Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 5): Interview with Traditionally Published Author, Mark Shaw

 

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Those who remember traditional publishing prior to the digital age, recall an industry which was not easy to break into, but with persistence, it could pay off with large advances, and a contract from one of the “Big Five” publishing houses. Your publisher took care of the rest: editing and proofreading, cover and/or illustrations, publicity and marketing. In many ways, it is the same today, but one thing self-publishing and independent publishing have changed, is that they showed traditional publishers that authors were capable of doing their own promotion and marketing. Today’s authors, it seems, are now expected to carry the weight for these tasks no matter which model is chosen.

The rise of digital and self-publishing also brought about a rise in publishing scams, designed to take advantage of aspiring authors and empty their pocketbooks. In the 1990s, when I began writing, they called them vanity presses.An author would send in their work and receive a very favorable response, praising their work and offering to publish it for a fee. As the author moves through the publishing process, the fees keep adding up. Today they are called subsidy publishers. As with traditional publishers, subsidy publishers hold the rights to the book, although the author is paying them to publish it.

So far in the series we’ve heard from self-published authors, Jeff Bowles, Tim Baker and Art Rosch, and we’ve heard from traditionally published author Stacia Deutsch. Join me today to get more of the traditionally published POV in my interview with author Mark Shaw. Among his 25 published works are books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing as The Southern Colorado Literature Examiner: The Mask of Holiness, a biography of Thomas Merton, and Stations Along the Way, a biography of former Hitler youth leader, Ursela Martens. In addition  to being a traditionally published author, Mark is a literary consultant and entertainment attorney, so he knows of what he speaks.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Mark: I’m a former criminal defense lawyer and I never considered being an author until I covered the Mike Tyson rape trial for CNN, ESPN, and USA Today. I believed Tyson was denied justice and so I wrote my first book, Down For the Count.

Kaye: Would you share your own publishing story with us?

Mark: I was able to find a literary agent to represent the Tyson book and he found a traditional publisher. I had enjoyed the writing process and the book sold well so I looked for new subjects to write about and within a few years I had published several traditionally published books. Looking for a theme to weave through new books, I landed on “justice denied” and the last four or five I have written including my latest “The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen,” are symbolic of the type of books I write. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this book will be my 25th since I never had any formal training as a writer but I’m blessed that people have enjoyed the “stop and think” aspect of the books and continue to praise my body of work.

Kaye: What do you see as pros and cons of self-publishing?

Mark: As noted in my book about the publishing process, “How to Become a Published Author: Idea to Publication,” as long as it’s what we call “traditional self-publishing (no subsidy publisher) then okay, but the career of any writer who uses a subsidy publisher where they pay to have the book published (Dorrance, iUniverse, Trafford, AuthorHouse, XLibris, etc.) is doomed with many who have come to me for consulting telling horror stories of losing their life savings, their homes, etc. Subsidy Publishing is the absolute kiss of death and so many writers fall prey to subsidy publishers that promise the moon and end up with boxes of books in the basement they can never sell since libraries and most bookstores won’t touch them. This is unfortunate since aspiring authors can use a combination of Create Space and Ingram Spark to publish a book with very minimal cost and this traditional self-publishing method is a badge of honor and libraries and bookstores will be interested in purchasing and stocking the book.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent publishing?

Mark: There seems to be confusion as to what this term means but as long as it doesn’t include subsidy publishing, I’m all for it.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional publishing?

Mark: I encourage writers to try the traditional publishing route by using query letters and book proposals and a good strategy for landing a literary agent or publisher and if that doesn’t work, then use traditional self-publishing. The advantages of traditional publishing include the publisher paying for all aspects of the publishing process, editing, layout, cover, etc. without the writer putting up a cent but most importantly traditional publishing includes distribution (my new book has Simon&Schuster distribution) which traditional self-publishing lacks since the author must do the distribution. One disadvantage these days for a first time author is that unlike ten years ago, many traditional publishers will not do much toward promotion and thus the author is expected to do the major part of the work.

Kaye: How much does the non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), that you must do yourself vary between the different models?

Mark: You are talking about completely different subjects here. With marketing and promotion, regardless of the method of publishing, an author has to understand that he or she must be the guiding force behind book publicity. With illustrations and book covers, etc. traditional publishers will handle this task while the author of any traditional self-published book is responsible for handling these matters and there are several outstanding consultants who can help with this tasks. Again, writers should stay away from subsidy publishers many of whom produce inferior books that cause problems right away with the authors’ reputation.

Kaye: Do you recommend traditional publishing for today’s aspiring authors, and why or why not?

Mark: Absolutely but writers must proceed with a well-developed strategy such as the “10-Step Method” outlined in “How to Become a Published Author.” There are no shortcuts possible here and most writers don’t want to put in the hard work necessary to secure a literary agent so their chances of securing a publisher are optimized.

 

I want to thank Mark for sharing his thoughts with us.  Also, I’m excited to be reviewing his latest book. Be sure and catch my review of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much on November 25, right here on Writing to be Read. To learn more about Mark Shaw or his books visit his website.

Don’t miss next Monday’s post and my interview with independently published YA author, Jordan Elizabeth, and get her thoughts on today’s publishing industry on Writing to be Read.

