books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, April 3, 2011

3 Questions to Ask Before You Jump on the Indie Publishing Bandwagon

 We’re in the midst of seismic changes in the publishing world, with new quakes altering the landscape on a daily basis. The pulp paperback is in its death throes, as mass market houses like Dorchester slink into ignominious bankruptcy. Kindle and the Amazon $2.99 e-book/70% royalty paradigm have changed an entire industry in less than eighteen months.

Amanda Hocking self-published her YA paranormals, made a mint, and landed a two million dollar deal with St. Martin’s a week ago. Then thriller writer Barry Eisler  turned down a half a million from the same house in order to go indie. Mystery writer Joe Konrath and his disciples provide daily proof that midlist fiction writers can make more self-publishing cheap e-books than by going the traditional route.

You can read enlightening conversation between Eisler and Hocking here, and Eisler and Konrath here.

Trusted voices in the publishing industry, who not long ago warned against self-publishing, are now singing its praises. Insiders Nathan Bransford and Jane Friedman see it as the most lucrative road for many authors. Agent Laurie McLean now has an e-book publishing and marketing service. Meredith Barnes at FinePrint Literary now does e-book coding.

This means we can all start our careers right now. Not three or four or ten years down the road after the excruciating query/submission/editing process, but now. TODAY. And there’s a possibility we’ll make real money. Konrath regularly posts hot financial statistics that are pure writer porn. We all want to join in the orgy.

But something happened this week that should give some of us pause.

It was a brouhaha that went viral when an indie author came to cyberblows with an indie book blogger.

It was a sad moment for me. The social media bullying I talked about in my last post came to blogging and it wasn’t pretty. Yes, the author had a very childish meltdown. But I wish the entire blogosphere hadn’t followed suit. We all have inner children who are prone to temper tantrums on occasion.

Isaac Asimov once observed that writers fall into two groups: “those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.”

But in these days of social media we have very little “secretly” any more. Everything is visible—on a global scale.

I hear the author’s sales actually spiked after the debacle, and I’m glad for that. She’s a nice person and a friend of this blog. Perhaps Bret Easton Ellis might laud it as one of the first "post-Empire" moments in publishing.

But what I saw was a writer who hadn’t yet developed the soul-calluses that are required of a professional author. I suspect she jumped into the business too soon.

There are some unspoken benefits to the old query-fail-query-fail-submission-fail-editorial meeting-fail, fail, fail system. It not only gives us numerous readers to help hone that book to perfection—it also teaches us to deal with rejection, failure and bad reviews.

If you choose to self-publish because you can’t handle the rejection of the query process, you’re setting yourself up for worse pain later on. If those form rejections in your email sting, think of how you’ll feel when very personal rejection is broadcast all over the blogosphere.

So there’s a lesson here: don’t publish until you’re psychologically prepared to take the heat. Always keep in mind this is a business, and business can be nasty.

And there’s another lesson, too. In all the thousands of comments and tweets, I haven’t seen anybody remark on the actual source of the argument: the formatting of the reviewed e-book. The author had apparently put out a badly coded book, then replaced it with a cleaner version. The whole sorry battle was sparked by the question of whether the reviewer had read the old or new download.

It looks as if he did diligently acquire the new copy, and I’m glad to hear he’s become an instant superstar. He deserves that. In reviewing indie books, he’s providing a service indie authors desperately need, and he wrote an honest review.

But I suspect none of this would have happened if the author had used a better coder the first time.

Those of us who were thinking of simply uploading a Word.doc into Amazon’s form to convert to Kindle might need to think again.

I sure will. I’d heard it was pretty easy. Now I know better than to try. Apparently the formatting can get garbled. Apostrophes become incomprehensible lines of code; bullet points turn into weird characters; and page and line breaks appear in nonsensical places. Plus you need different coding for each platform: B&N, iStore, Smashwords. Just being on Amazon is no longer enough.

So, lesson #2: Get your book professionally coded.

This is of particular interest to me because I’m planning to re-release my novel Food of Love as an e-book soon. Luckily I haven’t done it yet because I finally re-read the original and had one of those “OMG who wrote this crap?” moments. I’ve become a much better writer in the last decade. I still think it’s a damn good story, and I’m still in love with my characters, but the opening was stuffed with clunky reader-feeder and too many dialogue tags. Plus I seem to have been addicted to the words “suddenly” and “just.” I’m editing it now, feeling almost grateful my sales weren’t that high. Even though I had a good editor, the book really wasn’t ready to be released.

Which leads to lesson #3 to take away from last week’s brouhaha: don’t publish your book too soon.

Trouble is—you don’t know it’s too soon. But reviewers will. And if you’re like me, so will your older, wiser self.

How soon is too soon? Consider that Amanda Hocking had eight books in the hopper before she self-pubbed last year. Eight. She was also professional enough to hire an editor and a book designer. She was ready to treat her books as a full time job.

So here are three questions to ask yourself before you take the self-pub plunge:

1) Are you able to present a professional book in a professional way? This means hiring an editor, book coder and cover designer, plus putting together a marketing plan and making the time to implement it. Just throwing it up on Amazon to see what happens could backfire. Big time.

2) Are you emotionally ready for your close-up? Every successful author gets nasty reviews. Every. Single. One. If you want proof, go read the one-star reviews of literary classics on Amazon.

Learning how to deal with crushing, unfair criticism needs to be part of your skill set. Make sure you keep in touch with the part of you that has nothing to do with your books—the one that goes outside to hear real birds twitter and gets face to face with actual friends. Understand that after a nasty review, you need to STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. Hide all electronic communication devices and bring in chocolate, wine, DVDs, and/or your BFF, and hibernate. Author Catherine Ryan Hyde suggests you allow yourself to mourn for at least three days after a bad review. I think that sounds about right.

