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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Indie or Traditional Publishing? Don’t Take Sides: Take Your Time


For a new writer, this can seem like a terrifying time to be launching a career. Everything in the publishing industry is in upheaval. Bookstores are closing all around us. Publishers and online retailers are conducting high-profile battles in the legal system as well as the court of public opinion. (If you want a quick, sensible overview of the challenges in the publishing industry today, Nathan Bransford has a great post this week on the new era of publishing.) 

The rules keep changing. Experts don’t agree on anything. The us/them, either/or arguments of "indie" self-publishers vs. “legacy” traditional publishers can be toxic.

If you regularly make the rounds of publishing blogs and writers’ forums, you may be feeling more and more confused—even bullied.

A whole lot of experts will tell you that if you’re not going indie, you’re a moron, and every minute your manuscript is sitting there unpublished, you’re throwing away potential zillions. They will tell you anybody who has an agent or publishes with the Big Six is a miserable slave who is contributing to the corporate takeover of the world: agents and publishers are all crooks, idiots, and meanies who are going to beat you up and eat your lunch.

A whole lot of other experts will tell you that if you’re publishing anywhere but the Big Six, you’re a moron who's contributing to the downfall of civilization and destroying the World as We Know It: self-publishers are all clueless, uneducated louts who have unleashed a tsunami of crap that is killing our bookstores, libraries and brain cells.

So what's a new writer to do?  

Don't let anybody call you a moron, for one thing. The Internet age is also the age of irresponsible, anonymous snark and bullying.

My advice is shut out the noise, refuse to take sides, educate yourself, and take your time.

The ebook revolution isn’t about battles between warring "sides". It’s about the freedom to choose how we publish and what we read. Relish that freedom.

Change can be very scary. It’s like trying to go about normal business in the middle of an earthquake. There’s nothing solid to hang onto.

But you know what’s scarier than change?

No change.

Before the ebook, publishing was a calcifying industry. New writers were finding it tougher and tougher to break in. Successful career authors were dropped if they couldn’t produce annual blockbusters in spite of no marketing budget. The antiquated system of returns—in which every bookstore is a consignment shop—means publishers have been wasting a huge amount of money shipping books back and forth to warehouses and eventually pulping them.

The ebook is changing everything. Ditto social media.

Even if you’re a traditionalist, you don’t have to be afraid of the electronic revolution. It’s not killing literature. The truth is more people are reading now than ever before. They’re reading voraciously—on their laptops, tablets and phones—and yes, on dead treeware. In fact, nearly 70% of books sold are still made of paper. (And: Newsflash! Not everything published the old-fashioned way was great art. For grins, Google Amanda McKittrick Ros sometime.) 

I love this joke Kristen Lamb posted on her blog this week: 

“Great, thanks to that Gutenberg jerk, everyone can be published.”...Kristen Lamb

Just as Johannes Gutenberg took power from the ruling priestly caste and gave it to the people—who could then read the Bible and find out for themselves what it said—ebooks are taking power from the ruling publishing caste and letting the people find out for themselves what they want to read.

This means more power is now in the hands of readers and writers than any time in history. Thanks to ebooks and social media marketing, writers can now go directly to readers with fresh, innovative ideas and stories.

If and when we want to.

Here’s the thing: the electronic revolution doesn’t mean everybody has to self-publish. But the fact of the self-publishing option changes the playing field for everybody.

Your life is being changed for the better right now—
  • Even if you’ve never touched a Kindle—and you don’t intend to until they pry the world’s last moldering paperback from your cold, dead hands. 
  • Even if you’d rather endure waterboarding during a tax audit than try to make sense of a Twitter stream.
  • Even if you stopped keeping up with technology when your last VCR went to that Great Techno-dump in the Sky. (Which probably means you’re reading this on a hard copy your granddaughter printed out for you—and that’s fine too.)
But you now have choices that never existed before. And more choices are opening up all the time as the industry processes new ideas (Yes, some are slower to process than others, and may get trampled on the way to the tar pits of history, but I don’t think anybody should underestimate the survival skills of multinational corporations.)
  • If you try traditional publishing and get offered a rotten contract—you can walk away. 
  • If you self-publish and St. Martin’s comes calling with a seven figure deal—you can jump on it. 
  • If you publish with a small press and do well, you can still work at getting an agent who might make you an author-friendly deal with one of the new Amazon imprints. 
Plus a whole lot more things are sure to be possible in the near future. The next Jeff Bezos may be dreaming it up as you read this.

