Articles tagged "authors"

What a rookie writer learned from Neil Gaiman at BEA 2013

Neil Gaiman answering questions at BEA

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2013 BookExpo America in New York City.  Amongst the myriad of awesome presenters there, I was particularly looking forward to Neil Gaiman’s talk, which was really more of a discussion with aspiring authors.  Gaiman has been a favorite of mine for a while and his now famous 2012 University of the Arts  commencement speech, “Make good art” has consistently been an inspiration for me.

As Gaiman dove into the crazy world of how he became a writer, it became increasingly evident that this wildly successful author had gone through many of the same trials and tribulations that even the most amateur authors experience.  He never set out to become a world renowned author, rather he simply had always shared a love for reading and a passion for story-telling; perhaps the two greatest ingredients for a writer.  From the stories he told, I snagged a few tidbits of commonality that hopefully are beneficial for all aspiring authors:

  •     An insatiable hunger for reading is a writer’s best asset.
  •     On why fiction is dangerous: Fiction is dangerous because it lets you into other peoples heads and gives you empathy and shows you that the world doesn’t have to be like the one you live in…Letting people into other people’s heads is amazing and incredibly dangerous.
  •     On how to handle rejection or failure:  Two different things play out…I get things back and I’m either not good, which I do not choose to believe, or I’m just doing this wrong.  I vowed to myself to try to write things that no one could reject.  I worry now that no one will tell me I’ve written a dud short story.
  •     With 30 years of success, is there still doubt: Yes, and it hasn’t been 30 years of success. There have been things that have worked and things that haven’t.  Authors are combinations of complete arrogance and self-doubt.

I wanted to share these four points to spark thoughts, or even to provide a since of camaraderie that you are not alone as you work to create your next piece. What have you learned in your time as a writer? Please share your tips below! You may inspire a fellow writer.

 

How to stay fresh when writing becomes work

When you do something professionally, whether it’s a full time gig that pays the bills or part-time work to get that walking-around money, it can become monotonous. To be honest, the odds are that it will.

In some cases, that monotony could be a welcome development. I’ve worked some pretty unfulfilling jobs where routine has provided a welcome refuge. But if you are lucky enough to be financially compensated for doing something you love, the tedium that comes from repetition is something you really have to watch out for and guard against.

I find writing to be fulfilling work, personally and professionally, and I manage a good balance of writing for myself and writing for others (now largely readers on the internet) — writing I’m compensated for and writing I’m not — but there have certainly been times when that balance has felt askew and, as a result, writing becomes not much more than work.

What to do in a situation like this? How can a writer keep their work fresh and prevent burnout? Here are three practices I’ve found that help me keep my writing personally relevant and moving in new directions.

Keeping a journal: I know it sounds like an assignment from your high school English teacher, but keeping a journal (the pen and paper kind) has allowed me an entirely reflective space for my writing. Although I write on the web and enjoy writing to be read, the opposite arrangement helps me stay sane.

Using Twitter: I thought Twitter was a pretty vapid platform initially. I mean 140 characters? Micro-blogging? My attention span is short enough as is! But the more time I spend on Twitter, the more interesting I think it is. It’s basically a super social constraint-based writing club that demands clarity and brevity and encourages experimentation.

Taking time off(line): This one is sort of the crux, but also a bit a catch-all: I write better for the internet when I take time away from it. It’s easy to get comfortable in an echo chamber, but echoes don’t make for fresh ideas. Whether it’s reading or cooking or traveling when I can, I tend to bring something back to my work when I give myself a break from the net (whatever form that takes).

Some of these things might work for you, some might not. You’ve probably got similar suggestions so let me know in the comments!

Living in a DRM-Free World

Digital Rights Management, the software that helped protect the copyright of books, but turned out to be a rather large hindrance to many readers, is beginning to go the way of the Dodo. More and more businesses that sell eBooks are taking the plunge and ditching DRM (including Lulu). But has the loss of this security measure affected sales? Has the eBook market been flooded with pirated copies of books that drag down the market and result in losses in profit to authors and publishers? In short, no.

Tor Books, the high-profile science-fiction publisher dropped DRM last April, and they have seen “no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year,” according to their editorial director, Julie Crisp.