3) Is your book really, truly ready? Not just for friendly readers, but unfriendly ones. I advise finding some not-so-tame beta readers and asking them to do their worst. Then imagine seeing their harshest words in a review. Can you see how a reader might accept them as valid? If so, hold off and do some more editing. Better yet, write another book. Then edit the first one again.

You owe it to your characters to present them in the best possible way—and you owe it to yourself to start your career with your very best work.

So what about you, scriveners? Have you been swayed by recent news to try the indie route? Have you hired an editor or book coder? Got any recommendations?
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For more on this, Catherine Ryan Hyde has posted "An Open Letter to Authors" on this subject on her blog. She points out how important book bloggers are to all authors. Reviewers need to be free to be honest, or they can't do their job.

80 comments:

  1. Anne, you make some great points here. I can't tell you how many times I have been tempted to go ahead and self-publish, but instead, went through the process of beta-readers and then querying—lots and lots of criticism and rejections. I have learned how important it is to receive feedback, both positive and negative and I know it's a process that will continue as I put my writing out there. If I had published a year or two ago, I think it would have been my undoing.

    Any writer who doesn’t go through at least some sort of screening is not only handicapping their work, but they’re putting themselves in a precarious place emotionally.

    I'm still learning, but my thick skin is growing. I can't adequately express how much it helps just to read a post like this. I need these reminders now, more than ever. Thank You!

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  2. Anne, I was an editor for over 20 years and let me put rejection into at least a little perspective.
    #1 Manuscripts get rejected; not writers.
    #2 The reasons for rejection range from the ms sucks to we have too many of that genre already; from the boss (or my secretary or DH or pet goldfish) is giving me a hard time today & I'm in such a lousy mood I'd turn down War & Peace to the sales dept just informed us aboriginal bisexual zombies in Manitoba aren't selling the way they used to; the boss (or his/her wife/husband) hates (insert genre) so be glad your ms got turned down because it would be published badly. Very badly.
    #3 A new regime is hired & they hate all the genres & authors the previous regime loved...not your fault but your ms is going to get turned down.
    #4 Plenty of times editors are just plain wrong...zillions of examples of that all over the place.
    #5 Professional writers need to learn to ignore rejection and/or criticism--or maybe they *should* have a public melt down. Good for sales.

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  3. Great advice Anne, and especially the bit about being psychologically prepared. Mind you the negative feedback and criticism may as well come from indie book reviewers as anywhere else, I guess.

    For the record, I found encoding for Amazon, Smashwords etc. pretty easy. You can just encode and then see what it looks like before going live. I don't know the background to the story you describe but it sounds like the writer didn't do that?

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  4. A friend in my Tai Chi group here in P√°tzcuaro turned me on to your blog, Anne. As a new blogger, I've been enjoying it.

    I followed a little of the hoopla you mentioned on a forum thread on an on-line critique group I belong to and felt Ms Howett actually got a pretty decent review of her book. Probably few would have noticed it if she didn't have her meltdown. Just goes to prove that any press, even bad press, can be good.

    I've heard any number of people say how hard it is to do the coding correctly to get an e-book professionally formatted. Just like in the oceans of the world, there's a ton of garbage that goes out into the digital seas.

    I wouldn't be surprised if whole careers are built sorting it out. In the meantime, I'm going to walk the dogs.

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  5. Anne, this post is INCREDIBLE. THIS is must read blogging.

    Thank you so much.

    I know the answer to more than one of those questions is for me, at this moment, a resounding not just no but "Hell no."

    Thank you for helping me to look before I leap into a black hole I am not yet ready (will I ever be?) to claw my way out of.

    You are a blogging (and writing) goddess.

    xoxo
    bru

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  6. Very good advice, Anne. I hope any new writers who are reading, take your post to heart. I grew my writing skin subbing short stories, so the query rejections were easy to handle, but Ms. Harris's post are worth remembering, especially 'They've rejected the MS, NOT the writer.'

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  7. jb--You're so right "Any writer who doesn’t go through at least some sort of screening is not only handicapping their work, but they’re putting themselves in a precarious place emotionally." It takes time to build up those calluses.

    Ruth--This whole comment should be printed out and posted in every writer's study. Rejection is so random. Bad reviews can be too.

    Maria--You're right that the review didn't pan the book by any means. Basically he said a lot of things got in the way of a very good story. One was formatting.

    BTW, say hi to Marilyn in Patzcuaro.

    I like your image of the digital seas polluted with garbage.

    Simon, I think "easy" is a relative word. If you're tech-savvy and know HTML and other basic coding, it might not be that much of a challenge, but for non-geeks who've never worked in anything but Word, I think it can be really dangerous. I don't know that's what happened in this case, but that's what I read between the lines.

    Bru--So glad I helped. I think writers feel pressured to put their stuff out there too soon--especially by non-writers, who don't understand how much is at stake.

    Darke--Good for you. I think the short-story route is best for beginning writers. There's lots of early rejection, but also the chance of early success. And the credits look so good in your query letter.

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  8. That blowup is a perfect example of why many of my fellow book bloggers will not accept any self-published books. Nobody wins when an author blows up like that at a reviewer, even those that aren't directly involved, like other self-publishers.

    I haven't given up yet because I enjoy 90% of the experiences I have had with self-published authors and their work has been great. That 10% however, was extremely frustrating and at the time, made me question my policy.

    Editing is the largest problem I have found and am glad to see that you have it as number 1.

    Three cheers for those that take the risk, I am excited by the changes in publishing!

