Resources for Writers

There’s no getting around it–it’s a whole new world out there for writers! There are more ways to publish and get work to readers than ever before. The downside to all this is there have never been more books published and it’s harder than ever to get any attention in this crowded place.

The world and the Internet is one giant bookstore, library and encyclopedia!

So where do writers start these days? The old rules still apply. First, you gotta write a good book.

Wait, not a good book… a great book!

This means you have to engage readers, build characters that speak to them, create story situations that intrigue them, and your work must sparkle! It’s not enough in this day and age to just be good or competent. If your work–and you–are going to get through the clutter and the background noise, then you have to, before  you do anything else, entertain readers.

Hitchcock’s dictum still applies: story is real life with the boring stuff stripped out…

Beyond that, you have to educate yourself. You have to treat every day as a chance to learn something new. You have to study the business, soak it up, and learn from others who are farther down the path than you are.

Writers who want to just be writers are what we in the business commonly refer to as toast. Writers today are publishers as well, designers and editors, entrepreneurs and shopkeepers, marketers and salespeople.

One of my best friends and partners in this business–Wayne McDaniel–is a very successful screenwriter. On one of his social media pages, he lists his occupation as “popcorn salesman.”

And that’s what this page is about. Even if you choose to go the traditional publishing route–query letters to agents and editors, searching for publishing deals, hoping to live on advances–at some point, you’re going to have to take charge of your own career.

So where do you start?

Right here.

Five Essential Books on the Writing Biz:

These books are aimed primarily at independent, self-publishers. This doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t learn a lot from them even if you’re going the traditional route. And keep in mind, there are a million books out there on how to write and publish books. Some are fantastic; others merely good. But you can learn something from almost all of them.

Click on the book cover to go the Amazon.com page for each one of these books (except for Mark Coker’s book), although they’re all available from lots of other sources.

These are the essentials. Keep in mind, also, that these guides are primarily aimed at fiction writers. If you write nonfiction, that’s a different game. So if you’re a novelist and want to take charge of your writing career or become an independent publisher, read each of these:

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Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn. Joanna Penn’s a pioneer and one of the  leading gurus in the independent publishing world. She’s an incredibly successful thriller writer herself, but she’s also had a complete second career writing books about publishing. She’s written an entire library on the business. Start with this one.

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Building Your Book for Kindle. No matter what your dreams are of becoming a published author, in this day and age it’s all going to start with Amazon.com. Even if you choose (as you should) to distribute through other digital and print-on-demand outlets, sooner or later you’re going to be selling books through Amazon.com’s Kindle Direct Program. The edition linked above is for PCs. There’s also a Mac version and a number of other books published by Amazon. They’re all good, but again, start with this one.

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Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran is another essential. Gaughran is an Irish writer who lives in Prague and is one of the first indie-pubbing gurus that I discovered early on. He also published Let’s Get Visible, but I’d start with this one. This is one of the first, and best, books I read on self/independent publishing.

Check my blog for an important announcement about David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital. Click here!

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The naked truth about self-publishing is a collection of articles written by nine kick-ass women writers who’ve all managed to not only survive, but thrive, in the competitive and brutal publishing world. Each article covers a separate facet of the business and is a tremendous overview of the challenges and opportunities. This one’s both inspiring and informative…

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Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. Coker is the founder of Smashwords, one of the industry’s leading distributors of Ebooks to outlets other than Amazon.com. This includes Apple iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Scribd and Oyster. Even if you don’t sign on with Smashwords (and there are other companies out there that some authors prefer), the Smashwords Style Guide is still the best primer on how you technically prepare a manuscript for Ebook distribution. Coker’s book is user-friendly, incredibly useful, and best of all for small publishers and independent authors, it’s a free download.

Six Essential Websites on the Writing Biz:

There are lots of websites out there on self- and independent publishing. These are among the best. Go explore these websites. Read the articles, subscribe to the newsletters and blogs. You’ll learn what it takes to make this all work!

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Joanna Penn’s website, The Creative Penn, is where everyone should start. She’s got a blog, a podcast, a series of courses and a whole slew of books she’s published on literally every facet of this business. Her site alone has over 1,000 articles and 100+ hours of audio. She also offers a number of free downloads. And it’s all done in an entertaining, user-friendly and encouraging approach.

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J.A. Konrath has sold over 2,000,000 books worldwide in variety of different genres, including horror and erotica. His Jack Daniels thrillers, with titles like Whiskey Sour and Rusty Nail are hilariously funny and well-done. He’s also been very public and transparent about his actual income as an independent publisher and author, which has now risen to the point where he turns down traditional publishing deals. He’s passionate, opionated, and pulls no punches. His website is full of useful information and his blog– http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/–has been one of the industry’s best newsletters for over a decade.

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Derek Haines is an Australian writer, teacher, and blogger who runs a website called JustPublishingAdvice.com. I’m a relative newcomer to this site, but so far everything I’ve found on it has been really good stuff. Plus, Haines presents it all in an entertaining and self-deprecating style. Definitely worth checking out…

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Joel Friedlander runs TheBookDesigner.com, which is an amazing website full of both free and paid resources. Joel goes back in the publishing business probably longer than any of the people mentioned above, dating all the way back to the 1970s, when he designed and produced books on letterpress, offset, and digital platforms (I only mention this because I go back that far as well, when I typeset books in the 70s on a Compugraphic Editwriter). Lots of good stuff here…

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Bob Mayer is a former Green Beret who’s become a NYT Best-Selling author through both traditional and independent publishing. He’s also written a number of very useful books on independent publishing and the craft of writing. His blog–www.writeitforward.com–has lots of good advice and guidance as well.

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Last but, by far, not least is Jane Friedman’s website. Jane’s been doing this so long that she teaches publishing at the University of Virginia and with those “Great Courses” folks. She also runs one of the best author newsletters in the business, The Hot Sheet, but keep in mind it’s not a freebie. I think the latest quote I’ve seen is $59.00 a year. Her blog gets about 180,000 hits a month.  Pay close attention to her.

Okay, there you have it: five essential books to read and six websites to explore… That ought to get you started on the path to reaching readers through independent publishing.

Let me know what you think and if there are any websites or books that you think should be added to this list, then just shoot me an email through my Contact page. I’d love to hear from you.

And whatever road you take, I wish you the best. Writing is a process that is full of joy and passion; the business of being a writer sucks beyond description. Anything you can do to lessen the suck-factor in the latter while preserving the joy in the former is worth pursuing.

Good luck!

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Edgar and Shamus Award-Winning Author