You can choose to self-publish. Or not.

You can choose to blog/Tweet/Facebook/Pinterest. Or not.

But you know what you can't choose? To edit a book that's already on somebody's Kindle.

Don’t let anybody rush you or push you onto one path or the other.

Everybody has a different tolerance for technology. You can mix and match as you wish. I’ve read that Twitter god Neil Gaiman writes his first drafts with a #2 pencil. I know successful Kindle authors who swear by their manual typewriters. Try things out and make the choices that work for you.

Remember it’s people who are most insecure in their own choices who will seek to control yours.

Besides, you may never have to choose.

Many successful authors are using self-publishing alongside of legacy publishing. We’ve had a number of guests on our blog who are doing both: Lawrence Block, Jeff Carlson, Catherine Ryan Hyde, and Kim Wright are all successful Big Six authors who are also self-publishing.

But there IS one thing you can do—no matter what path you take:

Use your freedom responsibly.

The truth is there is indeed something of a "tsunami of crap" hitting the online retailers--rough drafts are inundating the marketplace--manuscripts that might have been good books one day if the authors had taken the time to perfect their skills. 

What's wrong with that?

For readers? Nothing. 

Nobody can force us to read a bad book. (And there is that nice "peek inside" feature on most retail sites.) 

Readers can find good books the same way we find good blogs. Without agents, marketers, or unpaid interns from Brown, we somehow find the blogs we want to read amongst the millions.  

But when it's YOUR book--do you really want it to be part of the crap? Do you want to end your career before it starts by neglecting to make your book as good as it can be? 

Even the best editor can't turn an amateur's first draft into a bestseller. And no newbie writer has any idea how bad his first draft is. Believe me, I queried a first novel that was appalling, but I was quite proud of it at the time. If you want to learn a bit from my mistakes, read my post on 12 Signs Your Novel isn't Ready to Publish. 

So remember you also have the freedom to WAIT. Rachelle Gardner and Roz Morris  both blogged brilliantly about the subject this week. And here’s a great quote  from a surprising source:

“The biggest challenge [to authors today] is self-restraint. Publishing tools, like Smashwords make it fast, free and easy for any writer anywhere in the world to publish. But we don’t make it easy to write a great book. Many writers, intoxicated by the freedom to self-publish, will often release their book before it’s ready.”

…Mark Coker—Founder of Smashwords


(Thanks to Porter Anderson  for that quote.)

Yeah. Mr. Smashwords is telling you NOT to use his service--not until you learn to be the most excellent writer you can be. You can’t buy excellence, no matter how much you pay an editor. (Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware gives a great run-down on how and when to use an editing service. And I’ve got a post on hiring an editor here.) Remember an amateur writer + an amateur editor = an amateur book & money wasted.

"I don't want to look at it any more" is not a good reason to publish a manuscript. It's a good reason to set it aside to edit in three-to-six months. Your fresh eyes may be as good as any editor's, and a whole lot cheaper. 

This is a great time to be a writer. A year from now may be even greater. Don’t let anybody pressure you to do anything but put in your 10,000 Malcolm Gladwell hours, and become the best, most professional writer you can be.

When you’re really ready to publish, the publishing world may be a very different place from what anybody envisions, especially the battling bullies.

What about you scriveners? Have you felt bullied by people who have created two “sides” in the e-book revolution? Do you feel pressured to publish? Do you read self-published books? Do you think they are all crap? Do you have trouble figuring out who to believe? Any hints to give your fellow writers on how to shut out the noise?


***
My big news this week is that I'm going to be honored at the Central Coast Writers Conference next September with the "Success Story" Award. Thanks to Judy Salamacha and all the good people at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo who make this conference the "best value writers' conference in California" according to Sunset Magazine. Join agent Laurie McLean, book blogger Danielle Smith, and a whole lot of other great presenters at the conference September 21-22. 

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47 Comments:

Blogger Laura Pauling said...

