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Evolved Publishing’s Wednesday Double Feature – June 5, 2013

Grab some popcorn, pull up a chair, and enjoy Hot Sinatra and Poppy the Proud.

FOR THE ADULTS

Hot Sinatra by Axel Howerton is getting some rave reviews, as well it should. It features a lead character in Moss Cole that is someone we can both root for and worry about. Surrounding Moss is a unique and often hilarious, rag-tag group of characters who help bring this quirky, noir detective story to life. Whether you’re a fan of the old Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett novels, or the slightly newer Mickey Spillane or Robert B. Parker novels, you’re sure to love Hot Sinatra.

DESCRIPTION
Moss Cole is a private detective, the kind you thought only existed in old movies and afternoon reruns. He’s smart, talented, sometimes even charming. You’d think he could find a better gig than carrying on his grandfather’s legacy as a ‘Private Dick.’

Cole is out of money, out of ideas, and out of his league. That’s why he’s stuck looking for a stolen Sinatra record… a record that may be just a figment of an old man’s imagination.

Of course, if that were true, Moss wouldn’t have so many people busting down his door.

A vivacious redhead, a foul-mouthed Irish rock star, and a whip-smart little girl only complicate the job, when all Cole wants is a good cup of coffee and some Hot Sinatra.

If only he can stay alive—and in one piece—long enough to find it.

You can get your copy of Hot Sinatra at these fine retailers: Amazon US, Apple iTunes-Books, Barnes and Noble, BookieJar, Diesel, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Amazon CA, Amazon UK
 
 
FOR THE KIDS (AND THEIR PARENTS, OF COURSE)

Poppy the Proud by Emlyn Chand has been a favorite among parents, when speaking of books from the Bird Brain Books series. It’s a new twist on an old, but always important, lesson: we mustn’t judge others solely on the basis of what we see on the outside. What lies inside each of us is the truly important thing, a lesson every child must learn. Poppy the Proud gives kids as young as 3 and as old as 8 that opportunity in a fun and visually appealing way, featuring wonderful color images by artist Sarah Shaw.

DESCRIPTION
Poppy is the prettiest peacock in the entire garden, but one day his privileged existence is upset when an all-white peacock is born and promptly named the most beautiful by a smitten flock. Intensely jealous, Poppy no longer knows where he fits in and decides to reclaim his title as the fairest bird in all the land, no matter what it takes.

In a desperate attempt to regain the admiration of his peers, Poppy steals items from the humans that visit his park. He wraps himself in a beautiful silk scarf, wears a series of ornate bangles around his neck, and even tries to dye his feathers with colored dust from a festive Holi celebration. Unfortunately, each of these attempts not only fails to improve his appearance, they actually make it worse. What’s a poor bird to do?

In this compelling tale of self-esteem, pride, and learning what makes each of us special, Poppy the peacock discovers that true beauty lies beneath the feathers.

You can get your copy of Poppy the Proud at these fine retailers: Amazon US, Apple iTunes-Books, Barnes and Noble, BookieJar, Diesel, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Amazon CA, Amazon UK

We hope you and yours enjoy this week’s double feature, and we thank you.

Blogger Susan Finlay Interviews Lane Diamond, Co-Founder of Evolved Publishing

Our Managing Publisher/Editor, and author of the psychological thriller Forgive Me, Alex, sits down for an interview.

Susan Finlay, blogger and author, interviews Lane Diamond at her blog today. They talk about several subjects – publishing, editing, writing – so be sure to stop by and check it out.

And don’t forget to leave a comment while you’re there.

Just click this link: Susan Finlay Writes.

