Self-Publishing 101

Publishing, Writing

The Internet is all about the democratization of voices. I know this because I can @ my favourite celebrity – whether Chrissy Teigen will reply is another question.

Like the oil oligarchs, the publishing industry was once dominated by the Big 6 (now the Big 5 – Penguin and Random House joined forces in 2013). These publishing houses established the barriers to entry – some may even say quality – to this competitive industry.

However, publishing platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing have made it possible for anyone to pen their own Lord of the Rings. Once, self-publishing your own book was akin to your mum endorsing your OkCupid profile. Now, it is seen as a viable route for producing your own work. We only have to look at E.L. James’ breakaway hit: Universal Pictures offered her $5 million for the movie rights, which is enough for anyone with a keyboard and thesaurus to find as many synonyms that they can for gaslighting.

giphy7giphy8

(E.L. James discusses her book. Used with permission from Giphy)

The Age of Self-Publishing

One of my biggest fears in life is rejection. When my boyfriend replies my thoughtfully worded text with ‘K’, I agonize all day whether he in fact likes me (disclaimer: we’ve lived together for two years). I think that submitting my book to a publisher would be a similar, more degrading process: I’m sorry, we cannot accept your product of imagination and hard work. Thanks though for the hours that you put in, and the illustrious but soul-sucking career as an investment banker that you could have pursued instead.

At least with Sam, I can harass him until he tells me that it’s not personal – he’s just busy. And yes, I am a joy to live with.

The reason that I write is that it helps me to organize my own experience and hopefully convey it in a way that when someone reads it, they feel a little less alone. How can publishers be the gatekeepers to what constitutes the universal human experience? In their role as a cultural barometer, they may risk marginalizing some voices. On a totally unrelated note, no books written about females or from a female perspective have won the Pulitzer Prize in the last fifteen years. #conspiracy

Somewhere, out there, someone may be interested in my exploration of Fainting Goats: A Failure of Evolution. Self-publishing would allow me, and other writers in my predicament to deliver our opus to the masses.

But there must be other reasons why more authors are choosing to bypass the traditional publishing model.

When you self-publish your book, it belongs to you. The copyright is yours and you get to set the book price. Not only that, you get to keep 70% of the list price. It does make sense: by cutting out the middle man, you are not paying for the services of a copyeditor, cover designer or the marketing team.

The downside is, well, you have to do it all on your own. This includes having the objective distance to kill your darlings, not to mention possessing design and PR skills.

How to self-publish your book

There are several guides online on how to self-publish your work. Publishers such as Amazon and Kindle make it easy: they allows writers to publish their work directly on their platform.

Penguin have also recognized the importance of this growing industry and spent $116 million to acquire its own self-publishing platform, Author’s Solution. The platforms help self-published writers move away from the margins of the market place. For example, Author’s Solution can help writers edit, design and market their book – for a price.

After you have finished and published your soon-to-be bestseller, don’t forget about blowing your own horn. This is not a euphemism, but if you are choosing this new publishing model, you should learn how to market yourself.

Don’t worry: I’ve got you covered. You can read my social media how-to for creative writers here. The principles should hold through for self-published authors. Your purpose and your audience may vary so tailor your strategy accordingly. You may even want to target a traditional publishing house: hopefully, they will see the popularity of your e-book and offer you a contract. Then, a major Hollywood studio will demand the rights to your film, and Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence will fight to be cast as your leading lady.

giphy9

(The Hunger Games. Uploaded with permission via Giphy)

A girl can dream. And the best way to make this dream come true is with a consistent and compelling social media strategy.

Advertisements

Did Video Kill The Radio Star?

social media, Writing

The first form of storytelling was through the oral tradition: stories were sung, set to music or simply spoken. It was a way of preserving traditions, knowledge and superstitions. The podcast heralds a return to the way we used to tell stories. Everyone from authors, actors to amateur sleuths armed with audio recording devices and Audacity are able to make their own audio narratives.

Popularity of podcasts

Podcasts are becoming the chosen medium of storytelling. Cult favourite Serial has been downloaded over 250 million times, and Joe Rogan boasts over 30 million downloads per month.

It is because the form makes it easier to consume stories. The countless times that I have almost been run over by a car because I was reading an article on a phone can attest to that. (Although this probably speaks more about my road-crossing abilities or lack thereof.)

giphy3

(Pedestrian crossing fail. Used with permission via Giphy)

Now, all I have to do is pop in my headphones and keep at least one of my wits about me.