I think I would've felt overwhelmed by it all if I was in my first year writing. But because I wasn't, I loved reading all the new information and researching when I was in the decision process. But I do hope one day, that all the snark would fade a bit. But, then again, that seems to be what brings on the increased blog hits so that just encourages more snark and bashing. Which is why I made the decision not to blog about it.

But that's what I love about your posts is that you take the information and present both sides in terms of the writers instead of bashing.

Thanks for that!

May 13, 2012 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger Donna B. McNicol said...

Great post...will be referring back to this often. Thank you!

May 13, 2012 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

First, congratulations on the Success Story Award!
Everybody's path is different and I've seen author friends succeed on both sides. Do agree that writers should take their time. Why toss something out there that's not the best it can be?

May 13, 2012 at 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Gloria Antypowich said...

Great Post-- and how true that you can't edit a book that is already on someones Kindle! To my embarrassment that just happened to me!

May 13, 2012 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

Amen Sister friend *giggles*

I know I definitely felt some pressure to get it done and get it out. Thankfully I took a step back and stopped myself. I'm now taking classes, reading books and continually putting in my Malcolm Gladwell hours. Don't know how many I have yet. But I'll get there eventually.

And all thanks, in part, to the wise words I read on your blog every week.

:} Cathryn

May 13, 2012 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne--Excellent & sensible advice as always.

As far as I'm concerned, what if some of it IS crap? As you say, no one has to read it. Fact is, crap can be an early step in a writer's progress. A good writer will learn from his/her early crap; the rest won't be able to figure out the problem(s) and give up.

Crap doesn't hurt anyone & can be the fertilizer in which a good career develops & eventually thrives. So let's give a (little, muted) cheer for crap. lol

May 13, 2012 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Laura--The problem is that a lot of writing advice involves people saying "do what I do" But what's right for somebody who has been writing for years isn't necessarily right for a newbie. There's a long learning curve, and people who are starting right now should resist the pressure to rush. I'm glad you like the post.

Donna--Glad you like it and thanks for the Tweets!

Alex--Thanks. Taking your time can be awfully hard when everybody's telling you to hurry up and make a decision.

Gloria--So sorry to hear it. It happens to a lot of us. And some people who use BookBaby and other facilitators find out too late that every edit costs a bundle.

Cathryn--I'm glad to hear you were able to listen to your own muse and take a step back. If you want to be a career writer, you've got to have patience with yourself.

Ruth--You're right that the crap doesn't hurt readers or other writers or destroy the World as We Know It as we're being told. But it can be depressing and expensive for the writer. It's sad when newbies pay a pricey editor to "fix" something that is essentially a practice novel. I think Victoria Strauss's caveats are very wise.

May 13, 2012 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Anne, of course what this all means is that we need to not believe everything we hear ... read, write and learn and be patient.

If there are mistakes being made by authors, the biggest one is not learning how to wait ... to arm themselves with as much knowledge as possible.

To that end, your great posts :) Thanks again.

May 13, 2012 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger LM Preston said...

The most important step for an author is to educate yourself about the business you are stepping into. Know your market, understand your own limitations - what you are willing, able, and capable of doing. Then find the market for your work. Know what does well as a self-pub book, know what doesn't. Evaluate your work and see where the road to publishing leads you.

May 13, 2012 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

Congratulations! That is so fab they're honoring you with an award. You so deserve it, especially after that England debacle.

Yeah, being called a moron isn't fun. I'm glad I did the agent search for a few years first, before I jumped in to the self-publishing racket. At least I learned the hard way how publishing works in "New York", what agents actually do, and so forth.

Self-publishing is a learning curve all to itself. I'm thankful I wrote all those practice novels before I jumped in blind. You're right, there is crap out there, but I don't want to be in it.

I was smart enough to wait, and glad I did because now I know so much more and am not flying blind.

Great post as usual. And I'd love to get my hands on that Encyclopedia Brittanica. I have a few books (geography, biography) printed in the 30's that have just so much information in them I would be lost without them now.

May 13, 2012 at 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Mindprinter said...

I agree absolutely with you, Anne, and other posters here. It's hard to step back, wait, let work 'cool' and then with a clearer eye, revise, revise, revise. Nothing worse than being impatient and making a mistake in print you will regret over and over again. Even one typo or one poorly crafted sentence is one too many. Thanks for the great post, Anne, and always for the helpful advice.