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Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 4): Interview with Traditionally Published Children’s Author, Stacia Deutsch

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So far, in this publishing series, we’ve heard from three self-published authors who say self-publishing is the way to go for today’s authors. In Part 1, we heard from my talented friend and cohort, Jeff Bowles. In Part 2, we heard from tale spinner, Tim Baker. And last week, in Part 3, we heard from storyteller and author, Arthur Rosch. This week, we’ll hear from the other side of the writing field, as I interview a traditionally published author.

Join me for today’s interview with Stacia Deutsch, who is the author of more than two hundred children’s books, both original and write for hire. I had the pleasure of first, being a cohort to and then, studying under this amazing children’s author, so vibrant and full of energy, and always smiling. She is the author of the eight book, award winning, chapter book series Blast to the Past. Her resume includes Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew,The Boxcar Children, and Mean Ghouls from Scholastic. Stacia has also written junior movie tie in novels for summer blockbuster films, including BATMAN, THE DARK KNIGHT and the New York Times Best Sellers: CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS JR.  and THE SMURFS.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

 Stacia: I didn’t know early on. This is a second career for me. One night when my kids were small, I was reading Harry Potter outlaid to them when I had an idea for a kids book about 4 kids who time travel and meet famous people n history. That became Blast to the Past. I wrote 3 whole books in the series before I ever tried to sell them.
Kaye: Would you share your own publishing story with us?
Stacia: Tell everyone you know you are writing a book. I was at dinner with people I didn’t know well. I said I’d finished a book and the woman said, “My nephew is an agent.” He wasn’t, but he knew a lot of them and helped get my first agent. Once I sold Blast to the Past, the editor asked if I wanted to ghost write Nancy Drew. I’ve been working steadily, mostly in licensed work, ever since.
Kaye: What do you see as pros and cons of self-publishing?
Stacia: I decided to try it with a book called Lucky Phoo about 3 girls who share a lucky dog. If you aren’t committed to making your self published book your life, and working at it daily, then don’t start. I sell hardly any because I am doing other things. People who do well are dedicated to the process.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional publishing? 

Stacia: I love being with traditional houses and finding my books in the big box stores, or at the airport, or at Scholastic book fairs. There is no other way into those places. The issue is that you aren’t making every cent from your own book, but you have little outlay as well. My agent gets 15% of everything I sell.

Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Stacia: It’s a big deal for the author to do their own promotion and really necessary. You have to be devoted to your audience, and build a following to be successful. You need a budget. Do you want to travel, do a book tour? website? blog tour? Everything costs. So, regardless of how you get published, play how much money and time you are willing to put into it.

Kaye: Would you recommend your chosen path to publication, to emerging writers? Why or why not?

Stacia: I am an advocate for traditional publishing. I think agents and editors are gate keepers for quality. But if you have a good idea, that doesn’t fit what houses are looking for, go for it. Just be aware of what you’ll need to do to make it work.

I want to thank Stacia for sharing her thoughts on the publishing industry with us today. If you’d like to learn more about Stacia, you can find her at www.staciadeutsch.com, @staciadeutsch and http://www.facebook/staciadeutsch. Be sure and catch Part 4 of the series next week, when I’ll interview traditionally published author Mark Shaw on Writing to be Read.
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Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 3): Interview with Self-Published Author Arthur Rosch

art-rosch-books

Your at a dinner party, chatting with other guests when someone asks what you do. You say that you’re an author and everyone is adequately impressed. It’s not every day you meet a bonefide author. Then you mention that you are self-published, and suddenly they all have somewhere better to be.

Self-publishing carries with it a certain stigma. In part, it may be due to a certain number of poor quality self-published books that flooded the market with the rise in popularity of the self-publishing market. With the rise of digital media, almost over night, it was no longer necessary to seek out and captivate a traditional publisher, and anyone, whether they write well or not, could become an author. In the beginning, as it is with most rising trends, self-publishing was a rather expensive proposition, and many authors didn’t have a whole lot to invest, so they skimped by on costs by skipping things like professional editing. Some maybe had their mother or their aunt or their brother give it a once over, but none of them had a trained eye. Others didn’t even do that, believing that their writing was so good, it didn’t need to be edited, or perhaps they were just out to make a buck, and didn’t really care if they put out a quality book. But, for whatever reasons, a lot of less than good quality self-published books made their way out into the market, marring the reputation of the self-publishing industry.

Companies like Amazon and Smashwords put another bump in the industry when they offered authors yet another avenue for publication with the e-book. Digital publishing was cheaper and easier than publishing print copies. In fact, it is virtually free to publish digitally, freeing up funds to be used for things like editing in order to create a quality piece of literature. Of course, there will always be those who are just in it for the money and don’t really care if the book they put out there is good quality, as long as it makes them money. They’re the types that will take advantage of the savings of digital publication to line their own pockets and still won;t bother to pay an editor. They are the authors that wouldn’t survive in the digital publishing world, but hopefullly, there are less of them now.

Despite the stigma attached to self-publishing, there are many talented self-published authors out there, who care about creating and publishing a quality literary product. Today’s interview is with self-published author, Arthur Rosch, who puts whatever time and effort is required into his books, sometimes taking years to complete them. Art is a talented writer. His publishing credits include his travel memoir, The Road has Eyes: A Relationship, An RV, and a Wild Ride through Indian Country, his literary novel, Confessions of an Honest Man, and his epic science fiction novel, The Gods of the Gift. Art shares a positive outlook on self-publishing with previously interviewed self-published authors, Tim Baker and Jeff Bowles. Here, Art shares his thoughts on the publishing industry with his very generous answers, as he candidly relates his own publishing journey.