Although I am not yet allowed to drive a vehicle by myself (thanks for nothing VicRoads), I understand the appeal for the drive-time commuter. You get to choose a topic you want to listen to and there are minimal ads (which are mostly Squarespace but you can fastforward through them anyways).

And Google and Apple have been eavesdropping. They know what the drivers want. You can sync up your car to your smartphone with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to play your favourite podcasts. Yes, we want it fast and we want it now.

And podcast producers have noticed this. And the cost of production is low – all you need is a quiet room and a microphone or two. Compared to producing let’s say a TV show, the advertising margins are a lot higher. There is higher engagement with the advertisements. The host can tailor the advertising message to fit the tone and audience. For example, my house mate is obsessed with Joe Rogan and will regularly buy fitness supplements that Rogan endorses on his podcast. Now, he is by no means a fitness fanatic but hearing Joe talk about fish oil tablets makes him believe that Joe is talking directly to him.

giphy4

(Trying to be healthy. Used with permission via Giphy)

There is also a huge variety of podcasts that will fit your interest whether you want to be entertained or informed. Here are few of my favourite podcasts to get you started:

For your next dinner party, listen to No Such Thing As a Fish – a treasure trove of general knowledge. Get ready to kill it at your local Trivia Night.

Dirty John is similar to Serial if you’re into your murder mysteries. It is produced by the LA Times so I enjoy the (sometimes over)dramatic framing. Then again, I like my content fast-paced.

And my final plug is My Dad Wrote a Porno, which is pretty self-explanatory. In this literally LOL podcast, three friends discuss erotic literature that one of their fathers wrote. Spoiler: the book compares nipples to the rivets on the Titanic. I try not to listen to this in public because I will smile creepily to myself at Coles.

Creating a compelling podcast

Podcasts also offer a different way of telling stories. The medium is versatile and allows us to play with the narrative structure. Unlike a book, where you are confined by the written word, you can play around with different voices and formats: interviews, recordings and in situ dialogue to create a compelling story that alternates between the past, present and future.

Take for example Homecoming. This podcast unravels the mystery of an experimental government program. It claims to rehabilitate US soldiers returning from the war.

The narrative itself is fragmented: interviews between the case worker and the soldier take place in the past; overheard conversations place her in the present.

This is different from the omniscient narrator format, which is common in audiobooks. It also uses voice actors gives the reader a clearer idea of who the characters are, while allowing space of their imagination. The only thing I will say about Homecoming is that by casting David Schwimmer – who excels in roles where he is neurotic and overbearing – I always question whether I am listening to an episode of Friends.

giphy5

(Sassy Ross. Used with permission from Giphy)

This form can also be very intimate. The story is told directly to you through your headphones, and if you have Airbuds, I am amazed you have not lost them. The use of sound-effects, such as a gun shot or someone falling, also helps to place you within the scene. You are more engaged because your brain has to processes the events in real-time as they are happening to the characters.

As a result, listeners will pay more attention and isn’t that the hallmark of a great story?

I Write and I Like To Be Right

In the spirit of podcasting, I have launched the inaugural episode of my podcast: I Write and I Like to Be Right. Here, I interview professional writers about their practice, as well as the ways in which they have embraced the new forms of writing – from blogging to fan fiction to podcasts.

In my first episode, I interviewed Sue Pyke, a professional writer whose work focuses on the trauma and romance encoded in the Australian landscape. We spoke about how digital media has influenced her practice and the importance of being selfish with your writing time.

Full disclosure: this is Take 2 of my interview with Sue. The first time, I forgot to press the record button.

giphy6

(Judge Judy agrees. Used with permission from Giphy)

However, the results were interesting. Despite having the same interview questions, Sue and I had a completely different conversation the second time around. I feel that this is a unique feature of podcasts and its ability to capture spontaneous interactions that may otherwise be lost in other mediums.

I hope you enjoy my first ever episode. May you never forget to press the record button.

(Get out – Jason Farnham. Music used with permission from Youtube)

Podcast Transcript

Hey guys and welcome to my podcast: I Write and I Like to Be Right. My name is Jade and throughout the season, I’ll be interviewing professional writers about their practice and how they have adapted this to digital media.