May 13, 2012 at 2:27 PM  
Anonymous Belinda Pollard said...

Hi Anne, what a fabulous post.

I see so much bilious snark on this topic online and think to myself: why can't we all just get along?

I have the skills and contacts to self-publish at pro standard, and I'm self-pubbing two of my upcoming non-fiction books.

But I'm pursuing the traditional route for my first novel (to begin with at least) for the very reason that I am a newbie novelist. I know that I don't know what I don't know. I've been writing non-fiction since, like, before electricity ;-) , but am on a steep learning curve with fiction.

It's not enough for me that it's "out there". I want it to be good. This is a career not a fad. And so I'm taking the time. Thanks for making me feel affirmed in that choice, which has puzzled a few others.

And if I get no offers on the manuscript, or I'm not happy with the conditions of the offers I get, well, THEN I'll self-publish it. But by then the second novel in the series will be well underway or even complete, and I'll be in a much better position as an indie novelist anyway.

"Don't take sides, take your time." What a good message for us all.

May 13, 2012 at 3:26 PM  
Anonymous David Antrobus said...

Wonderfully balanced post.

May 13, 2012 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Clarissa Draper said...

My reading life before change:
~~Books on paper only - ebooks readers are evil and I hate reading online.
~~I hate reading self-published
~~I only read authors I know and love
~~I hardly bought books because there (a) paper books were expensive (b) there were few authors I knew and loved

My reading life after change:
~~I have a Kindle and will never buy a paper book unless I absolutely have to
~~I can now afford to buy books and do so almost everyday
~~Because self-pubbed authors are cheaper, I read more of them and my reading horizons are broadened.


Why I like the traditional publishing route:
~~Free editing
~~Help with publicity.

Why I like self-pub:
~~Freedom to produce a product you like
~~Faster to get product on amazon
~~Higher percent of commission.

I agree though, you need to take time and examine your options.

May 13, 2012 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Fois--I love the phrase "arm yourself with knowledge." That's exactly what a writer has to do, because it does feel like a battle.

LM--REALLY important point: find out what does well in self-pub and what does better with the agent/Big 6, and what does best in smaller presses. Maybe I should blog about that...

Anne--Thanks! I've been following your career for a while and I think you've done it just right. By trying it all, you knew which route would work for you. And also you'd studied how to be a professional publisher of your own work. Self-publishing isn't for amateurs.

Mindprinter--You know whereof you speak. As the editor of a popular literary journal, you must have seen how one mistake could turn a decision around.

Belinda--I'm so glad you feel the same way! And I wish you the very best in finding the right agent/publisher to guide your fiction career. Fiction is definitely a whole different product.

David--Thanks. You've got a great Twitter profile, BTW

Clarissa--Brilliant! You've put it so perfectly into a 21st cent. format. Brevity is, more than ever, the soul of wit.

May 13, 2012 at 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I think I took my time. The book itself was in genesis/draft/edits for about a decade. I'd been writing other tales for a decade before and had cranked out two more novel drafts while the first was stewing through edits. (And then there were the ones that never saw the light of day.)

Then I spent about six months pondering the decision of traditional vs. self-publishing before deciding this January. The fact that my book is actually out now should tell you which path I chose.

Strangely, I think I would have considered self-publishing much earlier, except that the first advocates I ran into were so rabidly in favor of it that it turned me off. Valid arguments usually don't foam at the mouth. It took KKR, Passive Guy, and DWS to turn me around.

May 13, 2012 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Andrew McAllister said...

I wrote my debut novel close to 10 years ago, butted heads with the stone gates of traditional publishing industry (with just enough interest to string me along for a while), put it aside for several years, and now with the changes I have pulled it out. I have also re-read, re-written, re-read, re-polished. And then did it all again. And again. And it's finally ready to go, with self-publishing. That's what it takes. Good luck everyone!

May 13, 2012 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dan--I'd say you did :-) You sound like me. Whenever anybody says. "This is what all the rebels are doing this week," I run very fast in the other direction. Real rebels make their own path.

Andrew--You sound a little like Dan. You've weighed all the possibilities and made your own choices--not followed trends. That's what creative people do.

