Tag: Social media

Another book read

Write and Grow Rich: Secrets of Successful Authors and PublishersWrite and Grow Rich: Secrets of Successful Authors and Publishers by Alinka Rutkowska
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Solid advice from a variety of authors, including fiction, which is not exceptionally common. Slightly sales pitchy at times, but that is part of the performance of the book: this book and what people do in it (selling services) is how you make money as a writer. Some of the non-fiction advice isn’t especially useful, but definitely worth the time.

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Rather a provocative title, but with some solid advice from a variety of people.


Squinting like Blondie

“Of course,” Scott says. “Your life as performance art.”

            The night only gets worse. Sean walks out as soon as he closed up his bass’s case and picked up its stand. Marsha demands we drop of her drum kit at her house and won’t stay. Breaking down with only two of us is a real bitch—especially lugging those W-bins with Scott.

Dropping off Marsha’s drum kit, Scott’s pissed in that crazy quiet way that makes me nervous, squinting like Blondie from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. He says nothing on the way back home.

            I know I fucked up and burned bridges. Yet what really cuts into me is that Amy didn’t deserve that.

            But what were you even doing there? You said you’d be working all night on whatever the hell project it was. I needed to talk to you. Alone.

            Now that’ll never happen.

Self-Publishing Part 12: How the Book Hunts for 500 Buyers, a Real Time Break

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness

So far, this path to publication has relied mostly on an extended flashback, with occasional forays into general truths. Today will be a break into present time, with a quick step back a couple of weeks to prepare for what is happening now. Continue reading “Self-Publishing Part 12: How the Book Hunts for 500 Buyers, a Real Time Break”

Self-Publishing Part 11: Bestsellers, Best-Ofs, ​and Other lists. Who cares?

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness

The launch of A Perfect Blindness has finally begun to take coherent shape, and I need to spend more time tending the momentum building. As such, these twice-a-week posts will take a necessary second-row seat in my attention, and will shift to one, perhaps two per week starting in October. Technically this began last week, as I was too busy with getting the website in shape to finish this post. This formally announces the change. Probably on Fridays, or perhaps, or as well, Mondays: Holidays are permitted to foul plans as necessary.

That said, the opacity and downright recondite nature of counting books sold warrants a deeper probe of “Bestseller/Best of” lists, what they mean to whom and how they are created.

So first, who cares about Bestseller/Best of lists and why?

Whole lots of people care, though for different reasons, most falling into one of four broad groups, each with distinct investments in and expectations of these lists: potential readers, list makers, book authors, and closely akin to them, book publishers. For the reader, hitting a Best-whatever list is an attempt to grab a good book to read (or avoid a lousy one) as well as the chance to snag some cultural creed. This random stalker of Best-whatever lists is either actively looking for a book to read, figuring if a book sells better than most right now, it’s better than most out there, or at least, it won’t be lousy: Look at all the people buying it. They might also want in on what people are going to be talking and posting about, staying dialed into what’s hot: looking well informed.

These various lists (which come in flavors like NYT Best Seller, Top 10 Whatever, Most Read X, Most Wished for Y) can be sampled in different degrees of specificity from the very general fiction or non-fiction, split up into hard and soft cover, to the more distinct genres like mystery, all the way down to strictly defined subgenres like period mysteries. Amazon offers 10 subgenres of Thrillers & Suspense, each of which is further broken down into “Bestsellers,” “Most gifted,” “Hot new releases,” “Most wished for” and “Top rated” each offering its own take of what’s best and why. Other lists include “Best New Books by Women Writers,” and so they go on.

Readers can really drill down into one of these lists to find narrow desires, in the flavor that might best satisfy them. These lists winnow down a vast array of books into a manageable number from which to pick. With the top slots appearing more desirable, readers buy more of them. Of course, online this effect is amplified, for the higher a book is listed, the more likely it appears above the fold, and require no scrolling to find it.

Higher sales mean more money of course. That’s the most straightforward outcome of getting on best of/bestseller lists: More units sold, bringing in more cash. But that’s only a part of the goodies that come with appearing on a list like these. It’s a salient fact that appearing popular can make one more popular. James Surdwiecki wrote an excellent essay that explores this idea in depth called “Paying to Play,” which I’ve used to teach Cause-and-Effect Analysis.

Because showing up on one of these lists not only makes one appear popular thus driving one become more popular, it has ripple effects that extend outwards in time. By being a #1 Best/what-have-you-list Author, it’s now easier to get interviews, reviews, speaking gigs, book placements and generally elevates the author’s value. It’s prestige in a pure form. For the future, this appendage to the author’s name will make it easier to get a next book published, as well as sell that book, blurb cooked into the author’s name. In other words, appearing here means more money and opportunities, immediately and going forward.

