Decluttering … Digitally!

In the age of computers, our desks are not the only things that can get cluttered, but also our desktops, websites, social media platforms and web browsers. If you’re as OCD as I am, this type of clutter will be as, if not moreso, bothersome as the more tangible clutter we find lying around our homes.

So this week I’d like to take a look at the ways in which we can declutter digitally, something that is especially relevant for 21st century authors who utilize the ever pervasive technology of computers.

decluttering digitally

 

  • Streamline your author website

 

First off, if your domain name is anything beyond a combination of your first and last name, or some super vague play off of your favorite sports team, consider changing it, and if [yourauthorname].com isn’t available, try .org, .net or some other version of that.

If you use some free website hosting platform such as WordPress, make sure you choose a theme that is aesthetically appealing, and if you’ve had the same one for a while, consider changing it up.

Make sure that you have clearly branded yourself on your homepage with the type of writing you do and be sure to use relevant tags on all of your posts. If you have an outdated bio and/or photo, consider cleaning those up and making them fresh.

Don’t just have a cluttered list of all of your  books for readers to try and sift through. Create a page for each that they can easily purchase from. Be careful to not have too many pages though, as more isn’t always merrier. Also be sure that they’re labeled clearly–don’t try to get too creative and distract your readers from the content of your page.

  • Streamline your social media presence

Speaking of less sometimes being more, let’s talk social media. Now we all know we hate those folks that clog our newsfeed with 1,000 posts a day–from pictures of babies to overly political rants/links to news articles to inspirational quotes plastered over scenic backdrops of places you’ve never been. Those people tend to get “unfollowed” by me, meaning I could miss a lot of things they are posting that actually interest me.

First off, I highly recommend having a separate author page, so if you do post things like I mentioned above, they are not getting sent to your audience who probably does not care to see them. With your separate author page, be sure to only put out content that helps to promote your brand and the image you want your readers to have of you. If your post doesn’t meet that criteria, scrap it or delete it from the Timeline. You want readers to go to your page and scroll down and get a feel for you as an author right away.

  • Organize your documents!

This one may seem straightforward, but I know how easy it is to just save things with random titles in that all-embracing folder of “Documents.” However, when you go to look for that chapter outline you made four months ago before you even started your book and you named it something obscure that you can no longer remember…you’re going to waste precious time trying to hunt it down.

Folders are your friend. Create a folder for your manuscript and subfolders for planning, characters, chapters, etc. Each time you save something, plop it in the according folder and back it all up on Google Drive, or some other free online storage host, lest you fall prey to the almighty computer crash.

***

Hopefully these few tips will help you declutter your digitized reality, which has become almost more real than reality itself.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

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, kellyschuknecht.com

Demystifying the Digital Census : Digital Sales Growing, But Slowing

Last week, I began a series in which I’m applying a microscope to the results of FutureBook‘s Digital Census of 2015 and breaking down to its component parts just what the fallout will be for you and me as indie and self-published authors.  FutureBook, an annual project of industry titan The Bookseller, has been hitting the books for five years now and has become the standard-bearer for those elements of the publishing (and specifically, digital publishing) revolution that range from mainstream (like Amazon) to cutting-edge, innovative, or brand new (like Goop and Medium!).

ebooks

The fifth annual FutureBook conference was held, in part, to evaluate and respond to the Digital Census of 2015, in which record numbers of readers and writers and bloggers and publishers (of traditional or indie ilk alike) and other industry experts reflected upon the ways that has changed or the ways in which they foresee the industry changing, all while indexing their hopes and concerns for where the Book as an object and industry and personal revelation is headed.  The data was condensed down to five talking points which in turn guided and shaped the course of the rest of the conference, and which indicate our ever-evolving relationship to publishing.  These points are:

  1. Mobile overtakes tablets and dedicated e-readers as the device of choice […]
  2. Digital sales are still growing, but they are also slowing […]
  3. Self-love levels recede as many indie authors report lower satisfaction levels […]
  4. Publishing remains very much divided on matters digital […]
  5. … And the majority believe publishers remain unprepared for what is coming [….]

Today I’m going to examine the second of these points, having addressed #1 (the rise of mobile) in last week’s post.  Here’s what the final FutureBook publication says about digital sales, which continue to demonstrate significant growth––although perhaps also showing signs of plateauing :

digital sales

The data meshes nicely with a series I just finished two weeks ago (“The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide“), in which I lay out the reasons why slowed growth in both ebook and e-reader sales is both a cause for concern (less overhead profit coming in) and for optimism (a diversified, stabilizing market with more competition and more options for authors).  Much of the research I gathered there applies here, so I don’t want to sound like a broken record and repeat myself––but I do want to emphasize the last line in the FutureBook article:

“Publishers have found that digital technology makes producing and delivering audio much more straightforward, but many are concluding that apps are not worth the candle.”

