Monday, September 9, 2019

Changed My Mind


A few days ago I decided to give up Blogger and post on Medium. Today I changed my mind. I am going to post on both. There’s no reason for my work to be exclusive to Medium. I’ll continue to put writing related article links on Facebook. I thought platform mattered more than the writing itself, and that is mistaken. I need to get more written; the platform is hardly important compared to that. I drive myself nutty with this social media platform stuff and use that as an excuse to delay writing. Silly. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

My Blogger Hiatus


I decided to take a break on blogging for a couple of reasons. First, I only have so much writing in me. I’d rather apply my limited literary energy toward short stories and essays.

The second reason has more to do with platform than blogging itself. I still want to provide valuable information to my clients and friends. Posting on Blogger is OK, but I only get traction, readership, when I share the post to Facebook. Sometimes I hate this, but to many people Facebook is the internet. So, I’ve decided it’s best for me to just skip the Blogger step and post directly to Facebook.

There are other advantages. The Blogger to Facebook image sharing process has always been a hassle for me. The image has to be a precise size and Facebook has changed the requirements more than once. I had to add special code to my Blogger page in order for the images to go over correctly. Facebook handles links to the articles I want to highlight much better than Blogger. Facebook displays video better.

I’m not going to close this account because Facebook may change in ways that I won’t like. It will go dormant though (again).

If you're interested in information about the world of indie publishing, please follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevin.moriarity.

I signed up for Medium, and plan on putting my essays and short stories there: https://medium.com/@kevinm56.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Indie Published Book Covers

I read an article on The Book Designer that mentions something very important: your book cover must look good in a small, thumbnail size – especially for indie-published books. Few indie published books end up in bookstores. Therefore, the online appearance of your cover is far more important than the physical book’s look. Too many indie-published authors design their covers as if their book will end up on the shelf at Barnes & Noble as opposed to a 1.1” wide x 1.6” high online cover. Take a look at your cover at thumbnail size and see if you can read the title, or the subtitle. Do your graphics clearly indicate what you want to express at that size? For indie publishing, especially ebooks, it is crucial that the cover works online, as opposed to the physical version. In fact, for online sales, you could leave the back cover completely blank and it won’t make much difference – hardly anyone will see it prior to buying the book! 

The article mentions more things to think about when designing a cover. From the article:
"A cover makes a promise. It tells the reader very clearly — through words, but also through design — exactly what they’re going to read.

We could make the same kinds of observations about a thriller, a business non-fiction book, an inspirational title — each genre and subgenre has certain tropes (characteristic elements) that identify it. Even literary fiction!"
Read the entire article on The Book Designer.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Back To My Old Brand

I really tried. I didn't want to be "that guy," the one that always sees the glass half full. I even decided to let my domain, voiceofdoomandgloom.com, lapse. But, I turned on auto-renew today because I do see the glass half full, even empty sometimes. I guess it's just my nature.

It's not that I'm not grateful for my good fortune. While I think I did a good job for my employers and clients, I am also aware that I've been very lucky.

But, I see so much that I don't understand about our culture and our lifestyle. We seem to be determined to ruin all the good things we've developed and replace them with meanness, intolerance, fear and a lack of appreciation for intelligence and expertise.

So, expect the ratio of rants to articles about indie-publishing to change.

You've been warned! 😀

Friday, August 30, 2019

The World of Writing Is Not Immune to the Laws of Supply & Demand

I read this recently on Brevity. As I said in an earlier post - there are too many books. There are too many writers. There are too many other options to amuse us: YouTube, Instagram, the whole darn internet. As the supply increases, assuming the demand remains constant, the price drops. It's not rocket science. The audience for short work in literary fiction and poetry is small anyway. Throw in a whole bunch of free options and it's no wonder people, even other writers, will stop paying for what they can get for free elsewhere.
“But the massive proliferation of literary journals online has, among other things, diluted the meaning of publication to the degree that we’ve clung to pre-digital hierarchies as a defense against chaos. 
Despite our market-expressed preference for disruptive digital technologies, we still trust The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Paris Review, Granta and handful of other top-tier publications to tell us who is writing the most important, must-read work today. (There are notable all-digital exceptions to this rule, of course. You’re reading this diatribe on the Brevity blog, after all.) The important difference now, though, is that we don’t want to pay for access to that information, which is one of the reasons why journals like Tin House, Glimmer Train, and The Normal School, to name only a few recent (and painful) examples, are closing up the print-issue shop. 
The audience for literary journals is predominantly made up of writers. We can quibble over the reasons, but the cold, hard truth is that writers have decided that they don’t want to pay for access to literary journals.”
Read the entire article.