Author Robb Grindstaff Speaks of the Power of First and Last Lines

A Guest Post by Robb Grindstaff, Author of Hannah’s Voice and the Upcoming Carry Me Away

“You can’t really succeed with a novel anyway; they’re too big. It’s like city planning. You can’t plan a perfect city because there’s too much going on that you can’t take into account. You can, however, write a perfect sentence now and then. I have.” — Gore Vidal

I don’t know that I’ve ever written a perfect sentence, but I try. I’m one of those writers who fusses over every word, every punctuation mark, every phrase, every sentence. Some writers can spew words onto the page (or laptop) and the story falls into place with a light edit. I’m more the type who thinks about it for a bit, writes a sentence, and perhaps another, perhaps even a fragment of a scene, then I read and re-read what I’ve written. Is it expressing what I want to say? Am I saying it the right way? Will this particular set of words, in this precise order, capture the moment or action or thought or emotion that is in my imagination and accurately convey it to the readers exactly the way I want them to experience it? Probably not, so I edit, revise, delete, rewrite, and read it over and over. 

Then I move on to the next moment in the story. Well, it’s not always quite that painstaking on the first draft. I’ll get caught up in the story and write a chapter or two or three in a single stretch. But soon, I’ll start reading what I’ve written and trying to fine tune each and every word, every comma, every sentence until it’s as good as I can make it and says exactly what I want it to say.

“This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again.” — Oscar Wilde

This, I’m sure, drives my editors nuts when they suggest changes, like wanting to change one word or one comma that I’d spent forty-five minutes on and changed twenty times until I thought it was perfect.

“Every word you add dilutes the sentence.” – Miller Williams

I’m the type of writer who polishes a sentence by taking words away rather than adding them. This, I’m sure, drives my editing clients nuts. I’ve had clients send me a 100,000-word manuscript, and I sent them back an 80,000-word novel without deleting a single scene.

Because this is the writer curse which afflicts me, what really stands out to me are great and perfect sentences. The best novels are those with a perfect first sentence and a perfect last sentence, assuming all the sentences between are at least pretty good.

Here are a few of my favorite ‘perfect’ first and last lines of great novels.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

First line: You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter.

Last line: But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.

Notice how Twain establishes the first-person narrator/character and the voice in that opening sentence. Today, we tend to frown on the character speaking directly to the reader, or characters referring to previous novels in which they’ve appeared, but here it works. In the hands of a master, anything can work.

The last line fully resolves the story, looks ahead to the future, and creates the impression in the reader’s mind that this story and character continues on. The character’s voice has never wavered, consistent from the first sentence to the last.

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

First line: If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Last line: Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.

Here’s another first-person story that opens with the character talking to ‘you,’ the reader. I don’t recommend this, but it works here. Again, the voice and the character are immediately established in one sentence, and the character is letting the reader in on a secret. I love how he says “I don’t feel like going into it,” and then proceeds to tell the entire story, although he never does go into all that background, the perfect set-up for the unreliable narrator. He ends with ‘Don’t ever tell anybody anything’ right after telling us everything. It comes full circle to complete resolution.

Let’s move to a third-person voice:

The Trial, Franz Kafka

First line: Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.

Last Line:  “Like a dog!” he said; it was as if the shame of it must outlive him.

Here’s an opening sentence that is simple, direct, and matter-of-fact. Someone must have done something because this happened. Yet it immediately creates intrigue and mystery, and it sets the tone for the entire story. We never know who caused Josef K. to be arrested. We never know why he was arrested, or on what charges. At the end, Josef still doesn’t know, but is ashamed of having been arrested.

For a novel that starts at the end:

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

First line: Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

Last line: Races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.

This is a great example of the one-sentence prologue that gives away the end of the story, then drops back to the beginning to lead us through the journey to find out how the Colonel ended up in front of the firing squad. Notice that the title of the book is contained in that last sentence, which sums up the overall story.

Here are the opening and closing lines of two great novels by two of the greatest writers of all time. Years ago, I would read a novel by Hemingway, then a novel by Fitzgerald, then another by Hemingway, alternating between the two until I’d read them all (more than once, in most cases). Their styles couldn’t be more different.

The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

First line: He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

Last line: The old man was dreaming about the lions.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

First line: In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

Last line: So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Hemingway was a word economist. He could say so much with so few words in a sentence constructed in the simplest manner. He’s credited with the shortest short story: 

FOR SALE: Baby shoes. Never used.