I think this is an important sentence because nowhere else in the article do audiobooks earn a lot of love, and even in the data mentioned above, the statistics for digital audiobooks is combined with that for digital e-books (that is, the text-based variety that doesn’t involve voice actors and snappy narration). And if there’s one segment of the digital publishing industry that’s neglected here and deserves a second look, it’s the digital audiobook!  Readers love them, and so therefore authors are beginning to pay attention.

We all have probably heard about Amazon’s merger with Audible and their ACX offerings for digital audiobooks by now, but what we don’t know (necessarily) is that there’s a whole niche market out there for authors looking to self-published audio books outside of the ACX/Audible/Amazon umbrella.  This Publisher’s Weekly article, for example, takes a look not just at ACX but at smaller companies without big corporate backing, like Open Book Audio and Spoken Word––and other media are starting to take note, including MediaShift and Author Marketing Institute.

As with all aspects of self-publishing, producing an audiobook (either with or without ACX/Audible/Amazon involvement) is a time- and energy-intensive process that deserves both careful and cautious consideration before you decide to commit … or not to commit.  But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my years in the publishing industry, it’s that readers are inherently voracious and will devour good words wherever they find them and in as many formats as they can discover them … and that there’s no such thing as “standing still” when it comes to the evolution of book distribution technology.  We have, as authors, a responsibility to remain at the forefront of the digital evolution––not hanging back and attempting to deny the inevitable progress from one mode of consumption to another, but leading the way and cutting new paths for those who follow.  Only if we innovate can we stay relevant and useful to our readers.  And I fully believe it when I say your book deserves to be heard.*

 

* and yes, I know that’s a terrible pun!

 


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT 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, kellyschuknecht.com.

The Current State of E-Readers | An Author’s Guide : Summary Edition

Well, if there’s anything I’ve learned about e-readers over the last few weeks as I compiled information for this series, it’s that we as self-publishing authors have cause for both great hope and for concern.  I don’t think I’m an unbalanced optimist when I say that I think the scales tip towards hope rather than despair, either, even though in all things I advocate both caution and meticulous research.

tablet computer

So, how does someone go about shaping the self-publishing process to suit the current e-reader market and distribution network?  Simply put, there is no easy answer.  As with any technological gadget, niche (or even mainstream) market, and expensive purchase, you have to consider all of the angles––and as an author and producer of digital content, not just as a reader!  Readers have only to consider those aspects of a purchase that lead to user satisfaction; they don’t have to worry about balancing the needs of others when they think about what device to pick up in a store, and which ebook to download from the internet.  Authors, particularly self-published authors, do.  You as an indie or self-publishing author are probably laying out significant packets of money to make sure your book is as beautiful and well-presented and as effectively marketed as it can be, so you want to make sure you’re actually getting your money’s worth.

tablet computer

The key to a successful relationship with e-readers is, I think, one of establishing healthy boundaries––and knowing when to cut your losses.  And while it’s true that the best of all possible situations as an author is to present your readers with as many options as possible, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Kindle, the NOOK, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the iPad were not all created equal––and they have not all sold in equal numbers.  I set out to give you a fair assessment of the current state of e-readers, and by golly, I really hope that’s what I’ve done.  It’s useful to you to know, for example, that the iPad has outperformed all of its other rivals as a physical product, but that the Kindle store sees the highest rates of ebook distribution.  It’s equally useful to know that readers are turning in droves to their smartphones as reading tools––over and above their dedicated e-readers and even over their tablet computers.  The future of the e-reader, ebook, and in some small part, the self-published author rests with digital clearinghouses like the Kindle and iBook store, the Google Play store, and direct downloads.  (And someday, I’ll take a good long look at how digital book piracy plays into this equation, too.)   tablet computer

If anything I’ve said sticks with you, I hope it’s not something I’ve said you should not do; I really hope you remember how positively excited I am about the new opportunities that are beginning to emerge.  Certain markets and products, like the Barnes and Noble NOOK, might be declining in popularity––but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make your book available to those who choose to stick with it to the end.  First and foremost, you have to decide what your priorities are as an author.  Ease of accessibility?  Or maximum profits?  Or most effective use of time and seed money?  (Just remember that the best way to sell your books is to keep writing and publishing new ones!)  Ultimately, the state of e-readers has reached a stability and maturity that inspires me to think that, yes, we might have been feeling our way in the dark a bit, but we’ve stumbled across something truly wonderful.  We live in a global network rich with innovators, and I truly think we can trust to see ever greater diversification and more specialized opportunities in the digital book market.


