You can buy twitter followers? The dark side of modern publishing.

What?

Call me naive and extremely behind the curve, but what? Is? That?

I need to pause and think for a minute.

Hmmm. You mean by this afternoon I could be followed by tens of thousands of twitter-heads?

Okay. I’ve thought. Here’s my conclusion: if that’s what it takes to succeed in this world, then I am all right living in obscurity.

I mean, really. What is this all about?

In a word: image. If you have oodles of followers I would assume that people think you have something important to say. Is value and importance now subject to popularity tests?

I can imagine that quite a few people in history would not have done well on Twitter if they were living in this day and age.

What this all says to me is the supremacy of image and perception is creating a fallacious cloud around the publishing industry. (Though this could certainly apply to many other fields as well.) Let’s take a look at how publishing today creates image through falsity:

  • An author can buy twitter followers.
  • An author can buy ready-made book outlines. (I have a post on this coming up.)
  • An author can post fake reviews on all the popular sites.
  • An author can have a business buy oodles of their books up front just so it hit the best selling list.
  • A (fake) author can hire a ghostwriter and proudly slap their name on the cover.
  • An author can sign up at different websites where authors buy each other’s books as a “I’ll scratch your back, you’ll scratch my back” way to improve their Amazon sales rank.

I’m sure I’m missing some here, but you get the picture.

The temptation to do some of these tactics is no doubt real because the benefits of a book finally breaking through can be the difference between an author languishing in the realm of making a few hundred dollars a year to being able to finally build a career with one’s writing.

And if I can just say, some literary agents aren’t making the problem any better. One agent, answering the question of what they look for in writers in terms of on-line presence before they would agree to represent him or her, said that he would like to see someone who has tens of thousands of twitter followers. Hmmm … now we know it’s not that difficult. But what have we created? This false monster of image which looks good on the outside but may not have any tangible correlation to the talent or story-telling ability of the writer.

As for me, I won’t participate in this racket. If I have a follower on Facebook, it’s because someone of their own volition decided to click the “like” button.

I’m of the naive and old-fashioned persuasion that a writer speaks first and foremost through his or her writing.

I’m of the naive and old-fashioned persuasion that a reader cares first and foremost about a good story.

If that means others pass me by, so be it.

I’m going to live honesty, write honestly, and tell my story. Whoever wants to come along for the ride is more than welcome to join me, but, sorry, I’m not going to pay you to follow me.

Are you telling the story you want to tell?

If you are telling the story you want to tell, congratulations. You must feel fulfilled as a writer.

As I was compiling my most recent story, I got to the point where I realized I had told everything about this story I had wanted to tell. I would be proud to put my name at the top of it, and whether people like it or not, it is the story I wanted to tell. Period.

This is an incredibly freeing position for a writer to find himself.

I remember some of the reviews of my first novel where some readers felt short-changed because I didn’t elaborate at the end about certain aspects of the story. They said it felt rushed and that all the loose ends weren’t neatly tied. I understood their criticism and thought it through quite a bit until I realized that I had told the story I wanted to tell. I didn’t want to tie certain loose ends because I was intent on keeping the focus on a certain part of the story, which I deemed its backbone. I guess you can say I’m a backbone writer. I don’t deviate off my chosen path. I keep things concise and straight forward with my writing eyes on the end result that I want. It’s great when it coincides with a reader’s expectations, and often it does. But not always.

But that’s okay. If you tell the story you intend to tell, then be happy and move on.

There are many market forces in the book world which could easily pull a writer away from his or her chosen path. And certainly there’s no harm to mix things up and try a new genre or explore an unusual story line one would normally not choose, but I would contend that if you are doing it only for the market, then it won’t be worth it. If you are doing it to grow as a writer or to explore a new interest, by all means go for it. But remember to tell the story you want to tell.

When a writer does this, the passion, heart, and correct level of emotion is much more likely to pop from the story.

So that is why I will never write stories about vampires or werewolves. Or erotica. Or science fiction. Or fantasy or … a myriad of other genres. They simply don’t get me excited. This is also why it’s highly unlikely for a literary agent to knock on my door. My writing wouldn’t be easily mold-able into what is currently popular. To me a good story is just a good story and readers simply want good stories written by writers who follow their hearts, regardless of how maudlin that sounds.

