Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins

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Kristen Lamb a savvy writer on any social media topic, and her latest post is no exception. It is a must read for any writer, whether traditionally or independently published. Even if you’re thinking of publishing your work, you’ll want to read this article.

First, Kristen Lamb talks about different kinds of platforms:

The Traditional Author

If you are agented and likely to be traditionally published, you have the backing of a publisher, an editor, an agent and people hired to help your books succeed. Thus, the burden of sales and marketing doesn’t rest solely on your shoulders. Focus on writing the best book you can write.

But, is a good book alone enough? No. And it never has been. How can I say this? I like to cite the BEA statistics of 2006. 93% of all books published (traditionally and non-traditionally) sold less than 1000 copies. So, for traditional authors, even with all those people working in your favor, the failure rate can be sobering of you rely solely on a good book alone. Historically, a writer had no control over changing these odds. Now, we have social media so we can help spark word-of-mouth. We are no longer forced to gamble, and that rocks 😉 .

Also, what we need to always keep in mind is that social media has changed demands placed on traditionally published writers. Many times the publisher will expect the author to help with her own marketing and promotion. This is easier to do if when your first book is published, you aren’t trying to pull a platform out of the ether.

For the traditionally published author, you don’t need to do as much. If you want to blog and tweet and Facebook, then go for it. I think the stronger your platform, the better. My opinion? Being traditionally published does have advantages.There really isn’t a need to have a social platform the size of a self-pubbed author unless you want one. A great author to follow who has THE BEST advice for the traditionally published author is Jody Hedlund. Another fountain of wisdom in this crazy world? Anne R. Allen. Bookmark their blogs and listen to every word they tell you. These ladies will keep your head straight.

The Hybrid Author

Some of you might fall into the traditional category. Ah, but you have a bit of a wild side that likes to write essays, poetry , short stories, death threats, or manifestos. Now, in the changing paradigm, there is finally a cost-efficient way of getting these types of works to the reader. Ten years ago, no publisher would have taken a second look at a book of poetry because it might only sell 500 copies. It just was a terrible investment with dismal returns for the publisher and even the author.

Now? Just e-publish. Those 500 copies that looked so depressing before, now are darn spiffy sales numbers if you’re keeping 100% and putting out only time, effort, and a minimal cash investment. So, if you are wanting to try your hand at selling some self-published items, you need to have a larger platform and a greater presence to drive those sales. Pay attention to Chuck Wendig. He makes the second-oldest-profession-in-the-world look good and is not above showing a little leg.

The Indie

Yes, for the sake of brevity I am lumping a lot of stuff together. Indie has a lot of different flavors and I highly recommend listening to Bob Mayer and Jen Talty. Take one of their workshops because they are the experts when it comes to all the different publishing options in the new paradigm.

If you are an indie author, you have the backing of a small independent publisher. There is the upside of not being completely all on your own. I am with Who Dares Wins Publishing and I am blessed with a lot of expertise I don’t even know if I have the smarts to learn.

But, we need to point of the pink elephant in the room.

As awesome as indie presses are, logic dictates that most of them won’t have the manpower to help us in promotion and marketing like Random House or Penguin. We don’t get book placement in major chain bookstores or WalMart or Costco. We need a VERY LARGE PLATFORM. Sure, the indie press will help, but the lion’s share of the burden is ours.

Many new writers are carving out a career path by starting indie in hopes it will lead to traditional publication. Yet, here’s the deal. NY will want to see high sales numbers. Our social media platform is critical.

The Self-Published Author

Some of you love being in control of all aspects of your career. Web design, book covers, uploading? No sweat. There have been some tremendous success stories that have come out of the self-publishing world—Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory and John Locke are three that come to mind. These folks didn’t already have a name branded by traditional publishing. They rose out of the nothing with their own hard work….but boy did they WORK.

I was blessed enough to meet H.P. Mallory and listen to how she sold a bazillion books in six months and I needed a nap. John Locke? He is a MACHINE. I read his How I Sold a Million Books in Five Months and I thought it could be retitled as How to Kill a Writer in Less than a Year. The amount of work, planning, strategy was incredible (and I say this with the utmost amount of respect awe and yes…jealousy).

Yet, I do need to point out that Hocking, Mallory and Locke have all since signed with traditional/larger publishers. I think there comes a point when the workload is too much to maintain alone and long-term, but that might just be my opinion. Would have to ask them.

Thus, when we start thinking about our writing career, we need to be really honest about how much work we can do. Too many new writers think that self-publishing is a panacea, that all they need to do is upload their genius and people will buy.

Um…no.

If we look at the self-publishing success stories, the harder they worked, the luckier they got. Same with indie. If you are considering any kind of publishing outside of the traditional route, then ask the hard questions.

Can you write and maintain a blog and a social media presence? Can you do guest posts and blog tours and contests and create groups? Can you do all of his without the quality of your books suffering? Can you keep writing more books? In indie publishing and self-publishing, it is becoming clearer and clearer that those writers who can turn out books and quickly create a backlist are the ones that are the most successful.

