Pity Parties

By Jon F. Merz

Ever been to one of these? It’s where something doesn’t go right and someone decides that the universe is against them and gets all “woe-is-me, my life totally sucks.” Usually, this is accompanied by a post on Facebook or Twitter; sometimes, it’s a blog post or a magazine column. Sometimes those posts on Facebook get a bunch of “likes,” or comments expressing sympathy. This is the party aspect of it. Misery loves company, apparently, and pity parties certainly seem to spring up more often than not. (Personally, I think we need more positivity parties…)

I’ve been seeing them happen a lot lately – especially with midlist traditionally published authors. As the indie publishing revolution has made it easier than ever before to become published, a lot of traditionally-published authors who never achieved serious bestseller status are pissed off. They see new unknown writers selling thousands or tens of thousands of ebooks and pocketing the 70% royalty that Amazon offers and they get seriously annoyed. Some of them bitch publicly about it. I read a column recently where the author was upset that one of these newer writers had the gall to state that he had “fun” when he was writing, whereas the column’s author found writing to be a painful and grueling experience. The remainder of the column was very much more a commentary on what a sad life the column author had, rather than what she was doing to make her life better.

Maybe you’ve even thrown a pity party from time-to-time. Things in your own life have been seemingly bad or you haven’t achieved everything you set out to accomplish. You start feeling a sense of hopelessness or maybe experience a crisis of faith. I certainly know – I’ve been there. Around this time last year, I was about to face a whole lot of very potentially serious issues. And in my present life, I still have yet to accomplish some of my larger goals. I understand how easy it is to focus on all the bad stuff and ignore the good that always exists in a life.

But the thing about a pity party is that while they seem to help momentarily, the party should never go on for too long. Otherwise, like any real party, the neighbors get annoyed and call the cops to complain. And then cops show up and shut it down. Meanwhile, you’ve been partying too hard and you still have to get up the next morning and go to work. And when you wake up, your head is pounding and you feel like total garbage.

Likewise, if you allow your pity party to go on for too long, you run the risk of trapping yourself even deeper in the mire of your own doubt. It becomes harder and harder to pull yourself out of the swamp and get back on the path toward kicking all sorts of ass.

I’m not saying that it’s not okay to allow yourself a brief bit of self-pity from time-to-time. A change of perspective can sometimes illuminate a path or tactic that you may not have previously considered. The key, though, is to acknowledge that things aren’t where you want them to be and then actually DO something about it. Instead of wallowing in the swamp and moaning about your predicament, haul yourself out of it and take positive action toward changing your life for the better. The action doesn’t have to be huge; it just has to be action in the right direction.

Each and every step will bring you closer to eventual success. Don’t sabotage your progress by wasting energy on a pity party.

One step. One action. One vision.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the new digital series THE CONTAINED yet, be sure to check it out here – we need your help to make it a reality! Thank you!

The Revolution Continues!

By Jon F. Merz

So some big news today in the world of ebooks and indie publishing. Specifically, the fine folks at Kobo have inked a deal with the American Booksellers Association to sell ebook readers AND ebooks through independent bookstores – potentially 2,000 of them. Why is this big news? Because it opens up a whole new market demographic to indie authors who have previously been unable to penetrate the indie bookstore scene. It also brings indie bookstores into the fold and makes the selling of ebooks and actual income stream for them. This is great for everyone involved – authors, booksellers, publishers, and Kobo itself (as well as Zola, another outfit doing the same thing in the above article)

This announcement is also one further indicator that the walls are crumbling in the traditional publishing world. Now is a fantastic time to be a creator. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book – about even the most niche topic – I think this is the time to do it. As more and more big name authors turn their backs on the traditional publishing world, those publishers will have no choice but to change their Draconian rates and outdated system of business or risk perishing amid the new indie revolution.

I’ve got a fantastic indie bookstore in my town and the thought that the owner might be able to sell ebooks now is wonderful. While many indie store owners have resisted the push toward ebooks, this gives them a huge opportunity to get involved, earn a profit without needing to give up shelf space or hold unpopular inventory, and embrace the future of change – something their customers might really love. Not everyone likes buying from Amazon and would rather support a local indie store, but they might also like the convenience of ebooks. Now they can get both in one place.

I really think this is a great thing for indie bookstores and I’ve been wondering who would be the first company to lead the charge into this incredibly opportune market. I’m glad this is here because things like this raise the tide for all of us indie authors. These are exciting times and as more and more indie bookstores see that ebooks can add to their bottom line, I expect a larger segment to embrace the idea that they can be both a printed bookstore and an ebook store.

Congrats to the fine folks at Kobo for spearheading this charge. Support the indies – authors and bookstores combined!

Marketing & The Indie Author

By Jon F. Merz

I’m extraordinarily fortunate to do what I love for a living. After spending ten years in the traditional publishing world where I wrote lots of novels for many houses, I’ve pretty much made the conversion to only going indie. The money’s better, the control is yours, and the readership is there if you know how to find it. Best of all, if you keep control of your rights, the ebooks you write will earn money for you forever. And forever can be a mighty long time – even with the current copyright laws.

I get contacted by a lot of writers. Lately, I’ve seen a trend in the messages I receive. They generally read like this: “Hi Jon, I’ve written a novel and I’m thinking about bringing it out myself. Can you tell me every one of your secrets for selling as well as you do. And by the way, I’m too lazy to do any real research on you and see how many posts you’ve written on your blog about this very thing, so kindly write back to me and take more time out of your schedule to only help me when you could be writing more.” Actually, that last line isn’t in any of the messages, but it’s frankly how I feel when I get one of these things. The author is about to embark on a huge undertaking and yet they’ve done no research on how to sell their work or market it. Instead, it’s easier to drop me a line and hope I’ll respond.

Marketing and sales techniques are not something I think I’m particularly good at. So I make it a point to study the tactics of several people I respect who have their finger on the pulse of new ideas much more than I do. And they’re not authors, either, which I think makes them even more valuable. What I’ve managed to learn from them and apply to my own sales and marketing efforts is something any author should be doing: study what works and then experiment with it to see if it will work for you as well.

I read a blog post earlier today about scheduling and one of the commenters dismissed marketing as unworthy of her time. “A book will sell moderately on its own merit,” she stated proudly.

I think that’s a pretty stupid assertion to make. Whether or not an author likes marketing, they’d sure as hell better be willing to do some. The indie author movement is a great thing in many respects, but it also means a LOT more ebooks are out there clamoring for readers’ attentions. If you don’t have a brand or a platform or some other way to get your work noticed, then chances are your sales may not be as good as they could be.