My first guest is Dr Sue Pyke, one of the tutors here at the University of Melbourne. Sue writes lyrical academic papers that focus on the eco-divine – probably one of my new favourite writing terms.

Hi Sue, thank you for taking the time to do this. We were just talking about writing cannot happen in isolation. There is no romantic figure of the writer as a recluse. This leads me into my first question.

How have you used social media in your work, like you said you had a blog?

In my blog, it’s kind of new, Jade. It’s been going for about a year and it’s again quiet and it doesn’t say a lot but it’s been a good learning exercise to maintain a blog.

Do you share personal things on your blog? We spoke before about my terrible, personal experience with having a blog. Do you feel like you have to use a different voice on your blog compared to your normal, academic writing?

I write differently for each of those forms. The blog is probably where you find out most about me, I think, in the sense that I’ll talk about what I’ve seen and what I feel about it. I’ll put up links that will tell you a little bit more about it.

I’ve thought about doing something more along the lines of the small pieces in my journal that never get published, but then I think gosh if they’re not ever going to get published, is it really worth self-publishing them. Does the world really need that too – like, really?

I agree. I think one of the scariest things about blogging is that you are the editor of your own work. How do you filter your writing in the absence of this?

It’s almost nomic – it’s so short, it’s almost like haiku so I’m only allowed forty-two words, and that becomes my filter so everything that I say, I look at it quite carefully. But there is a whole lot of other stuff going on in the subtext that only my ideal reader, or rather my sister reader-

So a Hemmingway-esque way of expressing yourself: you’re only saying the tip of the iceberg.

That’s right, but I think that it would be a very fine navigator that would be able to find the rest of it.

Awesome – thank you so much, Sue. It has been recorded, I promise I’m not going to call you again.

I would be happy to talk to you the third time, Jade. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you so much for your time, Sue. Guys, I hope that you enjoyed my interview with the brilliant Sue Pyke. Thank you for listening to my podcast and tune in next week! Hopefully I’ll remember to record it right the first time.

A Social Media Strategy for the Creative Writer

social media, Writing

As a writer, I often identify with being an introvert. Yes – the stereotype is alive and hiding behind a computer screen. It seemed almost counterintuitive that as a writer, it was important to cultivate my Internet presence.

giphy

(Enthusiastic Writer. Used with permission. Via Giphy)

I wanted to become an author to limit my interaction with strangers #strangerdanger. As my mother always said to me: set your goals and work backwards. However, it is important for your writing practice to build a network with other writers, and the Internet (particularly social media) is the best way to do this.

It does not have to be as painful as you think it may be. Yes, it involves you putting yourself a out there but only a little bit, I promise.

Now, with your audience and purpose in mind, here is a little handy how-to for each social media platform:

#Twitter

Brevity is key.

Twitter is the perfect place to condense your thoughts and opinions, before blasting them out to the world wide web. This gives your audience – your potential readers and fellow writers – a 140-character insight into your personality and interests. If they like what they read, you can measure this in retweets and favourites.

Similarly, you should be proactive about staying connected. Respond to tweets on your feed and reach out to authors whose work you love.

Join in wider conversations with #hashtags, or create your own. Let’s say you’re writing a book about famous cats, and their rise to fame. You can start a hashtag (I like #catingcouch) where you encourage readers to share their own cats’ idiosyncrasies. This can generate a conversation about your book, which can hopefully lead to higher sales. (And if your hash tag is featured on Buzzfeed, you know you’ve made it).

giphy1

(Celebratory cat. Used with permission via Giphy)

Instagram

The 50s boasted beatnik writers, the 90s was all about Gonzo journalism, and now we have Instapoets. Think Rupi Kaur or Lang Leav. This form of social media inspires bite-sized, accessible poetry. It eschews traditional punctuation, favouring a minimal approach similar to the way that we text and communicate on social media.

For all the poets 🖤 #poetry #books #langleav #barnesandnoble

A post shared by Lang Leav (@langleav) on

 

You can use Instagram to share snapshots of your work – be it a few sentences or resonating quote. Depending on the graphics that you use, you can use it to evoke a feeling about your writing. A trademark of Kaur’s work is her minimal charcoal drawing intertwined with her words.