Fitzgerald, on the other hand, was the master of the more fluid, beautiful sentences, lengthy at times, with multiple clauses, sentences that would start you at one point and lead you through the moment, then turn completely around and end up in a different place than where you began, different from where you expected.

For one of my personal favorites:

The World According to Garp, John Irving

First Line: Garp’s mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston in 1942 for wounding a man in a movie theater.

Last Line: But in the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.

The first sentence reminds me a bit of the opening of Kafka’s The Trial—a straightforward statement of the inciting incident that sets the entire story into motion, and at the same time introduces the character and gives us some insight into that character. Not much—it’s only one sentence. But enough of a peek at the character to make us want to read the next sentence. The only thing any great sentence can do is make you want to read the next sentence. It also ends with the title of the story in the last sentence, like One Hundred Years of Solitude.

I don’t compare anything I’ve written to any of these masterful works of literature, but I’ll include a couple of mine anyway, just because.

Hannah’s Voice:

First line: “Pancakes.” With that one word, I broke my silence of a dozen years.

Last line: “I only wish I could hear my Hannah’s voice.”

Carry Me Away:

First line: Finally, they painted these walls a different color.

Last line: Finally, I’m leaving footprints.

Yes, the repetition of ‘finally’ was intentional. In both of these novels, I’d written the last sentence long before I finished writing the novel. In Hannah’s Voice, in fact, the last sentence was the first sentence I wrote, and I never changed it.

So pick up your favorite novel or short story and read the first and last sentences. Or, if you’re a writer, pick up your own novel or short story or manuscript. Does that first sentence pull you in and make you want to read the second? Does the last sentence provide complete closure and resolution, even if it ends in an obvious cliffhanger that leads to a sequel?

If so, fantastic. Now, just check to see that there are a few thousand excellent sentences between those two.

The State of the Book Publishing Business and How Evolved Publishing Fits – Updated March 2014

A Little about Where Evolved Publishing Fits into the Grand Industry Scheme — by Lane Diamond, Managing Publisher/Editor

As a publisher, we recognize that we have two distinct audiences out there: those who would be a part of this industry, and those who just want good books to enjoy. This article will speak primarily to the former, though certainly everything we do affects the latter. Given the tendency of this industry to change every 15 minutes, I will occasionally pop back to this piece to update it, making it a kind of constant guide. If it seems like the right time to engage in such discussions, I’ll be back.

Fair Warning: You might want take that BRB and freshen-up that cup of coffee before you continue. We have much to talk about.

Who is Evolved Publishing?

We think of ourselves as a small press. No, we don’t pre-print and inventory books, choosing instead to use the fine print-on-demand (POD) services provided by Lightning Source, a division of Ingram. According to some others, we would best be considered a “Partnership Publisher,” though not all Partnership Publishers are created equal. For example, we focus heavily on bringing to bear the power of the full team in our day-to-day operations; we maintain open and constantly accessible lines of communication with our team; and we engage our readers and fans on a daily basis.

Sadly, there are those in the industry – members of the old guard – who look upon our model and say, “Hey, you’re not really a publisher.” Why? Because we have the audacity to try something new, something more suited to the new market paradigm. Because we’re crazy enough to think that a model in which publishers print and inventory books, then distribute them, then get a high percentage of them returned for credit and/or disposal, is just plain nuts. Most retailers, schools and libraries, in most countries of the world, have access to our books through their distributor.

Furthermore, we have extremely tight editorial guidelines (just ask any of our authors), which I would put up against anyone in the business – and yes, I do mean anyone. We produce top-rate covers (just look at the bottom of THIS PAGE), our children’s picture books are beautifully illustrated and well-written, we’re producing audio books, and we’re translating our books into foreign languages (French, Italian, Spanish, and more to come) and pursuing opportunities in those markets. Those last two categories will expand significantly as 2014 and 2015 progress. And of course, we continue to grow the team, bringing on new authors, editors, artists/illustrators, translators, and we continue to partner with new audio book producers/narrators.

