Posts Tagged ‘indie publishing’

Publishing Isn’t For Sissies: Social Media’s Taking over…

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

RWA National’s and the Thrillerfest workshop grids were amazing this year. So much variety, you couldn’t keep up. Amazing depth. Still, on nearly every panel one topic reigned. Social Media. Almost like it’s more important now than the writing and the books. How do publishers use it? How do they want their authors to use it? How do wannabe authors and publishers need to use it? You don’t use it??? What’s WRONG WITH YOU!


And no, I’m not exaggerating. I’m not just talking about the panels focusing specifically on the use of social medial for book promotion, though Shelia Clover English’s panel at Thrillerfestwas absolutely the best of the bunch. Check her out. Download her talk, whenever they make the audio available on the TFest website. Get on board the train to your future…

When I say social media’s taking over, what I mean is that everyone was talking about it, in practically every workshop, panel, and meeting I attended the last two weeks. As I said yesterday, no one knows for sure what’s happening to the publishing industry, but EVERYone seems to think that the old way of promoting and reaching readers is evolving into something else, no one’s really sure what, involving social media.

Several times a day, (more…)

Publishing Isn’t For Sissies: The things you see… The things you saw… The things you miss…

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies is one of my most popular blog threads. Two weeks away in NY, both at RWA Nationals and Thrillerfest, and everywhere I turned writers asked me to post more. So, first day back, what am I prattling about–What is New York publishing looking like/for?

Snoopy strip

Interestingly enough, I’m not sure anyone at either conference had a definitive answer.

There was lots of talk about new digital offerings, for example from Harlequin (Carina Press) and Harper Collins/Avon (Impulse). The major houses are very aware that the digital future of publishing is now, even though they’re still not ready to pay authors an advance for dipping their toes into “traditional” experiments into the medium.

At the Avon spotlight,the editors were talking about quick turn around and prolific authors and getting excited about how quickly they could get your content up on their websites. Lots of assurances that you’d get great editing and covers and face time on a publisher site they say has heavy traffic, plus the books will be out there on Amazon, etc. But with so many titles going out the door, and the covers they were raving about honestly looked like something my teen could photoshop on his laptop, and talk of fast writing and editorial and revisions that sounds pretty close to flash fiction at times, you have to wonder how anything but their lead authors’ books will get enough attention to sell well.

They do have a great plan for using the digital publishing of novellas and such to promo mass market paperback releases of the star authors. Those ebooks should get promoted out the ying yang, and it should help both the digital and print sales of the corresponding mass market releases. But the rest of the books, it seems, will pretty much be on their own.

Let me do the math for you, if this is the case. No advance. No heavy online promotion. No digital sales to speak of. No money. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Tim DeYoung–Creating a Bridge Between Print and Digital Publishing

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Dorchester’s abrupt shift from a mass market publishing model to focusing on digital and trade paperback releases has been dissected and discussed and bandied about for kicks and giggles by just about everyone. Mostly by folks not involved in the ongoing change. But was it so abrupt? Was it Dorchester’s choice alone? Was the story really simple enough to be covered in a tweet or a Facebook update?

The emotions running high then and now were real enough. The circumstances weren’t great for anyone involved, either before Dorchester’s move or since. The publishing industry itself, never a source of enduring security for most who challenge it, was has been in a very public tailspin for the last few years.

Exactly how much of Dorchester’s move was about one publishing house’s floundering dynamic? How much of it was industry trends playing out on a small enough stage for us to dissect every bit of it and hopefully learn something new?


From the start, I wanted Publishing Isn’t for Sissies to be about seeing the bigger picture. There’s a larger story here. Every publisher and author is playing it out, in various arenas, trying to find their place in what we’re all about to become. I applaud the brave approach Vice President Tim DeYoung and the rest of Dorchester’s staff are taking to innovate and pioneer an uncharted path they’re determined to make work for their authors.

To see a bit more of that bigger picture for yourself, spend a few minutes looking at our publishing world through Tim’s eyes…


Some people have asked me why Dorchester turned from mass market centric publishing to a digital and trade model.  The response to this question involves an understanding of the marketplace and the changes within. 

