Franklin Book Fair This Weekend

This weekend at the Williamson County Public Library in Franklin, Tennessee is the first Franklin Book Fair. Actually, to be fair, there Mid TN Authors Circlewas a smaller one several years ago, but we hope this larger event will become an annual tradition.

The book fair is a collaborative effort between the Middle Tennessee Author’s Circle and the library. The authors circle consists of several hundred members (that’s me sporting shades at an event in 2018). Over forty authors, myself included, will be there over the two days.

Each hour features a different panel staffed with local authors on specific genres and aspects of writing including self-publishing. I will be leading and participating in the Christian Fiction panel at 3 PM Central on Saturday.

There is no cost to attend. This is an excellent event to support local authors in the Nashville area. Come join us, learn some great stuff, and maybe even buy a book or two , or three! Check out the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/2469215829769672/ for more information.

Photo: Middle Tennessee Authors Circle

Three Attributes Every Writer Needs

One thing I have learned is that every writer seems to have advice but there is no one-size-fits-all set of rules or guidance. Still, I believe there are three core attributes every writer must possess to be successful: authenticity, tenacity, and business acumen.

Authenticity
Whether fiction or non-fiction, I believe a reader can sense the genuineness of an article or book. The passion poured into the creation of the words transfers through the reader’s eyes to their heart and mind. Conversely, lack of authenticity, in my opinion, results in a substandard product.bernard-hermant-621390-unsplash

This isn’t much different from the common “write about what you know,” advice, except knowledge doesn’t equate to passion. I suppose this makes no difference when writing a textbook or Wikipedia article. But when the reader feels the author believes in their work it compels them to read more. I don’t think you can fake that.

Tenacity
Writing is easy. Writing well is difficult. I have painfully experienced, particularly with self-published works, examples published before sufficient polishing. It takes time to learn the trade. What is the oft-quoted rule of thumb, ten-thousand hours to become a master of anything? With my years of writing experience, I am unsure just how close I am to that mark.

There’s more. A huge mistake new authors (myself included) make is assuming once published the work is done. No, readers will not magically flock to your book. Writers speak of their platform, essentially their (mainly digital) reputation and exposure. It takes time and determination to build that. I’ll let you know when I get there.

Business Acumen
Writing is a business, even if it’s a hobby, and writers need to approach it as such. That begins with keeping detailed financial records, to track your expenditures and income and to generate information for tax filing if so fortunate (if you have to file income taxes based on your writing, you’re making money).

Then there’s marketing, dreaded more than rejection letters. You not only need determination to market, but you also have to market correctly. That can require trial and error and learning from mistakes, which in turn requires some business analytical skills to interpret marketing action results. Twitter ad analytics is a great example.

I’ve been writing for many years now, off and on (recent years more on) since I was in high school in the 1980s (this post’s stock photo is reminiscent of the old Smith-Corona typewriter I used back then). It’s only been about a year when I became serious about my craft beyond a fun hobby, which required the attributes above.

Incidentally, all three attributes above apply to entrepreneurship as well. I launched a small consulting firm two years ago and would not have achieved the success I enjoy today if not for authenticity, tenacity, and business acumen. In fact, extending that successful model to my writing life was an easy decision.

What about you? Do you agree with these? Any others?

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

 

 

Tackling Abortion

A dismembered arm, a torso, a head – all bloodied, lifeless, gone.

Joseph Barbetti turned away from the image, magnified a hundredfold so anyone within the bounds of the ellipse in front of the Nashville courthouse could see the grossness, and suppressed the urge to retch. He acknowledged their right to protest and agreed with their position on abortion.

But why did they have to do it like this, in your face with shock and awe, and first thing in the morning?

The is the first draft opening of my novel-in-progress, Fatherhood, revised this morning. The original opening was more benign, with main character Joseph Barbetti slamming a gym bag against a locker in frustration at the edge of losing his job, anxious to relieve the tension with an early morning five-mile run.

This book is neither about job loss or running. It’s about abortion.

greg-rakozy-38802-unsplashI have to begin it there, and with “shock and awe,” because the taking of a human life is too serious an offense in my opinion to introduce on page seventeen. It needs to be up front, in your face.

I’m not a father, nor have I endured the abortion of my offspring. Yet for as long as I can remember I have not understood why this is such an issue. In my eyes, it’s murder, whether inside or outside the womb. I don’t think you need to be a father to see that. From my perspective, abortion for convenience is wrong.

I know many others have a differing opinion, and I respect that. I only ask for the same.

Abortion in cases of incest, rape or when the mother’s health is in danger is a much more nuanced topic. I never have, and never will, walk in those shoes. For that, I don’t have the answer, only that love and compassion is needed.

I don’t intend Fatherhood to be a black-or-white look at abortion. Like Leaving Darkness, my novel about depression, I hope to create (I’m only about 2,300 words into what I’ve planned as an 80,000 work novel) a story that someone may read and gain a different perspective on a difficult situation. Not just the mothers, but the fathers as well. Hence the title – I’m writing from the father’s perspective.