A little over a year ago, some well-know schmoe wrote a book about how he’d managed to sell a million ebooks. I, like many others, immediately went and downloaded his book and read it – anxious for any tidbits he might have sprinkled throughout the pages. The book was a massive waste of time. In fact, it so infuriated me that he’d written something so clearly designed to only give him a boost and not help others, that I immediately wrote my own book and packed it full of hardcore advice on what I use to sell ebooks. The book has gotten some great reviews and I still hear from people thanking me for writing it, which is nice. Some folks don’t like the fact that I push a particular piece of software in the book for managing Twitter (and I am an affiliate of this software because it works so incredibly well) but that’s what I use every day to help increase my audience. You can still get the book for the Kindle or for the Nook.

So for those who are new to this or for those who are looking to increase their sales, here’s a quick list of marketing techniques I engage in every day.

1. Facebook Page: Get a Facebook Page! I don’t know how else to put this – your personal profile is not enough and it’s limited by Facebook. Your page is not. Need help building one? I wrote a two-part guide to doing it – HERE and HERE

2. Twitter: If you read my ebook HOW TO REALLY SELL EBOOKS, you know I recommend Tweetadder as the single best Twitter management software you can buy. I still recommend using it (use it wisely, however!) in my ebook and the techniques I use are in there.

3. Blog: Start blogging. You don’t have to do it every day, but it helps. Make sure you sign up for Authorship at Google and you’ll see your blog posts start to score better in search rankings.

4. Interact: Are there fans on your page asking questions or commenting? Interact with them. Same goes for Twitter. I astounds me when I see bestselling authors ignoring fans. It’s stupid and it hurts your bottom line.

5. Study: Find sales and marketing gurus and study what they do. Read business articles, tech articles, publishing industry articles and ferret out the things that can help you sell more.

6. Write: You might think this is at the wrong end of the list, but it’s here for a reason: to stress how important it is to make sure your sales & marketing systems are firing on all cylinders. Yes, you absolutely need to write as much as possible, but you also need to make sure you SELL what you’ve written so that writing new stuff makes sense in the first place.

Here’s what I DON’T do:

1. Hang on out Kindleboards. I used to. But it’s a massive time suck. And while there are some great people out there enjoying incredible success (which is awesome) there’s also a lot of what I affectionately call “groupthink.” And groupthink is dangerous. You need to chart your own course, not follow in the path of others.

2. Hang out on Goodreads: Pretty much the same reason as above.

3. Pay attention to reviews: the simple fact is some people will love your work and others will hate it. This is the price of admission to being a writer. If you bask in the glow of a good review, that means you also have to wallow in the stain of a bad one. The best course? Ignore reviews. Sure you can post about them when you get a 5-star (as I often do) but don’t place any real value on them. They’re valuable to readers who want to know what they’re getting into when they click buy, but for you as the author, try to ignore them.

I’ve written many other posts on promotion and publicity for indie authors. Use the keyword categories to the right of this page to search for posts. It’s always been my philosophy that a rising tide floats all boats. That’s why I write these posts – I want you to be successful, too! As I said at the start of this post, I’m very fortunate to do what I love for work and earn a very good living doing so. If you want to be a writer, the dream can be yours as well. But don’t look for shortcuts. Study and work hard!

GORUCK CHALLENGE UPDATE

Entering the 3rd week of Insanity for cardio endurance. Morning runs are being transitioned over to night runs. And I’m doing many, many push-ups with the weighted vest on to build muscle endurance for the event. Good livin’!

Vook vs. Kobo

By Jon F. Merz

There are two new platforms for indie authors to potentially sell their ebooks on that have come out in recent months: Kobo and Vook. I’ve been experimenting with both platforms and thought it might be helpful to let you know what I’ve experienced.

Let’s look at Vook first. When Vook first appeared on the radar screen, it seemed as though its main focus was on selling authors and publishers on their ebook conversion service. In other words, you pay them a certain amount of money and they take your files and turn them into a completed ebook. Vook has said it can enhance ebooks published through them with multimedia content, etc. Obviously, as an indie author, I didn’t need to pay them to do the conversion for me – especially considering their prices at the time were rather expensive.

And then Vook also said that it welcomed indie authors who wanted to publish on their Vookstore without distributing to their other content partners. (Vook has a wholesale relationship with Amazon) Anyone choosing to do so would earn 85% royalties per sale. Attractive, yes, since those are the highest in the industry right now.

But let’s look at the process before we jump to the conclusion that Vook is the new powerhouse to publish with. I had registered with the Vook system months back when I first heard about them. However, despite putting my email into the login section and trying to access my account, Vook repeatedly claimed i had the wrong password. When I went to reset my password, Vook told me that my email – the very email they’ve been sending updates to – wasn’t in their system. Grumble grumble. So I registered with another email account and finally got access to the system.

I’m going to hazard a guess and say that whoever designed the Vook interface was an engineer and not an author. In fact, I’d wager that no authors were even consulted during the design process of this interface. Because, frankly, it’s incredibly awkward and not user friendly. The first thing that happens is a pop-up box that asks the title of your ebook. Once you enter this, a whole new screen comes up that looks more like a WYSIWYG editor than a platform to upload your ebook.

And this is important because Vook’s primary focus is NOT (it seems) on servicing experienced indie authors. An experienced indie author will hit Vook’s site and already have good-to-go epub files and cover art images that they simply want to upload, put in the basic info, and then publish.

