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Tuned in to the state of publishing: Michael A. Stackpole

Here is a writer who is taking responsibility for his career by staying on top of changes in the marketplace. He’s pretty tuned in to the current (and sucky) state of publishing. He should know — he’s had novels in print since 1988, but he has had to deal not only with book publishers, but also game and comic publishers.

He writes many compassionate and realistic essays about publishing, self publishing, ebooks, and related topics. Check out his website for his intelligent contribution to this discussion.

Shortcuts
There is a lot of overlap, but I thought I’d make some quick links for different tags.
Entries tagged “epub.”
Entries tagged “ebooks.”
Entries tagged “self-publishing.”
Entries tagged “getting published.”
Entries in the “essays” category.

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The role of publishers (according to a profitable publisher)

I’ve been looking at Publetariat, a site I had previously noted but hadn’t explored. April, the founder, recently contacted me about using one of my blog posts, and it reminded me to check it out.

The whole site is for people who want to self publish or start their own small publishing ventures. It’s really cool to see real support, real community, and real discussion about these issues, not vanity presses taking advantage of people’s ignorance.

But it really got me thinking about the role of publishers.

And I’ve seen one horrible issue discussed by both writers and publishers, and it really disturbs both my reader and publisher sides.

A lot of writers think that they should have to do their own promotion. Should have to, like it’s automatically part of their job. They denounce other writers who speak against it as having a sense of entitlement. “If you’re not willing to promote yourself, then you’re not worthy of being published.”

What?!

Since when is a writer’s value dependent on how well he or she can promote themselves? A writer’s value comes from what they write!

Here’s what gets me: Small presses feel justified in asking their writers to do it, which implies that somehow, writers will be able to do it better than the small presses.

Wrong-o! What is a publisher? A business that refines, packages, and sells “the talent’s” output. If they can’t market and sell, what is their job?

Remember, I am a publisher and business owner, so I put my money where my mouth is. I’ve brought in a profit every month for the last four years. If I don’t do a good job, if my numbers are down or I get complaints, it’s because I made bad business decisions. If the book I invested in doesn’t do well, it’s because I was wrong or I’m not selling it properly. But I don’t blame the book or the writer. I look in the mirror, not out the window.

A publisher’s responsibility is to sell the products they invest in. That’s how they make money.
Writers need publishers because it’s the most efficient division of labor. The talent makes the product, publishers sell the product. Optimally, it’s a partnership set up for maximum performance on both sides — an assembly line that results in both better quality and faster output, like any improvement in organizational technology.

It’s not the writers’ fault that the publishers aren’t doing their jobs.
Current publishing conditions dictate the need for self-marketing, but this automatic link between promotion and being a writer is bogus. When I talk to other marketers, fiction publishing is a joke because the industry, on a whole, is so dumb about marketing.

Skill share time.

That being said, I believe in being part of the solution, not the problem. I accept the current reality: the way things are now, writers need to self-promote to succeed. What I can do right now is share some knowledge that you can use, almost immediately.

This skill is the most important skill for a small business, taken from smart marketing techniques used by “silent millionaires” everywhere. It’s so basic, so simple, that it’s easy to underestimate, especially since so many people think they’re doing it right, but aren’t.

It is learning to build and sell to an email list.

Not anything revolutionary, but so incredibly useful. It’s what real marketers learn to do first — and it’s responsible for my being profitable on the first day I offered something for sale.

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Scrivener Review

I’m a recent convert to Scrivener, and I will never go back!  This software is just what I need to help me write my next nonfiction book, and I can’t believe how simple, yet awesome, it is.  It’s completely natural to use because it’s what I do anyway.

I put up a page for it because I think every writer needs to check it out.  Every writer that uses a Mac, anyway…

Picture 10Here’s a screenshot of the split view feature in the tutorial.  It’s not very exciting until you actually use it.  I swear, the creators of this are emacs users.

Full writeup here.