Traditional vs. Indie: What Should You Do?


Traditional vs. Indie: What Should You Do?

Natalie Bright

The topic always comes up at our meetings. Reach for the stars and snag a literary agent who will negotiate a deal with a Big House publishing company? Or go it alone and join the throng of independent authors who self-publish? What should you do? I know, it’s a lot of information to absorb. Here are a few main points to consider as you move closer to publication in 2018.

Option 1:

If you have a high concept book theme or genre, the urgency of publication is not an issue, and you are willing to relinquish the rights to said work, then Traditional Publishing is your best option. This will require you to sign with a literary agent who will “shop” your manuscript to the five publishing houses which are closed to un-agented submissions. This process takes years. Dollars are well spent in attending conferences to network with agents and editors. Practice your pitch.

Option 2:

If you have a polished manuscript ready to go, a clear idea of your genre and target market, and a Type A personality that likes the control, then becoming an Indie Author and self-publishing your work is the perfect fit. In this option, you can do as much or as little of the process that you want. Dollars are well spent in hiring the professionals to do the work that you don’t want to learn. Become proficient on social media.

Choices

The point is, don’t get discouraged and don’t stress. Take one step at a time. Honestly, both options will sometimes move at a snail’s pace.

My body of work languished with a NYC literary agent who I met at a conference in Oklahoma City. The hardest part was not knowing the status. I got a report as to which houses had my book, but had any editor like it? How could I make it better? Maybe I should revamp my website? I should send an email to my agent, or maybe just call him? My husband finally told me, “Leave the man alone and let him do his job.”

The entire process stretched over six years and then I decided to make a change and become an Indie Author. I like knowing the exact status of my manuscripts. Although it is hard work and long hours, I am able to juggle writing and marketing around the day job. Prioritizing is key. Formatting for wide distribution in Mobi, ePub and PDF blows my mind, so a reasonably priced professional does that job. I also pay for a professional editor who checks grammar, but not plot or structure which costs more.

The point is that writers have so many choices and options for running their business these days. Either option requires a lot of patience and perseverance. It is a great time to be a creator of new and original content.

Below are links to two podcasts that have provided a wealth of information for me in my understanding of the publishing environment of today. There are several years of back logs covering a variety of topics.

The Creative Penn https://www.thecreativepenn.com/podcasts/ with Joanna Penn

Self-Publishing Formula https://selfpublishingformula.com/category/podcast/

Mark Dawson has done it all himself and is now negotiating a movie deal.

Save the Date: July 21 in Amarillo

Wordsmith Six blogger Rory C. Keel and I will be on a panel with other Indies in July to talk about Indie Authors, small presses, and self-publishing. Hosted by the Texas High Plains Writers group, we’ll be meeting in downtown Amarillo at the Amarillo Tower on the 9th Floor.

I’ll be asking the panel questions which will cover the entire process from spark to book-in-hand. We’ll find out why they went Indie, what’s so great about having control, and what they hate about their decision.

No RSVP required, nonmembers are welcome. Our meetings are open to the public and guests may attend for a small $10 fee. It all starts at 10:00 AM and you’re invited! Hope to see you in July in Amarillo.  www.texashighplainswriters.com

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Four Years from Now


 

Four Years from Now

Natalie Bright

Are you advancing towards your writing goals this year? We are fast approaching a new year. Have you thought about what you hope to achieve in 2017?

OLYMPIC SIZED GOALS

Joanna Penn, with TheCreativePenn.com podcast, challenged her listeners to think about their goals in four year increments. How can you define your writing career this year, while the 2016 Olympics occurred in Rio? In 2020, the Olympics will be held in Tokyo. Where will your writing career be by then?

This makes perfect sense to me because the wheels of publishing moves so very slow. It’s difficult to realize tangible measurement year by year, but when you look at your accomplishments over a longer period you can see some results. Consider financial goals, completion of a series, or rough drafts of several stand alone novels that have been inside your head. Can you accomplish those goals in four years time? Of course you can!

FOUR YEARS AGO

Four years ago, in the Fall of 2012, I cut my hours to a part-time day job and signed with a literary agent who shopped my middle grade westerns. I’ll never forget that same week I worked the Scholastic book fair at my son’s intermediate school. I noticed that historical titles were missing from the bookfair shelves. It was concerning because the year before there had been an entire section. I asked the librarian about it, and she explained, “They just didn’t send me many this year.” That was the year dystopian, vampires, and with the release of the movie, Hunger Games ruled. My cause for concern turned out to be reality four years later. The stories I loved writing had gone nowhere through traditional publishing route. During that time I hadn’t stopped writing though. In fact I completed three more novels, but it felt like everything had come to a screeching halt.