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  9. Fascinating post! Thanks for addressing this timely topic, Anne.

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  10. Good points as usual! There is much more to writing than pushing the publish button!

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  11. Some really great advice here, Anne. You already know I've self-published a book and what happened with that. It has been a wonderful and satisfying experience. I did it because I wanted to do everything myself. Everything. And I did. However, I don't advise that every writer does everything on their own. I just happened to have the resources to do what I did well. Also, if you do your homework and you're relatively computer-savvy, you can format your own work for Kindle just fine in a Word document - and it's free.

    All that said, if I was going the Indie route for my entire career, I would change a few things. I'd go through Lightning Source and I would hire an editor. No writer should publish before they seriously consider why they are doing it and what their limits and resources are. I spent quite a bit of money publishing Cinders, but it has paid off in more valuable things than monetary value.

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  12. Another great Sunday post, Anne. Food for thought or think before you put that in your mouth ??

    I'd think hard and long and wonder ... other than that nice following of a few hundred on twitter, facebook or blogging, who are your readers, how do you market to them and what is the end gain?

    Two years ago the skinny was you'd better give the agent and the editor a 99% polished ready to wear novel. On the heels of this news ... you had better be prepared to do your own publicity and market your own work.

    Now you had better be prepared to write, edit, publish, and market your books. Then pray you will be part of the ONE percent who make a trillion self-publishing.

    Someone on this post name more than a dozen "million dollar" deals from self publishing.

    Saying we all do it for the love of writing and not money is like Anthony Robins third law of success ... the only people who think money is the root of all evil are the ones who have all the money.

    I think I'll continue to write, get better and wait for next year's advice or flavor of the month.

    I feel like Nostrodamas ... I predict one of the major names/blogs we all follow will announce within the next year they are forming their own indie publisher to make greater opportunities available to us poor struggling writers.

    It will be featured on Jane Friedman's and dozens of other blogs and it will become viral.

    Then you'll do a thoughtful Sunday post about it and give us the inside skinny.

    Are we having fun yet?

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  13. Thank you for this post!

    I've been catching up on my publishing/literary blogs tonight and the news has all been so dire that I actually found myself getting a little panicky. But then here you were with sensible advice and encouragement and I can breathe again.

    Thank you for permission to take my time, to learn to write first, to attempt to take the world by storm later. I needed that.

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  14. I actually suspect that in the future the role of agents will be primarily to help authors polish and market an e-book, which can then potentially be picked up by a traditional publishing company if it is successful. Hopefully this will help ensure that authors aren't jumping into the waters too early.

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  15. This is something I've been thinking about more and more as I've gotten into querying my third book. If this one gets no hits from the agents, I may try my hand at small pubs first, but then, if that fails, I may just take the bull by the horns and self-pub. I want to get these books, my books, this series out to the world. People have read them and say they're wonderful. (And not just friends but people I've never met.) so why not share.

    We'll see what happens after the summer when the final round of queries comes back.

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  16. I read a comment on a newspaper article months ago where someone said, "the human race is exactly the same as it always has been. We're just faster." And the case with the author responding to the book review serves as further proof.

    The problem is that all of us can respond to almost anything immediately online. We can write our comments in the heat of the moment and get our point across instantly. And if you're privately chatting to a friend on Skype or something then that's great.

    But when you're an author in a public forum, it's a liability. All you have is your name and your reputation. Anything you say online under your own name you ought to be prepared to stand up and defend offline, because in all likelihood those comments will exist forever. So it behooves us to think and consider our words before we act...

    ...which, funnily enough, is exactly what we as writers are used to doing. We choose our words carefully. We sit for hours trying to make sentences as concise or as beautiful as we can. We agonise over word choices and ponder our completed pages for hours, days and months before we let somebody else see them. So really, taking our time over comments we leave on the internet should be a habit that comes naturally to us.

    But emotions get in the way, of course. Which is why I recommend waiting. Often the best response a writer can give to a situation -- especially where the writer's work is being considered or discussed by others -- is no response at all. Writers respond best through their work, in my opinion. Or, if we absolutely must comment, then it should be a measured, respectful, clear-headed response that we provide, featuring a conclusion that has been arrived at after serious consideration and thought. And time. Because you're going to have to stand by that response. And maybe you'll be defending it forever.

    The best thing about silence as a response to a review or a slight is that there is no definitive interpretation of what that silence means. And because you give nothing away, it takes nothing away from you.

    On the other hand, have I ever personally responded in the heat of the moment? Yes. Have I acted upon something online without properly thinking the consequences through? You bet. Have I left comments that I regret? Absolutely.

    But so far, not this one.

    So far.

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  17. Much to consider. Thank you for writing it down.

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  18. Gwen--Thanks for continuing to help indie writers! Indie writers can't survive without you to help weed through the slush. You and other book bloggers are our heroes, and I applaud you for your honesty and hard work. I just heard about a teen book blogger who's being harassed by an author for a bad review, and that's scary.

    m--Thanks!

    Jan--You're so right.

    Michelle--You are the voice of experience and anybody thinking of self-pubbing should follow your blog.

    Flo/Nostradamus--I got chills as I read that. I'm sure you're right. I wonder who it will be? Thoughtful observations.

    Michelle--I'm so glad I helped. There is so much doom-and-gloom-and-hurry-up-about-it going on. I try to help fight it.

    Sierra--I think your prediction is spot-on. We still need gatekeepers/hand-holders to keep us from being stupid.

    Neil--What a wise comment. You've got some important things to say. We live in a culture that worships speed, but speed can do us in. And I always remember the line--I think it's Woody Allen's "Farce is just tragedy speeded up." We are all in danger of becoming ridiculous. That's what happened to that poor author. She didn't exactly show writerly skills by dropping f-bombs.