Okay, I admit that I get a little sensitive when someone – always one of the old dinosaurs – says we’re not a real publisher. They’re behind the times, and I have faith that they’ll catch up eventually. This industry tends to move at about the pace of a snail that’s been trapped in a glacier, so… someday.

For authors, we offer one of the most unobtrusive contracts in the industry, in which authors regain full rights to their work after just 7 years (this assumes they choose not to extend with us, which is their option, and which we try to make attractive and as much of a no-brainer as we can); and we pay royalties higher than most, if not all, in the industry (typically 69-77% of gross royalties paid by retailers). Why? Because it’s the author’s work, not ours. I know: crazy concept.

Furthermore, while we do not require authors to pay a single penny to publish with us (I feel as though I should repeat that over and over and over), we give them several options – more than they’re likely to find elsewhere. If they believe it’s in their best interest to pay a small up-front fee for some services (E.g. editing or artwork), in order to raise their royalty rate to levels as high as 81%, we make such options available to them. In short, we let the author decide what works best for their career goals, wherever we can.

Frankly, we prefer authors keep whatever money they have to invest in their business – and make no mistake, this is a business for them – to utilize it for such things as a professional website, personal brand marketing, contests/review sites, fan swag, book signings, etc. In this way, sales are maximized more quickly, and everyone on the project team benefits during the 7-year contract term.

We focus most of our energies on eBooks for one simple reason: we believe that’s where the greatest financial potential exists for us. Print books are dying a slow death, as the “Star Trek-ification” of America, and the world, is well underway – there’s simply no turning back technology. Nonetheless, so long as there’s a demand for print books, we’ll continue to produce high quality POD books, as paperbacks and/or hardcovers, which are available worldwide through Ingram and through Baker & Taylor. Of course, we’re also producing those audio books and foreign translations I mentioned earlier.

More information is available about us through various pages in our ABOUT menu at the top of the page, and throughout this website, which seems to expand weekly. We try to be an open book (no pun intended) about who we are and what we do, providing as much detail about what we do as we possibly can. We have nothing to hide. Indeed, we’re rather proud of the business model we’ve built here. So please… browse around.

Why Evolved Publishing instead of Self-Publishing?

Now I’d like to revisit a subject I’ve talked about in some length in the past: Evolved Publishing versus the Self-Publishing option. It’s possible some of you have already seen portions of what follows, although I’ve updated it to reflect changes over the last year, when last I spoke of it.

In all candor, we think of our primary competition as the self-publishing option, and we’ve modeled our business in such a way that we can compete fairly and attractively with that option, in order to attract the most talented authors. We have always recognized that we’d ultimately achieve success based on the quality of our team, and on the quality of the work that team produces. We’ve focused on building that quality catalog as quickly as possible, all the while remaining mindful that we must not compromise on quality… ever.

CrystalBallMore than that, however, we gaze constantly into that crystal ball, opaque though it may be, to get a sense of where things are going, and to position ourselves out in front of the next wave. We try (the entire team) to keep our finger on the industry pulse, to identify new challenges and opportunities, and to determine the best way to adjust to the constant evolution of our industry.

Yep, we chose our name for a reason. The industry has evolved significantly over the past few years, but while the breakneck pace of that evolution may have cooled a bit, the changes continue to come at a fair pace. We believe that a perpetually evolving industry requires an open mind and a willingness to adjust rapidly. Publishers who fail to do so will suffer greatly, as will all who are affiliated with those publishers. This includes self-publishers.

Self-publishing enjoyed a boost in credibility after the eBook revolution made it easier, even financially attractive, to self-publish rather than pursue traditional methods. Some reputable authors chose the self-pub route with fair success, and soon everyone followed suit. No… really… I mean everyone. Based on the 8.2 trillion blogs to which I subscribe, the comments left there, the social media buzz, and the latest gossip from my neighbor’s poodle (he’s having a hard time selling his book), there are now approximately 4.3 billion self-published authors. Okay, maybe it only seems that way.

DavidGoliathThis David versus Goliath picture does not, as you might expect, represent us (small press publisher) versus them (the so-called Big 5 [used to be 6]). In fact, I intended it to represent them (self-pubbers) versus them (self-pubbers). Yep, individually, a self-pubber is the underdog, David. Collectively, they are the brute, Goliath.

As tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of self-pubbers flood the book markets with a tsunami of new material, authors and readers alike are shaking their heads and wondering, “What the devil is going on here?”

I’ll confess to something of a love/hate relationship with self-pubbers. I love their entrepreneurial spirit (for those who actually treat it like a business, which it is), their willingness to say, “Go spit!” to the train wreck that is traditional publishing (Hey, this is just me editorializing.), their daring attempt to walk the tightrope from which 99% plummet to their deaths. Yet I hate that such a high percentage of self-pubbers give short shrift to their profession, and publish substandard work.

I particularly love the self-pubbers who do it right: professional editing, professional covers, professional websites, professional self-promotion and marketing. Are you noticing a theme here? Unfortunately, even the professionals, given their self-publishing label, must suffer under the reputation driven mainly by the non-professionals. The early pioneers, and the traditional mid-listers who made the jump, have been able to defeat that reputation to some extent. The John Q. Nobodys lost in the sea of fellow John Q. Nobodys, however, have had less than stellar luck at combating the label.

Indeed, one of the reasons we formed Evolved Publishing in the first place, with an unwavering insistence that Quality is Priority #1, was that we didn’t want to be lumped in with people taking shortcuts. Let’s face it: a significant percentage of self-pubbers take shortcuts, and the people they probably hurt the most – aside from themselves, of course – are the self-pubbers doing it the right way: professionally.

Well, technically savvy book consumers have been figuring all this out, and their frustration has grown. Yet what is an indie author to do?

Don’t Rely on Fads

Well, we’ve learned a bunch in the past two and half years, not the least of which is that last quarter’s brilliant idea is this quarter’s old news – and next quarter’s Dodo Bird.

It has always struck me as ironic that in an industry driven by highly creative individuals, the business aspect of the industry is one giant exercise in, “Hey, let’s do what that guy did.” Someone finds something that works, and then tens of thousands – nay, hundreds of thousands – of people rush in to do the exact same thing.

We saw it with social media: Want to be a successful author? No worries. Just build a strong social platform and you’ll sell thousands of books.

We saw it with $0.99 pricing: Want to establish yourself as a mover and shaker in this marketplace? No worries. Just price your books at $0.99 and watch your career soar.

We saw it with Amazon’s KDP Select Free Days: Want to develop momentum for your book, and then sell thousands of copies afterward? No worries. Just put your book up for free for a day or two or five, and then watch your paid sales go through the roof. This fad started fading just four months in.

Indeed, we’re now seeing that today’s big idea fizzles within a few months, overwhelmed by the rush of untold thousands of people chasing the same pot of gold, only to find that when they finally close in on the end of that rainbow, the sun has set. Today’s ingenious marketing idea becomes little more than a fad. And fast.

Stick to the Basics, and Be the Best

Some things become increasingly clear every day:

  1. Quality Catalog: that simple concept drives the train. Without it, indie authors are sunk.
  2. Fads come and go, offering only short-term opportunities, but business fundamentals are forever.
  3. No one strikes it big with one book. Few do it with two or even three books. It’s a long road. This business we call writing is a slow grind – always has been – and it requires hard work, determination, and more than a little perseverance.
  4. Quality Matters: this should be first, second and third on everyone’s list. Staying power requires an absolute commitment to quality.

We all got caught-up in the excitement of the eBook revolution. We saw numbers by the early pioneers and thought, “Man, I want a piece of that!” Now, that excitement has dwindled considerably, people are coming back to reality, and the marketplace is reasserting itself.

Are there sufficient consumers to support 10,000 or more new authors every single year? No. At least, not if we mean by “support” that authors earn a comfortable living as authors, or even a reasonable part-time income sufficient to the work that goes into it. Already, self-pubbers have seen their sales numbers dwindle, and many have complained that they’re losing money, falling back into the old “Vanity Publishing” mode. Even some of the “stars” have been struggling to keep sales moving.