I don’t think anyone will disagree with the statement that the biggest trend in the publishing industry is the extraordinary growth of the e-book.  Articles, blogs, and editorials are everywhere you turn, trumpeting the demise of print.  There is no question that e-books seem to be the future, what with all the new platforms springing up, some that feature interactive participation or even the use of color.  Still, even with the fantastic growth in the last couple of years, e-book sales are far overshadowed by the sales of physical books.

Several years ago, the wholesale marketplace started going through very real upheaval. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t For Sissies: Chris Keeslar’s Changing Landscape

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Dorchester Publshing’s gotten a lot of press in the seven months that I’ve waited for Secret Legacy to release. The Dorchester staff has made some tough choices about their business, as have I. PIFS has been about the story behind the drama playing out on social media’s myopic stage. Tough realities and decisions must be faced once emotions cool. I wanted this to be a place where we could share experiences and take those next steps together.

Our industry is a lightening-fast spiral of change at the moment. We’ve talked here about challenging things. We’ve kept things honest but positive and forward-thinking. We’ve already heard from a PR professional and an industry-leading agent. Now let’s dig a little deeper.

My personal impression observing Dorchester Senior Editor Chris Keeslar in my six years as a published author is that he’s widely respected by professionals in every corner of our industry.

chris keeslar 2

Every author I know who’s worked with him loves how much he loves working with story and the minds that craft it. With Dorchester’s shift in publishing model, I suspect Chris is more involved than ever with the management of getting books to market. But reading his thoughts below, it’s clear that story and nurturing an author’s voice and career are still Chris’ ultimate focus.

He’s put a public face on each issue Dorchester has encountered. He’s handled these complex situations as best he could as quickly as he could, providing whatever information and action and answers were needed. I can’t imagine the journey’s been any easier for him than the authors he continues to champion. But he’s never publicly reacted in anger or frustration. I find it inspirational, his brand of integrity and optimism in the face of these challenges.

I’m thrilled that Chris is sharing his thoughts with us today on how a traditional publisher can help a digitally published author…


“I’ve been thinking about the changing landscape of publishing recently. Here’s what I’ve decided: (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Dorchester Guest Bloggers in May

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

So many exciting things are coming in May for my sci-fi/fantasy Secret Legacy release,most of which I’m partnering with the amazing associates at Dorchester to make happen:

  • Look for exciting FREE DOWNLOAD offers for Dark Legacy on sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and Deisel books from May 2nd – May 9th. From May 9th – May 23rd, Dark Legacy will be a .99 cent download, then 2.99 through June 6th. All to, as you might suspect,build momentum and interest in Book 2 in my psychic fantasy series,  Secret Legacy.
  • Guest blogs and giveaways at cool siteslike Night Owl Scifi, Dreams and Speculation, ScifiGuy, etc.
  • Features in ITW’s Big Thrill newsletter and other places like a May spotlight and Free Friday Download  on Barnes and Noble’s Unbound blog.
  • Cool Author Interview and Cover Story book book trailers coming from Circle of Seven, complete with great bonus discount offers from Dorchester.
  • And more…

All of which is the kind of promo being done all over the place by authors hoping to plug into the viral marketing that makes Internet buzz happen. But having my Dorchester team behind me and Secret Legacy in a powerful way has opened so many more doors than I could have myself.

Secret Legacy front cover

It occurred to me as I started the PIFS blog series that not all the majority of the talk about Dorchester switch (and, through them, mine) from a traditional mass market publishing model was coming from people who weren’t immediately involved in the situation. Not that bystanders’ viewpoints aren’t valid. But it struck me at the time, as it does now, that there’s a lot of talk about what hadhappened and how the facts as those outside the immediate crisis saw it, meant doom for Dorchester authors and others who were about to be trampled under the digital publishing wave. There’s very little insight coming from within the trenches, from the perspective of authors that all this is happening to–those of us making difficult choices and deciding to trust the Dorchsterteam still working hard behind the scenes to make the best possible solution emerge from some unfortunate circumstances for everyone.