Kaye: Would you share your own publishing story with us?

Art: I’ve been reading for pleasure since I was five.years old I remember the day I learned to read. It came like a lightning bolt. Aha! So that’s how it works! I made the connection between letters and the sounds they represented. It was my third week in kindergarten. I hated school but I loved to read books. I started by reading historical novels. The other kids were reading “Dick And Jane Go To The Farm”.

When I was fifteen I fell madly in love with a girl. She wanted certain attributes in a boyfriend. One of those requirements was that said boyfriend should be a poet. So, I began to write poetry to please my girlfriend. She turned out to be far less faithful than the process of writing. I gave up on the girl and stuck with the writing. When I was twenty five I was seized by the ambition to write a novel. The project became a science fiction novel called THE GONGS OF SPACE. It was awful. It did, however, attract the interest of literary agent Scott Meredith. I signed a two year contract, and proceeded to write more novels. None of them sold. I had plenty of imagination but lacked some fundamental skills in the craft of writing.. I also needed more life experience.

I’m old enough to remember the “old” model of publishing. I had an entree into that world of agents, editors and publishers. A short story of mine won Playboy Magazine’s Best Story Of The Year Award. I had my fifteen minutes of fame. All the doors were open.

Playboy invited me (with an expense account) to their twenty fifth anniversary party.. I came away with a pocket full of business cards from important people in the publishing industry. Unfortunately, at that time I was dabbling in drugs. That dabble turned into a roaring addiction that derailed me for twenty years. I wrote during those decades. I wrote a lot. But I was like the Hubble Telescope before it was repaired. I couldn’t focus. I had a wonderful opportunity that I wasted by making a very bad choice. This kind of blunder is the stuff of life. I admit, I screwed up. I prefer to regard that interval in my life as “experience”. It was my Dark Night Of The Soul I had lost my family, my home, my possessions and my dignity. But I learned from my suffering.

What can a writer do without insight into the human condition? What decent writer is not also an observer and a psychologist?. My addiction years were loaded with with lessons. I sank to the bottom of the social order. I was on the streets, completely mired in the human experience. I learned from the streets. I learned hard. Then I had to put myself back together.

Addiction is one of the central pillars of my life narrative. I wanted to heal myself, so I went into a long therapy and read everything I could find about family dynamics, addiction and obsession.. Some writers need to spend an apprenticeship in the realm of compulsion, irrationality, bad choices and failure. By the time I was in my mid forties I had a thorough apprenticeship under my belt.

When I surfaced from that underworld, I started looking for an agent. A whole generation of agents had come and gone. The publishing world had changed. I was now (by my own evaluation) a fine writer with a distinctive voice. Agents weren’t interested in me. I wrote hundreds of query letters. I had three novels and a memoir that were ready for editing and representation. I got rejections again and again. How many times did I read the same phrases? “Not quite right for us”, “good luck with your writing career”, “though you write well, I couldn’t quite fall in love with this project.”

It’s likely that you’ve also read these phrases.. In 2001 I wrote to the Scott Meredith Agency in an attempt to re-kindle some kind of relationship. My letter was answered by the head editor. Meredith had passed away and the agency continued under a new owner. My novel, CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN was well under way. The editor loved the manuscript and offered to work with me. I was not a client of the agency. I was a side-project. The editor, B.N. Malzberg., charged no fee, and worked with me on his own time. The guidance he provided helped to make CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN into a mature and viable novel.

Still, no agents wanted to represent me. It was an odd situation. Malzberg didn’t have the authority to bring me on board. I don’t know why. I never will. I’m grateful to Mr. Malzberg for the help he gave me in bringing that wonderful novel to fruition.

Kaye: What are your thoughts on the self-publishing industry?

Art: I spend a lot of time writing my novels. Some of my books have been in process for thirty years. THE GODS OF THE GIFT, a sci fi epic, was begun in 1978 and wasn’t completed until 2012. Nowadays the book scene is so competitive that a writer needs to have an extensive body of work. Writers are forced to view their works as Product. The more product you have, the more you can sell. I have to learn to write more quickly. My travel memoir, THE ROAD HAS EYES, was finished in a year. Now I’m writing a crime novel. In a month I’ve racked up 20,000 words. I do all my own cover designs. I hire out the formatting. I mostly self-edit but that’s not really a good idea. It’s better to join a writing group and share your work with your peers. Better still, hire a good editor.

It’s useful to identify one’s “brand” with a genre. It’s also good to write series. The reading audience loves series. My crime novel will be a series based on the characters I’ve invented. I have a fantasy trilogy in the works. Book One is complete. Book Two, the sequel, is under way. I’m not known as a genre writer. With good reason. My portfolio consists of one memoir, one literary novel, three sci fi novels and a crime novel-in-progress. I also have nearly three hundred blog posts in the form of reviews, poems and essays. My “brand recognition” doesn’t stick. Fortunately I have relationships with magazines like Across The Margin and Exquisite Corpse. ATM has published a lot of my work. I’ve also published as a photographer with magazines like

Shutterbug and Popular Photography. I had a centerfold in CAT FANCY. Our beautiful cat, Agate, was shown without her clothes. Agate didn’t care. She never wears clothes. We don’t believe in dressing up animals to look like people.

Kaye: Why did you choose to self-publish your books?

