Do I Have Second Book Syndrome?

I’d never heard of this until very recently. But maybe it’s real. And maybe I’m inflicted.

I’ll just tell you what I’ve experienced and then you can tell me if you think I’m sickly.

I wrote the first draft of my first book in about three months. I played around with it and then released it via CreateSpace. While I was still putting the finishing touches on the first book I dove right into book two. My word count reached about half of my first book’s in double the time. Then I stopped writing. Just stopped. I honestly don’t remember much of what I wrote. I remember random scenes that have no chronological order in my head. I couldn’t tell you if the writing in my second book is any better or worse than in my first. I couldn’t tell you where the story was headed when I stopped writing. I couldn’t even tell you the name of Andrew’s new client. Uh oh. I don’t think this book is ever going to be written.

And I don’t currently have any other story ideas. None. So what do you think? Think I’m just lazy or do I have a case of second book syndrome?

PS: Don’t forget that today is the last day that you’ll get $2.99 off your order if you purchase one of the “Books are bae” T-Shirts from here!


On this day in 2014 I published Writing Everyday.

 

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Is Amazon Good For Books?

Exactly one year ago today I wrote this post asking the exact same question. But if you happen to click the link you’ll find that there was no discussion at the time. One Like and no comments. Which is funny because the post I published just two days later currently has 109 Likes and 189 comments. Just how these things go sometimes. And honestly, I’ve wanted to revisit this particular topic for a long time now. Partly because last year’s post went unnoticed and because a lot has changed in the last 365 days.

Let me also say something very important. I know some of you will read this question as “Is Amazon good for publishing?” Don’t. I’m looking big picture here. Writers. Readers. Publishers. All of it.

First, I’d like for you to simply answer the question. A simple yes or no will suffice for now.

Got your answer? Great. Let me begin.

Now I’m going to list out all of the programs and things that Amazon has done related to books. If I feel a particular topic requires more information, then I’ll say what I want to say.

I’ll reveal my overall take at the end.

Amazon Kindle

The premier eReader. Period. I have the super old Kindle Keyboard and it works like new. The Kindle Paperwhite was a major step in the right direction and then it was followed by the Kindle Voyage. It’s hard to keep making these better, but they do.

And let’s not forget that the Kindle changed publishing and how books are accessed.

CreateSpace

Yes I used CreateSpace for my first book, but ask anyone and you’ll find that it is the most used and the easiest to use self publishing platform.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Want to publish your book on Kindle and see what happens? This is what you’ll likely use.

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon’s eBook subscription service. You’ve likely read somewhere about how it’s taking money out of authors’ pockets and how all these authors are having to go back to their day job. Come on. The titles in Kindle Unlimited are self published or Amazon Publishing titles. These aren’t your super authors. The authors in the program are probably not making seven figures from their book sales. So let’s give it a rest.

Kindle First

Gives you access to four titles a month before their release date for a discounted price on Kindle. Or free if you’re a Prime member.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA)

The annual contest is no longer run, but it was the single most lucrative publishing contest in America during its time. The grand prize winner would receive a $50,000 publishing contract. And oh by the way, I’ve looked into some of the past winners and they’re very high in the Kindle store and have thousands of reviews.

Kindle Scout

This is why the ABNA is no longer conducted. It was replaced. Now Amazon has given the power to the readers. All an author has to do is enroll their unreleased book into the program and readers will be able to read a sample for a 30 day period and vote which books they believe should be published. If a book is chosen for publishing the author receives a $1,500 advance and a shortened timeline to publication.

Amazon Publishing

These are traditional publishers under the Amazon umbrella. Thomas & Mercer. AmazonCrossing. AmazonEncore. 47North. Montlake Romance. AmazonPublishing. Grand Harbor Press. Little A. Jet City Comics. Two Lions. Skyscape. Lake Union Publishing. StoryFront. Waterfall Press. Each imprint publishes different genres from the others.

Kindle Convert

You can convert your print books into Kindle books.

Audible

Audiobooks.

AbeBooks

The site on which you can find those rare books you can’t find elsewhere.

Goodreads

Bet you didn’t know Amazon owned this, did ya? Yep.

I think that’s it. I came up with this list off the top of my head, so feel free to tell me if I forgot anything. Now I think you’ve figured out which side of the fence I’m on. I’m Team Amazon. All the way. Let’s just go down the list real quick.

