In Your Corner : Super Bowl 50 Edition

Will you be watching the Denver Broncos go toe-to-toe with the Carolina Panthers this Sunday?  Super Bowl 50 promises to be quite the event, and not just for the teams on the field––or their fans far and wide, or the support teams, or the cities which are represented, or even the disappointed followers of teams that didn’t make it.  The Super Bowl, like many other big sporting events in America and abroad, has the power to bring people together.  And whenever people gather together, whether it’s for Super Bowl 50 or some other occasion, you as an author have a unique opportunity to gather something else: stories.

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My favorite moment in many of the books I read and movies I watch is when a family gets together and the drama ends up spilling into the kitchen.  There’s something special about having all the generations represented, with their conflicting memories and versions of reality and worldviews.  These moments usually lay the foundation for some kind of resolution later in the story––resolution that smacks of reconciliation, and the importance of family (for better or worse).  The Swiss Family Robinson was among my favorite books as a child, and now as an adult I see the same thing happening in Isabel Allende, Kate Morton, Louise Erdrich, and Jonathan Franzen’s books––and the list goes on and on.  Some of my best storytelling memories––both as speaker and listener––revolve around my grandparent’s dinner table.  These are the moments we can’t afford to miss, as authors.

Am I recommending that you bring an exploitative reportorial mind to family gatherings?  No.  As writers we do have some obligation to report on reality––whether through the intimations of fiction or the facts of nonfiction––but we are not reporters.  (Unless, of course, that is your bread and butter profession.)  We do not inhabit those moments as objective observers, but rather intimate witnesses, and participants.  These stories have the potential to mean something to your readers (as inspiration for fiction, or the backbone of a memoir) precisely because you’re not objective.  They mean something to others only because they first mean something to you.

As an author, you have to strike the balance between participant and recorder.  It’s worth noting that some authors do not ask permission of family members and friends before writing about them (claiming that this allows more freedom of expression and less fear of even well-intentioned censorship), while others firmly advocate for asking permission out of respect.  I happen to be one of the latter, but I do recognize that it can be awkward to pull people aside to ask if it’s okay if I write down some of their stories.  A little awkwardness seems worth it to me, however, to know that I’m doing justice to the wishes as well as the words of the people who inspire me.

A couple of years back, when a relative of mine entered the hospital during her final days of struggling with cancer, my whole family came together––far flung cousins and aunts and nephews and great-grandchildren.  People had traveled from the far reaches of the country and in some cases, from abroad.  And something magical happened: the stories began to unspool themselves all around us.  I’ve never learned so much about my family’s history and legacy as I did in those days––and while it was magical, I wish it had been something other than suffering to have brought us together.  This isn’t exactly a recommendation to shout “Carpe Diem!” and add pressure to organize family reunions to all of the other responsibilities you face, but I do hope all of you find a whole host of precious shared moments that are rich with storytelling––whether this weekend watching the Super Bowl, or elsewhere––to enjoy in the coming years.

Always remember: you are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process 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, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

From the Archives: “SELF-PUBLISHING: THE NEW AMERICAN IDOL”

Welcome back to our new Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: February 4th, 2009 ]

Seeing Jennifer Hudson sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl reminded me of the recent article in the New York Times about the self-publishing industry, which received a lot of attention and has sparked ongoing controversy.

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, it appears conventionally published authors (and those striving to become such) still view self-publishing services with contempt because they feel authors are “cheating” somehow. After all, getting a book published traditionally is “hard work.”  Those who have done it (or long to) perhaps feel as if self-published authors haven’t paid their dues.

But are they really cheating, or are they simply taking advantage of wide-spread changes occurring  throughout the entertainment and business worlds?

Let’s examine other industries:  The same Do-it-Yourself (DIY) fever is sweeping through the music industry. Or, to be more accurate, has already swept through the music industry.  Talented musicians are no longer waiting for acceptance from the “establishment” and instead, are distributing their music through iTunes, finding their audiences through Myspace, and broadcasting their music videos via YouTube.   It is safe to say the music industry has irrevocably changed.  Musicians no longer give 95% of their royalties to the “industry” and customers no longer buy CDs from brick-and-mortar music stores.