Art: Four years ago I began to explore the self-publishing world. Getting a book published is easy. Marketing the book is another matter. I’m not a good marketer. I plunged into the crazy world of podcasts, webinars and the pitches of various book marketing gurus. I was trying to get a basic grip on marketing strategies. The problem is that the parameters for marketing change so fast that it’s impossible to know how to approach the world of self-promotion.. Also, I was broke. Marketing costs money. I spent $1500 on paid-for reviews and marketing “helpers”. These investments weren’t completely useless, but they didn’t do much to boost my sales.

I would estimate that at least $5000 is required for a marketing budget. That’s just for starters. If you’re lucky, and if you have some talent, your investment will begin to show returns fairly quickly. You’re going to need a knack for business promotion. Marketing a self published book requires patience. Patience. Patience. Just don’t give up. You’re going to encounter a lot of rejection and a lot of discouragement. It goes with the profession of writing.

Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Art: The first thing I do every day is drop a Tweet about one of my books. Twitter is free. Facebook is…well, not quite free. As the world’s population increases, so do the number of writers competing for a piece of the audience pie. I’ve learned, to my dismay, that you don’t have to be a good writer to be successful. You just have to be a good story teller. Many popular writers tell the same story over and over again. They hit on a formula that works, and they milk it. I don’t have it in me, to be a lazy writer. I pour my heart and soul into everything I do. My books enjoy modest sales. My platform is almost non–existent. It will take time to develop my platform until it’s something more than a few Popsicle sticks taped together.

Most of my “writing time” is actually study time. When I write, I write. But I spend three or four hours a day studying marketing. And I’ll admit I’m confused. The major advertising venues change their parameters suddenly and arbitrarily. Facebook had an advertising algorithm that was favorable to the writer. Then they changed the algorithm. The amount of pay changed downward. Same with Amazon, same with Google. It’s like writing in an earthquake. The ground shifts under our feet. But that’s life, isn’t it? The ground always shifts under our feet. The one thing you can count on is CHANGE.

Kaye: Would you recommend self-publishing to aspiring authors?

Art: Traditional publishing now resembles self-publishing so much that it’s difficult to pry them apart. If you sign a contract with a big house you’re still going to have to do your own marketing. If you’re a major name, that’s different. Steven King doesn’t do his own marketing. But Arthur Rosch will indeed have to market, whether he’s self published or under contract to Random House. So…why not self publish? Statistics reveal that self publishing is garnering an ever-increasing market share. There’s no longer a stigma attached to self publishing.

Don’t give up. Persist. Stay with what you love, and if you love writing, then, you must write. Right?

You can visit my book website at roschbooks.com. My e-books are $2.99. I signed up for the Amazon KDP promotion but I haven’t seen any benefit. Next step will be to publish real paperback books. I recommend self-publishing for the simple reason that many of us have no choice. It’s so difficult to hook an agent these days that you might as well fish for salmon in the local park’s swimming pool.

I want to thank Art for sharing his story with us. Be sure and check in next week on Writing to be Read, when I’ll talk with traditionally published children’s author, Stacia Deutsch and get her views on the publishing industry.

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Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 2): Interview with Self-Published author, Tim Baker

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Today I want to talk a little about definitions, because people often independent publishing as an umbrella term to cover authors who are self-published, as well as those authors who are published through an independent publishing house. I’m guilty of this, too, as the title for this article series does not differentiate, although the series will be looking at all three options. From here on out, I will differentiate between self-published and independently published authors, and refer to smaller presses as independent presses vs, the larger publishing houses, which shall be referred to as traditional publishers.

 

In Part 1 of this series, I interviewed self-published author Jeff Bowles to get his thoughts on the publishing industry as an emerging author today. Today’s interview is with Tim Baker, the author of nine novels, two novellas, and a collection of short stories, all self-published under his own brand, Blindogg Books. I’ve had the privilege of reviewing many of those books and can tell you he writes a well crafted story. His publishing credits include Living the Dream, Water Hazard, Backseat to Justice, No Good Deed, Unfinished Business, Eyewitness BluesPump It Up, Full Circle, Dying Days, with Armand Rosamillia, and Path of a Bullet. You can contact Tim Baker or find out more about his work by visiting his website at blindoggbooks.com.

 

Kaye: Would you share your own publishing story with us?

Tim: My love for reading came early in life when I discovered Treasure Island and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at the age of ten.

A high school journalism class and a creative writing course in college turned my love of reading into a love of writing. In 1988, I began writing a book called Full Circle, which combined my love of writing with my interest in Karma. A chain of events caused the unfinished, handwritten manuscript to be tucked into a box. During the ‘90s, my time was divided between raising my son, owning a home and building a career in engineering, leaving no time for writing. It remained untouched until February of 2015 when I dusted it off and completed it for release in November 2015.

By the time I moved to Florida in 2006, my dream of penning a novel was all but forgotten…until one night when a dream rekindled my passion for writing.

Then, in April 2007, I had a dream about two old friends and a submerged box of gold bars. The next day I found himself trying to figure out the story behind the dream. By the end of that day, the impetus of a story had formed and I had scribbled out two chapters in a spiral notebook.

One year later, my first novel, Living the Dream, was complete and the dam had burst — I soon followed up with my second novel Water Hazard.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Tim: The funny thing is that I never really wanted to be an author – at least not consciously.

Even though I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing…it wasn’t until after my first book was published that I realized I was an author. All of a sudden I was an author – which was fine, because by then I had come to the realization that I loved writing.

Kaye: What made you decide to self-publish?