I’ve talked at lenth in past PIFS  posts about my viewpoint then and now (as I watch Secret Legacy’s release fast approaching). I won’t repeat myself, except to say that last fall, when Dorchester’s announcement surprised everyone, I was in the middle of a two-book contract for an ongoing series, and my decision wasn’t as straight forward as others. I could have gotten the rights back to my unpublished novel (Secret Legacy), but Dark Legacy had been released the previous year and sold well. Dorchester had done their job with it, as they continued to assure me they would with Secret Legacy, and therefore would retain rights to that story. Which meant I couldn’t take the entire series elsewhere looking for a home, or even build momentum as a self-published author as some have, by offering both books to readers on my own. Also, I know a great number of self or indie published authors who regularly share the wealth of their hard-earned experience, and I knew the daunting task of self publishing and promoting a novel across various platforms and to hard-to-target audiences isn’t the slam-dunk many would like you to believe it is when you strike out completely on your own.

And then there were the professionals at Dorchester, communicating regularly with my agent and myself about their ongoing plans for their business and my books. Brainstorming with me. Partnering with me on ideas for how best to target traditional, digital and indie markets with my series.Agreeing to move my release date out until we had a firm release and promotion plan in hand. Making themselves available whenever I had questions, even to this day. And, yes, paying me for the work I’ve done, as they’re contractually required to do. Just in case there’s any confusion, I’ve been paid what I’m owed for both my novels. Those who demand that you believe no one who’s worked with Dorchester has received any money for years, for whatever reason those persons feel it necessary to want you to believe that sort of thing, aren’t talking from my experience or that of other Dorchester authors I know personally. We’re not stupid, those of us who have trusted our publishing team to the best job they can for our books. We’re just finding a way to continue to do our jobs and build our careers amidst trying circumstances for both us and our publisher.

It’s in Dorchester’s best interest, as it is mine, for Secret Legacy to do as well as possible. We all want it to hit the sci-fi/fantasy market hard and sell, sell sell. We’re all working our butts off to make that happen. Together. I am  constantly amazed by the creativity and ingenuity of everyone I’m on this ride with. And as one of the writers in the trenches, involved in implementing this new “hybrid” publishing model with a novel I’m more personally attached to than anything else I’ve written, I excited to share that journey through Publishing Isn’t for Sissies. So are the Dorchester associates and staff that I’ve been working so closely with.

digital publishing

Hannah Wolfson has already shared some of the details behind Dorchester’s NetGalley partnership and what Secret Legacy’s feature there might mean for promoting the release.

I have five more great Dorchester guest posts scheduled for May and early June. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: I’m A Recovering PR Wuss

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Modern authors must promote. Even the top dogs. But what if you’re a writer who cringes at the thought of sell, sell, selling yourself to your audience? Suck it up, TPTBs say.  And, well, they’re mostly right. Mostly. Because not everyone will promote effectively the same way. And too much of the advice we hear these days is that THIS or THAT are the only ways to really entice more potential readers to give your stories a try.


Don’t drink the Kool-Aide.

Yes, a writer’s business must include a healthy dose of consistent promotion planning an execution. And unless you’re one of the lucky few “branded” authors out there, what you affectionately refer to as your PR Department will be comprised primarily of you and you alone.

But, where I see most hard-working, business savvy writers flounder (myself included) is when they attempt to force themselves into a promotion mold that doesn’t fit their personality, strengths, writing genre and time/lifestyle demands. We’re not all natural sales or marketing persons.We don’t all have time to travel or the gifts of public speaking. Some of us cringe when confronted with crowds, can’t introduce ourselves to strangers without breaking out in hives, and don’t have a knack for the quick and prolific writing schedule demanded of a daily blogger.


So what do we do, when we’re told that one or more of of these missing traits are THE ONLY WAY WE’LL BE SUCCESSFUL as a modern writer?

First of all, we remind ourselves that it’s the quality of the story and our passion for what we’re writing that’s most important. Ignore the PR/Marketing guru that tells you to promote first, write second. If you don’t believe your story is the best it can be, if you don’t absolutely love what you’ve done and if you’re not prouder of it than anything else you’ve ever written, how the hell are you going to honestly, authentically promote it to readers? Do the work first. Do it well. Protect the writing.

