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Taking control of your career: What does Oz mean to you and how will you get there?

canstockphoto7016843Right now is the best time to be an author. However, it is also a very confusing and scary time for authors. Publishing has drastically changed as self-publishing has become a viable option for authors along with a variety of options in between traditional and pure self-publishing. The last three years we have seen incredible growth. Just this past January, Digital Book World did a survey that concluded that 1/3 of traditionally published authors wanted to try their hand at self-publishing. This is a huge shift in the last three years. The Hybrid Author, a term Bob coined back in 2011, is the face of the future. And the future of publishing is in developing partnerships.

It’s more important than ever that authors take control of their careers and their rights. The latest trend is agents as publishers.  Many hybrid authors are very happy with this arrangement. There are intrinsic questions that have to be addressed in this arrangement such as:

  1. Is there a conflict of interest?
  2. Can an agent be a publisher?
  3. Does the agent have the experience in e-publishing?
  4. Does the agent have the infrastructure in-house to produce eBooks, which are organic or are they farming it out to contractors, which is more of a static relationship.

canstockphoto8394890There are two basic philosophies with which we have built our business on: first, there are many roads to Oz and Oz means many things to different people, and second, writers create the product (which is story, not a book), readers consumer the product, and everyone in between must add value. Understanding these two concepts and incorporating them into your business plan as an author will give you the foundation to control your career going forward into the chaos of publishing.

Self-publishing is somewhat of an oxymoron. It is very difficult to do it truly alone. Ask those doing it. They’ve hire assistants, or gone into partnerships, or both. When we speak at conferences, someone always goes up to Bob and asks, “Where can I find my own version of Jen?” Perhaps the first book, maybe even the second can be self-published, but Content is KING and the number one priority for a writer is to write. Publishing for the Internet (whether it be in print or eBook) requires more than just slapping a nice book cover and uploading a file. Jen could go on for hours about formatting and HTML and how much she hates Word as a source file, but she’d put us all to sleep (Bob is currently rolling his eyes as he doesn’t care, he just wants to write). And then there is metadata, and that’s just not pricing and product description. There are keywords and figuring how the heck are people going to find your books because unless you are Nora Roberts, no one is googling your name. It’s great if you command the page when you Google your name, but it’s better if you command the page with a Keyword that people use in searches AND images of your books, author mug shot, etc. come up. This requires a little knowledge of SEO and also consumer behavior on the Internet. Jen is in her glory right now, but Bob is going to shut her down. You get the point.

At every conference we attend there is a sense of fear in the air. Fear from authors that they will make the ‘wrong’ decision. The only wrong decision is not to make one. Green Berets have been called the “Masters of Chaos”.  In the heat of battle, which is chaos, Special Forces are trained to excel.  Bob brought this training and experience into the digital world and applied with his mantra and program:  Who Dares Wins.  That’s a great motto for any writer these days.

Once you can clearly define what Oz means, then you figure out how to get there. Without a roadmap, you are likely to get lost.

This brings us to our second philosophy, writers produce the product, readers consume the product and everyone in the middle has to add value.

Agents have always played an important role in an author’s career. This role is changing and agents are adapting, making sure they add value to the author’s career, as the agent works for the author, not the other way around. In the past, it was nearly impossible to sell to anyone other than Harlequin without an agent. The agent’s job was to get you the best ‘deal’ possible. Writer’s relied on their agents to basically manage their careers and their publishers to promote their books. Once again, the Internet changed all this. More and more of the promotion is falling on the author. And now that digital publishing is possible, and the royalty rates compared to NY are so much higher, authors are finding themselves in quandary.

When it comes to working with an agent, you have to ask yourself, what value is this agent adding to my career? How are they helping me get to my definition of Oz? If you are a hybrid author, things like managing foreign rights come to mind, or helping authors get the right deal for their traditionally published books, making sure the author can still self-publish while also writing for another publisher.

Agents often focus more on the advance, and in the print industry, the advance is where the money is. But this is changing as advances diminish, print runs decrease, and physical shelf-space disappears. No one wants to see another bookstore go out of business, but as professional authors, we have to be prepared for changes.

When making the decision to go with a publisher, the same questions need to be asked. Print distribution is still something to consider. It’s just another way to reach readers and for as long as stores stock books, it’s a viable option. But, and this is the beauty of it, it’s not the only option.