Next week, I’m going to start with an in-depth examination of The Bookseller’s key findings in their 2015 Digital Census.  Things are changing rapidly––and perhaps not so much for authors and readers as for the ever-evolving relationship between self-publishing and traditional publishing companies.  More on that in weeks to come!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT 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, kellyschuknecht.com.

Diversity & Self-Publishing (ep. 3)

Week before last, I began to examine the ongoing conversation centering on diversity in self-publishing that has sprung up over the last couple of years, and only risen in importance and visibility since then.  Last week, I addressed two questions:

  1. What’s the track record of diversity in publishing? (and)
  2. What about within self-publishing, specifically?

This week, I want to address two more questions.  The first, as you’ll see, follows on immediately from number two, above:

Are there differences between the track records of traditional publishing and self-publishing in regards to diversity, and why or why not?

As MediaShift’s correspondent Miral Sattar notes in her excellent article for PBS, diversity has always had a little bit more of a foothold in the world of self-publishing than it has elsewhere.  In large part, this can be traced back to the blue-collar, anti-establishmentarian streak that gave rise to the self-publishing industry in the first place.  Wanting to place profits in the hand of an individual author as opposed to a company or a collective?  When it comes to books, that’s a radical idea.  Wanting control over the entire authorial, publishing, and marketing process?  That, too, falls outside the established framework provided by traditional publishing.  All of this independent thinking and hungering after self-realization has led to an environment that fosters rebels and self-starters and free-thinkers and otherwise marginalized peoples.  That includes, of course, people of diverse origins, pursuits, and identities.

In her article, Sattar mentions a whole host of self-published authors, including CJ Lyons, Orna Ross, Lara Nance, HM Ward, Kailin Gow, Margarita Matos, Abdul Qayum Safi, Lozetta Hayden, Manuela Pentagelo, Tejas Desai, and Aleysha Proctor.  And these are just a very few of a very great many self-published authors currently putting their books out there.  There are others: Mary Sisney, Liz Castro, Nadeem Aslam, Johnny Townsend, Qasim Rashid, and so, so many more.  The fact is, if you want to publish something that the mainstream publishing industry isn’t prepared to market, and which isn’t angling to be a blockbuster seller, then the generous spirit of the self-publishing world is always waiting.  We live in a day and age, thankfully, when the self-published book is no longer synonymous with “I’m selling this out of the trunk of my car” (although that may still be the case), and with a whole host of resources out there, from internet forums to hybrid publishing firms, the self-publishing author can count on sending a high-quality–if radically counter-cultural–product out there into the world.

Why does diverse representation in literature and the industry matter?  Why should we authors and readers and (self-)publishers care?

This fourth question is, in some ways, a much harder one to answer.  As with many things in life, it might seem easy to fall back on a rote answer (you either do or you don’t), or to fall into the trap of trying to heavy-handedly preach readers into one perspective or another (because I said so!).  The fact of the matter is, caring about something as radically life-changing as diversity and representation is more than just a private act, but it’s also something you can’t just tell people to do.

When someone leans in over the dinner table and asks me why they should care about diversity–as has happened fairly often this last year–I fall back on a whole retinue of explanations: the statistics about social stratification and advancement or regression, the ethical and moral ground upon which we build healthy and just societies, and the anecdotes of people I know who have found themselves on the wrong side of the line when it comes to representation.  And of all of these arguments, the most effective one is, appropriately enough, one that requires a little imagination.

Imagine you are a child, any child who doesn’t look like a descendant of a hundred Caucasian family trees, who maybe doesn’t tip the scale quite to quite the same number as any of a thousand Disney Channel stars, who maybe comes from a faith background or an ethnic background that isn’t mainstream Christianity or undecided, who maybe has physical or emotional disabilities, who maybe identifies as something other than cisgendered or “straight” or is questioning their identity, who maybe comes from a dysfunctional family or society.  Imagine you have any one of these attributes, or a whole heady cocktail of them, and ask yourself this question: Have you seen yourself in a popular book lately?  How about on TV or in a movie–as the main character?  Have you seen yourself anywhere but in the bathroom mirror and have you seen yourself compassionately rendered there?