What is your background and what do you bring to the table? Do you already possess a lot of technical expertise? H.P. Mallory left a career in Internet sales. She built her own website and uploaded, formatted and designed covers for all of her own books. If you don’t have the tech savvy, do you have money to hire people to do it for you? John Locke did. What is your background? Both Mallory and Locke came from a background in sales. That is a driven and fearless personality.

If you are writing under three pen names because you fear your family will find out you want to be a writer, then this might not be the best path. Things like time, money, background and personality all need to be considered when it comes to tailoring the right platform to the right publishing choice.

It is a wonderful time to be a writer and the sky is the limit. There are all kinds of generous people willing to offer time, help and expertise. My favorites are Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, and Bob Mayer. And if you are an unpublished writer?

Feel free to start with the Snuggie, but eventually? Yeah, you will have to hand it over lest it become your Lazy Blanket.

The above is only a part of Kristen Lamb’s excellent article, I would encourage you to read the entire thing. You can find it here: Beware the Social Media Snuggie — One Size Does NOT Fit All.

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

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I was watching a John Green Truth or Fail video yesterday, for the first time, and was amazed when I found I could interact with the video! “What strange new world is this,” I thought. (Really! I sometimes think in Shakespeare quotes, it’s strange, I know.)

Here’s the video:

The wizardry behind this technological innovation are YouTube Annotations. What is a YouTube annotation, you ask. Good question! Let’s let the talented folks over at YouTube explain it:

Video Annotations is a new way for you to add interactive commentary to your videos! Use it to:

– Add background information about the video
– Create stories with multiple possibilities (viewers click to choose the next scene)
– Link to related YouTube videos, channels, or search results from within a video
– All of the above!

You control what the annotations say, where they appear on the video, and when they appear and disappear.
Read More

You might be thinking: Okay, that’s fine, but how do I DO all this cool stuff? How do I transform my crusty, boring, video into an interactive masterpiece? I’m glad you asked! If you click here, the Folks at YouTube will show you how to create or edit your annotations. And, I ask, what could be more fun than that? Can’t you see yourself Saturday night, alone, at home, furiously editing annotation after annotation? Oh, wait, that’s me. :p

Hope you have fun with your annotations!

Many years ago I was a website designer/developer. Nowadays, I leave the website designing to other folks, but when I read Jane Friedman’s blog post about what to look for in a web designer I knew I had share with you. Her questions are spot on. My advice: pay special attention to #6.

1. How long have you been designing websites?
If someone has been creating websites for awhile, there’s a good chance that they will be around for the long haul. Being in business a long time is not enough to prove they’re competent and reliable, but it’s a start.

2. Can I see your portfolio?
Looking at someone’s portfolio can provide you with a lot of information. You should be looking for a few things.
– Do you like their design style? It’s important that you like their style, because the design they do for you will probably have a similar style.
– Do their sites function well?
– Are their sites easy to get around? Is there a lot of clutter, or is it clear how to find what you’re looking for?

3. Are you primarily a designer, programmer, or both?
Some people can create a beautiful design as well as expertly code your site. But most people excel at one or the other. In some cases, you only need one set of skills. Make sure your web designer has whatever skills are needed to get the job done right.

4. Can we meet and talk (virtually or in person)?
Creating a website is a joint effort between you and the designer. You will be having a lot of conversations over the course of the project, and it’s important that you can communicate well with each other and that you are comfortable with their communication style. The only way to get a sense of that is to have a conversation.

5. Will we sign a contract?
Verbal agreements are not enough. You should receive written documentation that spells out the scope of the project. You should know exactly what you’re getting and how much it’s going to cost. This protects both you and the web designer, and is essential for preventing misunderstandings. If the designer is billing by the hour, you should be given an estimate along with some agreement as to what happens if the process takes longer than the estimate.

The logo of the blogging software WordPress.

Image via Wikipedia

6. How are website updates handled?
It used to be that you had to hire your website designer to update your site for even the smallest changes, unless
it was built with an expensive proprietary content management system. A content management system, or CMS, allows you to update your site without knowing any code or programming languages. These days there are a number of free systems that nearly anyone can use without special knowledge, such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Of these systems, WordPress is the easiest to use. If you want to update your site yourself, ask your website designer if they use WordPress or another content management system.

7. Who owns my site after it’s completed and paid for?
You should have full ownership of your website. Make sure you get all of your login information so that if somewhere down the line your website designer is no longer in business, you have access to your site.
Some companies build their websites with proprietary software. This may work well while you are hosted with them, but you will not be able to move your site anywhere else, since it needs the proprietary software to run.
WordPress is a very popular platform, so I recommend using it if at all possible. If you want to move your site or change website designers, you’ll have no trouble finding someone else who can take over.

Read the rest of How to Hire the Right Web Designer here.

Joe Konrath broke his hiatus to, among other things, release some of his sales figures. I was amazed.

