Medium Matters

When it comes to publishing, there are many mediums to choose from, starting with long or short in one direction (up and down?) and continuing to print or online in a perpendicular direction (across?). The mediums you choose to write and publish in will, to some extent, determine your audience. While there is a significant population of readers that reads both print and digital books, there are still plenty of people without the technology to read digital books and there are others who simply prefer print books; on the other hand, there are plenty of people who prefer digital books and there are others who lack the space to store print books. If you fail to provide one option or the other, you are cutting people out of your possible reading audience.

On the other hand, there is a cost (either time, money, or both) for providing print books and for providing e-books. The more significant that cost is, the more that cost must be weighed against the marketing impact a particular medium is likely to have. Another consideration, however, is the likelihood that a reader will prefer both mediums and will want a version of each, so there’s that to consider as well.

In the minds of many, considering the marketing factors when choosing the medium(s) you publish in is the same as factoring in the business decisions and that’s where they stop. Sadly, they’re wrong. As you will see, it’s much more complicated than that.

Imagine, for example, that you are publishing a novel. Novel readers—most especially Indie novel readers—are a flexible bunch. Some gravitate towards print books. Others gravitate towards digital books. But most won’t be so picky that they don’t get a book because it’s not available in their preferred format. There is a wide circle of very passionate readers out there, but there is also a lot of competition for those readers. Chances are that one or both mediums can be profitable if enough attention is paid to one’s marketing, though there is no guarantee that profits will be substantial. (Remember, revenues – costs = profit, so all you need to produce is a profitable book is to sell enough copies at a high enough price to cover your costs and leave some left over.)

If, on the other hand, you are publishing a nonfiction book, particularly a resource guide readers will want to refer back to, then you’re likely to find that people are more particular about the format they want. Some insist on print books. Others insist on digital books. But the important point is that they are not likely to buy the book if it is not available in the desired format, because there is probably a competing book that is available in the format they want. Failing to provide the medium preferred by your audience can seriously damage your profits, including your future profits on subsequent titles.

So, when you are choosing a medium, you have to weigh the marketing factors (how your decision will impact the audience you are trying to reach) against the business factors (how much you can reasonably afford to invest in your book). In the greater scheme of your business, all marketing decisions are business decisions, but not all business decisions are marketing decisions. Marketing only concerns itself with cost on two points: 1) how much cost must be incurred to reach the desired sales volume and 2) when does more expense fail to garner an increase in sales. Marketing, as a field, cares nothing for your budget; business operations do. The question for you, with regards to medium, is which one wins.

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Welcome to!

If you’re still on the old blog, I invite you to hop on over here. You should find all the old posts you’ve enjoy or made in the past. (We’re trying to ensure all the comments transfer too, but this seems to be harder than it looks.) You’ll also find all my future posts as they are uploaded in the, um, well, future. But you won’t find those posts here. I’ll leave this post up for a while, but I won’t be updating the old blog. After enough people have had time to make the leap over to the new site, I’ll be shutting this site down forever—assuming I can figure out how.

As you’ll see, the new site has a lot to offer. So, please, check out the new site and take a look at the brand new content I’ve provided. You may even want to check out my old autism blog (which has also moved) or my new marketing blog, which was just created.

Now that I have an awesome site to work with, I’ll be providing a lot of new things. So, come on over and check me out!

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Self-Publishing is Production and Distribution

Whenever you make your writing available to your readers, you are making a marketing decision. Whether the piece of writing is for sale or for free, whether it’s print or electronic, whether it’s distributed widely or narrowly, all these choices are marketing choices. The publication method you choose is also a marketing choice. While all these choices are influenced by your marketing goals, there are other factors to consider. Self-publishing, especially, is a business decision.

If you are a poet or a fiction writer, and this even applies to nonfiction writers, though to a lesser extent, you can go through the traditional publication process—again and again and again—without ever really consciously considering your activities a writing business. And it can still work for you. Of course, you are still operating a business, but you can abdicate the business decisions and leave those in the hands of agents, editors, and publishers. You can, in theory, stick to your writing, and give short shrift to the business end of things. It’s not recommended, but it’s possible.