May 13, 2012 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger DeniseCovey _L_Aussie said...

Thank you again Anne for an awesome, informative post replete with links. I love change, so this revolution is thrilling to me and I feel excited about it.

Having attended workshops where editors explain the process once your ms is accepted - the structural editing etc and all the processes your raw ms goes through, is it any wonder many e-books seem unpolished? E-pub shouldn't mean publishing in a hurry. You might sell okay for your first book but I don't think you'll sell many second time around.

Denise

May 13, 2012 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger DeniseCovey _L_Aussie said...

Anne, I forgot to congratulate you on your award! Well earned! D.

May 13, 2012 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Stacy S. Jensen said...

Thanks for saying this. I was writing a post for Monday about hearing Coker speak at a recent conference. I always appreciate your Sunday posts.

May 13, 2012 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger Dean K Miller said...

Too much, too soon. Too little, too late. The debate goes on.

When is the right time to publish? Only the author/writer can answer that question. And then, the decision will be praised and lambasted by thousands.

I was reading at Goodreads about a book I was thinking of buying. Over 2500 readers had chimed in. The results: all over the board, some off the edge...but still the author had 2500+ reviews on his work. I can only dream of such good fortune!

Inside---Outside: it's all a matter of persective. Seems the publishing world is much the same.

May 13, 2012 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger Alicia Street said...

Wonderful post, Anne! I like your snarky side. I'm a foot-on-each-sider and truly hate all the nastiness going back and forth. Thanks for doing your part to bring some sanity into the picture.

May 14, 2012 at 12:24 AM  
Anonymous Donna L Martin said...

I'm one of those "first year" writers who DID feel at first as if I had been dropped into a whirlwind of controversy and debate over the future of the writing and publishing industry. But the more I read the more I felt I needed to take time to digest all I was reading before making what I hoped would be an informed decision.

My patience and self-control for my own writing came from an unexpected source...twelve years of martial arts training. Oh I knew that training served me well in my regular life but I always saw my writing as a personal, creative endeavor that wouldn't necessarily blend with the disciplined structure of TaeKwonDo.

I was so wrong as both compliment each other very well (I even wrote a middle grade chapter book with a TaeKwonDo theme to it) and now...a year later...I find that all of this change isn't scary to me...I just have to make sure I keep reading informative blogs like this one and whatever I decide to do for MY writing career in the future will leace me with no regrets as to the path I chose.

Thanks for all you do for the writing community!

Donna L Martin
www.donasdays.blogspot.com

May 14, 2012 at 5:06 AM  
Blogger Guilie said...

What a wonderful post, Anne. You put things in such great perspective--and I love the "thumb your nose at bullies" attitudes here. Long overdue, in my opinion. To be honest, I haven't given self-publishing much serious consideration, precisely because, as a debut author, I feel I need the "seal of approval" of the traditional industry as witness to the quality of my writing before launching it out there and *then* realizing it wasn't ready. I'm no Zen master of humility, but I do know I'm about halfway through those 10,000 hours, and that means I can't trust my own judgement quite yet :)

Still, I love the idea of empowerment this e-book revolution is giving authors everywhere, and especially I love the idea of choice. You've done a great job of explaining it in such a way as to take the terror out of it. EVERYONE needs to read this post!

May 14, 2012 at 5:51 AM  
Blogger Judith Mercado said...

Thanks. I can always count on you for a sane perpective and sound advice. Congratulations on being honored.

May 14, 2012 at 6:30 AM  
Blogger E.J. Wesley said...

Anne, this "a moron who's contributing to the downfall of civilization" had me lolling. :)

Your thoughts are very, very astute. Although, I do believe a war is erupting (I blogged about it last week) between Amazon and traditional. I believe the litigation you mentioned has pushed many folks into 'making a final stand' so to speak.

However, I agree with you completely on the author's role in all of this: be patient. Don't view anything as all or none, even if 'experts' are telling you it has to be. Try lots of things. So much freedom for the author right now, and it should be leveraged into reaching readers.

Every journey is different. Write something awesome THEN figure out where it best fits.

The bullying flat out ticks me off. Not so much from agents or editors as I think their stakes are a little different, but the author vs author stuff makes my neck hairs stiffen. I've read some traditional folks who say it has always been there, even in the paper world; a haves vs have nots kind of thing. Still makes me sad.

