Friday, June 28, 2019

It's time to abolish the term "published author."
It's easier to become a published author than a Cub Scout.


A great many years ago I was a Cub Scout. The lowest rank in Cub Scouting was and is Bobcat. Every Cub starts as a Bobcat. You can't be a Cub Scout and not be at least a Bobcat. A Bobcat is lower than a Wolf or a Bear. A Bobcat doesn't have to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, build a crystal radio, bandage a wound, walk on snowshoes or help an old lady cross the street.

To be a Bobcat a kid has to learn and say the Cub Scout motto, promise and the Law of the Pack—and tell what they mean; show the Cub Scout sign, salute and handshake—and tell what they mean; and show that he understands and believes that it is important to be honest and trustworthy.

Since those requirements were so basic, (if I remember correctly) we were not allowed to wear our Bobcat pins on our spiffy new uniforms.

I thought of that recently when I was reading an introduction from a new member of an online group for authors.

The newbie said, "I am a published author."

I wanted to say, "BIG FUCKING DEAL!"


At one time being a published author implied that either:
  • A person wrote something so important or wonderful that a publisher paid to publish the book.
  • A person is so famous (like Levi Johnston, the almost-son-in-law of Sarah Palin) that a publisher paid to publish the book.
  • A person is egotistical and wealthy enough to pay thousands of dollars to a vanity press to publish the book.
Today, it takes almost no skill, time or money to become a published author.
  • If you can click a keyboard and move a mouse, you can be a published author.
  • The cost can be ZERO.
  • You don't have to impress anyone.
  • You can be a terrible writer and still be a published author.
  • It doesn't matter if nobody reads your book.
  • It's easier to become an author than to become a Bobcat.
  • You don't even have to learn to salute or promise to follow Akela.
Since it is so easy to become a published author, it means nothing to say you are one. So, DON'T DO IT.



(By the way, it means almost nothing to say you're a bestselling author, but I'm one.)





Monday, June 24, 2019

It's best to not piss off people online. The web never forgets.



In the 21st century, when many people consider doing business with a company or making a purchase, one of the first things they do is to search for comments online.

Eighteen years ago my wife ignored abundant bad reviews and we suffered until recently with a big-buck Dacor 'pro-style' gas range (recently replaced with a fine Jenn-Air.

I check reviews several times a week before ordering from Amazon (recent winners include a dandelion puller, pool-cleaning robot and socks), and I read comments about the Honda Crosstour before even visiting dealers. (The car is great.)

A search for Outskirts Press on Google showed more than 5 million results. However, on the critical first three pages, many are NEGATIVE. Two negative links on the first page are for this blog.

A search on Bing showed two negative links for Outskirts on the first results page and more negative links on other pages.

Any person or business with an online existence may accumulate online criticism—and it may be on the web forever. Do the right thing, and do things right.

Yes, I know that the blog title warns about pissing people off, and I often piss people off with what I write on this blog. I like to think that I am performing a public service (and maybe providing some entertainment). The targets of my criticism deserve to be criticized. So far, no one I've pissed off in this blog has sued me. I am willing to take the chance. I like the First Amendment very much. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

What does an independent author need to do?



I've been writing professionally since 1969. I've had books published by a big-name publisher (Doubleday) and by a small, long-gone publisher—but most of my 40-plus books have been published by my own Silver Sands Books.

When others published my books all I had to do was write. I much prefer the control, speed and income when I publish my own books, but I have to do much more work.

Here's some of what's involved:

1. Have at least one book idea.



2. Unless you are using a publishing services company such as Xlibris or Outskirts Press and are willing to have its name on your books, pick a name for your own publishing enterprise. Think of several acceptable names and do some research so you can select one that’s not already being used by another company in publishing or a related field. Even if you now think you will publish in just one genre, pick a name that won't limit the kinds of books you will publish. You may think you'll publish books only about car repair, ballet or vegetable-growing, but a too-specific name will hurt your chances to expand if you change your mind later. It may be tough to market a sci-fi book if your company name is "Ballerina Books" and your logo is a tutu or ballet slippers.


3. Register the name in the local government office that registers names, often the town clerk's office. You will get an “assumed name” certificate, “fictitious name” certificate, or a “DBA” (Doing Business As) certificate. It probably will cost just a few bucks. You may be required to advertise the business name in a local newspaper.


4. Get whatever licenses or permits that your state or municipality requires.


5. Open a business checking account under the business name.


6. Get business cards.


7. Set up a website.


8. Set up a businesslike email address, not a personal Gmail or Yahoo email account.


9. Write the first book.


10. Have the book copyedited and, if necessary, get more extensive editing.


11. Have the book read by several laypeople and, if the subject is in a specialized or technical field, by one or more experts on the subject.


12. Make the suggested changes.


13. Either gather the necessary photos, graphs and illustrations or have custom artwork made.


14. Either design the interior yourself or hire a pro to do it.


15. Either design the covers and spine yourself or hire a pro to do them. (You should probably hire a pro.)


16. Show several cover alternatives to people whose judgment you respect. Strive to stimulate thought and dialog—not merely “I like it,” “I hate it,” “OK,” “wow” or “hmmm.”


17. Put your manuscript into book-like format, using either Microsoft Word or a more sophisticated program.


18. Insert the artwork in the proper positions.


19. Read, read, read, and have others read, read, read—on the screen in multiple formats and on printed papers.


20. Establish an account with Lightning Source, IngramSpark, Amazon's KDP (which absorbed CreateSpace) or several of them so they will print and distribute your book—or use a publishing service if you want to do less work and are willing to have less control and make less money. If you plan to publish only ebooks you can do everything yourself with Amazon's KDP system (Kindle only). If you want broad distribution, I recommend eBookIt.