Tim: It wasn’t until after I completed the manuscript for my first novel (Living the Dream) that I started thinking about having it published. After a year of research I had learned a great deal about the differences between traditional publishing and indie publishing, and I decided that indie suited me better – primarily because I had read dozens of accounts about the overwhelming odds of landing a traditional publishing contract. I was not thrilled with the prospect of putting the fate of my novel in the hands of somebody who could shoot it down for any reason at all. This just didn’t seem fair.

Kaye: How did Blindogg Books come about?

Tim: Blindogg Books came about because my research taught me that indie authors need a brand for marketing purposes. I also learned that there are at least 3 other published authors named Tim Baker…so I decided to go with something other than my name.

During the 90s I raised and socialized puppies to be guide dogs for the blind…eventually I picked up the nickname “blind dog” which was changed to blindogg for internet identity reasons. When I needed a name for my brand I thought Blindogg Books had a nice ring to it. (for more info on this go to my blog)

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent publishing?

Tim: I’ve had this conversation with many people and I like to sum it up this way;

Independent publishing is a “good news/bad news” situation. The good news is that anybody can publish a book – the bad news…anybody can publish a book. The vast majority of indie authors produce quality work, however the fate of their work depends on the book buying public, so when potential readers read one of the few indie works that just wasn’t ready for publication (for whatever reason) they tend to paint all indie authors with the broad brush of low quality. So even though it’s very easy to have your work published, it’s very difficult to convince readers who have had a bad experience that your work is worthy of their money.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional publishing?

Tim: Not having any experience in the traditional world I can only speculate. I have to think that having the power of a large publishing house behind you for promotion and advertising is a nice relief from self-promotion. I also think it would be nice to get a big advance for a book. On the down side, I wouldn’t want to work under a contract which dictates when I have to finish a book. I’ve also heard that those big advances are only good if you sell enough books to cover the amount advanced. Obviously we all think our work will sell – but if it doesn’t (for whatever reason) I’d hate to have to give money back!

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent publishing?

Tim: I’ve had this conversation with many people and I like to sum it up this way;

Independent publishing is a “good news/bad news” situation.

The good news is that anybody can publish a book – the bad news…anybody can publish a book.

The vast majority of indie authors produce quality work, however the fate of their work depends on the book buying public, so when potential readers read one of the few indie works that just wasn’t ready for publication (for whatever reason) they tend to paint all indie authors with the broad brush of low quality. So even though it’s very easy to have your work published, it’s very difficult to convince readers who have had a bad experience that your work is worthy of their money.

Kaye: How much work do you contract out? Book Covers? Editing? Etc…?

Tim: Everything!! I write it – then let others do the things I’m not qualified to do. This includes editing, formatting (for kindle and paperback) and cover design/layout. Many indie authors try to do these things themselves, but I would rather pay somebody to do it because I know they’ll do a much better job than I will and I won’t be wasting my time doing something that somebody else could do in half the time, leaving me more time for writing and marketing.

The most important one of the lot (in my opinion) is editing. Any money spent on a qualified editor is money well spent. Hiring your high school English teacher or a friend/relative who is “really good at English and reads a lot” will not give you a professional quality job.

Nobody knows more than me how difficult it is to fork out hundreds of dollars foran editor, but I want my books to be the best they can be.

Kaye: So, you’re saying self-published books that aren’t of good quality stigmatize the reputation of independently published books in general?

Tim: Yes. Readers, like all consumers, don’t want to waste money on sub-par products, so if they buy an indie book that is poorly written, edited or formatted they are likely to assume that this is the level of quality for all indie books.

Kaye: Do you think one of the major contributing factors to this stigma is authors who don’t want to spend money to have their books professionally edited? Or do you see other causes?

Tim: Absolutely. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. As I said above, many indie authors think editors are like dentists – a necessary evil. I think a qualified editor is more like a good tailor. You can buy a suit off the rack and it might look decent, but a suit that is professionally tailored will make you look outstanding – and people will notice the difference!

This is not to say there aren’t other causes.

People who write a book without trying to learn even the most basic “rules” lower the bar for all of us. I hate using the word rules, let’s say guidelines…whatever you want to call them – they are critical to producing a book that will make people want to read your next one. These days there is no excuse for not learning how to write a good book. There are a gazillion websites and blogs out there devoted to teaching people how to write – use them. Most of them are free.

But – the best way to learn how to write is to read. Learn from the good books as well as the bad…

Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Tim: I don’t have an exact number, but my conservative estimate is that for every hour I spend writing – I spend three hours marketing. I tell people all the time – writing the book is the easy part…selling it is where the work starts.

Kaye: Would you recommend your chosen path to publication, to emerging writers? Why or why not?

Tim: I’m not sure how to answer that – mostly because my path wasn’t chosen as much as it was found. I had no idea what I was doing – so I did lots of research – the most valuable of which was learning from other writers. So for any emerging writers who may be reading this I can only say this…there is a ton of information at your fingertips. The internet and especially social media can help you find the path best suited for you. Get out there and tap into it. Ask questions, do your research and learn from those who went before you.

I want to thank Tim for sharing his thoughts on the publishing industry and his advice with us.  Be sure to check out next weeks interview with self-published author, Arthur Rosch, on Writing to be Read.