Consumers of eBooks have long been in favor of getting rid of DRM. It has made a hassle out of switching eBooks from one reader to another, and hindered the reading experience of readers who have paid to read their favorite authors.

Authors as well have applauded the move away from DRM. However, some larger publishers believe that DRM-free copies of their books published in other territories will find their way back to their own market, thus increasing the likelihood of digital piracy. Still, Tor’s report that there hasn’t been any discernible change in sales and readership is proof that DRM didn’t do much to protect authors.

“The move has been a hugely positive one for us, it’s helped establish Tor and Tor UK as an imprint that listens to its readers and authors when they approach us with a mutual concern — and for that we’ve gained an amazing amount of support and loyalty from the community,” Crisp reported.

When it comes to independent publishing, DRM has long been considered something that was once thought necessary, but is no longer needed, especially in a reading atmosphere that so proudly supports its writers.  Already, video games and music have begun to move away from these protections, as well.

What will be interesting is to see is if anyone will stick to DRM in the next few years. How have you felt as a Lulu author in a DRM-free world? What other minor changes in the publishing model would you like to see happen over the next few years?

How do you judge a book? By its cover, of course.

The following is a guest post courtesy of Ron Miller, see the author’s information below.

Making sure your book has a good cover is like making sure you are neatly dressed and well groomed when going on a job interview.

Although everyone says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, this really doesn’t apply to books themselves. In fact, the cover is one of the most important parts of a book. It’s the first thing anyone will ever see and for that reason it needs to make a good impression. If a cover is unreadable, looks amateurish or misrepresents a book, the potential reader may give it a pass and move on to the next book in a catalog or bookshelf.

There are no hard and fast rules in book cover design. Just take a look at some of the superb covers displayed here . They are all creative, effective and no two look alike. Yet, they all follow the same basic guidelines. Even if you are not an artist or designer, you can still make a cover that – while perhaps not as artistic or inventive as some of these covers – can still be attractive and effective. Here are some basic rules of thumb to keep in mind:

  • The most important thing on a bookcover is the book’s title.
  • Keep things simple typographically. You may own a thousand fonts, but there is no need to feel compelled to use them all. Especially avoid really fancy, decorative fonts or using a lot of Photoshop effects on the title. If no one can read the title of your book, you may as well not have it on the cover at all.
  • Likewise, keep your artwork simple. Try to limit yourself to just one image that best represents the book’s genre or what it is about. Avoid the temptation to create a “kitchen sink” cover, where you try to cram in everything you think is important.
  • Another reason for simplicity is that a cover needs to work at all sizes—and even in B&W. Most people will first see your cover as a thumbnail image on a webpage. Therefore, it needs to be as readable at postage stamp size as it is on the actual printed book.

Having read these suggestions, go back to the Indie Cover page and see how many of those covers reflect these ideas.

About the Author:

In addition to the books he has published with Lulu, Ron Miller is the author/illustrator of more than fifty commercially published books. These have received numerous commendations and awards, including a Hugo, the IAF Manuscript Award, the Booklist Editor’s Award and the American Institute of Physics Award of Excellence. Several of his books have been Book-of-the-Month Club feature selections. In addition to the artwork he does for his own books, Miller provides illustrations for magazines such as Scientific American, Astronomy and Discover. Specializing in science fiction and fantasy, he has also created several hundred book covers for publishers such as Tor, Baen, Berkley/Ace, Warner, Easton Press, Subterranean Press and many others.

Black Cat Studios

Social media for book lovers

Social networking meets your reading addiction.

The New York Times recently ran an excellent profile of Goodreads, a super popular book-centric social media platform. The site launched in 2006, and as the Times notes, has over the last 7 years become “the largest source of independent reviews on the Web, with 21 million and counting.” Like all successful social media sites, its popularity springs from the relationships and communities it fosters, and if this article is any indication, these ties are booming.

I was also happy to note that the piece paid special attention to Goodreads’ relationship to independent publishing. It notes the wild success of “Wool,” a series self-published sci-fi books by Hugh Howey that received serious attention after being featured by one of Goodreads’ most popular book clubs (later it mentions that Howey’s series was optioned by 20th Century Fox!).

The Times attributes the particular advertising power of sites like Goodreads to the “membership model.” In short, recommendations or reviews written by friends (be they online or off) tend to be more effective motivators because they’re understood to be trustworthy and personal. Could literature-focused social media platforms provide the non-traditional advertising avenue self-publishing authors need to break through to a wide audience?