Indeed, even long-established pros have suffered the effects, dragged down by the entire market dynamic. The difference for them, of course, is their reputation, ready-made audience, and a staying power self-pubbers don’t have. As more consumers run away from self-pubbers, those old pros will be the first to benefit.

What does it all mean, and how do we counter it?

Frankly, we counter it by doing what we do, and by grinding it out for the long haul. We counter it by becoming those old pros.

Surviving the Mad Rush

The eBook revolution encouraged a mad rush into the marketplace by newcomers – a rush that hasn’t slowed a bit. Hey, now it’s easy and cheap – really cheap for those willing to compromise on quality, meaning the majority. The result? Writers first dumped tens of thousands, now hundreds of thousands, of substandard books into the marketplace, competing for a far-too-finite number of customers, selling for $2.99, then $0.99, and ultimately free, all in a desperate attempt to be that which they always dreamed of becoming: an author.

Yet those who succeed as authors have always been few – the true professionals producing high quality work – and despite the initial excitement of the eBook revolution, this will be true again.

If we are to be successful authors, we must continue to separate ourselves by providing books that aspire to and reach high professional standards. We must continue to write, each producing at least one book per year (two is a better goal, if you plan to do this for a living). We must continue to hone our craft, to learn, to keep our finger on the pulse of the industry we hope will support us. We must be professionals.

Reasonable Expectations

Part of that mad rush, of course, was the expectation that we were all immediately going to start selling thousands of books, making a mint, living the good life as authors. Well, now that we’ve all been dealt a dose of reality, we have an opportunity to take a deep breath, re-examine what we’re doing, and plan for the next positive steps.

Authors who make (net) even $5,000 their first year as authors are rarer than you might like to believe; nonetheless, it’s true even in the traditional publishing industry.

Most authors kick into second gear starting in year two, and then build speed through year three and beyond. This assumes, of course, that said authors continue to produce good work. This is nothing new; it’s always been that way. The problem, if we may call it a problem, is that so many thought the eBook revolution would change that, and bring us our riches more quickly.

Not so. It remains a process.

That’s one of the toughest things for writers to settle on: to stop worrying about what book one is doing, and get about the business of writing book two. Then, stop worrying about what book two is doing, and get about the business of writing book three. And so on.

In this age of instant gratification, and where most of us are accustomed to punching a clock or working on a regular salary, knowing precisely what’s coming in the next paycheck, it’s a hard thing to say, “Never mind that. Just get back to work.”

Yet history tells us that until you get at least book three or four to market, with each of those a quality product, you’re probably not going to make a living as a writer. Even then, if you must fight to establish your reputation because of who’s publishing (or not publishing) your books, the odds are against you. It also tells us that when you hit that stride, achieving your “overnight” success, the whole of your catalog will rise at once. In other words, if book three or four is your magic bullet, books one and two will also sell better from that point on. The rising tide carries all boats.

So don’t obsess over the fact that you’re only selling a copy or two a day (or less) of your first book. Obsess over completing your second book, and then your third book, and so on. And those numbers will rise. It’s not magic. It’s just the business.

Investing in Your Profession

I tread into this section with a warning: it may sound a bit preachy. Please bear with me.

As authors, we are all businesspeople. There’s no escaping that fact, so we must embrace it. That doesn’t mean you need to invest many thousands of dollars to get your career rolling. Indeed, I have my doubts about the potential payback of huge investments, if they don’t get you to your ultimate goal of a quality catalog. No business survives for long that invests $2 in order to gross $1.

However, there are things we can all do that will make a difference in the end, and we should do some of those things sooner rather than later – a quality website, for example, with a blog that offers interesting, funny, poignant, or informative content (all of the above is a dream come true). Do you need a bunch of bells and whistles? Well, that would be nice, but so long as it’s functional, clean and professional, it’ll do. If you can do more, you should.