 

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The Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent Publishing: Interview with Jeff Bowles, self-published author

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In my post last week, Today’s Authors Wear Many Hats, I talked a little about the roles authors play in the publishing process vary between traditional and independent publishing. It got me thinking about how much the publishing process has changed since the days when I sold my first poem in 1997, before computers, the internet, and the digital revolution hit the scene.

I remember back in 2010, when I first started doing the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner gig, independent publishing, (or self-publishing, was frowned upon, the general feeling being that if you could write, you’d be able to get a traditional publisher. Digital media was still fairly new, but it opened up opportunities that made it so virtually anyone could get a book published. But, self-published authors were generally thought to be author want-to-bes, lacking in the talent and ability, so they had to publish their own book.

Over time, opinion toward self-published authors has changed, but I think it has been a long, hard struggle for self-published authors. Amazon came along and said, “Pssst! Hey! Yeah you. You got a manuscript you want to get published? You can sign on with us and publish your book for free.” Suddenly, anyone could publish a book, and just about anyone did. There were those who just want to get their book out quick and not spend the time or money required to put out a quality piece of literature, who have further tarnished the name of independently-published authors. But there truly are some fine authors out there who have chosen to self-publish in spite of the stigma attached to independent publishing, who have proven that the quality of an independently published book can be every bit as good as those put out by traditional publishers.

It was only within the last five or six years that feelings toward self-publishing have shifted. While earning my M.F.A. I watched the opinions of my professors, who are all successfully published authors change over time, from warning against self-publishing to viewing it in a more acceptable light and actually presenting it as a viable option for today’s emerging authors.

With all this in mind, I’ve asked both authors and publishers to share their thoughts on both self-publishing and traditional publishing, for this, Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing article series. I hope you’ll join me as I delve into this discussion with some representative players in the publishing game.

My first interview is with self-published author, Jeff Bowles, who has had numerous short stories published by in reputable publications such as Stupefying Stories Showcase, PodCastle,Nashville ReviewThe Threepenny Review, Pseudopod, and Spark: a Creative Anthology. He recently self-published his collection of short stories,  Godling and Other Paint Stories on Amazon. Jeff was also one of my cohorts in the Creative Writing program at Western State,so he now has his M.F.A. with emphasis in genre fiction. He is a talented writer, with a self-proclaimed god complex, who has written some amazing stories.

 

Kaye: You’ve had quite a bit of short fiction published. Are there any publishing credits I didn’t mention in my introduction?

Jeff: My first short story appeared in an academic student arts journal called Riverrun, I also recently made a sale to Black Static also.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Jeff: I knew when I met my wife. I was a musician before, though I’d always wanted to be an author of some sort since I could remember. We wanted to have a family someday so I just decided working from home as a writer would always be better than touring as a singer/songwriter. I began my professional writing career about eight years ago now, I guess. Never looked back, but believe me there have been times I’ve wanted to. The very first story I wrote was in the third grade and it was a nice little piece of Star Wars fan fiction, in which Uncle Owen comes back to life as a dark Jedi assassin with wolf fur. Luke was gonna be in trouble, man!

Kaye: As a rising author, are you in favor of traditional publishing, self-publishing or a combination of both?

Jeff: I think a combination of both is definitely the way to go, though traditional publishing will always be the best as far as I’m concerned. If you’ve got the resources and you can snag reviews and distribute advanced copies of your work to the right people, self-pubbing is a damn fine way to get seen. But as an industry, we’re predicated on the big sales to the big publishers. I’d recommend young writers do their best to place their material with the largest publishers they can, and then if all else fails, get your stuff out there via Amazon or Barnes & Noble or some other online service.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent publishing?

Jeff: The major pro is that it’s easy to do these days. Every sale you make comes to you and if you’re good at self promotion, you can make a major dent in your readership just by being out front and being you. The major con is that the traditional publishing industry will always have more resources to throw around for their big name authors, which means if you can get to that place, you’ll never want for an audience and you may not have to do too much legwork yourself.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of traditional publishing?

Jeff: As far as pros go, it’s the industry that can get you a spot in the NYT Bestsellers list, though the odds of that happening are always going to be slim. Cons of traditional publishing include the realization that as a new author, you’re going to be sidelined a bit in favor of writers who’ve been around the block a few times. You will still have to do most, if not all of your own promotional work, though distribution and rights management will most likely be on autopilot. Get yourself a good literary agent to negotiate your contracts and make sure you keep working your butt off after that first book hits the market. When it comes to short story sales, traditional publishing is definitely still the name of the game. If you can get your work published under the umbrella of a large publisher, you definitely should.

Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), did you have to do yourself to publish your book?

Jeff: There are a ton of resources these days for marketing and promoting a book. Amazon has it’s own internal advertising service which puts your work right in people’s faces over their Kindles, and Facebook and Google also allow for promotions which can be seen by thousands of eyes a day. I painted the cover of my book myself, and the interior design was mine as well. If you haven’t got any artistic ability you can hire craftspeople on the internet to help you put an amazing-looking book together. I was kind of lucky in that it hasn’t cost me much at all to produce Godling and Other Paint Stories, but if I had a bit more money, I know I could very easily be doing more. The sky’s the limit with this stuff. Your marketing potential will be matched by your time and resources.

Kaye: Would you recommend other authors publish independently? Why or why not?