As a self-publisher, however, you are right there in the thick of the business of writing. There are no agents and no publishers there to make the decisions for you. You have to choose how to produce and distribute your work, so that others can read it. There are many different options out there, ranging from do-it-yourself to service boutiques. The market is full of self-publishers, and the market is full of people who profit by serving self-publishers.

When it comes to the business of my writing, I know what I want. I want to offer my book to as many readers as reasonably possible in both print and digital mediums. I also want to ensure that it is a book of professional quality. Finally, I want to sell and distribute this book at a fair profit, considering how much I have invested in producing it and how much more I will need to invest to get it in the hands of people who want to read it.

I’ve discussed the decision to self-publish and I’ve discussed the possibility of going with a hybrid publisher. In the end, since I would have to “re-do” things I’ve already spent money to do, I chose to continue along the self-publishing path. In my last post on this, however, I raised an issue that a few readers had a problem with: namely, the self-publishing provider I chose would produce an e-book that would be widely distributed and a print book that would only be distributed through my website,

After all my research, I hadn’t found a better alternative. Sure, I found self-publishing service providers that functioned very much like traditional publishers, in that they left the author with a measly 10% royalty, but provided none of the quality or the name-brand recognition that (almost) justifies that arrangement in traditional publication, nor are they taking the financial risk (which is why traditional publishers can get away with low royalities). Frankly, that’s absolutely absurd. I’m sorry to say, but those of you who have fallen prey to such a provider have made some very poor business decisions.

I had been planning to go with With BookBaby, I would get 100% royalties on the net (after the distributors take their cut). BookBaby’s only profit comes from the fees I pay for the services they provide. I had planned on using BookBaby as a one-stop solution (minus the editing, that’s already done). Then, I used to get a new logo for my new website. The experience was so overwhelmingly awesome, I had to check if they did book covers too, and they do! For the same price as BookBaby, no less! The advantage of 99Designs is that you get designers to compete for prize money, which means you have more designs to choose from and, perhaps, more opportunities to provide input. Then, as I was explaining my choices, I was reminded about

The reason I dismissed CreateSpace from consideration early on in my process is because I’m not attracted to the do-it-yourself approach. First, I do not have the time to learn how to do it myself. It is literally cheaper for me to hire someone else to do it than it is to learn how to do it myself. Second, I don’t have the patience for it. I’ve learned a long time ago that learning to do things outside my skill sets is really frustrating for me. Unless, 1) doing myself adds substantial value or 2) I cannot possibly afford to pay someone else, but I can possibly learn to do it myself, then I’m better off just forking over the money. There are too many stressful things I can’t avoid to take on stressful things I can avoid just to save a few bucks. Finally, I have also come to realize that doing-it-yourself is a good way to lower the quality of the final product. My old versus my new website is a very recent case in point. So, CreateSpace was out.

Except, they don’t require you to do it yourself. They do provide services. They just don’t make it obvious. So, now I’m back to weighing pros and cons. With BookBaby, the digital book will be more widely distributed, but the print book will be distributed far more narrowly. With CreateSpace, both books will be available on Amazon. Price wise, it looks like CreateSpace is cheaper, but there is less evidence to prove the quality.

All I know for sure at this point is that I’m still going to self-publish, because I’ve invested too much to make other options profitable at this point. And I’m running out of time to make these last few decisions.

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Trailer Time: Dreaming Death

I couldn’t sleep Sunday night, so after sleeping away the day on Monday, I found this:

This trailer wasn’t quite what I expected. I don’t know why Laura Madeline Wiseman’s book is called Wake, when it is tales of a female Death. Nor do I know why she chose the particular opening for the trailer that she did. But I find that the oddity appeals to me.

I’m assuming, instead of telling us what the book is about, this trailer gives us a short sample of what we will find inside. The visual and auditory telling of the snippet of story makes for a strong combination. It’s evocative and clever. It’s intriguing and provocative.