For all the poets 🖤 #poetry #books #langleav #barnesandnoble

A post shared by Lang Leav (@langleav) on

 

Instagram also offers your readers a glimpse into your life. Unlike actors or other artists, the creative writer is painted as a somewhat reclusive character. We are tied to our writing desks, drinking copious amount of whiskey and coffee. (Sometimes at the same time) If selfies aren’t your thing, you can upload photos of your writing space and other moments of your daily life.

There are two hashtags that you have to get on board with: #writersofinstagram and #readersofinstagram.

Facebook

I like to think of Facebook as the central nervous system of your social media platform. You can use it to coordinate your Twitter, Instagram and blog – sharing photos and content from your different networks on this one platform.

However, there are a few crucial differences. Unlike a Tweet, your audience has a longer attention span, and you should always include a photo with your posts to increase your audience engagement.

Facebook is also a good place to join writing groups. Here, you can ask other authors for feedback on your work and speak to writers at the same stage in the writing process as you. This is an invaluable mine of information.

If you’re holding a reading or hosting an event, you can use Facebook events to promote it.

Blogs

You know what they say: try before you buy. Much like free samples in Coles, blogging is the perfect way for your readers to get to know you. They can get an immediate feel for your ‘voice’, which is basically your personality on paper – or in this case your computer screen.

giphy2

(Free Samples. Used with permission via Giphy)

Write about anything that interests you, and mix up your media. Incorporate images, memes and videos. Talk about books that you love or how you get over writer’s block. Write about what you would like to read and I believe that the rest will follow.

Podcasts

Although not technically social media, having your own podcast is a good way to reach out to other writers and readers. You can interview authors about their writing process and their thoughts on the industry like First Draft: A Dialogue in Writing. Or you can offer writing tips like Helping Writers Become Authors. There are other popular podcasts like The New Yorker: Fiction where renowned authors read work by their peers and discuss it afterwards.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I’ve put together a podcast – I Write and I Like to be Right. I want to use this connect to other writers to talk about our writing practices, and learn more about the industry. Keep an eye out for my inaugural episode!

 

The New Narrative

Uncategorized, Writing

The Internet has changed the way we order pizza, consume the news and interact with each other (mostly from the comfort of our own homes, wearing cozy pajamas). It has also changed the way in which we tell stories.

Stories are an innate part of the human experience. They introduce meaning and coherence into an otherwise chaotic existence. I go on my own personal hero’s journey every time I take the 109 tram. Digital media has changed the way we tell and consume our fables and fairytales. So, what is the new narrative?

Free form

The first obvious advancement is the form in which we tell our stories. They are no longer confined to the pages of a book or whispered by the night light. They are growing, evolving animals. They are bigger than themselves: click on a link and you’ll see that they are part of a wider conversation.

We eat first with our eyes. Humans are visual creatures. Our new stories incorporate different types of media: videos, pictures and GIFs.

The Emoji Interpreter is a job you can’t believe exists (and wished you had). We have new formats and symbols to navigate our digital experience.

Obviously, e-books are the new hardcover. Embrace the comfortable anonymity of your Kindle; read your young-adult novels on public transport. I tell everyone I’m reading Infinite Jest.

Empowering the reader

The Internet has led to the democratization of speech. The author is dead. Not really, anyone with a wifi connection and a keyboard has a voice (whether this is a good thing remains to be seen). Fortunately, it has opened up several platforms for the audience to become their own storytellers.

The self-published author is a rising phenomenon. They’re eschewing the traditional publishing houses in favour for more control over their work and 70% of the sale price. The traditionally-published author is only taking home 7.5%. Come at me, Kindle Direct.

Fan fiction has a fan-atical following. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Although this genre is often ridiculed, it boasts a huge community of followers. It builds upon existing worlds and re-imagines your favourite characters. Did you ever feel that Hermione and Draco should have ended up together? You’re not the only one. (Emma Watson did admit to having a crush on Tom Felton in real life.)

The popular trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey originally started as a Twilight fanfiction. How a thirsty thousand-year-old vampire translated to a thirsty millionaire- Oh, I get it now. The book sold 100 million copies worldwide. I wonder if my re-imagined Harry Potter space opera would work out.

The future of storytelling

Stories are not inanimate stories. They beg to be told and re-told. Technology has finally enabled us to capture this ever-evolving artefact. The Internet has given us the tools to create, reflect and modify. Consequently, our new narrative will be one that is more complex, flexible and engaging.

Choose your own adventure? Literally.