What does the picture of the best cat ever have to do with this post? Absolutely nothing. I miss him still.


Friday, August 23, 2019

Semicolons!

On July 19th Publishers Weekly ran an article entitled: "9 Things You Didn’t Know About the Semicolon."
"For most of the history of the English language, punctuation was a matter of taste. Writers relied on their ears and their instincts to judge where best to mark a pause. But then, with the spread of public schooling in the 1800s, savvy teachers saw a market for a new class of books that would make grammar a teachable science. Perversely, instead of making people more confident in choosing a punctuation mark, rules seem to have had the opposite effect, conjuring up confusion and consternation. Gradually, proper punctuating came to be seen as the province of the elite, although the best writers still followed their own star: 'With educated people, I suppose, punctuation is a matter of rule,' Abraham Lincoln mused; 'with me it is a matter of feeling. But I must say that I have a great respect for the semi-colon; it’s a very useful little chap.'"
I didn't know there could be 9 things in total to know about the semicolon! Author Cecelia Watson wrote a whole book about the little thing!



Friday, August 16, 2019

Speed Kills


Speed kills. I was told by a Marine Corps jet fighter pilot that that phrase was not always true, that speed is your friend when flying a jet. I will bow to his expertise and acknowledge there may be an exception, but i still feel my statement generally holds true.

As it relates to writing, I certainly believe it's true. I know. You've read posts from me that say you need to write more books and churn them out faster. I was wrong. I stand by the first part of that statement: more writing, more publishing, will lead to more sales. Write more, not just books either. Submit short stories and essays too. The more people read your work, the better chance they will buy more. Of course, the big caveat is they will buy more only if it's good, only if it's worth paying for. And that's where slowing down will help. I saw this post about handwriting the first draft.

“A laptop may be able to perfectly typeset my thoughts as I write them, but a first draft has no business being easy to read. A first draft shouldn’t herald itself in a cacophony of clattering keys. A first draft should arrive with the raindrop-quiet of the popping sound my ballpoint makes skittering through the cursive-and-printing hybrid of my handwriting. A first draft needs the whisper of the thoughts I haven’t made sense of yet to be echoed by the whisper of my hand gliding across the page as I finish with one word and move onto the next.”

I used to hand write the first draft all the time and I stopped for a long while. Now I'm back to it. I'm sure you've noticed the improved quality! 😀 The process feels right to me, for me. It turns out I can type much faster than I can think (same with talking, but that's another post), and that usually ends poorly. It think it's one of the reasons social media and the 24/7 cable news networks are so low quality. Too many are in too big a hurry to be first and so we read speculation more than actual facts far too often.

Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep publishing. Don't stop, but don't go too fast either. Pay attention to craft. Haste makes waste - that phrase has been around a long time for good reason.

“Instead of strapping into the digital fast lane where my touch-typed thoughts can be zapped—fast, fast, fast—onto a screen, pen and paper slow my mind long enough for my heart to get a word in edgewise; pen and paper slow my mind long enough for my heart to encourage me to wait for truths that filter up as slowly as water from an aquifer…”

Read the entire article.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Now Some Writers Will Have to Compete With Computers!



The Creative Penn blog recently posted about how AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been used to create books.

Computers have already been used for quite a while to “write” news articles, particularly sports articles.

https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/2/14/18222270/artificial-intelligence-open-ai-natural-language-processing

https://digiday.com/media/washington-posts-robot-reporter-published-500-articles-last-year/

AI has been successfully utilized in many areas: chess, poker, medical research… The concept of “deep learning” enables a computer to play millions of games of chess, or poker, and learn what works and what does not. Now, these same capabilities of artificial intelligence are enabling computers to encroach upon the world of fiction writing. Feeding the AI millions of books and articles allows the computer to learn what makes a bestseller and what does not.
“The ‘write and publish faster’ model will soon be broken. You cannot write as fast as AI. It doesn’t get tired or burn out and it can consume millions of academic papers or books much faster than you can read. 
Publishers are not charities and authors are basically content creators, writing products to be sold. An in-house proprietary creative AI will work constantly with no hand-holding and no need to be looked after in any way. 
For example, what if my objective is to write a bestselling horror novel — and what if I give the AI the entire Stephen King backlist to learn from? 
Or the top 1000 bestselling horror novels from Amazon? 
I could probably do a rudimentary version of that right now with AWS Amazon Comprehend (which discovers insight and relationships in text) and then utilize a Natural Language Generation [Wikipedia] tool like GPT2, considered so dangerous that it has not been released (OpenAI), but of course, many other such tools will be created. 
The first movie has been created from a screenplay written by an AI [Ars Technica]. While the result might not be high art, it’s a first draft, and it took only a few minutes to create (after much deep learning from existing scripts).