The book’s publisher feeds off of this as well. It means more money just as for the author. The prestige matters for them as well: Having many #1s this and feature books/writers that makes it easier for the publisher to attract higher caliber talent and better books. It means leverage too: “Look at all the #1 best-selling authors we have. You want to take our offer. They can’t give you this.”

Next time—a quick dive into the arcane mechanics of list creation, before landing back with launching a self-published novel, proper.


Know someone who might like this? Post it or Forward this email to let them in on it.

To ask a question or follow along with the self-publishing adventure, join the “Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness” here.


Self-Publishing Part 11: A Wobbly Platform Starts Taking Aim

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness

All manner of plans still not enacted aside my site was live.

Further, I was trying out the ideas from the books I’d chosen as models albeit in a piecemeal, disorderly, catch-as-catch-can fashion.

One of my first active actions was to take every one of the early fans from the FB group and put them into the email list program, make a fancy-looking (imagine quite busy with far too many images) email announcing the book’s publication, which I then sent to all eleven of them. The results: One recipient confirmed buying my book because she got this email. That’s nearly 10% conversion, which is quite high I’ve read. More importantly, it’s proof of concept, suggesting that I’m NOT wasting my time.

Certainly, with such a tiny sample, this single email proves nothing, but it WORKED damn it!

Then, I emailed a few friends and much of my immediate family. Why not all my friends and family? Continue reading “Self-Publishing Part 11: A Wobbly Platform Starts Taking Aim”

Self-Publishing Part 11: Wobbly Platform Doesn’t Mean Empty Platform

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness

To be fair to myself, I hadn’t been sitting around staring at my screen, clicking on everything else I could to avoid doing work, which would have been easy given that the 2016 presidential campaign was running parallel to the launch. Despite that distraction, I’d gotten things done, several actually, and had sold a handful of books. The blog was going, and it had gained followers not only on WordPress but also on Medium, and gathered a few readers, likes and other reactions on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This blog lives on a website that wobbled, but held together and has been improving since, meaning my designing all of the artwork on Canva, and learning how to use WordPress better, creating and loading copy and adding links to capture emails for the mailing list: ‘Join the Adventure’ per the ideas from the books Platform and Your First 1000 Copies

Cohabitates with other websites is a better description for it, as A Perfect Blindness has its own URL and website, with its own big “join now” button in order to capture emails that live on the same WordPress site on its own page, just like the home page for them both, and actually the whole site: wlancehunt.com. Continue reading “Self-Publishing Part 11: Wobbly Platform Doesn’t Mean Empty Platform”

Self-Publishing Part 10: The Launch—Social Media and email: A Couple Of More Questions To Ask In A Mirror​

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness


So, what is social media good for an author if not selling books?

Reframe the approach, and put yourself in the position of the person cruising Face Book. Are you looking to spend money? Looking for a book to read, perhaps? Doubtful. If you wanted to buy, you’d be on the websites of Amazon or Barnes & Nobel or be walking to the local bookstore. Looking for reading recommendations? That’s imaginable, but most people looking for recommendations either ask someone they know, or they go to goodreads.com, Book Bub, Book Shout, or again Amazon, Barnes & Nobel or the local bookstore. If they’re just browsing, they’re looking for something interesting, something that will catch their attention, not something that will demand a credit card number. They want stuff. Good stuff. Free stuff. Twitter, same thing. Think of the platform, and most likely you won’t find people hungry to buy books, clicking away to find the right ad. Continue reading “Self-Publishing Part 10: The Launch—Social Media and email: A Couple Of More Questions To Ask In A Mirror​”

First Reviews are up: Five Stars

Consider this foreshadowing, a bonus post giving away the endings of some early questions, regarding the book finally making it through design and proofreading, all the way to the printer. Plus, it’s still early, and complete strangers to me need to report their opinions on the book, but there are two of them, reviews, and they are unanimous. Continue reading “First Reviews are up: Five Stars”

Part 3: Changing my mind about self-publishing: Signaling

iUniverse and the publishing path of the novel A Perfect Blindness

So, while self-publishers won’t publish anything, they will publish a book for whatever purpose the author wants.

There are myriad reasons for publishing a book, from “sharing my story with family and friends”, and “expressing my deepest thoughts”, to “sharing information on a specialized topic”, or “enhancing my professional career”, or “writing for Fame” and “finding out if I have what it takes for commercial success” and even “writing a giveaway promotional book” or simply because a person “loves to write”. Only a couple of reasons for publishing a book imply a real intent to sell, versus the unspoken hope that a book might be so good, people will spontaneously offer to buy it, and …

For the books published for reasons that don’t specifically include competing in the market, yes indeed, the independent publisher makes all its money by getting paid up front for typesetting and printing, and possibly for editing and design services, and this is all the publisher expects to ever make from these books. Many of the books published for these reasons fit the definition of “vanity publishing” exactly.