There’s nothing to be said about the Kindle. It’s great and continues to be great.

CreateSpace gives so many writers the opportunity to see their book in print. And who knows, there’s gotta be another Hugh Howey coming along. If you look at the other self-publishing platforms, there really is no match. Even if you think self-publishing as a whole is no good, it’s here to stay…might as well use the best platform.

KDP gives the writers who don’t care to see their book in print the opportunity to sell their book in the Kindle store, and they don’t even have to pay for anything if they’re comfortable with their cover and formatting.

Kindle Unlimited has the potential to be great, but not one of the Big Five has their titles included in the program. I’d say it’s just an eh for now.

Kindle First. I actually really like this. I’ve downloaded four new books for free in the last couple of weeks because I’m a Prime member. I’ll have more info once I read one of the books. But the idea is great and the books chosen for the program shoot to the top of the Kindle store immediately. People seem to like free and discounted books. Surprise, right?

ABNA was the most lucrative publishing contest during its run. Don’t tell me you have something negative to say, especially if you entered every year. And Kindle Scout is one of those programs that many writers dream of. Because let’s face it, there are A LOT of writers out there writing books who will never be published by a traditional publisher. I’m probably one of them. But you could have a blog or nice social media presence or some really cool friends and family members go and nominate your book for publishing. And guess what, there’s a chance that it actually gets published. The Amazon editors have the final say, but anyone who enters their book into this program has absolutely nothing to lose and the chance of a lifetime.

Amazon Publishing has a lot of imprints. For every kind of author. The downside of publishing with one of their imprints is that your books won’t be sold by Barnes and Noble or most other retailers. The plus side is your book will get a significant amount of Amazon marketing. I know because an author I really enjoy went from a Big Five publisher to an Amazon publisher and instead of having 50 reviews as he did on his previous books, he’s in the thousands. So he’s selling a lot of books.

Kindle Convert sucks and it’s stupid.

Audible. There are a few audiobook makers out there, and I haven’t listened to one in more than a decade. So eh.

AbeBooks is great. I once had a handful of books written by a favorite author of mine that I could not find anywhere. I even asked the author! He didn’t know. But then I was referred to AbeBooks and BAM I got my books.

Goodreads is actually Amazon’s second foray into the book social networking realm. Shelfari was their first, and if you’re still using that site….you’re behind the times. Way behind. And yes, I know Amazon didn’t create Goodreads. But they still own it so it belongs on the list.

All in all, if you look at what Amazon has done for readers, at the opportunities they provide authors, and at the newfound competition between traditional publishers that have had a stranglehold on the publishing industry for more than a century….I don’t see how one can conclude they’re bad for books. But I’m certain that this will be a mixed bag of responses.

Unleash your thoughts on the matter!

Amazon Launches Kindle Scout

kindlescout

Remember this post from a couple months ago? I talked about Swoon Reads, a publisher that put the power of publishing in your hands by allowing you to comment on and rate excerpts of books yet to  be published. Based on the feedback received, the company would then choose which titles to ultimately publish. Well Amazon has gotten in on the fun with Kindle Scout, which just launched last week.

The premise is essentially the same as the publisher I mentioned above and in my previous post. Authors submit a never before published manuscript. Readers can read an excerpt within 30 days. Readers can nominate up to three books during the 30 day period and change their nominations at any time. Then, once the period is up Amazon will tally the nominations and decide which title(s) to publish.

But Amazon has upped the stakes just a bit. First, if your book is chosen for publishing you’ll receive a $1500 advance. You might think that is quite small, but you’re not getting any advance by self-publishing and most traditional publishers offer debut authors little to no advance because you’re unlikely to make it back for them. So you get the nice little advance AND you get Amazon marketing. I think this may be the bigger deal of the two.  A quick example of an author who I think has seen major benefits of Amazon marketing is Marcus Sakey. His first few books were published by major publishers and all well received, but they all have less than 100 reviews on Amazon. Which isn’t many. His two most recent books have been published by Thomas and Mercer (an Amazon company) and they have 1492 and 435 reviews, respectfully. If a book has that many reviews, then it’s sold a few more.

Also, the author will receive 50 percent e-book royalties, which is right in the middle of traditional and self-publishing.

