It’s All About Control, Freaks

20140428_144615by Cari Schaeffer

I find it necessary to briefly tell you a little about myself. I am a US Air Force veteran, have my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing and worked as a Critical Care RN for almost a decade, became a Chef and owned my own Personal Chef and Catering Company for six years, and am now an Indie author. In the midst of all that, I have been married for twenty-five years and have three beautiful children and two Chihuahua guard dogs – Stanley McBarker and Snoopy. With that in mind, read on…

Control of My Worlds   It is my belief that a number of writers have control freak tendencies. I am one of those. Fortunately at this point, I have come to realize the only real control I have in life is self-control. I cannot control the people in my life or the events that transpire. I can only control my reactions to them. Sure, the choices I make can influence some events in my life, but even that isn’t guaranteed. Often, making the right choice brings pain, sorrow, and challenges into our lives. It is still the right choice, however.

Fiction writing is different. When we write, we control everything that goes on in the world we create. Every single person exists because we created them. They say or don’t say whatever we want them to, do everything we make them do, and go through everything we put them through. If you write fantasy or anything “out of the ordinary”, you have even more control – if you don’t want gravity to exist, POOF it’s gone! It’s a perfect outlet for anyone with control issues.

As an Indie Author, I write when I want, what I want, how I want, and for as long as I want. The flip side and challenge is that this path requires a good measure of self-discipline. If you’ve chosen the path of being a traditionally published author, you have externally-imposed deadlines to meet. Either that’s liberating for you because you operate best with a “boss”, or it chafes you because you don’t.

I have no externally-imposed rules related to genre. My first novel is Inspirational Fiction, but it doesn’t follow some of the rules imposed by the traditional gatekeepers of that genre. There is no foul language or explicit material, but the characters of my book experience a wide variety of emotions that sometimes spill over. The married main characters of my book have sex, too. Nothing is overt, just implied. The reviews I’ve received for that novel are all positive. My readers are my gatekeepers. I am not limited to a single genre, either. My most recent novel is clean fiction without an overt Christian message. I have several more novels in a queue, waiting for their turn. One of them is a YA fantasy. I read one novel in the last year by a traditionally published author who broke one of the rules that every other book I have ever read (regardless of publishing method) follows. She didn’t use one single set of quotation marks around any of the dialogue in her book. I found it very distracting and hard to follow. I have no idea why she made that choice, or why her publisher allowed it, but there it is.

Control of My Career  I have complete career control. For better or for worse, that’s the truth of it. Indies decide what book formats to publish – e-book exclusively, paperback exclusively (rare), or a combination of both, which channels to publish through, and how much to charge for the books.

It also means I have to market all by myself, too. Although for traditionally published authors, they are typically on their own, too. The Big Six publishers (Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster) aren’t spending a lot of money to market their authors. Unless you’re a publicly recognized name, they just don’t have the money for it. Smaller publishers don’t have the money, either. One requirement for an author to be considered by either a publisher (most of which accept only agent submitted manuscripts) or a literary agency is to have an already existing, robust marketing plan and social media platform.

Speaking for my own Indie Author journey, I have had hits and misses. Along the way, I have had so many other Indie and Hybrid authors come alongside me, mentor me, and show me the ropes and the way. Not everything I have been told has panned out or proven true (for me), but I count everything as a lesson learned and therefore inherently valuable. I find this group of people to be very peer-like in attitude and more than willing to share knowledge without boundaries.

The beauty of my Indie journey has been the ability to instantly tweak anything and everything, often with just a few key strokes. Remember, I have control freak tendencies, so this works for me! If something isn’t working in my marketing deck of cards, I shuffle it and put something else out there after researching and discussing it with other authors.

I am currently learning about new marketing techniques and tools. One successful tool I want to share with you is that of growing your email list. The example I will use is Facebook. It is fabulous for relating to people all over the globe, but you don’t have control over who sees your posts and who doesn’t. Facebook controls that. When you collect email addresses, you are the one in the driver’s seat. You control the flow of information and interaction. I want to stress that the collection of these email addresses works best for those who have intentionally and voluntarily signed up to receive updates from you via your website.

When I owned my business, I never had a single business card printed with my email address on it. Why? Because at networking events, the attendees walk around collecting large stacks of business cards from each other. When the attendees collect that stack of business cards, they go home, sit in front of their computer and enter email addresses from said business cards or other materials to receive newsletters, etc. from them before throwing them away. It is still a common business practice. Personally, I find that to be unethical. I certainly never appreciate it when someone adds my email address to their newsletter without my explicit permission. It does not increase the likelihood that I’ll frequent that business, service, or product. In fact, it has the opposite effect. I treat my readers the way I would like to be treated – with respect. I don’t write newsletters and don’t plan to. As an author, I am not entirely sure what the purpose of a newsletter would be.

My email subscribers only hear from me when I have something to share. It is not tied to an externally-imposed schedule (sort of like me…) such as weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, etc. There are plenty who would disagree with me, I’m sure. That’s all right. We all find what works for us individually. The promise I make to my subscribers is that I will not fill up their in-box just because the calendar says it’s time to send something. Instead, I let them know about book signings, new releases, and anything else that pertains to the reason they signed up in the first place – to read my books because they like them. That’s all.