21. Promote, promote, promote. Let lots of potential readers know that your book exists and convince them to buy. Promotion includes news releases, book reviews, comments on blogs and websites, email signatures, your own websites and blogs, social networks including Facebook and LinkedIn, distributing business cards, mailing out letters and post cards, signing autographs at bookstore sessions, and whatever else you can think of. Below I have inserted a picture of one of my recent books, Do As I Say, Not As I Did. Here's a link. This is a form of promotion. If you're an author who wants to make money, you have to promote your books. If you are bashful, you may starve.







Friday, June 14, 2019

What's missing from many poorly selling books?
PASSION and PROMOTION



The Internet is filled with bad advice on creating bestselling books. Most of it involves finding the most popular online search topics.



According to many of the 'experts' (most of whom want to sell you something), if millions of people are interested in Oprah, Wells Fargo or Obama, you can easily sell millions of books about Oprah, Wells Fargo or Obama—and make millions of dollars.
  • The authoritative ignoramuses say that it doesn't matter if you're a shitty writer, know nothing about the subject and don't think professional editing and design are necessary.
Some 'experts' tell you that instead of actually writing a book you can just copy words from the web and paste them together, use any available software to create a cover and soon untold riches and fame will be yours.



(above) Sadly, many of the ugliest and least-useful books are written to help others publish books.

There is no certainty about selling anything. There are many things a writer—even a very good writer—cannot control.  
  • Research, testing and advance publicity might be useful, but trying to tailor a book to perceived reader interest can lead to yet another redundant barbecue cookbook, stop-smoking guide or celebrity confession.
Market research is no substitute for PASSION for the subject of the book and strong PROMOTION for the book.
  • Without passion, writers are factory laborers.
  • Without effective promotion, potential readers won't know the book exists.
Also, if you delay publication so you can engage in extensive research and test marketing, interest in the subject may pass by the time your book goes on sale and competitive books may beat you to the marketplace.
  • If an author is aiming at traditional publishing, a year of advance research before a search for an agent and publisher can be an eternity.
  • Self-publishing greatly reduces the time-to-market compared to traditional publishing. A book can be published in a few weeks or months.
Over a dozen of my books have been bestsellers with ZERO market research. Steve Jobs developed amazing Apple products based on his own passion, not on market research.

My recent book, Do As I Say, Not As I Did quickly became a bestseller without my checking to find out what people were searching for on Google or Bing. I wrote about what I know about and have passion for.

 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Authors: Why is your book selling poorly? Here are 30 possible reasons

Each year hundreds of thousands of different book titles are published. Some sell millions of copies. Many sell thousands or hundreds. Many sell just dozens—or even fewer—copies.

Books “fail” for many reasons. Here are some:
  1. Your book stinks. There are many ways for a book to stink.
  2. Your cover is ugly.
  3. Your cover image conflicts with your title or genre.
  4. Your cover is an indiscernible blob when reduced to "thumbnail" size on websites.
  5. Your title is confusing or vague and your subtitle doesn't help.
  6. Your name conflicts with your genre. Pearl Zane Grey dropped the "Pearl" to write macho westerns. Joanne Rowling became "J. K." to attract teenage boys to her books. If your last name is Hitler or Stalin, get a nicer pen name for romance novels or books about flower arranging or etiquette.
  7. Your title has been used by other books. Maybe many other books.
  8. You are being confused with another author—or maybe someone with a bad reputation. If your last name is Madoff, use another name for books about investing.
  9. There are many other nonfiction books covering the same subject. You have too many competitors and probably should not have published the book. Does the world really need another barbecue cookbook or JFK biography?
  10. There are too many novels in the same genre. Does the world really need another book about post-apocalypse teenage lesbian cannibals?
  11. You wrote poetry. Very few people buy poetry.
  12. You didn’t work hard enough at promoting your book. Not enough potential purchasers know it exists.
  13. You’re too bashful to promote yourself.
  14. Your book is hard to find. It’s not available where people expect to buy it.
  15. Your market is too narrow—not enough people care about the subject. You may write an absolutely wonderful book about your absolutely wonderful mother, but your potential audience may be eight people—or two people. 
  16. Your price is wrong. If it’s too low, there’s not enough money left for you, and the low price hurts your book’s credibility. If it’s too high, you may scare readers or lose sales to your competitors.
  17. Your book has received either too many bad reviews or no reviews at all.
  18. You tried to do too much yourself, and did not hire a professional editor and designer.
  19. Your timing is wrong. The book came out too soon or too late. You missed the peak of popularity. The fad either never became big enough or went out of fashion before the book was published. Sales of Jerome Corsi’s book questioning President Obama’s birthplace dropped to almost nothing because it was published after Obama released his birth certificate. Pick a hot topic, and one that may stay hot, or at least warm, for a few years. 
  20. Your thesis has been disproved. Obama was NOT born in Kenya. 
  21. You used a self-publishing company and its services were overpriced or the company did not do all of the work you expected it to do or it did not produce a high-quality book or it did lousy or inadequate promotion.
  22. You spent too much money on original photography or illustrations, and did not have enough money left to promote the book.
  23. You don’t have a website where potential purchasers—and book reviewers—can find more information.
  24. You think that your work will end when you finish writing. Promoting may take more effort than writing.
  25. You don't know enough about your subject.
  26. You have nothing new to say. 
  27. Your book is too short (it seems like too little for its price, or seems that it may not adequately cover the subject).
  28. Your book is too long (people have limited attention spans, many things to devote their attention to, and they may not want to plow through 800 pages).
  29. Your book is not available in the formats people want (paperback, ebooks, maybe even hardback).
  30. Your books stinks (worth repeating).