Contracts are a big issue with publishers. Most are boilerplate, and most aren’t that great. They are slanted toward the publisher, and many publishers won’t negotiate. We want to be published, but is giving up all our rights the way to go? One of the great things about today’s environment is that authors have the ability, because this is still a metrics system, to negotiate depending on how their self-publishing books are doing.

If there is a direct line between the author (producer) and reader (consumer) then why do we need agents or publishers?  What value do they add to the process?  This is a question individual authors must answer for themselves.

In fact, this is the last key to leave you with:  when the music industry imploded from the onslaught of digital downloads, those who survived and prospered did so one of two ways:  they either went on tour (not likely for authors) or they controlled the rights to their music.  This is critical for authors.  We have already seen, and will see more of, the selling of author contracts between publishers.  And with each sale, the author’s royalty slice gets smaller and smaller.  The most critical career decision to consider right now is signing any form of contract and what that will mean three, four, five or more years down the line.  Balance the short-term gain against the long-term.

Because the only certainty in the future of publishing is that it will look very different three years from now.

What does Oz mean to you? How will you get there? Who will help you get there and how do they add value?

We’re Looking For A Few Good Writers

The publishing world is moving faster and faster as it becomes digital.  At Who Dares Wins Publishing, we’ve embraced the digital world, but also realized that the creative world isn’t moving as fast as the technology allows and readers are starting to demand product quicker than we can produce it.  Since we already exceeded our year-end 2011 goals by June, we’ve redone our business plan and are ready to take the next step.

In traditional publishing, you were considered odd if you published more than one book every twelve months.  In fact, one of the reasons I wrote under four different pen names was I was writing faster than my publishers could handle.  The due dates in my contracts were always spaced a year apart.

That’s all changed.  In the past year we’ve uploaded 20 years worth of my backlist along with several new titles.  The result has been fantastic, with sales of over 100,000 eBooks a month.  I’m currently going through the last book in the nine book Area 51 series: Legend and  the 8th, Area 51 Nosferatu is uploading on all platforms.  I’ve still got to go through the second book in the Psychic Warrior series, the first of which has just been uploaded exclusive to Nook and our web site.  (If you’ve seen Men Who Stare at Goats—yes, a program like that existed, I was affiliated with it, and it wasn’t that funny, but it was intriguing).

But here’s the problem.  I’ve got several different series that readers want new titles in.  There’s simply not enough time in the year for me to write all those books.  I’ve prioritized which ones I’ll be writing and I’ll still be working on the same schedule I did with traditional publishing:  no more than four titles a year, most likely only three.

Thus:  we’re looking for a few good writers to move some of these series forward with new books.

Let me lay this out clearly so you know our parameters, what’s expected, and have a realistic view of what will happen.

Parameters:  Writer Qualifications:

  • Have been published traditionally or have experienced substantial sales in self-publishing.
  • Have your own backlist you have self-published or want us to publish for you at the highest rates in the business or that your traditional publisher controls and is selling.
  • Have a social media presence and understand how to market and promote yourself, your books and any books in our series you write.
  • Be able to write action/science fiction/thrillers.
  • Be able to take story lines and characters that already exist (in some cases invent new characters and story lines using an existing back story) and move them forward.
  • Be willing to read all the existing books in a series.
  • Be willing to work with me on developing a story outline. (in many case we have ideas and in some cases story outlines already developed).
  • Be willing to write an outline and two sample chapters on spec before getting the final go-ahead and contract.
  • Write the story and be willing to work together on revisions.
  • For Black Ops/Cellar/Green Beret, practically all the books, be able to write the semi-paranoid mindset of the covert operative.
  • For the science fiction series, be able to write high-tech scifi.

Writer compensation:

  • Participation in established series written by a NY Times Bestselling author where the titles are still selling solidly.
  • 33% of gross royalties earned, paid out quarterly by the 15th of the following month.
  • Co-author cover credit.
  • I’ll be launching Readers Rule shortly, a cooperative of several bestselling eBook authors that will generate publicity.

The reality:  no money up front.  You’re working for the future.  I can’t guarantee income rates but as we decide on each series, I will tell you what the books are averaging in sales per month, so you can get an idea of what you might be earning.  The key to this is the long tail.  You’re doing the work up front, but as long as we push these series forward, and we get more titles up, your income will continue to grow.  So, if you’re looking for money now, this isn’t the deal for you.  We’re also looking for books to be around 50,000 to 60,000 words so we’re not looking for the usual 80-100k novels.  They will be priced between $2.99 and $3.99 on all platforms (earning 70% royalty rate and 100% from our web site).  Other than the writing and revising we take care of everything else, from editing, covers, formatting, etc. although we would expect you to assist in marketing via social media since your name will be on it.  Besides earning money on the long tail, this could assist sales of your own titles.