Jeff: I would certainly recommend it. I think in a perfect world you’d want to be doing maybe 70% to 80% of your publishing via the traditional model, but I don’t know that I’d want to give up self-publishing entirely, just because it allows for so much flexibility. I’ve got material in my personal archive that’s never seen the light of day and I know for a fact much of it would be too risky for a traditional publisher. You can kind of stick your experiments and B-sides on Amazon at anytime. I love that about modern publishing. No matter what you do, you’ve got the ability to get your work seen, and that’s the  ultimate high for a writer.

 

I want to thank Jeff Bowles for sharing his thoughts with us here on Writing to be Read, and I hope you will all drop by in the following weeks to hear from more authors, both independently and traditionally published, and publishers, too, to see how opinions vary on traditional vs. independent publishing models.

 

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Weekly Writing Memo: Networking

Weekly Writing MemoSorry I have been missing the last few weeks. As you might have seen on  Author the World, I unexpectedly moved to Los Angeles and haven’t had a lot of time to do posts. This week’s post is all about networking. Networking is a major element of having a writing career, and it takes some practice to really learn the right and wrong ways to network.

The most important thing to remember when networking is that you shouldn’t be doing it to use people, and you shouldn’t be doing it to be selfish. Good networking is about being genuine. The best way to network is to approach each networking relationship you make with the attitude of how you can help each other, rather than focusing on how they can help you. The best kinds of networking relationships are mutually beneficial, and maintaining this kind of attitude helps these relationships stay healthy and fulfilling.

Building your Network

You can build your network literally anywhere, it’s all about meeting people and learning about them. If you know who people are, what they do, and what kinds of people they know, you can keep them in mind for later if something comes up they can help with. For writing, often times you can make networking connections in writing groups, classes, at conferences, or even in random places like coffee shops and hair salons. The important thing is to keep your eyes open for people you can help, and for people that may be able to help you. Remember, things need to go both ways, and sometimes the act of offering help to someone can lead to unexpected connections. Ultimately, all networking contacts break down into four different types that can each be beneficial in their own way.

The Introducer

The Introducer may not have any work for you, and may not be someone who is going to offer you advice, but they do know people you want to know and they will help you meet them. These kinds of contacts are always useful to maintain because they help broaden your network, and they can help introduce you to other parts of the writing world you may not be familiar with. One of the best way to meet new people is through a middle-man who can introduce you because it can cut out the awkward process of trying to force a meeting with a stranger. If you’re going to be the Introducer for someone else, remember to make sure you give each person’s name, and then try to share what they have in common or why you think they should talk so you can help jump start the conversation.

The Mentor

The mentor is someone who has been where you are and knows a lot about the business. They are the perfect sort of person who can offer you advice, and give you guidance that will make navigating the writing world easier. Maybe they won’t be able to get you a job, or introduce you to new people, but they will help you find answers to the random questions and issues you run into. Just make sure you don’t burden your mentor by asking too much of them, or wasting their time with easy questions that you could have found out anywhere. They may only have so much free time, so make sure to figure out how much help they are willing to give you and to stick within that range. If you are going to be a mentor, be clear up front what you are willing to do for the person you’re helping, but also try to remember what it was like when you were where they are.

The Helper

The Helper is someone who has an opportunity for you that could potentially help your career, whether it’s a job or an interview doesn’t matter, it’s someone that can put you in line for a job or a writing sale. These kinds of connections are incredibly valuable because they are what give your career a boost. The important thing to remember when meeting people who offer you these types of opportunities is to make the most of them, and to make sure you don’t misrepresent yourself to the person setting it up, because if you waste it or lie it could prevent the person from ever offering you another opportunity again.

The Teammate

In some ways, these are the most valuable networking connections you can make. The Teammate is someone who is going through the same stuff you are at the same time. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of, or trade writing with. They are on your side and you are mutually trying to help each other reach your goals. For writing, having people you can talk writing with is incredibly important, as is having people around who understand what you’re going through. If you are a teammate to someone, make sure the help isn’t going one way. If you find yourself asking too much and not doing anything in return, then try to find a balance.

Final Notes

Ultimately, networking is about broadening the connections you have in your industry, and maintaining those connections by trying to keep things mutually beneficial for all involved. Even if you can’t help someone the moment they help you, always try to keep them in mind and return the favor when you can. One of the most important elements of networking is that the people around you see that you are a part of the cycle of helping, and that you aren’t just a vacuum sucking up all the favors you can get without returning anything. People will quickly notice if you only ever seem to receive help, so the more you can be a part of the cycle the better.


2016 Write the Rockies Conference Growing with Success

 

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When I attended my first Writing the Rockies Conference at Western State Colorado University, back in 2012, it was a three day event, with panels and workshops on genre fiction, screenwriting, and poetry. It had a couple of publishing workshops, too, but the poetry symposium was a major event. You could sign up for critiques and pitch sessions with small presses and agents, and they served delicious sack lunches made by Western State’s great kitchen staff. Every year since, the conference has gotten bigger, including more and more great events for authors, poets, screenwriters and publishers future.

The 2016 Writing the Rockies Conference has continued in that growth trend. Director of Western State’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing program and head organizer of the conference, David J. Rothman tells us that Writing the Rockies is now the most diverse of all college hosted writing conferences, boasting writing workshops, keynotes and panels, 3-day intensive workshops and critical seminars in five individual concentrations: genre fiction, screenwriting, creative nonfiction, publishing, in addition to their wonderful poetry symposium. It is now five day event, which takes advantage of inspirational surroundings of the beautiful Gunnison Valley, with one whole day for group hikes in the beautiful area surrounding near-by Crested Butte. Gone are the sack lunches of the past, but the food is still good, with Western’s kitchen staff providing both breakfast and lunch for conference attendees.

