Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Publetariat Presents: The First Indie Author Stem-to-Stern Workshop Cruise!

*UPDATED* (see revision in blue, below)

Have you been wishing you had some time to speak with me in person about your self-publishing quandaries and questions, preferably while on a cruise to the Mexican Riviera? Or perhaps you've wanted to ask NYT bestselling author Scott Sigler how he crossed over from indie to mainstream success on the basis of his author platform, ideally while sipping a colorful cocktail out of a hollowed-out pineapple? Maybe you've wished you could quiz author platform and book marketing maven Joanna Penn about your specific book promotion situation as both of you lounge poolside? UPDATE: Kirk Biglione and Kassia Krozser will be presenting on Author Platform and Social Media For Authors. Or maybe you've wanted to publish your work for the Kindle and make it available for sale in Amazon's Kindle book store, but have assumed there's no way you could possibly take on that task without the help of ebook publishing expert Joshua Tallent and a neverending seafood lunch buffet?

Then this is the trip for you! From Publetariat:

In this exclusive, weeklong, all-workshop cruise aboard the Carnival "Fun Ship" Splendor (the one with the big waterslide you've seen on Carnival's TV commercials!), just 24 UPDATED: 30 attendees will have the opportunity to learn everything they need to succeed with self-publishing, ebook publishing, podcasting, author platform and book promotion from Publetariat founder and Editor in Chief / self-publishing expert April L. Hamilton, ebook publishing expert Joshua Tallent, authors and podcasting experts Seth Harwood and Scott Sigler, and author platform / social media experts Kirk Biglione and Kassia Krozser---all while enjoying a wonderful cruise vacation on the Mexican Riviera from March 7-14, 2010 UPDATED: October 10-17, 2010!

In addition to attending four, 3-hour workshop sessions on POD Publishing, Ebook Publishing, Author Platform/Social Media and Podcasting/Author Platform, each attendee will also receive a private, one-on-one, 45-minute coaching/consulting session with the speaker of his or her choice. This private consulting session alone is a $300 value. Add to this the opening night Meet and Greet, mid-week mixer and farewell mixer, and you've got a whole lot of face time with workshop speakers to get your questions answered and issues addressed as part of a very small group.

Also, we've scheduled all our workshops for "at sea" days, so attendees will be free for sightseeing and shore excursions on the three in-port days at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. If you're already thinking about taking a vacation and attending a writers' retreat or conference next year, why not do both in this one trip?

For full details on pricing, the workshops, cruise itinerary, presenter bios, travel agent contact and more, check out the Indie Author Stem to Stern Workshop Cruise page, and if you're interested, register and get your US$25 deposit for the cruise in right away; there are only 24 UPDATED: 30 slots available, and once they're gone, they're gone!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Self-Publishing: Future Prerequisite

Until recently, if you were self-published virtually any agent or book editor worth her salt didn’t want to hear about it. Many of them would want nothing to do with you at all, as if your self-published status might rub their own cachet off or something. But given the tenor and content of the sessions at this year’s Writers Digest Business of Getting Published Conference, I predict it won’t be long before agents and editors will routinely respond to queries by asking what you’ve self-published, and how it’s doing. That’s right, and you heard it here first:
I predict that within 5 years, self-publishing will no longer be an option, but a prerequisite for unknown, aspiring authors hoping to land a mainstream publishing deal. It’s the logical, inevitable next step in author platform.

At the conference, the prevailing message was that authors, both aspiring and already published, need to be getting themselves and their work out there in front of the reading public at every opportunity. And guess what? If you’re blogging or making your writing available for download in ebook or podcast formats you're already self-publishing. As for those who aren’t doing these things for fear of intellectual property theft, in numerous sessions attendees were reminded of Tim O’Reilly’s now legendary quote: that for anyone trying to build an audience, “Obscurity is a greater threat than piracy.”

Seth Harwood and Scott Sigler, both of whom broke through to mainstream success after building an audience for their podcasts, advised conference attendees that the best way to get publishers to sit up and take notice is to demonstrate your ability to build an audience and move your material on your own. Social media guru Chris Brogan said the easiest way to get a book deal is not to need one---because you’ve already established your own platform and have your own audience---, and proposed that rather than follow established roads, aspiring authors should go where there are no roads and create their own. Writers Digest Publisher and Editorial Director Jane Friedman reminded us that here in the 21st century there are no longer any rules in publishing, and reiterated the notion that for aspiring authors, platform comes before the book deal. Be The Media author David Mathison hammered away at the importance of connecting with your readership directly. Booksquare’s Kassia Krozser urged authors to push out into every available channel to enable readers to find them, and as for The Writer Mama Christina Katz, the title of her most recent book is Get Known Before The Book Deal ('nuff said!).

So, how do you intend to enable readers to find you, or build an audience, or connect with readers directly, or get known before the book deal if you’re not publishing or podcasting any of your work? You can’t just tell your site or blog visitors your writing is great, they should trust you on that, and then expect to hold their interest with what amounts to a lengthy series of hang-in-there-I-swear-when-the-book-comes-out-you’ll-love-it messages.