It’s a difficult road in front of me, one I don’t relish, but this is what God called me to do, and I plan to respond with a work filled with compassion on all sides. I’d appreciate prayers that I’m able to find the right words that will reach the right people.

A first draft of a novel is full of mistakes, not usually found until the second draft process. I found perhaps the biggest one today before the end of Chapter One. We don’t need to bury abortion, we need to discuss it. Millions of lives – unborn children, mothers, fathers – are at stake.

Childhood, the novelette prequel to Fatherhood, available free this summer. Sign up for your copy at http://eepurl.com/gk67iD

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

 

 

 

The Value of Self-Publishing

It’s a common debate in the writing world today. Which is the better route to take, traditional (or trad) publishing or self-publish? Years ago, trad was the way, with vanity presses the only viable self-publish option. How many authors from the 80’s ended up with a garage full of a paperback that never sold, I have no idea.

Today, however, both e-books and print on demand (POD) are viable options to expose the author to the world without having to convince someone else to spend money to do so (which is what trad essentially is). There is much value in self-publishing:

  • Maintain rights
  • Maintain pricing control
  • Go to market is quicker

Maintain Rights

The self-published author retains all rights to their work. Trad publishers may require a change in story, character names and development or even cover art. The trad author cannot make changes to their works easily, if at all.

Maintain Pricing Control

Trad and some hybrid self-publishing organizations do not allow for much, if any author input on pricing. This can be a huge detriment, as I explain in a bit.

Go To Market is Quicker

An author can create a work and self-publish it over a weekend. More savvy indie authors see the value in the creation process to produce quality work, and will refine their words, invoke beta readers, and hire editors (dev, copy, and proofing for fiction). Still, as I understand (as I have no trad works), the trad route from when the manuscript leaves the author’s computer to when it appears on Amazon can be a year or longer. Indie authors can go to market with quality work in a quarter of that time.

My Experience

I wrote my first novel in 1994 and queried agents in 1995. I still have a few of the rejections and the sealed package to prove copyright (back then, the recommended practice was to mail a copy of your manuscript to yourself and keep it, unopened, if there was a dispute, the postmark bearing the timestamp). That experience almost 25 years ago turned me off from trad, but again back then there was only one other option, and I was not going to travel the vanity press route.

IngramSparkTIn 2013 I learned of IngramSpark, the self-publishing arm of Ingram, and signed up. I published as a test a short book of poems which, to my surprise, a few actually bought (it’s still available here). I found the process to be educational, not easy but I had to learn about cover design, e-book creation, print formatting, ISBN, and so on. Eventually my work from the 20th century, Forgiveness, made it to Amazon, and I was hooked on writing. A few novels later and I’m still going strong. I’m such a fan of theirs they sent me an indie pub T-shirt!

For my most recent novel, Leaving Darkness I opted to leverage a hybrid self-publisher, Westbow. Westbow is the self-publishing division of Thomas Nelson, a well-known Christian book publisher. I (perhaps a bit naively) thought that if I went with Westbow that surely the sales would be good enough to prompt Thomas Nelson to at least take a look at bringing my title into the trad world.

That never happened because of a few reasons, the first of which all authors understand – marketing is hard and takes much effort. I’m still learning the marketing dance – it’s part science, part skill, part luck, and part magic. Regardless of indie or trad, though, the author bears the marketing weight. Many first-time novelists don’t understand that.

Westbow also priced Leaving Darkness too high. The e-book is at $3.99 and the print (softcover) $19.95. It’s a $14.95 book, if that. Westbow offers the option to reduce the price for 30 days to $0.99 as part of a promo package. However, at over $2,000, the cost is, well, unreasonable.

I asked the marketing rep what would stop an author from putting the work up on Amazon themselves, and he said nothing, the author owns the rights (see above). He advised against it because it would cause “confusion.” I’m not sure what that means, sounds like sales talk to convince me otherwise.

Anyway, relaunching the e-book version of Leaving Darkness leveraging my relationship with IngramSpark is exactly what I just did. To ensure I didn’t step on Westbow’s toes, I used only the materials I had prepared for them, and not their layout and cover. For an e-book, the layout doesn’t matter much, and the cover photo I provided, they just added the title and my name. Easy to do myself (thanks Photoscape).

You may have noticed that I didn’t hyperlink Leaving Darkness. I will add the links when my copy is available on Amazon. I’m keeping, for now, the Westbow version there at $3.99 because of the good reviews it has. (Note 5/8/2019 – I added the link to the special edition.)

This experience has taught me that I want to stick with IngramSpark for my publishing needs. That means, likely, never pursuing the trad route again. I may change my mind if the situation is right, but so far as I’m concerned today, indie is the way, and total indie – no more hybrid self-publishers.