At the end, the text scrolls by too quickly. I have to pause it to read the review material—or to even get far enough to see that it is review material. Aside from that, the reviews are a nice compliment to the taste of story the trailer provides.

This trailer piques interest. I suppose, if I were more fascinated by monsters or death, I would by buying it now. Instead, I’ll recommend it as a model of what can be done.

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Timing Is (Almost) Everything

Two big things are happening soon. First, my website is getting a much needed overhaul at the hands of experts in digital marketing. Second, my memoir, Discovering Autism / Discovering Neurodiversity is being self-published in both electronic and print format, though the print version will only be available through, you guessed it, Clearly, one of these must be done before the other.

My memoir has been drafted, crafted, polished, read, revised, crafted, and polished again, multiple times, and is now a breath away from publication. In a week or two, I will have the investment capital I need to finish the process.

When it comes to writing, timing is important, but quality is more important. When it comes to marketing, quality is important, but timing is more important. According to my original plan, my website was going to be live long before I was ready to publish my memoir. Of course, my original plan didn’t include months of sick days, so that plan has pretty much been scrapped.

All this time I’ve been sick, my slot has been held. First, not only am I a client of Robb Digital Marketing, but they’re also one of my clients. Second, I’ve already paid for the bulk of the site (I paid in advance voluntarily). Between the two, my site will definitely get done. But, sadly, my illness put us both off our schedules in significant ways. So, when I finally got the copy to her, she was booked out to the end of January.

The long story made short is don’t get sick. No. Wait. It’s timing is everything!

I can’t publish my book until my site is up and running. It just won’t work. A book launch is a marketing moment. It involves a lot of pre-launch work that collides in a single day/week/month of activity. If you miss your window, it’s gone. You can’t get it back again.

My website is vital to my window. Go ahead and jump on over to what I have up right now and you’ll see why. It’s, um, yeah… Let’s just say, I did it myself. I tried to do it myself. It didn’t work. Anyway, the point is that everything I’m doing has to lead somewhere and that website is the “where,” so there has to be a there where I’m sending people.

Now, before you get too excited, the “everything” I’m doing is far less than I know how to do. Like every other indie writer I know, I’m operating on a budget. I’d rather do less and do it at the level of quality I require than do more on the cheap. I tried that with my website; then I opted to pay the experts.

Still, a little done with the right timing is a lot more than most indie books seem to get. Publishing has literally become so easy that people who really aren’t ready go ahead and do it anyway. I see this with such complete sadness because, if they’d held out a little bit longer, they really could have had something. Whether you spend $100 or $100,000, a book that’s published before it’s ready is a wasted investment, not only of the money but of all that time!

Then, there are those little-books-that-could. The authors pour enormous amounts of time into them, because they don’t have the money, and they make it the best little book they can. These books will never rock the bestsellers’ lists, but they’re good books. Even if they don’t make a profit, they’re not a wasted investment because the readers who stumble on them are won over by them. In time, a few little-books-that-could can make a great backlist!

So, timing is important. Quality is more important. If you have to choose, a quality book is always the better choice. If you can have a quality book and timely marketing, that’s even better.

* * *

Breaking News: After hearing nothing from the publisher I had established a relationship with for months, I sent one last notice informing them of my decision to self-publish. Then, I get a response that included the original response that I clearly had never received. So, there’s still a chance that we can work together on this one. If that works out, I’ll be sure to let you know the revised publishing date.

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The Space In Between

Whenever you craft a story, whether it is fact or fiction, short or long, you inevitably leave things out. As you develop your skill as a writer, transitioning from amateur to apprentice, from apprentice to journeyman, from journeyman to master, you develop an eye (or an ear) for those things which express more by being included and those things which express more by being excluded. But it takes time and lots of practice to develop this skill and it’s not always translated across genres.