2016 Rio: What a Party!

In 2016 I made the difficult decision to mix it up yet again and researched Indie Publishing. Seriously, I feel so relieved to be back in control again. There have been so many changes since I first self-published a book in 2010. Moving onward.

Let us know what goals you hope to achieve in the next four years. We will see you right back here by Tokyo 2020!

Now is as Good a Time as Any: Writing Your Family


Now is as Good a Time as Any: Writing Your Family

Natalie Bright

I spoke at my hometown library this last week. The Dimmitt Book Club meets at the Rhoades Memorial Library every month. We talked about the changing tide of books for writers and readers, and hopefully, inspired a few people to write their family. I heard several wonderful stories about the people from my hometown.

After a show of hands, about three indicated that they owned eReaders. (As I shared with the group, the two things that sold me on an eReader is that I can make the words bigger and I can read in the dark while my hubby sleeps.)

According to a recent Pew Research Center stats, half of American adults either own a tablet or an e-Reader. In 2014, 12 million devices were sold. It’s no surprise that Amazon Kindle has the largest share of the market, with 75% of all eBooks sold in the US. Other countries are close behind the eBook craze with markets opening up in India, Germany, Indonesia, and Brazil.

For people who love stories, like Book Clubs, this is an amazing time for readers. Original material is in high demand, which makes this an amazing time for writers as well. The irony of our time is that while eBooks continue to gain a solid hold, it’s never been easier for anyone to create a book for print.

Family Stories

Many of you have thought about writing the stories you heard from your childhood, or putting your family genealogy research to paper. I think today, more and more people are interested in family stories and the history of their communities. Family historians and genealogist can bring community and family members to life through the written word, and reveal them as real flesh and blood souls. With the ease of self-publishing options, you can write it and have something in hand you’d be proud to hand out at the next family reunion (or sell it to your cousins to cover your costs).

A Million Ways

Whatever you think a family memoir or collection of stories might be, forget those preconceived notions. Through the ease of self-publishing options, you can create whatever you want. I shared several of my favorite examples of family memoirs and personal reflections that have been turned into published works. I’ve listed them below:

PATCHWORK PRINCIPLES by Jerry and Martha McClenagan. A heartwarming collection of life lessons featuring original quilt designs hand made by Martha. (Infinity Publishing)

TEN SISTERS by Doris Wenzel. Unique POV from ten sisters who each wrote a chapter about the day they were taken from their mother and adopted out to different families. (Mayhaven Press)

TAKE TWO & BUTTER ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT, by Barbara Sewell. Heirloom Recipes & Kitchen wisdom from her grandmother. “If you want some hot bread and free advice, step into my grandmother’s kitchen.” I love this collection of recipes and wisdom.

             GROWING UP IN THE BRADFORD OIL FIELDS by Jim Messer. (Xlibris) Written for his children, Mr. Messer reflects on memories growing up with a father who was an oil field shooter. A fascinating look at how they stored, transported, and ignited nitroglycerin during the completion process of fracing wells in the 1930s.

             A WOMAN TENDERFOOT by Grace Gallatin Seton Thompson. Published in 1900, this Rocky Mountain adventure is written by a Victorian woman who did the unthinkable: she accompanied her husband into the wilderness of U.S. and Canada. What I wouldn’t give to have some of this detail about clothing, food prep, adventure, and life from my own grandmother.

             LETTERS FOR COACH by Libby Cleveland. Author Coop Action Printing, Lubbock Texas. A collection of letters from players to their favorite coach.

SO GREAT A HERITAGE by Kathie Jackson. A collection of letters by her father who was an army Chaplain. She sprinkled this book with details of the war in between letters to home.

OIL PEOPLE by Natalie Bright. Nonfiction targeted to upper middle grades about the varied workforce used in the discovery, production and refining of oil. Lists the many products we use every day. Self-published 2010 based on my husband’s work as a petroleum geologist, and now available on Amazon as an eBook.

           “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” WEST TEXAS CHRISTMAS STORIES. Based on an old ranch hand on a college friend’s ranch, I wrote the story as an exercise for a writing class, and years later it was selected for this anthology published by TCU Press. Never delete those story ideas. You never where they might find a home in the future. This great collection contains both fiction and nonfiction about West Texas.

