Posts tagged Publishing
Posts tagged Publishing
Please see my latest article on my Facebook business page about Ghostwriting:
I have ghostwritten many published books. It is a spooky way to make a living because nobody knows you exist, and the “author” has a vested interest in keeping you as secret as possible. Please see my list of books you may not realize were written by ghostwriters - and I don’t mean just A SHORE THING by Snooki, either.
Please see my latest article on my Facebook business page about the years I spent editing bodice busters - I mean, historical romances. These were extremely profitable for the publisher and sold like wildfire. The only problem was… I hated them.
Inspired by a particularly rosy article about self-publishing, I decided to find out some actual data about book sales. I’ll give away the biggest statistic of all if you go read the article on my Facebook business page at:
The most remarkable statistic is that we are on track for issuing ISBN numbers in 2012 for 15,000,000 books. FIFTEEN MILLION! Traditional book publishing is flat, so you know what this means. A tsunami of very bad self-published books is washing over the publishing industry. Few will be read or sold.
However, there will be a few gems amidst the dirt and rock - just sufficient to keep us hopeful enough to try our luck against the other 14,999,999 titles.
Is it ethical to encourage people to self-publish? Read the rest of the data and you decide.
Please see my post on my Facebook business page about the shocking turn of events in which Penguin Publishers decide they should not have to hand out half a million dollars to authors without getting anything in return.
It appears, that I have … entirely by accident … developed a manifesto. Let me tell you how this happened.
So, because I am an author and am generally presentable and have shoes and things … and because I spend a lot of time online … I sometimes get asked to speak at conferences and panels. I laughed until I fell over the first time I was asked, but it’s a fairly regularly occurrence now, and I look forward to those weird, squat water bottles they often give you when you are up at a podium. I can spend a good five minutes of my speech just thinking about those little water bottles. That’s why I smile so much up there.
Anyway, more and more, I get asked to do talks and panels on social media. Lots of times, I don’t even know what people really want these panels or talks to be about. “Social media” is new and big and weird, and there are very few true experts. So they just scoop up whoever is around (like, for example, me) and stick us in front of a room and call us experts.
A panel of experts.
I did one panel very recently, and it broke me. On that day, the MANIFESTO came to me. And now, I want to share it with you.
I took my place up on the dais and immediately looked for my little water bottle. I was seated next to a woman I’d never met. We shared a microphone. I noticed that she had already grabbed it and was CLINGING to it like it might try to escape. I put this down to nerves until the panel started, at which point it became clear that if I ever wanted that microphone, I was probably going to have to engage in some form of physical combat.
My neighbor had a lot to say. She had a MESSAGE. She talked longer than anyone, and over everyone and through everyone. Her message, as far as I could determine, was that the internet is all about getting out there and SELLING yourself.
“I’m a brand,” she said, every minute or so. “I’m always thinking of ways to promote my brand.” It was all brand, brand, brand, brand, brand.
The other thing she said that made my head swivel around uncomfortably was, “Get your message and repeat it OVER AND OVER. Just keep saying your message OVER AND OVER in the same way. Just tweet it and put it out on Facebook OVER AND OVER.”
LET ME TELL YOU A LITTLE MORE ABOUT ME.
She was certainly not the first person I’d heard this from. I hear this almost everywhere I go where there are people talking about social media, and I feel that it is time that I rise up against it. In fact, I did, right there and then. I grabbed the microphone from her grasp and said, “I am not a brand.”
She grabbed the microphone back and started clarifying that she really, really, really is a brand and brands are awesome … and the more she went on, the more I thought: I am not a brand. I wanted to whisper it, but that would have been creepy.
Just to be clear on this thing I am not, maybe I should define my understanding of personal branding. A personal brand is a little package you make of yourself so you can put yourself on the shelf in the marketplace and people will know what to expect or look for when they come to buy you. For example, Coke is a brand. When you see Coke, you expect a dark brown effervescent sweet drink that is always going to taste like … Coke. McDonalds is going to sell you inexpensive, fast food. The Ritz or the Four Seasons is going to sell you a luxury experience. BP will now be known as the brand that destroys the costal ecosystem of the southeastern United States.
And yes, authors sometimes have these “brands.” Nicholas Sparks is going to sell you a roman … love story, excuse me …where someone dies of cancer/similar disease at the end. V.C. Andrews will sell you something awesomely insane and creepy. Dan Brown will sell you a series of puzzles, facts, and clues leading to the unveiling of a huge secret. Tom Clancy will sell you something with a submarine or some kind of large weapon in it. You get the idea. I don’t know if any of the above actively works on his or her “brand” … (well, V.C. Andrews won’t, since she died in 1986 having written only eight books—her official ghostwriter has written over sixty more in her name since that time, which is pretty impressive work).
I am not saying that it is a bad or dishonest thing to try to sell your work. It is not. What I am saying is that I am tired of the rush to commodify everything, to turn everything into products, including people. I don’t want a brand, because a brand limits me. A brand says I will churn out the same thing over and over. Which I won’t, because I am weird.