I firmly believe that it is writers unleashed to write their story which will produce the type of end product that everyone, writer and reader, will enjoy.

One last point I want to make is that this doesn’t mean that a writer doesn’t need outside input. Of course, it’s crucial. I have a group of readers who help shape my early manuscripts, and I am always grateful for their candor. But, ultimately, I have to choose that which is best, in my opinion, for my story. That way I can accept all the blame. (and on those rare occasions, laud.)

An Indie Author Ready for the Future of Publishing

Literary agent Andrew Lownie in THIS article recently stated that he believes that nearly 75% of published books within then next 5-10 years will be self-published. This announcement has certainly turned the writing blog-o-sphere on its nose with both excitement and scorn. Of course, this is mere conjuncture, but even the pronouncement has some broad and interesting ramifications. First off, this is from a literary agent who understands the workings of the traditional publishing field, and, clearly, he sees it as in decline. Even if the claims are vastly overstated, it serves as an illustration that more and more traditional publishers are going to stick to tried and true formats with tried and true authors. It will be even more difficult for unknown authors to be discovered.

However, will being discovered even matter anymore? Self-published authors will need to build themselves up, establishing their own author brand and inching into the readers’ consciousness. There won’t be discoveries any more but rather breakthroughs, like what we see currently when an indie author finally finds a large audience. It’s happening more and more, and the squeeze on the traditional publishers must be troubling to those who still have large conference rooms with mahogany tables.

Recently, I was reading about an indie author has has broken-through and sold several hundred thousand books up to this point. He went on to say that, before he had a large following, he wasn’t interested in spending years trying to find a literary agent and then finally getting a poor advance on a publishing deal. In his mind, the hours and rewards of a traditional publishing deal just aren’t worth it anymore. He kept writing, went indie, and made it.

I can identify with that – except the ‘made it’ part – not yet! But there more and more compelling reasons not to put in a tremendous amount of time trying to find an agent and trying to break into traditional publishing. Perhaps serious self-published authors will find it to be more to their benefit to concentrate on their writing, write great books, meet readers on-line, network, write more great books, be available, build your platform, and strive forward in the work you love to do.

The market is moving in our favor, but nothing will ever be handed to us. And that’s a message I take personally. I am devoted to being the best writer I can, and to tell the very best stories that I have within me. I hope there are readers out there who enjoy coming along for the ride because this indie author is ready for the future of publishing.

I am not chaff. I am a serious writer, thank you.

Elitism always frowns on democratization.

I was reading an article which quoted two well-known mainstream authors, who gave their thoughts on the changing face of the publishing industry. One of them said that the traditional publishing model – with all our familiar and well-loved gatekeepers including literary agents and publishing executives (wait, scratch that “well-loved” comment) – was necessary to, and I quote, “separate the wheat from the chaff”.

This smacks of elitism, does it not?

First, let me say that I am not offended or threatened by that comment at all. People can say whatever they want about indie writers who skirt around the traditional publishing model to fulfill their life-long dreams. I’ll just politely disagree.

Second, I am not chaff. Here are the reasons I am not chaff.

I’m not chaff because chaff flies away in the wind and is never heard from again. Well, sorry, super-talented-top-of-the-line author, but your metaphor fell flat on its face. Indie authors aren’t going away. In fact, you’ll be hearing a lot more from us. Smashwords has predicted that 50% of book sales by 2020 will be from indie authors. That’s sounding a lot like wheat, not chaff. Even if their numbers are a little skewed, the trend is undeniable.

Another reason I’m not chaff: I’m a serious writer. I approach my craft with as much dedication and care as anyone. I may have a day job, but writing is not a casual pursuit. I didn’t become a writer because, “Hey, now anyone can be a published author.” No. I write because I am compelled to write. I write because I am full of stories, and as long as I have stories, I’m going to write them down. Writing is not a vain pursuit. I, too, craft stories, and I wrestle with characters and fret over plots. I think of symbolism and foreshadowing. I have a voice. I have creative thoughts. I have a passion. I am an indie writer.

I can’t speak for every indie writer. I suppose there are all kinds of them who write for a million different purposes. I suppose some wish for fame and money. I would imagine some craft their stories better than others. For whatever reason people write, there is finally a leveling of the playing field that enables readers to have unprecedented choice. This is what is getting the traditional higher-ups all in an uproar.