Though the Readmill’s iPad app has been around for a while, in early February the company launched an (even more mobile) app for the iPhone. Readmill is a digital reading platform with a built-in social media interface. One part digital marketplace, one part bookworm Facebook, the application – now available for both iPhones and iPads – allows users to purchase eBooks from vendors online and read them via a slick, minimalist interface on their mobile devices. It also lets readers share favorite quotes, track reading stats, and get recommendations from friends and followers.

Competitor apps like Wattpad and BookShout point to a growing market (and hopefully a growing demand). We’ll see if apps like this catch the public interest, but I think they could provide excellent opportunities for self-publishers trying to get the word out as well as serious readers looking for their next page-turner.

Are you a part of any of these book-centric social media platforms?  What has been your experience?

Independent Publishing at SXSW

SXSW, the Austin-based conference that features events base around technology, education and music took place last week and I’ve now finally recovered from all the excitement of having all of these insanely talented minds congregating in one place. While I did not attend the interactive presentations on independent publishing (they were packed!), from outside the convention center, I can tell you that independent publishing and eBooks had a huge presence, as the technology continues to evolve and become even more intertwined with other digital platforms like phones, tablets, and videogames.

In the Publisher’s Weekly roundup of events, you can see how the energy around independent publishing has freed up authors t make more interesting publishing decisions:

“Originally published by small press, Hugh Howey quickly decided to go the self-publishing route generating an enormous word of mouth following that turned his books into e-book bestsellers on Amazon. Indeed Howey said at one point he was generating $30,000 to $40,000 a month in sales and selling hundreds of thousands of e-books.”

The move by established authors to selling books on their own was a huge topic of conversation. For established authors to then use their reputation and leverage a successful independent publishing campaign from it has been a huge development, and lent a lot of credibility to independent publishing.

Another new development has been the discussions over whether you should give away content for free to build your credibility. David Carr, of the New York Times, had some choice words at his presentation,

“Don’t give your shit away for free,” he declared to the hall—emphasizing that “exposure” doesn’t work and free doesn’t lead to paying customers. But he also seemed so focused on the newspaper world—unsurprisingly— that his vision for the future of digital content kind of stops at the New York Times website, now revitalized with an innovative pay wall generating a sustainable and growing level of income. 

It seems like the argument over pricing will go on for some time. However, walking along the convention hall, it was easy to see that the rise of eBooks will continue at its staggering pace. New electronics, like Google Glass, will make reading even more accessible. eBooks will continue to grow and the fact that the leaders in technology are even talking about books, unthinkable only a few years ago, is a testament to this wonderful phenomenon.

Any writers out there make it down to SXSW this year? What did you learn? Any plans to go next year?

Reselling eBooks raises questions for authors

Over the past week, debate has intensified over the practice of reselling eBooks. Amazon and Apple both filed patents last week to make reselling eBooks a reality, and the collective reaction by readers and book-buyers across the Internet was ambivalent. Of course, selling and buying used books has long been a practice in the publishing world, but eBooks provide a series of new issues that need to be resolved before the practice can become widespread.

When you would buy a physical version of a book, you would buy the rights to owning one copy of that book. It could be resold to whomever you chose, at whatever price, but at least there was only one copy of it. eBooks are a little more complicated with their ability to be copied as well as the multiple Digital Rights Management choices out there for authors. Every author’s worst nightmare is seeing their book go out there, become a hit, and everyone reading a pirated copy. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case so far for eBook readers. A lot of readers enjoy buying their books, which is good. But at what price do they want to pay for it?

If the book resells for a dime, wouldn’t it cut into the profit margins of the author, especially if it is being resold right next to the original full-priced eBook? Mark-downs are common for used copies of physical books, but that’s because they physically degrade. A “used” eBook would look just like the original one.

David Pogue over at The Times tries to sort through this complication — physical degradation of a book is necessary for its discount.  He goes through the patents filed by Amazon and Apple and doesn’t quite find a solution, but believes that publishers and writers will find a common-ground that allows for used eBooks to help writers make a living, while also making their work more available and affordable.

What do you think about the possibility of used eBooks? As writers, do you want their to be a secondhand marketplace?