Second, we take inventory of what we do well, or more importantly what we DON’T do well. Me? I don’t hand sell. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Michelle Grajkowski–An Agent’s Perspective on the Digital Wave

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Yesterday’s PIFSsummarized several best selling author’s perspective on the indie-traditional publishing debate. And Publisher’s Weekly’s thoughts on what makes indie work. Today–let’s talk to agent Michelle Grajkowski of 3 Seas Literary Agency,a 10-year industry insider who’s seen this coming (while she launched NYT’s best selling careers), navigated her and her author’s way through the early stages of it, and is currently shifting her own business now that the digital wave is crashing onward, to better help those same authors.


Yes, she’s my agent. No, I’m not one of her A-List clients. Yet. But she’s fighting just like I am to get me and all of her authors there, wherever there is and whichever publishing path each individual career takes. I believe with all sincerity that she’s an author advocate in this business. She’s tough and insightful, understanding and flexible, level-headed but determined to negotiate for everything her clients should have, every step of their career. In short, she’s an amazing business partner and advisor and friend.

And those are just a few of the reasons I hope everyone who’s panicking and pointing fingers and pushing to the extreme and making rash decisions because the publishing sky is apparently falling, again–or just those of you who are open to and curious about a savvy insider’s perspective–take a few minutes to read on. You won’t be disappointed ;o)

Everyone welcome Michelle Grajkowski to Publishing Isn’t for Sissies!


Twenty years before Julie Andrews floated down from a cloudy sky into London to save a dysfunctional family in Mary Poppins, the movie industry was shaking in its boots.


Studio executives in the 50’s were very worried that their blockbuster movies were a thing of the past – thanks to the hit new box that sent pictures straight into people’s homes. And, they weren’t the only ones sweating.

Radio stations across the globe were frightened because no longer were families gathering around the radio to hear great classic like The Bob Hope Show, when they could tune in and see him live in their living room.
Flash forward to 2011. Publishers, authors and agents are feeling these same concerns in regards to the publishing industry. Bookstores are closing and bankrupting, e-readers are selling at all time highs, and buying habits of the readers are changing.

And, that, my friends, is the key word – CHANGE. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t For Sissies: Indie Update–Read THIS!

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

It’s been a crazy few weeks in Indie publishing, so it’s time for a new PIFS Read THIS! How does a writer find your place in the midst of such rapid change? How does this affect readers, both now and down the road? Good news: the hardworking, talented author will still published, the reader will have great stories to read, and the publishing industry will continue, regardless of which book format prevails. More questionable news:no one really knows anything for sure right now, except that traditional publishers are behind the curve, still, and the top authors who are more savvy and willing to tolerate change for the chance to reach more readers and build more successful careers are leading the way.

My Reality Check post from two weeks ago is the top PIFS post so far. Agent Michelle Grajkowski will be back TOMORROW, to share more of her perspective, from an industry insider’s viewpoint.

In the mean time you might be asking, what do authors think? Well, here’s an author-driven Indie update, with links for you to follow to info and discussions from the last few weeks:


Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath discuss Barry walking away from a $500k book contract to self publish.

In the Self Publishing Review, Eisler crunches numbers and breaks out why he can make more money digitally releasing his next book himself.


Two-time RITA and best-selling romance author Connie Brockway’s made a similar decisionpublishing future sequels to a best-selling series herself, after turning down her latest publishing contract offer.

Does this mean all authors are set? (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: A Reality Check

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

We asked students last weekend to share every worst case scenario and fear they’d heard or thought about the way digital options seems to be consuming traditional publishing. What are the rumors? How bad do you think it’s going to get. What are you chances now of ever getting a book contract and seeing your stories in a reader’s hand?

My agent (Michelle Grajkowski) and I had been fielding industry questions and trying to get folks to open up for about an hour. It was the get to know you beginning of the conference. Folks were understandably guarded at first, talking with someone they thought might one day be an asset to their career (Michelle, not me, though I’m always good for an entertaining hour or two of conversation ;o). I’d tried to get them to ask digital publishing questions a few times, but no takers. Then Michelle helped me open the floor for comments. 

“What have you heard?” we asked. “What do you know? Don’t worry about how bad it sounds. No holds barred.”

Ah. We’d struck upon the thing to ask a room full of people who’re starting to accept you into your group. More, “Let’s get the the big ugly monster out of the closet.” Less, “Let us know what you’re afraid of.”