Unfortunately, Vook wants you to use their services – which cost money – and so, you have to navigate through accordingly. Ignore the first tab and click on the “Upload + File Manager” since that is what indie authors will want. (I’m walking through the process as I write this, and right now, Vook’s site is lagging horribly. >whistling< So, how 'bout the Patriots this season, eh?) Okay, it's back. You'll see the "upload files" icon so click on that and you can upload your epub file. Vook doesn't say if they want you to also upload your cover art at this point or not, but underneath the "upload files" icon they list the supported file types which include .jpg and .png, so I (incorrectly) assumed this was also where I was supposed to upload the cover art. Uh uh. So just upload your .epub file and move on. Click on "Details" and Vook takes you to a new page that asks how you want to distribute your ebook. You can either publish to Vook for free and earn 85% royalties. Or you can pay $99 bucks and have Vook distribute your ebook to Amazon, B&N, and iTunes. Here's where I frowned and gave myself some more wrinkles in my forehead. This is the exact language under the $99 option: "Vook pays you 100% of the royalties the distributors pay to us. We take no cut off your sales in Amazon, BN, and iBooks." Well, not exactly. As I mentioned earlier, Vook has a "wholesale relationship" with Amazon and your cut at other vendors gets a bit "weird." Here's how they break it down: Amazon: You keep 43.2% of royalties of the list price you set Amazon takes 56.8% Barnes & Noble: You keep 50% of royalties, Barnes & Noble takes 50% Apple: You keep 70% of royalties, Apple takes 30% Now, the obvious question is why would you pay Vook to do this for you when you can do it yourself and keep more money? And as an experienced indie author, the fact is, you shouldn't. Vook is focusing itself as an answer to those authors/publishers/media companies who don't want to hassle with preparing files. This seems to be where Vook expects to make its money. Pricing for its services - aside from the $99 distribution - are not available that I could find without contacting Vook and requesting a free evaluation of what you need them to do. I don't know about you, but a lack of transparency always makes me suspicious as to how much Vook charges. Once you get past the distribution pricing screen, you're back to filling out the basic info about your ebook. This section has three more tabs to jump through. This is also where you'll finally upload your cover art. But wait - they only accept .png files for cover art. Mine was in .jpg so that was an extra step I had to go through. The other tabs are fairly basic stuff. Once you've gotten everything filled in, they run your ebook through epubcheck and make sure it's up to snuff. They have terms & agreements you have to agree to and then you publish it. My ebook was supposedly live within about a half hour, but doing a search for "merz" and "ninja" - both keywords I used in the keyword section they asked me to fill out failed to produce results. So I have no clue if the thing is actually on-sale or not. It probably takes a fair amount of time for the info to migrate through their systems. My big problems with Vook come down to this: 1. Interface = clunky. Seriously. It's not pretty or intuitive. It's also clearly geared toward the inexperienced and getting them to pay for services. I would have liked to see two options upon logging in to create a new ebook. One for folks who already have their stuff good-to-go and one for those who might actually want to use Vook's services. 2. Too many steps to go through to publish. Much of it could be accomplished on one screen instead of breaking it up as they have done so. Again, this feels like a serious design problem. 3. Payments - can you say "ugh?" I knew you could. They're quarterly, within sixty days of the end of the quarter. Yuck. Not only that but they only seem to pay by check. And they charge you $5 bucks to process the check. Dear Vook, it's the 21st century. Get with the rest of the innovators and offer net 60 days terms along with the option to direct deposit or Paypal the money over. Check? That feels like a throwback to the publishing dinosaurs of yesteryear. No thanks. Also, I haven't yet seen where I can enter my mailing address for this check to be sent to. It's like Vook forgot that not everyone will be paying them money, so they ignored that option on where to capture that info from. >sigh< As may be obvious by now, my experience with Vook was not the best. I'm not impressed by the platform design, the payment process, the amount of time it took me to get the ebook uploaded (about forty minutes-one hour because Vook also kicked me off and I had to re-login after being idle for a few minutes), or the transparency issue. Vook is new, so I hope they fix a lot of the issues they have right now. Let's move on... I was fortunate enough to be one of Kobo’s beta testers for its Writing Life platform. And again, not to harp on this, but Vook should have gotten beta testers that were actually indie authors to help streamline their own platform. I’m sure the results would have been much, MUCH better.

Kobo’s platform from the outset, is incredibly easy-to-use. There are two screens of information to fill out. The layout is simple and friendly. The information needed is the same as any other publishing platform, and I found Writing Life a very relaxing and simple experience. Exactly what an indie author would want. I had ebooks uploaded within ten minutes. Remarkably fast.

Since Kobo is a Canadian company, they require a Swift code and mailing address for US banks for direct deposit payments. In talking with Mark Lefebvre who is the director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo, they have plans to begin using routing numbers and the like in the future. That was about the only hiccup I had to jump through initially because I had to find out what my bank branch mailing address was. UPDATE: After reading this post, Mark contacted me to let me know they have since changed that field to now accept routing numbers as well – further evidence of how committed Kobo is to providing excellent service to indie authors!

Once you get your material uploaded, Writing Life takes approximately 30 minutes to bring a title out for sale. That’s pretty fast considering both Amazon and Barnes & Noble can be anywhere from a few hours to days. During the beta testing phase, there were a few delays, but that has been cleared up now and my recent uploads have all been processed extremely fast.

Kobo is also incredibly author-friendly. Any questions or problems I had with the process during the beta-test phase were immediately addressed. Ideas and suggestions were incorporated and Kobo’s focus seems to be really on capturing a segment of the indie publishing movement. They’ve done an incredible job of starting to achieve that goal by making things as easy and simple-to-use as possible. There’s nothing confusing about the process. There are no fees or extra gimmicks. You can choose to have your prices set automatically for foreign countries or override them yourself and set the price point where you want it.

Kobo’s Writing Life platform is, frankly, awesome. They obviously took a great deal of time learning what worked for Amazon and Barnes & Noble and then spent an equal amount of time refining the process. Not only that, they went out and recruited Mark Lefebvre, who happens to be an incredible resource for indie authors. Mark is a pleasure to work with – a dedicated writer himself – and clearly knows what indie authors are looking for because Writing Life has everything they need.

Now, I think it’s fair to say that the goals of these two companies are clearly different. Vook is aiming at the inexperienced or the lazy media conglomerate looking to outsource the job of producing ebooks. They’re looking to make their money on their services. Experienced indie authors are a sort-of “extra” bit for them. At least that’s how it felt after using their system.

Kobo’s Writing Life, on the other hand, is clearly aimed at indie authors. And while it’s nice for experienced indies, it is also incredibly easy-to-use for the inexperienced. Aimed as it is at the indie publishing community, I expect Writing Life will easily assume a very powerful position within the industry. They’ve done things in their design than both Amazon and B&N can actually learn from. That’s powerful stuff.

At the end of the day, I’m not convinced that Vook is worthwhile for experienced indies. I’ve got one book up there right now and that’s probably all I’ll do at this point. By contrast, I’m getting all of my 40+ titles up onto Kobo’s Writing Life as soon as possible (I’m under deadlines right now, so the process is on-going.)

Your own mileage may, of course, vary if you choose to publish with either platform so as always, experience them for yourself.

Here’s to your success in publishing!

Why I Love Failure

By Jon F. Merz

When most people talk about career goals, dreams, wishes, etc., they only talk about success. “Won’t it be great when I finally achieve this goal?” Or “won’t it be wonderful when I finally meet my perfect soul mate?” Our society is fixated on the idea of achieving success – so much so that kids who play sports are routinely rewarded with trophies and ribbons and medals even when they lose. “That’s okay, hon, even though you lost, you’re still a winner.”

Well, no. They’re not. At least not yet.

Part of the problem when we discuss the notion of success is that it immediately puts the notion of failure in a horrible light – as if failure is to be avoided at all costs, shut away in some dark closet and never spoken about in public. After all, if we’re focused on success, why would we talk about failure?

