Jonathan Gunson and the e-publishing revolution

More and more we’re hearing about the anecdotal cases of the independent author who has phenomenal success self-publishing a book through e-publishing, or the mixed-media author whose book soars because of e-publishing.

Jonathan Gunson, author  with one of those success stories, The Merlin Mystery, has published an interesting how-to e-book (free! 🙂 ).  The Best Seller Labs Guide For Authors describes what he did, discusses his observations and conclusions of the e-publishing revolution, and provides several chapters of sound-sounding advice on how to do it.

Through it all, Gunson pushes platform building: create an audience of a few ten thousand followers before you publish. Turn yourself into someone people want to read, create the brand.

Much of it is quite intimidating, especially to a naive optimist like me. But Gunson’s approach stresses one-step-at-a-time. “Avoiding the ‘overwhelm’ factor is crucial,” he warns. No kidding, Jon. We get overwhelmed easy. We are, after all, writers, not marketers at heart.

Here are a few of Gunson’s ideas:

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Manuscripts are alive: never stop revising them

I know that when an agent says she wants the manuscript in near-pefect condition before she is queried she is saying she wants it complete and clean. But she’s not really expecting it to be finished.

I can’t imagine ever stopping the revision process of mine. It’s ongoing, like raising a kid.

I recently sent an agent the first chapter, on her request. Then minutes after punching the send button I promptly read through and rewrote that first chapter on my laptop.

I now have manuscripts out to a bunch of beta readers and none has responded yet. Meanwhile, I’ve done some significant revisions here and there behind their backs.

It’s not that the work wasn’t complete and clean. It’s that I keep changing every day and so does a living, breathing document like a novel manuscript. I’ve not done any research on this and I’ll not bother. I’ve been a professional writer for 30 years — albeit as a newspaper reporter — and I am supremely confident that no work of writing is ever truly finished until it is published.

In a way, publishing something kills it — that’s the day the work stops changing.

What to read into rejection letters: nothing except no

I can’t decide which I like better, the rejection letters from agents that sound sincere, personal and encouraging or those that sound like they were computer generated.

Every agent has her own style, and they definately run the spectrum, at least based on those I’ve received. In the end it doesn’t matter. No is no. I’m reminded of the lyrics of the song “She Loves to Be In Love” by that ’70s rock band Charlie:

The postman came today

Another letter from the USA

That makes it four this week

Just put that with

The rest of the heap.

This is a business, so I tend to receive the letters (actually e-mail in most cases) with the same dispassion.

Of course, it doesn’t start that way, does it?

We peruse, we read up, we look around. We find the agent we love. It’s got to be her. Yes! She’s going to love this! We massage that query until it is exactly for her, and we send it with our love.

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The Creative Penn and free advice on how to pursue an author’s career

Stumble around on the Internet enough and sooner or later you’ll stumble into Joanna Penn, her blog The Creative Penn and maybe her free ebook, Author 2.0 Your Blueprint for Writing, Publishing and Marketing Your Book.

I did, and I’m glad. It also leaves me wondering how many other Joanna Penns and Author 2.0 Blueprints are out there. Penn links to a number of other blogs and books, though I haven’t followed any of them yet.

So far, it’s the best overall advice resource I’ve found on-line for unpublished authors. Sure, it’s got a lot of commercial qualities to it — she knows she can make money with this sort of advice, and does — but Penn gives enough good stuff away free to be worth the trip.

You might recall from earlier posts that I’m cheap, so I really dig free.

Penn is an indie writer who has three thrillers, and a number of books about  writing, getting published and pursuing dream careers. Did I mention she’s also a consultant and speaker who came from the business world and apparently is very good at marketing and advice? Handy combination of skills for this sort of thing.

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Beta Readers may be easier to find than I thought

I put out a social media call last night for Beta Readers for my The Murder Plague manuscript and was quickly met by seven excellent volunteers shouting “Me! Me! Me!”

There may be no authors or fiction editors in this mix, but there are some who are close. Several current or former newspaper writers and editors, and some English lit majors. At least three who’ve got a history of being so bluntly honest with me to really piss me off. At least three who are such voracious readers that they humble me. Some clearly are in my target audience.

I shipped Beta drafts to all of them. Now I have to bunker down and prepare myself for the incoming fusillade. Because it’s coming.

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Beta readers: Who are you? Where are you?

I have a confession to make. All of you agents to whom I’ve already sent queries, please turn the other way for a moment. I’ll tell you when you can begin reading again.

I haven’t beta-tested my manuscripts yet. It flat-out didn’t occur to me. I’m naive, remember? And I’m not really sure how to find good beta readers, or whom they should be. Or what to ask of them. I somehow overlooked all the cautions from many agents that they want the manuscript beta tested before the query arrives. I’ve had a couple of family members alpha test it — that is, read a chapter here or there while I was actually writing, and give me feedback.

But no one’s gotten the whole manuscript with the instructions, read it, tell me what you think, be brutally honest, please. It seems to me that’s a lot to ask of someone, and I just didn’t bother.

OK agents with my queries in hand, you may resume reading again here. Thanks.

There’s a lot of advice out there on finding good beta readers, and what they are, but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus.

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Why exactly are we Tweeting? These people aren’t really reading tweets, are they?

My Twitter account got hacked last night and it took me until the morning to get it back under my control, but in the meantime it seems the worst the perps did was use my name to send a lot of spam tweets to my “friends.”

I’d feel a lot worse about this if I actually knew many of them.

I did hear from a couple of them. One is an old friend, one of the few actual friends following that account. Thanks very much Linda, for alerting me to the problem. The other was very sweet but it was a woman I don’t know. Like the vast majority of of my twitter follows, I don’t know anything abot her beyond her 160-character bio, what she shares, that I ever catch, in her 140-character tweets, and what she might link to, if I ever bother to follow those links.

She was paying attention, and more, she was concerned enough to send me, a stranger to her, a heads-up. But I doubt the vast majority of tweeters I’m following on that account ever bother to read incoming tweets.

Here’s something I discovered in the past week or so after re-activating this account and seeking to use it to network with other writers, agents, editors, reviewers, publishers and anyone else involved in words: Most of the people I’ve linked up with have thousands, tens of thousands, even more than 100,000 followers. And they try to follow that many.

On my professional account I’ve got about 800 followers, and I follow about 700, and I cannot keep up with what everyone is tweeting. On my writing account, the one that got hacked, I’m following about 450 so far, and have about 160 followers, and it’s beginning to get tough to keep up. I have no idea where anyone gets time to keep up with 50,000 followers. You could random sample incoming tweets, but that’s about it.

“They don’t read incoming tweets,” a colleague, another writer, suggested to me today. “It’s a one-way affair. They follow to be followed. They seek to be followed so that they can have an audience to whom they can tweet.”

But what if no one in that audience ever bothers to read their incoming tweets because they’re all following 50,000? Is it a sham? It is a new form of vanity press? Publish to write, not to be read?

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