Are these musicians cheating? No. They are still paying their dues, but now the invoice comes after their music has already become available. They still must market aggressively to obtain listeners, but at least they have something to market.   The audience determines which of those musicians succeed and which of them fail.

This is no different from the self-publishing book industry.

I think it is safe to say that “becoming a rock star” is a dream that almost everyone can acknowledge, if not personally identify with; although if the ratings for American Idol are any indication, it might actually be a dream nearly everyone can identify with, too.

Other common dreams are “becoming an actor,” “becoming a model,” “becoming a professional athlete,” and yes, even “becoming a published author.”

Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if all that was required to start playing for the New York Knicks was writing a check for $1000 to some internet company? Can you imagine the fervor if all that was required to obtain a recording contract was standing in line at some reality show try-out?  Wait a minute!  That’s already happening. Reality television has altered the search for “talent” and now, in rare instances, getting “discovered” is no harder than filling out an application. Nowadays, instead of submitting audition tapes to countless producers, lyricists stand in line and face the possibility of public humiliation at the hands of Simon, Paula, and Randy.

This is no different from the self-publishing book industry.

Is this “cheating,” per se, or has the do-it-yourself mentality simply removed unnecessary hurdles that prevented talent from being discovered faster? You see, talent is the one common denominator and talent cannot be purchased. Cast members of Survivor have their fifteen minutes of fame and then disappear back into the abyss. The try-outs for American Idol feature thousands upon thousands of “hopefuls” standing in lines around city blocks and yet the main competition is comprised of just a handful.  Most had their opportunity to shine, and their audience rejected them. But at least they received a shot.

As the New York Times article states, self-publishing companies are thriving, and that is because we give writers their shot, their fifteen minutes, their chance.  We are American Idol for writers. We make it easy to publish a book. If “publishing a book” is your dream, you’re going to be happy with the result.  And if your dream is to be successful, famous, rich, or a combination of the three, you’re going to receive your chance, but just like everyone else who is successful, famous, or rich, you are going to need to bring something special to the table.

Most reasonable people recognize this. Those who don’t may become disillusioned, but listen – if it were easy to become a bestselling author, a multi-platinum recording artist, a player for the New York Knicks, or a highly-sought-after runway model, then everyone would do it.

Just because iTunes makes the distribution of music easy doesn’t mean every artist is going to become a success overnight. And just because standing in line for American Idol is easy doesn’t mean all those people are going to win an Oscar and sing the National Anthem for the Super Bowl.   Lord knows there is only one Jennifer Hudson.  American Idol didn’t make her a success; talent pours from her soul. She would have found success tripping through the dark blindfolded.  But American Idol shined a light on her, and she reflected back.

Self-publishing companies shine a light on writers.  It is the writer’s job to shine back. Some authors do, like Gang Chen, who earned over $39,000 in royalties from Outskirts Press in the 4th quarter of 2008. That’s $13,000 a month. Has his book sold a million copies? No. Is he making a lot of money as a self-published author?  Yes. By any reasonable benchmark, Gang Chen is a successful self-published author who has given specific permission to have his successes shared.

And this brings me to my last point.  All publishing companies are different, just like all writers are different, and just like all contestants on American Idol are different.  Success is never guaranteed. But if you are going to self-publish your book, you’re better off publishing with a company where your chances for success increase.  Above all, you have to believe in yourself and you have to work hard. Success rarely comes easily for anyone, but now, thanks to self-publishing companies, everyone has an equal chance. We’ll shine the light on you. What you do with that light is up to you.

football fan

Six years on, Brent’s words still hold true.  As with many other career fields and endeavors in life, indie and self-publishing authors often suffer from what psychologists call “Imposter Syndrome.”  In an excellent piece (“Imposter Syndrome, and What it Means to be an Adult”) for the journal Humanist back in 2014, Greta Christina defines imposter syndrome as “a condition where accomplished people see themselves as frauds, as not deserving of success or recognition, despite significant evidence to the contrary.  I think imposter syndrome can apply to more than just career accomplishments.  I think imposter syndrome can apply to every aspect of life, and our ability to navigate it as adults.”  She goes on to discuss the importance of rites of passage and rituals as signposts on our way to self-acceptance and self-realization.  Now, Greta Christina is approaching imposter syndrome as a humanist and not as someone specifically interested in self-publishing, but her words resonate.  Indie, hybrid, and self-publishing authors are often (still) perceived as or perceive themselves as newcomers, aliens, or interlopers in the grand publishing sphere.  And yet–and yet–the data shows that self-publishing is a fully respectable and increasingly respected niche.  It’s so pervasively utilized by authors and readers alike that I even struggle to call it a niche.

