Notes from An Alien

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Our Blog Conversation Continues ~ Comparing Traditional Publishing & Self-Publishing …

Traditional publishing vs self-publishing Monday’s post—Continuing the Conversation ~ Readers as Gatekeepers—compared the experiences of two writers (me and a friend) who both prefer self-publishing but have favorite authors who traditionally publish…

Before I share the comment on Monday’s post that kept this conversation going, I feel I need to mention that there are great writers who are published traditionally as well as great writers amongst the ranks of the self-published; and, contrary to some folk’s awareness, there are mediocre writers who self-publish and writers, just as mediocre, who are published by the traditional houses…

Now, the comment from Monday that continued the conversation and stopped me from starting a different one :-)

“I enjoyed your responses to Nicholas Sparks’ comments on traditional publishing and I have a few more excerpts from him I’ll share:

“’Publishing is a business. Writing may be art, but publishing, when all is said and done, comes down to dollars. Keep that in mind. I say this because of the volume of mail I receive from unpublished writers who believe that “having a good story”, is enough to guarantee success. It’s not. I hate to say it, I wish it wasn’t true, but it’s not. Some of the best novels I’ve ever read never hit the best-seller list, then faded away before sadly going out of print. There are also some poorly written novels that do become best-sellers. Writing a great novel is the most important thing you can do to become a success, but sometimes it’s not enough these days.’

“While he focuses on the need of a good story, at least, he warns that in the traditional realm one of three things must happen. I’ll share these but I don’t like that this particular writer, in his traditional world, works directly with agents and editors who require a certain flare in the art. He even tells his reader he has 3 unpublished books and Stephen King has 5 because they were rejected by the traditional folks for lacking that ‘flair’.

“’These days, it seems there are only three ways for an author to hit the best-seller list with a first novel:
(1) have the novel recommended by Oprah (most if not all of the books she’s chosen for Oprah’s Book Club have become best-sellers, first time author or not, like “Deep End of the Ocean” by Jacqueline Mitchard);
(2) have the novel receive wide and lavish critical acclaim, thereby triggering the interest of the major media, like “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier; or
(3) write a novel that has good word-of-mouth, i.e., a well-written book that people read and enjoy and feel compelled to recommend to others, like “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” by Rebecca Wells. This doesn’t mean you can’t become a success with a later novel. Over time, quality work will lead to an audience for your work. In the end, readers always choose.’

“I believe this third category is where many of us self published devotees can excel. It seems he only clearly mentions self-publishing once:

“’If you only want to get a book published simply for the sake of finding it in a store for a few months (it won’t stay in the store forever unless it sells), keep your day job and consider publishing the novel yourself.’”

I feels to me that our commenter has presented an understandable case for self-publishing; but, I need to reply to a few of Mr. Sparks statements:

“Writing may be art, but publishing, when all is said and done, comes down to dollars.”

Well… When All is said and done, why does publishing Have to come down to dollars? Is it never possible to imagine a writer self-publishing at low or no self-cost and then offering their work for free?

Are all writers Doomed to chase dollars?

“Writing a great novel is the most important thing you can do to become a success…”

I realize Mr. Sparks has hit the Big-time with his books; however, I truly feel he should have used the phrase “make money” rather than the phrase “become a success”…

In my universe, writing a great novel is success enough…

Why does writing, in and of itself, not qualify as “success”?

Here is the word history of “Success”:

“1530s, ‘result, outcome’, from Latin successus ‘an advance, a coming up; a good result, happy outcome’, noun use of past participle of succedere ‘come after, follow after; go near to; come under; take the place of’, also ‘go from under, mount up, ascend’, hence ‘get on well, prosper, be victorious…'”

All of that can happen for a writer without them earning a cent…

And, “be victorious” is a wonderful description of the feeling so many writers have when all they’ve done is to finally edit their drafts into a good story…

Over time, quality work will lead to an audience for your work. In the end, readers always choose.”