Here are the series we’re looking to co-author:

  • Chasing series.  (Chasing the Ghost.  Horace Chase as the protagonist).  We have a concept for the next book and partial outline already:  Chasing The Dead.
  • The Cellar seriesBodyguard of Lies and Lost Girls.  We have a concept for the next book about the Cellar, the organization that polices the world of covert operations.
  • The Green Beret series:  We’re looking to launch a brand new Green Beret series set in the current day, so in this case characters and plot are wide open, as long as a Special Forces A-Team is at the center of the story. If you’ve watched The Unit, you have an idea what we’re looking for.
  • The Black Ops series:  Taking characters from The Gate, particularly, Lake, we want to extend the series about a counter-terror operative working inside of the United States.  Several story ideas have already been generated along with outlines.
  • Psychic Warrior:  The first book has just been published for the first time in eBook.  Psychic Warrior Project Aura will be out later this year.  We want to extend this series about Special Forces soldiers operating on the virtual plane via avatars than can come into the real world.
  • Archangel:  A concept only, but it would tie to our Area 51, Atlantis, and new Nightstalker series.  High tech scifi with a literary base.
  • Area 51 and Atlantis series.  These are our real money-makers, but the reality is I ‘closed out’ both series in their overall arc.  However, if you’ve read the series and have ideas for spinoffs, we’re open to that. Area 51 has the possibility of moving forward as Earth helps other Airlia seeded planets, and Atlantis also has the same possibility as our timeline saves other timelines.

Additionally, we’re looking for one or two authors who have extensive backlist who want to make the plunge into self-publishing but don’t want to do all the heavy lifting themselves and want to be part of our team.  We offer the highest royalty rates off gross in the business, do all the work, charge no fees, and also do direct sales from our automated web site.  Our experience in e-publishing is extensive.

If you are interested, send us an email:  admin@WhoDaresWinsPublishing.com or visit our submission page and attach all necessary information.

Please give links to your backlist as published, or if it isn’t back in print, or held by a traditional publishing houses, links to your titles.  Your background for the series you think you could write and any other pertinent information.

Thanks and Write It Forward.

The Business and Standing Operating Procedures of being this Author

I’ve always said there are no rules in writing.  I still believe that.  But I do believe an author needs their own set rules.  I call them Standing Operating Procedures.  We were big on those in Special Forces.  They kept us from doing stupid things, helped us not reinvent the wheel constantly, and allowed us to act quickly and decisively when needed.  In essence they could save your life.

However.  You just knew there was a however, didn’t you, my SOPs are not going to be your SOPs.  Because you’re not me.   You don’t have my strengths or my weaknesses.  In Warrior Writer, I teach that every writer must honestly assess themselves before they do anything else.  In the same way when I do leadership consulting, I teach that a leader must understand their own personality and style before concerning themselves with those they lead.

Over the past couple of years I’ve forced myself to write down my SOPs and constantly update them.  I have them printed out and under a piece of laminate right next to my keyboard.  Here are some (I’ll expound on a few to explain):

Less is better.  I tend to want to put too much stuff in too small a place.  I tend toward info-dump in my writing as well as my teaching.  Yes, it’s neat that West Point was the first college to use class rings, but do we really need it in the middle of the narrative?  Argh.  Cut it.

Focus on details.  I’m very bad with details.  I can see big picture, but have to really force myself to look at things closely and pay attention.  And, when necessary, get help.  When Jennifer Crusie and I wrote together she was very good with details but I had to have an Excel spreadsheet with every single scene on it next to the keyboard to keep me on track.

Don’t be a smart-ass in social media.  This is a hard one, because sometimes it’s as if people put something out there like they’re asking for you to go for it.  I used to get in “Twitter wars” with some agents and that was just stupid.  I still let myself get sucked in once in a while, the most recent about a month ago reference on-line reviews, so I’ve added an addendum to this one—never discuss on-line reviews in any way.  It’s a lose-lose proposition.

Think before you respond.  This goes with the next one.