Joe writes:

Here are my latest royalty statement figures for my six Hyperion titles and my Hachette title, for Jan 1 – June 30, 2011. Paper sales are hardcover and mass market combined.

Whiskey Sour paper sales: $1450.00
Whiskey Sour ebook sales: $5395.00

Bloody Mary paper sales: $463.00
Bloody Mary ebook sales: $2591.00

Rusty Nail paper sales: $226.00
Rusty Nail ebook sales: $3220.00

Dirty Martini paper sales: $415.00
Dirty Martini ebook sales: $3370.00

Fuzzy Navel paper sales: $485.00
Fuzzy Navel ebook sales: $3110.00

Cherry Bomb paper sales: $224.00
Cherry Bomb ebook sales: $3864.00

Afraid paper sales: $1608.00
Afraid ebook sales: $12,158.00

My jaw made a popping sound as it hit my desk. I had no idea that writers could make that kind of money from ebooks compared to print.
You can read the rest of Joe’s article here: Guest Post by Lee Goldberg (and Konrath talks numbers)

muriel spark: ghost stories

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The title of this post should be: The benefits of a cat allowing you to live with him/her.

Muriel Spark writes:

If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work … the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp. The light from a lamp … gives a cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.

So there you have it. The tranquility of a cat will help inspire you and improve your productivity. Sounds good! Honestly, though, my two cats are better at putting me to sleep. Especially when I sit down on the couch, notepad in hand, and they decide to climb on my lap. I start petting them and, the next thing I know, I’ve been asleep for an hour!
Perhaps, though, you’ll have success with this method. It’s definitely something worth trying out.

The English alphabet, both upper and lower cas...

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I woke up today and didn’t want to write. I wanted to do anything but write. I felt, What’s the use, it’s never been a happen, I’m never going to be able to earn a significant portion of my living from my writing. But I know with that sort of attitude only one thing is guaranteed: I’m guaranteed to fail. So I wrote this blog post with myself in mind.

1. You owe it to yourself.

If earning your living from writing is your dream, the only way your dream is going to come true is if you keep at it. There’s only one person who can make your dream come true: You. Remember, if this were easy then everyone would be doing it. There’s a reason they’re not.

2. If you try you will succeed.

I’m not saying that if you try you’ll get rich, or that you try you will be able to earn enough money from your writing to quit your day job – that would be nice, though! What will happen is that you won’t have given up on your dream and, yes this sounds corny, but that’s success. You’ll be a writer. There’s a reason why the phrase, ‘starving writer,’ trips off the tongue so easily.

3. If you don’t try, you’ll always wonder, ‘what if?’

They say that at the end of life as you look back at what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished, you don’t regret the things you did, you regret the things you didn’t do. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds right to me.

4. It’s a marathon, not a sprint

You’ve heard this one before. Personally, I think it’s like a series of triathlons!

5. Variety is the spice of life

When you get bored, try something new. Something I’m trying out is Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I hadn’t heard about this software until a couple of weeks ago when I came across a number of author blogs talking about the fantastic results they had gotten. (No, this is not advertisement for Dragon NaturallySpeaking!)

When I picked up the software last week, I thought that this might be a way of getting another half hour per day to write. It takes me 15 minutes to walk to work, but if I could use a digital recorder to dictate parts of my story, perhaps even a blog post, I could squeeze another 30 from the day.

I haven’t tried that yet, but something unexpected has happened. This new way of writing – perhaps I can’t, or shouldn’t, call this writing; perhaps I should call it speaking – has made the words come easier, has reinvigorated me.

One thing Dragon NaturallySpeaking had been excellent for is transcribing my longhand notes. Often when I get an idea for a story I write it out longhand and these notes can run to hundreds of pages! Over the past few days I have been faced with the task of typing in about 50 or 60 pages of notes, something that takes me a long time to do. Last night, using Dragon, I transcribed the lion share of my notes in about half an hour! Perhaps it’s the novelty that made it seem effortless – and fun! – But it seemed to go much faster, and I’m a fast typist.

6. Bribery works

I love books, especially journals. New journals. Over my lifetime I’ve filled bookcases with journals covered in my scribbling. (And, no, I’m not a serial killer!) For me, if I need special motivation, I tell myself, “Self, all you need to do is fill up this journal and you can buy yourself a new one.” And, believe it or not this often works.

Okay, I don’t know about you, but it’s NaNoWriMo time and I’m all fired up to write! Talk to you tomorrow. 🙂


I don’t know why I’m so thrilled by seeing my blog listed on Technorati.com, but I am! I have a tiny, tiny authority of 109(authority measures a site’s standing & influence in the blogosphere and is a number from 1 to 1000, 1000 being most influential), but that’s okay.I would encourage anyone with a blog to list it with Technorati.com. The process is quick and painless and, somehow, very rewarding. Here’s how you go about it.

For anyone who is curious, I haven’t noticed a significant increase in traffic to my site (technorati is a search engine for blogs) but I just got listed, so who knows?