But Kindle Scout of course has its doubters. I’ve read people saying that the books will be low quality. That it’s dumb because Amazon ultimately makes the publishing decision rather than the readers. These arguments are hardly valid. Low quality books are published every year by traditional publishers. It’s not about quality, everyone knows it’s about what they think will sell more books. And second, every publisher decides which titles will or won’t be published. This isn’t new.

I think there are some people out there who will hate any program that Amazon comes up with just for the sake of doing so. CreateSpace. KDP. Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Scout. It doesn’t matter, they just dislike whatever Amazon comes up with because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do. Well I don’t. I think it would be fun to take part in something like this. And if you nominate a book that is ultimately chosen for publishing, then you get a free Kindle copy of the finished product. Kindle Scout adds books everyday in all genres.

What do you think? A $1500 advance and Amazon marketing if you write a book that readers on Kindle Scout like. I say sign me up.

You can watch a Kindle Scout video and take a look at some unpublished manuscripts here.

Why I Think NaNo Anything is Dumb

NaNoWriMo-NoMo-logo

Photo Credit: NaNoWriMo No Mo (read this article!)

I think there are going to be a lot of people yelling at me after they start reading this. But that’s okay. Bring on the yelling, well, after you read this. Don’t just go make a dumb comment without reading.

So, this month is Camp NaNoWriMo, right? Which means that instead of the 50,000 word goal that arrives every November, this month is your own goal. Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into a rant.

Okay. So besides these two months of the year that are basically meant to force you to sit down and get some writing done, I believe there is also a month for poetry and also one for short stories. I think. I’m definitely not taking the time to Google any of these things. So we have four months out of the year that are dedicated to getting writers of all things creative to sit their butt in a chair and write. Sounds great on the surface, right? Not really.

During National Poetry Month I read a rant of a poem by one of the well known poets on WordPress. I don’t read her poems anymore because they simply lost their zing, but she was basically calling out every person who was participating in the poem a day challenge. It was her opinion that you shouldn’t need some specified month to get you writing poetry. Now I’m not going to focus specifically on poetry, but our thoughts are essentially the same.

You’re supposed to be a writer, right? Then why the heck do you need some specific month to get writing? I know plenty of people work with word count goals and others just try to get something written out each day and yet others have specified times during the day in which they write. Okay to all of that, but the calendar is moving along just as it does each and every year and suddenly during July and November you decide to get focused? I know you must be seeing how stupid this whole thing sounds. Cause this is basically what you’re telling me, yourself, and everyone else who knows you’re participating in Camp NaNo or NaNoWriMo: “I’m a writer. I work on different writing projects throughout the year, but I get most of my writing done during July and November.” My response to you would be this, “How come you get most of your writing done during those two months?” You’d look at me awkwardly and then say NaNoWriMo. Then I’d proceed to laugh and walk away because I’d like for you to think about your favorite author. Or maybe a few of them. Then find their website and see if they do most of their writing during the months of July and November. I think we both know you wouldn’t find any such information. Cause it’s flat out ridiculous. Period.

One more thing before I just punch someone in the face. You all likely know by now that I started my blog in June of last year so that I could talk about writing my first book (written between June & August) for all of you wondering and no, I had no idea what Camp NaNo was. But last November was the first I’d heard of NaNoWriMo. So I’m like, “Hey I just finished my first book. Maybe I can get started writing my second in this novel writing month thing. I went on to the website and realized what a joke the whole thing is. 50,000 words in 30 days. Why? Because that’s what they say. Even though any serious writer knows 50,000 words is hardly a novel. But that’s besides the point.

Then I took a look at what I think were the past year’s “winners.” They’d written the 50,000 words during the month. And what do you know, almost every single one of the books listed was self-published. I’m not avidly against self-publishing, I’ve done it, but is this really your ultimate goal as a writer? To write a ton during a single month or two only to realize that your writing was shit. The whole “Oh I can edit it later” mindset is about as ridiculous as writing a book in a month for no reason whatsoever. There’s a reason these books are very rarely picked up by traditional publishers. And you and I both know that it has a little something to do with the quality of the writing. They should change the name to National CreateSpace Novel Writing Month because that’s where most of the titles written are headed.

And cue your outrage.