Learn your craft. This is a profession, like so many others, that requires a continuing education. The moment you stop growing as an author, you start dying as an author. I’ve been studying this crazy craft for 35 years, and every time I learn something new, I realize I have much more to learn. Read about writing – not only for the instruction, but for the motivation. I’ve read some 90 books on the subject, and untold thousands of articles, and any time I feel I’m slipping into a rut, I search for another piece to help pull me out of it. I love these books for the way they re-energize me and kick me in the keester. You might even consider hiring a writing coach, someone who works one-on-one with you in way you simply can’t duplicate in school.

My only advice here is that you choose your sources carefully. Just because someone has published a book (let’s face it; anyone can do that nowadays), doesn’t mean they’re an expert. Follow recommendations and trusted sources. Of the thousands of blogs out there, for example, many are valuable, many are confused, and many are just plain wrong. For books on writing, for example, you would do well to start at a place like Writer’s Digest Books. I could also make any number of recommendations, as I do in the lower right margin of my personal Home page at www.LaneDiamond.com. For a writing coach, get references and get a free sample of what the coach can do with your work.

Read your genre, of course, but reach beyond that. Stretch your wings and fly through some other genres. Don’t skip the classics. You’ll learn a lot.

There! That wasn’t too preachy, was it? I just wanted to emphasize here that part of being a professional businessperson is keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry, and being an expert in your field. Doctors do it. Lawyers do it. Accountants do it. Well… you’re an Author, so just do it.

The Long Road

The market has undergone some rather severe adjustments, and will continue to do so. Frankly, many self-published authors are feeling the terrible squeeze. How do I know? Well, lots of them are blogging and commenting about it, of course, but more than that, a high percentage of the submissions we now receive are from previously self-published authors. Even those who have produced good work – well edited, properly formatted, professional cover – are struggling to sell even a few copies a month consistently.

It’s not surprising to us, really; after all, we formed Evolved Publishing precisely because we dreaded going down that self-publishing road, fearing where it would lead. Building a brand for “you” is hard work, but might it be easier if you co-branded with a reputable publisher? We think so, which is why we work hard to build the Evolved Publishing name on behalf of our entire team.

We must all be realistic about the hard work, dedication, and patience required to succeed in this business. Historically, precious few authors – even those published traditionally – succeed over the long haul. It’s far, far more daunting for self-publishers, where for every success story there are a hundred, or two hundred, or a thousand failures.

Even in the face of that, and although it’s impossible to provide guarantees in this business, I remain guardedly optimistic. The marketplace is still trying to sort itself out, suffering the shock of that tsunami of new authors and books. I believe that it will eventually find some semblance of equilibrium, and when that happens, authors who’ve developed a strong reputation for quality work, and who’ve built their catalog nicely, will be poised to prosper where others fail.

More self-publishers will be dying off as they fail to make any money, and decide that being a vanity publisher isn’t worth the time, energy, money, or heartbreak. I say that not with glee, for I wish sad tidings for no one. I say it merely to indicate what’s happening in the marketplace. Yet for every author who throws his hands up and says, “I give up,” two more are likely to step down that path and take their chances.

The technological bubble that was the eBook revolution burst for many because, like all economic bubbles before it, it grew too fast, too big, too out of control, and with no regard for natural market forces. One cannot change the fundamental laws of open-market economics, any more than one can change the universal laws of physics. The deflation has already started. That’s not to say there won’t continue to be excellent opportunities for those who survive. Indeed, I think there will be fantastic opportunities for those who do it right.

However, the market will continue to shake off any rapid excesses that form, and consumers will do what they’ve always done: they’ll find the true values, “value” being a variable ratio of quality-to-price (Value = Quality:Price).

Want to survive and prosper on this long road? Then give book buyers the value they demand for their hard-earned entertainment dollars. That’s the proposition we offer our readers.

As for you struggling or aspiring authors considering your next move, we at Evolved Publishing happen to believe that a well-coordinated team is likely to give us a better chance at success than trying to go it on our own. However, even if you choose to be that bold, daring entrepreneur blazing your own trail, just keep your eye on the prize, and remember that you must be the one thing too many in this business fail to be: professional. Then… write! And write some more. And never, NEVER compromise on quality.

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