Authors should be battling for the readers who have virtually no say in all of this. Not battling each other.

What do readers want? As one, I can tell you: We want stories. Great stories. We want to be able to read them however we want. Some want a paperback in the bathtub. Some want it on an e-reader in their hotel room. Some want it on a phone on the subway. We also want to pay a fair price. No, not free, but fair. So keep making great stories, get them out there in lots of formats, don't make us take out a second mortgage to purchase bits of 'the cloud' and we'll be happy.

Great, great post.

May 14, 2012 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger Steven J. Wangsness said...

I was very reluctant to go ahead and release my novel as an e-book. For one thing, I really wanted to hold the thing in my hand and turn its pages -- to feel it! But I finally went ahead after getting tired of too many agents saying "This is great but the publishing industry is in such a mess..." or whatever.

I don't know what I feel about it now. My book's been well reviewed, which is nice. But getting the word out about it, so readers will take a look at it -- even know that they CAN take a look at it -- that has been an enormous frustration. It's hard to do on your own. At any rate, I haven't successfully figured out how to do it, so the book mostly remains in a sort of black hole.

What to do? Write another one, right?

May 14, 2012 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Ranae Rose said...

Anne, one of the things that I appreciate about your blog is that it's unbiased. I'm pro-traditional publishing. I'm pro-indie. And I don't like being told that I should take a side. I like enjoying the benefits of being with a publisher (paper copies, travel, signings, etc..), and I like the benefits of being indie (the control, the money). For me, being invested on both sides of the fence is perfect.

May 14, 2012 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger kathleen duey said...

Well said! And true. Everything changes. Readers--and writers--have always adapted to new opportunities. First, take time to learn to write well. Take time to inform yourself, too. A rush to publish in any media is rarely a good idea.

May 14, 2012 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Denise—All those tedious steps in trad publishing generally do make a better product. At least for beginning writers. Once you’re a pro with several books out and an established fan base, it often makes more sense to go indie.

Stacy—Isn’t Mark Coker amazing? I got to hear him speak at the Central Coast Writers Conference, and he was so impressive: down to earth, friendly and really, really smart.

Dean—2500 reviews is truly amazing. Yes, anybody who has that many reviews is bound to have some stinkers. Some people have a compulsion to knock down anybody who’s really successful. The sour grapes syndrome I think.

Donna—I love the idea that a writing career can be guided by martial arts discipline. I think there are a lot of similarities there, and it sounds as if your career is off to a great start.

Giulie—It really doesn’t have to be scary. Bullies are scary though, so we have to learn to ignore them.

Judith—Thanks so much. You're one of the loyal blogfriends who have helped me through this crazy-hectic time.

E J—I love contributing to the downfall of the World as We Know It:-) Love this “Some want a paperback in the bathtub. Some want it on an e-reader in their hotel room.” Exactly. And most of us actually want both.

Steven—Marketing is a pain, and so much of our hard work doesn’t pay off. I’m not sure anybody knows what works any more. But certainly having more than one book is the number one way to publishing success. All the self-pub gurus like Konrath, DWS, KKR Locke, Hocking, etc, all had huge inventory before they started self-publishing.

May 14, 2012 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ranae--You've hit on the thing the battlers don't seem to get: you can do both! Most successful writers are doing just that these days.

Kathleen--Thanks for stopping by! As the author of at least 50 children's books, you speak from real experience. Learning to write well--and fast--is something to do BEFORE we try to become professional.

May 14, 2012 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger William Ockham said...

You say:

But you know what you can't choose? To edit a book that's already on somebody's Kindle.


Is that really true? I honestly don't know, but it shouldn't be true. From a technical perspective, Amazon could very easily let authors update books that have already been downloaded on to a Kindle. I'm not a writer, I'm a geek, but I know a few writers of technical books that have adopted lean publishing, which lets you deliver a book like startups deliver software. Maybe not the best strategy for everyone, but one that makes sense in some cases.

May 14, 2012 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger widdershins said...

One of my favourite quotes that helps me in this writerly business of ours is: 'Never fear going slowly, only fear standing still.'

