Category Archives: Publishing

Your Book Is on Backorder?

In days gone by–in other words, about a decade ago–an author could expect to have a given book run for a few years, if that long, and then disappear. The only exceptions were books that the publisher decided to make into bestsellers. Soon enough, though, the only place to find many books were used bookstores.

But now that these are widely available:

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no, wait, I meant these:

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and the like–yes, now that so many are carrying around devices that can store books by the thousands or even more, if they’re willing to have their books stored by someone else–someone who is making lists of everything you buy and read–where was I going with this?

Ah, the point I’m making is that now that books are widely available in digital form, there’s no reason for anything to go out of “print.” Books can be stored in hard drives for transfer at any time, and with print-on-demand becoming respectable, even paper copies can be cranked out whenever anybody wants one.

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But with every new thing comes a new set of problems. In those days of auld lang syne, authors like Dan Brown and E. L. James mercifully disappeared after a momentary flash in the pan. But now, literary zombies can continue sucking the brains of their readers forever. Or am I talking about vampires? At any rate, mindless soul-sucking creatures that don’t die in the light, but glow a faint hue of sparkly and whose dialogue wouldn’t challenge the abilities of the New York telephone directory to thrill will be with us until we’re all living in Panem and don’t have time to read anyway. This means that every time readers go looking for a book, there will be many more than there were the last time.

So what’s an author to do? Leading a revolution to ban all books but the ones I write is one option. But that’s not likely to go over too well, especially since we authors are a cantankerous lot, and readers have the annoying habit of wanting a diversity of styles, genre, and subject matter.

Given the changes in technology and the field of publishing, I’ve reached the following conclusions:

1. Publishers must change or die.

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Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin, as the writing on the wall declared. Publishers have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. They don’t promote books, except those by authors who are already famous. They are stuck in a world in which a book had to be handed from one person to the next, instead of being copied in an instant. Their business models treat books like boxes of cereal, when in fact books are today more like Internet memes.

2. Authors must produce quality work.

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Yes, I know that lots of bad books get cranked out, many of them given away. But I hope that the reading public will come to its senses and realize that spending a little money for something that’s been well written and then edited is worth the expense.

3. Books must be promoted in new ways.

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You can’t rely on putting ads in magazines and on librarians recommending your book. Eyeballs are on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs (such as this one with its many viewers like you), and other places that Charles Dickens never imagined when he sold novels in serial form. No one’s waiting at the docks for the next chapter to arrive from England.

But there is good news. The cost of all this digital publishing and marketing is low. Time and talent are the keys these days. So what’s the secret?

One thing is to exploit the fact that searching for what you want is as easy as putting something on-line. That is, searching is easy if the thing you want is tagged with enough terms that make finding it possible. If I want a book about the Sahara desert, yours just so happens to be about that, you’d better indicate that your book covers sand, the desert, the Sahara, Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Mogambo, a guy named Dirk Pitt, and some rivers that have been dry a long time. No matter how tangential, tag it. Even throw in Dirk Benedict if you figure it will help.

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Another thing is to get yourself on popular websites that allow comments with linking to more of you and make a name for yourself. I’ve found The Huffington Post to be a good place to practice this, especially since I can work in the occasional link to my blogs in what I say there.

Oh, but you want more, don’t you? Recall how I said it was cheap? That doesn’t mean free. I also said it takes time and talent, and that is for sale. My company, Oghma Creative Media, has a plan for you, a plan designed to make promotion successful and a whole lot easier.

Or you can just buy my books. That’s cheaper.

Crossposted on English 301: Reading and Writing and Oghma Creative Media.

The Devil Ain’t Buying

Regular readers of this weblog, casual visitors, and even passersby on the dismal prairie that is the Internet know by now that I’m pushing a book. This has led me to do a number of things that I don’t like, including replacing the beloved Gadsden flag

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with a picture of me lighting off my Remington revolver. It’s a good picture, even though it’s of me, taken by Oghma Creative Media‘s graphic design partner, Casey Cowan. He’s good at his job, and would be pleased to take your picture or design your book cover as well.

See? I’m shovelling all manner of schlock today.

But he thinks this blog needs my picture, rather than Johnston Green’s flag. (Points if you know the reference.) I’m raising this subject because I’m curious about what makes someone buy a book. Major publishers seem to think it’s a big name. If you’re a known writer of military thrillers, there’s no point in dying, because someone can keep writing in your name ad nauseum, for example. Quality is of no consequence. But since there are some 500,000 books published in America and Britain in a given year and many more cranked out elsewhere, authors that aren’t as widely known–in other words, aren’t as widely promoted–have to find other ways to get their books in front of the reading public–a sadly too small group of people.

And that’s why all this social media is necessary. If you don’t know that the book is available for sale, you can’t buy it. At this point, I’m willing to try lots of methods of getting you to see my books and those of others. And Oghma Creative Media will keep an eye on what works for future use. In the comments, tell me what draws your eye to a book and what moves you to buy it.

The rattlesnake flag will return.

Nuts, Casey.

On-line story, “Windward Rock”

My western short story, “Windward Rock,” can be found in two parts at the on-line magazine, Frontier Tales.  The editor, Duke Pennell, is working to revive the genre, and I hope that he succeeds.  The world needs more good fiction, and writers need more publishers.

http://www.frontiertales.com/archives/2009/issue3/windward_rock_1.php

http://www.frontiertales.com/archives/2010/issue4/windward_rock_2.php