Michelle and I had talked about this approach on the drive over from the town we flew in on to the on where we’d be teaching all weekend. We were pretty sure what we’d hear.

And we weren’t disappointed:

  • Digital publishing is helping finish off the Mass Market segment of printed book sales.
  • Bricks and mortar stores are disappearing from the landscape.
  • Book store chains are closing, filing for bankruptcy or up for sale.
  • Racks/slots for books in the remaining discount stores are dwindling.
  • Online printed book sales are lagging behind digital sales.
  • Self publishing digitally may be the only way non-branded authors can make money publishing in the near future.
  • It’s becoming difficult to distinguish a “publisher” from a self published digital book, at least on sight.
  • Badly written and produced digital books are flooding the market.
  • 99 cent digital book prices devalue books in general and make it impossible for newer writers to make any money at all.
  • It takes so long to find a publisher traditionally, print advances are shrinking along with sales and royalties, publishers are struggling and going under, and an agent gets to take a bite out of whatever you do make–why not skip all the middle men and go it alone like everyone you see all over social media making a fortune self-publishing.
  • Publishers opening digital-only imprints aren’t offering authors advances, are offering little or no promotion that the author doesn’t have to take the lead in, and are making no promises of income from royalties. Therefore months/years of work could result in little or no profit for the author whatsoever.

The list goes on… Like I said, nothing new.

Except, the point we made later that night after everyone had pretty much agreed that we’d all heard the above list and more and didn’t know what to think about it, is that IT’S NOTHING NEW.

Michelle and I called this the Reality Check portion of the evening program. Here’s what we shared with the group, and believe it or not it made everyone a little more comfortable and contemplative and thinking a little more big picture about all the above stuff that, let’s be honest, makes all of us want to hind our heads in the sand until the dust settles…

When the mass market publishing model began to dominate the scene, we used as an example, it was seen by many as a threatening wave that would spell the end of the more valuable but pricey hard cover novel, and the independent book store that didn’t want to shelve endless cheaper-to-produce-and-stock paperbacks. And, well, it pretty much was. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: A Team Approach to Digital Publishing

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Last week’s PIFS’s NetGalley post earned top billing in blog hits for a single article. There’s a world of authors searching for digital publishing and promotion information. Today, let’s look at the growing popularity of using a Team Approach to releasing books independently. It’s exciting to see groups of authors who would otherwise self publish on their own are working together to share knowledge and skill sets and experience.

Dorchester’s PR team will be back soon (I should have a schedule of their PIFs visits to share next week), discussing specifics about the amazing things they have planned for Secret Legacy and other direct-to-digital titles they’re spotlighting this spring. But that’s a hybrid NY publishing model.  What about the solitary author with a backlist he/she wants to re-release or a new work of fiction he/she wants to digitally distribute, when the traditional publishing route isn’t a viable option?


Jenni Holbrook-Talty is with us today (in her non-How We Write capacity) to talk about her journey into the independent digital publishing arena with business partner Bob Mayer. Last year, he asked her to put her business and IT experience to work to help him re-release his best-selling backlist on the digital stage. The result was Who Dares Wins Publishing (WDWPub). Their learning curve was steep. There was progress, mistakes, work and rework, and the frustration of dealing with a kaleidoscope vendors and formats and packaging requirements. Until they finally began producing quality product that fans are now snatching up daily through outlets like Amazon, Sony, and iBooks.

I asked Jenni why she thought their partnership worked, and why she’d recommend something similar to other authors thinking of digitally publishing independently.

She said,The team approach allows each member to utilize their talents to their fullest capacity. We used Bob’s years of training in the world of Traditional Publishing to begin the process of publishing his backlist. I had been published by a reputable ePublisher and understood some of the things about digital publishing that Bob’s background didn’t. He knows the business better than most, but he didn’t have the technology base that I had, so by merging the two together we were able to put his books, my books, and other authors’ books out there for our readers to enjoy. The team approach also frees up our time so we can both do the one thing we love the most: write. Right now, I know Bob is going through some edits of his next release due out 12-April while I’m taking care of some necessary business obligations by finalizing the copy edits for Devil’s Sea and put the book back into production.” (more…)