As a reader, I developed an early affection for a commonly used literary device:

* * *

With those three little asterisks, the writer expresses the choice to leave something out. You may be making a jump between space or time. You may be leaping from one character’s point of view to another character’s point of view. You may be shifting out of chronology altogether, with flashbacks, flashes forward, or an otherwise disjointed telling. The three asterisks don’t tell you what was left out, but they assure you that something was.

As a child, I assumed the writer just skipped over the boring stuff. Considering the books I read as a child my assumption was probably right most of the time. As I grew older and read more complicated stories, I realized that sometimes the events those three dots skipped over were very interesting, but they were also intentionally hidden by the author.

Once I started studying the craft, I learned about the craft of creating scenes. I learned that scenes can be cut deep, meaning that the text starts well after the scene has been going in the background, so the reader only gets to see the bang, not the build-up. I can think of one particularly memorable example of this, but the details are decidedly vague. Part of that is because it’s been a while since I read the book (and I’m not even sure which book it’s in), but a greater part of it is that I never really figured out what happened. I didn’t get to finish the series, so I don’t even know how important it was, but I was always peeved that I was stumped.

This was intentional. Stories often contain puzzles. Part of the joy is figuring out the puzzle as your read along with the telling of the story. If the puzzle is too easy to solve or if the solution is too obvious, then the story is a disappointment. If the puzzle is too difficult to solve or if the solution doesn’t make sense by the end, then it’s a disappointment for an entirely different reason. Getting the right balance is an art form.

Now, as a writer, I find that I use those three little dots most often when I don’t want to write what happens in the space/time they cover. This has to do with the impatient streak inside of me that keeps saying, “Get to the story already!” Part of it has to do with my own mind being a bit vague on the details, because I just don’t care enough about what happens in the missing time or space to know exactly how it plays out.

Occasionally, I insert those three asterisks for an entirely different reason. Right now I am working on a novella (at least, I think it’s going to be a novella) that uses them frequently for a variety of reasons. The story is being written, in this draft, in third person omniscient. I can’t remember the last time I used this point of view, because it’s my second least favorite. (I don’t like stories that use the second person point of view, because it feels like I’m being told what to do and I don’t even have the choice to ignore them.) I didn’t realize I’d chosen this point of view until the second or third switch, because it came so naturally for this story. But every time I switch from a close-up on one person to another, I create the necessary distance with those three little dots.

I also jump ahead a lot, which is necessary in this story. I’m basically re-writing history, in a way; though, I can’t clarify that statement without giving away too much. Anyway, the point is that I have to re-write a part that comes before in order to get to the main part that interests me. So, the story starts with a little girl having The Sweetest Dream. The dream itself is not told, but her father (who just happens to be a king) chooses to act on the dream. This changes everything. Thus, the story; but the story that interests me more is what becomes possible years later because the king acted on the first dream.

* * *

A simple literary device can make impossible leaps through space and time possible with six short taps—or three if you prefer to leave out the spaces. It braces the reader for a change that is not explained. It allows the writer (and the readers) to jump over the boring stuff and get to the story already. It’s the kind of thing that would have made some of the classics a lot more fun to read, if you ask me. But, like any literary device, it can be overdone. It can be done badly. It’s one of the things that makes this thing we do an art and a craft, as well as a business.

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Trailer Time: Oddity

This time picking a trailer was more difficult than usual. Here’s what I finally found:

I usually like oddities. Different is good! The trouble with oddities, though, is that sometimes they are odd in ways that are different from your own oddities. If the difference is significant, it can make interpretation difficult.

I don’t know what to make of this trailer. It’s a story that, apparently, is told in pictures, at least to some degree. For words, the first thing we get is a quote: “Dual realities brought together by a manifestation of fear.” We also have the title, The Other Side of Eve. And we get a catchphrase: “Sometimes to tell one story…two must be told.”

I’m intrigued, don’t get me wrong. Usually I’m not a fan of duality, because I believe there are always more than two sides to any story, but this is an engaging twist. At least, it could be. The problem is that I don’t really know what it is. I feel kind of clueless.

Is there enough for this to be a trailer? Or is anyone else feeling like they need a guide of some kind to make sense of it?

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