If content is produced by AI at a faster rate in every medium — and possibly with the addition of translated material — then the tsunami of content will soon bury us all.
Authors and publishers already have to pay for Amazon Advertising to even be seen in the Amazon stores right now and this model will soon be broken as ads become too expensive for most.”
How will humans compete? You will have to abandon generic, formula-driven literature. You will have to write more about niche subjects, with strong emotional impact, something that computers will struggle with for a while. Another advantage to this approach: marketing is easier, more effective, if you write a narrower-niched, more focused work.
"The mass market is dead. Bestsellers are dead. Micro-niche will be everything and more granular discoverability will be better with AI, e.g. emotional resonance matching or specifics like I want a thriller set in Rome with a female protagonist who likes fast cars and Renaissance art. 
We’re starting to see this with Amazon Advertising auto-targeted ads. They were pretty bad a year ago but now they are starting to become more effective."
You can’t fight these developments. You can writer in your style, telling your stories (it’s not likely computers will be writing memoir, or tightly-niched history any time soon) with an intense devotion to craft. This may turn out to be a boom time to those writers who can writer for the love of story, language, ad the craft of writing.

"Publishers are businesses. They will use whatever tools they can to bring down the costs of doing business and authors are just content creators at the end of the day. Yes, your editor may love you, but it’s the accountants who make the decisions. 
You cannot win on speed when an AI can write a screenplay in two minutes, or generate a textbook, or translate a book faster than you can read this sentence. 
But there is one thing that you can do that AI cannot — be you. 
Move away from the ‘faster is better’ model to ‘artisan craftsmanship.’ Stand out by having a unique voice. Don’t write anything without giving it your own authentic stamp. Focus on local, imperfect, real connection with other humans."
Read the entire article.  

Friday, August 2, 2019

Where is the Growth in Publishing?


There is massive growth in digital books (ebooks and audio), but it’s not happening in the US.


"By 2025, there will be another 4 billion people online and most of those will be accessing the internet through mobile devices. This is why Streetlib now has a publishing portal in every country, in every language, positioning themselves as the portal for the 2020s (and why I am now distributing on their platform as well as others). 
The massive growth of digital book sales (ebook and audio) is not in the US, UK, Canada, or Australia. It’s everywhere else — and most of those countries don’t use Amazon to shop for books."
Another thing about Streetlib: you can upload your manuscript and they will create both the ebook (suitable for multiple platforms, not just the Kindle) and printed book - for free. I'm looking for new business opportunities soon as it's more and more apparent that book designers will no longer be in demand! 😟

Friday, July 26, 2019

Jane Friedman's Annual Key Book Publishing Paths

Jane Friedman published her latest edition of the Key Book Publishing Paths.

As you might expect, getting a book deal from a traditional publisher is the best option, whether it be the big 5 or a small press. The key thing to remember is that being traditionally published means that the author pays nothing to get published; the publisher assumes all the financial risk. You may earn a smaller royalty, but the editing, design and marketing support will be better than you can do on your own.

The next best option, in my opinion, is the Indie / DIY (Do It Yourself) option. You get complete control (you have little control with traditional publishing, especially with the title and cover) and receive the largest royalty. But, everything is on you. You have to find a competent editor, a good book designer (if you're reading this blog you already know one) and a book cover designer. All the marketing is on you.

The worst option is Assisted & Hybrid. You pay upfront, usually at inflated prices, for the privilege of publishing. This category contains most of the scams - companies making promises they can't, or won't, keep.

The last column is labeled "Social." This column is for bloggers or writers that publish on Wattpad or Medium. It's not easy to make money this way, but it can give authors exposure for their books.

Read the entire report.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Too Many Books?


I follow a blog on photography. It recently had a post about how digital photography is ruining art photography. There are too many pictures being posted, mostly about mundane things, and that has devalued the world of art photography.

