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After discussing the new realities of self-publishing, the real question is, would I self-publish?
The quick answer: Not at first.
The first thing I would do is try to find a traditional publisher. After I exhausted those efforts I would self-publish. The fact is you don't have to a have a traditional publisher support your idea. The traditional route is easier and offers some huge advantages. But I like to think of self-publishing like grassroots music - it's got to start somewhere or it won't begin at all.
For example, I recently began adapting one of my short stories into a graphic novel. The writing - my part - is complete. The artist is doing the bulk of the work right now creating the art for it. As she's working on this, I've begun to consider our options for publishing. I've never created or submitted a graphic novel for publication before, so there's a lot to learn. And while we're still far from being done, I've started considering kickstarter.com as an option to raise funds for printing if we can't find a publisher.
What I like about self-publishing is the entrepreneur-spirit of it. There's something about starting your own business that's always appealed to me. Self-publishing would be like starting a business for my book project. Of course, there would be a lot of work and learning involved. But who doesn't love a challenge?
Recently I gave a speech at the Dynamic Communicator's workshop on the benefits of self-publishing. After I was done, one of the attendees said, "Can I have your notes?"
I responded, "How about a blog post instead?"
Here's what I have to say about self-publishing.
One of my favorite comics has a guy in a doctor's office with an x-ray machine against his chest that reveals a book lodged in is ribs. The doctor says, "Yup, you got a book in you." The number of Americans who believe they have a book inside them is between 80 - 86%. To get that book out of them, it takes hard work, lots of writing and a little publishing luck. Okay, a lot of publishing luck. But maybe you don't need that luck at all. Here are the new realities of self-publishing.
The old perception about self-publishing is dead
When you'd hear about self-publishing it typically had to do with a crazy uncle and his manifesto for change. He'd haul that book out and hand it to anyone who would listen to him. Your mother warned you not to bring it up when he'd come over for the holidays. He made it seem like anyone could publish a book, and they can.
Books that matter are getting their start through self-publishing. Mike Foster decided to pursue self-publishing with his book Gracenomics (one of my favorite books about why grace matters). One of my favorite books, Once a Runner, got its start with the author selling books at cross country meets from the trunk of his car. Now it's being published by Simon and Schuster. Golf's Sacred Journey is another book that did really well as a self-pub before we picked it up at Zondervan. Recently it was made into a movie starring Robert Duvall called Seven Days in Utopia.
These are just a few examples of the self-pubs making the jump to traditional publishing. Self-publishing is becoming a place where publishers are searching for their next book project.
Distribution used to be one of the old guards for publishing with a traditional publisher. You need them to get your book in stores. Now, with retailers like Google Books and Amazon, you can have your book on their site in no time. And with lots of options for print on demand, like Lulu or Lightning Source, you can have a book printed at an affordable price. You could even walk into Schuler Books in Grand Rapids and print your book while perusing their book section and sippin' a coffee while your book prints. They offer print on demand options right there in the store.
You could also post your ebook instantly for sale online right now, but that's a conversation for another post.
Everyone who decides to pursue self-pubbing has to face this question: how do I pay for it?
Tough question if you don't have the cash in your bank account. But let's say your book is a collection of stories from mothers and daughters that have dealt with breast cancer, and you want to use the proceeds to support a local "pink" charity. Could you raise the money through donation?
A good example of this is with a book called Bodies of Water. Recently I was watching the author explain his kids' book idea and how he wanted to publish a book that dealt with his personal story about losing his parents. This author was just pursuing a passion, especially with kids' books, which are hard to find publishers for and super competitive. He used kickstarter.com to drum up the support he need to publish it.
There are a lot of options out there to build funding, and it doesn't have to be charity based. Your book project can be just a book you want to build support on by using a system like kickstarter.com.
The last new reality of self-publishing is the royalty issue. If you self-publish, you keep 100% of the royalties. The average author negotiates roughly 20% with their publisher. Recently I read the average self-published book sells around 800 copies (Sorry, I can't find my source). So let's say if your book was for sale for $12.99, softcover, and you batted for average, you would make roughly $10,000. Now that's without print costs, but it's still not bad.
Self-publishing real is a viable option for writers who want to pursue their publishing dreams. Yes, it takes some work, but these new realties can help you make it happen.
After reading this post you might be wondering, "Yeah, this is all good, but would YOU self-publish? I'll answer that in my next post.
Fact: people love buttons
Last week I traveled to Atlanta for Catalyst, a conference for church leaders.
Each year 13,000 people pack the Gwinnett Center outside Atlanta to hear ministry and business leaders discuss matters at the core of what they do. People like Seth Godin, Jim Collins and Malcolm Gladwell have spoken there in the past. The conference is two full days of information, inspiration and encouragement.
