Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 02/27/15

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LOVE CAN SHINE A LIGHTthe boys next door

 

Not long ago I caught the end of a conversation in a grocery store parking lot.  In a very animated voice, the woman was saying, “…but you just can’t do that to someone who depends on others to do the right thing by them.”  My imagination flew into action as the group—two ladies and two gentlemen—got into a van and drove away.  The sign painted on the side door read: HELP For Disabled Children Is Here.  I wondered.

Do you remember Mother Teresa?  She passed from this earth in 1997.  However, while on the planet she taught us a lot about LOVE.  “I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like,” she is quoted saying, “but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, He will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather He will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?’”  How will I answer that question?  Will examples of what I’ve written become evidence?

Back in 1996, I watched a TV movie titled: THE BOYS NEXT DOOR.  It was adapted for film from a stage play by playwright Tom Griffin. The story centers on a social worker (Jack) who found himself in a “job” that basically made him the “house-father” of four mentally challenged men living “regular” lives (to the best of their abilities) in a neighborhood house.  At one point in the story, there is a State Senate hearing that will decide the sustainability of this group home.  Jack and one of his charges (Lucien) are seated at the defendants table.  In this formal setting, the writer developed a short soliloquy, spoken by Lucien who steps aside from his mental illness for a few brief moments and speaks to the senators as if he were a “normal man.”  This superbly written dialogue is forever etched in my memory.  I would like to share the whole scene, but with limited space I will offer one quote.

Lucien stands up from the defendants table, straightens his rumpled suit and says: “I stand before you a middle-aged man…whose capacity for rational thought is somewhere between a five-year-old and an oyster.  I am retarded…damaged…sick inside from so many years of utter and profound confusion.…But I will not go away.…Damaged though I may be, I shall not wither, because I am unique and irreplaceable and part of you all.…Civilizations are judged by the way they treat their most helpless of citizens.  I am that citizen…and if you turn away from me, you extinguish your own light.”

Do you have such thoughts—such words—in your collection of BOOK ideas?  Are those concepts tossed about on scraps of paper or organized neatly in files?  PLEASE!  Don’t waste another minute!  Get your stories written!  The human condition of our world NEEDS to be encouraged!  There are too many lights hidden away under self-doubt and the fear-of-success.  You’ve been given the GIFT of writing—the skills and inspiration—to make a difference.  GET TO IT!

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Weekly Self-Published Book Review:Elevate Your Life

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Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review by Midwest Book Review:

elevate your life

 Elevate Your Life

Juna Jinsei

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN:9781432779900

A little positivity goes a long way. “Elevate Your Life: Achieve Success by Applying Positive Inspirational Affirmations” is an inspirational read from Juna Jinsei who encourages a positive outlook life. Advising readers to always push their own limits, “Elevate Your Life” is a positive and much recommended read for those seeking motivational and inspirational works.

Diversity & Self-Publishing (ep. 2)

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Last week, I launched a series of questions addressing the nature and role of diversity in publishing, specifically within the self-publishing industry.  Before I return to those questions, a quick proviso: there’s been a lot of mud-slinging on both (or all?) sides of this debate, which can be both wild and wonderful (and occasionally, deeply problematic for all of us involved in getting words out of our heads and dispersed into the world).  But we’re not here to sling mud at anyone.  We’re here to ask questions and, hopefully, to listen.

Some of the mud-slinging can be interesting to read, or in some cases, listen to: just last month, NPR and Intelligence Squared U.S. hosted a debate over Amazon’s incredibly complex role in the whole mess of traditional versus self-publishing paradigms.  As I sat listening to the podcast this last week, I found myself both shocked and perfectly unsurprised at the ferocity of the debate––shocked, because we’re not used to our literary spokespeople literally shouting each other down on the debate floor, and unsurprised because, well, we’re talking about books and reading and literacy and therefore something both deeply, intensely personal, and also universal.  The debates over diversity in publishing are proving equally impassioned, and rightfully so.  Which brings me to last week’s first question:

What’s the track record of diversity in publishing?

It’s not a good one, particularly if we’re talking about publishing in the Western tradition, what with it being so interwoven the various other Institutions (with a capital “I”) that shape and influence society.  Which is not to say I advocate treating publishing artificially as if it has been cut away from every other element of life––not at all.  I do advocate paying close attention to how the social, political, and cultural institutions interact.  Hashtags like #WeNeedDiverseBooks have evolved beyond mere declarations of personal unhappiness to creating safe spaces for ongoing discussion about these complexities, and the data being mined is revealing.

Take the University of Wisconsin’s article on “Children’s Books by and about People of Color Published in the United States,” which shows that of the 2,500 children’s (trade) books published in the United States in 1985, only 18 were written by African Americans.  When you consider the demographics of the United States, wherein African Americans represent 13.1% of the population, that number should have been a lot higher.  Closer to 325 books.  Progress has been made, along all sorts of vectors, but of the 5,000 trade children’s books published in 2014, the CCBC reports that only 84 were written by African Americans and 180 were written about African Americans.  The percentages of other minority groups––ethnic, religious, gender, and others––show similar levels of underrepresentation.  Right now, a debate is raging over the representation of mental and physical well-being, and the current ways in which the publishing institution reinforces ableism and neuro-normativity.  Young Adult (or “YA”) literature has proven to be a particularly rich medium for addressing these growing concerns.