So how do we change perspectives on self-publishing?  How do we change the interior experience, the actual inhabited day-to-day emotions of being a self-publishing author?  Well, if we listen to experts like Greta Christina, we invent ourselves some rites and rituals.  Recognizing an unhealthy line of thought (such as, “I’m not a real author,” or “I’m only a self-published author”) and then combating it actively with positive (and true) rebuttals (“I am absolutely a real author!” or “I’m so excited to be a self-published author!”) is not just a ritual … it’s a necessity, like breaking any other bad habit.

So here, at the end of this archival revisitation, is my suggestion for a new daily ritual–

Repeat after me: I have to believe in myself and I have to work hard. 

Say it again and again, until you believe in it.  I believe in you. ♠

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 the Super Bowl Can Teach You About Self-Publishing

If you watched any TV over the past week, you probably saw countless shows playing up the Super Bowl hype. Cooking shows were making special recipes, talk shows were interviewing football players, and news shows were giving sneak peeks at the best commercials. Even if you aren’t a football fan, you probably knew all about who was playing and possibly got caught up in the Super Bowl craze. The media was able to convert almost everyone, whether they were watching for the game or the commercial, to a “fan.”

What does this have to do with self-publishing? Successful self-publishing authors know that just like during the Super Bowl, marketing and branding are extremely important. Companies pay millions of dollars to market their products and services to Super Bowl viewers; while self-publishing authors don’t need a Super Bowl commercial, they can learn important lessons from the marketing experts.

1. Know your audience.

If you watched any of the Super Bowl commercials, you probably noticed a few popular themes appeared over and over again — fast cars, beer, and hot women, to name a few. That is because marketers know these things appeal to the majority of the viewing audience. When creating your marketing plan, it is important to know who your audience is, what is important to them, and how to get their attention.

2. Memorable is key.

Super Bowl commercials have one goal — to be memorable! It doesn’t matter if you hate or love the commercial; the company just wants people to remember it, and if they can get people talking about it, that’s even better. The more you see and hear about a product or service, the more likely are you to remember it when you are in the market for that product or service. The same is true when marketing a book. You want readers to see your book on a store shelf and say “Oh, I remember hearing about that book!”

3. Hype it up.

The week before the Super Bowl all the media channels were hyping it up. Everyone was talking it, and the topic was approached from a variety of angles to reach a large audience. By the time the game came, thousands and thousands of people were making Super Bowl snacks, hosting Super Bowl parties, wearing Super Bowl gear, and of course, watching the game. Some of these people may have never done those things if they hadn’t seen a great Super Bowl recipe online or heard a great idea on their favorite talk show. Approach marketing your book in the same way. Hype it up as much as you can. Get exposure in a variety of ways. Get creative about your marketing. Your goal is make people know about you and your book.

I’d love to know, how is the Super Bowl inspiring your self-publishing marketing plan?

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, publishing consultants and marketing professionals; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams and on assisting authors with marketing and promoting their book once published. 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.

SELF-PUBLISHING: THE NEW AMERICAN IDOL

SELF-PUBLISHING: THE NEW AMERICAN IDOL
By Brent Sampson

Seeing Jennifer Hudson sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl reminded me of the recent article in the New York Times about the self-publishing industry, which received a lot of attention and has sparked ongoing controversy.

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, it appears conventionally published authors (and those striving to become such) still view self-publishing services with contempt because they feel authors are “cheating” somehow. After all, getting a book published traditionally is “hard work.”  Those who have done it (or long to) perhaps feel as if self-published authors haven’t paid their dues.

But are they really cheating, or are they simply taking advantage of wide-spread changes occurring  throughout the entertainment and business worlds?