During Catalyst I help run the David C Cook booth. Basically, I give a lot of things away, like books and buttons. People love buttons, especially hipster Christians, which there are plenty of at Catalyst. I worry about them. I worry if there was an accident - like a fire - no one would be able to escape because their skinny jeans are too tight to run.
Even though I'm not a ministry leader and/or a wearer of skinny jeans, I still take a lot away from Catalyst each year. One of the highlights this year for me was hearing Andy Stanley's session.
Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, did a session on accessibility. Stanley warns pastors not to be accessible to all people. "The more successful you are, the less accessible you will become. Refuse to face this and burn out trying to be accessible to everyone," he said.
I think being a pastor is probably one of the hardest jobs there is. People are constantly trying to get a moment of your time. People are constantly asking you to help them solve their problems. They say, "I know you're busy, but can I talk with you for 15 minutes?" Stanley explained that there are no 15 minute solutions. Nothing of any weight can be solved in 15 minutes. 15 minute problems take 15 minutes just to unpack. In relationships, it's best to go deep rather than wide, Stanley explained. Build fewer relationships that are closer and that are long-term rather than short-term.
"Do for one that you wish you could do for everyone," Stanley said. Not bad advice and something to keep in mind. You can't be everything to everyone.
A couple other ideas I took away from the conference:
The Smashing Pumpkins are playing the Ogden in Denver tonight.
This is important to my 7th grade self; he wants to go. The Smashing Pumpkins double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was the soundtrack to that time in my life. Described by Billy Corgan as "'The Wall' for Generation X," I kept both CDs near my Sony Walkman. This was during those tough middle school years and my parents' divorce. Now, I'm not sure where that album is. Probably resold, a casualty of MP3s and iPods.
Tickets for tonight are $46 before all the inconvenient convenience charges. The truth is I'm not a hardcore fan. Not because I'm not willing to pay $46, but because I would've had to put up with the newer stuff while I waited for oldies like "Disarm," "Thirty-Three" and "Zero," if they even played them. That's the trouble with the Pumpkins - what will they play? With nine albums, countless singles and b-sides, the setlist fills fast. There's also that fear the Pumpkins will deny their past success, choosing only to push the new stuff. It's like they've reached that county fair point where all anyone wants to hear is the oldies. That's if a county fair is looking for 90's alternative gothic rock.
Still, I want to go. My teenage mind was imprinted with their videos. This was before videos died on MTV, giving way to full-time reality TV. This was before YouTube. This was when the only way to see a music video was to sit near the TV waiting and watching. It took youthful commitment. It took having the kind of time only accessible for people to young to drive, to young to go anywhere. I had that then.
Tonight, I won't go see The Smashing Pumpkins. I will make excuses. I will tell myself - my inner 7th grade self - maybe next time. Soon I will be driving and hear the beginning of a Pumpkins' song. I will turn the radio up and indulge my inner 7th grader.
As a writer, I'm always looking for ways to improve. Most of the time that means reading books and articles. But recently I started using two applications that have helped me become a better writer: Evernote and Dropbox.
If you're like me, staying organized is a tough job, and ideas rarely come to me when it's convenient. I use Evernote to keep track of everything. Evernote allows me to organize my notes, story drafts, blog ideas, etc. in one place. There's also a place for logging websites - great for online research - and file attachments, like images or documents.
Lately, I've been using Evernote to help draft early versions of stories. I've been trying to move away from using notebooks because they're so hard to keep track of and I'm afraid of losing them. Plus, Evernote keeps me organized because I tend to bounce around between ideas. What's nice about Evernote is it's a free download.
The other application is Dropbox. Dropbox is an online system for backing up files and storing stuff. I keep all my writing there. I have Dropbox on my work and home computer, so it's nice to be able to work on files without keeping track of a thumb drive or worrying about where I save them. Like Dropbox, Evernote also backs up all your files online. Like most writers, I'm constantly fearful of computers crashing or losing all of my writing. Evernote and Dropbox alleviates some of that fear.
Dropbox also has a site where you can access your account and your files from anywhere. Super useful for those times at school when I want to use the printers from a lab computer.
Give them a try. I think they're valuable tools for any writer.
Life is too short to read bad books.
Books demand our time, of which we have so very little. In return, they give us entertainment, knowledge, humor, etc. If that's the deal we're making, the book and you, then there are no refunds. Bad books won't give you back anything but regret. While you were wasting your time finishing, you could've been discovering something better.
So what's a bad book? I think a bad book is one that makes you question the need to continue to read it. If you're plodding along, each turn of the page is met with joy because you're one step closer to the end, stop reading it. I have a hard time with this because I want to finish something I started. I'm overly hopeful the book will come around or pick up some momentum. I can't stop reading it out of fear of quitting.
Recently, I was flipping through my copy of On Writing by Stephen King (an excellent resource for writers, even if you don't read King's fiction. It's also King's birthday today - Happy birthday, King of Horror), and in it he explains there only so much time in our lives for books, we have to be shrewd with the things we read. He's right.