Writer’s Secrets for Non-Writers: You CAN do This!

  • Your writing is not going to win a Pulitzer Prize. If you’ve ever wanted to record your family history, write it down now. It’s not going to be perfect the first time. Writers call it the vomit draft.
  • On the next pass through your work, narrow the focus: smells, sounds, fear, taste, grit on your face. Add the details that brings the reader into your story.
  • Write to one person in particular. Don’t worry about who will be reading your work. Just write.
  • I’m not talking about literary writing. Write in a Conversational tone. Don’t worry about grammar or complete sentences. Just write. You can go back and fix it later. You can’t fix a blank page.
  • Read your story out loud. Every author I know does this final step before submitting their work for publication. This helps you find awkward sentences, typos, and determine the flow of your story. Again, it’s not a literary piece. It’s you telling a family story.
  • Have someone else read your work for an honest critique.

Libraries of Tomorrow

The library in my hometown continues to thrive. I used to spend every Saturday there while my mother did the weeks laundry around the corner. I’m glad to know that the folks in Dimmitt continue to use the facility.

In addition to several groups using the meeting room and a Tuesday reading program for children, the Dimmitt library features a lighted glass case of collections from local patrons. This month were porcelain tea pots from England. The previous month featured Elvis memorabilia. Librarians are thinking outside the box to keep their facilities vibrant even in today’s eBook revolution.

Now, Take a Deep Breath. Whether you’re a multi-published author or first-time writer, be open to the possibilities of your creation and WRITE. Don’t forget to schedule a talk at your hometown library after you get that book finished.

PODCASTS: LEARNING WHILE YOU WORK AT WRITING


PODCASTS: LEARNING WHILE YOU WORK AT WRITING

Natalie Bright

Perhaps I’m way behind the times, but I’ve never been into podcasts. My youngest son has always been a fan, but it never made sense to me that he spent time watching someone else play a video game. I realized he’s watching a lot about science though, when he began spouting off facts about the universe.

This past weekend I discovered podcasts are for writers too!

Thecreativepenn.com is a treasure trove of information for writers including 250 podcast interviews by self-published author Joanna Penn. She is officially my first podcast subscription.

Here’s what I did last week while listening to Joanna Penn talk about writing:

  • Folded two loads of clothes.
  • Re-arranged my make-up drawer.
  • Ironed shirts for my husband and son.
  • Unloaded and loaded the dishwasher several times.
  • Cooked tacos for dinner.
  • Logged five miles on the treadmill.

Which brings me to the point of this blog post:

Here’s what I learned from thecreativepenn.com podcasts and how I applied that information to my own self-published eBook:

  • Discovered my eBook on Smashwords had 225 sample downloads, but only eight sales.
  • My price of $4.99 is double the cost for about half the page length as compared to books on the same topic which are priced at $1.99 and $2.99.
  • GONE NEVER FORGOTTEN is a heartfelt memoir about loss and the grief of losing our oldest baby boy. The book title is also the same as a porno video that used to be available on Amazon, which is why I stopped promoting it. I should have researched and put more thought into title ideas before I self-published.
  • The title page, dedication, table of contents makes up most of the downloadable sample. No one is seeing any significant example of my writing or what the book is about. When formatting your eBooks, begin with the text of the story. Put everything else at the end.
  • Social media is amazing, and it’s mind-blowing as to what self-published authors are able to accomplish these days.
  • Guest blogging, Twitter, Facebook promos and whatever else, are all things I can do to let readers know about this book. The measurable results of what works best for me is completely different for what might have worked for others. Every author must decide upon their own journey.
  • The most profitable combination is to have at least four books written, polished and published before you begin a concentrated social media blitz.
  • Start building my fan base now by actively participating on twitter, facebook, pinterest, and other social media sites.
  • A newsletter is the best way to build an email data base of possible buyers for your books.
  • The number of people reading on their iPhone devices has exploded (estimated at three times other devices), which makes the iBook app worth considering both as a reader and as a writer.
  • I’ve decided to retire my eBook on Smashwords and rebrand the project.
  • Do I want to spend time and money on a cover redesign, new formatting, and find an illustrator?
  • Should I write a book proposal and research possible submissions to a small press?
  • I must develop a social media marketing plan.
  • I must learn to balance the creative side with the business side, if I want to be a successful author and sell books.
  • Be open minded and consider all of the possibilities for my books in today’s publishing environment.