    Yvonne--Thanks!

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  19. We all have a breaking point. Emotional trials, stressful environments, work overload, and life in general, can cause us to snap. It's human.

    I believe you have a point about the importance of being able to carry this baggage before we expose our souls to the world.

    Insightful post!
    Thank you.
    Cheers, Amma

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  20. Anne you read my mind, I was just thinking about this when I saw your post.

    Brilliant advice as always!!

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  21. Amma--Thanks. You're so right. Everybody has a breaking point, and as Neil said above, we're in a culture that's on speed all the time. Stress levels are over the top.

    Emily--Thanks. With your Writers Chronicle Forums, you probably have seen a few writers on the edge. It's tough out there.

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  22. I think the tough question is how do you know when your book is ready? With traditional publishing, you have agents and publishers to tell you when a ms is not ready, but without them, how do you truly know?

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  23. Meghan--My thoughts exactly. And I'm not sure my novel Food of Love was really ready, even with an editor and publisher. Not up to my current standards, anyway. But I sure thought it was perfect at the time.

    Victoria--Thanks! You're an author who has been very successful going the small press route. A good choice for mysteries, I think.

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  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  25. I don't know that I could ever bring myself to self-publish. There's nothing wrong with it, of course...but I suppose I just have this idea that traditional publishing is the "real thing." While it does take a lot of professionalism to e-publish well, anybody can still do it. Anybody. So it seems to me that e-publishing can really be a discredit to those who managed to be successful by the long road of blood, sweat, and tears into getting published by professional editors and agents.

    On the other hand...Benjamin Franklin's one of the most famous self-publishers.... If you do it well, more power to you. I wish you the best and you're far more disciplined and professional then those who fail at to do the major things that Anne just pointed out. I just wish, I guess, that there wasn't such a melting pot for writers as e-publishing, because the more there is and the easier it is to do, the more substandard, poor-quality stuff gets out there, which makes it even more difficult for authors to be taken seriously.

    Just some thoughts...I could be way off here.

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  26. This is a fantastic post, Anne. Thank you.

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  27. Veronika, I'm sorry you removed your post. I thought it expressed exactly what a lot of us feel--we'd rather go the clunky old route, because traditional publishing gives you a kind of "seal of approval." It may not mean as much $$, but when there will be so many unvetted books out there, some kind of approval will help you stand out.

    Elspeth--Thanks!

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  28. Dear Anne,
    That was a beautifully written post. It said in print what I have been thinking about all week. I would also like to thank the commenters. They have all added to the conversation and given me some more to think about.

    maureen
    New Zealand

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  29. Anne,

    I printed this one out and read it on my way to work this morning. I've read one of the interviews you pointed to want to check out the other links.

    I'm giving myself an 8-month course on self-pubbing with a view to releasing one of my own books. Now, more than ever, I am acutely aware of the pitfalls that may come. Your tips will definitely help point me in the right direction.

    Your last post was almost a foretaste of what was to come on the 'net. At the time, I read the thread not quite believing what I was seeing and then yesterday when I checked, I was astounded by the seventy something, I believe, one star ratings.

    Yes, the writer was very rude, but what gets my goat is how she was attacked, particularly by those using 'Anonymous' labels. It's a lesson for all of us though to expect that not everybody will like our writing and that it's their right to say so. I do wish her the best and that somehow she'll get over the damage that's been done.

    Again, an insightful post. Thanks, Anne.

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  30. Well, sometimes we don't like to hear what we must hear. Thanks for the post, it reminded me that I have to control my anxiety and do my best before sending my work to the wolves.

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  31. Maureen--Thanks. Yes, aren't these comments great? We've got some great writers (and thinkers) here.

    J.L.--You're so right. I got such a creepy feeling when I read that horrible thread on big Al's blog. I'd just been saying blogging WASN'T as high-schooly as the others. Not true, unfortunately.

    Natalie--It does feel like sending a baby off into the wolf-infested forest, doesn't it? Sometimes I can't do it for months at a time. Gearing up for new queries makes me feel like stocking up on Ativan.

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  32. EXCELLENT post, Anne! I don't consider myself a candidate for self-publishing, but this is a good read for anyone. By the way, my crutch word is also "just."

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  33. Tu she, Anne. (sorry, I can't spell in french)

    I had my first ever short story published, and I was elated. A week later, I had my first ever PUBLISHED review. Boy did it ever hurt.

    Truthfully though, the high over being published lasted about as long as the depression over the review: about 5 minutes of my life.

    If my novels ever sells, that will be my reviews. Readers, no matter if they are aspiring writers, blog friends, or paid professionals, are entitled to their opinion. Purchases tell me all I need to know about my writing ability, and the story effectiveness.

    Not that I'm an expert; I just don't want to get caught up in all the worry over one review - positive or negative.

    You've brought up some excellent points to consider.

    Thank you :)

    ......dhole

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  34. Speaking of reviews:

    I just finished reading THE GOLDEN AGE, published in Notes From Underground.

    Wow, that took me back to my childhood. I recognized most of the references. And the sentiments. A glorious time of change, personal discovery, and yes, conformity. Everyone had to belong to something, somewhere, even while searching for their individuality.

    The story was well written, polished. The tone and pacing drew me in. The language perfectly caught the atmosphere of the two cultural era's depicted. So easy to identify with the young adult Morgan and her younger self, though both "voices" were distinct to specific time and place.

    I wanted to dance with Ruth, and kiss her cheek and share a glass of champaigne. The way she handled her loss seemed so appropriate. And I so wanted to run away with Dodie, to meet her again next Saturday and see what adventure she had planned.