We can't be afraid to demand something undeniable from the book we're reading. We can't be afraid if it doesn't deliver to set it down and never come back. It's okay not to finish a book. It really is.
Say it out loud, "Life is too short."
What "bad book" did you stick with, refusing not to quit?
The big fall books are coming! Get excited.
Here's a list of the books I'm excited to read this fall.
The Marriage Plot: A Novel, Jeffrey Eugenides (October 11th)
‘One of the finest novels in many years – a Catcher in the Rye for our time’ - Observer.
Aren't we at the point where saying something is like Catcher is the ultimate book blurb copout? That doesn't matter, this book will still be great. And even though I didn't love Middlesex, The Virgin Suicides was like...a Catcher for our times...
Habibi, Craig Thompson (September 20th)
If you don't read graphic novels because you can't get past their superhero roots, read Blankets. The art alone is enough to break your heart; Habibi will probably do the same.
It won't disappoint.
The Art of Fielding: A Novel, Chad Harbach (September 9th)
This appeals to me as a sports fan, especially a fan of baseball. I'm an awful softball player (didn't play t-ball, little league or baseball growing up, just softball for the old company I worked for. They wouldn't let us put their name on our jerseys or support us with any league fees because softball is considered a beer sport, which I assume is like other beer sports like bowling, golf and perhaps poker, which has to be a sport because it's on ESPN, right?).
The best part about this novel is this review. I've never heard of someone pulling a personal boycott because of the author's advance. This reviewer has bitter-writer face.
John Irving says, "as if Tom Jones were about baseball and college life."
I trust John Irving.
Zone One: A Novel, Colson Whitehead (October 18th)
I don't understand poker, other than it's a beer sport. It doesn't appeal to me. Subsequently, I don't understand cigars or whiskey either.
However, I do understand zombies. And if you don't, you should.
This book will help, probably.
The Outlaw Album: Stories, Daniel Woodrell (October 5th)
If you enjoy good writing, you need to know Daniel Woodrell. He's raw and blunt, Faulkner-esque. Like Winter's Bone and Tomato Red, this collection offers short stories that promise more Ozark adventures with meth addicts, criminals, and desperate people. Good times.
When She Woke, Hillary Jordan (October 4th)
Jordan offers a futuristic retelling of The Scarlet Letter. I love the idea of the cover song being applied to books. Unlike Hollywood remakes or re-imaginings, there's something about a writer covering a story. I'm a cover junkie. I like the unexpected cover during a concert where something I thought I knew becomes something new. This will rock.
This is it. The last hurrah of the summer movie - I'm going to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon tonight.
I'm a summer movie junkie. Ever since I lined up early to see Jurassic Park, I've been hooked. And in any other summer I would've already gone to see Transformers, but with a wedding, travel, school, and an assortment of other excuses...this one got lost in the fray.
Maybe part of that has to do with the redundancies of these movies in their own Michael Bay-loud noise way. It's hard to expect anything more - it's a movie based on a line of 1980's toys; it's not Shakespeare. Still, I can't deny it.
Since its June launch the movie has made 1.095 billion globally (It seems I'm not the only one who can't stay away). I'm getting a second chance to see it in theaters because of the IMAX re-release. It would be foolish to turn down the opportunity to shut my mind off for two and a half hours, right?
But Transformers is also a little window to those days of Saturday morning cartoons - it's nostalgia pure and simple. The whole concept appeals to my inner child, and by the looks of those box offices numbers, I'm not the only one. If nothing else, it might just be the ultimate popcorn movie.
So tonight, I'm going to turn off my mind, throw any concepts I might have as a writer about plot, story and dialogue, and let my inner child buckle up for the last movie of the summer of 2011.
It's starting to smell like autumn here in Colorado Springs. Summer will soon close up shop. Time to finish those summer reads. Consider this your warning.
Here's what I'm reading: The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. This guys a social media guru. Gary makes a strong case as to how social media has made the world small again. Now companies are like mom & pop diners, serving their customers one-by-one. Makes total sense. You should read it to understand why social media matters.
Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod. This is my daily creative devotional. Short and sweet ideas to fueling the creative furnace.
Eden Springs by Laura Kasischke. This novella blends two genres, romance and true crime, to create a compelling story about the House of David, a small, Michigan cult that built an amusement park and rose to fame in the ‘20s.
Big Bad Love by Larry Brown. In this collection of short stories, Brown writes about hard-drinking Southern men. Men who are constantly pinned between doing what’s right by society’s standards and what’s right for themselves. I can't think of anything better to read during the last few days of summer. Can you?
And what would the summer be without a little poetry? Read Joseph Millar's Overtime. It's got a big heart. Millar finds sympathy for the working man - the ones who break their bodies in order to find their way in the world.
What are you reading and loving this summer?
You can keep up with me on my blog as I write about books, writing, advertising, publishing and whatnot.