Thursday, August 25, 2011

Another Coup for Self-Publishing

I saw an article in Publishers Weekly and wanted to share this very interesting deal.

John Locke is my hero.

No, not THAT John Locke! This guy…

Publishers Weekly reported on Aug 22nd that John Locke, the self-pubbed Kindle bestseller phenom, closed a distribution deal with Simon & Schuster. The deal, negotiated by his agent, is an exclusive arrangement where S&S will handle Locke’s eight Donovan Creed novels and get them into retail markets for print books. These novels are expected to start releasing in Feb 2012 with more titles to follow.

This seems like a really different idea, but a rep at S&S said this concept mimics the type of arrangements made between distributors and small publishers. Whether you consider this unorthodox or not, this is news, people. Locke still distributes his e-books and retains his rights as publisher on all digital fronts. S&S is only getting the right to sell print books to retail markets. S&S sees value in print and paid accordingly for that privilege, but Locke didn’t have to give up his lucrative digital rights.

If Locke hadn’t self-published, he never would have known his true value in the marketplace.

I see this as very encouraging for aspiring authors. The digital marketplace has become the new resume, a proving ground. It requires work to market your own books, but traditional publishers expect authors to do this anyway. Quality and author craft is still important to this process, but I believe if an aspiring author has talent and marketing platform to get the word out, this new digital world can be the best way to showcase work.

Published authors benefit from this development too. Striking a similar arrangement, they would get to focus on their writing, get their e-books into the public faster without all the approval and production schedule delays, and push the genres they write without NYC filtering the content for placement on shelves in retail stores. Established authors already spend time on promotion. Nothing new there, but there would be no more waiting to see if the publisher will spend money on promo or coop dollars for often limited time on the shelves. And the author retains control of cover art, book jacket summary, copy editing, and formatting, if they want it.

Even though S&S has limited access to Locke’s work, it can be looked upon as a WIN-WIN, in my opinion. S&S gets access to books that have a proven readership. They don’t have to “guess” whether a series will gain traction or not. They get exclusive print distribution rights for a known commodity. Not a bad thing to try in a changing world.

The author gets to take the risk of whether his or her book will find success, so they can push the genre or create a new trend—AND keep the rights that are most lucrative these days. The author would also free up time to write more, rather than spend time with the print side of the business—and gain access to retail markets he/she would not have reached on their own. PLUS a proven winner like Locke would also have the attention of NYC with his next project, opening more doors. Definitely a WIN-WIN!

I see this as a very positive arrangement—a healthy one for the industry. Both sides benefit from something they would not have tried otherwise. If a traditional bundled publishing deal can be broken apart for perceived value, how do you think this might change how deals can be negotiated in the future? Can digital rights be retained by the author for the right project? How would an agent’s role change? Would an author have to be a proven bestseller to have enough clout to negotiate a similar deal or does a deal like Locke’s foreshadow things to come for all authors?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

10 Things I Believe About Writing

With all the uncertainty in our economy and in the publishing industry, in particular, I thought it might be important to talk about the passion we all share. It’s the basic thing that drives us with such conviction. Whether you read books or create them, novels can lift our spirits, tug at our imaginations, make us believe in the impossible, and take us for a journey into the past. (Talk about a cheap vacation!) They dole out justice when it feels as if there’s none and they transcend international borders, making this a small world after all.

If you’re an aspiring author, I believe it’s harder to get noticed by traditional publishers these days, yet with the digital boom in e-books, I feel there is even greater potential for getting discovered in a whole new way that still feeds our addiction. So take heart. Below are my thoughts about writing and what I’ve learned on my journey.

1. Tell YOUR story, your way. If you have enough drive, you will discover a unique story that you must tell. If you’re lucky, more stories will follow. Ideas for books can be a contagion worth embracing. Since you use your life’s experiences to filter through your characters, scenes and settings, only YOU can tell this story. How cool is that?!

2. Develop a tough skin. There will always be negative people telling you that you can’t write or reviewers who think you should quit. Screw ‘em. If it matters to you, you will learn from your mistakes and keep doing what’s important to you. And if anyone thinks a book is easy to write, let them try. In fact, please be our guest.

3. Be picky about your critique buddies. They can be invaluable if you find the right person or group, but too much of a good thing can dilute your voice. Whatever your story, this is your book. You must have a sense of who you are as a writer in order to push back on any advice that doesn’t fit you and only you can be the judge of that.

4. Find the time to write regularly. Even if it’s only a few hundred words or a page a day, set attainable goals but don’t beat yourself up if life gets in the way. Write because it matters to you.

5. Focus on the basics. Writing is the only thing you can control. Selling your project, promoting it, dealing with proposals, these things are not in your hands and can become a mental road block. When things get tough, your writing is the backbone of your passion.

6. Keep writing. While you have a proposal out, don’t wait by the phone or the mailbox. Get on to that next project and learn from your last one. Push the envelope of your craft, because you can. It’s great to find success in a trend, but why not BE the trend?

7. Trust your talent. As human beings, we all have self-doubt. Some hide it better than others. We all deal with it, but the voice and talent you have shown with each new project will follow you. Trust your ability to tell a story, but also hone the craft of writing to be the best author you can be.Your basic talent will sustain you.

8. Make the words bleed. If the story is worth telling, it’s usually because of the emotion you have to convey. Write what you fear, what you love, what you hate. Man has been telling stories since drawing on cave walls and within those stories has been the thrill of the hunt, the profound sorrow of death, or the joy of good fortune. Emotion connects us all, regardless of any language barrier.

9. Support other authors. This is your world. Our world. We’re not in competition with each other. We’re up against people who choose video games or movies over books. Make them see how powerful the written word can be, how it triggers the magic of our imaginations. Books are brain food. READ them! If you want to understand a genre, READ IT!

10. Find a way to deal with rejections. They will come, in one fashion or another, whether you’re published or not. Rejection comes in all forms. Create a ritual to dispel the negativity and move on, but if you don’t risk rejection, you’re not getting yourself out there enough. Find a happy balance and keep writing. Not many feel passion for what they do. Count yourself lucky to be one of us, a writer.

Since we all share the love of books and writing on Fringe Dweller, please share any words of wisdom that gets you through the tough times. What keeps you going?