Here’s the thing: failure is actually awesome. It is by failing that we achieve our greatest successes – provided we have the endurance to weather the failure itself. If we fail and then get depressed and stuck in a rut of self-doubt, then failure can be truly debilitating. But if we embrace the failure for what it is: a sign that we have not yet reached our goal or performed up to standard and that we have a ways to go before we can stand triumphant, then failure is a fantastic motivator and an excellent waypoint indicator on our path to success.

I’ve made some of my greatest breakthroughs in life by failing – repeatedly. In recent years, my big breakthrough with ebooks came as a direct result of failing at selling any of them. I heard all about Joe Konrath selling thousands of copies each month, got annoyed and jealous and called him out on his blog. After talking and asking him to critique my efforts, things came up and delayed the critique so instead of waiting, I went back and looked at what I was doing wrong – where I was failing – and what Joe was doing right – where he was succeeding, made the changes and the rest has been history. I now sell thousands of copies of my ebooks each month as well. (Joe (and others) now sells tens of thousands of his ebooks, which only acts as a motivator for me to do even better…)

My business partner Jaime Hassett and I are still dealing with failures when it comes to getting THE FIXER TV series off the ground. We started this project in November of 2007 and have met with tons of people to back the project. Some of those meetings have yielded fruit, and others have been outright failures. Some of the more exasperating failures come as a result of dealing with idiots who say they want to get involved and then either back out or create some sort of insane drama to extricate themselves from the commitment. You honestly would not believe the stories we have to tell about our meetings; one day they’ll make for some fantastic entertainment. In the meantime, every new failure brings us right back to an intense appraisal about what we’re doing and our goals, as well as where we might have screwed up along the way. But as many times as we’ve failed so far, it only drives us even harder to be successful. And we will be very soon (news on that front is coming up, so stay tuned!)

The point is that failure shouldn’t be stigmatized as much as it has been. Failure is a fantastic generator of ideas and creativity. Okay, so we failed here, how do we make sure we don’t make those mistakes again? How do we get around this problem and achieve what we set out to do? I love talking to people who have repeatedly failed throughout their lives and not given into the temptation to quit and settle for less than what they dream is possible. Their stories are incredibly inspirational and motivating. And failure for them is something they wear as a badge of honor rather than as a scarlet letter of shame.

Nowadays, kids are routinely rewarded for failing, which I think is a dangerous trend. I understand the idea behind it, certainly, that it’s tough on a kid to lose and well-meaning parents want to cushion the blow to the ego, stem the insecurity, etc. But it sets a unrealistic expectation that will plague them as they grow older. And that is they will naturally expect everything they do, every activity they undertake, or every dream they have to be a walk in the park. We’ve all heard the stories of the college grad who didn’t get the job he applied for and had his mommy call up the employer and bitch them out. This is the notion of entitlement that arises when failure is improperly framed within a child’s mind at an early age.

The better technique for introducing failure to a child is to take them aside when they do fail, or lose a game, or perform to a lower standard, and teach them how they can look at the experience and take away from it the lesson on how to do better. Instead of slapping a trophy in their hand and telling them how great they are for losing, there’s nothing wrong with telling them the truth: “You didn’t do so well today. Why do you think that happened? What can you do to be better the next time?” You can cushion this talk by pointing out things they did well even though they did fail.

Our nation – indeed, our world – needs to produce a generation of kids that grow up understanding the critical role that failure plays in moving society forward. Failure isn’t an end point; it’s a new opportunity to get it right the next time through. Success only comes about as a direct result of failing – often many, many times (paging Thomas Edison…) – but not giving up. Failure, when coupled with an enduring spirit, is the surest route to achieving the success we all crave.

GORUCK CHALLENGE UPDATE

The daily runs are back on. I’m also doing the 60-day Insanity workout and Crossfit WODs. Today’s run was an exercise in pain and dealing with intense humidity. Good livin’!

Indie Authors & Business Sense

By Jon F. Merz

The summer doldrums have set in. Each year around this time, I get tired of the blanket of humidity that threatens to suffocate and I dream about crisp autumn days and cool nights that warrant good jazz on the stereo, a stiff drink, and a blazing fire in the hearth. But we’ve still got a way to go before those days are here, so it’s time to make the best of the situation by checking out how my business is doing during these hot months.

I know a lot of indie authors. Blog posts like these tend to bump up friend requests on Facebook, Twitter, etc., which is always cool. One of the things I’ve noticed, though, is how few indie authors treat their career like the business it is.

On one hand, it’s understandable. Never before have writers been able to actually create a career for themselves without needing to rely on New York City publishing. And when new authors figure out they can make a living doing this, they often spend the first year or so amazed at the success they’re enjoying and lose focus on the business side of things. Because what writers now are is most definitely a business. As such, it’s critical that you keep checking out your various systems to make sure your success continues.

Look at last summer, for example. It was my first real summer doing the indie thing and around the end of June, the bottom fell out on the strong sales I’d been enjoying during the Spring. I was still selling well, but not nearly what I had been. With that in mind, I was determined not to see a repeat of the sales slump this year. How have I done so far? Excellently. My sales have actually gone up each month this summer. Needless to say, I’m very pleased about that.

Here are some of the steps I took to combat the summer sales slump:

1. New work: my philosophy now is that it is absolutely critical that indie writers increase their output as much as they are capable of doing. If you can successfully write something and get it out every month, then I think that goes a long way toward ensuring continued success. Not only does new work increase your virtual shelf space, it also spreads the heavy lifting across multiple titles (meaning that no one title has to sell a whole lot of copies in order for your income to remain steady or increase. The more titles you have, the fewer copies you need to sell of each in order to reach your income goals.)

2. Series: I’ve said this before, but I really believe that authors need to create a series. Having a series that sells well virtually guarantees that you have a ready audience for the next adventure you release in that series. And once you have one series, you can experiment and start new ones. Zombie Ryu is my latest series – and it’s episodic with a new adventure out each month.

3. Top sellers: I hope that you’re using a spreadsheet to track your sales (if not, for crying out loud develop one and use it religiously) and that you have access to previous month’s numbers. Over time, you’ll naturally see what titles sell better than others. If it happens to be a series, then it’s obviously a good idea to plan new releases for that series. You want to keep adding fuel to that fire that’s burning. More sales in that series are always important. My Lawson Vampire series is one of the primary income generators for me, so you can bet that I have new releases mapped out well ahead of time. I shoot to release four new Lawson adventures each year: one new novel, at least one novella, and at least two short stories. If you don’t have a series but a single standalone title that makes the most for you, is there any way to write a sequel or turn it into a series? If so, you can capitalize on the popularity of that title.

