Agent To Sub-published Author

While a literary agent, Nathan began  publishing his Jacob Wonderbar series of sci-fi space travels aimed for younger readers. Not long after Mr. Bransford left the West Coast agency and took a job writing for CNET. He still writes the Wonderbar books and blogs as an author instead of an literary agent. As a result his posts are less frequent but still very informative. The development that has caught my eye was a recent announcement that he is writing a novel which will be self-published in the near future. This is a most interesting turn of events that illustrates how quickly digital self-publishing is making inroads into the mainstream publishing world. This is just one example, but I think it shows how important digital e-publishing is becoming to authors.

Take A Deep Breath

Zion_angels_landing_view (1) small
Zion Canyon at sunset in Zion National Park as seen from Angels Landing looking south. from Wikipedia, photo by Diliff

Not The Tragedy That I First Thought It Was

Yesterday, I had a moment of sad regrets that left my mind racing and me pounding the table with my fist. No…… noboby died, I didn’t lose my job nor did I get evicted and be forced to move into a homeless shelter. The cold hard truth is that my laptop computer died.

Immediately, I started thinking how I could replace the invaluable electronic device with a new updated model complete with all the latest bells and whistles. In fact, this has been a move that I have been contemplating for quite some time. Only lack of funds and an old outdated Gateway that refused to die kept me using by old faithful friend.

Rider by H. Koppdelaney
Rider by H. Koppdelaney

Things Look Different This Morning

Today, the urge to buy a new internet device is not so much an overwhelming event, as it was yesterday. I had originally planned to make the purchase next month after I move. This morning that  still seems like a good idea. The damage to the computer is not fatal and my hard drive is probably OK. I have power to the laptop, but  the screen is black. Other more impressing problems like doing my laundry and going grocery shopping have arisen and taken the place of the computer with the black screen.

Chance Upon A Good Read

After my computer went down, I was lost as what to do, especially since there is limited TV reception out here in the wilds of Northern New Mexico. By chance I came upon a good read, titled The Snow Lion’s Turquoise Mane. The collection of very short stories is subtitled, Wisdom Tales from Tibet, and the text is written by Surya Das, a well known Buddhist teacher, who is referred to by the Dalai Lama, as the “American Lama” . So I guess I can say, all is not lost.

Wall Street Takes a Look at Richard Rosenblatt

Portrait of NGC 281
Portrait of NGC 281

Who He Is

Demand Media has been in the news lately. Though now the focus is on the CEO, Richard Rosenblatt, who recently was featured in an article by NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) Magazine. As far as the NYSE Magazine is concerned, the main interest is on the innovative style of Mr. Rosenblatt,  for there is no mention of the substantial price drop that occurred right after DS went public.

Nothing But Roses

In fact, the article fails the mention the price drop and instead focuses on the main personality, innovative attitude and business sense of Mr. Rosenblatt. Richard Rosenblatt got involved early in the web and internet with the formation of iMall back in 1994. Later on, he posted his favorite recipe for making a great Marguerita on E-How(please note Rosenblatt use to own a bar) and today he still receives almost 200 hundred dollars a year in advertising revenue. Although small potatoes in today’s finance world, the short piece taught Richard an important lesson in advertising and how the internet can be used to generate advertising revenue – a reality that is very important to the survival of Demand Studios.

Internet Innovation

Throughout the article, the emphasis is placed on “raising the bar” and “a innovative attitude to producing information that site visitors need or wish to know. Coupled with the acquisition of numerous websites, including a partnership with actress-turned-fashion-guru Tyra Banks, Demand Studios now supplies information to a large amount to viewers, whose daily numbers reach the tens of millions. In turn this has attracted many influential investors. So far this has not panned out, but the company only started selling stock back in January.

Google

The article also fails to mention Google’s recent changes in page rankings, an event that has challenged the staff of DS to keep up the rate of profits. Although disconcerting, the slight adjustments made by Google should not prevent long term growth of the company. Perhaps, the release of a substantial number of writers like myself, who came in early on in the development of the company, merely serves as a way of bringing in new blood and keeping the content fresh and interesting. Or it could signal a major move from small journeyman writers towards big-name personalities like the already mentioned Tyra Banks.

Stock

Nonetheless, the DS stock price has declined by 75 percent since it opened. Many investors are aware of this and have shied away from placing money with this company. However, these are the small guys that buy the public stock, not the big Kahunas who fund the operation. According to the tone of the article, the innovative attitude of its CEO should be expected to carry the company through whatever turmoil comes their way. Much of the written piece serves as a window into the world of Richard Rosenblatt, who incidentally was labeled one of Fortune magazine’s “50 Smartest People in Tech” in 2010.