I remember the first time I found myself in a book, the first time I encountered a character who looked and felt and acted and believed like me.  It was absolutely, entirely, 100% life-changing.

Why should we care about diversity in publishing and self-publishing?  Because we want our children to grow up knowing that they don’t have to live in the shadows.  That they are lovable and loved.  That they don’t need to bleach their skin or get rid of their accent or faith or private struggles in order to be a whole human being.

Explaining to a child who has never seen a familiar face or life story told on television or in books or in music why they’ve never seen that story is absolutely heartbreaking, not to mention difficult.  One hopes that we don’t have to end that conversation with “…and it looks like it’s going to stay that way for a while.”  One hopes we can end that conversation with: “But see?  We’ve made progress, and here is a whole host of stories to get you started.”  Others have put together powerful arguments why diversity in publishing (of any kind) is important, too, so I think there’s a lot of hope we’ll see change within our lifetimes.

These thoughts barely scratch the surface of these questions, much less the conversation as a whole.   As I continue pondering how to go about touching on the other questions I posed two weeks ago, 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!

KellyABOUT 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, kellyschuknecht.com.

Diversity & Self-Publishing (ep. 2)

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!

KellyABOUT 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, kellyschuknecht.com.

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

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!

KellyABOUT 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, kellyschuknecht.com.

Learning from the Late Greats: Summary edition

There are a lot of reasons why looking to the past for role models can be problematic, particularly (in our case) when looking for legendary figures for us to admire as self-publishing authors.  For one thing, the world simply looked … well, different back then.  Whether we’re talking about Gutenberg and the Fourteenth Century or Austen, Dumas, Thoreau, and Potter in the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth centuries, we must admit that the everyday fabric of human existence has been altered––and therefore, the nature and appearance of the publishing industry.  Calling certain (late & great) authors “self-published” is unlikely to do justice to the whole picture. 

But let’s take a second to look at those points, two per author, which I plucked from each (late & great) author’s life story and publishing history.

From Johannes Gutenberg, we learned to:

Use the tools at hand, and use them well, but don’t become shackled to any existing paradigm.

Pay attention to the market; listen to both your readers’ needs and those of your own practical enterprise.

From Jane Austen, we learned to:

Adapt as you go.

Use what you have.

From Alexandre Dumas, we learned to:

Own it.  Bring it.  Fight for your place in the sun.

Flee to Belgium when you need to.

From Henry David Thoreau, we learned:

Optimism is a discipline, not a fragile state to be moved through and discarded.

We must write what we feel compelled to write.

And (last but not least) from Beatrix Potter, we learned to:

Not let others change you without your permission.

Keep it relational.

Are these points still valid, when pulled out of context?  Factually, I think they are.  They may sound a bit like lines from the latest cheer squad movie, or chapter titles from a self-help book, and I’m okay with that.  Because you know what?  We can all do with a little direction, and a little encouragement.  (I’m most definitely the proof in the pudding.  And of course, I’m *completely* objective about my own opinings, right?) 

Loosely, these ten points fall into one-word attributes: flexibility, attentiveness, adaptability, pragmatism, determination, forgiveness, optimism, fidelity, authenticity, and relationality.  These qualities are timeless; they will always, always, workin your favor as a self-published (or self-publishing) author.  No matter what century you’re born into.

Of course, when it comes to interpreting the past, any decent scholar and historian can tell you that the act of interpretation says far more about the interpreter than the interpreted.  It tells us what we need, rather than what really happened.  (It might also show us what “really happened,” but that’s secondary and beside the point.)  So I suppose this list tells you what I, specifically, need to hear when it comes to icons of self-publishing––and, more broadly, what the culture that produced and sustains me probably also needs to hear.

The point of looking back is to look forward, with a clarity of vision and insightfulness of spirit.  Each and every one of the five authors I have examined over the last five weeks was human, and therefore not always liable to be warm and fuzzy when dispensing with advice for other and future authors, but they were also rather generous and kind to those they knew would pick up the torch of literary ambition.  They each would want you to persevere, to exercise wisdom, and above all, to write. 

And of course, to see your writing through, from beginning to end––dream to publication.

This concludes my series on the Late Greats of self-publishing!  If you have any comments, reflections, or suggestions for future series, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments box, and watch this space on Wednesdays in 2015!

KellyABOUT 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, kellyschuknecht.com.