Let’s examine other industries:  The same Do-it-Yourself (DIY) fever is sweeping through the music industry. Or, to be more accurate, has already swept through the music industry.  Talented musicians are no longer waiting for acceptance from the “establishment” and instead, are distributing their music through iTunes, finding their audiences through Myspace, and broadcasting their music videos via YouTube.   It is safe to say the music industry has irrevocably changed.  Musicians no longer give 95% of their royalties to the “industry” and customers no longer buy CDs from brick-and-mortar music stores. 

Are these musicians cheating? No. They are still paying their dues, but now the invoice comes after their music has already become available. They still must market aggressively to obtain listeners, but at least they have something to market.   The audience determines which of those musicians succeed and which of them fail. 

This is no different from the self-publishing book industry.

I think it is safe to say that “becoming a rock star” is a dream that almost everyone can acknowledge, if not personally identify with; although if the ratings for American Idol are any indication, it might actually be a dream nearly everyone can identify with, too.

Other common dreams are “becoming an actor,” “becoming a model,” “becoming a professional athlete,” and yes, even “becoming a published author.”

Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if all that was required to start playing for the New York Knicks was writing a check for $1000 to some internet company? Can you imagine the fervor if all that was required to obtain a recording contract was standing in line at some reality show try-out?  Wait a minute!  That’s already happening. Reality television has altered the search for “talent” and now, in rare instances, getting “discovered” is no harder than filling out an application. Nowadays, instead of submitting audition tapes to countless producers, lyricists stand in line and face the possibility of public humiliation at the hands of Simon, Paula, and Randy.

This is no different from the self-publishing book industry.

Is this “cheating,” per se, or has the do-it-yourself mentality simply removed unnecessary hurdles that prevented talent from being discovered faster? You see, talent is the one common denominator and talent cannot be purchased. Cast members of Survivor have their fifteen minutes of fame and then disappear back into the abyss. The try-outs for American Idol feature thousands upon thousands of “hopefuls” standing in lines around city blocks and yet the main competition is comprised of just a handful.  Most had their opportunity to shine, and their audience rejected them. But at least they received a shot.

As the New York Times article states, self-publishing companies are thriving, and that is because we give writers their shot, their fifteen minutes, their chance.  We are American Idol for writers. We make it easy to publish a book. If “publishing a book” is your dream, you’re going to be happy with the result.  And if your dream is to be successful, famous, rich, or a combination of the three, you’re going to receive your chance, but just like everyone else who is successful, famous, or rich, you are going to need to bring something special to the table.

Most reasonable people recognize this. Those who don’t may become disillusioned, but listen – if it were easy to become a bestselling author, a multi-platinum recording artist, a player for the New York Knicks, or a highly-sought-after runway model, then everyone would do it. 

Just because iTunes makes the distribution of music easy doesn’t mean every artist is going to become a success overnight. And just because standing in line for American Idol is easy doesn’t mean all those people are going to win an Oscar and sing the National Anthem for the Super Bowl.   Lord knows there is only one Jennifer Hudson.  American Idol didn’t make her a success; talent pours from her soul. She would have found success tripping through the dark blindfolded.  But American Idol shined a light on her, and she reflected back.

Self-publishing companies shine a light on writers.  It is the writer’s job to shine back. Some authors do, like Gang Chen, who earned over $39,000 in royalties from Outskirts Press in the 4th quarter of 2008. That’s $13,000 a month. Has his book sold a million copies? No. Is he making a lot of money as a self-published author?  Yes. By any reasonable benchmark, Gang Chen is a successful self-published author who has given specific permission to have his successes shared. 

And this brings me to my last point.  All publishing companies are different, just like all writers are different, and just like all contestants on American Idol are different.  Success is never guaranteed. But if you are going to self-publish your book, you’re better off publishing with a company where your chances for success increase.  Above all, you have to believe in yourself and you have to work hard. Success rarely comes easily for anyone, but now, thanks to self-publishing companies, everyone has an equal chance. We’ll shine the light on you. What you do with that light is up to you.

About the author

Brent Sampson is the best-selling author of “Sell Your Book on Amazon” and the award-winning “Self-Publishing Simplified.” As the president & CEO of Outskirts Press, Brent offers turn-key, on-demand custom book publishing services to authors seeking a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to publish and distribute their books worldwide. Outskirts Press has helped thousands of authors realize their dreams of publishing profitably and is the third fastest growing privately-held company in Colorado. Visit www.outskirtspress.com for more information.