Cari Schaeffer can be found at www.carischaeffer.com  She has two novels currently available – Faith, Hope, Love, and Chocolate and Hello and Goodbye: Volume One: The Yellow Ribbon Chronicles. Both are available as e-books and paperbacks at most on-line retailers.

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Writer’s Prompt: You are walking along a gravel path, alone and lost in thought. Suddenly, you come upon this structure. Why is it there? What stories does it have to tell?

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Self Publishing Revolution: Minnows are Making Waves

20140428_144615By Cari Schaeffer Conversations with Cari

Self Publishing – that term causes a lot of confusion, angst, and strong emotions in The Industry. I doubt my two cents – worth half a penny when adjusted for inflation – will cause a cataclysmic shift, but I hope to give you some food for thought.

I want to clear up what Self Publishing is and what it is not. Currently, there are three ways for an author to get their work into the hands of readers:

•    Traditional Publishing
•    Self Publishing 1 – Vanity or Subsidy
•    Self Publishing 2 – Indie

Note that Vanity/Subsidy and Indie Publishing are separated under the umbrella term Self Publishing. I want to be very clear – they are not one and the same. Bundling those terms has unfortunately caused a stigma to arise against Self Publishing in any form.

The definition of Self Publishing, per Wikipedia, is the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. The author is responsible and in control of the entire process including the design of the cover and interior, formats, price, distribution, marketing and public relations.

That is where the similarity between Vanity/Subsidy and Indie Publishing end. The key distinguishing characteristic that defines true Self Publishing is that the author has decided to publish his or her work independent of a publishing house, whether Vanity or Traditional; thus the term Indie.

A number of years ago, in order to publish one’s work apart from a traditional publishing house, authors had to spend considerable amounts of money to do so. Vanity Publishers are those that will accept any work, no matter the quality, and publish it for thousands of dollars. They also require the author to purchase hundreds of copies of their own books to sell first before they see any return for their investment.

Current technology allows authors to publish, market, and sell directly to readers without requiring middlemen of any kind. The biggest leap forward for Indie authors is the availability of Print on Demand (POD); no longer is it necessary to print hundreds of copies of one book in order to make it available. Now, as one book is ordered, one book is printed. As for e-books – well, that is an amazing technological wonder all on its own. Readers can download books to any electronic device they want to, no publishing house required. The Indie Publishing revolution grows more each year.

Arguments against Self Publishing

One of the primary arguments against Self Publishing is that an author’s work isn’t considered legitimate by The Industry if it is Self Published. Well, as a consumer, is your food or clothing less legitimate if you purchase them from a wholesaler or a retailer? No. The end product is either quality, or it isn’t. Let the market decide. It’s also often more economical to go wholesale because middlemen require payment. Indie authors make a whole lot more in royalties per unit sold than Traditionally Published authors do and infinitely more than Vanity Published authors.

Another common argument is the lack of marketing afforded to Self Published authors. The myth is if an author is picked up by a traditional publisher, that publishing house will spend money to market their work for them. When I was exhaustively researching my publishing options, I saw the trend in all of the traditional publishing houses to require every inquiring author to have an established marketing plan and social media promotional platform. As a debut author, they are unwilling to invest in marketing my work. That is, should they ever decide to pick it up at all. I would have to do that myself. If that’s the case, then why not choose to do it all myself and keep the royalties, too?

A third common argument against Self Publishing is the work isn’t polished or professionally edited. It is true that there has been a lack of polish and professional editing in some books that have been Self Published. Please refer back to Vanity Publishing. However, there are also a number of books that have gone through traditional publishing houses that have also lacked polish even with professional editing. There are typos and errors found in best selling works from traditional houses. As an author and an avid reader, I can attest to that fact. I haven’t read one single book that is one hundred percent error free. Editors are people and will make mistakes regardless of who signs their paycheck – the author or a traditional publishing house. One cannot blanket judge any genre or publishing method based on one bad work, or even several bad works. A science fiction book that is filled with typos and has a poorly developed plot would not cause a judgment to be rendered against every science fiction book. That’s ludicrous. A blanket judgment against Self Publishing should not be rendered by this method, either.

Exciting Horizons

Did you know that in 2008, for the first time in history, more books were Self Published than were Traditionally Published? In 2009, 76% of all books released were Self Published, while traditional publishing houses as a whole reduced the number of books they produced. Their funnel is getting ever narrower. That was six years ago. I find that to be both amazing and exhilarating. I am so grateful to be a ripple producing minnow in the publishing sea that is creating a tidal wave to change the landscape of literature.

Currently, I have one work Indie Published (with five more works in progress) and available for sale in the marketplace. Faith, Hope, Love, and Chocolate was released in May, 2014. With the royalties I have made and already been paid, I was able to replace my husband’s wedding ring which was recently stolen. That tragedy was turned into triumph because God has blessed my Indie Publishing efforts and I thank Him for it. Onward and upward!