The Stigma of Self Publishing

Photo Credit: Indies Unlimited

Are you a self published author? Or maybe an aspiring writer considering self publishing once you polish that manuscript of yours? There are a few things that you should know before taking the step to self publish your book.

Lesser

This is probably the most difficult assumption about self publishing to overcome. No matter if the person you’re talking to says it or not, a great number of people still believe that self published authors write worse than traditionally published authors. To the unknowing person, this is inherent in self publishing. You’ll likely then receive countless questions about the editing and cover art and physical makeup of the book that traditionally published authors will not. Have you ever been to a book signing or event for a popular author and had someone ask about the editing of the book? I haven’t and I’ve been to several.

The look

You’re probably wondering what the heck ‘the look’ is. It’s simple. It’s the look you get upon first revealing to someone that you’re self published. It essentially tells me the thoughts of the other person. It says, “Oh. So then you’re not good enough to go the regular route.” By no means are people trying to discourage or put you down, ‘the look’ is almost involuntary. I know plenty of great people who displayed it when I first told them that my book was self published. When you start telling someone about your newly released book, what it is the first question they ask? Who published it? I’ve probably been asked that question more than any other. It’s even asked by non-readers.

Selling

This isn’t necessarily a part of the stigma associated with self publishing, but it’s still worth mentioning. When you self publish, assuming that you didn’t make your own imprint doing so, it is quite difficult to find sales channels. If you use CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing then your book becomes one of millions available from Amazon. Which is great, but let me repeat that it becomes one of millions of books available from the online giant. Just being on Amazon is not enough. But also Barnes and Noble will not carry the book in its stores if the book is self published. Their shelves are reserved for the major publishing companies that have done business with the company for decades.

Readers

There are plenty of readers out there who don’t care whether a book is self published or not because it’s all about the quality to them. BUT, there are plenty of readers out there who will never ever ever ever ever purchase a self published book. This kind of goes with my first point about people believing that self published authors’ writing is lesser than that of traditionally published authors. This means that your free book on Amazon may be overlooked by a hardcore reader simply because it’s free. This means that your $0.99 book will be overlooked just the same. The point is that it may be difficult to find readers for your book, no matter how well written it is.

Don’t let these discourage you! If self publishing feels like a good fit for you, then I say go for it.

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing: And the winner is…

One of the major questions new authors face upon completing their manuscript is trying to decide whether traditional or self-publishing is a better fit for them and their work. Some authors will never self-publish because of their own beliefs about the self-publishing industry while others will try to go the traditional route and then self-publish after countless rejection letters from agents and/or editors. But is it even worth it? Are there enough advantages to self-publishing to justify taking that course? Let’s see.

Self-Publishing

The self-publishing industry has taken the book market by storm in recent years. There are seemingly companies popping up everyday that guarantee this or that for your newly released title. Mostly these are just to get you to take a look at their site where you’ll be bombarded with their so-called ‘success’ stories. You’ll read about one author who has sold enough books to quit their day job. Then another who became a NYT bestseller within their first couple of years of self-publishing. By this time you’re starting to get more and more interested and you’ve now begun looking into the packages and services offered by this particular company. Because in your head your book is just as good as any out there so if someone else can become a self-published bestselling author then so can you, right? Wrong.

Before continuing on further I would like to ask a question of you. How many self-published authors do you know by name?

It’s a simple enough question. So think about it. I’ll answer first…two. Kinda. Cause the two that I know are Hugh Howey and E.L. James. Both of these authors started out in self-publishing and experienced such success that traditional publishers came knocking at their doors. But they’re the exception. There are likely thousands of other struggling self-published authors for each of the major successful ones. For the record, I could probably name 50-100 traditionally published authors just off the top of my head.

But back to the point of this post. There are plenty of advantages to self-publishing. The author is finally able to say “I wrote a book.” The author has far more creative control when it comes to the manuscript and cover than he/she would if it was being done by a traditional publisher. The author will likely have a book available from the world’s largest bookstore Amazon.com. The quality of the books printed by self-publishers today is often no different than the quality of traditional publishers. Remember, I’m talking about the physical book and not the story itself.

Traditional Publishing

If this were a David vs. Goliath sort of post then the traditional publishing industry would be Goliath, accompanied by a vicious dog. The big five traditional publishers of Simon and Schuster, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Hachette, and HarperCollins maintain a stranglehold on the publishing industry that can’t be overstated. But in reality it’s not much more different from the top few companies in any industry. I’m thinking Wal Mart, Safeway, Kroger, and Costco in grocery or ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX when it comes to broadcasting major sporting events.