What about within self-publishing, specifically?

I’m so glad you asked!  Self-publishing (and all of its hybrid forms) has proven to be another haven for the marginalized author and all sorts of minorities––both in terms of authors and readers.  Because one point of the publishing triangle has been erased––or at least drastically altered––there has always been more room for the nonconformist, the outcast, and the malcontent within the welcoming arms of the self-publishing industry than there has been elsewhere.  Without fear of expulsion, ostracization, or censorship, the self-published author can write what needs to be written, and publish what needs to be heard!  The welcoming legacy of self-publishing is one I’ve examined before––in fact, many of the Late Great authors I’ve written about over the last few weeks either found themselves unwelcome within, or otherwise distanced from, traditional publishing.

I don’t have any numbers for you about diversity in self-publishing.  It’s practically impossible to collate the data, given the diverse forms and outlets and types of self-publication out there.  Many self-published works aren’t catalogued the way traditionally published books are, and so the data set just isn’t there.  But as Daniel José Older writes so beautifully in his BuzzFeed article (“Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing”), “it’s not just a question of characters of color, [and] it’s not a numbers game. It’s about voice, about narrative flow. […]  We see diverse futures, laden with the tangled past of oppression and we re-envision models of empowerment and survival. But only a few of us make it through. There is a filter and the filter is white culture.”  Suffice it to say, it seems as though the self-publishing industry has provided a platform for diverse voices to be heard, and diverse readers to be reached.  There are ways to change the institution from the inside, but in the meantime, authors can count on finding at least a modicum of representation within the self-publishing industry.

These thoughts barely scratch the surface of these questions, much less the conversation as a whole.   As I ponder how to go about touching on the other questions posed in last week’s blog post, please drop me a line in the comments section below with your own thoughts or suggestions!  And of course, check back next week as we explore still more of this complicated tangle!

 

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

What makes for a great self-publishing company?

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Many of the questions I hear most often, working as I do in the self-publishing business, can be distilled down to one very simple one: “What makes for a great self-publishing experience?”  The answer is equally simple: “A high-quality self-publishing company.”

First, we have to consider the business side of things.  A self-publishing company is, in the end, a company––and a company works according to profit.  As end users, either clients or readers, we want to know that we are receiving the best possible product and service for our investment.  You definitely want to look for a balance of:

  • reliability
  • affordability
  • quality production
  • excellent customer service, and
  • out-of-the-box thinking and solutions on offer

Of course, we don’t want to reduce the process of writing and publishing a book down to a simple exercise in corporate dynamics.  Book lovers, both writers and readers, know that there’s something, well, special about literature.  The advent of self-publishing has seen fierce debates spring up over the role of literary agents and publishing companies as “gatekeepers” for the written word, and rightfully so.  The stakes are very, very high when it comes to the stories we create and let influence our lives.  And because the stakes are high, it’s important that we look for a few more things out of a great self-publishing company, in addition to sound business practice.  We should look for:

  • sound ethics (from start to finish)
  • self-awareness (including of the company’s place and stance on being a “gatekeeper”)
  • authenticity (including a genuine interest in the client’s and reader’s satisfaction), and
  • sensitivity to a changing market and a changing world (which can translate to adaptability, but also to advocacy in the broadest and best sense)

Do your research!  Check online for customer satisfaction ratings––impartial ones––and contact the companies you’re interested in beforehand to gauge their possibilities.  After all, once you commit to a self-publishing company, you’re likely to be in close contact with them for quite a long time.

Now, someone might honestly point out that I work for one specific self-publishing company and therefore that I’m likely to view my own company in a favorable light, but here’s the thing: a great self-publishing company doesn’t need to be territorial.  All a great self-publishing company needs to do is offer a good product––a great package––and a service that puts its clients first and advocates endlessly for them.  The wonderful thing about the self-publishing industry is that at its core, it is a kind of fellowship of free (or freer) spirits who believe that the more voices that are heard, the more stories that are told, the better off we will all be.  So I’m not just an advocate for one company; I’m an advocate for the whole movement!

 

These are just a few thoughts to get us started.  What do you think makes for a great self-publishing company?  Drop me a line in the comments section to join the conversation.

 

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 25 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 02/20/15

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LOVE CAN TURN HATE ASIDEthe long shadow

 

The month of February is also the celebration of BLACK HISTORY—recognizing the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans from the foundation of America to this very day.  I felt it fitting to highlight this concept of LOVE as stated in the heading, not to dredge up painful events but to demonstrate that WRITERS throughout history can—and have—made a big difference in creating harmony in the lives of millions around the world.