4. New stories: throughout the summer, there have been lots of topical news stories that savvy authors can use to help promote themselves – especially on Twitter, and especially without being blatant about it. What do I mean? Here’s one example I used recently: two weeks or so ago, the Olympics opened. NBC did a horrible job of covering it and then populated the broadcast with moronic commentary from Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera who seemed incapable of simply shutting their mouths. I took to Twitter and posted several tweets expressing my frustration with the broadcast. Tons of people re-tweeted my posts. And many more wandered over to my Twitter profile page. Guess what? Sales went up that night and for that entire weekend. As I’ve written previously, it’s vital that you maximize your selling power by creating your own Twitter background. That way, when people wander over to see who you are they see the book covers and you might just entice them to pick up some of your books. My Twitter profile background shows the first four books in my Lawson series – the same books that sold more that weekend. Coincidence? Maybe, but I don’t think so. And I was able to generate sales passively – that is to say I didn’t have to hit them over the head with a tweet pushing my latest book. I picked up a whole lot of new followers as well that weekend – and everyone who follows me gets a nice message inviting them to sign up for my free newsletter. And wouldn’t you know it, my newsletter subscription numbers went up that weekend as well. The point here is that there are new stories happening all the time that you can take advantage of to introduce yourself to new readers.

5. Holiday Season: We might still be in the midst of summer, but you’d better already be developing a plan to take advantage of the Christmas shopping season. E-readers will no doubt be the hot gift item this year, so what are you doing now to make sure your brand gets noticed by eager new readers? How will you interact with your new readers? Do you have a newsletter yet? How is your Facebook Fan Page? Your personal website? Take advantage of the lazy days of summer to get your entire business in shape now so that come the chaos of the holiday season, you’ll know all of your systems are firing exactly as they should be.

Like this post? Share it around with other indie authors!

GORUCK CHALLENGE UPDATE:

I’ve spent the last two weeks on vacation and then redecorating my sons’ bedrooms, so my regimen has been off slightly. That said, I did the first Insanity workout today (and it kicked my ass).

Diversity of Thought

By Jon F. Merz

Three things have happened this week that have led me to write this blog post. On Monday, I was honored to once again be a guest on the Provocative Thoughts and Positive Vibes radio show hosted by my friends Tommy and Lois. Tuesday, we got some new neighbors. And last night, I started reading the book “Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. These three things might seem to have nothing in common, but, in fact, they do.

And the thread that binds them all together is this notion of diversity.

On the radio show Monday, Tommy, Lois, and I were discussing how with the advent of ebooks and technology, the world is inherently much more connected – things that were once only local are now global. Each day, the opportunity exists to reach out and connect with someone clear across the world via Facebook, Twitter, a blog post, etc. In my industry – entertainment – this means I can reach new audiences with my work. But this global environment isn’t just a one-way street; it’s an every-way street. And as much as I am able to spread my “ideas,” so too am I able to receive new ideas from other people, places, and cultures.

Tuesday, we found out that we have new neighbors. The suburban town I live in currently is largely white. We’re about twenty miles outside of Boston and while there are minority groups represented here, the town is overwhelming Caucasian. When we moved here in 2004, my wife was one of the few Asians in town. We now enjoy a greater mix of races and ethnicity, but the town is still easily 80% white. So whenever we find out that there’s a bit more range to the spectrum, we get excited. Such was the case with our new neighbors, who happen to be two lesbians and their three children. More range to the spectrum!

Finally, in reading Abundance (and I’ve only just started it) last night, the overriding theme of the book – at least at this point – seems to be that the future can be incredible, but only if we embrace diversity. The way kids are taught these days is somewhat backward in that math and science are given utmost importance while creativity and critical thought are not. This needs to change because the planet faces some very serious problems that will only be solved by people who have the ability to critically examine problems and creatively come up with solutions that benefit us all.

Diversity scares a lot of people, though. And given that we’re in the midst of another presidential election process here in the United States, the two parties at play are hard at work drumming up the most base instincts of potential voters with fear of one kind or another. I always find it interesting to see how people react to such tactics and what their reactions tell me about who they are as people – and in the case of those who study martial ways, who they are as warriors.

There’s an admonition in the martial art lineage I study called “Banpen Fugyo,” and it means “Ten thousand changes, no surprises.” There are many who think that the meaning behind the admonition is enough to understand: that you should always expect things to change and therefore not be surprised when change occurs. But like so many other aspects of Japanese culture, there is both an omote (outer) meaning and an ura (inner) meaning and only thinking about the obvious meaning of Banpen Fugyo cuts the lesson short and deprives the practitioner of a chance to expand their comprehension of it.

To me, the ura meaning behind Banpen Fugyo isn’t that the practitioner be alert to changes in the midst of combat; it’s that the practitioner understand that diversity in combat is nothing to be scared of, provided they are secure enough in who they are as warriors. Does it really matter if your opponent punches or kicks you? Or swings a baseball at your head or stabs at you with a knife? If you’ve trained long enough and hard enough, it won’t matter. You’ll respond with the appropriate technique and end the conflict. As a result of first opening yourself up to the range of technical tools available in the martial lineage you might study, you have an endless variety to choose from. Experience and personal evolution will help teach you how to properly respond at the right moment.

Can you imagine entering a dojo and telling the instructor you only want to learn how to defend yourself against a roundhouse kick? And then you only want to learn a single technique for doing so? Why wold you limit yourself in that way? Why would you set your life up so that it’s only possible to be successful if a strict set of parameters are met?

But there are plenty of examples of martial artists who do just that. They espouse their style as the only “true” way to deal with attackers. They insult other styles, other techniques. They claim they train harder than everyone else. Or that this technique is the only way to properly defend against this particular attack. Most, if not all, of these claims stem from insecurity.

Conversely, the practitioners who are secure in their abilities – they know what they can do and (equally important) what they cannot do – are often the most open to diversity of technique. They are open to discussing new ideas on how to handle new threats to security. They don’t insult other styles. They freely exchange ideas with others. As a result, they are better martial artists.

Extrapolate that further and the true meaning of Banpen Fugyo might just be that practitioners walking the path need to be open to diversity not only in martial arts, but also in life.

But that’s difficult.

In the political arena especially, candidates and their surrogates take great pains to divide and conquer. They paint their opponent as the guy who wants to come in and do all sorts of horrible nasty things to the country, the belief system the party espouses, and the voters themselves. They do so by crafting their messages and advertisements with trigger points that are carefully calculated to cause fear. Fear is obviously one of our most primal base emotions. Everyone has been scared before. Fear takes no thought. It’s easy. And in the crowded media world where messages and sound bites have scant time to register before the next message comes hurtling in, fear is the one thing that works better than others.

Political parties don’t want you to embrace diversity because it makes you harder to effectively cajole into voting for their candidate. Political parties want you to avoid diversity and confine yourself and your thoughts to a very strict set of parameters. Once they pigeonhole you, they can effectively market to you because they know exactly how you’ll react if they hit this or that trigger point. Then they just repeat the message over and over and over and over and over again until you adopt that talking point as one of your own.