Before going further let me define what it means to go the ‘traditional’ publishing route. The author queries an agent. The agent reads through and decides to represent the manuscript and pitches the story to editors and contacts that he or she may have at a traditional publisher. Eventually the story gets picked up, or it doesn’t.

The traditional publishing industry is loaded with gatekeepers to keep the lesser writers out of the industry, because it all comes down to the publisher making money from selling the books it publishes, right? It’s hard to make money not selling books or by publishing books by just okay writers. It’s a business and their business model has worked largely unchanged for a long time. I read recently that only about 2% of all authors are able to successfully go the traditional publishing route. 2%! If you ever wonder why there are so many self-publishers and self-published authors out there today then take a look at that number right there as partly responsible.

But let’s not forget that traditional publishers take all the risk when it comes to publishing. All of it.

My Take

This is coming from someone who self-published his first book through CreateSpace. It’s simple. Traditional publishing continues to rule the publishing world, and it’s not even close. Sure there are a few authors who have managed to gain critical acclaim and sell thousands upon thousands of books through self-publishing, but the more persistent trend is that the author will sell a few hundred copies of their book and then fall by the wayside. It’s just how it is.

So when you finish that manuscript you’ve been working on and you go through and rewrite and rewrite some more and then come to this particular question, I would suggest sending out a few queries to some agents before self-publishing. But that’s just me.

Is Amazon Good for Books?

ImageBefore I begin I would first like to make it known that I am a huge fan of Amazon. The paperback edition of my book is sold by CreateSpace and the Kindle version is sold by Kindle Direct Publishing, which are both Amazon companies. But I’ll try to be objective.

I’ve read several articles recently about the impact that Amazon has had on the publishing industry. Most often the takeaway seems to be that Amazon is not good for books for a number of reasons like the discounts they receive from publishers or how low they’re able to sell their e-books. There are plenty more but there’s no need for me to be exhaustive at this point.

Jeff Bezos started the company all the way back in 1994 as a bookstore. In the 20 years since then independent bookstores have been cut in half and the mega-chain Borders has shut its doors. But is it really smart to blame Amazon for both or either of those? Maybe. But what about the fact that indies were always under fire from big chains like Barnes and Noble and Borders? Or what about the fact that most indie bookstores have no place in the e-book market? Amazon is constantly blamed for the failure of indie bookstores in recent years, but there’s always more to it.

Several articles estimated that roughly seven percent of all of Amazon’s annual revenue comes from books, which puts the number around $5 billion. It’s easy for critics to throw that number out there and make a fuss about Amazon’s bookselling practices because they seem to be doing it better than any other company at the moment. But let’s think about what they’ve managed to accomplish to help the reader. First, the customer will  never pay list price of a book on the site, no matter if it’s hardcover or paperback. Compare that to walking into your neighborhood Barnes and Noble bookstore and paying exactly what it says on the back cover. Second, the selection that Amazon is able to offer is far and away the most vast there is in the world today. Most readers have experienced the turmoil of wanting an obscure book that may be long out of print only to find that Barnes and Noble doesn’t have it online or in-store. And third, if Amazon didn’t have a place in the bookselling world then what would stop Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million from selling books at cover price. Or Kobo or Apple from selling e-books at higher prices. I mean, all four companies already struggle to compete with Amazon in the book marketplace, but they are competing.

Amazon also has several publishing imprints that operate just as any other traditional publisher and back the most lucrative book writing contest in the country, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which gives its grand prize winner a $50,000 publishing contract along with several $15,000 publishing deals given out to the genre winners.

Lastly, Amazon revolutionized the publishing world with its Kindle. No company has been able to develop an e-reader quite like it, which is why Amazon holds a roughly 67% percent e-book market share.

I’m not here to defend Amazon, but I would like for the site’s critics to be fair. Amazon’s competition in the marketplace helps drive prices of all books down for the reader. They changed the publishing world when they released their Kindle e-reader which has evolved into a full-use tablet comparable to any other. And they offer a selection of books that no other company can. So if I had to answer the question as to whether or not Amazon is good for books, well I think you know my answer by now. Yes.