Is it the same for publishing? Has self-publishing just made it too easy and flooded the market with too many books? I recently saw (and posted) about ads I saw for formatting: $27 for an ebook, $48 for a printed book. (I will not do formatting at those prices.) As I predicted, it has gotten so easy to take a document in Word and turn it into a book that I suspect even more books will be published every day (currently the number is estimated to be around 6,000 books every single day - traditional + self-published). This isn't a print vs ebook rant either - both formats are being flooded.

Below  are some lines from the photography post. Do you think the world of writing has suffered from the same problem?
Each and every year we take over one trillion photos, collectively. That’s 160 photos per year for everyone alive on the third rock from the sun. This number is expected to grow by 100 billion photos every year too. That’s just insane. Cameras and photography are accessible to billions of people in every corner of the planet, but the ability to overindulge in what used to be an art form that was not as easy to access has had some negative effects. 
The digital age has enabled us to take photos of literally everything. But in the process of photography becoming so accessible it has cheapened the value of the art. Most people in this world really do not care about images, and most people do not value photography or the power of a photograph. 
People just don’t care as much about digital images as they do about physical prints.
We can bring back the value of photography by shooting with intent, with purpose, by creating new unique images, and by making every click of the shutter count.”

Read the entire article!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Stop Wasting Your Time Marketing on Social Media

This article is from way back in the digital stone age: 2014. I wish I had read it then, and taken it seriously, though I’m not sure I would have that year. My attitude has changed drastically since then, based on my own experience and the lessons learned from my clients.

My 7/8 post was about focusing on writing as opposed to marketing. This post is in the same vein. Social media: writers are supposed to develop their social media platform. The marketing gurus say if you self-publish you have to do this. Agents won’t talk to you until you have a social media platform all set up with thousands of likes. But is there any return on all the time you have to spend on it? This article argues that there is no return, in fact, if it reduces the time you spend on your writing (which it inevitably will), it will generate a negative return.

Once again, the same advice I’ve seen over and over appears here. This time it’s from Amazon Publishing! Write more books. Keep writing. If you love it, do it and stop wasting your time and money on gimmicks that claim to sell more books, but don’t.
“Conventional wisdom in the publishing industry suggests that a robust online presence, maintained by an author, will compensate for a non-existent marketing budget and that some uncoachable mix of wit and digital luck can propel an author from obscurity to fame. The reality is that successful online marketing, just like successful offline marketing, is driven by money. A social media presence with no cash behind it doesn’t do much for the average author when it comes to selling books, and squandering precious hours on building a platform that few people will ever see—hours that could otherwise be spent writing—is a mistake that can hurt your productivity and, therefore, your career.

According to research by Social@Ogilvy, which was recently published in Advertising Age, a mere 6.15 percent of fans (people who like a page) see each organic (unpaid) post from a brand.

The advice they gave to my author friend (who spoke on the condition of anonymity, per her contract with Amazon): write more. Don’t waste time on social media. The single biggest factor in whether or not you sell books is whether or not you write books.

When you have to make a choice about how to spend your writing time, choose your book first. Every. Single. Time. To approach your writing career any other way is a mistake.”
Read the entire article!

Also, Seth Rogen had something similar to say about social media in 2018:
“The narrative of social media grooming is a seductive one, but it’s as much of a dead end as spending an extra hour picking out which tie to wear before giving a speech.”

Monday, July 15, 2019

Is Indie-Publishing a Good Choice for Literary Fiction?


Is indie publishing viable for literary fiction authors? Here's a podcast with successful literary fiction author Jane Davis that suggests it is not the best choice, even though she appears to have made it work. The interview starts at 21:30, but some of the introductory stuff is interesting.




Friday, July 12, 2019

Do You Need a Publicist?

If you want to get the word out and are having a difficult time doing that, consider hiring a publicist. Jane Friedman wrote about this recently.

"Nowadays, many writers elect to hire their own publicists. That’s especially true for those who publish with small, independent, or nontraditional presses, since that may be the only way for them to secure media attention. It’s also true, however, for writers who take the traditional route. Unless you’re a major name, your publisher will have limited time and resources to devote to your book. If you want more exposure, you’ll have to make it happen yourself. 
Marketing refers to the things you pay for, in order to become known (like ad placements), while publicity refers to attention from the media (like interviews and reviews) that you do not pay for. You pay for them indirectly, of course, by paying for the time (that is, the connections and clout) of a professional publicist."

Read the entire article.

Additional reading:



https://www.janefriedman.com/find-book-publicist/

If you want to do some press releases on your own, here's a good article about sites to submit that don't charge you for the privilege: