Here are just a few moments from the opening night part of Digipalooza. To get the full story of the conference be sure to follow #DigiP15 on Twitter all week long!
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Thousands of authors every year get in touch with me and ask me how they should go about getting their books published. I tell every single one that they should not take the easy way and self-publish, but instead try and get a book deal by a major publisher.
I understand that many authors who write their first book do not do it as quickly as James Patterson or Stephen King. Sometimes it takes a few years and other times it takes a decade. You get attached to the premise and plot, to the characters and the inciting force. Shopping your book around to agents and publishers helps you understand how to sum up your book in an elevator style pitch and deal with rejection. When you shop your title around you get a sense on what they expect your cover art to look like and get feedback on proper formatting.
When you get a trade publishing contract it is important to note that you have a small army of people that have a vested interest in your success. Your agent earns a commission if you sell a ton of copies and in order to do that they will often schedule book tours and autographing sessions. You will learn how to talk about your book in a room full of people, even if you are anti-social. I like to refer to this as trial by fire. You will also get someone who is good at cover art helping you out and an ISBN number so your book sales can be tracked.
There are countless writers that used to have a trade publishing contract and decided it might be more lucrative to take their firm understanding of the publishing industry and try out self-publishing. Sadly, this is not a guarantee of success.
Tracy Hickman is a fantasy writer who basically established the Dragonlance series of books. Some of his titles made it onto the New York Times bestseller list and people used to lineup around the block to get his autograph. He decided to self-publish and now his books are not in bookstores anymore and lamented that "I have a 6 million following," he said quietly, "and they don't remember me."
If a bestselling author can’t make it self-publishing, can you as a first time writer? Likely not.
The vast majority of startup writers have no understanding of a marketing strategy that will give them a leg up on the competition. Instead they spam social media with hashtags #buymybook. The vast majority of indie writers are also very lazy, they won’t even spend the $99 for an ISBN number so their books will be included in market data. Instead they just complain about research and reports on the publishing industry is skewed because they don’t take into account indie books.
At a recent publishing conference in London, Andrew Franklin, founder and managing director of Profile Books, blasted authors who self-publish. "The overwhelming majority of self-published books are terrible—unutterable rubbish, they don't enhance anything in the world." He ranted on by saying, "These books come out and are met with a deathly silence, so the principle experience of self-publishing is one of disappointment. I was very shocked to learn you can buy Facebook friends and likes on social media. That is what passes for affirmation in what I think is the deeply corrupt world of self-publishing."
Self-published authors constantly try to game the system, instead of understanding proper marketing. Not only do they buy Twitter and Facebook followers, but also book reviews.
A report by Gartner Research pointed out a very disturbing trend in the ebook industry: fake or paid reviews. Many companies are actively creating duplicate user accounts and posting reviews on a book in an effort to gain more sales. In other cases, self-published authors like Stephen Leather pay people to leave positive reviews or leave fake reviews themselves.
Todd Rutherford formally ran a website called GettingBookReviews.com that reviewed books for $99.99 a pop or arranged 20 reviews for $499 or 50 reviews for $999. He would post them on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other self-publishing websites to help authors get noticed. It certainly helped indie darling John Locke, who ordered 300 reviews and went on to sell over one million ebooks on Amazon. Before this website was shut down, it was generating $28,000 a month from authors looking for a competitive advantage. There are plenty of other services that offer the same type of book review scheme, most indie authors know who they are.
Why don’t I recommend first time authors self-publishing? Its utterly and completely corrupt. If you are a well adjusted person with a halo above your head and go to church on a weekly basis, you will soon sprout devil horns and start speaking in tongues. When you self-publish, you have no understanding of how the publishing industry works and you never will. You will constantly make mistakes and never learn from them, because nobody will bring them to your attention.
Trade publishing is the only way to go. It will take hard work and perseverance, but if you want to become a professional writer and not treat it as a casual flight of fancy, heed my words.
Frank Herbert’s Dune celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year and the Folio Society has published a whopper of a Dune-lover's edition, with its own slipcase and an introduction by critic Michael Dirda. The main selling point of this reprint are the hand painted illustrations by Sam Weber.
Dune continues to top readers' polls as the greatest science fiction novel of modern times. Many would say of all time. Before Star Wars, before A Game of Thrones, Frank Herbert brought to blazing life a feudalistic future of relentless political intrigue and insidious treachery, a grandly operatic vision—half Wagner, half spaghetti western—of a hero discovering his destiny.
Yesterday we welcomed a new member of staff to the Foundation’s growing Education Team. Marc Scott is a former teacher, joining as our new Head of Curriculum.
Marc used to run a Raspberry Pi and Minecraft club at his old school, where he taught Computer Science, and Systems and Control. Marc also used to write all his lesson resources in Markdown and host them on GitHub – which is exactly how we create our resources and projects on this website; we’re excited to see what he’ll contribute.
Originally, Marc started out as a Science teacher, and he’s keen to explore cross-curricular learning, looking at how things like Astro Pi and the Weather Station can be used in the KS3 Science and Geography curricula.
We’re really excited to see Marc getting stuck into creating new learning resources, and aiding us to structure them into a curriculum.
Marc has a wife, three kids, two dogs and a double black belt in karate and taekwondo. He’s a member of the Open Rights Group, he’s an occasional blogger at coding2learn.org (worth a browse!); he says he’s as comfortable with the terminal as he is in the classroom; and that he’s a dab hand with a soldering iron (let’s see if he passes Gordon’s test). On Monday I asked him to bring in a bootable USB stick if he wanted to install Linux on his laptop – he said “I tend to use a standard Ubuntu server install and build up from there – I use i3 as a windows manager anyway, and hate all the bloat that comes with Ubuntu Desktop.” – we think he’s going to fit in around here just fine.
Sometimes our old e-readers are relegated to spend the rest their lives in a closet or dusty drawer. If you have an old Kindle e-reader you do have another option, you can turn it into a virtual notepad for your fridge.
A new hack has just been developed that disables the Kindle screen saver and allows you to update text via a Gmail address. All you need to get started is a Raspberry PI web-server and the ability to program in some Ruby code.
I think attaching a little magnetic strip to the Kindle is a great way for it to enjoy a second life and actually serve a neat little purpose. I am sure you guys could come up with some useful little greetings or maybe some quotes from your favorite author.