    This story made me remember my own younger years, and the influences of the people I encountered. Darn you, now I'll have Love Me Tender stuck in my head all week. That movie has to be available somewhere to buy.

    What I liked best about the story though was the ending. It didn't have a definite end; I knew Morgan's story had many chapters yet unwritten, but it felt complete to end on such an ambiguous note. People touch our lives, briefly or for long peeriods, but you don't always know them well. We all hold secrets, even from ourselves . .

    Anyway; feel free to repost or use this review in any way that works for you. I've kept it on a word document to post when I finish reading all the stories in Notes. It may take me a while - there are a lot of excellent authors in this anthology. But, I'm focusing first on the authors I'm already familiar with.

    ......dhole

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  35. Nina--I just don't know why, but it always seems just the right word...

    Donna--THANK YOU!! Oh what a great review! This really cheers a kind of dark day. You GOT it. Isn't that why we write--we want people to "get" us? This is so well written and thoughtful.

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  36. That's strange...I removed the first one because I wanted to add something else to it...Now I can't even remember what my main point was. :P

    Thanks, though, Anne. :)

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  37. Reading this post, thought of a couple of things:
    1) Are you a lawyer, also? You certainly understand a lot of the ins, outs, backs, forths, of these wildly ping-ponging changes in Publish. Industry. I'm gonna let you keep up with that, since I can't. Thank you.

    2) When you mention "crushing, unfair criticism," thought of J.D. Salinger. Read someplace that he kept writing through his whole life, but ceased publishing because he was tired of the attacks. (Criticism which seemed like "attacks" to him. He said something like, Bad enough when they attack you [the author] but when they start going after your characters ...

    And I admire the point you made about the current, or traditional process of -- query, meet with editor, fail fail etc. and how that process can get a person more ready and prepared for public Reading of their work -- not "cold turkey," so to speak.
    (For myself, I find work I've done in sales and lobbying has helped me to deal with rejection, in spite of being what some folks would call a "sensitive" person -- I don't even think of it as rejection, (same way I try not to "see color,") -- it's just conversation.

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  38. Veronika--It was a good post. You said you wanted to wait and go the traditional route and gave some good reasons.

    Carson--Nope. Not a lawyer. But my sister is. Maybe it rubs off. I just do a lot of research. Well, I guess that's what lawyers do, too.

    I can understand Salinger's point. He chose to write for himself. (Or maybe, secretly, for posterity.)Criticism can be so subjective and subject to trends.

    Good for you if you've learned not to take that kind of rejection personally. Books get rejected and criticized, not people.

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  39. A very informative blog!

    I'm taking a class to figure out how to make cover art. I'm also learning coding for html, epub etc, and I publish some short stories through smaller e-presses with great editors to keep my editing eye sharp.

    You're absolutely right, Anne. In order to be a successful indie author, we have to treat our writing like a job, and you wouldn't get hired if you didn't know every aspect of the job.

    Do indie authors still have typos, blurry covers, and the occasional grammatical mistake in their book? Sure. And a few can be overlooked. A full on grammar assault cannot be.

    Thanks for the reminder. I'm excited to be a new follower.

    All my best wishes,
    Allure Van Sanz

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  40. Anne,
    I just found your blog, via KND's email. Thank you for your comments on the indie author whose response to a bad review went viral. (I assume we are talking about the same person). I was disappointed by the way that her comments were passed around by indie authors, almost with glee. As an indie author myself, I understand the benefit of reminding each other not to respond to bad reviews, but I felt terrible for that author, who obviously wasn't prepared for a bad review, and didn't handle herself well. We all do stupid things like that, and it would be nice if we all showed a little more compassion about an unfortunate incident.

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  41. Allure and Julie--welcome! I'm honored that Steve at Kindle Nation Daily asked me for a guest post. Sites like indie Kindle and Kindle Nation will be increasingly important to readers as well as writers, in order to choose the best of the new ebook offerings.

    Allure--it sounds as if you're doing everything just right. Your site looks very professional.

    Julie--You're right about the compassion. Everybody messes up. It's how we learn. I guess a lot of people learned about inappropriate responses to reviews here, but it didn't have to be so nasty.

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  42. Anne,

    Thanks for the sound advice, as always. I'm actually preparing to ePub my first story in the near future, so your information came at a fortuitous time for me. I've hired a professional to do the cover. It's taken me a while to develop the requisite thick skin to accept the forth-coming critism, but I think I'm finally ready. I've been in three different writer groups, so (hopefully) the ms is ready/polished (although we could go over them a hundred more times and still change things). I didn't know about the professional coding part, so that's something I'll definitely look into.

    Again, thanks for enlightening us.

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  43. Anne, I think what you said about being "psychologically prepared" to be published is brilliant; I'd never thought of it that way before, but am really hypersensitive to it now that Zombies Don't Cry is out. The fact is, this current state of social media folks/connections and reviewers and book bloggers is so new and, occasionally, can be really unpleasant. Even when you're traditionally published, you open yourself up to criticism, transparency and the occasionall cyber bully every time you post a blog, send a tweet or share something on Facebook; it can be really jarring even when you are prepared for it! Great and timely post; thanks for sharing and sparking such lively and well-thought-through comments; glad I stopped by!

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  44. Lenny--I sure know what you mean about being able to go over things 100 times and still wanting to change things. Good luck.

    Rusty--I hope you visit again. So true about the cyberbullying. I talked about that last week in my post about how social networking can be like high school. Yuck.

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  45. Great post! I put something up last week a lot like it, about ferocious critiques and how important they are in training the author.

    There's this great feeling of freedom when you can get a bad review and just be grateful for the feedback in it. Then you're in charge of your life and no reviewers can put a dent in it. They can only make your work better.

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  46. Really interesting post. I self-published my novel a couple of weeks ago and have recently started blogging, so this looks like a timely heads-up!

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  47. This is a very well-rounded and well-crafted post. I too, I'm grateful I didn't have the option to self-publish work I'd written years ago, even though I'm sure I would've at the time. I'm a much better writer now, and I cringe at the thought of my early work being read widely. Going out too soon, is definitely a danger. Also, good point about how continuous industry rejection building thick skin, that do-it-right-now-ers haven't yet developed.

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  48. Anne, your posts are the best! I prepared my book as best I could; over a year in the research/writing/self editing, hired a professional editor, an artist and book cover designer, and when I simply could not navigate around the 'easy' Kindle pub, I hired someone to do that as well. What I was not prepared for, although I knew it on an intellectual level, was the amount of time and effort it takes to market a book. Perhaps this comes easy to some and certainly a genre book and most especially some genres are easier to market. But they all require that time and effort.

    The author in question may need to be further prepared: A spike in sales could bring more 'bad' reviews. I sincerely hope that is not the case.

    Sharon

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  49. hi there!

    you have a nice blog anne.keep it up.

    please see https://badbody.biz/manuela/

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  50. Great advice, Anne. After more than 200 rejections, I independently published my novel, "Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, which caught the attention of a producer and has now been optioned for the big screen, proving you can DIY. As for marketing, all authors whether traditionally or independently published must be prepared to promote. I spend at least two to three hours each day doing just that. As P.T. Barnum once said, “Without promotion, something terrible will happen. Nothing.”

    Regards,
    Judith Marshall

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  51. Pat--You're right about fierce critques. They're great--as long as they're about helping your work and not furthering the critiquers agendas. The most important thing is to learn to take criticism and cherry-pick the worthwhile advice.

    Robert--Good luck with the launch. It's an exciting time.

    Elle--Thanks. Yes, time is the important ingredient--for learning to write, and learning to take the heat.

    Sharon--That's an important factor, too. Marketing is yet another job. It can take a whole lot of time you may not have.

    grace--That's sounding a little spammy.It's better to read the post and comment on something specific.

    Judith--What a success story! Film offers are the big prize. More and more indies are getting them. Congrats.

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  52. That's right. Thanks for the reminder. :)

    I do want to wait and go the traditional route, the main reason being that anybody can publish an e-book, anybody (even if it's not well done). The bigger the slushpile, the harder it is to find the real gems, the results of many, many long, hard hours by writers who are actually trying to write well.

    It's almost like the movie quote from Pixar's The Incredibles: "They keep finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity..." So, when someone is genuinely exceptional, they have to work two or three times harder to even get people to take them seriously.

    E-books are good, and helpful, when done well. But I just think e-publishing, in the end, is unfair to writers who consider writing an art.

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  53. "There are some unspoken benefits to the old query-fail-query-fail-submission-fail-editorial meeting-fail, fail, fail system. It not only gives us numerous readers to help hone that book to perfection—it also teaches us to deal with rejection, failure and bad reviews."

    Well put.

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  54. I would have to agree with this very wise advice indeed. After reading about the drama between blogger and self published author. I couldn't help but think; could this happen to me? (not the drama part, the bad review part because I published too quickly).
    I took a very long look at my own books and thought...hmmm? really truly ready? and the answer came from my gut, when it tightened with fear. Might I have overlooked something because my friends and family were too kind not to mention it. I took down the books from the internet and sent them off to a third party for review. It might be nothing, he might find something but at the very least I will know a little more before hand.

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  55. This is a timely and intelligent post; however, as someone who read a bit of the kerfluffle that went on between the reviewer and the author in question, it was fairly clear to me -- and many of the people commenting -- that the problem wasn't so much with the coding of the ebook in question but the author's grammar and syntax. The reviewer simply pointed out that the numerous mistakes in the copy interfered with the story itself, which he felt had the potential to be compelling. So yes, having your book coded properly is extremely important, but it's just as important -- if not more so -- to hire a good editor.

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  56. Anne, I was directed to your blog by my old friend Nathan Bransford. And I very much enjoyed your info on the self-publishing route. It's quite true that the publishing industry is in a state of flux and it appears that the balance is shifting from the traditional agent-publisher requirement to the new writer-POD-ebook approach. Personally, I think it's a great thing for several reasons.

    I have two eBooks on Amazon.com right now. They've sold many more copies than I ever expected. I also have two paperbacks available that have done extremely well for an unknown author. I fully intend to continue in this endeavor, and I have four more novels already written that will be released in the future.

    I would encourage anyone who has a dream of seeing their work published to learn more about the epub and the POD capabilities. Dreams can come true.

    Cornell DeVille

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  57. Anne, this was a wonderful post. I agree with your commenter who said it is a must read for anyone considering the self-publishing route. I surely have been tempted but a part of me has advised caution, and I have heeded that advice. I suspect there is an analogy here to a professional athlete in a sport, like tennis, which anyone can play. The star makes the play look so effortless that one is tempted to say, I can do that, if I just do this or that. It turns out the “this or that” are not so effortless after all. So I will wait a while longer until my inner voice says, go. Which might not be ever.

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  58. Anne, I just came over here from Nathan's blog. Thanks for a thoughtful and balanced post. It's easy, amidst all brouhaha, to be swayed by the authors and bloggers who are convinced indie is the way to go. Especially when, as an unpubbed writer, you're getting rather tired of the slow, old fashioned route, and not enjoying the rejection that comes with it. You put all of that in perspective. It almost makes me want to go out and get some more rejections! Toughen myself up. Like working out at the gym, or outward bound. Well, in any case, it puts the whole decision into its proper context. Thanks again.

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  59. I’ve deliberately held back on making this comment because I don’t want it to seem like a promo. But the point cannot be made without reference to the book. So here goes.

    I’m co-author of the crime-thriller Sugar & Spice by Saffina Desforges.

    We tried the “traditional route” but waiting month after month for a response had us thinking, “How long is too long?” So we e-published to Kindle and continued to submit to agents meantime. We hoped maybe we’d pick up a few sales along the way and help build a brand.

    Our book is currently the number one thriller in the Kindle UK charts and the third best-seller across all genres on Kindle UK.

    The manuscript has been with a prospective agent now for over two months. Lots of interest, but no firm decision, let alone a publisher.

    During the time this particular agent has had the manuscript “exclusively” we have sold over thirty thousand e-books. And that’s JUST through Amazon. We haven’t even begun to explore other options properly yet.

    Knowing not that we don’t “need” an agent or publisher to reach an audience has given us the confidence to press ahead with our many other projects and we hope to have another two, maybe three, books on Amazon by the end of the year, and have plans for a dozen more over the next three years (two writers can easily more than double output!).

    Had we still been waiting and hoping for the gatekeepers’ seal of approval we would have been at best working half-heartedly at book number two, wondering what we were doing wrong.

    Instead we are in a position where a “paper” publishing deal would be nice, but only if the conditions are right for us.

    We’re selling twenty thousand books a month. Now. Today. A paper-published book , if we got the contract, would be a year away. That’s potentially a quarter million lost sales, based just on Amazon.

    Yes, you’re right, many books, and writers, may not be “ready”, but with e-books you can correct your mistakes the next day / week / month (ours first uploaded with three chapters missing!) at no cost.

    And maybe, just maybe, your book will be one of those the gatekeepers got wrong and the public like despite your occasional typo.

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  60. Veronika--I think self-e-published books can be just as "artistic" and well written as legacy-published. In fact many have been published both ways. But they can be harder to find.

    David--Thanks!

    Timothy--It couldn't hurt.

    Christine--You're right. But the coding was the "McGuffin" that sparked the argument.

    Cornell--I checked out your site and your books look intriguing. It looks as if you learned your craft and had a lot of inventory before you took the plunge. That's the way to do it.

    Judith--The sports analogy is a good one. You don't try out for a major league baseball team after pitching one winning Little League game. It takes time to be good enough for the big leagues.

    macswriter--The gym analogy is good, too.

    Mark--Congratulations! That's an inspiring story. Lots of good writers are making it this way. I think the genres that do best with the self-pub route are thrillers and mysteries and romantic comedies, since traditional publishers are dropping these in favor of paranormal and YA. I think books that appeal to men are especially being shunned. So you made a good decision. And obviously, you also learned to write well first.

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  61. I found your blog through Nathan's site and his from Autism Mom Rising's site. I am so glad I did as I love this post. I agree that editing is important and this was something I knew I needed when I started writing. I chose to avoid the traditional publishers because I wanted to get my message out as soon as possible. I wrote my book to teach tolerance of differences after my daughter who has Asperger's was bullied. I did invest in editing. I purchased a package through iUniverse that included an initial evaluation of my manuscript to give me an overview of what I needed. Then I purchased a developmental editing package that included a developmental edit, a content edit and a copy edit. Finally, I also purchased a proofreading edit. I think the money was well spent. My book would never have been ready for reviews without this. The package also included formatting. I think going through the process with iUniverse helped me become a better writer.
    My novel, Delightfully Different was officially published in November and my Kirkus review was good so I know I am on the right track. Do you have any suggestions as to who I should have review my novel? I have had four autism related bloggers do reviews so far and the world renowned expert on Asperger's also has my book sitting on his to read shelve. Friends and colleagues have written short reviews at Barnes and Noble for me. Other options would truly be appreciated. Should I still try to get an agent since I self-published or is this unnecessary if I do not pursue traditional publishing? Any advice you can offer is appreciated.

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  62. D.S. It sounds as if you've done all the right things if you've got a good Kirkus review. That's the holy grail! Unfortunately, I don't know enough book bloggers, especially nonfiction reviewers. But it sounds as if you're doing the right thing networking with other moms of kids with Asperger's. That's getting right to your audience, which is the most important thing of all. Agents help you get published and since you're already there, you certainly don't need one, unless you're planning another book. Laurie McLean at Agent Savant also does marketing, but since your book is already out, I'm not sure how much she could do for you. Mostly I'd suggest hand-selling online, just the way you're doing. Maybe expand to giving talks at local libraries and service organizations if that's feasible. Good luck! This is a huge issue for so many parents these days.

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  63. I had no idea there was such a thing as a professional coder. Now I know. Thanks.

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  64. Great post. I couldn't have come across this site at a better time. Although I have been blogging for years I understand that I have so much to learn. Being 62 yrs. old I have to learn fast if I ever intend to get published. With post like this I wonder if I'll ever get to the starting line much less get in the race. Thank you very much for your words of wisdom.

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  65. Here's the thing - I have no problem with the evolution of the world and the whole self-publishing gig but one part which is starting to make little red flags wave in the nether regions of my brain is the idea that a whole industry has popped up overnight to suck money out of wannabe writers.

    From new cover designers to formatters to font advisors to...et al. Money should come to the writer and no away from her. In trad publishing at least the gamble is clear - you put in the hours, you learn as much as you can about the business, and you hope. Now I'm worried about people not putting the hours (which is one thing) but also forking over wads of cash to pay to make their dreams of published writer status happen.