While Mr. Sparks is keeping that comment inside the realm of traditional publishing, it’s equally valid for self-published work; however, even in the traditional world, many “quality ” works have not found their readers fast enough to avoid being taken off the shelves…

Those same works, if self-published, would stay on the “shelves” as long as the author wanted them there…

And, finally, this remark by Mr. Sparks:

“If you only want to get a book published simply for the sake of finding it in a store for a few months (it won’t stay in the store forever unless it sells), keep your day job and consider publishing the novel yourself.”

Again, self-published works stay on the “shelves” as long as the author desires—digital shelves as long as there’s an Internet and physical shelves as long as the author “works” the bookstores and libraries…

And, it’s a shame I have to say this in relation to a comment by a wildly “successful” traditionally published author; but, there are an increasingly large number of self-published authors who have ditched the day job………

Feel moved to make a comment?

If not, you could certainly express a desire to have another topic discussed… :-)
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The Successful Writer

Becoming a successful writer depends, completely, on your definition of “success”. Success for Writers

Success As Money is the most uncontrollable goal you can set.

Sure, there are things that can be done to enhance a writer’s chance of making money; but, none of them is a sure bet.

Success As Readership is a goal that’s easier to reach if you’re willing to give away lots of copies of your work.

Combining success goals is probably the most reliable way to find “success” but, if you never define the word, you may never know if you’ve reached it… 

So, what’s a writer to do if they honestly can’t seem to define the kind of success they want to pursue?

Perhaps, reading a book by an author who was successful with traditional publishing then went on to become more successful with self-publishing?

An author who loves the money he makes but has other goals wrapped up in his success-strategy?

An author who has a highly developed sense of humor?

An author who wrote the book that’s over 350,000 words long and is called The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing (Everything A Writer Needs To Know)?

An author who’s name is Joe Konrath?

The guy I talked about and shared a video of in the past post, The Best Book On How To Be Successful As A Writer?

Yeah, that guy

So, this is a very long book but it’s only $2.99 on Amazon.

And, because it’s a compilation of four years of Joe’s blog, it’s in handy blog-sized chunks.

Plus, it covers nearly any aspect of working toward nearly any success goal you can imagine.

It does have typos in it; but, do check out my past post concerning typos—A Book Review That Teaches The Author Something About Typos . . .

And anyway, even though I’m always brought up short when I notice a typo, it somehow just doesn’t seem to matter all that much when reading Joe.

He’s a very personable writer.

And, even though I have no interest in genre-writing and Joe is a genre-writer, he still “Speaks” to me.

So, if you’re just not sure what “success” should mean to you as a writer (or, if you’re someone who thinks they may want to be a writer) this is the best book I’ve yet found to help you massage your mind and figure out your own personal path toward “success”

Here are some of Joe’s ideas from the book:

“Luck Is Important

“I say this all the time. In fact, I think it’s the #1 factor in determining success in this business. But I’ve never specifically identified what luck is. In essence: Getting someone within the industry with enough power and money to recognize they can make money from your work. That’s luck. It involves having the right book, in the right place, at the right time. Too soon, too late, wrong person, not good enough — these all can minimize your luck. But hard work, paying attention, and being willing to roll with the punches and accept criticism can maximize your luck. Still, at the end of the day, it always comes down to a roll of the dice. No one said it would be fair, easy, or fun. But if this is your dream, it is worthwhile to pursue it.

“Why do I pursue it?

“First, because I love to tell stories. I think it’s a fundamental part of the human experience.

“Second, because making a living doing something I love is the whole point of life.

“Third, because I’m ensuring my little place in history.

“The most important thing I can do as a human being is be a good husband and father. And yet, who remembers husbands and fathers? How many can you name that you don’t personally know? But writers — everyone can name a dozen writers. That I’m able to reach people, and at the same time become immortal through my work; that speaks to to the essence of what I believe humanity is. As a species, we love to create things. I’m doing my part and making my mark, in a way that makes me thrilled to be alive.