As we all already know, a manuscript’s content is only one piece---an increasingly small piece, unfortunately---of the decision-making puzzle when it comes to convincing a publisher to make an offer. When the editors, marketing wonks and other decision makers get together to consider which manuscripts to acquire, Risk is the name of the elephant in the room and mitigating risk is the key to a sale. When you approach an agent or editor with a quality manuscript, you may convince them you can write but you’re doing nothing to reduce their fears about the eventual book’s performance in the marketplace. If you can approach those same people with a book that’s already in the marketplace and already has a fan base, you’ve already answered the question of how the book will perform post-publication. You’ve reduced their antacid intake by half and given them some very good reasons to invest in you and your book.

Don’t let anyone tell you self-publishing is a desperation move. It’s a power move.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

How To Lose Fans and Alienate Visitors

Hi, Joe or Jane Author. My name is...well, it doesn’t really matter what my name is, all that matters is I’ve just signed up for your newsletter, or started visiting your site or blog, or registered for membership on your site, or started following you on Twitter, or friended you on Facebook or MySpace or FriendFeed or Goodreads or LibraryThing or something similar. This should be the start of a wonderful relationship, in which you share useful and amusing information with me and I sing your praises to everyone I know, buy your books, register for your webinars and show up to your speaking engagements. So far, so good. Now here’s how to f**k it up.

Bombard me with emails. When I signed up for your newsletter, Helpful Tips or the like, unless you specified otherwise at the time I signed up, I’m expecting to hear from you no more frequently than once a week. And in all honesty, if your messages take longer than about five minutes to read, I won't. Between my job, my family commitments, my social commitments, my own reading and writing, and the fall TV schedule ramping up again, I don’t have time to wade through your too-frequent or too-lengthy missives.

Bait and switch me. It might surprise you to learn that when I signed up for your newsletter or Helpful Tips I was expecting to receive…wait for it…news or Helpful Tips, NOT advertising messages. It’s fine to have a one- or two-line sales pitch at the end of your email, or to send out the occasional message about your upcoming book or speaking engagement, but the rest of your content better be worth my time and attention. Look at it this way: would you read a magazine that had nothing but full-page ads in it? If your favorite TV show suddenly started consisting of 80% ads and 20% show, would you keep watching it?

Son of bait and switch me. If you’ve promoted your free webinar, ebook, members-only site, newsletter or whatever else you’ve got as Twenty Surefire Strategies to accomplish some goal, and I sign up, I’m expecting to receive…you guessed it: Twenty Surefire Strategies. When you give me a series of sales pitches for twenty fee-based products or services from you and your affiliates instead, I tend to conclude you’re a lying liar.

Return of the son of bait and switch me. Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari and other reader community sites are places where people share their reactions to books they’ve read and engage in discussions about all things book-related, generally from a reader’s perspective. If the only books on your virtual shelf are those you’ve written yourself, or if you’ve got a variety of books on display but reserve your gushiest reviews for your own work, it’s obvious you’re using the site as a marketing outlet. Way to give new authors everywhere a bad name.

Bait and switch me, the revenge. It’s great that you’re branching out into new areas, or already operating in multiple areas, but don’t assume I want to branch out with you. I signed up for your Sci Fi Wonks site because I enjoy science fiction in general, and yours in particular. Imagine my surprise (and annoyance) when I also started receiving emails from your Gory Horrors site. And your Renaissance Romance N’ Ribaldry site. And your [insert religious affiliation here] Inspiration Of The Day site. And your eBay store. Bonus question: how angry do you think I was to find there were no “unsubscribe” links in any of the unwanted emails?

Bait and switch me, the final chapter. I understand I may need to provide my email address when posting a comment on your blog or site, because it protects you from spammers and hackers. And of course, if I’ve used the Contact form to send you a remark or question off-site, you need my email address to respond to me. But neither of these actions gives you the right to add me to your mailing list. Even if you’ve added some verbiage to your site pages to indicate that’s what you’ll do anytime someone enters his or her email address anywhere on your site, since that’s not how upstanding and honest most sites operate, if you want to avoid any appearance of bait-and-switchery you need to have a separate page just for mailing list signups.

Bait and switch me, the remake. Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, MySpace and other social networking sites are intended for…seriously, do I have to say it? Social networking. Not marketing or sales pitches. If most (or worse, all!) of your tweets, status updates or blog entries are only there to promote yourself or your work, you’re wasting my time. Just like I said about signing up for your newsletter or Helpful Tips, I wasn’t expecting to get a steady stream of advertising.

Are you beginning to sense a common thread? When I’m getting a lot of quality content from you, I don’t mind getting a modicum of advertising and promotion too. Sometimes I’m truly glad to hear about your new book, service or product, especially if I’m getting a special discount, premium edition or access to material or events not made available to the general public. But the moment the balance between content and advertising tips in the direction of advertising, I’m out. The moment I start thinking you’ve abused my trust, I’m out AND spreading the word. So please, don’t make me tweet angry.