I’ll keep you posted as this project develops. Thanks for following WordsmithSix!

 

The ROCKY Path to Publication


The ROCKY Path to Publication

By Natalie Bright

If there’s one thing about the writing industry I’ve learned as being true, is how consistently inconsistent it is.

An author of 35 plus novels told me that not one of her books ever did like she’d planned. Some won major awards taking her totally by surprise, some got picked up in foreign countries while others didn’t, and some of her all-time favorite stories to write didn’t resonate with her fans like she’d hoped.

I visited with a newbie writer in Dallas whose Aunt had paid her conference fee because her Aunt believed she had potential as an author. We visited over the weekend, and her story ideas were very unique. At her first conference she learned, pitched, and submitted. That “newbie” took the fast track to success and never looked back. She has since established a solid career which began with a romance eBook novella.

The manuscripts by a former critique partner and talented writer still haunt me. She finally submitted a mystery; it was one of the first and only things she ever submitted. An editor expressed great interest, but this friend would not even consider making any of the edits. She gave up writing soon after.

The point is that the path to publication is very different for each one of us. I think the key is to be willing to bend around any plan you might have and walk through the doors, or very small windows, or opportunity.

Today’s authors are faced with a myriad of options. Some days it’s overwhelming. Should we wait on someone else to decide or should we take matters into our own hands? Authors have the power to give their projects wings, but is it the right thing to do for that particular project?

One thing for sure, the path is consistently rocky and trying, but ultimately very rewarding.

Thanks for following WordsmithSix!

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Parts of a Writer’s Brain


Parts of a Writer’s Brain

Reflection and Making Sense of Today’s Publishing Environment

by Natalie Bright

 

A Publisher’s Weekly article announced deluxe hardcover editions for 20 of Marguerite Henry’s novels for middle grade readers beginning this fall. The repackaging will include the original artwork by Wesley Dennis which were missing from some of the paperback editions. I have a treasured first-edition copy of SAN DOMINGO, published 1972. Part of me is jumping for joy that generations of readers will be able to discover these wonderful historicals. I’ll definitely be adding them to my home library, and what a perfect gift for a few horse-loving young people I know.

Business-Minded Part

The practical, business side of my brain completely understands the need to make low risk decisions. Selling books is a profitable business. Marketing professionals generate statistical analysis to determine what consumers will buy, knowing what the marketplace will embrace. As a business owner, I understand first-hand the pressures of having families depend on your ability to be profitable and to make payroll. This side of me also sympathizes with frustrated agents who are out there beating the bushes to tout stories in an industry that sometimes embraces work generated four decades ago. Taking chances on an unknown is risky.

Literary Fan Part

The artsy, fictional part of me will never understand the business side of this game. During the past month, I’ve attended two writer’s conferences where I’ve heard numerous unique and wonderful story ideas. Granted, they involve writers at various stages in their careers, but the point is these folks are working hard at learning their craft and creating original material. The ideas and creativity of today’s writers inspires me. I really want to read their work someday, any yet they’re continually dismissed and denied.

The Writing Part

The creative part feels dark and powerless. I realize how little control we have over our chosen profession. On some days my heart is crushed and my willingness to keep submitting is very much annoyed.

There are other days, rising from the dark side, that are filled with hope. The joy of words transforms me, I disappear into my WIP and I don’t want to come back to the reality of life. The story drives me to keep going. One feisty character in particular will not leave me alone. My super agent likes her too and is working hard to find her a home. I’m BUSTING to tell middle grade schools, book fairs, and cowboy symposiums about Silver Belle’s wild west. Right now. Today.

Patience: a willingness to suppress annoyance

when confronted with delay.

 

The Big Picture Part

In this crazy time of publishing I force myself to take a breath, step back and consider the big picture. In my mind, the big picture continues to be our ability to write a great story. As readers, we can find great stories as well via any medium you choose. Whether it’s indie published or traditional, if you discovered a gem by one of today’s authors, tweet or post a review so that other readers can discover their work too. It only takes a few seconds.

As an author, if you are absolutely committed to the craft and the story that only you can create, put aside your emotional artsy self, find your business cap and consider all of the options available for publishing your work. Best of luck on your journey.

In the meantime, I’ll be anxiously anticipating the re-release of Marguerite Henry’s wonderful books and I’ll keep writing the stories that are occupying the space inside of my head. Writers write.

 Perseverance: steady persistence in a course of action,

especially in spite of discouragement.