There are no parameters in combat. Anything can happen. Anything will happen. There is so much diversity in combat that it’s impossible to account for it all. A true warrior understands this and takes pains to learn as many techniques as possible from as many sources as possible and temper those lessons with as many experiences as possible. The more expansive a spectrum of martial skill a warrior has, the better chance they have of coming out of a hostile encounter alive. That guy who only wanted to learn one technique for defending against a roundhouse kick back up there in paragraph 9? He’s already dead by now.

In the same way, life does not confine itself to a narrow set of parameters, either. Life exists everywhere on this planet and presumably beyond. Life exists in environments never thought capable of sustaining it previously. Given the opportunity – any opportunity – life flourishes and the ecosystem is richer for it. Why would you choose to live your life constrained by a narrow set of guidelines or parameters or a belief system?

The time we exist in now – the day before you now – is filled with incredible potential from an infinite number of sources, people, cultures, and experiences. The number of opportunities – the chances to flourish – before each of us is infinite.

But you’ll only see them if you embrace diversity.

Intelligence Gathering 101: Making Contact

I’ve been out running each morning this week, and as so often happens when I’m a sweaty bag of mess, my thoughts have tended to drift on to a wide variety of topics that I write about. I haven’t written about intelligence gathering in a while, so I’ve wanted to do another blog post. And as so often happens, the perfect opportunity presented itself earlier this week and each day since.

During the morning, very few people are out and about. But each morning for this entire week, I’ve seen one guy on his bike pedaling furiously as he gets a good workout in. It prompted me to talk about how intelligence operatives sometimes cultivate an asset. But cultivation of an asset – that is, turning someone into a useful source of information or material – doesn’t happen without first making contact.

Depending on the target, there are multiple methods used. The one I’ll talk about this morning is the casual approach, sometimes called the “brush by.” The brush by is different from a “brush pass,” which is used to make an actual exchange in public. If you’ve ever seen a movie or TV show where two operatives walk toward each other – each usually has something identical like a briefcase or a newspaper – pass close by or make actual contact via a staged bump and then continue on their separate ways, then you’ve seen a brush pass in action.

The brush by, on the other hand, is used to make a target comfortable with the idea of your presence. There’s nothing aggressive about this approach; it’s organic in its execution so as not to trigger any alarm bells in the target. The easiest way to explain it is to use my runs as a good example.

Let’s suppose that I’m looking to cultivate a particular target who happens to hold some sort of position I need information from, access to, etc. From studying the target via any available information I can find about them, I know that he’s an avid bike enthusiast. Further, from conducting surveillance on the target (this will normally be done by other officers and not the one who makes contact) I know he starts his day earlier than most other people. He’s a dedicated early riser who gets his workout in, drives into the city to his job, and accomplishes a great deal. He’s also savvy and knows that his job might possibly expose him to recruitment attempts by intelligence professionals.

The brush by is employed in this case because it’s non-aggressive and non-threatening. Here’s how it works:

The officer making contact begins to show up in the target’s world. Just on the periphery of it, barely even registering on the radar. Given that the target is a big bicycle fan and gets his workout in early, the officer starts running at a time when he is certain to pass by the target. As the target bikes past, he notices the officer doing his morning jog. The first few times this happens, the target doesn’t necessarily even acknowledge the officer. But gradually, as the officer becomes part of the target’s world, a certain degree of familiarity breeds a rising comfort level. In other words, the first time the target notices the officer running, it’s a bit of an anomaly. The target might be used to doing his workout without seeing anyone. So it’s unusual and therefore uncomfortable. But the more the officer becomes part of the routine of the target’s workout, the more comfortable the target becomes with seeing him each and every morning. In fact, the target might become so comfortable that he almost begins to expect the officer to be there each day.

As the comfort level of the target grows, the officer or the target himself might initiate a quick greeting in passing. “‘Morning.” “How ya doing?” Something that simple and quick because neither of these guys has any time to stop and engage in discussion; after all, they’re both focused and dedicated men who are working out. (Don’t discount the psychological leverage at work here; that concept of a shared struggle tends to bond people whether we consciously realize it or not. It’s powerful stuff.) It’s that simple. Nothing too elaborate, nothing forced. Just an easy greeting any friendly person might make. This is the essence of the brush by; casual contact that is completely non-threatening.

As the days and weeks progress, the target and the officer are now familiar with each other. They expect to see each other every day. They exchange a greeting. For the target, this is the extent of the interaction, but the officer now takes the lead and initiates a way to change the relationship into something more substantial. After all, the goal of this is to actually cultivate the target and turn them into an asset.

So the officer might do something like this: the next time the target approaches on his bike, the officer might be stooped over breathing hard, showing how exhausted he is. At this point, the target might stop and offer him water from his bottle (unlikely, but it could happen). Or the officer might progressively act more and more tired each day, perhaps rubbing his shin splints out or otherwise seem to be in pain and finally wave the target over and ask him about the quality of workout that bike riding gives him. The target might be more willing to stop and give him useful information about bikes.

Now the relationship is moving into the next level. The officer might run a few more times and try to fit a few more words in when he sees the target. “I really need to start cycling.” Or something like that. “I don’t think my knees can take this anymore.” Any of these are effective at planting the idea in the target’s mind that the officer might be looking for more advice.

Finally, the officer might wave over the target and say something like, “I know you’re busy, but is there any way I could give you a call and ask you some questions about cycling?” Or maybe it’s meet for a beer. Maybe it’s an email. Any option is fine from this point, because it now grants the officer a higher level of access to the target and from there, the officer can start turning him into an asset.

All of that from a simple “brush by.”

This technique works and it works incredibly well. As I mentioned earlier on, I used the example of my own runs to illustrate this point. On Monday, I saw the cyclist and we passed each other by without saying a word. Tuesday, he nodded at me as he flew past. I said “‘Morning.” Yesterday, he called out the greeting first. And today, we both said it at the same time leading to a quick laugh as we went our separate ways.

Now I’m certainly not interested in cultivating this guy as an asset, but the technique is so subtle that if I was, I’d already be well on my way to doing so. This is just one of the ways officers make contact, but it’s definitely one of the more subtle and undetectable techniques. When done well, the target doesn’t even notice. Think back in your own life to times when you’ve met someone new. Did you see the precursors of eventual friendship or relationship? A lot of times we don’t, and this is just one area that makes us vulnerable to recruitment.

Execute!

By Jon F. Merz

Let’s talk about complacency.