Other writers though engage self-publishing companies with the intent of selling what they write, on the shelves shared with traditionally published books. Of course, not every book written with the goal of fame or landing on the bestsellers list is of high enough quality to sell more than a few copies to family and friends. An early contact at iUniverse wrote that the vast majority of the books they publish are not worthy of a bookstore shelf: only 5 percent of all their books even have that potential. Thus the number books of dubious quality along with the number that are published for reasons other than sales lead to the oft-quoted statistic that the average self-published book sells less than 500 copies. That number is gained simply by dividing the total number of books sold by the total number of titles in a given year, regardless of purpose or quality: an inaccurate picture of sales for high quality books written with the purpose to sell. Especially if the book has a large and reachable market.

So it is true that self-publishing companies will publish most anything, even if it’s poorly written, and yes, on these mediocre or low quality books as well as books that aren’t intended for sale, these companies do indeed make all their money from type-setting, formatting and design fees, as well as whatever additional services an author might purchase, such as editing and marketing help.

Confounding matters for self-publishing, these same additional services, which can help a book reach it’s potential as they did for A Perfect Blindness have added to lawsuits from authors whose books, in spite of all the extra money spent on editing, designing and marketing, didn’t sell as the author expected. Some of these suits have gotten press, which perpetuates the image that self-publishing companies are little more than a scam that preys on vulnerable authors’ dreams, rather than providing a new way for serious writers to get their books to market. It’s important to remember though that the class action lawsuit claiming Author Solutions, iUniverse’s parent, is a fraud was dismissed in 2015 in part because so many authors return to the company to publish more books.

Finally and most importantly: self-publishers make money by selling books too, and they know good books do actually sell.

Going it Mostly Alone

iUniverse and the publishing path of the novel A Perfect Blindness

Part 2: Changing my mind about self-publishing

Cover proofs went to production Tuesday as planned, but a new concern bubbled up—about lyrics and fair use. When going over the proofs, I realized I had misremembered the lyrics of a song that was playing on a dance floor in the story. I corrected them in the proof and then realized: am I using too much? In researching how much text I can use from a song for it to be considered fair use under copyright laws, I discovered there are no hard rules: using one line of a song that has only one line of lyrics means using 100% of the song lyrics.


That got me worried as I remembered using, in one way or another, a fair amount of song lyrics in the book, either as the song itself plays in the background, or as someone says, thinks or speaks them. I asked iUniverse what the fair use rules were; they said if it’s only one or two lines, it shouldn’t be a problem, but asked me to send along a manuscript marked up with what concerned me. So yesterday, I prepared a version of the whole manuscript highlighting every lyric or line I could remember using, placing the referenced piece and the published lyric or line in a comment. While comparing the manuscript to the sources, I realized I only used a handful of actual lyrics verbatim, and then mostly attributed to the song and artist: other song lyrics are interpreted, referenced, or winked at. Still, I sent the prepared manuscript to my contact with hopes that I’ll need do nothing more: I interpreted source material or attributed just about everything, like a good boy.

Now back to the questions the end of the last post asked: How did it get this far? What made my change my mind about self-publishing?

In a word: technology. Specifically advances in creative tools, and in means of production and distribution; these latter two, writers have traditionally been forbidden access to.

First, advancements in personal computing have provided research, error correction and organizational tools, which has increased general writing quality, and thus many self-published works. Second, advancements in Desk Top Publishing software gave high quality and powerful tools to both authors and independent designers, enabling them to create high quality looking raw materials. This software along with increasing quality printers, and compact collating and binding machines lead to Print on Demand (POD) services. No longer did an author have to pay for a single, expensive type setting and then run as many books as he or she could afford, which then had to be shipped someplace, stored until sold, and then reshipped, each of these steps being paid for. If the book sold enough, and the author wanted additional printings, that would require another round of typesetting costs, printing, shipping and storing of at least a minimum run.

With POD, an author pays for (or creates for themselves) a single software type setting, such as in a PDF file, which can be used as often as needed, without extra expense. Then, when a book gets ordered and paid for, it gets printed on that demand, and shipped directly to the reader or bookstore: No minimum runs, no storage, no repeated typesetting fees, for one or a thousand or as many times the book is ever bought. These individually printed books are every bit as good as what Random House prints en masse. All it takes is a PDF version of the book, which an author can create on a home computer.

That is, if a book needs to be printed at all. Ever improving software, new gadgets and the Internet gave birth to a new form of book—the E-book. They are cheaper and easier to “publish” than paper books—requiring only a formatted file of the book and a way to read it—and are built for distribution via the Internet, which is where bookselling has been moving for decades: Jeff Bezos started Cadabra, the company that would become Amazon, in 1994.

This shift in particular has been decisive in the erosion of the differences between the two publishing paths and not merely for E-books.

Next post will dive into this new market place.