    Maybe I'm wrong but there feels like a potential ickky factor starting to slip in under the radar here.

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  66. tim--You make a valid point. This certainly happened with the advent of POD technology. Outfits like PublishAmerica and Authorhouse scammed (and are still scamming) a huge number of writer wannabes. Most self-published books only make a few dozen sales. Many self-publishing packages cost over $5000. The authors will never break even.

    I think the problem is so many people still think books make a lot of money. Very, very few new books do--unless they're by politicians (whose parties buy up huge lots) or celebrities (Snooki has a lot to answer for.)

    A huge number of people think there's a shortcut to learning to write. And as long as they do, they're going to get scammed.

    But for people like DS above, who may only have one book/issue in them, hiring professionals isn't a bad idea. If you don't want to take the huge amount of time it takes to learn to write and your #1 goal is to get an idea out there, it's better to make sure it's done right than just throw an amateur effort on Kindle.

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  67. English Teacher--It's a new field. Some people are comfortable just uploading the book to Amazon, where most ebook sales happen, but if you want to reach all formats--including iPad--it's best to go with a pro.

    George--Don't despair. There's the story of the 45 year old who was considering going back to college. "When I get out, I'll be nearly 50!" he said. So somebody asked how old he'd be in 4 years if he DIDN'T go to college. Yes, it takes time to learn to write well. But if it's your dream, there's no better time to start than now. And it doesn't have to take forever. Writing courses and workshops can speed you along, if you can afford them.

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  68. I guess I wasn't clear when I commented earlier. My book is fiction; it will not be my only book. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from a Jesuit university with a degree in marketing in addition to having my nursing degree so I am not a bad writer. Jesuit universities focus on strong writing skills. Writing was my first love in high school, but I went into nursing to pay the bills.

    The initial reviewer felt my book had potential. I have taken writing classes in the past, but it had been a while since I actually wrote fiction. I worked with a free lance editor and took four years to write my short novel. It wasn't that I did not want to take the "huge" amount of time to write. It wasn't about being afraid of rejection either.

    My freelance editor friend had never worked on a children's book before and I still needed an editor. Looking at the overall costs, iUniverse was not a bad deal since hiring a good editor can easily run over $5,000. I feel my novel is now ready to pursue traditional publishing if I decide to go that route and that is still something I am thinking about doing.

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  69. D.S.--No, I didn't get that your book was a novel--or that it's a children's book. MG and YA writers have a marvelous network, so I'd just hop around to their blogs and talk to people. If you decide to go the traditional publishing route, I think more agents rep YA than any other genre, so you have a fighting chance. Good luck!

    But as a general thing: I do think hiring a company to edit and publish is a good idea for people who have a "message" nonfiction book and aren't planning to make writing their career. This is especially true for people who have a big network of people interested in their subject matter. People who do public speaking on self-help subjects often make much more money if they self-publish.

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  70. You write, "Those of us who were thinking of simply uploading a Word.doc into Amazon’s form to convert to Kindle might need to think again." I had to learn that the hard way myself, and it wasn't fun. I'm now e-pubbing with someone who knows how to proof and format. Lesson learned.

    PS--Anne, would you mind if Sisters in Crime reblogged this post? Of course, with a link back and proper attribution.

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  71. I've heard that from a lot of writers, Dana. The best is having somebody like that who proofs and codes the books. Got a name to recommend?

    Happy if you reprint this post. I'm a Sister myself and would love to spread the word. Just give a link back to my blog. Thanks!

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  72. Nice post. Makes me happy because I can answer all the posed questions with a resounding YES! I've treated my project with the utmost respect and am ready for the bashing that will accompany the (praise?!).
    I find it amazing how people take out huge loans to earn a degree in "What the hell am I going to do with this..." And then, people take years to write a book and don't seek professional help or take the time to make it awesome. It just doesn't make sense after all the time one spends on a book.

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  73. Love this post - it's very pertinent to the situation I'm in right now, and I appreciate your examination of the self publishing option.

    Thanks for being such a great voice in the publishing wilderness we're all finding ourselves in right now.

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  74. 100% agree with hiring an editor and strongly suggest the same for covers, but what do you mean by 'get your book professionally **coded**'?

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  75. Thanks Ryan and Roh!

    Tony--Coding is another word for formatting. I just checked your site and tt sounds as if you're a tech-savvy writer who can do your own. But many writers get in way over their heads and end up with unreadable books full of bizarre symbols where their apostrophes are supposed to go, and huge spaces in the middle of sentences, etc.

    The guy Joe Konrath uses for formatting/coding is Rob Siders at 52 novels. I've heard from several writers who love his work and his professionalism. http://www.52novels.com/.

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  76. Hi Anne,

    When I published my first book I had no idea what I was letting myself in for regarding the social networking sites. But even though I am better educated about them now, my philosophy has always remained the same. Now matter how much you are slammed over certain things, always remain dignified. ALWAYS. And this usually involves saying as little as you possibly can.

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  77. LK--You make a very good point. The age of social networking is the age of TMI. People become like 3-year olds, blurting out whatever comes into their heads. Sometimes you really don't need to tell anybody you went potty all by yourself. :-)

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  78. Hi Anne,

    You are so wise. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and advice on this topic.

    A lot of other 'how to publish on Kindle' websites seem to have this idea of writing just for making money, and I love that you ask us to respect the craft of writing.

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  79. Open--Anybody who writes just to make money is clueless. You'd make a better hourly wage collecting cans on the side of the road :-) To be a successful self--publisher you need two things: solid skills in the craft of writing, and a good, logical head for business. I'll be writing more on this next month. Thanks for commenting!

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