I found a definition online that I particularly like: “A feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger, trouble, or controversy.” This one, for me, really hits home about how dangerous complacency can be. Complacency isn’t something that jumps out of the closet and shouts, “Boo!” and scares the crap out of you. Complacency is subtle. It’s covert. And it’s highly infectious. Think of a creeping vine that slowly and inexorably wraps itself around you, slowly suffocating you until you’re dead. Everything you’ve been working toward, every dream you’ve had, every wish you have yet to fulfill – all of that is destroyed by complacency.

I should know; I’ve been there.

Starting last Fall, I had a series of medical “issues,” that mandated me being scrutinized more rigorously than I had been so far in my life. As a result of the stress and testing, I let my exercise regimen fall by the wayside. Yeah, I was still in the dojo training, but that was about all I was doing. I did this partly because I didn’t know what the hell was happening with my body and didn’t want to exacerbate any issues until I got the all-clear. And the stress of uncertainty weighed heavily on my mind. So I let things slip.

A lot.

By the end of March, I was free and clear. But instead of picking up my exercise regimen again, I continued to let it lapse. And I now had results to show off for my lack of exercise in that I had a few extra pounds around my midsection. (And if you know me, then you know that I gain weight at about the same speed as a glacier moves – so for me to say I put on a few pounds is saying a lot, lol)

I’d grown complacent.

I certainly wasn’t self-satisfied with my level of fitness; and it wasn’t a conscious decision that I made to simply stop exercising. It was complacency’s sneaky, slow march toward shattering all of the self-discipline I’d worked so hard to build and maintain for so many years. That’s why complacency is so dangerous. You don’t often realize you’re in trouble until it’s too late.

Or nearly so.

I’ve done extremely well with my ebook sales since going the indie route in January 2011. Each month I sell thousands upon thousands of ebooks to new readers and established fans. And I’ve been incredibly grateful for that success. But when I started doing the indie thing, I had a goal in mind that I wanted to reach: a certain income level derived passively from sales of my ebooks each and every month. Now, granted, trying to establish analytics and stats on such a new market is daunting, to say the least. And it wasn’t all that possible to know about the ups-and-downs of the market until after I’d been in it for a while.

But I did have a goal.

And here’s where complacency gets even more dangerous. Having infected one area of your life, complacency will then infect other areas as well. The cumulative effect of complacency is simply going through the motions. You might say the right things, you might do the right things, you might play the script, but if you’re not reaching forward and challenging yourself every moment of every day, then you’re inviting complacency to come set up shop. And once there, it can be tough to get rid of.

This past Saturday, I was taking an afternoon nap, as I like to do each and every day. But I was unable to sleep. I kept thinking about that goal I’d had with my ebook sales, I kept drumming over and over in my mind how great it would be to reach that goal and then set an even loftier goal after that. I started taking a long, hard, and honest look back at the preceding ten months.

And what I saw wasn’t all that appealing. I was still writing, I was still selling, and I was still doing well with ebook sales. But I wasn’t trying to break new ground. I wasn’t actively trying to reach that goal.

Then I looked at my overall state of being and realized that as my exercise regimen had fallen into non-existence, so too, had my drive in certain other areas of my life. I was still powering forward in some very important areas, like the development of THE FIXER TV series, but I was really dropping the ball in other areas. And if I wasn’t careful – if I didn’t take immediate steps to remedy my condition – I was in danger of losing all of it.

It’s a hard lesson. There’s no easy way around it. Ego aids and abets the stalking onslaught of complacency by whispering sweet nothings in your ear about how you’re still in shape, or you’re still doing great sales wise, or you still look like you did when you were twenty years old, or that you can still train for six hours, go drink your ass off, and then bounce out of bed the next morning ready to train again.

But the reality of the situation is far different. The mirror that I held up to myself showed the truth as opposed to the soothing falsehood that ego and complacency have tried so hard to drape over me.

So, today started the remedy. I was up at 0500 and went for a run/walk. This is the first time in a long time I’ve gone running.

Have I mentioned before how much I loathe running? I do. I seriously hate it. About the only time I ever loved running was back in the first grade, when right before recess, my buddy Robbie Murphy and I would try to be the first at the door and upon hearing the bell we would blow the doors open, spill out into the recess yard, and zoom around shouting “Moose Cycle!” I have no idea, to this day, what a Moose Cycle is, or if it even exists. But we would tear ass all around that recess yard and laugh every single second of the time we did it.

That was the last time I enjoyed running. In recent years, I usually tell people I only run when I am being chased by overwhelming numbers of foes. But walk/runs have always been part of my routine. So today, I got back out there. It hurt and it sucked and it was a sweaty, steaming pile of goopy mess that finally made it back home here about an hour later. My cats greeted me with a meow that said, “Oh great, you’re home. Feed us, you sweaty bastard and don’t drip in our food bowl.” They’re cats. If nothing else, they can be counted on to not stroke your ego.

I’m also on a new schedule in terms of productivity. I’ve got a plan to reach that ebook sales goal I set for myself nearly eighteen months ago.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog post. We’ve talked about complacency and how dastardly it can be. Now, let’s talk about a possible solution.

Having recognized that I had grown complacent, I had two choices. One was to continue being complacent. I could conceivably continue to not work out and possibly live pretty long life. I could probably continue to sell ebooks as well as I have, bringing out one or two new titles every year. And things would probably be…okay.

The second choice was to take immediate action.

Immediate Action is a term hostage rescue units use to denote the plan they put into effect as soon as they arrive on-scene and have gotten the first briefing of information about what is going on. IAs are usually not perfect; they are rapidly conceived to bring about a fast resolution in case things suddenly go to hell and the bad guys start executing hostages. Immediate Action plans are in effect until the team has had a chance to get better information, set up their own observations posts (usually manned by the sniper teams), and get to grips with every possible variable and plan out a better course of action.

Sometimes, however, the situation demands the IA be implemented; there’s no time to plan things out better. That’s how I was feeling upon realizing what I was letting complacency do to my life. I wanted to take drastic, immediate steps to shake off the yoke of complacency and get back on track.

So I wrote out a new schedule. And now I’ve got my basic route for getting to my goals. I’m looking at it right now – and if I stick to it, my daily output of writing should be around 8,000-10,000 words. I know I can do it, since I’ve done upwards of 16,000 words in a day before. But that level of output wasn’t healthy, frankly, and I burned out after a week. 8k-10k is doable and a good solid output level for me. My day is now highly regimented and I’m channeling my military days to get this thing cranking.

It would have been nice to sleep in this morning. Especially since I only had five hours of sleep last night. And when my alarm went off, I groaned and thought about snoozing for a little while longer. That’s complacency for you. Sneaky. Subtle. Soothing.

Kill it. Kill it dead.