So there we were, grappling for the microphone, polar opposites in every way. And then I noticed that when people on the other side of the table were talking, the woman pulled out her phone and started reading messages. She didn’t listen to what the others were saying.
I was having a difficult time listening to all of this.
Some people don’t get it. They don’t get that the internet is a conversation. They think the message only goes one way—out. Things must be shouted. Things must be thrust in your face. Things must be sold.
This certainly applies to what I do. The more the internet expands, the more people—okay, authors, who are a KIND of people—are being encouraged* to go online and PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE! To aid in this endeavor, these poor writers are being shipped off to conferences where they roll out people like me under the guise of being experts on something. And in general, the quality of advice is pretty craptastic. “Get a Facebook page!” “Get lots of people to LIKE you!” “SHOUT THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK AT PEOPLE UNTIL THEY START CRYING AND BUY IT.” Or, more annoyingly, we experts use the genuine language of community (“Make authentic friends!” “Network!”) to do the same thing, just with a softer sell. But it’s still all about selling.
On rare occasions, you get to hear someone amazing, like Cory Doctorow or John Green … people who have really good, sound ideas about how to make the internet MORE AWESOME. Personally, unless I’m with them or people like them, I don’t think I really want to do any more of these panels. I’m definitely repeating and boring myself at this point. My message is always:
There is usually a lot of emphasis on numbers one and five.
I think the divide is pretty basic. I think there are people out there who see the internet as a way of employing the same old techniques of SHILL, SHILL, SHILL. A hundred years ago, they would have rolled up to you in a wagon, shouting about their tonic. Fifty years ago, they would have rolled their vacuum cleaners up to your door.
The other side, the side I am on, is the one that sees an organic internet full of people. Sure, when I have a book come out, I will often say, “Please, could you buy a copy? I need to buy food and post-it notes and hamsters.” But in reality, I wouldn’t suggest it if I didn’t think you would like it. I have a lot of fun writing my books, and hey, if you can buy one, great! I think it’s just as great if you take it out of the library. I write because I actually like doing it, and through some miracle of science, I get paid, so wayhay!
Anyway, we had a fun afternoon, she and I, wrestling for the microphone. Every time I got it for a moment, she instantly dragged it back to talk more about HER BRAND. We were polar opposites, battling it out to the death. The difference was, when I stepped down off the stage, I was greeted by a row of readers who had brought me snacks and just wanted to hang out. I was happy to see them. And I’m not saying the other woman IMMEDIATELY went off and clubbed a baby seal, but I have no evidence to the contrary, so let’s say no more about it.
MY POINT IS … it’s early days yet on the internet, and lines are being drawn. We can, if we group together, fight off the weenuses and hosebags who want to turn the internet into a giant commercial. Hence, the manifesto. It goes something like this:
The internet is made of people. People matter. This includes you. Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people—talk TO people. It’s organic. Make stuff for the internet that matters to you, even if it seems stupid. Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare … but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make. Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand—tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people.
And remember the previous points one and five.
We still have a shot at this. Let’s do it.
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT was told to stick to teaching. If she had, we would not have LITTLE WOMEN.
MADELEINE L’ENGLE’S A WRINKLE IN TIME was rejected 29 times. It went on to win the Newbery Medal in 1963.
FRANK HERBERT’S DUNE was rejected 20 times.
STEPHEN KING received dozens of rejections for his first novel, CARRIE. Is there anyone who now has not heard of that book?
BEATRIX POTTER’S THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT was turned down so many times she self-published it. Is this the first cross-over success story (from self-publishing to traditional publishing)?
ANNE FRANK’S DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL was rejected 16 times. Publishing house Knopf said it was “a dreary record of family bickering.” Over 30 million copies are now in print.
MARGARET MITCHELL’S GONE WITH THE WIND was rejected 38 times. It was made into a successful movie and, of course, is still in print.
J.K. ROWLING’S HARRY POTTER was rejected a dozen times. It was finally accepted by Bloomsbury because the publisher’s child begged the father to print it. The rest is history.
DR. SEUSS was told his work was “too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” So… different is bad?
RICHARD BACH was told JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL “will never make it as a paperback.” It sold over 7 million copies.
H.G. WELLS submitted WAR OF THE WORLDS and was told “it is an endless nightmare…I think the verdict would be, ‘Oh, don’t read that horrid book.’”
AYN RAND was informed that ATLAS SHRUGGED was “unsaleable and unpublishable.”
EMILY DICKINSON published just 7 poems during her lifetime. An editor said her work was “generally devoid of true poetical qualities.”
VLADIMIR NABOKOV was told that LOLITA should be “buried under a stone for a thousand years.”
WILLIAM GOLDING’S LORD OF THE FLIES was called “rubbish and dull.”
JOHN LE CARRE’S THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD was passed up by one publisher and given to another with the words, “You’re welcome to Le Carre - he hasn’t got any future.”
GERTRUDE STEIN received a mocking rejection for THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALICE B. TOKLAS that included: “Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.”