SLOW down.  My wife swears I have ADD.  What was that again?  Oh yeah.  ADD.  This goes with the ‘bad with details’ things.  It’s about focus.  I have to force myself to slow down and do one thing at a time.

Be consistent.  This was the hardest thing to assimilate in indie publishing and marketing.  You have no idea if what you’re doing is having any effect.  But you have to keep doing it.  It took a while, but in the last couple of months sales have exploded for Who Dares Wins Publishing.  It’s interesting, because I’m doing the same promoting for my backlist and for my traditionally published frontlist, but sales in one week on my backlist equal six months worth of sales from the traditional publisher in ebooks.

Be on time.  Working under contract for yourself is hard.  But I’m kind of a stickler for punctuality.  At West Point, as plebes, we had to call minutes.  Which meant standing in front of a clock in the barracks hallway and start at the “10 minute bell” and work down to the “2 minute bell”.  I can still remember:  “Sir, there are ten minutes until assembly for lunch formation.  The uniform is ‘as for class’.  For lunch we are having blah blah blah and Martha Washington sheet cake!  Ten minutes, sir.”  Seriously.  Good cake.  And, of course, some upperclassman would be screaming at you and demanding some piece of plebe poop, which sounds bad when you put it like that, but it’s knowledge we had to have memorized.  Like “In 55 of the 60 major battles of the Civil War, West Pointers commanded both sides.”  Which is the basis of my latest release, Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War.

Hmm.  What was my point?  Focus.  Okay.  Yes.  Be on time.  Oh, and don’t info-dump, which I just did, I think.

Since I don’t have a contract with a publisher other than with myself, I schedule publication dates.  Then work back from that:  when mss has to be to Jen Talty for formatting, to copy editor, to story editor, to beta readers, then that gives me my ‘due date’.  In Special Forces when we had a covert meeting, we’d have a time (and yes, we synched watches) and you had two minutes before and two minutes after.  A four minute window.  Miss it and the meet is off.  In traditional publishing I was always very conscious of due dates and always met or beat them and I find authors who treat a contract deadline like it’s more a guideline rather unprofessional.  I expect the same of myself in indie publishing.  That’s why Jefferson Allegiance is being pubbed on the 4th of July.  I have a target date.  And will meet it.

Be professional.  This is my livelihood.  I treat it as such.  I’ve had to look back at things I did in the past and realize they were unprofessional and make rules to prevent them from happening again.  They key is honesty with one’s self.

So what are your SOPs?  What rules do you have as a writer?

Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War Published!

Today is the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War.  In honor of that, we’re publishing Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War, the first, epic book in my new series of novels featuring West Point graduates.  This first book goes from 1840 at West Point to the pivotal first night of the Battle of Shiloh.  That’s covering a lot of ground and the book displays that, clocking in at 175,000 words, and then, in the ebook version, you get the first 18,000 words of The Jefferson Allegiance, which we’ll be publishing on the 4th of July this year, a modern thriller based on history and the first book in my Presidential series of thrillers.

As part of the book launch, I’m also guest posting at The Newbies Guide To Publishing, J.A. Konrath’s blog.  There, I’m discussing some of the reasons why I went Indie with this book.

I’m not going to describe the book much more, since you can go to the book description (and buy the book!) on our web page or Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iBookstore, etc.

The print version is coming in big also in trade paperback. At the largest trade paperback sizing, it’s still 586 pages long, which is why we priced it at $16.99, with free shipping.  You can pre-order it now, and we’ll ship a signed copy as soon as it’s available, in about two weeks.  The ebook is priced at $4.99, which is more than our usual fiction, but we feel you’re getting a lot of bang for your money, and it’s still less than a paperback would cost.

I’m very excited about these two new series. They complement each other in that the West Point series is historical fiction, while the Presidential series is a modern thriller, but each one will harken back to a secret from a President.  The first book, of course, uses Thomas Jefferson.  The second book will feature a secret from the days of John F. Kennedy.

I’d like to thank all you readers for your support. This is a new era of publishing where the product comes pretty much straight from the one who makes it, the author, to the consumer, you the reader (with editing & formatting in between, of course).  So far, you’ve put a half dozen of my books on the Amazon top 100 lists in their genres, particularly Atlantis and Chasing The Ghost.  We expect to see Duty, Honor, Country hit near the top of the historical fiction charts today and stay there.

I will also be blogging every single day about the book at its Civil War blog site.

Once more, thank you!

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