The conference is so packed full of wonderful writing events and opportunities that no one can do them all. Aspiring writers must pick and choose those events that will be most beneficial to them. I had the pleasure of attending events in all five concentrations, creating a well-rounded educational experience, from which I learned a lot.

I started off with the genre fiction panel, which featured three former presidents of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America – authors James Gunn, Robin Wayne Bailey and Russell Davis gave a grand overview of the history of SFWA and the science fiction genre. I was also privileged to attend the screenwriting panel, featuring screenwriters for both feature films and television – J.D. Payne, Alan Wartes and J.S. Mayank, where we discussed how to take notes on your screenplay or series, who to take notes from, and ways to politely disregard notes that are detrimental to the structure of your script.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Conference Keynote, by George Sibley, or the Poetry Keynote, by Julie Kane on Wednesday evening. If they were anywhere near the quality and usefulness of the four Keynotes I did hear, then I have truly missed out.

Rebecca McEwen

Fulcrum Press Editor Rebecca McEwen

Publishing Keynote Speaker

The Publishing Keynote was given by Fulcrum Press editor, Rebecca McEwen, who talked about the value of small presses and when you might want to consider submitting press that is not among the big five. According to McEwen, there are currently 30 small independent publishers in Colorado.

Robin Wayne Bailey

Author Robin Wayne Bailey

Genre Fiction Keynote Speaker

The Creative Nonfiction Keynote was delivered by author Broughton Coburn, who has created story from many of the events in his extraordinary life and turned them into bestselling books. His touching story of bringing an elderly Indian woman to America with him, brought smiles to all faces in the audience. He talked about finding common threads in your true-life story which can then be used to tie things together as you put the story on the page.Broughton Coburn

Author Broughton Coburn

Creative Nonfiction Keynote Speaker

Author Robin Wayne Bailey, gave an inspiring Genre Fiction Keynote on the importance of life experience in writing, and how moving writing can be, coming near to tears himself as he spoke of times past as he recounted parts of his own personal history for emphasis. And, there were chuckles from the audience throughout screenwriter J.D. Payne’s Screenwriting Keynote on the journey to becoming a screenwriter, ways to handle the criticism and rejection that are so very prominent in the Industry, and how to take notes, another big part of writing for television or film.

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Screenwriter J.D. Payne

Screenwriting Keynote Speaker

I attended a genre fiction workshop and two screenwriting workshops, since these are my major concentrations. The first screenwriting workshop, led by screenwriter, Mary Beth Fielder, was on the transformational arc that every story and every major character needs to have. She talked about looking at the subtext to indicate what’s really going on in each scene, and how to use basic human needs to determine what your characters goals are.

The second screenwriting workshop, on creating conflict, was led by screenwriter J.S. Mayank, pointing out that in story we do the opposite of what we do in real life. In real life, we tend to avoid conflict, while in story we invite it. To provide examples of scenes with well-crafted conflict, video clips from several different movies were shown, some that made us laugh, others that made us want to cry.

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J.D. Payne, J. S. Mayank, and Alan Wartse

Screenwriting Panel at the

2016 Writing the Rockies Conference

The genre fiction workshop, on creating complex female characters, led by women’s fiction author Candace Nadon. She talked about the female stereotypes used in creating female characters, and ways to recognize and avoid them in your writing. Most of her advice for creating strong female characters, was in the form of what not to do, proving that there is a fine line to balance strength and feminity.

Screenwriter and co-organizer of the Crested Butte Film Festival, Michael Body was both educational and entertaining in his screening lecture. He used actual clips submitted to the festival for consideration. Two of the clips were humorous, but the other one was just plain bad, illustrating well the many reasons films do, or don’t get into film festivals. The bad one was so bad that the audience elected not to finish watching it.

Micheal Brody

Screenwriter Michael Brody

Co-Founder of The Crested Butte Film Festival

Along with everything else, the talent featured at the Writing the Rockies Conference also grows each year. In addition to the genre fiction and screenwriting names above, this year’s poetry symposium featured were renowned poets and critics, such as A.M. Juster, Jan Schreiber, John Talbot, Bruce Bennett, Christopher Norris, Emily Grosholz, Thomas Cable, Paul Edwards, Natalie Gerber, Niles Ritter, Frederick Turner, Richard Wakefield, and Robert Maranto.

Of the thirty publishers in Colorado today, at least seven were represented at the 2016 Writing the Rockies Conference: Conundrum Press Publisher, Caleb Seeling; Fulcrum Press editor, Rebecca McEwen; Slant News editor, Kyle Harvey; Dave Trendler, of VeloPress; Fred Ramey of Unbridled Books; Lithic Press Publisher, Danny Rosen; and Senior Acquisitions Editor of NavPress, David Zimmerman.

Creative Nonfiction is a new concentration which was added this year, featuring award-winning author, Kase Johnstun; essayist, Kelsey Bennett; and nature writer, Alissa Johnson. Genre fiction authors not mentioned above included Clay Reynolds; children’s author, Stacia Deutsch; and speculative fiction author, Michaela Roessner.

The 2016 Writing the Rockies Conference appeared to be a great success. It holds many opportunities for aspiring writers, and 2017 promises to have e1ven more, becoming larger and more prestigious than ever before. I anticipate 2017 conference attendees will have quite a treat in store.

 

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