Do you recognize the name Daisy Gatson Bates?  I would have said “no” just a few years ago.  However, this publisher, journalist and lecturer played a leading role in the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957 and is honored for her lifetime accomplishments in the state of Arkansas on February 19th (or the 3rd Monday of every year) right along with remembrances of George Washington’s birthday and Martin Luther King.  As a foster child, Daisy attended the city’s segregated public schools.  In her teens, she learned that her birth mother had been raped and murdered by three local white men. No one was ever arrested and hate festered in her.  Her father told her: “Hate can destroy you, Daisy.  Don’t hate white people just because they’re white.…hate the humiliations we are living under…hate the discrimination that eats away at the South…and at the soul of every black man and woman.…Then try to do something about it.”  And so she did.

As an adult, Daisy and her husband published a local newspaper, the Arkansas State Press, utilizing her writing talents in her chosen field of advocacy journalism.  Stories about Civil Rights ran on the front page as well as the violations of the Supreme Court’s desegregation rulings.  However, the main stories that filled the paper spotlighted achievements of the black community in Arkansas.  Daisy had turned the painful events of her life into actively supporting those who wanted to change the segregated school system and increase opportunities for everyone.  Her clear and organized writing skills and positive attitude eventually led her to a position in the administration of President Johnson, working on anti-poverty programs.

Daisy wrote a memoir in 1962—The Long Shadow of Little Rock—which was banned throughout the South.  However, in 1988 the University of Arkansas Press reprinted it, after which it won an American Book Award.  President Bill Clinton (then Governor) said Daisy Bates is “the most distinguished Arkansas citizen of all time.”  In her later years, Daisy moved back to rural Arkansas, to concentrate on improving the lives of her neighbors (anyone who needed help) by establishing self-help programs that were responsible for new sewer systems, paved streets, a water system and community center.

Highlighting this woman’s life and accomplishments—as a person, journalist, publisher, author and advocate—exemplifies the points made by author Francine Rivers in my blog last week.

  • Tell the TRUTH, no matter how messy it is and get the details right.
  • Bad things happen. Ugly things. Sad and malicious things. There is also the TRUTH that good people make a difference. Their concepts of love, Faith, values, and doing what is right because it is right will make a difference.

Who is the person (or people) in your life demonstrating this element of LOVE?  Can their examples be incorporated into what you’re writing?  Do you need to write a True Story/memoir about their lives?  What is holding you back?  The WORLD needs more examples like this!  Write it! Get it PUBLISHED!

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Weekly Self-Published Book Review:Ten Healthy Teas

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Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review by Midwest Book Review:

 ten healthy teas

 Ten Healthy Teas

Valerie B. Lull

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN:9781432784935

Tea can be healthy and delicious if you know how to prepare it right. “Ten Healthy Teas” is a collection of recipes aimed at providing simple and easy to understand recipes to make better tea for relaxation and health during what may be a busy day. “Ten Healthy Teas” is a must for tea lovers who want to try something new.

What do you need to know about diversity in self-publishing?

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The matter of diversity in the book industry, particularly in the arena of traditional publishing, has been discussed by many fine people in many fine articles.  (You’ll find a few of them here, here, and here.)  But what about self-publishing?   I’m not going to lie: even with a somewhat narrower gaze, there’s still a lot to take in––and a lot of opinions to consider, agendas to juggle, and complications to navigate.  But this is February––and therefore, this is officially Black History Month.  It is a month where we pay our respects to the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement (or movements), and pay close(r) attention to the justices and injustices enacted within the United States.*  It is right and good that we turn that same lens on the self-publishing industry that we know and love.

But how do we even begin this conversation?  First, we have to start asking the right questions.  Mine are by no means going to be the only ones worth hearing, or worth answering.  Which is why right now––right now––I’d like to open the floor (or rather, the comments box) to you, our dear readers.  Pose a question, or two, or three, connected to this issue of diversity in self-publishing, and I will pull together a few voices that (hopefully) speak to them.

Here are a few questions to get us started:

  1. Broad brush strokes: What’s the track record of diversity in publishing?
  2. What about within self-publishing, specifically?
  3. Are there differences, and why or why not?
  4. Why does diverse representation in literature and the industry matter?  Why should we authors and readers and (self-)publishers care?
  5. What could healthy diversity actually look like?
  6. Who benefits from diverse representation, and who benefits from a lack thereof?
  7. Can we make it happen?
  8. Should we make it happen?
  9. How can we better foster a self-publishing community that welcomes diverse authors and readers?

And because we normally dedicate our Wednesday posts on this blog to strategies for self-promotion, I think it’s fair to ask:

  • In what ways can diversity be both a selling point and a barrier to new readers discovering our work?  And how can we take advantage of the former while overcoming the latter?

Maybe we can answer all of these questions quickly and easily, but my gut instinct is that easy isn’t a word we can throw around when it comes to fair representation of any kind.  But this, too, is fitting: Black History Month started as a single week (the second week of February) and has happily spread to take up more of our year, and also, more of our hearts and minds.  Maybe one day we will be able to say with perfect sincerity and disingenuity that every week, and every month, and every year is packed with conversations in which diverse voices are heard.

*  It is worth noting that the USA is not the only nation to celebrate Black History Month––it is officially recognized in both the United Kingdom (UK) and in Canada, and is celebrated unofficially in many other nations and communities.

If you have any comments, reflections, or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments box, and watch this space on Wednesdays in 2015!

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

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