If you’ve been allowing complacency into your life, draw up a plan and execute it. It doesn’t mean you have to suddenly get up and run five miles on a Monday. It might just mean that you have to choose to get up in the first place. Take that first step toward ridding yourself of settling for how things have been. Go outside and walk two hundred yards and then run one hundred yards. Repeat. Make a deal with yourself: for every hill you run down going in one direction, one the way back, you have to run UP those same hills. Use landmarks on the side of the road to measure distance – reach the fire hydrant and then you can walk again. Or maybe push it a little further than that. If it took you twenty minutes to reach the midway point, try to finish in a shorter time. And keep track of what you’re doing so you can see tangible evidence of how you’re moving forward and progressing toward your goals. Keep a journal. I started a new one this morning with my distance, times, speed, and any extra thoughts I had while doing it. Today’s extra thought was this: “God, I hate running.” But the side benefit was that that I wanted to write this blog post and hopefully, you might find it useful.

A lot of people talk about setting goals and how to reach them. The reality of the situation is that there are no short-cuts to doing it. And any journey to reach a goal must inevitably start first with an honest assessment of where you are prior to starting the journey. You’ve gotta be honest, though. Lose the ego and the accolades of past accomplishments. They’re in the past for a reason; they don’t matter in your pursuit of a progressively awesome future. You’ve already reached those waypoints, so instead of looking back, move forward.

Always.

Hollywood likes to show hostage rescue units storming a room while the commander is shouting “Go-go-go!” over their communications headsets. In reality, the word “go” isn’t used. It sounds too much like “no,” or “hold,” and can lead to confusion at a moment when the last thing you want is any confusion. You want a clear, crisp command that your instincts and skills have been taught to recognize as the cue to do what you have been trained to do. “Execute!” is the phrase that is used more often than not. In the same way, make sure your own plan has no room for confusion, no room for maybe, no room for “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

No room for complacency.

Take a few minutes today and think about your own goals. Are you marching ahead to reach them or have you allowed complacency to enter your life like I did? If so, draw up an immediate action plan. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be a plan that you can refine as you get further into it. Once you have your IA, get yourself into position, feel your heart rate increase, hear the sound of your own breathing, the drumming of your pulse, and then…

Execute!

Have a great week everyone!

Rise of the Authorpreneur

By Jon F. Merz

The big news this morning from Publishers Weekly is that bestselling author Terry Goodkind is going to self-publish his next novel. This is yet another indicator that there are seismic shifts happening and the ground beneath the feet of traditional (or legacy) publishing is cracking open and threatening to swallow a whole industry that has grown complacent thanks to its massive ego and basic business incompetence. I’ve talked about this for awhile now. Publishers still do not get it. As recently as last week, Stephen Zacharius of Kensington Publications Corp. (yes, the very folks who published my first four novels) commented on another blog about the “benefits” that traditional publishers offer authors – in other words, he trotted out the same tired bullshit lines about marketing, editing, ad infinitum. I responded on the blog, but my comment was never approved due to the proclivities of the blog author himself, but regardless – Zacharius’ claims are still a heaping, steaming pile of BS.

Marketing? Of the novels I’ve had traditionally published, not one got any sort of marketing push behind it. And Kensington’s own marketing plans for the first four novels of the Lawson series were supposed to include “National TV, radio, and print campaign” as was written on the cover flats they sent me. Yeah, right. Those plans never amounted to anything and I was forced to send out my author copies just to try to drum up reviews in major trades at that time.

Editing? Of all my traditionally published novels, exactly ONE has ever gotten editing done on it. Editors don’t edit any longer; they spend their time trying to acquire products and then have to pitch them to rooms filled with so-called professionals who claim to know what the reading public wants, but are, in reality utterly clueless about that very thing. (Exhibit A: my YA novel THE NINJA APPRENTICE was rejected everywhere with comments like “boys don’t read,” and “no commercial appeal” – since its debut as an ebook on May 8th, it has sold more than 1500 copies, garnered seven 5-star reviews, and is on the summer reading list at North Providence High School)

The fact is we are seeing a fundamental change in the entertainment industry. For far too long, writers have been marginalized by the industries they support. Look at the film/TV industry – if you don’t have writers, you don’t have any of the other industries that rely on those writers. No actors, no editors, no VFX, no nothing. Without writers, the industry has squat. The same for publishing. Without writers, you don’t have agents, editors, copyeditors, cover artists, sales reps, etc. etc. You would think that because writers are so important to so many people, they’d be willing to give us a decent share of the profits. You would, of course, be wrong. Writers have always settled for pennies. No doubt this is partly due to the insecurity that plagues the profession. “Oh, you think my story is good? Really? Wow. Cool.” Writers – especially new writers – lack confidence in what they produce. This has enabled the other industries to undermine their worth and get away with paying us far less than we deserve.

Right up until a few years back when the Kindle debuted.

And now, look where we stand – at the door to a whole new world of opportunity. Writers, for the first time, have control. We can publish our work independent of the massive, bloated conglomerations that dominate NYC publishing and we can do so while earning a 70% royalty on our work instead of the 17.5% that NYC wants to pay. We can set our own prices and then test those prices to see what the market will bear. We can change cover art if it’s not drawing consumers. We can tweak product descriptions. We can even go back to our backlist and re-edit the books if they don’t read well enough. We can respond to market changes faster than ever before. We can interact with readers, build our audiences, and enjoy a richer future than we dreamed possible before. In the past, the only way to assure our financially secure future was to hope and pray that one day the gods of NYC publishing would look down and bestow upon us a gifted position on the NY Times bestseller list along with six and seven-figure advances. It happened for a tiny minority of writers. The rest had to be content to scrimp and save and work-for-hire on jobs that paid them just enough to stay above the poverty line. Some of these writers had no health insurance; some saw their savings vanish in the economic crisis.

No longer.

This is the time of the AUTHORPRENEUR – an author unafraid to step boldly into the future and embrace the technology that puts them in charge of their own destiny. Authorpreneurs are business-savvy: they study the industry and learn what is working, what is changing, and how they can position themselves to take advantage of it. Authorpreneurs are never complacent: they continuously work on their craft and goal of becoming better writers and they never settle for what worked yesterday. Authorpreneurs wear many hats: in the beginning, they do it all – editing, rewrites, cover artist hiring, formatting, marketing – and they study the business world constantly for new ideas and innovations that can help them reach their audience.

Most importantly, authorpreneurs remember the importance of their readers. Our lifeline is the people who read our work. Without them, we have nothing. But unlike NYC publishers, who have tried to price-gouge consumers with ridiculously high ebook prices and attempted to wave off complaints by insulting the intelligence of those readers with comments like “it costs a lot to make an ebook,” authorpreneurs will never take readers for granted. We will always appreciate readers and give them their esteemed position within the equation. Writers and readers are the two most important parts. Everyone else is just in the middle…or in the way, if you prefer.

The rise of the authorpreneur is at hand.

And it’s about time!