May 14, 2012 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

William--Unless Amazon has adopted this technology in the past few days, they don't do this. You can definitely unpublish a book and edit it and republish (but note that if you use a facilitator like BookBaby this will cost some serious $$.)

But you can't change an ebook that has been sold any more than you can change a paper book that's been sold. And as far as I know, Amazon doesn't keep records of who has bought your book.

You could gift a copy of the new edition of the book to anybody who asked for one, or make it free, but you have no way of knowing who bought the unedited copies, so the customers would have to come to you.

widdershins--Love the quote!

May 14, 2012 at 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Yumi said...

Great post, but doesn't "indie publishing" mean that a book was published by a small publishing house?

May 15, 2012 at 12:38 AM  
Blogger Charmaine Clancy said...

Great post, you've put a lot of work into this! Congrats on becoming a success story too.

I fell in love with Kindles straight away, but since owning one not only do I download an endless number of ebooks, I buy probably ten times as many paper books as I used to. Our house is drowning in them. I think ebooks has made reading sexy again and that's good for the industry.

May 15, 2012 at 4:05 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Yumi--Good question. Ten years ago "indie" did indeed refer to a small press, and still does in certain circles (I got to be in the Indie Chicks, even though I'm with two small presses.) But these days when people say "indie" most of them mean self-publishing.

Charmaine--Thanks! You've said it very well: "ebooks thave made reading sexy again". And that's good for everybody!

May 15, 2012 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger J.S. Schley said...

This is a brilliant post. I love discussions of self-publishing vs. commercial publishing that carefully consider both sides without pointing fingers.

I'll be highlighting this on my blog in my Thursday roundup this week. Thank you!

May 15, 2012 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

J.S. Thanks a bunch. I look forward to catching your blog on Thursday. A lot of career writers have been burned by the Big 6, and self-publishing has been magic for them, but that doesn't mean it's best for everybody--especially newbies. It depends on so many factors. Every writer is different. And not all agents have horns and a tail :-)

May 15, 2012 at 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Phyllis Humphrey said...

Anne: As usual I loved your post. And congratulations on the award. Belinda said something I've said to the newbies in my group who refuse to listen: "You don't know what you don't know." After proofreading for a national magazine and 35 years of both trad and self-publishing, I think I may be getting close to being able to self-edit. The copy editor of a well-known publisher, missed three typos and then wanted to eliminate my change-of-viewpoint scene breaks. Yikes.

May 16, 2012 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phyllis--Those scene breaks suddenly seem to be a problem. I think they must disappear in ebook formatting or something. But I'm with you: I think they're vital. No page break for a change of POV is just being mean to the reader. I hate fighting with editors who don't keep the reader's needs in mind.

May 17, 2012 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nina Badzin left a comment that got eaten by the spam elves.
"Really, really solid advice that many writers NEED to hear. Off to tweet!"

Thanks for the comment and the tweet Nina! And I'm really, really annoyed with the elves. it's not every day we get a comment from a HuffPo writer. How dare they eat your comment! I wish I knew how to make that stop.

May 17, 2012 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Helen Hollick said...

One rule if you decide to go Indie - do it properly. That means get an editor, have your cover professionally designed and make sure your book is correctly and professionally produced. Books full of typos and technical errors (i.e. too many point of view changes) with a scrappy cover and the text inside set as left justified or double spaced will not show you as a serious author.
If you want people to read your books give them the best quality you can.

May 22, 2012 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Helen--You're so right. A decision to go indie is a decision to become a businessperson. That means hiring good people to do the best possible work. I've never seen a book coded as badly as you describe, but it sure would be a nightmare for a reader. Even if it only costs 99 cents, people will be angry. And they'll never buy another book from you.

May 22, 2012 at 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Mona Leeson Vanek said...

Hi Helen,

I am so impressed with your post I will tout it on my Montana Scribbler website, and include your link.
Mona Leeson Vanek,
mtscribbler@air-pipe.com
Montana Scribbler, http://montanascribbler.com
Editor,
The North Palouse Washington e-Newscast, www.palousenewscast.com
newstnpw@air-pipe.com

May 24, 2012 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks, Mona. I'll check out the Montana Scribbler!

May 26, 2012 at 11:19 AM  

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