 

The Mystery of Self-Publishing

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By Tammy Trail

To be perfectly honest, this whole traditional or self-publishing dilemma has me baffled. I am so new to the art of writing that it’s all Greek to me. I think the economy has forced a lot of folks to rethink the whole publishing industry. I have heard that in the past, publishing houses used to be pretty liberal with their ability to contract writers who showed they had a creative voice and the talent to back it up. Not so anymore. They are being pretty tight-fisted these days, willing only to publish a certain number of books each year, making it harder for new authors to get their product out.

But, is that really true?

I know of several first-time authors who are getting contracts from major publishers. So is it more competitive, or are the publishing houses just becoming more selective on the type of product they choose to sell? Perhaps they have just raised the bar a bit more, looking for a product that will sell because they only have limited contracts to invest in.

And even though self-publishing is becoming more in vogue, it was only a couple of years ago when I heard, “she is thinking of self-publishing,” whispered behind a hand into a friendly ear like it was a naughty word. Now it seems like EVERYONE is doing it. Naughty or not!

I have an acquaintance, who has also been a bit of a mentor to me, she is multi-published in the traditional market, and she has encouraged me to try self-publishing. I believe for those authors who are so talented that books just flow from the fingertips like water, self-publishing is just a way for them to make money with their craft without going through the middleman and waiting for the traditional publishers to catch up with them.

I googled, “self-publishing” to see what it got me. A bit more confused actually.  This article was very helpful:

http://www.cnet.com/news/self-publishing-a-book-25-things-you-need-to-know/

One must be careful of what they get themselves into as well. My mother has a friend who is a writer. She went through what some would consider a “Vanity Press” to get her book published. She signed a contract without looking at the fine print. There were promises made that were not fulfilled, and of course she can’t get out of it without heavy legal fees.

That is why I am so thankful for writing organizations like American Christian Fiction Writers, a community of experienced writers of all levels willing to give advice to folks like me who are just starting out in the craft of writing. There is also a multitude of credible blogs by folks who care about the promotion of craft, like Seekerville, and our own happy place here at Writing Prompts. In my own humble opinion, there are no hard and fast rules about which avenue is better, what really matters is the quality of the writing.

The writing really needs to be top notch, whichever path you choose. Taking the time to learn the craft in order to produce a worthy product is still my number one goal. I guess the rest will follow when it’s ready.

Why I’m Not Self-Publishing . . . And Might Someday

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By Anne Garboczi Evans

I’ve been writing full-length novels for 12 years now and seriously submitting book proposals to the traditional powers-that-be for the last four years. Recently, I joined a self-publishing authors group on Facebook. And can I say, I’m drooling.

These authors talk of finishing a book and publishing it the next week. They mention putting out 15 books in a year and their 25 books on Amazon. Many of them are making quite decent money too. And here I am, sitting on my couch, staring at a laptop full of finished, unpublished manuscripts. “So why don’t you just self-publish?” many people have asked me.

This is why. First, funding. While some self-publishing packages for e-book only may even be free, a self-publishing option that includes print books and provides a great editor and an excellent sales team could easily cost you $5,000-15,000. I just don’t have that kind of money on hand, and if I did, it would go to the mortgage, not a self-publishing gig. Second, those editors I was talking about. When you pay 5,000+ to self-publish, a lot of that money goes to your editor.

In a traditional publishing house, the editor is extremely critical because, if your book doesn’t turn out good enough to sell prolifically, the publishing house is out money. Your self-publishing editor has no such incentive to tear your book to shreds. Besides, you’re the customer. If the editor is too critical of your book, you might walk away and hire someone else. Someday when I’ve published multiple bestsellers, I’ll be confident enough in my writing to want such an editor. Right now, I want an editor who will make my manuscript bleed red ink. Third, prestige. A self-publishing company executive at a writers’ conference I attended called traditional publishers the new “vanity presses.” His reasoning was, everyone wants that traditional publisher label on their manuscript even if the traditional publisher turns out junk books. The reason I want the prestige of a traditional publisher isn’t vanity (I hope 😉 ).

Rather, I want that prestige to help build my author platform. When I’m a best-selling author, I’ll have credibility in my own right. For now though, I’d like to feed off a traditional publisher’s credibility. So far I’ve dwelt on the negatives of self-publishing, but there are some spectacular advantages too. Many traditional houses only put out one of an author’s books per year. Putting out three or four books a year not only makes you more money, but keeps your name fresh in readers’ minds.

I recently read an article about a woman who published with a Big 6 New York publisher every year, but also self-published on the side. The New York publisher’s annual releases gave her a prestige that kept the self-published books flying off the shelf. The self-published books earned her a pretty penny above what she was getting in her New York royalty checks. I think this author has combined the best of both worlds. So someday when I’ve had a few years of Big 6 publishing successes and paychecks, maybe I’ll try some self-published books on the side. (I especially have my eyes on Indie for an Ancient Rome Series I wrote that I know I’d never convince a traditional publishing editor to buy.) Until then, you can look for me buried under that pile of rejection letters on my couch.

Writing Prompt: Have you or could you ever see yourself self-published? Share some of the pros and cons self-publishing would have for you. Is there any particular book you’ve written that you think would fit well into the self-publishing world? https://www.facebook.com/annegarboczievans