When Miss Hot-Shot Writer goes to the store to buy something, does she prefer a limited selection or a wide variety? I think we know the answer to this. The book world is no different. Choice is a good thing. It’s the democratization of the book industry. It is putting power in the hands of the readers, and they are, more and more, choosing books which are quality reads at affordable prices. No longer are readers forced to buy $27 hardcover copies or wait a year for the “cheaper” paperback variety. The only people I see complaining about this are those who want you to buy that $27 hardcover.

You can call me ‘chaff’ if you want. I don’t mind. But I’m not the one bemoaning a change. That chaff just might miraculously grow roots and pull off the unexpected. Everyone will be better for it.

 

I’m Building My Platform – Not Yours

I have this habit of picking on literary agents. It is probably not a great habit for a writer to have, but the target on their backs is sometimes so darn irresistible.

Perhaps I don’t understand literary agents, and perhaps I never will. But sometimes they seem to say the most ridiculous things.

A while back I was reading an article in which a literary agent was outlining what she likes to see as far as an author’s platform when she is considering whether to work with a new client or not. All right I know what you are thinking. Why am I even reading this article if I’m not interested in an agent? I was doing research for my blog, OK? Plus, I am interested in building my author’s platform or at least I try my best, so I’m always open to new ideas.

Now let’s shift focus back to the literary agent who will soon make us all laugh. She was outlining, in rather specific terms, how extensive a reach that an indie author should have before she will agree to become their agent.

Well, might I just say I started choking at first and then I started laughing. She gave out ridiculous numbers, wanting a blog with such and such reach, and a Facebook account with so many followers, and a Twitter account with X number of thousand of followers.

The numbers were so ridiculously high that if my blog was reaching 50,000 people a month, why in the world would I need a literary agent? If I had that many active readers, why would I want to pay a percentage of my profit to you, literary agent, because you didn’t help me get any of them?

I,perhaps rather foolishly, thought that literary agents cared about representing an author because he or she wrote good stories. Shouldn’t it really be that simple?

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance of “building your brand”, “interacting on social networking sites”, and “building a readership.” I will always spend part of my time doing these activities.

But if I build a successful brand by myself, I’m certainly not going to give the profit away to someone who ignored me when all I did was write quality stories.

So I shall conclude, once again, by saying that I love being an indie author.

I’m sorry literary agents, but I care more about what readers think.

I saw an ad for writers. It said something like this: “For $89, you can get a critique of the first 500 words of your novel by Miss So and So Smarty-Pants Literary Agent. She’ll help you avoid the 20 mistakes you must avoid at all cost if you ever want to get published.”

I’m sorry. You are not getting my $89.

I’m sorry, but I really don’t care what you think. I care about what readers think.

I’m sorry. I don’t really have anything against literary agents. If you are one, good for you. I’m sure you are a nice person, it just never seems that way when our paths have crossed.

This is how literary agents sound to me, even when trying to be nice:

  • Why did you send me this piece of crap?
  • Yes, I asked for queries, but why did you send me this?
  • This email you sent is taking up a lot of my precious time.
  • Why would I want to find a good book by a new author?
  • I don’t care about anything except selling books.
  • I’m too busy and important to talk to writers.

Again, maybe it’s just me. I’m sure there are a lot of great literary agents out there, they just haven’t found me yet.

But I have found a lot of great readers out there who have said some very nice things about my writing. I am very humbled and grateful. I first write for myself. Second, I write for you, readers.

Sorry, literary agent, you didn’t make my list.

Win a 10-Page Read by a Literary Agent! Yeah, Right.

I received an email from a website advertising their latest book contest that they wanted me, as an indie author, to enter.

I have nothing against book contests. I’ve entered some, but it was the grand prize of this contest that made my stomach curl a little.

The grand prize was this: two literary agents would read the first 10 pages of my novel.

Really? That’s it? How incredibly generous of them! My life as a writer would be validated if I could only get two literary agents to read the first 10 pages of my book. I’m surprised they have time in their hurried schedule of declining queries with callous form letters to even read a whole 10 pages.

I’ve done that, and I’ve moved on.

I’ve taken control of my own writing career and I don’t need some stuffy literary agent to validate my first 10 pages. I have something much better. I have readers. Readers tell me what they think of the WHOLE book, and if they like it, they tell other readers.

So sorry. I think I’ll pass on this contest.