“Understand The Industry

“The publishing industry is broken. No doubt about it. Any business that allows returns, where a 50% sell-through is considered successful, where no one can figure out why things succeed or fail, is fundamentally flawed. But the more you know about how things work, the better you can manipulate the system. Good decision-making comes down to facts. The better informed you are, the likelier your decisions will be correct. Listen. Ask questions. Follow examples. Experiment. Take chances. Stay alert.

“The Harder You Try, The More Books You’ll Sell

“You will not become a bestseller by doing all the things I tell you to do, no matter how logical or well-informed I appear. You will not become a bestseller through your blog, your touring, your speaking efforts, your internet efforts, or you social networks. The only way you will become a bestseller is to have your books available, at a discount, in as many places as possible. And that’s beyond your control. That said, every little thing you do to sell your books can help your career. Books sell one at a time. If you’re the one that sells them, one at a time, its one more that probably would not have sold without your efforts.

“The Race Is With Yourself

“You can’t ever compare yourself to any other writer. EVER. This isn’t like the business world, where certain positions have a salary range. You can make $100 a year, or $5,000,000 a year, with no discernible difference in your output or your quality. If you want to compare yourself to someone, compare yourself to yourself. Monitor your successes. Learn from your failures (and if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying hard enough.) Try different things, make mistakes, grow, adapt, evolve. Your peers are a tool you can use to better yourself. But they are NEVER something to aspire to. Your only aspirations should be within your control. Which brings us to:

“Set Achievable Goals

“Goals should be within your power. In other words, anything that involves a yes or no from another human being isn’t a goal, it’s a dream. You can and should dream, and dream big. But ‘I want to be a bestseller’ isn’t a goal. ‘I want to attend three writing conferences this year, polish my novel, and send queries to ten agents by November’ is a goal. Learn the difference. And don’t forget to reward yourself when you reach those goals.

“Love It

“The term ‘tortured artist’ is an oxymoron. Art is not food, clothing, or shelter. Art is what we do to express and entertain ourselves…”
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Are You A Successful, Unpublished Author?

successful unpublished writer Does it seem like the title of this post has a mistake in it?

Do “Successful” and “Unpublished” go together??

What is “Success” for a writer???

From another perspective, is a writer successful if they are consistently writing—honing their craft—expressing their creativity—perfecting their art—but, not publishing?

Try this conversation on for size:


Jane:  “So, you’re a writer, are you, Sarah?  Where are you published?”

Sarah:  “Actually, I’m glad you asked.  You see, I’ve chosen not to publish my work as yet.”

Jane:  “Oh.  Okay.  Well, why is that?”

Sarah:  “I don’t want to just publish anything.  I want to really hone my craft.  I’m serious, you see, like Van Gogh.  Did you know that he only sold three paintings in his lifetime?  But think how he’s affected the world.”

Jane:  “Wow, I didn’t know that!  But I guess it makes good sense.  So, what are you working on at the moment?”


That chat between Jane and Sarah, from grub street daily, is just one example of how a successful writer who has yet to publish can reshape the conversation about what they’re up to :-)

The article over on grub street is Pep Talk: Ways to Announce That You’re a Successful, Unpublished Writer (And Have The World Agree).

I encourage you to go read the whole article, especially if you’re a hard-working writer who has not yet published.

Actually, even if you are published, you’ll benefit from reading it, if only to share it with fellow writers who haven’t yet published.

One more excerpt I’ll share from the article is a list of LIES:

1. You’re only a successful writer if you’re published by paying markets, such as the magazines that you can buy in Barnes & Noble.

2. You’re only a successful writer if you’ve published a book-length work with a big publishing house.

3. It is hard to write a book, but if it is good, you’ll easily get it published and earn money from the royalties.

4. If you don’t publish a book, you can’t write very well and you’re certainly not a professional.

5. If you’re not earning large amounts of money, you’re not successful in terms of your career.

6. If you self-publish, it means you aren’t talented and/or professional.

You might also want to check out their other site Grub :-)

[EDIT]Please read the first Comment on this post by “Once”………
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