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If a publisher declines your ms., remember it is merely the decision of one fallible human being, and try another. - Stanley Unwin
The manuscript of THE HELP was rejected by 26 literary agents. Just sayin’
As a reader, do you feel the need to know about the life of the writer whose book you are reading? Or is the book itself enough?
I’m asking this question because sometimes it’s better not to know. Heaven knows there are plenty of famous painters who were dreadful human beings, and plenty of writers and poets who were addicted to opium or alcohol and not exactly pillars of their communities.
Sometimes a book is good, but the writer is bad. For example, Dickens - whose writing I adore - kicked his wife out onto the street 22 years of marriage and many children, the youngest of whom was just 6 when his mother was expelled. John Cheever was a bisexual alcoholic. Science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard was not only a satanist, but also was such a raving lunatic he was being given injections of psychiatric tranquilizers when he died. Virginia Woolf was mentally ill, had affairs with women, and killed herself by placing heavy stones in her pockets walking into a river. Ernest Hemingway was an alcoholic womanizer who died by shooting himself in the head. Even Thoreau was something of a crank who depended on his friend Emerson to keep a roof over his head. And on and on.
These days publishers have commanded writers to get to know their readers - to set up blogs and Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for sharing their thoughts and the stories from their lives so readers will feel a personal connection with them that translates into book sales. This all seems utterly cynical to me, since the bottom line is making money.
What if we really don’t like the writer very much - say, James Frey, or Bret Easton Ellis? What if he or she is a terrible person, but writes a beautiful book? Do we really need to know so much about the individual?
What if a writer is shy and uncomfortable with social media? Should he or she be punished for not having a “publicity platform”?
If you are a reader or a writer, let me know how you feel about all this.
RT @BetsyLerner http://www.betsylerner.com
Did you hear the one about the man whose agent killed his family and burned down his house? The guy comes home to discover that his wife and children have been raped and murdered, and his house has been burned down. The cop explains that his agent had come to his house.
“Really?” the guy says, all excited. “My agent came to my house?”
Betsy hosted special Holiday comments section for griping about agents. While some commenters had nothing but nice things to say, the rest had stories that will make your hair stand on end. If you are seeking an agent, you should probably read them.
As it says in the comments, you either get Betsy or you don’t.
The 13 most obnoxious publishing stories of 2010 http://tinyurl.com/2fxdrke
//For anyone still wondering if publishing is nuts
13. Grand Central Publishing awarded comedian Chelsea Handler her own book imprint. The second book to be released under her new imprint will reportedly be penned by her dog, Chunk.
12. Literary agent Andrew Wylie launched his own publishing imprint in June, a partnership with Amazon to publish exclusive eBook editions of dozens of classic books. When Random House (and nearly the rest of the publishing world) disputed his authority to publish the books, he relented.
11. Breakout Jersey Shore star The Situation dropped a book in November, his “Guide to Creeping on Chicks.”
10. Hilary Duff’s YA series. Duff compared writing to wedding planning: “I was planning [my] wedding, and there’s deadlines with that, too… I couldn’t even choose which one is harder. I guess I’d say the book.” Other celebrities “writing” novels in 2010 included Lauren Conrad and Nicole Richie.
9. Two New York Times reviews and a TIME cover story for Jonathan Franzen’s latest book got some female authors least tweeting. Using the hashtag “Franzenfreude,” Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult engaged the Twitterverse in an ongoing conversation on women’s place in the literary world.
8. Do we really want to rehash the Cooks Source train-wreck? The editor insisted everything online is for public use - without acknowledgment. The magazine is now history.
7. Google Books. the eBook store that landed with a thud in December. Its impact on the publishing world is still up in the air.
6. TWO books by Sarah Palin. “Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue (out in paperback in 2010), and the former Alaska governor’s second book, America by Heart, featuring no fewer than three American flags on the cover, was released in November.
5. James Frey’s re-entry into the literary world. Frey’s company, Full Fathom Five, has hired 30 or so struggling novelists for $500 apiece in an attempt to create “the next Twilight.” The contracts, according to New York Magazine, are “brutal.”
4. Borders contemplatied a bid for Barnes & Noble. Rogue investors also made a play for Barnes & Noble (and failed). Which chain bookstore will be the last one standing in the US?
3. 16-year-old Justin Bieber’s illustrated memoir was released in October and gobbled up by his fanbase and ignored by critics. To promote his book, he even began wearing thick-rimmed glasses.
2. Jonathan Franzen was impossible to ignore in 2010, from his TIME cover story to reports of his trademark glasses being stolen off his face at a London book party. Oh, and there was Oprah, too. You remember what he said the first time she invited him.
1. Time to slit your veins. MTV’s Jersey Shore star Snooki got a book deal with Simon and Schuster for a novel, A Shore Thing. The pint-sized TV star admitted to reading only two books—in her entire life (Twilight and Toxic Men - or so she says, anyway).
“SO YOU WANT TO WRITE A NOVEL.” Please watch if you are an aspiring author. I’ve watched this three times already.
The 10 highest paid authors:
For God’s Sake, Buy Your Friends’ Books: http://dld.bz/7rxY
// Excellent post!